RENTON — While answering a question about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes — the current favorite to be named the NFL’s MVP — Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gave the most public confirmation to what is emerging as one of the more intriguing hypotheticals in team history.
The story is the Seahawks were so infatuated with Mahomes when he entered the draft out of Texas Tech in 2017 that they were thinking about taking him with the 26th pick if he had been available, even if quarterback was their position of least need.
Instead, the Chiefs — who play the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday night — traded two first-round picks to Buffalo to move up from No. 27 to No. 10 to grab Mahomes.
The next morning, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network tweeted, “If Patrick Mahomes was there for the Seahawks in late (round) 1 they would have really, really considered it.”
Mahomes was one of the fastest-rising players in the draft and the thought was that he probably wouldn’t last to No. 26.
That the Chiefs were a spot behind Seattle in the draft and made a bold strike to move up to get him reinforced the idea that he wasn’t going to get past No. 26.
“(Seahawks general manager) John (Schneider) was in love with him,” Carroll said of Mahomes. “He knew that he had something really special. He thought he was worthy of going up there in the very top of the draft. We were surprised that he made it to 10th by our evaluations.”
With Mahomes off the board, the Seahawks eventually traded out of the first round, ultimately moving down to No. 35 where they took Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell, in the process acquiring picks in later rounds they used to draft safeties Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson, defensive back Mike Tyson (now with Houston) and running back Chris Carson.
The idea that the Seahawks apparently would have considered drafting Mahomes drew more than a few raised eyebrows at the time.
Russell Wilson had signed his four-year, $87.5 million extension — which runs through the 2019 season — barely two years earlier.
Were they really willing to spend a first-round pick on what would have been perceived as a likely little-used luxury item for at least three years?
What’s worth remembering is the context of the time.
Wilson was coming off a 2016 season that remains the roughest of his career, suffering three injuries that limited his ability to run and also helped result in a 92.6 passer rating, his lowest.
Wilson is the only quarterback the Seahawks have drafted since Schneider and Carroll took over in 2010, and his arrival in 2012 has given Seattle one of the best in the NFL at that position.
But Wilson’s injuries that year and the lack of a proven backup led to a lot of conjecture going into that draft that maybe 2017 would be the year the Seahawks would take a QB to beef up the overall depth at that spot, even if no one was thinking they would do so in the first round.
A quote Schneider gave a few days before the draft that year is telling, as is remembering that he spent much of his pre-Seattle career in Green Bay, a franchise known for always making sure it was well-stocked at quarterback no matter who it had as its starter.
“I’ve always thought you have to have one (quarterback) in the chamber, and have a guy who is getting ready,” Schneider said. “… that’s something that you want to do. The most important position on the field.”
Seattle didn’t take a QB that year. But further evidence they were serious about making sure they were better covered at the backup spot came when the Seahawks famously brought in Colin Kaepernick for a tryout a few weeks after the draft.
Kaepernick didn’t sign and Seattle instead signed Austin Davis. Still, in those spring months when Seattle might still have been a little queasy about Wilson’s health and not having a real proven backup, it seems clear the Seahawks were interested in exploring options.
As we now know, Seattle’s evaluation of Mahomes as a player worth making a significant investment on couldn’t have been more accurate — in his first season as a starter, Kansas City comes to town having scored the fifth-most points in NFL history through 14 games, 499.
That makes you wonder what would have happened had Seattle landed Mahomes.
Wilson rebounded from the injuries just fine and has played all but five snaps the past two seasons, missing only one due to injury (the infamous “concussion” play last year at Arizona).
Sure, Mahomes would have played a lot in the preseason and would have likely displayed his vast potential, just as he did with the Chiefs in 2017 when he compiled a 109.3 passer rating. That, combined with his performance in a Week 17 start, helped convince Kansas City it could trade veteran Alex Smith last offseason to Washington.
But that likely wouldn’t have been enough to compel the Seahawks to replace Wilson in any regular-season game over the past two years, even during a few of the uneven starts in 2017.
Or would it? Now, that would have been interesting.
More likely, Seattle would have known it had a really valuable trade chip and also a younger QB (Mahomes is 23, Wilson 30) to give it some options when Wilson’s contract runs out following next season — expect negotiations on those to get serious this offseason.
Maybe at that point if the Seahawks thought a deal with Wilson would be difficult, Wilson could have been dangled as trade bait. The Seahawks would be assured they were right about Mahomes, and could go back to the formula that led the Carroll/Schneider era to its greatest years — a young quarterback on a rookie contract and lots of cap space.
Even if we’ll never know, we can always wonder.