RENTON — Golden Tate looked down at the text message, scrolling away as read the content.
Tate eventually swiped his finger three times over the touchscreen to get through all the information Russell Wilson had just sent about the Seattle Seahawks next opponent.
This was less than 24 hours after Wilson had thrown for three touchdowns in another Seattle home win. But to Wilson, there’s no time for soaking in praise or dwelling in criticism.
It’s all business, all the time for the rookie quarterback.
“He hasn’t changed any in the way he acts. He acts the same regardless of if he’s starting, not starting, threw a pick, threw a touchdown. He is the same person,” Tate said. “We’ve seen him get better. He’s a better football player. But (he) still stands for the same things, still works hard as expected, still gets his job done.”
This week is time for Wilson and the Seahawks to take their recess at 6-4 and in the midst of the NFC playoff race. He’s lived at the Seahawks practice facility, constantly in the film rooms or on the practice field. The exception is Tuesday, when visits patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Coach Pete Carroll joked that Wilson was planning a “three-hour” vacation from the team facility during Seattle’s bye week.
He was joking, right?
“He’s going to do all right,” Carroll said. “He has some plans, we have talked about his plans, and he gets it.”
The evaluation of Wilson’s rookie season is much like his team. Seattle has been formidable and dominating in racing to a 5-0 record at home with wins over Dallas, New England and, of course, the controversial ending to their 14-12 win over Green Bay. On the road, they have played competitively, but made enough mistakes to be 1-4 — the losses by a combined 21 points.
Wilson has almost mirrored the team results. At home, he has the highest passer rating in the NFL, throwing 11 touchdowns with no interceptions, becoming the first rookie quarterback since the merger to win his first five home starts. On the road, he’s thrown twice as many interceptions (eight) as touchdowns (four) and a QB rating nearly 60 points lower. It’s the lowest road passer rating of any of the five rookie QBs starting this season.
Are those wild swings to be expected of a rookie? Absolutely.
Is Wilson accepting those results? Absolutely not.
“If we can function like we function here, and the throwing game goes along with the running game, then we’ll really take another big step,” Carroll said. “That’s the one thing that has been a little bit off for us. We’ve been consistently not OK on the road, so hopefully we can fix it up.”
Lost in the excitement over an undersized third-round pick that has become the Seahawks’ franchise QB is that this wasn’t supposed to be his job. Seattle’s QB splash was supposed to be the signing of Green Bay backup Matt Flynn. It’s similar to 2001 when Seattle got then-Green Bay backup Matt Hasselbeck and he became the Seahawks fixture for most of the decade.
When Seattle signed Flynn in March, the Seahawks marketing arm sent out email blasts to season ticket holders trying to build on the hype around the signing. When Seattle had its new jerseys unveiled in April, the uniforms with the No. 15 of Flynn were among the first printed for sale.
By Labor Day, Flynn jerseys were being discounted and Wilson’s No. 3 was on order.
Since winning the starting job from Flynn, Wilson has approached his position unlike a rookie. He started leaving notes about upcoming opponents in the lockers of his receivers the mornings after the previous game. The notes have eventually morphed into texts and emails with even more details about coverages, routes, little things the quarterback saw that could be of benefit to his receivers.
“My goal is to move on from the week before, whether it was great, whether there were some things we could’ve done better, and just focus on the next team,” Wilson said. “I thought that was the best idea and I kind of just decided to do that in terms of putting things in guys lockers and letting them know, this what we need to do, this what they do well, these are the coverage’s they run the most in certain situations, and also just figuring out what we can do to be successful come Sunday.”
While those small signs of leadership are impressive, it’s his poise and communication on the field that have earned Wilson the most respect. It started immediately when he nearly led Seattle to a winning scoring drive in the final seconds of the season opener at Arizona. Whether it was the last-second win over Green Bay where it was hard for the Seahawks not to be euphoric, or his game-winning TD toss to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots, Wilson’s demeanor is always the same.
“You want someone who is even keel through the good and the bad and I think that is more what people are drawn to at the quarterback position because you can show that composure and poise and still have that competitive nature about you,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Because he is already a highly competitive guy, there Is no reason for him to go in and amp it up when he’s already where he needs it to be. The only thing that changes for him is just that he gets more focused. You can see it in his eyes when he calls plays, and reading his routes, he gets more focused.”
Wilson will get an immediate test if he can correct those problems playing on the road. Seattle starts its final six-game run with consecutive matchups far away from Seattle at Miami and at Chicago. But then Seattle gets comfortable at home to close it out playing three of its final four — all against division opponents — with the only road trip out of country to Toronto where they will face struggling Buffalo.
The magic number to be in the final conversation for a playoff spot in the competitive NFC is likely 10 wins, meaning just holding serve at home won’t be enough for the Seahawks.
“The biggest thing is just translating it over to the second half, using what we’ve learned in the first half, and just taking off,” Wilson said. “I think we have that ability to take off right now.”