It’s not too early to talk about Russell Wilson and the MVP race
Is this the year the future Hall of Famer wins the NFL’s top award?
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has never been better. Let that sink in.
In his ninth season, the Super Bowl winner, seven-time Pro Bowler and second-winningest active passer is off to a red-hot start. The dean of a group of superstar Black passers who now run the game, Wilson has been so sensational, in fact, that he’s considered the (very) early leader for the biggest distinction that’s eluded him to this point in his career: the Associated Press NFL MVP award.
Granted, it’s only Week 3. A whole lot will happen from now until the end of the regular season. Still, Wilson is clearly out in front of the pack.
In all likelihood, barring injuries, Wilson will remain in the mix for this season’s award alongside the previous two winners: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. If a Black quarterback wins again, that would mark three in a row. (In the history of the award, which was first presented in 1957, there had been only two other Black quarterbacks to be named MVP: Steve McNair shared the honor with Peyton Manning in 2003, and Cam Newton won in 2015. Think about that.)
The Era of the Black Quarterback, indeed.
For Wilson, his team’s record (2-0) and his eye-opening statistics tell an impressive story.
With nine touchdown passes, he’s tied for the second-most touchdown passes through a team’s first two games in NFL history, one behind the mark established by Mahomes in 2018, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Wilson has completed 82.5% of his passes, the highest completion percentage through two games in NFL history with a minimum of 40 attempts. And Wilson has continued to display his signature deft touch on deep balls, completing 4 of 5 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.
We’ll just sum it up this way: That man is good.
Wilson is second to none at remaining cool in the pocket by staying “neutral.”
“Not being too high, not being too low … neutrality is going to allow me to be successful, allow me to be successful more times than not,” Wilson told reporters in Seattle on Sunday. “I’m such a big believer in it. It’s helped my career, my life, everything from the greatest moments to the toughest moments. To remain neutral allows me to just focus on the next play, the next moment, and just being in it.”
While Wilson’s individual accomplishments are spectacular, quarterbacks are ultimately judged on how their teams perform. He checks that box, too.
After throwing four touchdown passes in leading the Seahawks to a 38-25 road victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, Wilson torched the New England Patriots with five more touchdown passes in Seattle’s home opener, outdueling Newton in a 35-30 win. Wherever Wilson stands, his teammates fall in line right behind him.
“He tells everybody, ‘Believe. Believe,’ all the time,” Seahawks wide receiver David Moore told reporters in Seattle. “He can go out there and maybe make a mistake somewhere, but no matter what, he’s always going to believe. When you have a quarterback like that, that will pick everybody up no matter the situation in the game, that makes him great. … That’s why we love him.”
Since he entered the league, Wilson has been great, with the Seahawks hitting it big on a supposedly undersized passer they selected in the third round of the 2012 draft. Among active signal-callers who have started at least 100 games, Wilson is second only to six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady – widely considered the greatest to play the game’s most important position – with a .672 career winning percentage. Unlike Brady, however, Wilson has never been selected as the top player in the regular season by a panel of voters. He has never received a single MVP vote.
Last season, Wilson was among the leading contenders – until Jackson sprinted away from the field. In only his second season in the league, Jackson became the second Associated Press MVP chosen in a unanimous vote, achieving the feat Brady first accomplished in 2010.
At 31, Wilson has the most experience among the star group of Black quarterbacks, which also includes Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and fast-rising Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals. It also appears Newton is well along the path to reviving his career in New England.
“So many great quarterbacks,” Wilson told reporters in Seattle. “Obviously, guys like Patrick Mahomes … guys like Lamar.”
Make no mistake, though: Wilson, whose career will eventually culminate with his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, wants to stand atop the mountain alone.
“I don’t come to play this game to be second place,” Wilson said. “If I’m not thinking that way, I’m crazy. If you want to be great, you have to believe in who you are and what you have and all the things that you do. I put tons of work in this game and I want to be the best in the world.”
Each year, Wilson has been among the best. Perhaps in this one, he’ll be able to claim the distinction outright.
ESPN Stats & Info group contributed to this report.