Today, somewhat unexpectedly, it came to light that Seneca Wallace is hanging up the cleats and retiring from the NFL at age 33. Wallace didn’t play a down in the NFL last year and he had bounced from New Orleans to San Francisco this offseason, so one could see how he might have just been a little fed up with the way his career was going. That’s not really for me to say. I’m not a psychologist nor am I a good friend of Seneca’s, although he seems like a decent guy. I’m more interested in the career that Wallace had than his state of mind leaving it behind because his career was absolutely fascinating.
Seneca Wallace has to be the only quarterback I know of who is best remembered for a catch he made. In the 2005 playoffs Wallace lined up at wide receiver and caught a 28 yard pass made even sweeter by the fact that he beat former Seahawk Ken Lucas to make it. Lucas was expecting a trick play but Wallace beat him fair and square by just running a route like any other receiver would have. When the Seahawks had trouble with injuries at wide receiver Mike Holmgren was always very hesistant to put Seneca in due to his role as the backup quarterback. As a result, Wallace ends his career with only 6 catches for 106 yards receiving, in regular season play, despite his talents in that area.
Seneca Wallace probably came into the league about ten years too early. His stock was thought to have dropped significantly in the 2003 draft because of his insistence on playing quarterback, which is interesting because nowadays the athleticism that Wallace had would likely be embraced by teams looking for the next RGIII or Russell Wilson. Wilson is an interesting comparison because Wallace has the same diminuitive stature. Also, much like Wilson, Wallace was always maintained that he was a quarterback that could run and not a running quarterback. The statistics bear that out. Wallace appeared in 62 games in his career and rushed 68 times. To be fair only 21 of those games were starts but it’s clear that he wasn’t out there to run.
What Wallace did best was throw the ball. That’s something of a surprising statement but it’s pretty clearly the truth also. Seneca Wallace had 76 career touches where he didn’t throw the ball (7 receptions, 68 rushes, 1 punt return) and the resulted in 427 yards or 5.6 yards per touch. Given the advantages the quarterbacks have when running the ball and the boost from the receptions that is hardly an impressive number. I’m not trying to be dismissive of Wallace’s explosiveness, because he clearly had the ability to make things happen, but what I am saying is that so much of what we remember about Wallace has nothing to do with his ability as a quarterback but his other skills were secondary. If Mike Holmgren had found another reliable backup that made him comfortable enough to deploy Wallace in a more diverse way then maybe things would have been different but that’s purely speculation.
What isn’t speculation is that Seneca Wallace was a half decent quarterback. He ends his career with a 81.3 passer rating (83.1 as a Seahawk) and 31 touchdowns compared to only 18 interceptions. In his longest stint as a starter (8 games in 2008) Wallace threw for 1532 yards 11 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions for a 87 passer rating. That performance is often forgetten in the quagmire of despair that season represented. Wallace was no star passer but he was solid, a very good backup and a guy who might have gotten a real chance somewhere if his career had played out differently.
I’m sure Seahawks fans everywhere have fond memories of Seneca Wallace but I doubt they are exactly in line with the actual nature of his career. He will be remembered as a quarterback who could run even though his career high in rushes for a single season was 16. He will be remembered as a multi-purpose threat even though he only had seven catches and one punt return in his career. He will probably be remembered as a mediocre quarterbook despite the fact he wasn’t half bad, and in fact was a pioneer for short quarterbacks like Russell Wilson even if he is rarely acknowledged as such. More than anything though he will probably be remembered for that one catch against Carolina and ultimately I think that’s fair. Even in “Seneca Wallace: Receiver” was less of a thing than people realize, in that moment Seneca Wallace was a big time receiver beating a big time corner in a big time game. Regardless of what transpired in your career, in terms of legacy, you could definitely do worse.