Despite owning one Super Bowl ring at age 26, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is clearly an outlier among the three other quarterbacks still standing in the NFL playoffs.
A 5-11, 206-pounder who does plenty of damage with his legs, Wilson will likely never be considered in the same prolific passing class with Tom Brady, Andrew Luck or the man Seattle will face in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers. Wilson’s 20 touchdown passes in 2014 represented half the amount of league leader Luck while Brady and Rodgers both easily cleared 30 TD tosses.
But just ask Seahawks coach Pete Carroll if the only quarterback who currently has a chance to be a repeat Super Bowl winner while adding to his 41-13 career record (best ever for a third-year player) deserves elite status.
“I do feel that,” Carroll said. “Maybe not everyone feels that way at this point. But I certainly do. … Because we cherish his ability to help his team win.
“He’s a real winner. He’ll find a way.”
Wilson has one year remaining on his four-year, $2.9-million rookie deal and is expected to become the game’s highest-paid quarterback whether or not he leads the Seahawks to the first successful Super Bowl defense in a decade.
“If he wins two Super Bowls in his first three years? Come on,” Hall-of-Fame quarterback and Wilson’s mentor, Warren Moon, told USA TODAY Sports. “Russell is special — the most efficient, productive quarterback for the amount of passing opportunities he has.
“Everybody’s making a big deal about Aaron throwing three touchdowns Sunday. But he threw 35 times. … Brady threw three touchdowns. If Russell threw 50 times, he might have five touchdowns.”
Wilson attributes his uncanny poise on the postseason stage to positive visualization techniques.
“I just try to be the calm in the storm,” he said. “Any great player has to be clutch.”
Wilson was at his best last Saturday night on third down, hitting all eight of his passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns in Seattle’s 31-17 defeat of the Carolina Panthers.
“I remember watching him at Wisconsin, and with the game on the line, he looked like he was throwing in pat-and-go warm-ups with how poised he looked,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told USA TODAY Sports.
“Nothing bothers this guy.”
Wilson’s quick-fire precision is yet another dimension for the Packers defense to cope with after he relied more on his legs to extend plays in Seattle’s 36-16 beatdown of Green Bay in Week 1. Wilson has gotten the ball out at a faster pace the last four games, masking his offensive line injuries.
“It’s important because you don’t get rushed,” Carroll said. “You have a chance to get the ball out before they can get to you. That makes the urgency of the rush have to pick up.
“When you play Russell, the ball can come out really quick. And you better get your hands up, you better do what you can to get in his way as you’re going to have to deal with him when he takes off and makes it about as hard as we can make it.”
Wilson’s accuracy against Carolina proved he is as good at winning from the pocket as any of the three other final four quarterbacks.
“It’s something I’ve always prided myself on is keep getting better in terms of getting the ball out quick and throwing the ball on time and trusting my eyes, delivering accurate footballs,” Wilson said.
Yet what defines Wilson is his ultra-efficient, beyond-his-years decision making.
“He doesn’t fit the mold of anything that I’ve thought previously would be a franchise quarterback,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “He still gets a lot of hate and discredit because of the fact we don’t throw the ball that often. … What he’s asked to do in this offense, he does it extremely well.