Any doubt that Russell Wilson has ascended to another level of confidence this season was erased this week.
Asked Friday by broadcaster Dan Patrick, “Do you think you’re the best quarterback in the NFL?” Wilson replied, “Do I think I’m the best quarterback in the NFL? I believe so, without a doubt.”
.@DangeRussWilson talks about whether he thinks he’s the best QB in the NFL.
For Russ’ full appearance: https://t.co/ZbG1ucGMFV
— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) September 19, 2020
So . . . it is on.
Wilson v. NFL world.
Whether you label his view as swagger, arrogance, truth-telling or insufferability, is a matter of your taste. For sure, any pretense to humility that he has offered up over the years has vanished.
No more “That’s for others to say,” or “I’m just trying to get better each week,” or “There’s a lot of great quarterbacks in the NFL.”
— Bearded Cigars (@BeardedCigars) September 16, 2020
At his weekly presser Thursday, Wilson was more direct than he has been about his aspiration to greatness. What he said wasn’t exactly new, but it was said with a clarity of conviction that was notable, particularly about his place in football history.
“I come to play this game to be the best in the world,” he said, responding to a question about New England coach Bill Belichick’s effusive praise of him. “That’s just the bottom line. I don’t wake up to be try to be anything different. I’ve always had those thoughts ever since I got here, really.
“I think it’s just been a steady process right now, going into year nine. I’m trying to break away, you know what I mean? I want to be the best in the world to ever do this.”
Wilson saluted several of his QB contemporaries — “all guys I’ve gotten pretty close to,” he said — and even threw back to Joe Montana. He wants to top them all.
“I want to be remembered,” he said. “I want to leave a legacy that people can’t ever forget. Hopefully, I can do that. That doesn’t happen without a steady process of one moment at a time, one game at a time, and not looking too far ahead.
“Just knowing that’s all part of the journey.”
The journey has a high point on Sunday Night Football (5:2o p.m., NBC) against he New England Patriots, just the fifth regular-season meeting in 27 years between the teams.
It’s unlikely that Wilson’s bravado was coincidental to his appearance on the national showcase. He seems to be on a bit of a PR campaign.
He’s already publicly endorsed the #LetRussCook movement, was named NFC offensive player of the week (the 10th of his career) for his 31-of-35 performance in the 38-25 win at Atlanta, and became only the second quarterback to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for 30,000 yards (Steve Young was the first).
If he’s in pursuit of the MVP, an award for which he has never received a vote, a relative replication of the Falcons game against a Bill Belichick defense would give him a commanding early lead.
But the game plan may end up requiring Wilson to turn back the clock to 2019, when the Seahawks ran for more yards than all but four teams.
Atlanta has a mediocre secondary, and New England has perhaps the NFL’s best, with 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer semi-kiboshed the notion of another Wilson cookout.
“Each week is going to be different,” Schottenheimer said. “Atlanta is going to be different than New England; that doesn’t mean we’re going to run it or throw it any more. They’re just going to be different, and then (week three opponent) Dallas will be different.
“We got Russ off to a really good start, certainly that helps, hitting on all cylinders.”
While a fourth-and-five touchdown pass to DK Metcalf deservedly drew much of the post-game raves in Atlanta, the 38-yarder was Wilson’s longest completion. Less appreciated was the fact that eight of Wilson’s completions were at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Several produced rarely seen screen plays, including a beauty to RB Chris Carson for a 19-yard touchdown. Carson had a career-high six receptions for 45 yards, and a career low six carries for 21 yards.
Besides being stark departures from Seahawks form, the quick passes were also a smart way to take pressure off the pass protection that had three offensive linemen new to their positions with Seattle.
Wilson didn’t want to concede the need for help, saying the line did “a tremendous job.” But the change-up likely caught the Falcons unprepared.
“I think that’s a good mixture,” he said, “eight short ones, I’m not sure how many mid-range and we threw some long ones too.”
At least the Pats’ defense can’t be surprised by the tactics Sunday. Nor does the Seahawks defense figure to be surprised by the Pats QB, Cam Newton.
Long familiar from the frequent meetings with his old team, Carolina, Newton languished on the free agent market until signing a one-year deal with the Pats June 28 and quickly becoming the surprise successor to departed franchise icon Tom Brady.
“We do have a real good background with Cam,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We don’t know what they’re going to do with him. We don’t even have the benefit of pre-season games to kind of try to figure it out.”
In the Pats opener, a 21-11 win over Miami, they ran 42 times, threw 19. Newton completed 15 passes and ran 15 times for 75 yards, something Brady would never have attempted. Newton appeared well over a shoulder injury in 2018 and a foot injury in 2019 that diminished the market appeal of the NFL’s 2015 MVP.
There’s a wide variety of things that he does,” Carroll said. “They did show a willingness to run him downhill, wildcat situations, which is a great way to use your running quarterback.
“We have to be ready for a very wide spectrum of offensive style. It’s a difficult preparation in that regard.”
The NFL stature of Newton, 31 like Wilson, adds to the marquee appeal Sunday. He’s also another notable QB over which Wilson seeks to climb. He’s done being reasonable.