Russell Wilson, NFL MVP? There might be a case for it
Peyton Manning has put up bigger numbers this year for the Broncos, but Wilson has been on an impressive run for the Seahawks. Does the Seahawks’ quarterback belong in the MVP conversatoin with Manning?
Seattle Times staff reporter
It was exactly the answer you’d expect from Russell Wilson.
Asked this week about the notion that he’s gaining increasing attention as an NFL MVP candidate, Wilson gave a 439-word response in which he instead deflected credit to seemingly every other member of the Seahawks’ offense — he mentioned nine specifically by name.
“All I care about is just trying to win football games,” he said.
In the process, though, Wilson may also have delivered the best case against his own candidacy.
Wilson is indeed simply helping the Seahawks win — with an NFL-best 11-1 record this season and an NFL-best 16 wins in 17 games dating to Nov. 25, 2012.
But the Seahawks are winning in a manner in which Wilson is rarely forced to put up numbers usually associated with an MVP candidate.
If he continues on his current pace, Wilson would finish the season with 3,563 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Neither the touchdowns nor yards would be league-leading numbers, or the type of stats typical of recent MVP-winning quarterbacks.
Of the three QBs to win the NFL MVP award since 2003 — Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady combined to win the award six times in that span — none threw for fewer than 3,900 yards when they won MVP. And only Manning in 2008, when he threw for 4,002 yards, threw for fewer than 33 touchdowns (he had 27).
That Manning is again having a Manning-like season also makes this subject one that may be a debate almost solely in Seattle.
Manning has already thrown for 4,125 yards and 41 touchdowns while leading Denver to a 10-2 record.
True, Manning’s numbers are buffeted by the fact that he has thrown 15 passes more per game than Wilson — Manning averages 40 attempts per game, Wilson 25.
Some would argue, though, that also shows Denver’s dependency on Manning to carry his team, whereas Wilson can rely on both a defense that is as good as any in the NFL and a punishing running game.
Given that, is there really a case that can be made for Wilson?
It might surprise Seahawks fans that one person who believes Wilson could win the award is San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Asked this week if he thought it was premature or legitimate to talk about Wilson as MVP, Fangio said “legitimate.”
“When you have a great quarterback like they do, you’re never out of a game,” Fangio said.
Maybe Fangio was just buttering up an upcoming opponent. But with every week, Wilson continues to put himself in rarefied air. Consider some of these numbers:
• Over his last 20 regular-season games, in which Seattle has gone 18-2, Wilson has a passer rating of 112.9, best in the NFL.
• His 22 wins in his first two seasons are tied with Ben Roethlisberger for the most in NFL history (he passed Dan Marino’s 21 by beating the Saints).
• He is one of just four QBs to throw 20 or more touchdowns in each of his first two seasons (joining Marino, Manning and Andy Dalton).
We could go on.
A truer appreciation for Wilson, though, comes in watching him play.
How many times has he bailed out a balky O-line with his scrambling? How many times has he gotten the Seahawks into just the right play?
An example of the latter came Monday night against the Saints, when the Seahawks faced a third-and-three from their own 23-yard line in the second quarter. It was the only time the game seemed at all tenuous for Seattle because New Orleans had just scored to cut the lead to 17-7.
Wilson saw the Saints lining up for an eight-man blitz and checked out of the called play, including changing blocking assignments, to instead send Baldwin deep in man coverage. He then lofted a pass that resulted in a 52-yard gain and set up a field goal that just about ended the Saints’ hopes.
“He saw it, executed it absolutely perfectly and we got a big play out of it,” coach Pete Carroll said.
Manning, of course, makes such plays routinely, as do other top-flight quarterbacks.
And that’s the larger victory here for the Seahawks — that Wilson, still just 20 months removed from being a third-round pick whom some considered a reach to go that high, and MVP fit comfortably in the same sentence.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.