Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson’s reason for tossing 49er’s shoe--and for being risk-averse in Seahawks’ offense

Russell Wilson scrambles for a gain as 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner closes in during the Seahawks’ home win last weekend at CenturyLink Field. This wasn’t the play about which San Francisco complained that Wilson threw a shoe of a 49ers players up the field to gain an advantage for Seattle’s offense.
Russell Wilson scrambles for a gain as 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner closes in during the Seahawks’ home win last weekend at CenturyLink Field. This wasn’t the play about which San Francisco complained that Wilson threw a shoe of a 49ers players up the field to gain an advantage for Seattle’s offense.

Russell Wilson didn’t exactly shy away from Shoe Toss 2018 that had San Francisco’s coach a tad riled.

“Somebody’s missing a shoe somewhere,” is how the Seahawks quarterback began his weekly press conference Friday at team headquarters, three days before Seattle (7-5) hosts Minnesota (6-5-1) in a key game in the race to next month’s NFC’s playoffs.

Wilson’s pause for comic effect, plus his mischievous grin and then chuckle showed that, yes, he heard Kyle Shanahan.

The San Francisco 49ers coach this week accused Wilson of an act counter to the quarterback’s altruistic image: not only not helping a foe who lost his shoe between plays — but throwing the opponent’s shoe further up the field then racing to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball to create an offside penalty on the 49ers.

“Listen, I didn’t know whose shoe it was, first of all. Second of all, it was right in the middle of my play. It had to go. We were going no-huddle,” Wilson said, talking through a laugh. “And it was like right where we were going to pretty much snap it.

“And I was like, ‘hey, anybody’s shoe? Nope? All right. Whatever.’ So I threw it. One, I didn’t want to throw it forward because we were going in that direction towards the end zone. So I threw it back. I had never seen a shoe on the field like that in the middle of a play when I’m trying to go no-huddle.

“I still haven’t seen the video. So I’m still waiting for someone to find the video somewhere.”

The implication was so 2018: if it wasn’t captured on video, perhaps it didn’t happen. The Fox television broadcast, the NFL’s official “all-22” wide-angle film shot from the top of the stadium, nothing captured Wilson’s alleged act.

Shanahan explained to reporters in a press conference at 49ers headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday why he got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul in the third quarter of Seattle’s 43-16 victory Sunday at CenturyLink Field. It was for yelling an expletive (or two) into the face of an official on the 49ers’ sideline.

Shanahan said he was yelling at the officials for not allowing San Francisco linebacker Fred Wagner time to retrieve the shoe. He lost that on the previous play, up the field behind where Wilson was about to take the next Seahawks snap.

Why was Wagner’s shoe way up the field behind the line of scrimmage?

“When he went to go pick it up, Russell grabbed it and threw it,” Shanahan told reporters in Santa Clara.

“And so he (Warner) had to go about 8 more yards to pick it up, and that’s what he was doing when they went hurry-up offense.

“So, we had a guy 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage trying to get his shoe that was thrown out of the way. They were at the line, Fred was going to be offsides because he was picking up his shoe that was thrown.”

When he saw his teammate hobbling up the field for his shoe, 49er Elijah Lee ran off the sideline into the defensive formation, so Warner could scramble off the field wearing only one shoe. Officials saw San Francisco with 12 men on the field, so they flagged Lee for a penalty.

Shanahan wanted to know if officials could or should reset the play clock, to give Warner the time to retrieve his shoe or at least get off the field. They didn’t.

The coach erupted. He could be seen shouting a two-word expletive to the linesman on his sideline.

“That’s what I was trying to figure out. Especially when another guy on the opposing team threw it,” Shanahan said of asking officials for time and clarification.

“I’m not saying that he (Wilson) did that maliciously or anything, who knows? But it was an unusual situation, and it was my tipping point.”

Friday, Wilson was asked if he’s surprised at how much of an almost-big deal Shanahan made Shoe Toss 2018.

“Well, I understand why he did it,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t thinking about it in the midst of doing it, but I understood why.”

Just about everything Wilson threw on Sunday against the 49ers worked.

Wilson, who incidentally spoke in his press conference behind shoes (his own he wore in the game for the NFL’s My Cleats My Cause day, to benefit children), passed for three touchdowns on his first six throws. He threw for four TDs in all on just 17 attempts as the Seahawks (7-5) won their third straight game to stay on an inside track back to next month’s playoffs.

The 49ers (2-10) lost a shoe and another game.

These teams play again in two weeks, in Santa Clara. The 49ers may be tying their shoes more tightly.

A foe’s shoe is the only thing Wilson is throwing away right now.

He is having the most efficient season passing of his career: He has 29 touchdown throws, fourth in the league and on pace to surpass the 34 he had last season when he co-led the NFL. He’s thrown just five interceptions through 12 games, and only two in the last 10 games since Seattle’s 0-2 start to this season. His passer rating of 115.5 would be his career best for an entire season.

All that, despite the fact no full-time starting quartrback in the NFL has thrown fewer passes than Wilson on the run-first Seahawks, who have the league’s top rushing offense.

What Wilson and coach Pete Carroll take most pride, and importance, is his limiting turnovers. It’s why Seattle is plus-11 in turnover margin, which in turn is why the team has won three consecutive games and currently holds the fifth of six playoff seeds in the NFC.

“He’s got great awareness. You have to have phenomenal awareness and conscience, and he knows how we play and he understands what I’m saying,” Carroll said of Wilson. “He bought in from the first time he was with us (as a rookie third-round pick in 2012), he bought in to the philosophy and approach. He’s championed it forever and he’s been phenomenal at it. He evaluates really well. He doesn’t put the ball in problem areas; rarely does he do that.

“It’s just part of his makeup. It’s something we’ve grown to count on.”

The Vikings’ turnover margin is just plus-1, which helps explain why they are on the outside rail of the playoff race entering Monday night’s game at Century Link Field.

Wilson has played in 118 regular-season and 12 postseason games, including two Super Bowls, in his seven-year career. He’s thrown 3,496 passes in those 130 total games—with just 72 interceptions. That’s one every 49 throws, which for Wilson is almost three game’s worth this season.

Wilson uses a basketball analogy to explain his aversion to risk with the football.

“It’s like your point guard. You want to have as limited turnovers as possible,” he said. “I think in terms of playing quarterback, you want to be able to throw as many touchdowns as you can and have as little interceptions as you possibly can. I think that’s the obvious thing. But I do think that it’s how you practice that helps you understand that throughout the game and understand how. And also testing things throughout the game to see what works and what doesn’t: ‘OK, is this the right throw?’ So you practice and you get that work...

“In terms of Pete and I talking about it, we talk about it every week. We talk about it every day, almost. It is a major emphasis of the game.

“And it’s the most significant emphasis.”

Besides, it’s more important than talking about throwing shoes.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.