We've seen Russell Wilson pull off the improbable through the years. Some of the plays he's kept alive are astonishing. Some of the comebacks he's engineered are awe-inspiring. The throws he's made and the odds he's defied make him the embodiment of pulling off the longshot.
But what if he graduated from improbable and just pulled off the impossible? What if the man who spurned his old team and turned off his old city; the man with the $245 million extension, celebrity wife, and Super Bowl ring; the man with the cheesy slogans, cringe-worthy commercials and trying-way-too-hard Twitter pics ... just became a sympathetic figure?
Wilson's devolution over the past month and a half has been astounding. Train wrecks are just as jealous as ex-teammates over the attention he's getting.
Everything Geno Smith has been as far as "how does he keep getting better?!" Wilson has been in terms "how does he keep getting worse?!" Did you see Monday night's performance? Of course you did. Denver's demise has become every bit as exciting this season for Seattle sports fans as the Seahawks' surge.
In a 19-16 loss to the Chargers, Wilson threw for just 15 yards in the second half and overtime on 3-of-11 passing. Moreover, his decision-making and coverage reads likely earned him a film-room tongue-lashing regardless of his superstar status.
One play getting a hefty helping of criticism was a third-and-two on Denver's opening drive, in which Wilson failed to see wide-open tight end Greg Dulcich right in front of him, thus leading to the Broncos having to settle for a field goal.
It wasn't a gaffe on par with a pick-six or, I don't know ... interception on second-and-goal from the 1, but it was representative of a player who's struggling as much between the ears as he is with his arms or legs.
Remember, Russell reportedly suffered a partially torn lat in his loss to the Raiders two weeks earlier. And against the Chargers, he was said to be playing through a hamstring injury. The MRI has his status as day to day, and given all the dings he played through as a Seahawk, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it's hampering him.
But it wouldn't affect decision-making. It wouldn't cause someone such as Dulcich to be left untargeted with no defenders in sight, just as Denver receiver K.J. Hamler was on the final play vs. the Colts 11 days earlier, when he threw his helmet down in frustration after Wilson missed him in the end zone.
Something is off. Way off. Wilson's 83.4 passer rating is 23rd in the NFL. And passer rating doesn't take into account the 20 sacks Wilson has taken, which is the sixth-most in the league. More worrisome for the Bronco faithful is that Denver's 15.2 points per game are the fewest in the league.
Smith's rise from seven-year backup to one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL through six weeks feels unprecedented. But so does Wilson's decline from elite signal caller to offensively impotent.
What's exacerbating all this are the body blows he's enduring from every conceivable angle. He was booed ruthlessly in his return to Seattle in Week 1. He caught flak across social media for the "Let's Ride" tagline he created when he got to Denver (which he abandoned after Monday's loss) and the what-the-hell-is-this Subway ad that popped up — then quickly disappeared — a few weeks back. Former teammate Richard Sherman, perhaps not surprisingly, has been lambasting him on his podcast and on Amazon Prime. And Marshawn Lynch recently said he had to go through Wilson's manager just to make contact with Russell.
The grass hasn't been greener in Denver for Wilson. As his new hometown terrain would suggest, it's been colder and steeper and rockier.
So should you feel bad for the man? That's up to you. But me personally? I actually do.
Before his first game back in Seattle, I wrote that Wilson was worthy of boos after he forced his way out despite having multiple years left on his ree-dunk-u-lously lucrative contract. And I'm fully aware that he goes out of his way to craft an image that is un-relatable to the majority of fans.
But right now, I think he's having major regrets about leaving the Seahawks and placing himself in a situation that has led to endless mockery. I think he's facing uncharted territory psychologically, in the sense that he seems to be disliked by his former and current fan base. Nine-figure contracts don't necessarily soothe that hurt.
I'd argue that Wilson is a weird guy who seems closer to a robot than human sometimes — but I don't think he's a bad guy. And he's struggling right now. I'm not sure this is amusing anymore.
Of course, I won't begrudge anyone for reveling in his tribulations. When I stop to think about who warrants sympathy, multi-millionaire, championship-winning quarterbacks with a healthy family don't come to mind.
That game Monday night, however, felt like a new low. I can't speak for all Seahawks fans, but, amazingly, this feels like something that's gone from fun to watch to just plain hard to watch.