If you are someone who is constantly intrigued by Russell Wilson's increasingly significant stat line, then you probably went into Sunday's game against Baltimore just being hopeful that he would throw another touchdown with no interceptions. Coming into Week 14, Wilson had already been on a historic stretch, having posted a QB rating of 138.5 or better in each of his last three starts. Something that had only been done a couple of times before.
Instead, Wilson laughed in the face of doubt, and spit in the eye of a passer rating under 100, going 23-of-32 for 292 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 139.6. Over the last four games, including the last two on the road, Wilson is completing 75.4% of his passes for 16 touchdowns, no interceptions, 9.92 Y/A, and a rating of 145.9. Rushing has not been a major component of his game at the moment (why would it be when you're throwing a ball better than Henry Rowengartner?) but indeed, he has rushed for a touchdown as well.
It's a streak almost beyond compare.
4 straight games w 3+TD/0INT: Tom Brady 17 TD/0 INT in '07 Russell Wilson 16 TD/0 P Manning 14 TD/0 in '13-'14 Rodgers 13 TD/0 in '13— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
And get used to those names. Over the next few minutes as you read this article (or few hours, perhaps ... A) I'm only in the middle of it and B) I can't be sure what your reading level is, FieldGulls.com is meant for all grades) you're going to hear things like "Manning, Brady, Rodgers, Marino" a lot. That's not something that seems to sit well with most fans. For most fans, they usually ignore that anything is happening with Wilson at all.
"Oh that little guy? I wouldn't worry about that little guy."
"He leads the NFL in passer rating for the season? So what?! Cam Newton led the NFL in passer rating for this week!"
While many young quarterbacks are mentioned alongside excuses -- "He has no weapons, no offensive line, no defense, no coaching, no right arm." -- Wilson is mentioned alongside caveats that people seem to think are the real reason for his "blownt up meaningless fantasy stats."
Does it matter that Marshawn Lynch, often cited as a player so good that without him Wilson would be nothing, has contributed very little this season?
Does it matter that Jimmy Graham, acquired to be Wilson's number one target, has been out for more than half of Wilson's current streak?
Does it matter that Wilson's top two targets are an undrafted free agent that's been called mediocre or "pedestrian" for his entire career and a rookie third round pick?
Does it matter that Lynch's replacement Thomas Rawls, who was indeed running better than perhaps Lynch ever had, went out early on Sunday and then Wilson threw another five touchdowns?
Does it matter that the offensive line's best player is a left tackle that false starts more often than a car in a horror movie?
Does it matter that the defense .... Well, does it matter to anyone that the defense doesn't have a single f***ing iota to do with what throws, decisions, or scrambles a quarterback can make on offense, and it never has? Has anyone out there with this excuse bothered to mention that actually if you have a horrible defense, you're probably involved in more shootouts, throwing it more, and pumping up your stats in the fourth quarter whilst down 17 points? Yeah, good field position is good field position, but how does good field position help your yards per attempt? Wilson is ranked third in that. How much is it going to help you throw for 200 yards every single week? Wilson, Brady, and Matt Ryan are the only players to do that in every game this season.
There are no excuses to be made when you are among the league leaders in every major category.
It's only the players that are throwing 1.5 interceptions per game, the ones that are ninth in passer rating and leading the race for MVP that have to make excuses. Instead, for Wilson, it's about having to play so flawlessly that even ESPN can no longer deny putting you on the front page. (And even then having to make a note in the headline and the first sentence of the article that Wilson is not going to win MVP because someone else is more "deserving.")
(By the way, what does this even mean: "Newton has been downright brilliant, and he may very well have been the best signal-caller in football over the course of the 2015 season, but he's not the best quarterback in the league right now." Newton's passer rating through eight games was 78.5. Wilson's was 95. Both have improved their season-long stats over the course of the last month, but there actually isn't a shred of evidence that Newton has been better over the course of the entire season? And why does it seem like every NFL writer in America feels obligated to say that Newton is the MVP or that they'll be ostracized for saying otherwise? Why can't any of the articles about Newton go into the kind of depth and detail that Barnwell's piece above does about Wilson? Because it's impossible? Why isn't there a single argument to be made that's longer than "The Panthers are 13-0 and Newton is good"? Hell, why does a piece about Russell Wilson have to first mention Cam Newton at all? And yeah, since I've seen the inside of this industry, I can totally understand that these decisions might be outside of Barnwell's control -- he submits a piece about Wilson, the editor says, "We need to mention that Newton is da real MVP or the fans will think "your an idiot"" and so it's changed to satisfy the public at large, but is anyone else willing to step outside of the matrix with me for a bit? Besides, other than insinuating that Wilson should definitely be mentioned in the race, I've never flat out said that Wilson should win MVP. I've mentioned a host of other players -- Antonio Brown, J.J. Watt, Carson Palmer -- but never stated that Wilson should necessarily win, only that he's obviously a better candidate than Newton. Can anybody make a decent argument that the Panthers wouldn't be 13-0 with Wilson instead of Newton? Is there a reasonable argument to be made that if the two switched teams, Carolina might actually be better? If Wilson was the number one overall pick and Newton went 75th, would we even be having this conversation?)
