The conversation regarding this season’s NFL Most Valuable Player candidates now includes Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
For a number of reasons, odds are stacked against Wilson.
Gee, wonder if he’s ever heard such a thing before? Or is this the first time anybody’s suggested he’s a bit of a long shot?
Wilson’s best chance is if he can cause voters to consider some unconventional criteria, to view the term “valuable” in a broad context.
As it turns out, he’s pretty good at that sort of thing.
Most consider Denver’s Peyton Manning the heavy favorite to collect his fifth league MVP trophy. New Orleans’ Drew Brees is rated second among most current predictions.
Some, though, have Wilson trailing only those two.
Wilson is ranked fifth in the league in passer rating (105.1) but is functionally fourth because the leader, Nick Foles of the Eagles (128), has started only five games.
Wilson has passed for 2,362 yards with 19 touchdowns against six interceptions. Nice numbers.
Manning, though, has reached MVP statistics in 10 games (34 TDs, six INTs, 3,572 yards, 118.3 rating). Brees is in the ballpark, with 26 TDs, 3,369 yards and a 106.7 rating.
Voters love stats, especially big numbers in passing yards.
In the past 12 seasons, three running backs (Adrian Peterson last season, LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and Shaun Alexander in 2005) have won the award, but the other nine were quarterbacks.
Only once, when Tennessee’s Steve McNair shared the award with Manning in 2003, did the winner have significantly less than 4,000 passing yards.
Wilson is on pace for roughly 3,400 yards. The Seahawks’ offense is geared to run the ball, with their 358 rushing attempts the second most in the NFL.
And with their defense allowing just 16 points a game, they don’t get in many shootout games that require pinball passing numbers.
Manning, with 409 attempts, has thrown nearly 50 percent more passes than Wilson’s 275.
Voters also seem to be skeptical of youth, particularly when it comes to quarterbacks.
In that group from the past 12 seasons, Manning, at 28 in 2003, was the youngest to win the award.
Wilson doesn’t turn 25 until Nov. 29. And this is only his second season in the league.
In the history of the award, only one quarterback has won it as early as his second season in the league, and that was St. Louis’ Kurt Warner in 1999, and he was 28 years old at the time after spending a number of seasons playing in the Arena League.
That Wilson has closed in on the likes of Manning and Brees is a compliment to him as well as to the success of the 10-1 Seahawks, who are no longer an afterthought to national media.
In his weekly MVP Watch for ESPN, for instance, Dan Graziano said that if Manning and Brees slip for any reason, “... Wilson is in the best position of anyone to sneak in and steal the award.”
He added this week: “Wilson’s got it all and is only getting better.”
Getting some injured offensive linemen back will surely help matters. Manning has been sacked 13 times, less than half Wilson’s 29.
Aside from being undefeated in 13 career home games, Wilson also has led four game-winning drives this season, two of them on the road at Carolina and Houston.
There could be valid debates that the MVP of the Seahawks might be someone other than Wilson – perhaps running back Marshawn Lynch (second in the league in rushing and tied for first in non-kick scoring), or even free safety Earl Thomas (team’s leading tackler).
But it’s Wilson who will get prime consideration if the Seahawks continue the streak they’re on.
He won’t have the gaudy yardage and touchdown numbers, but he’s an enormous part of what has made this a dominating football team.