Russell Wilson: 'My Best Years Are Ahead of Me'
Since the start of the 2017 season, a strong argument can be made no quarterback has been better than Russell Wilson.
Over the past three years, Wilson has thrown more touchdown passes than any other player, earned three consecutive Pro Bowl nods, and finally broke through with a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 2019. He's also continued to assault franchise and league record books, becoming the Seahawks all-time leader in passing yardage and touchdowns while also becoming the first player in NFL history with 200 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns in his first eight seasons.
Recently, Wilson was voted the No. 2 player on the NFL's annual Top 100 ranking, which is compiled from votes from players around the league. It's the ultimate sign of respect from his peers, showing he's truly arrived as an elite talent at the league's premier position.
Given everything Wilson has accomplished in his career to this point, however, the former third-round pick out of Wisconsin believes he hasn't peaked and his best football has yet to be played.
"My best years are ahead of me," Wilson told reporters on a Zoom conference call on Thursday. "I’m the best that I’ve ever been but I feel like I'm only at 70 percent capacity. I feel like I have a whole other 30 [percent] in me... When I step on the field, I want the other team to know they’re in trouble."
If Wilson, who already is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the game, has only reached 70 percent of his potential, that's a scary thought for opponents tasked with trying to slow down Seattle's dual-threat phenom.
Continuing to improve in his second season orchestrating Brian Schottenheimer's offense, Wilson surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the third time in four years in 2019. He also exceeded 30 passing touchdowns for the fourth time in a five-year span and threw a career-low five interceptions, placing himself at the top of the class in terms of efficient quarterback play.
Most importantly, Wilson remained one of the game's best clutch performers, leading the NFL with five game-winning drives. Two of those came in overtime victories over the Buccaneers and 49ers, with his theatrics helping guide the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and a return to the playoffs for a seventh time in eight years.
"I think I'm definitely in the zone, and also too, from a play standpoint, every game I want to put on a performance," Wilson commented. "Every play, every practice, I want to be great. I wake up thinking about being great, it doesn't leave your mind. Everything I do is purposeful. There's no wasted moments, no wasted energy."
Considering the Seahawks reliance on Wilson bailing them out with late-game heroics - particularly last season - there have been plenty of calls on social media for the team to unleash the star quarterback earlier in games. After a second straight playoff exit caused in large part by a sluggish offensive start, those cries have only grown louder over the past six months.
When asked about the #LetRussCook hashtag on Twitter, Wilson laughed and seemed to be on board with the idea of letting him put on his chef hat earlier in games.
"Yeah, I definitely think so,” Wilson commented. ”Early in games, definitely. I mean, rather than us having to be in the fourth quarter to be able to make stuff happen. I think we have a crazy stat of 56 and 0 when we have the lead by halftime. Getting ahead is a key thing."
Wilson wasn't quite right on the aforementioned statistic, as the Seahawks are 57-0 when leading by four or more points at halftime since 2012, the year he took over as starting quarterback.
In some of those games, Wilson still needed to provide some late fireworks to secure a victory. There's a reason he's engineered 28 game-winning drives in eight seasons, more than any other quarterback.
Still, the unblemished record provides extra fuel for fans who feel Carroll hasn't fully maximized having an elite franchise quarterback by deploying an old-school, run-first offense. Falling behind to the Cowboys and Packers in back-to-back playoff losses before coming up just short with furious rallies spearheaded by Wilson has only drawn further criticism.
Heading into his ninth season, Carroll believes Wilson is "at the best of his game" and though he doesn't plan to suddenly have him throw 50 times every game, prior comments in an interview with ESPN's John Clayton suggest the Seahawks will finally open things up a bit for their star quarterback.
“We’re not going to take anything away from Russell’s ability to produce – we want to maximize his opportunities,” Carroll said at the time. “So whatever this 'Russell cook’ thing is about, I don’t know what it’s about, but he is at his best, he is in the most command he’s ever been, and he and [Schottenheimer] and the offensive staff have worked this offseason to a point where we’re ready to unveil it, the best version of us. And that means the best version of Russ.”
Still ascending entering his age-32 season, Wilson continues to strive for strive for greatness. Despite the immense individual success he's had previously, he isn't satisfied. By "treating every quarter like the fourth quarter," both he and the Seahawks full potential can truly be realized, which would be bad news for the rest of the league.
"At the end of the day, I want the ball in my hands. I want to be able to make plays and give us a chance to win. That doesn't always mean just me chucking it around, but it does mean that - I feel like when I get the more times I have the ball in my hands, the more things can happen. I think the defense worries about that too."