When Russell Wilson takes the field before Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which happens to fall on his 27th birthday, the Seahawks quarterback will jokingly make a point of checking that the field is still 100 yards long and 53 1/3 yards wide. Then when the game kicks off, he'll spend his day trying to get the ball to the right guy at the right time, all in the name of going 1-0 this week, just like he tries to do every week.
To Wilson's detractors, these are clichés, programed responses even, yet to those who have been around Wilson throughout his decorated career, that consistency, even if it is, by his own admission, a little boring at times, is a big reason why Wilson has accomplished so much by his mid-20s.
Two weeks ago, Wilson had his worst game of the season in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, making uncharacteristic mistakes that led to some criticism from coaches that hasn't always been there in the past when Wilson struggles. Seattle's Pro Bowl quarterback responded the only way he knows how, focusing on the task at hand, ignoring the noise—which that week was a bit louder and more negative than usual—and the result was one of the most efficient games of his career in last week's win over the San Francisco 49ers.
"He won't waver on his habits and his focus and things like that," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He's very determined to not let things bother him from the outside. For the most part, you do that by staying the same. Some guys are better at that than others. He's got great habits and I know that's what he always turns to, to try to keep his performance real steady."
For an example of how Wilson tends to respond to adversity, take a look at the worst games of his career in terms of passer rating, then the games immediately following. No, passer rating is not a perfect measure of quarterback play, but it at least helps paint a picture of an individual performance based on some key measures such as completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns and interceptions. Eleven times in Wilson's career, he has posted a passer rating under 70, and 10 times out of 11, he followed those games with a significantly better passer rating the next time out, with the Seahawks going 7-4 in those bounce-back games—and one of those losses was last year's game at St. Louis, which was one of Wilson's best individual performances with him passing for 313 yards and rushing for 106 while accounting for three touchdowns. Following those 11 sub-70 passer rating games, Wilson has seen his rating increase by an average of 45.6 points in the following game.
Happy gameday birthday to Russell Wilson who turns 27 today and will celebrate his birthday on his home field with his brothers.
"I think it's his mental makeup," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's such a mentally tough player on the field, during games, in his preparation. He really continues to prepare the same way he has since day one, so there's been no changes there. He can have a great game, he's still going to come in and prepare. He can have a poor game, we can come in, tell the truth about it, talk about it, and he's still going to prepare the same way."
With Wilson earning a new contract in the offseason, and starting a high-profile relationship with Ciara, there have been questions about distractions for Wilson this season, but he is clear that "nothing changed" for him when it comes to football, and both in words and actions, the Seahawks quarterback has been the same steady presence as he was as third-round pick who won the starting job in 2012 and went on to lead the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl title the following season.
"All the opportunities I've had to be on the field and to get high praise and also be criticized, it's not necessarily a bad thing, it's part of the process," Wilson said. "It's part of the enjoyment of going through the peaks and valleys of a season, or a journey, or your career, whatever it may be. That's what makes you tougher. Honestly, when I look at it, and I know guys on our team as well, when you have critics, it makes you tougher. It makes you a little bit tougher, it makes you get more excited about the next opportunity. I know that's the way I look at it, just to go out there and hopefully prove people wrong every day. Ultimately, I'm grateful for the opportunities I get. I get the best job in the world, and I never take that for granted. Preparing the best way possible and doing everything I can in that manner, that will never change for me, no matter what anybody says or what the circumstances may look like, whatever it may be. Ultimately for me, I love this game. I love playing it. I love going out there on Sundays and giving our team a chance to win. That's just the way I look at it."
So on his 27th birthday, Wilson plans to continue ignoring the noise, to focus on going 1-0 every week, and to take advantage of a championship opportunity, just like he would on any other Sunday. Some would call that approach boring, but on Wilson's birthday, we'll call something else that it has been for three-plus seasons: incredibly effective.
"All that stuff, all the outside noise, he never lets it affect him," Bevell said. "He has great confidence in himself, he's just so mentally tough and he's able to do that through his preparation."