A declaration of love for Russell Wilson

On 15 December 2019, Russell Wilson made history. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback moved level with Tom Brady as the playmaker with the most wins in his first eight seasons. Wilson, who 12s are accustomed to seeing reach new milestones round after round, defeated the Carolina Panthers with his team on that Sunday, Matchday 15, and celebrated his 86th victory in the US professional NFL. A declaration of love to the best Seahawks quarterback of all time.

What Wilson has done not only this season, but throughout his career, is truly extraordinary. We're talking about a player that most scouts and experts had pegged as too small. He was not capable of competing at the NFL level. He was just a system quarterback with the Wisconsin Badgers. That's just a sample of what many analysts thought before the 2012 NFL Draft, even though Wilson had played the most statistically efficient season of any Division I quarterback with the Badgers at the time.

What came next is history. Wilson surprisingly won the regular spot in Seattle against expensive free-agency addition Matt Flynn, never looked back, won Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seahawks and hasn't missed a game for the Seahawks since his first regular-season NFL start in September 2012 (and only two practices as he accompanied close teammates in bereavement).

But Wilson is far from where he wants to be. He will probably remain with the Seahawks for many years to come. He wants to make history again. The 31-year-old quarterback wants to continue playing in the National Football League until he is 45 - and who else but him would be trusted to do just that.

With Wilson having another outstanding season in 2019/2020 and being the main reason the Seahawks reached the Divisional Round despite a mediocre defence, I want to reinforce in this article how important Wilson is to Seattle and how good the playmaker was compared to the other NFL quarterbacks in this round.

Russell Wilson's outstanding 2019 season in numbers

First of all, the bare numbers back up the fact that Russell Wilson played superbly this past season. The quarterback completed 341 passes to his pass receivers in the 2019 regular season, completing 66.1 percent of his throws (eighth-best among all quarterbacks in 2019). With a strong eight yards per pass attempt, he amassed 4,110 total yards and ran for another 342 yards, accounting for just over 70 percent of the Seahawks' offensive output. His 31 passing touchdowns ranked third behind Jameis Winston and Lamar Jackson, but Seattle's playmaker threw just five interceptions - a sensational total. Wilson is thus the only quarterback in the NFL to have thrown at least 30 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. He clearly leads the list with the most passing touchdowns in the past three seasons with 100.

Absurdly, Wilson's quarterback rating of 106.3 in 2019 is only the third-best of his career. Add to that the Seahawks' below-average pass protection and it's obvious just how strong Wilson's season has been. In Pro Football Focus' (PFF) final rankings of all offensive lines in the 2019 Regular Season, the Seahawks' is listed 27th. These spheres almost exclusively feature offensive lines from teams that averaged relatively few points in 2019, such as the Dolphins (32nd), Bengals (30th), Jets (28th) and Bears (25th). In this overall evaluation, run-blocking is also evaluated.

Looking only at pass protection, the Seahawks' line allowed pressure on Wilson in 2.5 seconds or less on 26.7 per cent of all dropbacks - the third-worst figure in the NFL. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (5th) or Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (6th), for example, got significantly more help from their O-lines. The Baltimore Ravens with the probable MVP Lamar Jackson are also listed far ahead in PFF 's ranking (2nd place).

Speaking of MVP: Although Wilson will most likely not win this award due to a few weaker games towards the end of the season, the analysts of PFF see Wilson and not Lamar Jackson at the top of the ranking based on a data-analytical procedure. According to the "PFF WAR" (WAR = Wins above Replacement) measuring instrument developed by PFF, Wilson is the most valuable player of the past regular season. This procedure basically measures how many wins a player gives his team against a generalised replacement player.

With a "PFF WAR" score of 4.08, Wilson was clearly ahead of the second-placed Patrick Mahomes in this category, who scored a 2.96. Lamar Jackson is rated with 2.29 (5th place).

