In an NFL media culture that so often simplifies quarterback play to simple wins and losses, the underrating of Russell Wilson has been a mystery. The Seattle Seahawks’ fourth-year quarterback can win Super Bowls and engineer comebacks, but his own role is perpetually dismissed as being either the product of the Legion of Boom defense or having Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. This year, Wilson has obliterated the doubters—he is playing at a level that merits the MVP award if the season were to end today.
Over the past few weeks, Wilson has lost Lynch and lost tight end Jimmy Graham. How does he respond? By going on the biggest pass production binge of his career. So much for the offense carrying him. The Seattle defense is still very good—they rank 3rd in the NFL in points allowed, but they haven’t been as fearsome, particularly in the fourth quarter of games.
The Seahawks’ offense ranks 6th in the league in scoring, indicating a more balanced approach to winning. And if you factor in the home games being played in conditions that often favor the defense, you can fairly say that this season, Seattle’s offense is on a par or better than the defense. If Lynch and Graham have been hurt lately and the offensive line has dealt with growing pains, where does the credit go? Yep, to Russell Wilson.
Here are Wilson’s numbers during Seattle’s current four-game winning streak (the first bit of which includes Lynch and Graham, but the last three games have not):
*75.4% completion rate
*16 touchdown passes
*1,171 passing yards total
That’s high-level production at the point his team needed it most, which some might call the stuff of an MVP. Nor is this just one good streak. Wilson’s season-long numbers are also impressive:
*Ranks 2nd among NFL starters in completion percentage
*3rd in yards-per-attempt
*10th lowest interception percentage
*7th in touchdown passes
No other quarterback combines high percentage passing with also getting chunk yardage. Kirk Cousins leads the league in percentage, but is in the bottom half on yards-per-attempt. Carson Palmer gets the high yards-per-attempt, but give it up a bit (though admittedly not much) in percentage. Wilson is the best fusion of the two key elements of the passing game.
None of this is anything new. Wilson has spent the last four years proving that among the famed quarterback class of 2012, highlighted by Andrew Luck and RG3, that this fourth-round pick is the best of the lot—not just in terms of draft value, but actual straight-up production.
The first crossing of the guard occurred in the first-round playoff game of his rookie year when Wilson’s Seahawks went on the road to play the Redskins. This was the game where RG3 gets injured and it boils down to he and Wilson’s ships crossing in the night. Wilson emerged as the pre-eminent challenger to Luck as the game’s top young quarterback.
While Luck, prior to this season, absorbed media adulation and constant excuses for every shortcoming, Wilson outperformed him on the football field. Wilson’s career numbers are superior in completion percentage (64.7 to 58), yards-per-attempt (8.1 to 7.0), interception percentage (2.0 to 2.6) and they’re close in touchdown passes (Luck leads 101-98). So three touchdown passes over four years with Luck being in a weak division and playing indoors is his only edge over what is now a significant sample size.
I respect Cam Newton and with Carolina undefeated, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with him as MVP. The greatness of Tom Brady requires no explanation. And in spite of what I’ve written here I like Andrew Luck as a good long-term quarterback. But if you want the answer to the question of who should be the NFL MVP this season, and who is its top young gun going forward, the answer is Russell Carrington Wilson.