By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — Halfway through his first NFL season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was asked how he has changed after eight games compared to where he was when the season started.
“I don’t think anything is different,” Wilson said. “To be honest with you, I don’t think anything has really changed.”
Fortunately for the Seahawks, Wilson is wrong. His approach may not have changed, the tireless work ethic that helped him win over Seahawks coaches from the first rookie minicamp in May, that may still be the same. But Wilson’s play over the course of eight games, that has undoubtedly improved.
“He’s had a very prosperous first half of his first year in that he’s growing,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been attacked, he’s been under the gun in so many games, and Russell has shown his ways and his character and his athleticism by doing some great stuff. He needs to get better just like everyone does, and he’ll be the first to tell you that.”
Wilson’s growth has included three of his best performances in his past four games, wins over Carolina and New England, and last week’s loss in Detroit that Carroll called, “probably his best game. It was his most solid performance. He’s had other big plays in crucial situations, but I think he played really well throughout this one.”
Even when you throw in what was a rough game for Wilson and the entire offense in San Francisco, his numbers are significantly better across the board in the past four games than his first four. Comparing his past four games to his first four, Wilson has thrown for more yards (872 to 594), touchdowns (6 to 4), has a higher completion percentage (62.7 percent to 60 percent), and has a higher passer rating (90.4 to 73.5).
Now, it’s time for Wilson to be even better. Next to the obvious — winning more games — the best thing that can happen for the Seahawks over the next eight games is for Wilson to continue his upward trend. Wilson will be the first to tell you that his only goal between now and January is to win games, but this is also his chance to put his stamp on the position and leave no doubt that he is the man for the job for this season and the foreseeable future.
We’re past the point of people screaming for Matt Flynn every time Wilson has a bad series — Oh, who am I kidding, there will always be somebody screaming for the backup quarterback in any NFL city. Still, Wilson is still a long ways from showing he is the permanent solution.
While Wilson’s continued growth doesn’t make him destined for the Hall of Fame, it would allow everyone to breathe a little easier heading into next season. If Wilson regresses, or simply fails to make progress over these next two months, it doesn’t mean Wilson has no future in the NFL. However, it will lead to another offseason full of questions at the most important position in football.
What is encouraging for Wilson and the Seahawks is that, in addition to his improving numbers, he also is gaining valuable experience. Some quarterbacks might only get a few chances a year to lead a high-stakes drive with the game on the line in the final minutes. Wilson seems to be doing it weekly. He came up short in the season opener in Arizona, and on the road in St. Louis, but he did lead late comebacks against Green Bay, New England and Detroit, though last week’s fourth-quarter heroics were bettered by Lions quarterback Matt Stafford.
In a league where so many games are decided by a single possession, the experience Wilson has gained through only half a season should pay dividends down the road.
“Obviously I wish a had a couple more wins on my belt — we’ve lost a couple of games right there at the end — but the great thing about it all has been, for me as a rookie playing the quarterback position, all of those games have come down to the end of the game,” Wilson said.
“I don’t think it can get any better in terms of being a rookie, for this organization and for me personally, to be in those situations and understand those situations that much better and still play at a high level in those situations.”
Over the second half of this season, Wilson no doubt will be tested. He has to play in Chicago against one of the league’s best defenses, and still has to play the tough defenses of the NFC West, but Wilson gets all of those divisional games at home, where he has been significantly better. He also has a very manageable road game against a struggling Buffalo Bills defense.
Wilson doesn’t need to suddenly play like an All-Pro the rest of this season, but he does need to continue to grow and leave no doubt that he is the right man for the job, both this season and in the future.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.