Why 2020 is Different for Russell Wilson’s MVP Candidacy

We are 3 weeks into this brand new NFL season and the MVP discussions have begun. The usual suspects are at the top of the list as expected. Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Aaron Rodgers seem to be the consensus top 4. Out of all those guys, there’s only one who has never received an MVP vote.

Career Stats and Resume

 Russell Wilson is going into his 9th season as a Seattle Seahawk; over that time he has led the Seahawks to a winning season in all 8, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to do that. Not to mention the fact that he led the team to a historic Super Bowl XLVIII victory over the Broncos in 2014. 

Photo: Field Gulls

Statistically Wilson’s first season was his worst out of the 8 campaigns he has fully completed. In his rookie season he still managed to throw for 3118 yards and 26 touchdowns throwing at a 64% completion rate. He was a Pro Bowler in his first season and led the Seahawks an 11-5 season. Like I said, this is statistically his worst season as a pro. 

Wilson’s been in the top 10 in passer rating in all 8 of his seasons, along with passing touchdowns, and “long pass” completion percentage. He’s also managed to do all this while playing behind some of the worst O lines in the league for a majority of his career. He’s been sacked 347 times through his first 8 seasons, there’s only been 2 quarterbacks who’ve sustained more sacks through an 8 season stretch. Wilson has consistently been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since entering, so why hasn’t he won an MVP yet?

Why It Hasn’t Happened Yet

While looking at Wilson’s career stats, it seems crazy that he hasn’t won at least one yet. Wilson didn’t become a real MVP contender until 2015 so that’s where I’ll start. Wilson logged over 4,000 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2015. The MVP that year was Cam Newton who threw for over 3500 yards, and 38 touchdowns. At first glance it might seem like they had fairly similar seasons and that Cam Newton shouldn’t have been the runaway. But then you remember that this was the year that Cam was historically great running the football; rushing for 646 yards and 12 touchdowns while simultaneously leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance.

Photo: Medium.com

 2016 was Matt Ryan’s standout MVP season with Kyle Shanahan, and Russell didn’t play at an MVP level all year. It was also the year the Falcons managed to blow a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to the Patriots and become a viral meme forever. 2017 was a pretty similar story, Tom Brady threw for 4500 yards and finished the year on an absolute tear. He also caught the MVP curse that year and infamously got outplayed by Nick Foles in a Super Bowl loss. 

2018 and 2019 do not require an explanation as to why Wilson didn’t win the award. Patrick Mahomes absolutely took the league by storm in his first year starting. Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. No one’s beating that anytime soon. As with 2016 and 2017, 2018 and 2019 were also similar storylines. In Lamar Jackson’s first year as the Baltimore Ravens full time starter, he managed to gain 4,200 scrimmage yards, and was a 1000 yard rusher as a quarterback and lost only 2 games the entire year. Jackson went on to become the second player in NFL history to win a unanimous MVP.

Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson speaks after winning the AP Most Valuable Player award at the NFL Honors football award show Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It’s fair to say that Russell Wilson is an MVP caliber player almost every year and should be considered as such. But he has been surrounded by historically great Hall of Fame quarterbacks for the early part of his career. As he has transitioned into the second stage of his career, the league has seen a spike in generational talent at quarterback working almost immediately. In Mahomes’ and Jackson’s case, “working” is the biggest understatement of all time. So the question still remains: How has he never even received a single vote?

Russell Wilson’s Historic 2020 Campaign, And Why This Year Is Different

Most people would say that Wilson’s been “underrated” throughout his career, and that he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. While I partially agree with that statement, I don’t think Russell Wilson is underrated. He is consistently praised by his peers and former players who recognize and respect what he has been able to accomplish thus far. His numbers are always above league average, and the Seahawks have been a perennial playoff contender since he joined them. It’s not an issue of being underrated or overlooked, it’s the fact that there has been a pretty clear cut winner for MVP every year since 2015. The voters aren’t disregarding Wilson’s greatness, there just hasn’t been much of a choice for the last few years.

With all of that being said, it seems like 2020 is different for Wilson. In the Seahawks’ first three games this season, Wilson has thrown for 14 touchdowns including back to back five touchdown games in his last two against the Patriots and Cowboys. That’s four more than any quarterback through a 3 game stretch in NFL history. His DVOA is historically great so far this season, along with any advanced stat that you can find. Again, the Seahawks find themselves at 3-0 after giving up 25+ points to opposing offenses in every game. The Seahawks would be a below average team without Wilson, and it’s hard to argue just how vital he is to his team’s success.

Photo: USAToday.com

After signing a 4 year 140 million dollar contract this offseason, Russell Wilson seems to be on a mission. The most recent odds indicate him as the favorite at around +300 to win it. I’m sure Russell is more concerned about winning games and getting to the playoffs, than his own personal accolades and stats, but there’s no denying that never receiving a single vote has to get under his skin. If he can avoid injury and continue to play anywhere near the level he is now, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t win or at least receive some votes. The field is stacked once again so it will be difficult, but through three weeks, Russell Wilson is the clear cut MVP frontrunner.

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