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Seattle Seahawks
Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson’s NFL MVP campaign appears at a dead end. Does he have time to turn it around?

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 3, 2020

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gestures downfield while scrambling during the second half last Sunday against the visiting San Francisco 49ers. Wilson threw four touchdown passes as Seattle won 37-27.  (Associated Press)
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gestures downfield while scrambling during the second half last Sunday against the visiting San Francisco 49ers. Wilson threw four touchdown passes as Seattle won 37-27. (Associated Press)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

SEATTLE – DK Metcalf continues to do his part to help his quarterback.

Yes, Metcalf’s performance Monday night – 10 catches for a career-high 177 yards – helped propel the Seahawks to a 23-17 victory in Philadelphia. After the game, Metcalf continued to lift up his quarterback, standing behind the mic and propping up Russell Wilson’s NFL MVP chase.

“Russ for MVP,” Metcalf said, concluding his postgame news conference the same way he’s done throughout the season.

When Metcalf began that sign-off early in the season, Wilson was in full-throttle #LetRussCook mode, and his MVP bandwagon was overflowing with supporters. The Seahawks were 5-0, Wilson was on pace to shatter the NFL’s season record for touchdown passes, and a talking point for broadcasters during every Seahawks game predictably turned to the fact that Wilson has never received a single MVP vote.

“I don’t want a vote,” Wilson said then. “More importantly, I want to win.”

In September, Wilson was the favorite to win his first MVP award, and he was just about everyone’s MVP at the season’s midway point.

In December, it’s now fair to wonder if his vote-free streak will continue.

Wilson is not out of the MVP race, but he has fallen behind – and probably significantly behind – the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers with five weeks remaining in the regular season.

NFL MVP odds from VegasInsider.com this week list Mahomes as the odds-on favorite (at -400, meaning a bet of $100 would win $25). Rodgers (+600) is second, with Wilson (+750) third.

A look at the raw statistics of those three QBs:

• Mahomes: 3,497 yards, 30 touchdowns, two interceptions, 115.5 passer rating, 86.1 QBR. Team record: 10-1.

• Rodgers: 3,100 yards, 33 touchdowns, four interceptions, 117.6 passer rating, 85.1 QBR. Team record: 8-3.

• Wilson: 3,216 yards, 31 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 110.8 passer rating, 74.9 QBR. Team record: 8-3.

The Associated Press convenes a panel of 50 people – including broadcasters, writers, analysts and former players – to vote for the MVP each season. Longtime NFL reporter John Clayton is one of those voters, and he said this week he has, in order, Rodgers, Mahomes and Wilson as his top three.

As for the criteria he uses to analyze MVP candidates, Clayton prioritizes team victories and an individual’s touchdown total.

“Wilson was clearly the first-half leader,” Clayton said, “but he has dropped a little.”

USA Today NFL reporter Lorenzo Reyes, another MVP voter, also said Mahomes and Rodgers – not necessarily in that order – are his top two candidates this week. Wilson is still “a legitimate candidate” but has dropped into the next tier alongside Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Titans running back Derrick Henry, with Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray not far behind.

Reyes said he tries to take a comprehensive look at a player’s overall value, prioritizing efficiency and production among QBs.

“I also place significant weight on how a player performs in the clutch, 2-minute drill, or when playing from behind,” he wrote in an email. “So passer ratings in those such scenarios are also given special consideration.”

He also weighs the talent and circumstances around the candidate. Does he play with a stacked roster? Does he benefit from playing with an elite defense? What kind of system does he play in?

“In the end,” Reyes wrote, “I think that’s where some of the value determination comes into play; a player is truly valuable if he elevates those around him or masks deficiencies present elsewhere on the roster. Sometimes that can’t be avoided, where the most valuable player happens to be on a great team, but even then I’m still looking to see what the player does to make those around him better.”

Aaron Schatz, founder of the analytics site Football Outsiders, will vote for the MVP award for the first time at the end of this season. He said Thursday that he will, naturally, take an analytics-driven approach to determine player value, and he will start with two the advanced statistical measurements he created – DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement). Mahomes ranks atop the list in both those categories; Rodgers is second and, surprisingly, Watson is third.

To consider anyone else besides Mahomes at this point, Schatz said, one would have to make a case that the talent around Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offensive scheme give Mahomes a greater advantage over other elite QBs.

Ideally, Schatz said, voting for NFL MVP would closer resemble voting for Major League Baseball’s MVP awards, where voters select a top 10 and the winner is determined on a points scale. If that were the case, Wilson no doubt would have received many votes earlier in his career; Schatz figures Wilson might have finished second in 2015 and 2019 in that scenario.

Aaron Schatz, founder of the analytics site Football Outsiders, will vote for the MVP award for the first time at the end of the season.

To consider anyone else besides Mahomes at this point, Schatz said, one would have to make a case that the talent around Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offensive scheme gives Mahomes a greater advantage over other elite quarterbacks.

What would Wilson have to do to get back in the thick of the MVP race over the next five weeks?

“He would have to do what he did in September,” Schatz said.

Wilson, of course, faltered during a brutal midseason stretch in which the Seahawks lost three of four games, with Wilson responsible for 10 turnovers in those three losses. He has been better – and more careful with the football – in back-to-back victories over Arizona and Philadelphia, vaulting the Seahawks to sole possession of first place in the NFC West and offering some hope that a December surge could reignite Wilson’s MVP candidacy.

One component that could work against Wilson is that coach Pete Carroll has made it known he would like the offense to be more balanced, especially with running back Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde healthy again. No team dropped back to pass more than the Seahawks in the first 10 weeks of the season, but the Seahawks are likely to lean less on Wilson over the next five weeks.

And that probably won’t do much to boost Wilson’s MVP resume.

“No,” Schatz said. “That won’t help his MVP candidacy.”

But, if Carroll is right, perhaps it will give the Seahawks a better shot at another Super Bowl.

That’s one win Wilson would gladly accept as a consolation prize.

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