It's a recent development in the National Football League for expectations to be higher for young quarterbacks. The phenomenal rookie seasons of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson raised the stakes.
In fact, just winning the NFC West would be considered a disappointment for Wilson. So would anything less than a trip to New Jersey.
It's Super Bowl or bust in Seattle, and that's a lot of pressure on a second-year passer.
Luckily for the Seahawks, Wilson has yet to give an indication that he's anything but up to the task.
All Wilson has done from the moment he arrived in the Pacific Northwest is exceed expectations.
As an undersized third-round pick, more than a few eyebrows went up when Wilson was drafted. Most pundits saw the 5'11", 206-pounder as a career backup.
Well, by the time training camp and the preseason ended Wilson had been named starter, while free-agent acquisition Matt Flynn became a well-compensated clipboard holder.
Wilson was only getting started. He was superb as a rookie, improving steadily with each passing week. By season's end, Wilson had completed over 64 percent of his passes, posted a triple-digit passer rating and tied Peyton Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes.
|Russell Wilson Career Stats|
Oh, and the Seahawks went from 7-9 to 11-5 and the playoffs.
In the playoffs, Wilson may actually have been better.
|Russell Wilson Playoffs|
|Two Career Starts (1-1)|
Seattle went on the road to defeat the Washington Redskins and came tantalizingly close to knocking off the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Wilson played well in both games, averaging over 285 passing yards and 60 rushing yards a game.
That dual-threat ability, of course, is one of the things that makes Wilson so dangerous.
However, Wilson's brain should scare teams a lot more than his arm or his legs.
Not only can Wilson hurt teams both on the ground and through the air, but even while a play is breaking down, you can see that the wheels are always turning between his ears.
Wilson is almost Tarkenton-esque when scrambling. He'll roll right, then double back all the way across the field. Wilson extends plays to the point where they have to be timed with a calendar.
The thing is, the whole time Wilson is buying time his eyes are still scanning the field.
It's that vision that allows Wilson to turn sacks in positive gains down the field.
Add to it the arm strength to flip a ball 40 yards off his back foot, and Wilson is more than capable of making opponents pay for losing a receiver while Wilson scrambles.
Or maybe Wilson will just reach into his bag of tricks and pull out one of these:
Even when Wilson does pull the rock down and take off, the youngster continues to play smart football.
The most important part of that play and the one that follows isn't that Wilson made the decision quickly to run once he saw an opening, or that he picked up solid yardage on the play.
It's that (this is important, RGIII; you might want to write it down) with defenders barreling down on him, Wilson got his 206-pound butt on the ground.
Wilson doesn't get hit more than he needs to, because he knows he can't help his team from the sidelines.
Mind you, the greatest asset that Wilson has right now is likely the 52 men on the Seattle roster around him. It certainly doesn't hurt to have one of the NFL's best running backs in Marshawn Lynch. Or a defense that's loaded at every level.
Seattle having home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs doesn't suck either, what with Wilson being 15-1 in his career at CenturyLink Field and all.
However, Wilson is also a cool customer who is as mentally attuned to the game as he is physically capable at it, and those are the sorts of traits that enable a player to put a football team on his back and lead them to victory if the need arises.
It's entirely possible that need will indeed arise at some point in the postseason, and in some ways, it seems only fitting.
Given the expectations thrust upon Wilson this year, he should be the one who makes the signature play in a Seattle Super Bowl run. He's got the skills for it and the mental makeup.
If only he were taller. Then he'd really be great.
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