Wilson has never received a vote for NFL MVP and may not this year. But that doesn't mean he isn't deserving of consideration.
Of all that Russell Wilson has accomplished in seven seasons as quarterback of the Seahawks — quarterbacking them to one Super Bowl win and two appearances, accumulating the second-highest passer rating in NFL history (Aaron Rodgers is first) — one thing he hasn’t done is get a single vote for NFL MVP.
OK, so the NFL MVP voting is unlike that in other sports. There’s no listing a top 10, as in baseball. Instead, the 50 voters simply pick one MVP and that’s it, and that leads to a lot of years where just a few players get votes.
Still, in Wilson’s six previous seasons in the NFL, 16 different players have received votes for MVP. That list includes the obvious ones who have won the award in that time — Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan.
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That list, though, also includes Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and both Carsons — Wentz and Palmer. It also includes Bobby Wagner, who famously got the vote of Tony Dungy after the 2014 season, making Wagner the only Seahawk who has gotten an MVP vote in the Pete Carroll era (and, in fact, the only Seahawk to get a vote since Shaun Alexander won it in 2005).
Wilson likely won’t get any votes this year, either, with the MVP race appearing mostly a two-man battle between Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes, with Gurley, Aaron Donald and a few others also getting some consideration (a CBSSports.com poll this week had nine players getting votes, none of them Wilson).
It makes sense. Wilson won’t put up the kind of passing numbers as have/will Brees and Mahomes (whose comeback Sunday was undeniably MVP-worthy), and Seattle isn’t going to win its division.
But as the 2018 season has progressed, it’s hard to imagine how any player could be more valuable to their team than Wilson has been to the Seahawks.
The Legion of Boom is but a memory, with Seattle ranking 19th in defense this year (and doing so with some consistency, ranking 17th against the run and 19th against the pass). The Seahawks are on pace to allow their most points since 2010.
Given the turnover of defensive personnel — Wagner really the only player left from the Super Bowl era to have made a significant consistent contribution this year with the injuries to Earl Thomas and K.J. Wright — that’s not a huge surprise.
The defensive makeover engendered lots of offseason talk whether the Seahawks could survive by needing a Wilson-led offense to carry them to the playoffs.
With just four games left, the answer is an unquestioned yes. Entering Monday night’s game against the Vikings, Seattle is 7-5 and nearing a 90 percent chance of making the playoffs, on pace to score 425 points, the second-most in team history and the most of the Carroll era, doing so with only one defensive or special-teams touchdown so far.
OK, I can already hear the pushback — IT’S BECAUSE OF THE RUNNING GAME, STUPID!!!!
No doubt the vastly improved running game has been a huge part of Seattle’s resurgence, the Seahawks leading the NFL in rushing this week at 148.8 yards per game compared to the 101.8 of last season.
But hopefully it’s not ignored what a huge part of the running game Wilson is — and not just his 245 yards rushing and 5.4 per carry average.
Part of Seattle’s revived rushing game this year is because of its success running the zone read — the Seahawks’ 131 zone-read attempts are 41 more than any other NFL team, according to Pro Football Focus, far more than the 97 of last season, and account for more than a third of Seattle’s rushing yards (632 of 1,786). And the success of the zone-read runs are due in no small part to Wilson’s decision-making (whether to keep it or hand off) and also the threat he presents as a runner.
As a passer, Wilson has never been better (and yes, I know passing is way up around the league. Still, at least Seattle has a QB who is a part of that charge).
Wilson has a career-low interception rate (1.5), a career-high TD rate (8.9) that would be the fifth-highest since the NFL merger in 1970, a yards-per-pass average of 8.33 that would tie a career high, and a career-high passer rating of 115.5, doing so with longtime security blanket receiver Doug Baldwin struggling through an injury-filled year (and remember all the worry about how Seattle would survive without Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson?).
According to the Seahawks, Seattle has led the NFL with 44 explosive plays over the last four weeks (defined as passes of 16 or more yards, runs of 12 or more), during which time Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception.
That’s the Pete Carroll formula — few turnovers, lots of big plays — to a T.
And if you think some of that is due to the play-calling getting better as the year has gone on, well some of THAT is because first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has realized that he can generally count on Wilson to do the right thing.
“It makes it easy to call plays,’’ Schottenheimer said this week when asked about Wilson’s ability to generally avoid the big mistake (yes, he’s had two notable pick-sixes this year, but every QB throws some, and each of Wilson’s came when trying to rally his team from behind in the fourth quarter).
“Having had young quarterbacks at different times you’re worried about, you kind of have to think, ‘Oh, do I really want to do that in this situation?’ That never comes into my mind (with Wilson). I trust him. He sees the field really, really well. He’s just playing really good football right now. But there’s definitely a peace of mind that not only you as the play-caller get but I think that the offense gets (and) the unit gets. He’s playing really well right now.”
Schottenheimer — who has been a quarterback coach for Brees and Philip Rivers and also was the OC for one year with Brett Favre with the Jets — made a similarly intriguing comment this week when asked about Wilson’s ability to complete deep passes.
“I’ve been blessed to be around some really, really good quarterbacks and I’d put him up there at the top of the list, if not at the top of the list,’’ Schottenheimer said. “Favre was a really good deep-ball passer. There’s just an ability. He knows how much trajectory, how much touch to put on it, when he has to drive the ball. The ball just kind of lays out there. He just kind of floats it out there and sometimes you never know whether a guy is going to go get it or where it’s going to land but (Wilson is) a tremendous deep-ball passer. It’s certainly something that I didn’t realize when I first got here that I’ve come to realize is that he’s got a special gift to do that.”
Add it up, and while Wilson may not be the NFL’s MVP, he remains unquestionably Seattle’s.