Like Kyle Brandt believes Russell Wilson is a good guy, I want to believe the same of Brandt. Regardless of the best and truest facets of Brandt’s character, his commentary is rooted in pettiness.
Brandt told his audience that what mattered more than Wilson’s on-field mistake was a teammate’s reaction to the mistake. Brandt’s reasoning for that reaction is a lack of quality leadership from Wilson.
At the root of this criticism about Wilson, isn’t the missed receiver. Brandt told us to forget about the key factors from Wilson’s on-field performance. It was Wilson’s inauthentic personality. We’ll get into what’s authentic in a bit. What concerns me is Brandt’s prime example of Wilson’s troublesome behavior: Wilson snubbing Brandt an interview opportunity at an NFL media event.
Let that sink in. Brandt didn’t get to interview Wilson, remembered Wilson’s snub, and used it as the root cause to excoriate the quarterback‘s ability to meet the expectations of a hefty contract with a new team and coach that haven’t had a smooth transition.
You would have thought Wilson stole state funds reserved for the poor and built an athletic venue for his daughter. But let’s not spend too much time on that. And as awful as that is we seem to have no issue compartmentalizing what Brett Farve did on the field.
But when it comes to Wilson, let’s question the fitness of a player to lead new personnel in a new system five weeks into the season. Let’s ignore past lessons of aging vets Peyton Manning and Tom Brady that would serve the media well to have more restraint.
Forget over a decade of data and on-field performance that says otherwise and claim Wilson has not been a leader on par with other top quarterbacks that were considered his peers for much the past 10 years. At least until 5 weeks ago.
10 years vs 5 weeks. I know what carries more weight for me, regardless of a player’s personality.
Again, Brandt’s main supporting argument: Wilson snubbed him at a red-carpet event.
The sentiment of the football media and public to praise Brandt illustrates how this is bigger than Brandt. I don’t hate the player, I hate the game encourages us all to be complicit in this pettiness.
Many were this way about Marshawn Lynch and his refusal to sing and dance for them during the Super Bowl.
Yes, part of being paid huge sums of money is fulfilling the public-facing requirements of the job. Daily press conferences. Media access periods in the locker room.
But why can’t we respect a player’s decision to say no at certain moments?
Have we considered Wilson’s mega-celebrity wife didn’t want to do an interview for private reasons and he was being protective? Have we considered Wilson wanted a night off from daily interviews he’s required to take at the facility?
Why can’t a player say ‘no,’ at times?
At times…not every time.
Because he makes a lot more money than most of us?
Because he has a public-facing job?
Those aren’t sufficient reasons. Every human deserves an opportunity to have private time or to say no to a media member at a non-team event—for whatever reason.
This is nothing more than a member of the media punishing a player for snubbing him and drawing on narrative rather than analysis of the game.
This is the deeper issue: We have no boundaries and when players don’t accede to our demands—every time—we punish them. We remember the slights. We weaponize them for later use.
For the sake of entertaining the itch many of you will need to scratch, let’s go there:
Brandt has probably heard from former and current teammates who are critical of Wilson’s personality and that may be informing Brandt’s opinion.
Possibly. Even likely. But if these players won’t put their name on it, and/or he doesn’t feel comfortable referencing them, it’s a bad look to use a social snub that he took personally and draw a false equivalency between Wilson’s snub of media and leadership of an offense.
Media behavior, even when not paparazzi, can begin to feel intrusive after so much time allotted for it as a requirement.
It’s self-important behavior for Brandt to think he’s owed time to Wilson relative to a teammate. We’re all guilty of having petty feelings. It’s another to weaponize that snub as the basis for questioning leadership.
Scrutinizing Wilson’s leadership has become a witch hunt.
What has Wilson done, exactly? Drive drunk? Beat his wife? Rape Women? Harass employees? Extort favors from sideline reporters at the franchise’s facility for interviews? Defraud his state government?
He’s corny. He’s a poser. He’s inauthentic. But those quarterback heroes who have been linked to some of the behaviors listed above aren’t labeled posers or inauthentic. Many haven’t been found out to the public yet. Many are celebrated for their well-crafted image hiding uglier realities.
Wilson is guilty of being corny. What an adolescent judgment.
All I know is that Wilson’s corny self-belief that can annoy teammates kept his mind right for a historic playoff fourth-quarter comeback against Aaron Rodgers’ Packers after the worst first half a quarterback could have in a huge game.
All I know is that dorky Russ is tied for the most 4th-quarter comebacks (21) and game-winning drives (27) since entering the league in 2012, including the post-season.
Does being a tastemaker or influencer carry more clout in determining leadership than Wilson’s actions that display leadership and craft?
What about Wilson’s second-highest career passer rating (100.3) in NFL history? Or how about Wilson’s career fourth-quarter passer rating being even higher (109.6)?
Geno Smith may be performing better with a team he’s worked with behind the scenes for a few years than Wilson’s five-game stint in a new situation, but let’s not forget that Wilson’s Seahawks had a league-leading +269 fourth-quarter point differential in the fourth quarter since he took over the starting job in 2012.
