Why Not Russ? Seahawks Star QB's Ambitious Goals Extend Beyond Winning MVP
Having thrown 30 or more touchdowns in four of the past five seasons and thrown less than 10 interceptions in all but two of those seasons while guiding the Seahawks to four playoff berths, it's hard to believe Russell Wilson hasn't received a single MVP vote.
But now in his ninth season under center for Seattle, Wilson somehow has yet to snag one of those elusive votes. Even after throwing 31 touchdowns and only five interceptions while orchestrating a league-best five game-winning drives in 2019, he was shut out as Ravens star Lamar Jackson ran away with the award.
If there's one person who is perplexed by the fact Wilson hasn't received the recognition he deserves as one of the game's premier talents, it's legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team will be tasked with trying to slow down the dual-threat quarterback on Sunday night.
"This guy is a tremendous player," Belichick said on Thursday. "Honestly, I think he's in a way maybe underrated by the media or the fans. I don't really see anybody better than this player. He can do everything."
That's lofty praise coming from Belichick, owner of six Super Bowl rings and arguably the greatest coach in NFL history. But while Wilson appreciates the compliments and would love to win an MVP or two before he hangs up his cleats, his individual goals extend far beyond being the best player in the present.
"To me, I come to play this game to be the best in the world, that's just the bottom line," Wilson told reporters on Thursday. "I don't wake up to be trying to be anything different."
The comments shouldn't be surprising, as Wilson has been candid about his ambitions to be the best signal caller of all-time previously. He offers constant reminders he's just getting started and hasn't reached his peak yet - and as seen with a sizzling four touchdown performance in last week's opener at Atlanta - those words don't ring hollow. He somehow continues to improve as a pocket passer and remains a dangerous threat extending plays and improvising with his legs.
There's a calm confidence to Wilson, and while some may doubt his ability to reach such heights, he has already proven critics wrong by evolving from a player many deemed too short to play quarterback into a perennial Pro Bowler and an All-Pro selection. Just 31 years old, he already ranks 32nd in NFL history with 231 passing touchdowns, second in passer rating, and eighth in passing touchdown percentage.
"Going into year nine, I'm trying to break away," Wilson stated. "I want to be the best in the world to ever do this. I've got a lot of great players ahead of me. I think about guys like Peyton Manning, I think about guys like Tom Brady and Drew Brees - all guys I've gotten pretty close to - and then you got guys like Joe Montana. I want to be remembered, and I want to be able to leave a legacy that people can't ever forget. Hopefully I can do that. That doesn't happen without a steady process of one moment of time, one game at a time, and not looking too far ahead, but just knowing that's all part of the journey."
Given the quarterback's undeniable greatness, there's been pressure from experts and fans alike for the Seahawks to lean more heavily on Wilson and the passing game moving forward. This offseason, coach Pete Carroll, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and Wilson frequently discussed putting the ball in his hands more often and being more aggressive on offense in general.
Against Atlanta, Seattle did just that from the outset, allowing Wilson to drop back on 12 of their first 15 offensive plays. The result? The superstar found running back Chris Carson out of the backfield twice for touchdowns, giving the Seahawks an early 14-3 advantage.
By the time the game was over, Wilson had completed 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He also became only the second player in NFL history with 30,000 career passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards, joining an exclusive club with 49ers legend Steve Young, the type of distinction that will certainly help him separate from other great quarterbacks.
When it comes to "letting Russ cook," Schottenheimer understands what a rare talent he has under center in Wilson and wants the ball in his hands as much as possible. But he also wants Seattle to be able to win in a myriad of different ways depending on opponent and other factors, which means there may be games where he isn't slinging the ball around the field quite as much and the run game will be featured more heavily.
"Honestly, I say this all the time and it's the reality of it right? Each week is going to be different,: Schottenheimer said. "Atlanta is going to be different than New England; that doesn't mean we're going to run it or throw it any more, they're just going to be different, and then Dallas will be different [in Week 3] in terms of our approach of how we go into the game. We got Russ off to a really good start, certainly that helps when you're hitting on all cylinders and you're doing things like that… It truly is a week-to-week thing."
While Wilson wants the opportunity to make plays for the Seahawks as much as possible and recognizes his importance to the team's overall success, the bottom line remains winning football games. If he throws five times and they come out on top on the scoreboard, that's all that matters.
"Listen, at the end of the day, I just want to win," Wilson said. "Whatever it takes to win. I think I can definitely help us win, that's for sure, but it's not just me, it's so many great players. We can do it in so many different ways, and to be explosive offensively running the ball, throwing the ball, throwing it deep, throwing it mid-range, throwing it short, doing all the different things. We want to be versatile, and we can definitely do all those things. So for us, I think that's really part of the recipe, I guess you could say of doing it all."
Ultimately, Wilson understands quarterbacks are judged first and foremost by the numbers of Super Bowl rings on their fingers, not by how many passing yards or touchdowns they throw. Though he won a Lombardi Trophy in his second season and came up just short the following year, his team hasn't been back to the big game ever since. To achieve his aspirations and climb the all-time quarterback hierarchy, he will need more titles to contend with the likes of Brady, Manning, and Montana, who each won at least two Super Bowls.
With the keys to Seattle's offense securely in his hands - and the best supporting cast of weapons he's ever had around him - this may be his best chance yet to earn another ring. And in the process, maybe, just maybe, he'll finally get the MVP vote that has shockingly evaded him all these years, continuing to build his legacy and establish himself as one of the best to ever play the game.