Is Russell Wilson Turning A Corner?

The last four games have been phenomenal:

  • vs. SF:  24/29 260 yards, 8.97 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 138.5 rating
  • vs. Pit:  21/30 345 yards, 11.5 avg., 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 147.9 rating
  • @ Min:  21/27 274 yards, 10.15 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 146.0 rating
  • @ Bal:  23/32 292 yards, 9.13 avg., 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 rating

Add it all up and you’ve got 89/118 (75.4% completions), 1,171 yards (9.92 yards per attempt), 16 TDs, 0 INTs, and whatever that amounts to in the passer rating world (very, very good).  Look at how it lines up against his previous nine games:  175/266 (65.8% completions), 2,118 yards (7.96 yards per attempt), 10 TDs, 7 INTs, and whatever his passer rating was (not nearly as good).  That, in a nutshell (combined with the fact that the Seahawks have lost 5 games, while the Panthers have lost 0 games), is the reality we’re living in as to why Russell Wilson will not be a serious contender for the NFL MVP award.

BUT, it’s reason-enough to get excited about Russell Wilson’s career arc, and whether or not this 4-game stretch represents a turning point in that career.

I think it’s safe to say we, as Seahawks fans, are pretty happy with Wilson to date.  Three playoff appearances (soon to be four), two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl victory, 44-17 regular season record, 50-19 record including playoffs (say what you will about QB Winzzz, but for the sake of this argument, from a fan perspective, it’s been a pretty thrilling four years with Russell Wilson behind center).  He’s already the greatest quarterback in franchise history and it’s pretty safe to assume (barring injury), we’ve got at least another decade with him at the helm.  If you told me that we could bottle Russell Wilson’s first three seasons, and get to enjoy the exact same success out of him for the rest of his career, I think we’d all gladly take it.

But, what if we could get a better version of Russell Wilson than we’ve ever seen?  What if these last four games are only the tip of the iceberg?

Well, for starters, we’d be talking about the most perfect quarterback who’s ever put on a uniform.  Someone who limits turnovers, throws a high percentage of completions without necessarily throwing a high number of passes, still generates enough explosive plays with his arm to get that high average per attempt, AND ohbytheway is also as explosive as they get with his legs.  If that isn’t the model for the perfect quarterback, I don’t know what is.  It’s essentially what everyone talks about when they breathlessly stroke the ego of Aaron Rodgers, and no one in their right mind would EVER compare A-Rod’s running ability to that of Russell Wilson!  (Try calling Aaron Rodgers “A-Rod” from now on; I find I enjoy how he distastefully compares to the other loathesome A-Rod from baseball).

There are, of course, some caveats to all this greatness we’ve been seeing recently.  The 49ers are pretty terrible, the Steelers’ defense is nothing special, the Vikings were seriously banged up on defense when we played them, and the Ravens are even MORE banged up.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a while since Russell Wilson has been challenged by a defense, either via the pass rush or even a decent secondary.  Also, you can’t say Wilson hasn’t had stretches like this in the past; look at these four consecutive games from his rookie season of 2012:

  • vs. Min:  16/24 173 yards, 7.21 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 127.3 rating
  • vs. NYJ:  12/19 188 yards, 9.90 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 131.0 rating
  • @ Mia:  21/27 224 yards, 8.30 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.9 rating
  • @ Chi:  23/37 293 yards, 7.92 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 104.9 rating

Obviously, these numbers aren’t QUITE on par with what he’s done this last month, but they’re similar:

  • 2012:  72/107 (67.3% completions), 878 yards (8.21 avg.), 9 TDs, 0 INTs
  • 2015:  89/118 (75.4% completions), 1,171 yards (9.92 avg.), 16 TDs, 0 INTs

At the very least, you could see this sort of greatness coming.  There’s also this 3-game streak in 2013 that I find illuminating:

  • @ Atl:  19/26 287 yards, 11.04 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 134.6 rating
  • vs. Min:  13/18 230 yards, 12.78 avg., 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 151.4 rating
  • vs. NO:  22/30 310 yards, 10.33 avg., 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 rating
  • TOTAL:  54/74 (73.0% completions), 827 yards (11.18 avg.), 7 TDs, 0 INTs

And there are any number of 2-game streaks where Wilson has showed how impressive he can be.  The underlying factor does appear to be the fact that he’s doing these things against less-than-stellar defenses (and less-than-stellar teams in general), but this stretch FEELS different, doesn’t it?

The obvious answer, of course, is that he’s doing a lot of this from the pocket, and within the flow of the offense.  In other words, this isn’t just Wilson scrambling around until someone gets open, then heaving a jump ball down field for his man to go up and get.  Sure, he’s had his share of rushing attempts, but his game is no longer rushing-dependent.  He’s finding open receivers, getting the ball out on time, and giving them a chance to make plays down the field.  He’s also, more and more, showing his trademark touch on deep balls, and locking in on those favorable matchups pre-snap.  It also helps that his pass protection has been amazing of late.  Russell Wilson is always dangerous; Russell Wilson with extra time to survey the field is downright lethal.

I’ve always said that the mark of a great quarterback – a true Franchise Quarterback – is his ability to make those around him better.  Tom Brady is a perfect example; he’s made a career out of winning ballgames in spite of inferior receivers (and, when he actually had great receivers in Moss & Welker, Brady’s game went into the stratosphere).  You can also lump Ben Roethlisberger into that mix; he was always a winner, but he’s been even better with his current crop of all-world receivers.  No one would say Wilson has been blessed with the type of receivers you hear about going to multiple Pro Bowls (and when he has had them, this team has tended to struggle – I’m looking at you, Harvin & Graham).  I would argue that Wilson is in that same conversation as Brady when it comes to doing more with less, and it’s starting to look more and more likely that if you put Wilson into the same sort of pass-first offense Brady’s been running for years, he too would thrive under those conditions.

It’s fun to look at what Wilson has done this last month and thrust his name into the MVP discussion.  And, I’m sure, as this type of production continues in the years to come, he’ll have his real, legitimate shots at actually winning that coveted award.  But, I’m thinking more long-term, when I see a guy like Wilson playing as well as he is.  It’s not a question of whether or not Wilson is one of the best football players of 2015; it’s a question of whether or not he’ll be one of the best to ever play the game.

He’s got a long way to go, obviously.  But, if these first four years are any indication, then he’s only scratching the surface of his greatness.  Think about THAT when you look at this franchise’s chances of being a dynasty this decade.

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