Oh, that’s right, Wilson has won a Super Bowl and got them within a play of winning another. Yes, he made a critical mistake in that second game.
He’s not the first.
Hall of Fame quarterbacks have made critical mistakes in critical moments. The fact they continued to help their team reach those critical moments enough times to have some successes despite some failures is what matters most.
I don’t care if Wilson doesn’t dance when you want him to, Brandt. I care about Wilson’s on-field performance.
Last night’s game was a bad performance for Wilson. While the box score data has been lacking for Wilson this year, I charted his first two games. Table courtesy of my work at Footballguys.
Here’s a more comprehensive key of the charting.
Targets resulting in Drops and Defensive Pass Interference (DPI) were labeled as pinpoint or general based on the accuracy of Wilson’s pass to the intended target.
- Pinpoint Accuracy = A pass placed where expected for the route type and position of coverage that’s optimal for the receiver or the only possible placement that might yield a reception.
- General Accuracy = A pass that has less than optimal placement but is still considered catchable for most NFL receivers.
- Difficult: A pass with the placement that a receiver catches but shouldn’t be expected based on its accuracy is just outside the scope of general accuracy.
- Dropped Points Cost: This is the difference in points the team earned on the drive versus the points they would have earned if the receiver didn’t drop a pass in the end zone.
- Comp. Nullified by Penalty = Completion Nullified by a Penalty.
- Missed: Quarterback missed the throw and was not under pressure.
- Missed Pressure: Pressure influenced the missed target.
- WR/QB-Caused INTs: The player who made the mistake that led to the turnover.
- OL/QB/Coverage-Sack: The position that did the most to lead to a sack.
- Questionable Decision: The quarterback missed or ignored an open receiver who was a viable target in the current game scenario. Or, the QB targeted a receiver who wasn’t open.
Wilson and his teammates haven’t played to early expectations. He’s played better in meaningful context on tape for more games than not.
I don’t care about Wilson’s personality any more than managers, business owners, and other leaders I know who have crafted personalities that feel heavily rehearsed. If their good decisions carry significantly more weight than the failures, that’s motivating enough. As a professional, I am fine with providing my own motivation if I know where I stand with my team. Most football players probably feel the same.
Hating on Wilson’s personality is the most annoying trend going. These folks never left the high school lunchroom.
They finally got their chance to be at the popular kids’ table and use it as a bully pulpit. They’ve determined Wilson’s tailored public image as phony, corny, dorky, contrived, and meriting disdain.
I saw Wilson’s public-facing persona as a potential façade before most of the NFL beat writers. While they were eating up the rhetoric that Wilson had the leadership skills of a corporate executive or military general at the Senior Bowl—even referencing Norman Schwarzkopf—I saw the slightest crack in Wilson’s armor when he nearly initiated a bro-down with beat reporter Cecil Lammey when asked how he’d feel about backing up Tebow.
I had not yet watched Wilson’s tape before making the trip to Mobile, but that flash of anger interrupting his attempts to maintain perpetual equanimity caught my eye. Especially when I learned his response to Lammey was, “I have no intention of backing up anyone in the NFL.”
Instead of editorializing a 10-second moment off the field as the basis for my judgment of the player, I went to the tape and scouted hours of good and bad and factored in what mattered most.
Of course, that’s not the silo of the business where Brandt resides. Reactions that provoke discussion and debate in an entertaining fashion are his objectives. He’s succeeded and will continue to do so. So will countless others.
But at what cost? What type of behavior are we actively and tacitly encouraging?
I am critical of players on the field. I am also critical of players whose work on the field illustrates a lack of preparation off it. And when a player’s behavior off it displays immaturity that leads to breakdowns in trust among teammates and clearly deteriorates production potential, I will go there as well.
Wilson has been perceived as corny-contrived-rehearsed for years. It didn’t harm his performance. While going behind the outward mask of public figures is a source of endless fascination for us all, there are limits to good taste.
I may find a facet of a player’s personality intriguing on a superficial level, but I could care less about what a player is trying to show the public. All of it is crafted. Any player with an early-round grade and draft prep consultants working for him will be taught how to deal with the media. Whether they continue practicing this behavior after earning a contract is up to their level of maturity.
Wilson is guilty of having a personality of a parent that embarrasses 14-year-olds trying to be cool. He’s also guilty of having a strong NFL career.
When it comes to scouting talent or playing fantasy football, I compartmentalize fandom. The bad things that happen outside the lines may bother me personally, but if we want to change what bothers us, participation in our government process is the first avenue. Shaming the NFL or an individual player doesn’t do anything but glorify the one doing the shaming.
There will be exceptional circumstances, but it’s why I mostly care about what happens between the lines when it comes to analysis. Like Brady a few years ago and Manning’s early growing pains with his team change, I’ll stick to the process of what drives performance.
Whether it’s in 12 weeks or 12 months, I bet the results will come. If not, I won’t be attempting to undercut the well-earned legacy of one of the most reliable performers at the position of the past decade because he wouldn’t talk to me.
It’s not entertaining, but I am not here to dance.
From the day before Brandt’s rant . . .