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  • Devan Flint

What caused Russell Wilson’s MVP collapse?

5 weeks into the 2020/21 NFL season the ‘MVP Russ’ campaign fronted by DK Metcalf was trending and the Seahawks quarterback looked like a lock to win the prestigious award. However, with the regular season now finished and the play-offs underway the argument can be had if Wilson is even a top 10 MVP candidate. The wheels on Wilson’s elite level play and MVP bandwagon fell off with many forgetting it was even a thing this season, but the question is why?


First 5 Weeks


11th in Attempts, 161

2nd in Completion Percentage, 76%

3rd in Passing Yards, 1,502

2nd in Yards Per Attempt, 9.3

1st in Touchdowns, 19

13th in Interceptions,

1st in NFL Passer Rating, 136.2

82.2 QBR


Last 11 Weeks


10th in Attempts, 369

T-13th in Completion Percentage, 70%

13th in Passing Yards, 2,715

T-27th in Yards Per Attempt, 7.4

3rd in Touchdowns, 21

2nd in Interceptions, 10

23rd in NFL Passer Rating, 99.1

68.1 QBR



Through the first five weeks it’s pretty evident why Wilson was the MVP front runner, he was on track for not only a career year but an all-time great year. Nonetheless, the last eleven weeks tell a whole new story. Whilst he had a good performances at home against the 49ers and Jets, throwing 4 touchdowns in both, he also had a 29.9 QBR against the Giants, a 44.0 QBR against the Cardinals and a 32.2 QBR against the Rams.


Hence, the question is did Russell Wilson’s play simply regress or was there another reason for it…



Metcalf and Lockett?



First 5 Weeks:


10.4 Catches Per Game

167.6 Yards Per Game

1.8 Touchdowns Per Game


Last 11 Weeks:


11.9 Catches Per Game

138.1 Yards Per Game

1 Touchdown Per Game



Seattle’s wide receiver duo contains in my view arguably the most overrated and underrated wide receivers in the NFL. Nonetheless, together Metcalf and Lockett wreaked havoc on defenses all season long, and while their combined yards and touchdowns per game decreased in the last 11 weeks, that could be attributed to the fact it’s a larger range.



Offensive Line?


First 5 Weeks:


3 Sacks Per Game


Last 11 Weeks:


2.9 Sacks Per Game



Russell Wilson has spent the last few years running for his life behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and that didn’t change at all this season. Admittedly the offensive line play was not good in the last 11 weeks, but they weren’t playing well in the first 5 weeks either.



The Running Game?


First 5 Weeks:


115.4 YPG


Last 11 Weeks:


126.7 YPG



It is widely accepted that Russell Wilson has been underutilised in Seattle’s offensive system for years now as their culture is based on running the ball and playing defense. Further, if you asked Seattle’s Head Coach Pete Carroll, he’d probably say 1st, 2nd and 3rd down are all running downs. However, the increase from 115.4 YPG to 126.7 YPG hardly presents a cultural paradigm shift but is instead more likely to be the cause of a regressing passing game.



Quality of Opposition Defense


First 5 Weeks


Average Total Defense Rank of 22.8


Last 11 Weeks


Average Total Defense Rank of 9.9



The evidence here is undeniable. The Seahawks went from playing on average the 23rd best defense in the first 5 weeks to playing the best defense in the NFL twice, the 2nd best defense once and the 5th best defense twice in the last 11 weeks. Quite simply Wilson and the Seahawks offense were facing harder defenses.



Defense


First 5 Weeks:


27 PPG Allowed

471.2 YPG Allowed


Last 11 Weeks:


21.5 PPG Allowed

339.4 YPG Allowed



Surprisingly through the first 5 weeks Seattle had one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL. However, their averages in the last 11 weeks would have placed them 8th in points per game allowed and 10th in yards per game allowed. So while through the first 5 weeks the argument could be made that Seattle’s defense was holding them back, through the final 11 weeks if anything they were winning the Seahawks games.



Conclusion


The answer to this question has truly shocked me. Wilsons receivers continued to play at a very high level, his offensive line play remained the same, Seattle’s running game elevated its level of play and the Seahawks defense transformed into a top 10 defense, yet Wilsons play

still regressed. Therefore, the only plausible factor remaining is the

oppositions defense. As the oppositions defense increased its level of play, Russell Wilsons play decreased. Although the Rams, 49ers and Washington’s defense were undeniably great this season, I believed Wilson was a top two quarterback in the NFL coming into this season and that he was at a level of greatness where he could overcome elite defenses. Clearly this is not the case.



Image used from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrymaurer/8197080670/

Image was cropped.


Image By: Larry Maurer


https://www.flickr.com/photos/larrymaurer/8197080670/

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