Were he selected at the top of the first round alongside Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, I have no doubt that Wilson would be given more respect around the league for his accomplishments so far. It's just insane how much weight we give to draft status, and I don't doubt for a second that this is always going to come into play for him -- which just goes to show that most fans are total sheep for the pre-draft process and often refuse to accept that a player can actually just be incorrectly graded.
Wilson was one of the top three quarterbacks in college football at Wisconsin and by in large, every single scout said he would be a top-three pick "If he was just a few inches taller." Those few inches are probably going to haunt him for his entire career, even though he's spent the last 69 games proving that they actually do not matter at all.
Honestly, can you think of a single pre-draft prognostication about his height that has negatively affected him even once? His passes get batted down or deflected less than most quarterbacks, by a significant margin. He might actually have a harder time seeing some of his receivers, he might have spent too much of his career abandoning the pass for a run, he certainly has been affected by his height -- but if it's so negative, then why are his numbers so GD positive?
Coming into the tail-end of his fourth season, Wilson is statistically one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
First 4 seasons: Russell Wilson, 61g, 98 TD, 33 INT, 8.09 Y/A, 101.2 rating Dan Marino, 59g, 142 TD, 67 INT, 7.89 Y/A, 95.2 rating— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
Russell Wilson only has 13 fewer touchdown passes than Peyton Manning had over his first four seasons.— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
Russell Wilson ranks through 4 seasons (min. 40 starts): 3rd in comp%, 1st in INT%, t6th in TDs, 2nd passer rating, 4th Y/A, t1st wins— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
Peyton Manning threw a TD once every 20 throws over his first 4 seasons. Russell Wilson currently at once every 16.7 throws— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
By request Russell Wilson, 98 TD, 33 INT, 8.09 Y/A, 101.2 rating Tom Brady (1st 4 years as starter) 97 TD, 52 INT, 6.9 Y/A, 87.5 rating— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
How many players had 20 passing TDs in each of their first 4 seasons? Peyton Manning Dan Marino Russell Wilson— this is a good tweet (@KennethArthuRS) December 14, 2015
I don't want to throw a pity party for how much Wilson is ignored despite these numbers compared to his peers, but don't tell me that there wouldn't be a national holiday if any of these things were true of Luck. Do you think I or anyone else would have an argument against Newton for MVP if he was putting up numbers like this? If anything, I would be promoting those players as historically awesome athletes that you'd be stupid to not be watching while they play in their prime.
In the same way that I would do for Todd Gurley. Or Amari Cooper. Or Odell Beckham, Jr. Or Rob Gronkowksi. Or Derek Carr. Or Aaron Rodgers. I've been one of Tyrod Taylor's biggest supporters since the preseason. If the Rams actually got a number one receiver, I would be frightened to think what that would do for them, and simultaneously thrilled to see what it would do for them; Because a more interesting game is simply a more interesting game.
Luck seems like a good dude, I'd be thrilled for him to be great. I'm sorry that he hasn't been.
Newton seems chill, and he can do some things on the field that are quite unique. I'd be fascinated to see him reach his potential and be the best quarterback in the game. Sorry to say he's not in the top five.
Here is a fact that I have not put on Twitter yet: Did you know that there are only nine instances this season of a QB having a passer rating of at least 145 on 15 or more attempts? Yes, it's interesting that Wilson has two of those nine games, but perhaps even more interesting is that he has a passer rating of 145.9 over his last four games combined.
Another tidbit: As long as Wilson doesn't throw four interceptions over the last three games, he will have finished with at least 20 touchdowns and 10 or fewer interceptions in each of his first four seasons. No other QB has ever done that. In fact, no other QB has ever done that three times in his first four seasons. In fact, the only other QB to ever do that even twice was Jeff Garcia.
I don't think that this stigma will ever leave Wilson. In the same way that it has never really left Brady. Many fans called Brady a "game manager" as he won three Super Bowls in four years, and it's true that the Patriots were more than just a quarterback. They had a great defense and a very good running game. As shown in the numbers above, Brady wasn't exactly putting the game on his back. But even 11 years since that initial run, with Brady going down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, don't most fans still put him a step below Manning?
After all, Manning won five MVPs, Brady won two.
Well, at the end of the day (or the end of the career, as it were) which would you rather have? The guy that was remembered as being "better," the guy who won more MVPs, the guy who was drafted first overall ... or the guy that won a lot more championships?
I know what I would want. And I also know what I expect.
I just wonder how long it will take other people to reset their expectations as well. Hasn't seeing history be made for four years now been long enough?