Sports

Russell Wilson fine with ‘managing’ games — if they’re wins

For those fans who believe Russell Wilson can do no wrong, the Seahawks quarterback is compiling even more compelling evidence to support their claims.

As the Seahawks prepare to meet Denver at CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon, it’s fair to point out that Wilson has gone six games, including three in the postseason, without throwing an interception.

That’s the longest span in his career, suggesting that he continues to get better at doing nothing wrong — an underrated attribute among great quarterbacks.

Wilson’s capacity for avoiding mistakes has caused him to be labeled a “game manager” or facilitator. It’s been leveled as a pejorative in some cases, as if it’s a lesser feat than compiling gaudy numbers of touchdowns or yardage.

Steve Largent caught more passes (819) for more touchdowns (100) than anybody in franchise history, and although he said he hasn’t met Wilson, he’s watched many times.

“People who call him a game manager don’t understand the role he plays,” Largent said when asked of Wilson’s attributes. “If Russell Wilson was called upon by the coaching staff to throw the football for 350 yards a game, he would be able to do that. But that’s not what they need. He protects the football, leads the team down the field, is great at impromptu play, and he’s all the things you need in a winning quarterback.”

Wilson’s streak is up to 144 passes — against St. Louis, New Orleans, San Francisco, Denver, Green Bay and San Diego. In that time, opposing quarterbacks were picked seven times by the Seattle defense.

He’s also thrown eight touchdowns in that span, and led the Hawks to wins in five games against quarterbacks the caliber of Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, who have a collective 24 Pro Bowl recognitions.

It’s those wins, his teammates say, that are meaningful to Wilson.

“Does he have individual goals?” asks fullback Robert Turbin, Wilson’s road roommate. “Sure. He’d love to set the touchdown record for a season or yards in a game, but mostly he just wants to win, to do what he can to put the offense in position to score points. That’s what he’s all about.”

As Seattle has started 1-1, Wilson is at career highs in completion percentage (67.9) and passer rating (114.7, tops in the NFC).

Wilson explained that he’s been focused on his poise and efficiency, and has sought improvement in those areas by studying the great team-leading athletes — not just in football.

“The way you elevate your game, or anything in life, is gaining a little bit more knowledge, studying, preparing the right way,” he said.

He’s cribbed from San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (“… putting the team in the right position”), NBA greats Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant (“… their desire to win the game when the game is on the line”) and Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter (“… how he’s so professional, and the way that everybody respects his game and how he goes about his business”).

Wilson said he’s specifically talked to quarterback coach Carl Smith about the similarity of his job to that of an NBA point guard.

“You have to do what your reads are,” he said. “You have to hand the ball off at the right time. You have to throw the ball to the right guy at the right time. That’s really my job. The rest will work itself out. I’m one of those guys that wants to spread the ball around as much as I can, (to) get it in our true playmakers’ hands and let them do their work.”

Turbin was asked if Wilson truly operates with what seems like an absence of ego.

“He’s confident in himself,” Turbin said. “He talks about the great quarterbacks, and what they’ve been able to accomplish. He wants to be up there with those guys.”

Wilson this week went through a list of goals, ticking off the small yet fundamental details he’s worked to improve.

“Can you control your emotions? Can you control your focus and your poise and play great football and stay focused on the fundamentals?”

Playing in pressurized games, like those in the postseason, are experiences he can exploit now every week.

“That’s where my focus is,” he said. “How can I help my football team play our best football? How can I help the other ten guys in the huddle really believe that every play is going to work, and we’re going to keep those drives alive and score a lot of touchdowns?

“Hopefully I’m a better football player; hopefully my game has improved. I still have a lot more to do.”

Largent can see all those things in Wilson already.

“He’s the leader on the field and the leader off the field,” Largent said. “He’s a guy who commands respect in the huddle. There’s no question who’s in charge when he’s on the field. Those are the intangibles you have to have, and he has all those things.”

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