Russell Wilson still surprises people, which is weird. Seems this charade has gone on long enough, the thing where we all rhetorically pat his head and reserve all of our superlatives so we can yell AARON RODGERS IS FREAKIN’ INSANE or LOLOL TOM BRADY for the umpteenth time.
Anyway, on Sunday, Wilson’s headset went out, so he called the whole damn offense himself.
Leaning on his mix of intelligence and guile, Wilson led the Seahawks down the field 58 yards as quarterback and offensive coordinator (the first play may have been Brian Schottenheimer’s call, but that’s it) for a touchdown. After an initial 3-yard gain, the Seahawks needed just three plays to get within the Browns’ 10-yard line, and four more plays for Wilson to cap the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass.
On that play, Wilson stymied the Browns’ pass rush with some subtle shimmying, and found a wide open Jaron Brown:
Not only did Wilson make the most of a bad situation, his play raised the idea that the Seahawks should have been been letting him call the plays all long. Excising the possibly Schottenheimer-called first play of the drive, Wilson’s play calls averaged 7.85 yards per play compared to Schotty’s 6.07 yards per play. (Is this a grossly unfair comparison based on a minuscule sample size? Tough, it’s my blog).
The drive was yet another example of the ways in which Wilson holds teams together. Maybe you already knew that from the last several years of watching Wilson keep the Seahawks above water behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and an unimaginative offense, but that fact has emerged in stark relief now that Wilson is surrounded by competency.
The result is an MVP-caliber season. Wilson has been simultaneously the league’s most efficient quarterback (14 touchdowns, zero interceptions, 72.5 percent completion) and one of its most explosive playmakers (12.4 yards per completion, 4.2 yards per carry). He has alternately been a steady offensive shepherd, and a conjurer of the unfathomable when “steady” won’t do.
i was 80% sure Russell Wilson was just throwing this ball away pic.twitter.com/K7UBNqmNPI— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 4, 2019
Wilson’s even hand in crisis situations is refreshing during an age when it seems as if quarterbacks need to be coddled and incubated and pristinely maintained or else shatter like Fabergé eggs. What separates Wilson from almost everyone in the league this season is everything that doesn’t need to be asked of him.
Going back to when he was named first-team All-ACC as a redshirt freshman at NC State, then a few years later when he transferred to Wisconsin and picked up the offense over a summer, Wilson has demonstrated a fluency in football unmatched by — well, maybe no one. Ever. According to Field Gulls, you can pick out nearly any quarterback stat and Wilson is at or near the top of the all-time list. Only Aaron Rodgers has a better all-time passer rating. Only Steve Young and Kurt Warner have more yards per attempt. No one has thrown a higher percentage of his passes for touchdowns.
Wilson shouldn’t have had to fend for himself like he has the last several years, and yes that includes the minor will-they-won’t-they saga before the Seahawks signed Wilson to the richest annual salary in NFL history. Not that Wilson has ever made much fuss, and maybe it’s that low level of necessary maintenance that made him underestimated. A man who’s good at keeping quiet also won’t be the one to tell you what a virtue that is.
But what shouldn’t go unappreciated is the ability of people like Wilson to follow the gameplan, or to improvise entirely, always right on time, and never have to ask, or be told, or be taken over by pride, or anxiety, or any number of human afflictions that apply multiply to NFL quarterbacks. An ability to kill without a word.