Quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has made a resounding statement the past three games, and some are beginning to mention his name in the debate over who should become the NFL’s MVP.
RENTON — An off-season of debate about the worth of Russell Wilson has led to a season in which he has redefined the question.
“They used to say that Russell Wilson couldn’t carry an offense,’’ said Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who now writes about football financial issues for CBSsports.com. “He can carry an offense.’’
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And as Wilson has illustrated that on the field the past few weeks some have begun to wonder if there isn’t a new question: Is it time to consider him as a potential NFL MVP?
Three for the MVP
Here are the three players generally considered the front-runners for the MVP award and how Seahawks QB Russell Wilson compares:
Carolina QB Cam Newton: In leading the Panthers to a 12-0 record, Newton is emerging as the leader for the MVP award. He has completed 218-373 passes for 2,797 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a QB rating of 93.2. He also has rushed for 476 yards on 108 attempts with seven touchdowns.
New England QB Tom Brady: Losses the past two weeks haven’t done much to dim the shine on Brady’s season as he has completed 323-507 passes for 3,912 yards with 31 touchdowns and six interceptions for a QB rating of 102.8.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer: The 35-year-old has stayed healthy to turn in maybe his best season in leading the Cardinals to a 10-2 record, completing 267 of 418 passes for 3,693 yards,29 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a QB rating of 106.3.
Russell Wilson: Wilson’s yardage numbers won’t top those of Brady or Palmer given the style of the two teams. But he has a QB rating better than Brady and is just behind Palmer at 106.2, third in the NFL (Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton leads the league at 107.4). And Wilson is not far behind Newton’s rushing with 450 yards on 86 carries.
Realistically, Wilson probably doesn’t have much of a shot with Cam Newton, who has led Carolina to a 12-0 record, and Tom Brady, having another typical season in leading the Patriots to a 10-2 mark, considered the front-runners. Carson Palmer of Arizona and Andy Dalton of Cincinnati also have strong cases. (And while there are also worthy non-QB candidates, lately only QB’s have won this award. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson in 2012 is the only-non quarterback to win).
Wilson’s late-season surge, though, suddenly make his numbers look almost MVP-esque.
Wilson’s passer rating of 106.2 is on par with that of Dalton, who leads the NFL at 107.4 and Palmer at 106.3. It’s ahead of Brady’s 102.8 and Newton’s 93.2.
Wilson’s 8.51 yards per pass are better than all but Palmer’s 8.83 and Ben Roethlisberger’s 8.88.
Wilson’s 450 rushing yards are the second-best among all quarterbacks, behind only the 476 of Newton, though Wilson has the better per-carry average (5.2 compared to 4.4).
The only area where Wilson lags is fourth-quarter passing. Wilson has a 106.0 quarterback rating in the fourth quarter, fifth-best in the NFL behind Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor (117.), Newton (115.0), Brady (114.1) and Palmer (112.2).
Wilson also boasts a three-game stretch nearly unprecedented in NFL history. His passer rating of 138.5 or better in each of the past three games is matched only by Kurt Warner in 1999 and Aaron Rodgers in 2011. Warner and Rodgers each won the MVP that season.
Gil Brandt, a longtime former NFL executive, had Wilson fourth on his list of MVP candidates this week for NFL.com behind Newton, Brady and Palmer, writing that Wilson is a “long shot’’ but that he has “played a large part in pulling them back from the brink, dragging them from the fringes of playoff contention to a favorable spot in the race for a wild-card berth.’’
Wilson has done that while playing most of the season without running back Marshawn Lynch, and five quarters without tight end Jimmy Graham.
Wilson’s play has drawn raves from coaches and teammates, including cornerback Richard Sherman, who after the Minnesota game mentioned he thinks Wilson should get MVP consideration.
On his blog this week, Sherman wrote of Wilson: “This is a quarterback coming into his own. This is his growing point. This is him moving up into that elite tier.’’
As Corry notes, Wilson is already being paid like an elite quarterback, thanks to the four-year extension he signed the day before training camp started. It’s worth $87 million, with $61 million guaranteed. The annual average of $21.75 million is second in the NFL behind the $22 million of Rodgers.
Still, the Seahawks may have saved themselves some money. Some speculated last summer that Wilson was willing to play the 2015 season without a new deal and possibly force the Seahawks to put an exclusive franchise tag on him that could have meant a payday of possibly as much as $26 million in 2016. That might have forced a contract negotiations that might have cost the Seahawks even more. him even more.
Newton also signed a new contract in the off-season for $20.7 million. Corry says Newton and Wilson likely could have landed contracts that above the franchise-tag number had they waited.
“That would have been the floor (for the start of negotiations),’’ Corry said.
Corry, though, says Wilson hardly got short-changed, especially since he had been due to make only $1.5 million this season, and signing when he did guaranteed life-changing money.
“It’s a win-win deal,’’ Corry said.
Wilson had a few off games earlier in the season, when the offensive line was still progressing and the team still figuring out what worked best on offense.
A shift after the bye week emphasized quicker passes, allowing Wilson to get rid of the ball swiftly out of the pocket, has been the fundamental adjustment to the offense in recent weeks.
Seahawks coaches, though, resist the idea that Wilson has changed.
“I think he’s had this ability all along, and he has demonstrated it at times,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “I think he’s the best in our system he’s ever been, and he’s shown that through the off-season and gave us the thought that he was really in command of the offense. … What we’ve done is we’ve just zeroed in on stuff to make sure that we can maintain that rhythm that keeps the pass rush from being a factor, and he’s done really well with it obviously.”