For most franchises, a Super Bowl winning quarterback with nine Pro Bowls would be a pretty good bet to have his number retired.
For the Seattle Seahawks, it’s apparently a little more complicated than that.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times noticed something notable about the Seahawks’ online roster: No. 3 has been given away. That’s the number former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wore for 10 mostly fantastic seasons.
The No. 3 has been assigned to cornerback Artie Burns. Burns signed a one-year, $2 million deal in the offseason, after playing three games for Seattle last season. It’s not exactly New York Jets fans wondering if Aaron Rodgers would ask Joe Namath if he could wear No. 12.
Wilson’s legacy is more complicated than you’d think for someone who helped the franchise to new heights, including the first Super Bowl in team history. The Seahawks traded Wilson to the Denver Broncos last offseason, and when the Broncos played at Seattle in Week 1 he was mostly booed by the Seahawks’ fans. Even if you account for Wilson being the opponent that night, it’s not like Peyton Manning was booed when he came back to Indianapolis as a member of the Broncos. It was pretty jarring.
Wilson’s jersey being reassigned after just one season is jarring too, but Condotta explained there’s some nuance involved. With 90 players on the roster, there aren’t many numbers to go around. Burns wore No. 21 last season and that went to first-round pick Devon Witherspoon when Burns was unsigned. There basically weren’t any defensive back numbers left, Condotta said. And it’s just May. Maybe Burns, or anyone else, will never wear the No. 3 in a regular-season game for Seattle.
Still, it seems like something could have been worked out. Teams keep numbers out of circulation for famous players either for a few years or forever. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a handful of numbers that aren’t retired but have never been reissued. It can be done if a team cares to keep a number from being worn again.
The Seahawks could revisit it all at some point, and maybe Wilson will have his number retired someday no matter who wears it in the meantime. But it sure seemed like another sign of the Seahawks moving further away from a player who you’d assume would be treated like a franchise icon.