Russell Wilson outgrew the Seattle Seahawks over time. Together, they won the Super Bowl after the 2013 season, Wilson’s second within the N.F.L. But Wilson continued to blossom at quarterback while the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defense slowly faded and the organization grew less successful but more obstinate and needy.
It was identical to Streisand’s “A Star is Born,” but with Marshawn Lynch flattening defenders as a substitute of “Evergreen.”
After several seasons of whispered disenchantment, Wilson finally received the trade he desired. Wilson, now leading the Denver Broncos, will return to Seattle to face the Seahawks on Monday night. Such reunions are traditionally promoted as “revenge” games since the tropes of grindhouse kung fu movies — or classic Hollywood romances, for that matter — are much more compelling than the messy realities of N.F.L. roster management.
Before trading a hefty dowry of draft picks and players for Wilson, the Broncos spent the six seasons since Peyton Manning’s retirement swiping right on any quarterback whose dating profile read “tall, mature, willing to let the defense take charge.” Wilson, 33, who sealed his latest bond by signing a reported five-year, $243-million contract last week, represents the Broncos’ effort to expand their horizons and live just a little.
The Seahawks, against this, are still within the ice-cream-from-the-carton stage of the breakup. The previous Jets quarterback Geno Smith is their temporary starter in what could best be described as a relationship of mutual desperation and pity.
Wilson’s Broncos, legitimate Super Bowl contenders out of the A.F.C., are 6.5-point favorites to beat the Seahawks, who’re projected to be among the many league’s weakest teams. Under the circumstances, mercy may be a more appropriate impulse than vengeance.
Week 1 of the N.F.L. season may feature two other “revenge” matchups for quarterbacks. Such meetings are more common than within the recent past, when successful quarterbacks rarely modified teams, regardless of how disgruntled each parties (and fans) became with the arrangement.
Take Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. Like Wilson, Flacco once led a team loaded with defensive stars to a Super Bowl victory early in his profession. Unlike Wilson, Flacco’s development then stagnated: Ravens football within the mid-2010s felt like an infinite succession of 53-yard field goal attempts.
Despite ever-diminishing returns, Flacco remained the Ravens’ starter until 2018, when Lamar Jackson arrived and taught the Ravens the right way to rejoice again.
As employer-employee relationships go, Flacco and the Ravens were about nearly as good because it gets during late-stage capitalism. Flacco can also be 4 seasons faraway from the Ravens. After a brief stint because the Broncos’ starter (see above), he became an on-and-off backup for the Jets. At publication, Flacco was still scheduled to begin Sunday’s season opener against the Ravens, though on Monday Jets Coach Robert Saleh said that the second-year quarterback Zach Wilson might return from his preseason knee injury ahead of schedule.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Flacco’s have to be dipped in liquid nitrogen.
Flacco, 37, downplayed any possible revenge angle when asked about facing the Ravens in mid-August, saying “I’m going to attempt to ensure that it’s not the largest deal on the planet.” Most Jets and Ravens fans concur.
Baker Mayfield will be forgiven for feeling otherwise. This time last 12 months, Mayfield was coming off a breakout season during which he led the Cleveland Browns to their first playoff appearance for the reason that 2002 season. He was poised to earn the nine-figure second contract bestowed upon all successful young quarterbacks. A shoulder injury derailed Mayfield’s 2021 season, nonetheless, and in March the Browns leaped unexpectedly into the bidding war for the services of Deshaun Watson.
The Browns acquired the rights to Watson, then accused of sexual misconduct in 24 lawsuits, from the Houston Texans in exchange for 3 first-round picks and alter, signing him to a fully-guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract as a part of the deal. Mayfield, meanwhile, waited for a trade. And waited. The Browns held onto Mayfield through free agency, when quarterbacks like Matt Ryan (also jilted by his team’s pursuit of Watson) found latest starting jobs. They held onto him through the draft, when quarterback-needy teams found inexpensive solutions.
The Carolina Panthers, faced with the prospect of starting the season with the previous Jets quarterback Sam Darnold under center, acquired Mayfield in exchange for a conditional 2024 mid-round draft pick in early July. The Browns and Panthers even agreed to separate Mayfield’s 2022 compensation like a pair going halfsies after a failed date.
Mayfield was then forced to compete with Darnold for the starting job, an indication that Panthers Coach Matt Rhule is as lukewarm in regards to the latest arrangement as everyone else.
Mayfield, more quotable to a fault than Wilson or Flacco, got right into a media tussle last week over just how colorfully he phrased his desire to defeat his former team to NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund. He also licensed “off the leash” T-shirts commemorating Sunday’s showdown, suggesting that he had been tethered in his former team’s offense.
Media dust-ups and a flair for “distractions” marred Mayfield’s tenure in Cleveland, yet he has emerged as essentially the most sympathetic character in his off-season saga. And with the journeyman backup Jacoby Brissett starting for the Browns instead of the suspended Watson, Mayfield earns a measure of revenge just by showing up.
T-shirts and semantics aside, quarterback revenge narratives are inclined to be contrived. Players typically feel a bittersweet tangle of emotions when facing former teammates and coaches for the primary time as adversaries, or when shunted to the visitor’s locker room of a well-recognized stadium. Anyone returning “home” for a visitation weekend after a divorce can relate.
Enterprise onto any sub-Reddit or into any corner taproom, however, and also you’ll find seething fans who consider a quarterback’s departure as disloyalty or betrayal, either on the a part of the player or of the team. Seahawks fans particularly may feel just a little rejected by Wilson and anticipating some comeuppance.
Yet win or lose in Week 1, Wilson will remain within the highlight, while the Seahawks will probably be wearing sweatpants on the couch until they find his alternative. Ultimately, living well is indeed the most effective revenge.