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Coolican: Russell Wilson should be NFL MVP this year

| Thursday, November 14, 2019

As a lifelong Seahawks fan, I may be slightly biased in this opinion. However, objectively speaking, Russell Wilson deserves to win the NFL MVP this season. He has carried a mediocre supporting cast to an 8-2 record this year, and just knocked off the undefeated 49ers. 

First, let’s take a look at his numbers. He is third in the league with over 2,700 passing yards, to go along with an absurd touchdown-to-interception ratio. Wilson leads the league by a wide margin with 23 passing touchdowns, and only Patrick Mahomes, who missed the last three games with a knee injury, has fewer than his two interceptions. Wilson has completed 68% of his passes and is second in the league with a 78.2 QBR. In every one of these statistics he is ahead of Lamar Jackson of the Ravens and Deshaun Watson of the Texans, his closest competitors for MVP. Jackson has passed for 15 touchdowns and five interceptions, while Watson has thrown 18 and five. 

Of course, the award is not given solely on statistics. There is no official criterion, but an unwritten one is how much the team depends on the player (hence the word “Valuable” in “Most Valuable Player”), and there is no team who relies on its quarterback more than the Seahawks. The running back rotation they employ is usually ineffective, as Chris Carson has regressed this season and Rashaad Penny has failed to live up to his first-round potential. The Legion of Boom, Seattle’s secondary that led it to two Super Bowls, is no more. The current secondary is porous. They have some stars on defense, like Jadeveon Clowney and Bobby Wagner, but the defense often allows a lot of points and forces Wilson to bail the team out. And he does just that, week after week. He is one of the best at engineering comebacks, as his 28 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime are tied with Matthew Stafford for the most since 2012. 

When Wilson entered the league in 2012 and won the Seahawks quarterback job, he didn’t have to do a lot. The team was led by Marshawn Lynch, who was one of the best running backs in the league at the time, and a defense that many considered to be one of the greatest in NFL history. Wilson just had to manage the games and occasionally make a big play. Now, though, that script has flipped. Two weeks ago against the Buccaneers is a great example of Wilson’s brilliance this year. The defense allowed 34 points against a two-win team, and Wilson just kept coming back and putting together great drives. He controlled the game, passing for 378 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to an overtime victory.

None of this is meant to discount Jackson, Watson or any of the players who have put together great seasons in the NFL this year. Jackson has been electric for the Ravens. He wasn’t seen as an NFL-caliber quarterback coming out of college, and has proven the doubters wrong with this incredible season. Watson is arguably just as valuable to his team as Wilson is to the Seahawks, but the Texans play in a weak division, and the Seahawks record overall is better. As much as the MVP voters might deny it, team success is a major part of their voting process, and an 8-2 record in what is arguably the toughest division in football is a major plus for Wilson. Jackson plays in the AFC North, which, outside of the Ravens this year, has an 8-19 record. The AFC South has an even 14-14 record outside of the Texans. The NFC West, on the other hand, has a 16-11 record excluding the Seahawks. The 49ers were undefeated before the Seahawks beat them, and the Rams made the Super Bowl last year. Wilson consistently has to play good teams, and has beaten them this year.

The one drawback Wilson may have compared to Jackson is that the Ravens beat the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 7. Jackson was very limited through the air, but rushed for over 100 yards. That head-to-head matchup could be meaningful if other statistics end up being very close at the end of the season. Jackson also does things on the ground that Wilson does not. Wilson is an elite scrambler and can extend plays, but Jackson is a weapon in the run game, whereas the Seahawks rarely call designed quarterback runs for Wilson. 

This will be a very close MVP vote, but Wilson, as of now, deserves to win MVP because his statistics are well above those of his competitors, and he provides incredible value to his team.

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