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Matt Calkins: Russell Wilson should be mentioned in most any MVP conversation

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s play-making ability is worthy of MVP talk. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s play-making ability is worthy of MVP talk. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Six Pro Bowls. A Super Bowl ring. The NFL passer-rating leader in 2015. The NFL touchdown-pass leader in 2017. The second-best passer rating in NFL history. And, of course, 129 consecutive games played if you count the playoffs.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson might be a future Hall of Famer if he retires this second, and he certainly has proven himself to be one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. But even with all he has accomplished in his seven-plus years in the league – he has never had a four-game start like this.

So it begs the question: A quarter of the way into the season, where does Wilson stand in the NFL MVP race?

The Everest among the mountains right now is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who won league MVP last season. In guiding Kansas City to a 4-0 record, Mahomes is tops in the NFL in passing yards (1,510), yards per attempt (9.7), touchdown passes (tied with two others at 10) and passer rating (120.4). He also has taken just three sacks, has yet to throw an interception and has swept a quartet of teams with eight combined wins.

If the season ended today and someone cast a vote for anybody but Mahomes, he or she surely would endure a (deserved) Twitter avalanche. But who’s No. 2?

It looks like the guy wearing No. 3.

Given his team’s run-first approach, Wilson won’t be able to match the other quarterbacking titans in sheer volume (his 1,141 passing yards are eighth in the league). But among those who have thrown at least 50 passes, he is tops in completion percentage (72.9), second in passer rating (118.7), fourth in yards per attempt (8.6), tied for eighth in touchdowns (eight), and is one of three players (with Mahomes and the Titans’ Marcus Mariota) not to be picked off.

The arguments against him are that every team the Seahawks have beaten this year (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Arizona) is winless, and that he has taken 12 sacks – which is a combination of suspect pass protection and Wilson’s tendency to hold the ball too long.

But as he ranks just 16th in pass attempts this year, Wilson has played the role of hitman to perfection – taking out foes so stealthily that not even the dog wakes up.

“He is the model of consistency,” Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said Sunday. “We know what he’s going to be and what he’ll bring to the table every week. Just happy he’s on our team.”

Not until this season has Wilson had a triple-digit passer rating in each of his first four starts. Only three other times has he had such a four-game streak at any point in the season, including a five-game stretch in 2015.

What’s more is that he has been doing this sans Doug Baldwin, who was the Seahawks’ leading receiver for four consecutive years.

Can he keep it up? TBD. Are there an array of other QBs casting spells this year, too? Most definitely.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is tied with Mahomes with 10 touchdown passes, has posted a passer rating of 109.4 and has amassed 238 rushing yards (on 6.6 yards per carry) – good for 15th in the NFL. With a completion percentage of 72.4, a passer rating of 113.7, and 1,143 passing yards, Cowboys QB Dak Prescott’s stat line is almost identical to that of Wilson’s. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is tied for third in the NFL in passing yards (1,254) and has thrown seven touchdowns to two interceptions. And though he struggled against Buffalo on Sunday, three-time MVP Tom Brady has led the Patriots to a 4-0 record.

There is still a whole lot of season to go. And Wilson’s name has popped up in the MVP discussion before. In 2015, he produced what might be the best five-game stretch in NFL quarterbacking history, and in 2017 he was a prime candidate for the award before a late season drop-off.

But through four games this season, he has looked more valuable than all but one quarterback in football. And the ever-speedy Wilson has never emerged from the gate this quickly.

This past offseason, the Seahawks brass decided to make Russell the league’s highest-paid player and build a team around him. One-fourth of the way into 2019, that decision looks like the right one.

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