Seahawks Franchise Five: Russell Wilson leads group that blends Hall of Famers with active players

Established in 1976, the Seattle Seahawks are one of the NFL‘s youngest franchises, but that doesn’t make selecting their Franchise Five any easier. As was also the case with a charter member like the Bears, whittling down a list of all-time greats to only five figures that encapsulate the entire 44-year history of the Seahawks was like trying to pick only five toppings at a pizza parlor. There are more than five great options. 

At this point, you might be wondering: What exactly is a Franchise Five? It’s simple. The Franchise Five seeks to identify the five most important figures in a team’s history with the following parameters: the five must be made up of one coach, one quarterback, and three players who aren’t quarterbacks. 

For the Seahawks, identifying a coach and quarterback were especially easy, but things got messier when it came to the three non-quarterback players. After consulting with ESPN senior writer and noted Seahawks fan Mina Kimes, I was able to narrow down the list to a group that, as someone who was born and raised in the greater Seattle area, I’m entirely comfortable with. What follows is a list of five figures — from a certain receiver who made his debut with the team in its inaugural 1976 season to a certain quarterback and linebacker who are still playing for the team — who have shaped the identity of the Seahawks. 

When you think of football in Seattle, these five figures are likely the first five that come to mind.

Coach Pete Carroll 

Before Pete Carroll came along, Mike Holmgren would’ve been the easy choice. After all, Holmgren took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl, where he failed to prepare his team for a game against the officials (I kid, I kid — kinda), and stepped away with a then-franchise record of 86 regular-season wins. But then Carroll arrived, leading the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, one of which he won, and obliterating Holmgren’s records with 100 regular-season wins and 10 playoff wins — not to mention a winning percentage that’s nine points higher than Holmgren’s. Carroll is the only acceptable answer here.

In 10 seasons, Carroll has missed the playoffs only twice. A defensive-minded coach, Carroll pieced together and developed one of the most iconic defenses in NFL history, the Legion of Boom. In half of his 10 seasons in charge, the Seahawks’ defense has finished in the top three in points allowed. In more recent seasons, Russell Wilson has become one of the best quarterbacks in football as the Seahawks’ defense has declined, but that shouldn’t reflect poorly on Carroll, who deserves credit for molding a third-round quarterback into a future Hall-of-Famer. 

While there’s no doubt his commitment to establishing the run and failure to evolve in recent years has hamstrung the Seahawks, making life that much more difficult for Wilson, who continually bails out the Seahawks, Carroll continually wins football games — that might seem overly simplistic, but it’s really the most important criteria we use to judge coaches. He’s 100-59-1 in the regular season, 10-7 in the playoffs, and 1-1 in the Super Bowl as the Seahawks’ coach. It’s hard to imagine another coach winning more games with the Seahawks than Carroll already has. For all of the complaints Seahawks fans have about him — many of them entirely fair — all Carroll does is win.

Just missed: Mike Holmgren 

QB Russell Wilson 

Like Carroll, Russell Wilson was the easy choice here, beating out a popular player from the Holmgren era. While Matt Hasselbeck was good enough to help make the Seahawks competitive year in and year out, he never really performed like a Hall of Fame quarterback — not like Wilson, who has been a top-five quarterback in the NFL for several years now and is on a clear Hall of Fame trajectory. While it might be true that the Seahawks’ defenses in the early years of Wilson’s career did more to contribute to the team’s success, Wilson has developed into the best and most important player on the team — arguably in the entire NFL, namely because no quarterback continually does more with less than Wilson, who might be the best quarterback not named Drew Brees to have never won MVP.

Quarterback wins might not be an individual stat, but the former third-round pick has posted an 86-41-1 record in the regular season and a 9-6 mark in the postseason — no quarterback for the Seahawks has won more games. Wilson trails Hasselbeck in career completions, but only just barely; he should pass Hasselbeck during the upcoming season. He’s the team’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdown passes, passer rating, fourth-quarter comebacks, and game-winning drives. He’s remarkably consistent, having never missed a start in his eight-year career. He seldom turns the ball over, with an average of 8.5 interceptions per season. He’s the best deep-ball thrower in the NFL. He almost always leads the league in frustrating opponents who think they have him in their grasp only to watch him elude capture with wicked sorcery. Perhaps most importantly, he was the starting quarterback on the only Seahawks team to win a Super Bowl.

All of this makes Wilson the only acceptable answer. He checks every single box. And he’s still operating at his peak.

Just missed: Matt Hasselbeck 


Illustration by Mike Meredith

WR Steve Largent 

The Seahawks’ best-ever receiver by a wide margin, Largent still owns every major receiving record in franchise history despite being a member of the team during its inaugural season back in 1976: catches (by a margin of 238), receiving yards (by a margin of 5,469), and touchdown catches (by a margin of 51). During his career (1976-89), Largent led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches, also by astronomical margins. In 1995, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Heading into the 2020 season, he ranks 18th all-time in receiving yards (just ahead of Jason Witten) and is tied for ninth all-time with Tim Brown in touchdown catches with exactly 100.

Still, it feels like Largent remains underrated outside of Seattle. In his 14 seasons, he made first-team All-Pro only once. The Seahawks qualified for the playoffs four times with Largent, but never made it beyond the conference championship round. But as the first-ever great Seahawks player and one of the greatest receivers to ever play the sport, Largent was an easy choice.

LT Walter Jones

An offensive lineman is never the sexiest selection, but Seahawks fans understand just how much Walter Jones mattered to the Holmgren-era teams. From 1997-2008, Jones garnered four first-team All-Pro selections and nine Pro Bowl nods, and was eventually rewarded in 2014 with an invitation to join the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. As someone who grew up in the greater Seattle area in the aughts, my lasting memory of those Seahawks teams will forever be Shaun Alexander taking a handoff from Hasselbeck, veering left, and patiently waiting for a hole to open up behind Jones (and Steve Hutchinson). Jones was so good that the untrained eye of a kid was able to recognize how dominant he was on nearly every snap, whether it was as a run blocker or in pass protection. As reported by ESPN’s Mike Sando, he allowed only 23 sacks across his entire 12-year career, according to Seattle coaches, which is probably one reason why Holmgren once called Jones the best offensive player he’s ever coached.

LB Bobby Wagner 

I had to pick at least one member from the historically awesome defense that propelled the franchise to its only championship, which meant the final spot came down to either linebacker Bobby Wagner, cornerback Richard Sherman, or safety Earl Thomas. All three have compelling cases considering all three were, at some point during their Seahawks careers, the best player at their position group across the entire league. Thomas’ incredible range enabled the Seahawks’ scheme to be as effective as it was, and Sherman routinely shut down his half of the field and wound up supplying arguably the most iconic moment in franchise history, but in the end, Wagner emerged as the final representative, getting the edge over his two former teammates because unlike both Sherman (now with the 49ers) and Thomas (now with the Ravens), he remains in Seattle and has a chance to spend his entire career with the Seahawks.

He does it all: rush the quarterback as a blitzer, plug holes against the ground game, and track pass catchers downfield. In his eight-year career, Wagner has been named first-team All-Pro five times. He ranks third in tackles, second in tackles for loss, fifth in quarterback hits, and fifth in approximate value in Seahawks franchise history. He was the best linebacker of the past decade, right there alongside Luke Kuechly. Only Kuechly has racked up more total tackles than Wagner since he entered the league in 2012, but Wagner has more than double the number of quarterback hits.

Make no mistake about it, Wagner is well on his way to Canton. When he gains entrance, he’ll enter the Hall of Fame as a Seattle legend.

Just missed: DT Cortez Kennedy, CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas, S Kenny Easley

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