In the head-scratching blowout that will forever be known as Super Bowl XLVIII, there was only one quarterback that truly helped his team win, and that was Russell Wilson. While it was the Seahawks’ defense that received most of the credit and linebacker Malcolm Smith who earned MVP honors, Wilson's performance was at the heart of the blowout.
The second-year signal-caller was his usual efficient self, going 18-for-25, throwing two scores and finishing with a quarterback rating of 123.1—the eighth highest rating ever for a QB in a Super Bowl with at least 25 pass attempts. As the Emerald City hoists its first Lombardi Trophy, here are the five most important things to take away from Wilson's performance in the Seahawks' 43-8 dismantling of Denver.
1. People Should Stop Doubting Russell Wilson
To look now at Wilson's scouting report from his combine performance in 2012 reads more like comedy than an honest player evaluation. For example:
"Wilson's height will be his biggest inhibitor at the next level and the largest reason for his late-round value. It remains to be seen if he can throw effectively from the pocket at the next level."
That alone is much funnier than almost all of the ads that ran during the Super Bowl. It's even more comical to remember that Wilson was slated as Matt Flynn's backup before the start of the 2012 season. However, like he has at every impasse he has encountered, Wilson proved his detractors wrong and simply outworked the competition. He has always embraced the underdog role and made the most of it, as he said in the post-game festivities Sunday:
“My dad used to always tell me, ‘Russ, why not you?’ And what that meant was believe in yourself, believe in the talent God has given you even though you are 5 foot 11, and you can go a long way.”
No quarterback has more wins in the first two years of a career than Wilson's 24. He's 4-1 in the postseason. In the two biggest games of his career, the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship game against the 49ers, Wilson was 34-for-50 with three touchdowns, zero interceptions and QB ratings of 104.6 and 123.1.
The man makes plays when he needs to, the mark of a true leader and winner. Did we mention he was a 3rd-round pick who was pushed by many to pursue a baseball career path instead of football? Let's stop questioning Mr. Wilson's ability to get things done.
2. Maybe You Don't Need To Be Johnny All-Pro To Win a Championship
The obsession with finding a "franchise quarterback" is at an all-time high right now. The Washington Redskins mortgaged three first-round draft picks, including one that has turned out to be the No. 2 selection this year, to find theirs.
Many teams around the league—Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville—are desperate to finally find one. Why are these teams so preoccupied with finding one specific player? The current narrative in the league is that you can't win a Super Bowl unless you have a top tier QB.
However, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have proved that it is possible to win by simply finding a quarterback that fits the team's offensive scheme correctly, rather than needing a 5000-yard passer to compete in today's pass-heavy league. This is not meant to compare Wilson to the likes of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson because the Seahawks would not have reached the heights they did this year without Wilson and that is a fact.
Wilson is a perfect complement to the run-first offense in Seattle, using his legs when he needs to, and putting up more than respectable numbers through the air despite what most would consider to be not much of a receiving corps this year.
He's never going to lead the league in touchdowns or passing yards, but there are few quarterbacks in the NFL who serve their offense better than Wilson. Seahawks' coach Pete Carroll referred to Wilson's performance as a "perfect football game." Do you really need more than that?
3. We’ll be Seeing More of Wilson
Few players have brighter futures in the league right now than Wilson. He's the quarterback of a team that just won the Super Bowl and, at least right now, is the favorite to do so again next year. His coolness in big situations time and time again is much more than that of a "game manager”—the age-old backhanded compliment of sorts used to describe QB's who aren't asked to throw the ball 40 times a game.
Surrounded by elite talent, Wilson has all the skills necessary to get back to this stage. In Sunday's win, Wilson consistently made impressive throws that kept scoring drives alive. Early on, when Seattle led just 5-0, Wilson's 37-yard completion to Doug Baldwin on 3rd-and-7 down the left sideline was a signal that he came to play.
As ESPN.com's Dan Graziano highlighted in his recap of Wilson's performance, there's great reason to believe that this is just the start of great things for Wilson.
"Here's what's special about Wilson's opportunity. He is set up, yes, with a dominant defense, power running game and a player -- Harvin -- that Wilson didn't even get to use this season waiting to do big things with him in 2014 and beyond. Having lasted until the third round of the 2013 draft, Wilson carries a mere $817,302 salary-cap hit for 2014, obviously less than he's worth. For now, he allows Seattle to continue to put great pieces around him."
Tom Brady burst into the national spotlight with his role in the Patriots' thrilling victory over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. While it is a stretch to say that Wilson will ever reach Brady's status as a perennial MVP candidate, it is certainly plausible that his performance in Seattle's victory can be the jumping-off point that Brady's first championship was for him.
4. The QB Draft Class of 2012 Has Its First Ring—From the Sixth One Taken
The hype and early success of the quarterbacks taken in the 2012 draft has been well documented. Andrew Luck has taken the Colts to two consecutive postseasons. Despite a nightmarish 2013, RGIII still has just as much talent as anyone at the position. Now, the sixth QB taken in that draft, and the 75th player selected overall, has arguably passed both of those young stars.
Comparisons to the 2004 class of Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger have been popular, and coincidentally, that group got its first ring in their second year when the Steelers knocked off the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL (talk about symmetry, huh?). As the likes of Brady and Peyton Manning come closer to the end of their careers, fans of the NFL can feel comfortable with the newest legion of quarterbacks to marvel at for years to come. Step up your game, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden.
5. Wilson Is on His Way To Being a Household Name
Quick—who had a better regular season in 2013: Wilson or Colin Kaepernick?
Based solely on the attention the two received during the entirety of the first 17 weeks, one would think the answer is Kaepernick. However, Wilson had more total touchdowns (27 for Wilson versus 24 for Kaepernick), more passing yards (3357 versus 3197), more rushing yards (539 versus 524) and a higher QB rating (101.2 versus 91.6). Sooner rather than later, it could be Wilson throwing on his Beats by Dre to drown out the screams and abuse from angry 49ers fans.
Wilson could easily be one of the most marketable players in the league as well—successful, driven, arrest-free and humble. Beyond that, he has asserted himself as unquestionably a Top Ten quarterback.
Even in the aftermath of the Super Bowl victory, Wilson was lost in the shuffle (it's very rare to see a QB not named Super Bowl MVP, especially with a performance as solid as his). That was probably the last time in his career when people (the media, opposing defenses) won't be focusing in on Wilson, and for good reason.
Statistics used are from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted