Learning curve can’t keep up with Wilson

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comDecember 9, 2012 

RENTON — With the season in peril and time dwindling, 97 yards of angry Bears stood between the Seahawks and the go-ahead score as they huddled in their own end zone.

Ten veterans pulled in close against the clamorous Soldier Field crowd, ready to accept marching orders from a rookie who acted as if he’d done this for 12 seasons rather than 12 games.

The kid calmly laid out a succinct mission statement: This is what the season comes down to, take it one play at a time. “Stay in the now,” he stressed.

But Russell Carrington Wilson is making it difficult for fans, coaches and teammates to keep any discussion involving him solely in the present tense.

Wilson’s performance on that scoring drive that gave the Seahawks a brief lead in Chicago on Sunday – followed by the winning drive in overtime – capped a brilliant month of play by the third-round draft pick.

His effort encourages fans to imagine the team trajectory rising into the future. And others now have a statistical sample large enough to look at and start trying to place his recent performance in historical context.

In those last four games, two on the road and three of them wins, Wilson completed 67 percent of his passes for 878 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 120.4. His rating in each of the four games was above 104.5.

Statistically, it’s the third-best month of passing in team history. Not just by a rookie quarterback, by any quarterback.

Matt Hasselbeck finished the 2005 regular season – on the way to the Super Bowl – with a four-game stretch rated 137.4. His brilliant streak included six straight games with 100-plus passer ratings (two of them in the postseason).

But to find the top month of quarterbacking, from a ratings standpoint, you’ve got to go back 26 seasons, when Dave Krieg wrapped up the 1986 season with wins over the Cowboys, Raiders, Chargers and Broncos on the strength of a combined 138.2 rating.

Krieg was 28 that season; Hasselbeck was 30 in 2005. Each was in his seventh NFL season.

Wilson, meanwhile, just turned 24 last week, which makes it natural for his coach, Pete Carroll, to sometimes refer to him as a “kid.”

“This was a tremendous game for a kid to be in charge of because he just didn’t do it once, he did it twice,” Carroll said of Wilson’s two late scoring drives against the Bears.

Aside from the obvious play-making ability with both the pass and rush, Wilson displays a composure and game-management skill that has awed his coaches.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell cited a fourth-and-3 play near midfield during the 97-yard drive when the Seahawks decided to go no-huddle with personnel not suited to the play call. Rather than burn a timeout, Wilson improvised, positioning everybody with a series of shouts and gestures, and then calmly delivered a first-down pass to tight end Zach Miller.

“Russell just got us in the play and completed the pass and we just kept going from there,” Bevell said.

Veteran fullback Mike Robinson said he paid attention to Wilson in college (Wisconsin and North Carolina State) and could sense something special in him, and so he wasn’t flat-out surprised with his precocious competence.

“The thing about Russell (is) he has so many facets to his game,” Robinson said. “He can do so much; he can stay in the pocket and throw; he can throw on the run; he can beat you with his legs and he can beat you with his mind – the sky’s the limit for the guy.”

At slightly shorter than 5-foot-11, Wilson is below standard NFL specs for quarterbacks. But as Robinson pointed out, the real measuring stick of a quarterback is whether he helps his team win.

“Everybody has been blown away by him – every guy in the locker room,” Carroll said. “I think when you’re able to really translate that into victories and tremendous play … it just strengthens the result.”

Managing the growth and development of any rookie is a challenge, but more so in the case of a quarterback.

“We’ve worked at it very carefully,” Carroll said, “to try and keep moving forward the whole time and not (press) too hard or too fast (or) get too excited with the potential. We just wanted to maintain an ongoing ascending process.”

As he presumably does with everything else in his life, Wilson takes in compliments with no apparent change in demeanor.

He allowed himself a chuckle when asked how long it has been since he’s shown excitement. “When we got in the locker room after the Chicago game, I was pretty excited,” he said. “But other than that, I think that an even keel just helps the guys around me understand that we’re playing one play at a time and staying in the now.”

Being an example of calm amid the storm, he said, is important in his leadership position. But even those who have known Wilson all his life are surprised by his uncommon maturity as a rookie.

After the overtime win over the Bears in Chicago, Wilson had a chance to visit with relatives, including his uncle, Al, a gentleman in his 80s. Uncle Al congratulated his nephew, and then added that he hoped he never needed to get a blood transfusion from him.

Wilson was curious what might be wrong with his blood.

“Ice, baby,” Uncle Al explained. “Nothing but ice.”

how does Russell Wilson compare?

Matching the rookie quarterback to Seahawks and league leaders.

Highest passer rating: Seahawks, season

Matt Hasselbeck (2005)98.2

Russell Wilson (2012)95.2

Dave Krieg (1983)95.0

Highest passer rating: Seahawks, rookie

Russell Wilson (2012)95.2

Rick Mirer (1993)67.0

Jim Zorn (1976)49.5

Most consecutive passes completed: Seahawks

Warren Moon (1998)17

Russell Wilson (2012)16

Jim Zorn (1980)15

Matt Hasselbeck (2009)15

Most rushing yards by QB: Seahawks, season

Rick Mirer (1993)68 att.343 yards5.0 avg.3 TD

Russell Wilson (2012)66 att.298 yards4.5 avg.0 TD

Jim Zorn (1978)59 att.290 yards4.9 avg.6 TD

Most TD passes by a rookie: NFL

Peyton Manning, Ind (1998)26

Cam Newton, Car (2011)21

Andy Dalton, Cin (2011)20

Dan Marino, Mia (1983)20

Russell Wilson, Sea (2012)19

Jim Plunkett, NE (1971)19

Highest completion percentage by a rookie: NFL

Robert Griffin III (2012)Wash67.08

Ben Roethlisberger (2004)Pitt66.44

Russell Wilson (2012)Sea63.41

Highest passer rating this season since Week 5: NFL

Aaron Rodgers, GB22 TD5 Int.110.6 rating

Peyton Manning, Den21 TD6 Int.108.7 rating

Russell Wilson, Sea15 TD4 Int.105.2 rating

Robert Griffin III, Wash13 TD3 Int.105.1 rating

Tom Brady, NE18 TD3 Int.102.7 rating

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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