With every impressive performance and with every Seahawks victory, the MVP talk around Russell Wilson only grows louder.
At this point, Seattle's quarterback is widely considered one of the two or three front runners for the NFL's most prestigious individual award, but while the debate among pundits is Wilson vs. Lamar Jackson or Wilson vs. Dak Prescott or whoever else you want to throw into the discussion, all Wilson is worried about is what's coming up this weekend: Seahawks vs. Eagles.
Yes, Wilson is absolutely deserving of strong MVP consideration—he leads the NFL in touchdown passes (23) passer rating (114.9), is tied for the fewest interceptions (2), and has also rushed for 256 yards and three scores, and just as importantly, the Seahawks are 8-2—but he also knows he can't be focused on anything but the immediate task at hand.
"No, I don't pay attention to it," Wilson said Thursday when asked about the MVP debate. "I've got to pay attention to who we're playing this week."
Like any highly competitive athlete, Wilson wants to be the best at what he does, but he knows that any recognition for his play that comes after the season will be the result of how he prepares for each game, and of how well the Seahawks play down the stretch, and not the product of who can present the best argument in a debate held with six games still to play.
"It's great to be in the conversation," Wilson said. "At the end of the day, when I come into this season, I'm trying to be the best player in the National Football League every time I step on the field, every time I get a chance to play… I don't think about the outside stuff. The reality is that what helps is winning. What helps is finding a way to win in tough moments and everything else, and I look forward to that opportunity just to play one game at a time, one moment at a time and just embrace it all. It's a great thing. I think about where I come from. Being a guy from Richmond, Virginia, where a lot of people told me I wouldn't be able to do it and just being able to play in the league. It means a lot just to be able to play and have this opportunity to play the game. I take every opportunity as much as I can and really try to cherish it and really try to take advantage of it. I'm just grateful every day. That's really what I love doing is just playing with the guys and working the preparation part of it. That's the fun part of this process and hopefully by the end of the year, hopefully we can win a Super Bowl."
And if winning is the ultimate goal, the MVP award can be a byproduct of that team success. Because no matter how well Wilson or Jackson or Prescott or anyone else plays between now and the end of the season, the MVP award is almost certain to go to a player, and in all likelihood, a quarterback who helped lead his team to a great regular season. Following the 2005 and 2006 seasons when a pair of running backs, Seattle's Shaun Alexander and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, won the award, 11 of the last 12 winners have been quarterbacks, all of whom led their team to the postseason, and 10 of whom helped their teams earn first-round byes.
And Wilson has had a huge hand in helping the Seahawks win a lot of games this year and over the course of his career. In five of Seattle's eight wins this season, the Seahawks have been tied or trailed in the fourth quarter, with Wilson helping lead a game-winning drive, five of the 32 fourth quarter and overtime comebacks he has helped lead in his career.
That late-game poise is something Wilson said, "I've always tried to focus on. I think the mental side of the game is everything to me. The physical part is one thing, I think a lot of people can play, the very obvious for me is how can I always have the advantage. I think that ever since I was a young kid, the mental part was a big part for me, how my mom and my dad raised me. I think faith is a big part. I think the last piece is that I work at it. I work at the mind part. Every day, I'm pretty much talking to Trevor Moawad, who's my mental coach, a guy who I always am constantly talking to. I think that's a big part of it. For me, (it's) just trying to stay neutral. I'm not trying to be too high or too low, just focus on the task at hand and try to get the mission accomplished, but yet still stay upbeat no matter what the circumstances are. Just stay focused and having great language, I think, is a major part of that, in how we speak to each other, how we speak in the locker room, how we go about our business and how we go about our preparation is critical. When the game is on the line, getting guys a visual of what's going to happen and just giving guys the belief that something great is going to happen. A lot of times, something great does. Why wouldn't you believe? I really firmly believe that. I believe in, why not us? Why can't we be the best in the world?"
That same level of poise and belief helps Wilson not only late in games but also in hostile environments where an opposing crowd can have a real effect on an offense and on a quarterback in particular. In 2017, 2018, and now through 10 games this year, Wilson has had a better passer rating on the road than at home—and he's been awfully good at home—and prior to Seattle's Week 10 win in San Francisco, Wilson had gone eight straight road games posting a passer rating of 114 or better.
"I think probably the poise," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of Wilson's road success. "He's just so poised. The noise doesn't affect him. The conditions don't affect him. It doesn't matter whether you're playing outside and it's cold or rainy. The moment just is never too big for him. I think that comes from having success and playing in big games and doing that. He's the same guy at home, on the road, in the playoffs, in the preseason. He's the same guy."
That poise and playmaking ability could eventually carry Wilson to the MVP award, but for now all he and the Seahawks care about is how those traits can help them win a game on Sunday.