Russell Wilson pushed to have Seahawks coach Pete Carroll fired before his departure from Seattle, according to a report Friday from The Athletic, though the Denver Broncos‘ quarterback subsequently denied doing so on social media.
According to the report, Wilson asked Seahawks ownership in February 2022 to fire Carroll and general manager John Schneider with hopes that the team would hire Sean Payton to be the coach.
In his denial, Wilson tweeted Friday morning that Carroll “was a father figure to me” and that Schneider “believed in me and drafted me as well.”
“I never wanted them fired. All any of us wanted was to win,” Wilson wrote. “I’ll always have respect for them and love for Seattle.”
I love Pete and he was a father figure to me and John believed in me and drafted me as well. I never wanted them fired. All any of us wanted was to win.
l’ll always have respect for them and love for Seattle.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) February 24, 2023
A lawyer for Wilson also disputed the report as “entirely fabricated.” The Seahawks declined comment to The Athletic.
ESPN previously reported on the tense relationship between Wilson and the Seahawks over his 10-year tenure in Seattle, with sources describing a dysfunctional situation that built toward its eventual breaking point.
Wilson was ultimately traded to the Broncos in March for a haul that included multiple first- and second-round picks and quarterback Drew Lock, who served as the backup to Geno Smith as the Seahawks made the playoffs in 2022.
Following the trade, the Broncos gave Wilson a five-year, $245 million extension that included $165 million in guaranteed money. But they stumbled to a 5-12 season in 2022 that led to the firing of first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett and the bringing in of Payton as his replacement.
The Athletic also detailed issues with Wilson’s first season in Denver, with players, coaches and staff members questioning some of the control the quarterback had. Examples included weekly private meetings with the offense held by Wilson, an office for Wilson located away from his teammates, play suggestions from Wilson that Hackett would add to the game plan and personal staff members the quarterback was allowed to have in the team facility.
Payton appeared to stifle some of Wilson’s power earlier this month, when the coach said at his introductory news conference that Wilson’s personal quarterback coach, Jake Heaps, would no longer be in the Broncos’ facility.
“I’m not too familiar with that,” Payton said Feb. 6 when asked about Wilson having Heaps in the building with access this past season. “That’s foreign to me. That’s not going to take place. I’m unfamiliar with it. Our staff will be here, our players will be here, and that will be it.”
Payton also promised that Wilson, and all the Broncos players, would be held to his standard.
“You have law and order, as Bill [Parcells] would say,” Payton said. “… You come in with this is how we’re going to teach, this is how we’re going to meet, this is how we’re going to practice. … Discipline, toughness and football makeup is going to be real important for who is a Denver Bronco. There is an element of discipline, there is an element of toughness, and look, it’s not for everyone.”
Payton later added, “I know what it looks like, and I know what it doesn’t look like. And sometimes we’re not asking. Sometimes it’s nonnegotiable.”
The Seahawks opened the 2022 season by beating the Broncos 17-16 on “Monday Night Football,” with Wilson and Carroll only briefly interacting postgame. Carroll called the win “really rewarding” in a radio interview the following day.
“I didn’t need the validation,” Carroll told Seattle Sports 710-AM. “I just wanted it. I just wanted to win. I wanted to win for all of the reasons that come along with this one. Maybe as much as anything is representing the guys that have played before. It meant a lot to those guys. I was so thrilled to be able to hug those guys up and see them and look them in the eye.”
Information from ESPN’s Jeff Legwold and Brady Henderson was used in this report.