Here’s a national narrative I’m getting sick and tired of hearing about: The Sophomore Slump.
Last year, Russell Wilson had his share of doubters, both from a national perspective and a local perspective. A – he was a rookie, B – he was short, C – he wasn’t Andrew Luck or RGIII. You’ll note that both of those quarterbacks were also starting with their teams from the first week of the season, and both of those quarterbacks were also rookies. But, Luck was this generation’s John Elway (or Peyton Manning), and RGIII was a Heisman Trophy-winning phenom out to put the zazz back in the Redskins’ offense. They were the top two draft picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, so they were SUPPOSED to be good. If they weren’t good, there’s the chance they’d be labelled busts; but what WASN’T going to happen was people doubting their abilities to lead football teams and win games.
Russell Wilson, on the other hand, was a third round draft pick. Sure, he was every bit the quarterback as Luck and RGIII in his final year of college, but being as tall as he is, he fell to the third round. Many people said if you tacked on three inches to his frame & he would have been a top 10 pick, but that’s neither here nor there. He is what he is. Third round picks aren’t supposed to start in the NFL right away. They’re not supposed to win football games and lead their teams to the playoffs. They’re not supposed to show up and out-play the top two picks in the first round.
But, that’s exactly what Russell Wilson did in 2012. Yet, the doubters remain.
It’s like these national pundits are compelled to seek out every possible flaw! And, if they can’t find any, then they just make them up!
Now, I understand being hesitant. We Seahawks fans don’t have to be hesitant, because this is our team and Wilson is our guy! We’re able to see what the rest of the world can’t, because we’ve paid closer attention. And, let’s face it, we’re totally fucking biased.
I KNOW Russell Wilson is going to be one of the greatest quarterbacks alive when all is said and done. He will rival only the greats: Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Brady. He has the talent, he has the smarts, he has the fortitude, he has the drive. He has everything the greatest quarterbacks have had. And he’s ours.
But, yeah, this is a Show Me league. What have you done for us lately, and all that. National pundits can sit back, see a guy who shined among the greatest rookies in 2012, and they can say, “Yeah, but can he do it again?” People in Seattle like to pull their hair out at statements like these, because OF COURSE HE CAN, JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE!
But, it is a legitimate question. Here’s the thing: why aren’t they saying it about Luck or RGIII? I dunno, maybe they are. But, the vibe I’m getting seems to exclude Wilson from their echelon. It’s a foregone conclusion that Luck and RGIII will not only replicate their 2012s in 2013, but they’re sure to improve! Russell Wilson, though … ehh, maybe?
I hate to play the Seattle Card (which is akin to the East Coast Bias card, only more hardcore, because even the East Coast Bias has love for Kaepernick and the 49ers moreso than the Seahawks and Wilson), but let’s look at the facts. Luck plays in Indy; not the biggest market in the nation, but they have a recent tradition of dominant football. And Luck is replacing a legend in Peyton Manning. Top it off with his #1 overall draft status and you’re talking about a guy and a team that’s going to get its share of the limelight. As for RGIII, he plays in D.C. One of the biggest markest in the country. He plays on the Redskins, which is one of the most important teams of the last 30 or so years. His team is owned by Dan Snyder, who is one of the richest and most controversial owners in the NFL. These two players and these two teams are going to generate a lot of buzz (not necessarily the type of irrational buzz the Jets or Cowboys receive, but still). A lot more buzz than the Seahawks, that’s for damn sure.
The latest knock on Wilson is that he’s on a good team. How tough can it be to lead a good team deep into the playoffs? Look at his numbers, he didn’t even have to do that much! They have the best running game in football, but can he hack it when the chips are down and he needs to throw the ball a ton?
First of all, I don’t remember people holding it against Ben Roethlisberger when he was anointed as one of the game’s premier quarterbacks. Remember how great his early Steelers teams were? Remember how relatively not great he was (when you compare his performance to Russell Wilson’s)?
Yes, Luck had to carry that team pretty much all on his own. No, the Redskins wouldn’t have been NEARLY as dynamic without RGIII at the helm. But, I would argue the Seahawks wouldn’t have been what they became without Russell Wilson.
No, his early-season numbers weren’t good. That certainly held him back from any serious Rookie of the Year consideration. Let’s face it, RGIII came out like a loaded gun in week 1 and was non-stop awesome in 2012! But, by season’s end, the Seahawks were a well-oiled machine, and they wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without Wilson leading the way.
Did the Seahawks limit Wilson’s output? Of course they did. Because he was a rookie who was learning on the job. Remember, he didn’t get the off-season that Luck and RGIII got. He wasn’t named the starter from the moment he was drafted. He had to beat out two other guys! He had to split starts in the pre-season! Finally, going into the last pre-season game, the Seahawks named Wilson their starter, but at that point he had only gotten somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the Training Camp reps that Luck & RGIII got.
Once Wilson was ready, though, a little over a month into the season, the Seahawks heaped more onto his plate and he rose to every challenge. Had he been the recipient of the type of off-season that Luck and RGIII had, maybe Wilson wouldn’t have been so restrained from a playbook standpoint.
Now, Wilson’s passing numbers didn’t immediately skyrocket once the playbook was at full throttle, but that’s because by that point the Seahawks were bashing in the brains of all comers! When you’re winning games in blowout fashion, averaging 50 points over a 3-week span, are you really going to ask your quarterback to drop back and throw 40 times? How do you blame Wilson for being on a studly team like that (made only studlier by Wilson’s very presence)?
It’s annoying, but it’s understandable. The nation doesn’t respect a God damn thing Seattle has ever done when it comes to sports. To be fair, that’s because Seattle hasn’t DONE a God damn thing when it comes to sports. Either way, I wouldn’t expect the doubters to cease their foolish ways anytime soon. Russell Wilson could improve over his 2012 numbers, lead this team to a Super Bowl, and they’ll STILL be looking for holes in his game entering year three. I reckon, anything short of a perfect season, an MVP from Wilson, and a massive tsunami swallowing up the eastern half of America will prevent the rest of the country from seeing what is so clear to our rose-colored eyes: Russell Wilson is the man. He will always be the man. Forever and ever, until he chooses to hang ’em up.