If you follow the NFL, you probably know that Russell Wilson is having a killer season.
You might not realize how good, how historic, he has been. Aside from lifting a team with a middling pass rush and an uneven defense to a 6-1 record that is tops in the NFL’s best division, did you know that Wilson is on track to throw 59 touchdown passes this season?
I repeat: Russell Wilson is on pace to throw 59 touchdown passes in 2020.
Maybe he really is Mr. Unlimiiiiiiiiiited.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) May 19, 2018
So, yeah, after you’re done cringing at that joke, you should take a moment to further digest the historic pace he’s on, which also happens to be the reason Wilson is the midseason favorite for NFL MVP.
He has his fair share of “wow” moments this year, a necessity to be MVP, like his five-touchdown performance in a thrilling Sunday night win over Cam Newton and the New England Patriots, or any of his rainbow-like deep strikes to DK Metcalf, who is looking very much like a Terrell Owens clone.
Yet, for as good as Wilson has been, this race is far from over.
The case for Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray
There’s no shortage of other quarterbacks having huge seasons, ones who could also be MVP worthy in the end.
One example: Look no further than Kansas City, where another electric, live-armed quarterback with a penchant for the amazing is quietly having another awesome season. Patrick Mahomes already once stood in the way of Wilson winning MVP — Mahomes topped 50 touchdown passes in 2018, Wilson’s best season to date — and he may do it again.
Mahomes is on pace for another crazy statistical season. After his four-touchdown evisceration of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3, smart teams have been content to play lots of deep zone against Mahomes, openly conceding short passes and light boxes to prevent the Chiefs from going on the type of Golden State Warriors-like runs they generate by connecting on deep balls.
And while Mahomes is a gunslinger to his core, the 25-year-old has smartly let the game come to him, taking what the defense gives him as the Chiefs are 7-1.
That hasn’t kept him from putting up gaudy stats. He’s on track to finish with over 4,600 passing yards and a ridiculous 42 touchdowns and only two interceptions, the type of numbers MVP voters can’t overlook if he keeps it up and the Chiefs finish with the NFL’s best record, which are both possibilities.
And speaking of possibilities, here’s another one: you better start putting respect on Kyler Murray’s name. What Murray, 23, has accomplished this year for the 5-2 Cardinals — the 5-2 Cardinals! — is spectacular.
Aside from giving hope to short kids everywhere who aspire to be NFL quarterbacks, Murray has played the position with a unique flair, repeatedly scrambling past defenders as the fastest person on the field and throwing darts while never, ever allowing himself to be hit hard. It’s like watching a skinny Tyreek Hill in the shotgun, except he’s throwing missiles every other play.
Seriously, Murray has been so fun to watch this season. He’s on pace to finish with approximately 46 total touchdowns. It makes me mad to think about all the electric quarterbacks of the past we missed out on seeing in the NFL, all because they were told they needed to move to different positions since they didn’t fit the physical benchmarks of the position.
Granted, the game is more open, less physical and quarterbacks are protected way more these days, all of which allows more leeway for shorter quarterbacks like Murray and Wilson.
The tradeoff is worth it, especially since the game is more fun to watch as evidenced by the highlight-reel plays that the elusive, new-age quarterbacks have produced weekly in their MVP bids.
Don’t forget the old guys: Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers
Yet, there’s still a place in this league for pro-style quarterbacks. Tom Brady is on pace to finish with 40 TDs and eight INTs, proof that there’s still room for the old school. He deserves some MVP love too, all for setting a championship tempo for the 6-2 Bucs, who are the NFC’s Super Bowl favorites. Green Bay (6-2), led by Aaron Rodgers, is in the mix as well as the No. 5 MVP choice.
I offer the candidacies of these four MVP candidates not named Russell Wilson with one gigantic caveat: to have a chance at winning, they must keep up their paces and need Wilson to considerably fall off.
No quarterback has ever thrown 59 touchdowns in a season, so it’s safe to assume he might slow down a bit. But Wilson still seems mighty likely to become the fourth quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season, joining Peyton Manning (2013), Brady (2007) and Mahomes (2018), all MVPs in those seasons.
And if he does that, he’s winning the MVP. Period, point-blank, end of story considering the historical precedent.
It’s like what cracking the 50 home run barrier used to mean for baseball, pre-BALCO days, when a man could win MVP by hitting 22 homers in a season, as Terry Pendleton did in 1991.*
(*I’m admittedly having a grumpy old man moment here, so bear with me.)
Wilson has voter sentiment on his side. After all, the mere fact that Wilson, a surefire future Hall of Famer, has never gotten an MVP vote has been beaten into the ground so much over the past two months that the “LeBron vs. MJ” argument is starting to get jealous.
The good news for Wilson and the rest of us who are sick of being reminded about that “never gotten an MVP” vote narrative is that the odds are good that no one will be able to write that phrase again after February 2021, when the NFL announces its 2020 MVP. All he has to do is keep taking care of business.
And if he doesn’t, there’s no shortage of exciting contenders who are ready to seize the award. It should be a fun two months ahead, folks. Buckle up.
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