Russell Wilson has brains.
That’s his edge.
Mesh his mind with his skill and mobility, and you have the new prototype for successful NFL quarterbacks.
That he is a Black guy makes it even more interesting.
In his third season with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson has established himself as more than the best young Black quarterback in the league. He’s among the top quarterbacks in the NFL. Period.
He has a championship ring from February’s Super Bowl as evidence of his leadership. He also set the record for wins (28) for a quarterback to start the first two years of his career. And that number continues to grow.
But, more than that, he continues to show that it is not about being a dynamic athlete who can run, the elements that typically separated Black quarterbacks. Running is just a part of his package, not the heart of it.
Rather, Wilson has a head for the position. He’s smart and some of it might be inherited. His late father was a lawyer. His grandfather, Harrison B. Wilson, was the president of Norfolk State University.
He uses his intellect on the field, as evident by his Thursday night surgical cutting and splicing of the vaunted San Francisco 49ers defense. He was 15 for 22 for 236 yards with a touchdown. Nothing special about those numbers, but he managed the game brilliantly and made key plays at key moments.
Some plays required his ability to avoid the rush, all required him to make the heady play. That’s his brilliance—playing smarter than the defense. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. Just ask Colin Kaepernick, who signed a huge new contract extension before the season and who hardly resembles the player that led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game last season.
Just as Robert Griffin III, the erstwhile Washington Redskins quarterback who has been booed, benched and likely headed to a new team in the offseason. This after being deemed the best rookie among Wilson, Kaepaernick and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who, by the way, has shown all the elements Wilson has.
The difference between Wilson and Luck is size. Luck is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds. Wilson is listed at 5-foot-11, meaning he’s shorter than his offensive linemen. But he makes up for that deficiency by understanding the Seahawks’ offense and understanding how to exploit opposing defensive schemes.
One play Thursday night crystallized the power of Wison’s game. He utilized all the elements of his skill set: smarts, elusiveness, poise, throwing accuracy.
On a third-and-9 play from Seattle’s 36-yard line, Wilson avoided two 49ers defenders seeking to sack him (elusiveness), calmly moved while looking downfield to make a play (poise), faked a pass to freeze defenders and free up a receiver (smarts) and delivered a pass chest-high (accuracy) to tight end Toni Moeaki along the right sideline. Moeaki snagged the ball and, just avoiding stepping out of bounds, sprinted 63 yards to the 1-yard line.
“Just trying to make a play,” Wilson said. “That’s what it’s all about. Championship mindset.”
That’s another element to his game/success: Wilson knows what to say. Griffin in D.C. has helped sink his ship through his arrogant comments and through refusing to accept responsibility for his struggles, instead assigning blame to teammates. Not smart.
Wilson’s teammates like him, so much so that the team traded a weapon in Percy Harvin with most of the team’s blessing because the two had a rift.
“Have you ever talked to him personally?” former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said of Wilson when he was just getting his NFL career underway to espn.com. “He’s the most dynamic guy you’ll ever be around. He has such an unusual flair. I mean, this guy wins you over with two minutes’ talk. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a quarterback that’s undersized like he is that has been so dynamic.”
He (and Luck) are the new wave QBs, the ones who win games by not losing them. And then they win them when they have to win them. They play tough and smart, with smarts being the most significant of the attributes. Pretty cool.