If you’re having trouble checking off your list of MVP requirements when it comes to Russell Wilson, maybe it’s your checklist that’s the problem.
That’s the argument made by 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil, Dave Wyman and Jim Moore in response to criticism of the Seahawks quarterback, who has found his name thrown into the race for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
O’Neil was originally drawn to the debate after seeing a tweet from Pre-Snap Reads’ Cian Fahey.
You’ve gotta ignore an awful lot of bad football from Russel Wilson to tout him as an MVP.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) December 4, 2017
“What I find interesting about it is that he’s not someone with an axe to grind,”O’Neil said of Fahey, who is an established analytics writer. “It’s the way he’s seeing the game. And I kind of just rap my knuckles against my head thinking, ‘How can you watch him and think that? That it’s bad football?'”
The tweet from Fahey, who later added that he’d picked Wilson to be the MVP at the beginning of the 2017 season even though he now views Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady as having separated himself from the pack, isn’t the first time Wilson has seen his play questioned. Earlier this year, ESPN’s Mike Sando released his annual list of Quarterback Tier rankings – comprised with input from 50 league insiders –and had Wilson listed at No. 10.
“When I hear something or read that from Cian Fahey, I think to myself, ‘People still don’t appreciate the different way that Russell plays,'” O’Neil said. “That they look at the way that Russell plays and they think different is bad. It’s just different. And it doesn’t conform to the expectations, but that’s more fun for me to watch. He’s got twice as many rushing yards as anyone on that team; he’s got three of the four rushing touchdowns. And because it doesn’t conform to the little black box people have created for how to play quarterback… they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s bad football.’ No, it’s totally different and I actually think that’s awesome…
“Russell’s entirely different from (a Brady-esque pocket passer or a game manager). He’s someone who’s creative, who ad-libs, who does more outside the structure of his offense than any quarterback I’ve ever seen in the league who’s been able to avoid turnovers. Because usually, when you get a guy like Russell Wilson… you’re just running around like crazy and sometimes it results in huge, incredible plays, but you also tend to make more mistakes. And Russell, he’s the most durable, highest-performing, agile, mobile – I’ve never seen anything like it. And to watch that and to say, ‘Oh, it’s bad football,’ No, it’s just totally different and unique.”
Wilson currently ranks sixth in the NFL in passing yards (3,256), is tied for second in touchdowns (26), and has another 432 rushing yards (averaging 6.1 yards per carry) for three touchdowns.
Dave Wyman agreed with O’Neil, and said Wilson is just the type of player MVP voters should be looking for.
“When you go to MVP, if you want to talk about playing quarterback within the structure of the pocket, that’s fine. But bad football? I mean, you’re 8-4, you’re No. 4 on the passing list, and you’ve rushed for 400 yards and made countless plays that have gotten you out of trouble,” Wyman said. “Here’s another thing: count all of the yardage that he avoids losing because of his escapability. I try to be objective about it, too. There’s times when I’m like, ‘Just get rid of the ball. You don’t need to do that, you didn’t need to leave the pocket there.’ But you have to take the bad with the good, and right now the good far outweighs the bad.
“He’s a guy that I think the MVP, that kind of voting, was created for. That’s the kind of person that you’re trying to get, because of his play-making ability.”