O’Neil: Seahawks’ Russell Wilson has a new biggest hurdle to winning MVP
I thought statistics were going to be Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s biggest hurdle in winning an MVP.
Specifically, passing yards. He might not throw for enough of them in Pete Carroll’s offense to ever win the award.
Turns out it could be speed. Most specifically, Lamar Jackson’s speed.
The Ravens quarterback became the MVP favorite this weekend after throwing four touchdown passes in Baltimore’s rout of the Houston Texans. He also ran for 86 yards, and it’s that second number that looms as one of his biggest selling points.
Jackson has rushed for 788 yards this season, almost twice as many as Arizona rookie Kyler Murray, who ranks second among quarterbacks with 418 yards rushing. Jackson is on pace to gain 1,261 yards on the ground. The record for rushing yards by a quarterback is 1,039 set by Michael Vick in 2006. He’s the only quarterback ever to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
Wilson is five years removed from his career-high for rushing yards of 849 in 2014, and while the Seahawks did have a player receive a vote in the MVP balloting that year, it was linebacker Bobby Wagner who was picked on Tony Dungy’s ballot because of the Seahawks’ defensive turnaround that occurred when Wagner returned to the lineup in November.
Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers won the MVP that year. His team won 12 games, same as Seattle. He threw 38 touchdown passes compared to only five interceptions and he threw for 4,381 yards. No one was as interested in measuring Wilson’s rushing yards back then.
Five years later, Jackson’s threat as a runner is more than enough to compensate for the fact that he ranks 19th in passing yards, just ahead of a guy who no longer has a starting job in Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton.
Whether Jackson wins the award is going to depend on not just how he finishes the season, but how his team does. The Ravens are 8-2 and will play at the Rams this weekend, host the 49ers on Dec. 1 and then go to Buffalo on Dec. 8.
Six different quarterbacks have won the MVP award over the past six seasons, and one of the distinguishing traits is the success of those teams. Of the past six MVPs, five of them played on a team that finished at least tied for the most wins in the conference. The lone exception was Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in 2016, who won the award while playing for the 11-5 Atlanta Falcons in a season where the Cowboys finished 13-3.
But for the next few weeks anyway, the Seahawks are going to be among Jackson’s biggest fans as he faces two straight NFC West opponents. Then we’ll see where things stand in the MVP chase where Jackson has quite literally run his way to the lead.