Will this be the year?
If the NFL season comes to fruition, will it be the one in which Russell Wilson distinguishes himself as the game’s best QB?
Right now, Cam Newton and Tom Brady seem to be the two most-discussed quarterbacks in the game, and for good reason given Newton’s recent signing with the Patriots. And at the end of last season, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Ravens QB Lamar Jackson were the two biggest names in football, as the former won Super Bowl MVP and the latter regular-season MVP.
But as he enters his ninth year in the NFL, it feels as though the league’s highest paid player (for now) could also emerge as the best.
Despite Jackson’s and Mahomes’ achievements, football analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked Wilson as the top quarterback in the league last year. It saw a player with the best deep ball in football putting up monumental stats despite having one of the lowest-ranked offensive lines in terms of pass protection.
There is no doubt that the reason Seattle was able to win as many close games as it did was due to Russell’s fourth-quarter heroics game in and game out. But there was also a slight late-season drop off in which he posted a passer rating below 100 in six of his final seven games.
Wilson’s 2019 was a little bit like a golfer who eagled his first six holes or so before bogeying five on the back nine. It still made for a spectacular score, but left just enough wiggle room for an opponent to pass him.
Jackson made a habit of running by everyone in the league last year, and did the same with Wilson in the MVP race. But are we sure he’s better?
Las Vegas seems to think so for the time being. At the beginning of the week, thelines.com had Mahomes as the MVP favorite at 4-1, Jackson at 7-1 and Wilson at 8-1. Of course, this could largely be because of the support those players have (the Chiefs won the title last year while the Ravens had the best record in the NFL.)
It’s hard to say what the Seahawks would look like without Wilson, as he has only missed two significant snaps in his career. But given the pass-protection shortcomings and the absence of an elite receiver, it’s easy to think that they’d sputter.
He isn’t just the straw that stirs the drink, he’s the straw that turns that drink into a whirlpool.
A couple of days ago, we saw footage of Wilson working out with Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf along with a robot, yes, a robot, that served as the pass rush. And as per usual, his accuracy looked as though he was himself the product of artificial intelligence.
The guy makes mistakes about as often as Vin Scully stumbles over his words. So again, I ask — is this the year?
It’s hard to really tell whether Wilson is “underhyped.” A year ago, the NFL Network’s Kurt Warner caused a stir when he left Wilson out of his list of top-5 quarterbacks, but that’s just one example. If he were in New York or Dallas, perhaps there would be a bit more attention, but it seems as though the spotlight is there for the most part.
What I do know is that, despite having a career that’s on pace to reach the Hall of Fame, Wilson has never received a single MVP vote. This isn’t quite the travesty that some make it out to be given that there are no second or third-place votes in NFL MVP balloting. But it’s still wild to think about considering all Wilson has achieved.
There are myriad questions about what this season will look like — including whether it happens at all. But it isn’t too early to think about what No. 3 might achieve.
Players such as Newton and Brady are getting the attention now. I have a feeling that Wilson might be getting the bulk of it come fall.