When Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl in 2013, he followed Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger as the only QBs to win that game within their first two seasons after being drafted. Brady won two Super Bowls within the next three years, and a fourth against Wilson's Seahawks in 2014. Roethlisberger won his second Super Bowl three years after his first, and went to a third two years after that. It would be understandable then if you expected Wilson to win another ring.
Yet it seems more common for people to just continuously doubt him. With every passing season, another wave of collective amnesia seems to wash over the football fan populous when it comes to Wilson, and he's cast aside as a "fluke" or a "flash in the pan" or a "fad." Except that fads don't tend to consistently produce every year for nearly a decade. When will people learn?
On Monday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills, Wilson had his best game of the season, completing 20-of-26 attempts for 282 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a third score on the ground in a 31-25 victory for Seattle. Despite an uncharacteristically bad performance by a Seahawks defense that allowed 425 total yards and a characteristically terrible job by his offensive line, Wilson once again proved to be what elevates his team from what would maybe be a borderline Wild Card team to a 5-2-1 record that currently has Seattle as the two seed in the NFC.
Don't let all the attention being paid to Richard Sherman and his antics on Tuesday distract you from the real story: Russell Wilson is back and he's debunking more theories about his success than ever before.
For his entire career leading up to 2016, Wilson skeptics pointed to the fact that the success of the Seahawks was heavily aided by a number one defense and number one rushing attack, the centerpiece of which was Marshawn Lynch. There is no doubting that the 2013 version of the team that won the Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos was arguably one of the most complete teams in NFL history, but that doesn't mean having a franchise quarterback is without immense value. It's just that many people doubted Wilson was a franchise quarterback because they had no control subject.
We saw what Wilson could do with Lynch and a great defense, but could he carry his team to a victory when he didn't have those things? Monday night's game was the perfect example of why those doubters have been wrong for years and will have to find new excuses to support their cause against him -- for whatever reason that cause exists.
Seattle rushed for just 33 yards on 12 carries against the Bills, with lead back Christine Michael carrying it five times and gaining one yard. Their leading rusher was wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who had a 13-yard gain on an end-around. It's not just that Lynch is now retired, it's that it seems Pete Carroll's entire rushing attack has called it quits. Only two teams have rushed for fewer yards than the Seahawks this season. Without any sort of running back distraction, and an offensive line that allowed him to be pressured on 45.2 percent of his dropbacks, Wilson put up over 10.8 yards per attempt and had a passer rating of 145.8 when under pressure. He's got the second best passer rating on deep passes this season as well.
Though still great for most of the year, Seattle's defense has had a hard time getting off the field in the past three games, allowing the Arizona Cardinals to complete 10-of-21 third downs, the New Orleans Saints to convert 9-of-15 on third down, and Buffalo to convert 12-of-17. That's a brutal 58.4 percent conversions on third downs to their past three opponents, plus over 400 rushing yards given up, and over 414 total yards per game. But Wilson has done his part, throwing just two interceptions through eight games despite being on pace for a career-high 534 pass attempts. With many advantages being taken away from him this season -- including Lynch, Thomas Rawls, all five of their starting offensive linemen from 2013 (a line that on Monday night included a rookie left tackle who really didn't start playing football until a year ago), Wilson's own ability to run the football because of semi-injuries to his ankle, knee and chest, and an impenetrable defense -- it should only further highlight that the Seahawks have an extremely special player at QB.
Consider what the Hawks would be without him and you'll probably best find a comparison with a team like the L.A. Rams, who are 3-5 and likely headed for their 12th straight season without a playoff appearance. Or the Vikings, losers of three straight and going in the wrong direction; Sam Bradford's actually got decent numbers this year, but he also has just one fourth quarter comeback since 2013 compared to three for Wilson this season alone.
The reason that Wilson is great and has been since his freshman season at NC State (17 touchdowns, one interception), and his one year at Wisconsin (NCAA record 191.8 pass efficiency rating), and his rookie season in Seattle (tied Peyton Manning for most touchdowns as a rookie), and ever since (NFL-best 8 Y/A since 2012), is not because of Lynch, who hasn't been a significant contributor since 2014. It's not because of the defense. It's not because of Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who couldn't squeeze any talent from Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst. It's obviously not because of the offensive line. Football is a team sport, so of course everybody else gets to play their part, but it's a team sport that centers around franchise quarterbacks because they often make everyone else look better. Wilson is great because he's great. We don't question that with the vast majority of players of his status -- the statistical phenoms, the consistent winners. So why is he constantly doubted?
I'm not sure we'll ever know the answer to that, nor does it matter. Despite his slow start in September and October, Wilson has the highest passer rating in NFL history for November and December/January, respectively. That continued on Monday night against Buffalo (Wilson also has the highest passer rating in MNF history and is 6-0 in those games) and the Seahawks hope he can ride that wave into his third Super Bowl in the last four seasons. If they don't make it that far, will Wilson be the reason?
I doubt it.