There is a quarterback in Kansas City who just won a Super Bowl and signed a 10-year contract worth more than $500 million. In the past two years, he has won a regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl MVP while completing some of the most mind-bending passes in history.
His name is Patrick Mahomes, a signal caller with a future so bright you’d go blind if you dare look at it. But … his peers don’t think he is quite as good as Russell Wilson.
It’s hard to say expectations have ever been higher for the Seahawks quarterback. Last month, the NFL Network ranked him as the league’s No. 2 player, two spots above Mahomes and behind only Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
It is the highest Wilson has been ranked on that list, which means anything short of an MVP-caliber 2020 season would come off as a disappointment. Fair? Perhaps not. But that’s the reality for the man entering his ninth year in the league.
Despite his dynamic, Super Bowl-winning career, Wilson has never actually garnered a single MVP vote. That sounds a bit worse than it really is, as there are no second- or third-place votes for the award, but it’s still notable.
Halfway through last season, it appeared as though Wilson was headed for his first MVP after a bevy of fourth-quarter heroics had Seattle in contention for an improbable division title. Then Wilson dropped off, Jackson went ballistic, and the award went to the young Raven.
So what does that mean for Wilson this season? Well, he’s not one who is going to tell you that individual accolades matter to him. But it’s hard to believe that players don’t care about their legacies, and there is still plenty for Russell to prove.
An example? That he can lead the Seahawks to a title as the undisputed best player on the team.
Few deny the importance of Wilson’s role in the Super Bowl runs Seattle made in 2013 and 2014. But the principal figures on that team were defensive backs Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, along with running back Marshawn Lynch, who anchored the Seahawks’ ground-first approach to the offense.
Since those players have moved on, Wilson has become the offensive focal point en route to true superstardom. As the face of the franchise, however, he has yet to reach even the NFC Championship Game.
Blaming him for Seattle’s shortcomings in the playoffs would be foolish, of course.
Whether it be trouble with the offensive line, defensive line, running game or secondary, the Seahawks simply haven’t had the manpower to compete for a title the past five years. Wilson is the primary reason they’ve been able to consistently make the postseason, so casting aspersions would be foolish.
That said, he has yet to really put together that complete season. Last year, for instance, Wilson had a QB rating of 100 or higher in eight of his first nine games — including four over 130. In his final seven, however, he posted a rating above 100 just once. This isn’t uncommon for him. There have been stretches where he has looked like one of the best quarterbacks of all time, but like a golfer who lost his putting stroke for six or seven holes, that picturesque, 16-game work of art has never quite come to fruition.
So is this the year? We can’t know.
We do know this: When asked about the hashtag #LetRussCook, which is a push by fans to let him throw more — particularly early in games — he was on board.
“Yeah, I definitely think so,” he said. “I mean, rather than us having to be in the fourth quarter to be able to make stuff happen. I think we have a crazy stat of 56-0 when we have the lead by halftime (it’s actually 57-0 when leading by four at halftime since Wilson came to the league). I think getting ahead is key.”
Coach Pete Carroll was asked a similar question after the team’s first mock game.
“We’re just going to hammer the rock. We’re going to hammer the rock,” Carroll said jokingly.
Then he got serious.
“We’re going to try to give him every opportunity to kick butt in every opportunity that he gets. So you’re going to have to wait and see what that all means.”
Oh, fans will be waiting, all right. Like Wilson’s peers, they know he has the ability to be the best player in the league.
Now it’s a matter of going out and doing it.