 

Wilson is also considered the real MVP by some experts because he had more difficult circumstances than other quarterbacks. Mainly the already mentioned weak offensive line has to do with this. The average grade for one of Wilson's protectors over the season was only 56.3/100 points. By comparison, the Ravens didn't have a single offensive lineman with a rating below 63/100 points. This is in no way to diminish Jackson's outstanding season. It is only to point out that Wilson performed so outstandingly despite difficult circumstances in the regular season.

Although nine quarterbacks had more drops than Wilson this season, he led the league in big-time throws with six more than any other passer. At the same time, only Lamar Jackson (9) had fewer "turnover-worthy plays" (plays in which a loss of the ball is likely) than Wilson (11) - with 153 fewer pass attempts.

Of course, even PFF can't capture all the possible data that goes into such an assessment. But the statistics company still paints a good picture of Wilson's performance in 2019. Russell Wilson was once again an absolute game changer for Seattle this past season.

Russell Wilson's outstanding postseason

Wilson had another outstanding performance in the playoffs of the 2019 season. But for all the joy of that, it's also depressing for Seahawks fans how well Wilson played and that it still wasn't enough for more in this year's playoffs. His postseason performances in January 2020 and those in his rookie season in 2012 are among the best ever by a quarterback in the PFF era(2006-present).

Outlook

Many 12s consider 2019 to be another wasted year of Russell Wilson's prime due to poor game management and questionable play calling. I think there's some truth to that argument. I also wish Seattle would be much more aggressive on fourth down attempts with a top-3 quarterback like Wilson, and that the coaches would let him pass more often on early downs. The numbers speak for themselves. The Seahawks are robbing themselves of their own (and greatest) strength here.

Russell Wilson will continue to be the most important person within the franchise for years to come, and if the coaching staff is unwilling or unable to use the quarterback more effectively, serious thought must be given to whether Pete Carroll, with his extremely conservative football philosophy, is still the right coach for Seattle.

But the world is not black and white here either. For what, by definition, is a successful season that does not "waste" Wilson's best years? A Super Bowl win? Reaching the Divisional Round? Reaching the playoffs? What is clear is that with Wilson, a deep playoff run is always possible. Wilson gives Seattle such a high starting point that a positive record is possible every year for the Seahawks.

But American football is a team sport and not a one-man show. A team that wants to win a Super Bowl also needs at least a solid defence. Seattle did not have that in 2019. Should Seahawks fans measure their favourite team against the benchmark New England Patriots, who have almost always been in the Super Bowl in recent years? Or shouldn't the 12s accept that making a serious run at the title - let alone winning it - is incredibly difficult? There were ten (!) years between Tom Brady's third and fourth Super Bowl win. Aaron Rodgers reached only one final. Drew Brees has led one of the NFL's best offences year after year since the beginning of his time with the New Orleans Saints. Nevertheless, he could only reach and win the Super Bowl once in his career.

Besides Wilson, who has already been to two Super Bowls, there are simply several other top quarterbacks who may have a better squad around them than the Seahawks playmaker. Therefore, Seattle was not a title favourite last season either. A prediction that was confirmed, much to the chagrin of the fans.

But with Russell Wilson under contract and plenty of room to manoeuvre under the salary cap, the Seahawks can put together an even better team in free agency and the NFL Draft this offseason after their small rebuild and make another run at the Super Bowl. The chance to make it big next year is small, as it is for every one of the 32 NFL teams, but as long as Wilson plays for Seattle, it is bigger than for most other teams in the league.

Seattle's fans can be grateful for the best quarterback in their 43-year franchise history, and not just because of Wilson's outstanding season. It is quite possible that the Seahawks will never have such a good playmaker again, so as a 12 you can only count yourself lucky to experience the time Wilson is playing for the team from the Pacific Northwest.

In conclusion, I have only one thing to say: Thank you, Russell Wilson. You are my absolute favourite athlete. Not only athletically, but also as a person. On and off the court you are an outstanding role model. The way you treat your fellow human beings, the respect you show everyone, the way you exemplify professional behaviour.

We fans can currently marvel at the career of a future first-ballot hall-of-fame quarterback who plays for our favourite team. Appreciate it!

Off the field, he is already a legend: