Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Russell Wilson Is Exactly What the NFL Needs Now

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 22, 2019

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson stretches before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Russell Wilson may be as good a person as he is a player, the NFL takes a big step into the 21st century and did David Carr really say that about Joe Montana? All that and more in the latest 10-Point Stance.

                                   

1. A good man isn't always hard to find

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has four dogs: three Great Danes and a Maltipoo. Like most people who love dogs, they are a part of his family. They also helped convince him to lend his presence to a cause important to him and one that symbolized how Wilson has never been more important to the NFL.

More on that in a few moments.

In the NFL, Wilson long has been one of the most underrated players in the history of the league. He's been voted to six Pro Bowls, reached two Super Bowls (winning one) and is one of just two players who have started at least 50 games with a career passer rating over 100 (Aaron Rodgers being the other).

That's why the Seahawks made Wilson the highest-paid player in the league with a four-year contract extension worth $140 million. The team knows how impossibly hard it is to find players like him—one who performs at an elite level but does so year after year and often with wildly revolving supporting casts.

When I asked Wilson during a recent conversation how he’s managed to excel despite, like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, seeing massive changes with his offensive personnel, his response was typical laid-back Wilson.

"That's part of the game," Wilson, entering his eighth season, told B/R. "When you plan on playing 20 years, God willing, this is part of it.

"The one consistency I care most about is winning. I want to be known as one of the greatest winners of all time."

But I'd argue that Wilson's value now isn't just what he does on the field. It’s what he does off it.

That brings us back to his dogs.

When an organization called the Banfield Foundation, a charitable arm of the Banfield Pet Hospital, contacted Wilson about being in a PSA on its behalf, he instantly agreed.

The foundation says millions of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they fear for the safety of their pets, and less than 10 percent of domestic violence shelters allow pets. The PSA will run in September.

Russell Wilson recently filmed a PSA for the Banfield Foundation and its work to raise awareness in hopes of making it easier for victims of domestic violence to find a safe place with their pets.
Russell Wilson recently filmed a PSA for the Banfield Foundation and its work to raise awareness in hopes of making it easier for victims of domestic violence to find a safe place with their pets.Photo courtesy of Coyne PR

"Hearing about this broke my heart," Wilson said.

And the fact that he so readily agreed to help is why the Seahawks quarterback has become one of the NFL's most valuable commodities—a reliable star.

The NFL right now is at the height of its popularity. It’s making more money than ever. It has a firm place in America's psyche.

Yet, at times, some of the league's actions lack moral definition. Its current handling of the child abuse allegations against Tyreek Hill, and the way it has handled past cases of players committing domestic violence, sometimes makes the league office look like it's missing a moral chromosome.

The NFL needs people like Wilson. Because he can play and because he’s one of the league’s stabilizing elements.

   

2. A tall order

Wilson has talked in the past about wanting to play 20 years in the NFL. Now, seven years in, I wondered before just how plausible he thinks it is.

"For sure it can happen," Wilson said. "You see the likes of Tom [Brady] and Drew [Brees]. It's totally possible."

Brett Favre did it, if you count the two games and his four pass attempts as a rookie in Atlanta. And Brady (19 years) and Brees (18 years) could do it.

Wilson would have to play another 13 years.

"Hopefully," Wilson said, "I can be the greatest winner of all time."

If he plays 20 years, he'll have a chance.

                                          

3. MVP race

John Froschauer/Associated Press

One last thing on Wilson. A handful of team officials told me they think he will beat out Brady and Patrick Mahomes for MVP next season.

The theory is that while Wilson will have a monster year for a rebuilt Seahawks team, Brady's age will finally catch up to him (good luck with that) and Mahomes will take a moderate step back now that teams have plenty of video on him (good luck with that too).

Should Seattle be as dangerous as it appeared to be while winning six of its last seven games last season, those officials may be right.

                                         

4. Could New York be Peyton's place?

Peyton Manning and new Jets head coach Adam Gase in Denver.
Peyton Manning and new Jets head coach Adam Gase in Denver.Kathy Willens/Associated Press/Associated Press

Rumors have been floating around the league that the Jets, who fired general manager Mike Maccagnan last week, want to pursue retired quarterback Peyton Manning to run the team. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk was the first to report the Jets' possible interest.

Teams that have spoken to Manning in the past several years tell me he's been approached by multiple organizations about a role in running those franchises, and he's declined every time. They say he won't be interested now.

But you never know. Maybe there's an offer made that's too good to refuse. Maybe he sees a good fit with his former offensive coordinator in Denver, Adam Gase. It's unlikely, some say, but it's not impossible.

                              

5. Careful, Zeke

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

In yet another video obtained by TMZ, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was seen getting into some kind of late-night confrontation at a music festival in Las Vegas before being handcuffed by local police as they looked into the situation. 

Despite being the subject of a number of disturbing headlines the past few years, Elliott still appears to be unwilling to understand (or care) about the fact that when he (or any prominent athlete) goes out, someone will always have a phone camera pointed at him. Always. 

Even if something does not lead to an arrest, as this one did not, his actions can leave a bad impression. Most stars I've covered, especially in the NFL, get this, and they act accordingly. Elliott continues to not do so. And his latest behavior calls into question whether he has learned from his past missteps, like when he exposed a woman's breast on St. Patrick's Day in 2017 or when he was allegedly involved in a Dallas bar fight later that same year.

Elliott wasn't arrested, and he won't face any legal charges for shoving the security guard after the guard declined to press charges. This won't impact him on the field or in his impending contract negotiations for a new deal.

But it wasn't smart.

                            

6. One big step for the NFL

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - NOVEMBER 25: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots is helped off the field after getting hurt during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 25, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/G
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The NFL and the players union announced this week the league would study ways to improve pain management as well as the care for players' mental and behavioral health.

One of the key aspects of the study will be examining the effect of marijuana use on pain management. Make no mistake about it. This is potentially the first step toward a day in which the NFL stops testing for marijuana.

The league currently punishes players for use with fines and suspensions. Yet for decades, players have spoken about how marijuana use helps them deal with the violence of football. They also believe marijuana is infinitely safer than other painkilling medications teams use.

Unless the NFL is using this as some sort of PR move (which is always possible), we might finally be seeing the league's first steps into the 21st century when it comes to managing the pain no player can avoid.

                                   

7. Say what?

I've said and written a number of remarkably asinine things, like Star Wars is trash (and it is), but this...this is...what the hell?

How could anyone who knows even a smidge about football think that Joe Montana is not among the 10 best quarterbacks of the Super Bowl era? Let alone someone who played the position professionally?

Next up: Tom Brady doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

                              

8. Be careful what you wish for

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 23: Ted Ginn Jr. #19 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. recently announced on B/R's The Lefkoe Show that he would race anyone for $10,000. A high school track star from Texas named Matthew Boling accepted the challenge.

If this race happens, Ginn will get absolutely obliterated.

Ginn should know better. There's a canyon-sized difference between football speed and track speed. It's the difference between a bicycle and a car.

Boling, 18, has become a bit of a viral sensation while breaking American records.

In other words, Ginn might as well give Boling the 10 grand now.

                                                    

9. Every number tells a story, and for the Pats' rivals, it isn't a happy one

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

From writer Peter King comes a stunning look at the evolution of the Patriots front office (compared to their AFC East counterparts) since Bill Belichick was hired in 2000.

In that time…

The Pats have had one coach (Belichick) and two personnel chiefs (Scott Pioli, Nick Caserio).

Then rest of the division in that time has employed 26 coaches in total and another 18 personnel chiefs. That's 44 execs/coaches for the Bills, Dolphins and Jets.

And three (!) for the Patriots.

Is there any question why New England has won the AFC East in all but three seasons since Belichick arrived?

That's just stunning.

                             

10. The Long game

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Philadelphia defensive lineman Chris Long retired this past week. Though he'll be remembered as a talented player who helped the Eagles win their first Super Bowl, his impact has gone far beyond the field.

When Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee to protest social justice issues, it set off a chain of events that impacted the sport, and society, forever. One of the more striking aspects of the protests, even after Kaepernick was no longer on the field, was the small number of white players who joined their teammates.

Long proudly joined those players voicing their concerns over social injustice. He also funded scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, in hopes of promoting educational equity and opportunity.

I cannot emphasize enough how much a number of black players appreciated Long's actions.

Long will be missed. Not just for his good play but also for what he meant to black players during one of the most important times in league history.

                       

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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