When Wilson told Dan Patrick the other day he thought he was the best quarterback in football, eyebrows got raised. That wasn’t like the traditional Wilson, deflector of praise. “I think when you’re trying to be the greatest to do this, you always have to believe that way, think that way, and know that,” he said from Seattle early this morning.
My theory about the perception of Wilson: He’s a short quarterback drafted 75th overall in 2012. Being a Seattle quarterback in a more traditional offense that hasn’t given him the freedom of some other passers means he’s not going to have the gaudy numbers of other quarterbacks. He’s never thrown more than 35 touchdown passes, and never had more than 4,300 passing yards. Regarding the MVP vote, the 50 voters get one selection. In baseball, voters pick multiple players for MVP in a sliding order and then you see who finishes second and third and so on. In football, often times, one player has an incredible season and he wins in a landslide. Last year, Lamar Jackson set the single-season quarterback rushing record, led the league with 36 TD passes, and Baltimore was a league-best 14-2. The year before, it was the 50 TD passes by Mahomes, and the Chiefs winning the AFC’s top seed, that paved the way for him to win it.
Wilson traditionally has done more with less talent that many other star quarterbacks, and that matters. But if the Ravens are 14-2 and Jackson has what may be the best all-around season by a quarterback ever, it’s hard to vote for someone else.
This year, though, might be different. The “Let Russ cook” thing—fans and media wishing he’d be able to create more, the way he did at time Sunday night—is gaining traction, maybe even in the coaches offices in suburban Renton, home of the Seahawks. The tight seat-belted game plans that resulted in frustrations like the 24-22 playoff loss to Dallas two years ago are fading away. I asked Wilson if he’d be able to open a better line of communication with coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, to tell them what he likes and doesn’t like.
“I think I have a tremendous relationship with Coach Carroll and also Coach Schottenheimer. I don’t think Coach Schotty gets enough credit. He’s an amazing teacher of the game. Then, obviously Pete and I, we’re been together what is this, my ninth year now. We’ve had some amazing times together, amazing wins. We bond so well together.”
But it’s no secret Wilson has wanted a freer hand in the offense. “I’m trying to go somewhere, you know what I mean? I’m trying to help take this team somewhere special. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes everyone. It’s not just me. I’ve always strived to be the best in the world. I wanna lead my team.”
I’m trying to go somewhere, you know what I mean? To me, that’s code for, I’m trying to win a championship, and the more diverse we are on offense, the better chance we have. (That’s my interpretation, no one else’s. These are not exactly the best days to sidle up to players or coach and ask them the reality of what’s up.)
This game showed us so much of Wilson’s talent—even when he was throwing incompletions. Wilson knows when it’s smart to throw it away and live for the next down. Midway through the fourth quarter, nursing a 28-23 lead, Wilson threw two balls away, both times against a heavy rush. On third-and-seven with six minutes left, another heavy rush came. This time he had Tyler Lockett streaking across the middle and hit him. Now he was in comfortable field-goal range to take an eight-point lead—at least. But two plays later, Carson wheeled out of the backfield, safety Adrian Phillips was way late covering him, and Wilson, staring down the barrel of Winovich, hung in to make a perfect throw, 33 yards in the air.
“I’m super grateful,” Wilson said. “I just thank God every day I get to do what I get to do. I think about everything that’s going on in America and around the world, to be able to play this game is a gift. We’ve lost so many people. It’s very tough year. Despite it all, I keep the faith and just believe that better days are ahead. This game is a part of that. This game is a gift and I want to continue to cherish every moment of it.”
It’s only two weeks, and there are challengers new (Arizona) and old (a battered San Francisco and the Rams). The NFC West is 7-1, best division record in football. So there are miles to go before these teams sleep. Seattle looks dangerous and diverse, though, especially when Russ cooks.