If it wasn’t for Russell Wilson, would Lamar Jackson even be MVP favorite?
The NFL MVP race appears to be between two quarterbacks on two of the best teams in the NFL: the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
Wilson, now in his eighth year, is having by far his best statistical passing season. He leads the NFL in passing touchdowns with 23, is eighth in passing yards with 2,737, is tied with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for fewest interceptions thrown among qualifying quarterbacks with two and is sixth in completion percentage among passers with at least 250 attempts, completing 68.5 percent of his attempts.
While Wilson has been the presumed MVP favorite for most of the season while guiding the Seahawks to an 8-2 record, Jackson has overtaken him as the favorite for the award, at least in the eyes of Las Vegas, which has Jackson as the betting favorite to take home the hardware.
But to some, Jackson being the favorite over Wilson is maybe a little ironic even if it isn’t necessarily unfair.
Why? Because when Wilson was making a name for himself in his first few seasons, he was constantly being compared to the prototypical pocket passing quarterbacks and never garnered much MVP consideration. Wilson was more than that, as he could – and still does – make plays with his legs both in the run game and pass game.
Now that he is more of a traditional pocket passer, the opposite is happening to Wilson – a young, running quarterback is getting more MVP consideration over him.
710 ESPN Seattle’s Dave Wyman and Danny O’Neil both find it a little amusing, as Wilson helped pave the way for players like Jackson.
“Lamar Jackson is now being considered an MVP candidate because of Russell Wilson,” Wyman said Monday on Bob, Dave and Moore. “Because of what Russell has done in the past and what he’s done in the years before when everybody was a drop-back quarterback.”
Wyman noted that what Jackson does in the run game is different than what Wilson ever did – he’s on pace to break the single-season rushing record for a quarterback – and said the second-year Ravens QB deserves to be considered for the league’s MVP award, but added that Jackson may not have had a shot to play the position with the style that he does if not for Wilson’s play.
“I do feel like Russell Wilson broke the ice for him of being this kind of quarterback,” Wyman said. “Prior to when Russell came the league, no one was going to look at a quarterback like that and take him seriously.”
“He’s now playing like the quarterbacks he used to be compared to: Rivers, Rodgers, Drew Brees,” O’Neil said of Wilson. “He’s now putting up stats that maybe aren’t as overwhelming (like) 5,000 yards passing, but he’s putting up stats that used to win quarterbacks MVPs, yet he’s being passed in the MVP discussion by a guy who plays similar to the way he did (earlier in his career).”
In 2014, Wilson ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns while also throwing for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. He didn’t receive a single MVP vote. Jackson, meanwhile, is 10th in the NFL among all players this year with 788 rushing yards and 19th in passing yards with 2,258.
“(Wilson) wasn’t even a blip on the MVP discussion (in 2014), which Aaron Rodgers won (the award) by the way. And Russell is on pace for an almost identical statistical season to Rodgers’ MVP year of 2014, yet he might now lose it because someone plays kind of like he did when he couldn’t even get a mention,” O’Neil said.
In 2014, Rodgers had 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns and five interceptions. If Wilson stays at his current pace, his numbers will be comparable to Rodgers’ 2014 season.
In 2019, young, mobile quarterbacks like Jackson have absolutely benefited from Wilson’s success as a runner, O’Neil said, and he likened the situation to differences experienced between firstborn children and their younger siblings.
“Russell has changed the template, but because he was kind of the firstborn, because he was the one that went through first, he might never be appreciated,” he said. “People might have been stricter with him.”
With Wilson is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season primarily for his gaudy passing numbers, who is the main threat to prevent him from winning the award? The newest version of Wilson.
“Now that (Wilson) is a more conventional pocket passer, he’s going to get passed by the newest version of him: Russell 2.0,” O’Neil said.
Wilson will have a chance to bolster his qualifications as he and the Seahawks travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles this Sunday at 10 a.m.