Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Russell Wilson has never received an MVP vote before. This narrative has been beaten to the ground over the past few NFL seasons, but it still hits as somewhat of a surprise.
Since entering the league in 2012, the Seahawks quarterback has been named to a Pro Bowl squad in every year but 2016 and has the third-highest winning percentage of quarterbacks with at least 50 games under center, trailing only certified GOATs Payton Manning and Tom Brady. He’s also led the NFL in passing touchdowns and passer rating and has a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.
So, will 2021 finally prove to be the season that Wilson gets some recognition from MVP voters?
The Case For Wilson
Wilson has transformed his style from game manager on a defensive team to the leader of a high-powered offense. While having inconsistent offensive weaponry and a sometimes shoddy offensive line in front of him, Wilson cultivated his skills as an elite improviser. Seattle’s front office recognized his value, rewarding him with a contract extension that made him the NFL’s highest-paid player for a period.
Over the last several seasons, the Seahawks have done a better job surrounding him with the supporting cast he deserves. Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson have developed into premium players at their position, while the acquisition of stud wide receiver DK Metcalf in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft was a godsend for a QB that has become elite despite never having a true #1 receiver.
With the addition of better pieces around him, Russ has become one of the league’s dominant signal-callers. Last season Wilson completed 68.8% of his passes while throwing for over 4,000 yards and a career-high 40 touchdowns. Lockett & Metcalf were arguably the best receiving duo in the entire NFL, combining for 183 receptions, 1,357 yards, and 20 touchdowns.
Coming into this season, there’s little reason to suspect that the Seahawks will slow down. Metcalf is still only 23 and developing, while Lockett and Wilson are still in their prime. All of these tools could lead to the Seahawks having an incredible offensive season with Wilson leading the charge – an easy formula for an MVP campaign.
Of course, there’s also the narrative. Wilson is revered as an incredible player by fans and foes alike. After last season, his peers in the league voted him as the 12th best player in the NFL. This was even considered low for Wilson after a career year!
With all of the hemming and hawing about the lack of awards recognition Wilson has received, the idea that NFL media would rally around a Wilson MVP campaign is easy to see. This exact scenario almost played out last season before Aaron Rodgers went ballistic and ran away with the award. But 2021 is a new year, and a full season of elite production from Russ could add some more hardware to his trophy cabinet.
The Case Against Wilson
The NFL is just about as talented as it’s ever been, and the competition for the MVP trophy is fierce. In fact, many top online sportsbooks have Wilson outside of the top 5 in MVP odds. Currently, Wilson is ranked seventh in MVP odds by Vegas, trailing Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Dak Prescott.
That seems daunting, but if you look at the competitors on a case-by-case basis it’s very easy to see how Wilson could beat them out. Rodgers is aging and in a tumultuous situation in Green Bay, plus he won the award last season. The last back-to-back MVP winner was Peyton Manning in 2008 & 2009. Brady is the GOAT, but he just turned 44 and it would be a tall task for any mid-40’s quarterback to put up the kind of numbers necessary over the course of the whole season to win the award. Josh Allen & Lamar Jackson are both still young and – while incredibly talented – have yet to show year-over-year consistency like Wilson has, and Dak Prescott is coming off of a major injury that he will likely need to work his way back from over the first half of the season.
That just leaves Patrick Mahomes, the frontrunner and the toughest player for Wilson to match. Mahomes is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the history of the game, with an elite set of weapons, right in the middle of his prime. He’s justifiably the front-runner for the award, but he’s not superhuman. It’s a long season and injuries and slumps happen. Any lead Mahomes has is by no means insurmountable.
Critics may also point out that Wilson is in arguably the league’s toughest division. Having to face the Rams, 49ers, and Cardinals is no easy task, but Wilson has plenty of big-game experience under his belt, and these tough match-ups double as an opportunity. If he can step up and the Seahawks knock off their rivals in some big primetime games, it only adds to the “Wilson for MVP” narrative.
If I was a betting man, I’d be putting some cash down on Russell Wilson to capture his first MVP this season.