Ok, maybe the title was a bit dramatic to some degree, but there is a great portion of truth to it.
Because Russell Wilson is coming off a career year that stands out from the previous seasons and in this upcoming season, he can prove that he’s a truly elite quarterback and not the pretty good quarterback, who is an annoying figure in today’s NFL even though that’s not his fault.
Wilson is by all accounts, a pleasant and likable person. Only the most boorish of human can’t at least respect his restraint and desire to remain chaste until he married Ciara (and that’s a woman who would’ve tempted Gandhi, so major respect to you, Mr. Wilson).
What makes Russell Wilson an annoying figure to this sportswriter and plenty of objective fans is the same thing that made Tony Romo an annoying figure even though Romo is just as pleasant and nice a person as Russell Wilson. They are both overrated figures and the analysts who try to say they are overrated are lambasted by rabid fan bases.
They are slightly different.
Romo was more overrated by the media’s fixation upon him since it’d been nearly a decade since the Dallas Cowboys had an actual playmaker at quarterback. Romo’s media attention was combated by intense hatred because the Cowboys are hated by so many.
In Russell Wilson’s case, the media and his fans overrate him because he has “won” a lot early in his career In Wilson’s second season, the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and the third season, the Seahawks had a goal line interception that blew their chance of repeating.
Yes, Wilson has “won” a lot early in his career.
I use the word “won” loosely because there isn’t a more offensive more basic (and that’s not a compliment) statistic than QB record. It’s no different from pitching records which are routinely bashed, ridiculed, mocked and thankfully now ignored by most sportswriters who know that a pitcher cannot win alone. The same goes for the NFL.
However, there’s this stereotype still that an NFL quarterback can win alone. Or if they aren’t alone, they were the major reason that the team won.
Like he makes up most of the puzzle’s pieces.
Russell Wilson wasn’t even the MVP of their Super Bowl win (linebacker Malcolm Smith was), which was a defensive 43-8 blowout and Wilson didn’t throw a touchdown until the score was 29-0 in the third quarter.
Yet, ask a lot (and I haven’t even had to ask) of Seahawks fans and they think he’s God’s gift to quarterbacking.
A great quarterback isn’t just a winner. Great quarterbacks are great at being quarterbacks. They recognize blitzes, avoid sacks, and they throw for tons of yards and touchdowns while limiting interceptions.
Russell Wilson for his first three seasons was not great, but he was pretty good.
His averages: 24 TDs to 9 INTs, 3317 passing yards per season, 63.4% completion rate, 207 passing yards per game.
For a league and time where 300 yards a game is almost routine with the elites, then Wilson falls short. The pro-Wilson crowd can cry bad offensive line, bad receivers (they aren’t bad, just not elite) and he uses his legs as well. Well good for him, but elite QBs use their arms because their legs aren’t going to last forever.
Now, this is not a pile-on Russell Wilson.
This is to illustrate what his past was. The elite defense, strong running game, and excellent special teams plus the amazing homefield advantage in Seattle has given Wilson so much help that he wasn’t required to be an elite QB who carries the team.
That’s not a bad thing. Plenty of QBs have done that.
Tom Brady in 2001, his first Super Bowl year, averaged 189.5 yards passing a game. Bob Griese started only five regular season games in the 1972 perfect season.
Troy Aikman often had low numbers because the team would get ahead early and coast because they didn’t want to expose him to harm just so he can get gaudy pass numbers.
Peyton Manning in his final year was the leader, but he wasn’t an offensive juggernaut for the Broncos with a 9-15 TD-INT ratio.
All classic examples of big puzzle pieces who won when they weren’t the MVP or a top-tier passer at that time. Aikman and Griese never had to but they played in different eras. Manning had been one. Brady became one.
Wilson was one for a near half a season in the last seven games of the 2015 season.
For the first nine games of 2015, Wilson’s statistics were awful: 10 TDs to 7 INTs, 65.8% completion rate, 235.33 passing yards per game.
Sure he was a bit better in yards and completion rate, but he couldn’t throw a score and the team was 3-5. He wasn’t even the pretty good player that could reap the benefits of his supporting cast.
His offensive line was bad and the receivers were still the same, but excuses weren’t going to get them into the playoffs.
Then something happened. Something amazing and something that was awesome to watch.
Wilson found the passer inside himself.
In the final seven games, Wilson was unreal: 24 TDs to 1 INT, 71% completion rate, 272.29 passing yards per game. If he had played like that the entire year, he’d have roughly a 50-2 TD-INT ration which would easily be the greatest single season of all time regardless of position or era.
It was insane.
His season totals ended with an incredible and ELITE 34 TDs to 8 INTs, 4,024 passing yards 68.1% completion rate, and 251.5 passing yards a game.
Carolina’s Cam Newton won MVP because of the 15-1 Panthers reliance on his consistency and because Wilson’s season was half an MVP season, but the best quarterback in the league by the end of the year hung his hat in the Pacific Northwest.
Wilson wasn’t overrated in 2015 finally. He became what he needed in order to justify his fan base’s status of him as an elite quarterback. The Seahawks lost to the Panthers in the playoffs, but right now, the temptation to take Wilson over the reigning MVP is significant.
What’s left is for Wilson to show it’s not just 7 games. This newfound success has to be continued or else it’s a flash in the pan and that would not be a fun or happy story to see.
It’s up to Wilson to define what he really is as a quarterback and 2016 will be the year he does.