The Elephant in the Locker Room: What Know-It-All Analysts Miss About Russell Wilson
After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.
By Greg Wright
Not a few NFL analysts insist that Russell Wilson in no way deserves his newly-minted $87 million contract, which makes him the third-highest paid QB behind Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. (Some contract analysts peg Wilson’s deal just ahead of Roethisberger’s.) The storyline with these analysts is that Wilson’s stats don’t measure up with other elite QBs, and that his win tally is the product of Pete Carroll’s defense-first approach and a strong running game.
I even read one clown who asserted that Wilson’s success is due, in part, to playing behind a “great offensive line.”
You may notice that’s a claim that’s not even worth a response.
Sharper analysts have consistently pointed out that Wilson has pushed himself into the elite not just by winning games (which he has done more in his first three years than any QB in league history) but by how he has won a good many of those games: he also has more 4th-quarter game-winning drives in his first three years (15) than any QB in league history.
The top five career leaders in game-winning drives are, in order, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, John Elway, and Brett Favre. Between them, they have had 240 4th-quarter game-winning drives over the course of 84 combined seasons for a per-season average of 2.85. If Wilson were to keep up his current average of 5.00 per season and play for 15 years, his tally of 75 4th-quarter game-winning drives would demolish Manning’s current career mark of 52 over 16 seasons.
That’s one measure of Wilson’s worth. Without the will to win, the tools to win are meaningless.
Also consider that Wilson has on his record 4 of the 25 biggest come-from-behind wins in team history. One of those was the “U Mad Bro?” win over the Patriots at the Clink in 2012; I imagine you remember Wilson’s 46-yard bomb to Sidney Rice for the win. The list-topper in this category, of course, is the 21-point deficit overcome against the Jaguars at home in 2013.
But two of those four games were in the playoffs… no mean accomplishment. I’ve written extensively (and recently) about January’s win over Green Bay; but who can forget the barn-burner against Washington in Wilson’s playoff debut? Down 14-zip after the first quarter, Wilson led the Seahawks to a run of 24 unanswered points with a nearly flawless performance.
But he was even more impressive, if we can remember, in the loss to Atlanta the next week.
Do you recall that the Seahawks trailed the Falcons by 20 points at the beginning of the 4th quarter, and that they ran off 21 unanswered points to lead 28-27 with just 31 seconds remaining? Going completely off-script, Wilson threw for 169 yards on those three scoring drives, and the Seahawks would have won the game if not for a mindless defensive lapse that allowed the Falcons a game-winning field goal. Consider that the comeback against the Falcons would have ranked second all-time in Seahawk history if it had held, and would have been the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.
Consider also that Russell Wilson’s only two playoff losses have been the Falcons game and the Super Bowl against the Patriots. Yes, he has been two heart-breaking plays away from being completely undefeated in the playoffs. Both games ended with interceptions at the goal line in the closing seconds.
What Wilson brings to the game is a tremendous desire to win, and the talent to back up that desire.
I well remember sitting in a sports bar on December 2, 2012 and turning to my wife to say, “People will look back to this game with Chicago and say, ‘This is the day that Russell Wilson became a pro.'” All Wilson did that day on the road against Chicago was engineer a 97-yard drive to give the Seahawks a 3-point lead with 24 seconds to play… and then, when the defense managed to give up the tying field goal, lead another 80-yard scoring drive in OT.
The fact is, Russell Wilson sticks to a winning script like a winner, not letting his ego get in the way (a la, say, Colin Kaepernick or Jay Cutler or Cam Newton)… and then, when he’s forced off the script by an opponent who defeats the game plan, he plays even better.
And the fact is, the analysts calling Wilson overpaid have missed one major thing: they’ve apparently not watched Wilson actually play.