John McGrath

John McGrath: Russell Wilson deserves big bucks despite his role in a big blunder

Russell Wilson’s agenda is not complicated: The Seahawks quarterback wants to be the highest-paid player in pro football history.

No matter that the label figures to have the lifespan of a firefly. For a brief and shining moment, Wilson, the third-round draft choice deemed too short to excel in the NFL, will be able to wake up in the morning and gaze at himself in the mirror and think: “You’re the top! You’re the Colosseum! You’re the top! You’re the Louvre Museum!”

Star athletes typically insist that their contract demands are not about the money, and the rest of us roll our eyes because we know that they know a contract is only about the money. But in Wilson’s case, it’s not inaccurate: If Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers owns a $2.2 million a year contract that leads the league, Wilson would be seeking a $2.3 million a year contract. Turns out Rodgers owns a $22 million a year contract that leads the league, so Wilson wants something in the neighborhood of $23 million.

It’s about the money, of course, but it’s also about the prestige associated with such words as top, best, most and highest.

While Wilson waits for the Seahawks to capitulate in the stalemate, another word comes to mind.


Wilson’s most recent pass was the worst ever seen in a Super Bowl. The distinction once belonged to Miami kicker Garo Yepremian, whose wobbly throw after a botched field-goal attempt in Super Bowl 7 was picked off and returned for a touchdown. The gaffe always and forever will remain a blooper-video staple, but Yepremian’s pass didn’t deprive the Dolphins of the victory that sealed their undefeated season.

Wilson’s pass cost the Seahawks a second consecutive Super Bowl championship. Coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevill took the brunt of the blame for their foolish decision to throw to Ricardo Lockette on a slant route inside the New England 1-yard line, but the play call — preposterous as it was — isn’t a disaster if Wilson delivers the ball on target.

The interception was a collaborative breakdown that included faulty route running, missed blocks and, yes, a coaching staff that turned a simple play — hand the ball off to pile-driving running back Marshawn Lynch — into a gambit wrought with overthought. But again, if Wilson puts the ball where he’s supposed to put the ball, the Seahawks score a game-winning touchdown and nobody dwells on the goofy strategy that backfired.

Including the playoffs, 109 passes were attempted last season inside the 1-yard line. (What have they done to my game, ma, what have they done to my game?) Of those 109 passes, the only interception was thrown. By Russell Wilson.

I’m not pointing this out not to identify Wilson as a scapegoat, or because I’ve got issues with his public persona as a team-comes-first guy craving the kind of contract that will but assure his salary-capped team doesn’t finish in first.

Wilson’s accomplishments border on the unprecedented. During his three seasons as a starting quarterback, he’s led the Seahawks to a 6-2 record in the playoffs and back-to-back appearances in the Super Bowl.

He’s done all this while earning the NFL equivalent of minimum wage. That he’s due a monster contract can’t be argued.

But here’s something else that can’t be argued: He’s attempting to be recognized as the highest-paid player in NFL history about five months after he was a significant participant in the worst pass play in NFL history.

“The most important thing at quarterback, and a leader in general, is accountability,” Wilson told the Players Tribune website. “So what happened in Super Bowl 49, I take full responsibility for it.”

If closure somehow is achieved in a saga that’s making Randy Johnson’s famously sustained disgruntlement with the Mariners look like a two-minute tiff, I hope Wilson continues to recognize accountability and responsibility.

The Seahawks had a timeout remaining when Carroll and Bevill went brainstorming bonkers inside the Patriots 1-yard line. A touchdown was there for the taking, and they sent in a crazy play that took the touchdown away.

A quarterback with ambitions of signing the most lucrative contract in NFL history doesn’t follow orders in that situation. A quarterback with such ambitions calls a timeout, approaches his coach on the sideline, and poses the same question 114 million American TV viewers would ask a moment later: