Russell Wilson is undoubtedly the most valuable Seahawks player. Just look at what the offense was when he was hurt in September and October. Better yet, close your eyes.
He could become the most valuable man in Seattle. That is, if the newest investor in the city’s effort to build a new south-of-downtown arena to attract the return of the NBA succeeds.
“SODO arena. Make it happen,” the quarterback said to end his postgame comments on Sunday.
But should Wilson, impressive playing through a sprained ankle and knee earlier this season and sublime in his past three games after returning to health, become the most valuable player in the NFL?
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Doug Baldwin, Wilson’s No. 1 receiver and touchdown maker — the man who threw Wilson a touchdown this past Sunday to help the Seahawks beat Philadelphia — thinks so.
“If he’s not, I don’t know who else would be ahead of him right now,” Doug Baldwin said after Wilson’s third consecutive game and fourth this season with at least 270 yards passing, at least one touchdown pass and no interceptions.
How about Dak?
“Who?” Baldwin said, his voice rising.
Dak Prescott, the wondrous rookie quarterback that has led Dallas to a 9-1 record. Or Derek Carr, the deep-throwing quarterback of the 8-2 Oakland Raiders?
“I guess,” Baldwin spat back, almost scoffing. “I guess.
“I mean, I don’t know (if he’s) playing better than Wilson right now. He’s the best player in the league right now. By far.”
Of course Baldwin is biased. Wilson is the man that enabled him to set a Seahawks record last season with 14 touchdown catches and is why Baldwin has six scores this season. Wilson’s four previous years of excellence, including leading Seattle to two Super Bowls and winning one, helped Baldwin become a $46 million man this spring.
But is Baldwin right?
The first criterion for whether a player is “most valuable” is, at least should be, does he win?
Wilson has the Seahawks at 7-2-1 entering Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay (5-5). That’s the second-best record in the NFC to Prescott’s and rookie wonder running back Ezekiel Elliott’s Cowboys.
Carr’s Raiders lead the AFC West and are tied with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the AFC’s best record. As great as Drew Brees still is for New Orleans, leading the league with 26 touchdown passes and a 71-percent completion rate, his defensively-deficient Saints are 4-6.
But one of Brees’ four wins was against Wilson’s Seahawks last month. That was the Oct. 30 game from which on the team’s flight home Wilson and Seattle coach Pete Carroll agreed to ditch the conservative play calling that had been protecting Wilson’s injuries and turn the QB loose again to make the scrambling, improvisational, improbable plays that only he in the league can make.
Such as last weekend’s twisting throw across his body on the run at the line of scrimmage for a scramble-touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham.
A second criterion is the most obvious one: straight statistics.
Wilson’s 2,714 yards passing through 10 games has him on pace to break his own record he set in 2015 by more than 300 yards.
Brady will get MVP consideration and votes because he’s Tom Brady, but also because at age 39 his numbers are as good or better than they’ve ever been. He has 16 touchdowns against just one interception, a completion rate of 70.4 percent second only to Brees, a league-best passer rating of 123.3 and a gaudy 9.3 yards per attempt —10.0 yards per throw is considered other-worldly.
Brady’s only loss this season? When Wilson outplayed him two weeks ago during the Seahawks’ win in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Prescott has seven fewer completions in 19 fewer throws than Wilson, for a better completion percentage of 67.7 to Wilson’s 66. Prescott has 17 touchdown passes and two interceptions to Wilson’s 11 and two. Prescott’s higher scoring throws is why his passer rating is 108.6, third in the league, and Wilson is ninth at 99.5.
Carr has thrown it way more than Prescott and Wilson — 385 passes, compared to 335 for Wilson and 316 for Prescott. But with 34 more completions than Wilson he has only 86 more yards. Carr has 20 touchdown passes, tied for fifth in the league, against four interceptions and a passer rating of 100.6 that is sixth in the NFL.
Elliott leads the league in yards rushing (1,102), carries (223) and is third in touchdown runs (nine) and fourth in yards per carry (4.9).
Then there are the factors beyond the numbers. Sustained excellence annually is a big one. That’s where Brady, Brees and now, in his fifth great season, Wilson separate themselves.
Carr had 52 touchdowns against 17 interceptions the past two seasons. This is his third one in the league since Seattle helped him become a starter as a rookie. Carr shredded the Seahawks’ starting defense in the 2014 exhibition finale, ending a quarterback competition with Matt Schaub that summer in Oakland.
Overcoming challenges to excel is another MVP consideration. Statistics alone don’t define how great — how “valuable” — a player is.
Brady spent his four-game suspension from the league for his role in the DelfateGate ball-inflation fiasco.
Prescott was a fourth-round draft pick preparing to be Tony Romo’s backup for years, until Cliff Avril broke a bone in Romo’s back on a sack early in the third preseason game on Aug. 25. Prescott has been brilliant since game one, and the Cowboys are now thought to be trading Romo eventually.
