It’s Time to Start Respecting Russell Wilson’s Greatness

Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

It’s remarkable how quickly the narrative shifts.

Russell Wilson led the Seattle Seahawks to a 36-12 regular season record in his first three seasons. In addition, the Hawks achieved two Super Bowl appearances in this stretch, including the first championship in franchise history. It would be an incredibly successful stretch for anybody; the fact that Wilson accomplished it so early in his career made the feat even more impressive.

However, many people felt that Wilson was an overrated player. Their reasoning was that the Seahawks were dominant because of their all-time great defense and running back. They argued that other young quarterbacks (like Andrew Luck) could have accomplished just as much, if not more, on the Seahawks.

In short, critics insisted that Russell Wilson was not a primary reason for the success of the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe there was some truth to that claim. It was a valid argument to have.

However, there’s no question about it today. He has gone from arguably being overrated earlier in his career to now being severely underrated.

Russell Wilson is the Seattle Seahawks. He is a top quarterback in football. It’s time to start respecting him.

The biggest story of the season has been the historic performance of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In his sophomore year, Mahomes has a chance to be the first quarterback to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season. Mahomes looked to continue his MVP season in Seattle. Instead, Russell Wilson stole the show.

Wilson threw for 271 yards on just 29 attempts (versus 40 attempts for 273 yards by Mahomes) along with 3 touchdowns and no turnovers — good for a 127.2 passer rating. Wilson was the highest graded quarterback of Week 16 by Pro Football Focus.

The Seahawks emerged victorious with a final score of a 38-31. The win clinched a postseason spot for Seattle and another winning season for Wilson — the seventh of his seven-year career.

Wilson’s highlight of the night was certainly this deep bomb to Tyler Lockett with just 3 minutes to go in a tight game:

Wilson is continuing to prove that he very well may be the best deep ball passer in football. When throwing deep (20+ yards), Wilson has thrown for 970 yards, 14 touchdowns and just a single interception, good for the second-best deep passer rating (126.5) in the NFL. He is also throwing it deep on 16.2% of his attempts, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Wilson’s deep ball volume has dispelled the argument that he is simply a game manager.

Wilson’s passer rating of 112.7 is the third-highest in the NFL and the highest of his career. More notably, his touchdown percentage of 8.4% is the sixth-highest since 1985. The rate is even higher than Peyton Manning’s in 2013 when he threw for a record 55 passing touchdowns. Also, Wilson’s interception percentage of 1.5% is the lowest rate of his career.

Wilson’s efficiency is remarkable considering he’s still consistently making big plays. His big-time throw percentage of 9.3% isn’t just the highest mark in the NFL this season — it’s third-highest since PFF began tracking the metric in 2006. A big-time throw is described as a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and into a tight window. For comparison, Mahomes’ big-time throw percentage is just 7.6%.

In addition, Wilson’s expected completion percentage of 59.7% is among the lowest in the league. This number demonstrates the difficulty of a quarterback’s passes. If a player has a higher actual COMP% than their expected, they are exceeding expectations. Wilson’s actual completion percentage is 66.0%. This means that his actual completion percentage is 6.3 higher than his expected completion percentage. The differential is the second-highest in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees.

According to Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, the Seahawks boast the NFL’s 6th best passing offense. This is especially impressive considering the Seahawks’ offensive line has been lacking in pass protection compared to other teams.

 Passing Offense Rank (DVOA)Offensive Line's Pass Protection Rank (DVOA)
Kansas City Chiefs17
Los Angeles Chargers211
New Orleans Saints32
New England Patriots41
Los Angeles Rams55
Seattle Seahawks628
Pittsburgh Steelers74

Some may point to the Seahawks’ league-best rushing attack as the reason for Wilson’s success. However, this is just another attempt to discredit his achievements. Defenses are stacking the box against running back Chris Carson on just 19.74% of his rushes. For perspective, defenses stack the box against the Steelers on ~30% of their rushes despite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger playing at an elite level. This demonstrates the respect that opposing defenses have to show Russell Wilson’s passing ability.