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Matt Calkins: Why both Geno Smith and Russell Wilson have given Seahawks fans solace

SEATTLE — As the Seahawks' season already looks like a boxer on wobbly legs, a new pastime seems to be emerging for 12s looking to invest their emotions.

It's happening in the country's mightiest mountain range, where the new quarterback has been particularly rocky.

The departure of Russell Wilson left a rotten taste in Seahawks fans' mouths last offseason, but his subpar play since has turned that taste from bitter to better. He just hasn't been good — which for folks around here is great.

Pick a stat, any stat. How about passer rating? Wilson, after all, is fourth all time in the category for his career at 101.4. But through three games this season, he is 24th in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks at 83.2. Compare that with once-maligned Geno Smith, whose rating of 100.8 is eighth in the NFL — two spots better than Aaron Rodgers and five better than Tom Brady.

How about completion percentage? Wilson is 14th all time in that department at 64.9. This year? He's 27th in the NFL at 59. 4%, behind icons such as Cooper Rush and Mitch Trubisky. Geno's at 77.4%, by the way, almost five points ahead of any other QB in the league.

Perhaps most glaring is Wilson's two touchdown passes, tied for last (26th) among quarterbacks who have thrown more than 32 times. Remember, he led the NFL with 34 TDs in 2017 and has had seasons of 35 (2018) and 40 (2020) since. I realize this is just three games, and that even the greatest can struggle over such a stretch.

Entering Tuesday night, Aaron Judge had gone homerless in six games since smashing his 60th. Stephen Curry has had five- or six-game stints in which his 3-point shooting mark was around 20%. Tiger Woods won just one event in 2004 despite averaging six wins a year from 1999-2009.

The best athletes can slump. But don't think Seahawks fans — or former Seahawks players — aren't relishing this.

The fans, for one, felt spurned by Wilson's leaving. This was made clear when tens of thousands of them repeatedly booed him when he returned in Week 1. But they also know keeping him long-term would have nuked the salary cap, as evidenced by the five-year, $245 million extension the Broncos gave him. Eli Manning couldn't help himself on Sunday night, when Denver punted 10 times, as he quipped "they should have paid that punter $235 million instead of Russell" (he meant $245 million). The barb was all in good fun, but it was cutting, nonetheless. And was one that likely had Seahawks fans chortling more than the rest of the nation.

As for his former teammates? You know Richard Sherman is enjoying this. He was on a podcast last week with former teammate K.J. Wright, saying Wilson got too much credit for Seattle's success during their Super Bowl days. And after the Broncos' loss to Seattle in Week 1, former Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin posted a GIF on Twitter that seemed to hint at his not-so-cozy feelings toward Wilson.

Here is what needs to be said, though: Sherman and Baldwin don't have Super Bowl rings without Wilson, who may be the greatest player to ever suit up for the Seahawks. Seattle doesn't have hundreds of thousands of people mobbing the streets for a parade without him, nor would countless kids have been filled with extra joy if he didn't visit Seattle Children's Hospital every Tuesday when he lived in town.

Here's a quick story that I hope doesn't come off as a "look at me" moment. I didn't really have a relationship with Wilson when he was in Seattle. His celebrity was firmly established when I arrived in August 2015, and my only interactions with him came when he was in front of a podium. Yet three Mondays ago, a couple of minutes after I asked Russell if the booing from the Lumen Field crowd bothered him, I felt a tap on my shoulder as I was leaving the visitor's room. It was Wilson. He just wanted to say that it was good to see me before shaking my hand.

I say that because the biggest criticism Wilson receives is that he's inauthentic. Just watch his recent cringeworthy Subway ad, and you'll see why. But this felt genuine — a good guy who wanted to do a nice thing.

As I've said before, though, there's a big difference between sports hate and real hate. And the sports hate for Wilson is vehement right now. The only thing the 12s can't celebrate is that the Broncos — whose record will determine how high one of the Seahawks' first-round draft picks will be next year — are 2-1. The ever-elusive Wilson has escaped with two victories while Seattle sits at 1-2.

Still, one can't help but think these first three games from No. 3 have been particularly delightful for Seahawks fans. Not saying Smith is a better quarterback by any means, but he's been much better so far — which makes 12s feel better, too.

___ (c)2022 The Seattle Times Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 8:03 PM.

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