Wilson has been at even semi-good health for just 3 1/2 of his 10 games. Yet he just keeps playing — and winning. He is still wearing a brace on the left knee where he sprained the medial collateral ligament on Sept. 25 against San Francisco. Coaches and trainers tried to talk him into sitting out multiple games after that injury, saying it should have sidelined him four weeks. He still hasn’t missed a practice.
“No chance,” the league record holder for most quarterback wins in his first four seasons said.
Beginning Thursday when Dallas hosts Washington in its annual Thanksgiving home game, Prescott and Elliott are entering unknowns. A large part of this admittedly premature MVP talk will center on those new Cowboys stars being rookies. They’ve never before part of an NFL playoff push as Dallas enters December.
How they perform then will largely determine whether one of them becomes league MVP – or whether Baldwin proves to be right all along about Wilson being the most valuable not just in Seattle but beyond.
The Seahawks dropping J’Marcus Webb from their plans is now official in the plainest way: They dropped him from their team.
Tuesday’s official NFL transactions showed Seattle waived its highest-paid offensive lineman two days after the Seahawks left the 28-year-old veteran of seven seasons inactive despite him being healthy to at least back up at the battered tackle position for the win over Philadelphia.
The team eats the remainder of the $2.45 million, two-year contract to which it signed Webb in March.
Webb had started all 16 games last season for Oakland, mostly at guard and some at tackle.
The team eats the remainder of the $2.45 million, two-year contract to which it signed Webb in March.
The Chicago Bears’ starting left tackle in the 2011 and ‘12 seasons seemed destined to be the Seahawks’ starting right tackle to begin this season. That’s where Seattle had him into training camp. Then he injured his knee in August. Garry Gilliam, who spent the offseason readying to replace departed free agent Russell Okung, moved back to right tackle to replace Webb for the final preseason games. Bradley Sowell became the left tackle to begin this season.
Webb did start three games in September at right guard, after top rookie draft choice Germain Ifedi got a high-ankle sprain just before the opener. With Webb in there the offense went the first 59 minutes of the opener without a touchdown, scored just three points in the Sept. 18 loss at Los Angeles for Seattle’s fewest points in five years and routed woeful San Franchise.
Gilliam is still starting at right tackle through 10 games. Sowell got hurt at Arizona Oct. 23. The Seahawks chose undrafted college basketball player George Fant over Webb to replace Sowell for the rest of that overtime tie against the Cardinals. Fant has started the four games since, with Webb mothballed. When Fant injured his shoulder and missed part of last weekend’s win over the Eagles, rookie draft choice Rees Odhiambo replaced Fant at left tackle. Webb stayed in sweat clothes on the sideline, inactive.
All that adds to the belief of Seahawks veteran line coach Tom Cable, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider not to spend much on blockers in today’s NFL, which offensive linemen enter unprepared after years playing standing up in college spread offenses. Seattle has the lowest-paid offensive line in the league.
Tuesday, it got lower — though Webb will still be cashing checks from the Seahawks.
SEAHAWKS’ NEXT OPPONENT
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-5)
1:05 p.m. Sunday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Against the Seahawks: The Buccaneers have lost eight of the 12 meeting between expansion partners from 1976. Tampa Bay lost the last meeting 27-24 in overtime on Nov. 3, 2013, blowing an early lead in Seattle. The Bucs won the last time these teams played in Tampa, 38-15 on Dec. 26, 2010. Tampa Bay has hosted Seattle just twice in the previous 10 seasons.
Line: Seahawks by 5 1/2
What to know: In many ways quarterback Jameis Winston’s second season has been even better than his impressive first. He is tied for fifth in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes and is above 60 percent in completion rate, after 58.3 percent in 2015. But he is still making mistakes. He’s thrown 10 interceptions, after 15 last season. Yet the Buccaneers are just one game behind Atlanta for first place in the weak NFC South, and Winston is coming off an upset win over the previously 7-2 Chiefs in Kansas City. … Mike Evans is Winston’s go-to target. Evans, in his second season, is second in the NFL with eight touchdown catches, third in catches (65) and third in yards (916). Expect Seattle’s three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman to go back into his occasional shadow mode and follow Evans around the field Sunday. … The Bucs’ leading rusher is former Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers (393 yards). … Tampa Bay is ranked 16th in the NFL in points per game, 11th in total offense, 16th in rushing and 13th passing. … The Buccaneers’ defense is led by seventh-year veteran and 2013 All-Pro Gerald McCoy. He leads the team with 4½ sacks — as a tackle. He forever gained immortality with Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end when he said Michael Bennett, his former Bucs teammate, should get paid more by Seattle … The Buccaneers’ defense has struggled giving up big plays, especially at home where Tampa Bay is 1-4. It is 24th in points allowed (25.9 per game), 26th in total defense, 25th against the run and 25th against the pass. Tampa Bay has forced 17 takeaways, sixth-most in the league, but its turnover margin is just plus-1 because of all of Winston’s interceptions.
Quotable: “It's team stuff; I'm not going to talk about it. One thing I can say, I told them how grateful I was to be their quarterback.” — Winston, after his sterling performance last weekend in beating the Chiefs, on the inspirational letter he read to his teammates last Wednesday.