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O’Neil: Like others in the past, Richard Sherman fails to evaluate Russell Wilson correctly

Russell Wilson threw four touchdowns in the Seahawks' last meeting with the 49ers. (AP)

Seven years into his NFL career and people still don’t know how to measure Russell Wilson.

That includes guys who should know better.

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“He played well,” Richard Sherman said after Wilson’s Seahawks beat his 49ers 43-16 Sunday. “I think he threw for like 160, 170. Their running game was really effective, and they let him get to his spots and they kept the game plan simple.”

As far as Sherman’s digs go, this ranks among the more subtle. You could even argue it was a compliment, though if that’s true, it was certainly back-handed. Sherman singled out Wilson’s least impressive data point from a blowout victory in which Wilson threw four touchdown passes and finished with a passer rating of 140.9.

But Sherman got it wrong, and not just because Wilson’s actual passing total was 185 yards.

When it comes to measuring Wilson, citing his number of passing yards is kind of like pointing out his height: He’ll inevitably get sold short. He doesn’t throw for as many yards as other guys in the league, and that’s more a reflection of the structure of Seattle’s offense than it is a reflection of Wilson’s skill level. Seattle’s the only team in the league that runs the ball more often than it passes it.

It’s not that the numbers lie when it comes to Wilson, but that you have to know which ones to look at. And in a league where you throw to score, the most telling indication of Wilson’s effectiveness is found in the end zone, where Wilson remains among the league’s leaders in touchdown passes.

He has thrown 29 scoring passes this season, fourth-most among all NFL players. He has thrown 84 touchdown passes going back to the start of the 2016 season, which is more than any quarterback other than New Orleans’ Drew Brees and the Chargers’ Phillip Rivers, both of whom have thrown more passes than Wilson in that time.

No one in the NFL does more with fewer opportunities than Wilson. No one. And while that should cause everyone to stop and marvel at just how much he makes out of the throws he does attempt, people are still finding a way to miss the point. Well, actually, that would be points. Plural.

Wilson’s arm is responsible for an awful lot of them. And while you could argue that his league-leading 34 touchdown passes in 2017 were a symptom of Seattle’s utter inability to run the ball – at all – close to the opponent’s goal line, this season Wilson’s arm is the single biggest reason the Seahawks are an above-average offense when it comes to scoring touchdowns once they’re inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, the so-called red zone.

And on Seattle’s four red-zone possessions in Sunday’s game, Wilson threw three touchdown passes. Throw in a 52-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett early in the second quarter and Wilson had himself a heck of a day – even if some people wound up focusing on the wrong numbers.

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