Russell Wilson signed a four-year contract extension with the Seahawks, big news for both the future of the franchise and for the player who in seven seasons is already the winningest quarterback in franchise history.
While Tuesday’s news is all about the future, it’s also a good excuse to take a look back at Wilson’s career, which has seen him earn Pro Bowl honors six times while helping the Seahawks win two NFC Championships and one Super Bowl title.
Here are 12 of the top plays and moments that have defined Wilson’s career so far:
12. Backpedaling, spinning and throwing a strike to the back of the end zone.
The gamebook from Seattle’s 2015 playoff loss in Carolina calls it a 3-yard pass to Jermaine Kearse, but that description is a bit lacking.
While the ball was indeed snapped at the 3-yard line, Wilson had to retreat backwards to avoid pressure, and then add in a spin move to avoid another pass-rusher, meaning by the time he was ready to throw the ball, he was at the 20-yard line. Yet somehow despite the backpedal and the spin move, Wilson was able to throw a strike to Kearse in the back of the end zone.
It was just one of many spectacular plays in a career full of improbable, Houdini-esque plays that leave fans, opponents and even teammates wondering how Wilson just pulled it off.
11. A game-winner to Jimmy Graham caps a record-setting day.
In one of the most entertaining regular-season games in the team’s recent history, the Seahawks and Houston Texans traded big play after big play and score after score in a 2016 game at CenturyLink Field. And as spectacular as Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson was on that afternoon, Wilson was even better, completing 26 of 41 attempts for 452 yards and four touchdowns, the last of which was an 18-yarder to Jimmy Graham that gave the Seahawks the lead for good with 26 seconds left in the game.
While the Seahawks strive to have a balanced offense, that game was one of several throughout his career, that show how Wilson and the Seahawks can win in a shootout if needed.
10. Two perfect deep passes put the game on ice.
Protecting a 3-point lead against one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses, the Seahawks knew it wasn’t the time to be conservative as they led the Chiefs in a Week 16 game at CenturyLink Field last season.
So after Kansas City called timeout with 3:04 left on the clock, the Seahawks didn’t hand the ball off, but instead asked Wilson and his weapons to make something happen against a defense that was committed to stopping the run.
Wilson, who has always thrown a great deep ball, unleashed one of the prettiest throws of his career, lofting a high pass down the right sideline that dropped into Tyler Lockett’s arms despite tight coverage, giving Seattle a 45-yard gain. Following a sack and another timeout, Wilson went deep again, this time finding Doug Baldwin, who made a spectacular juggling catch for a 29-yard gain to set up a touchdown that would give Seattle a two-score lead.
9. Three first-half touchdown runs in win over Bills.
The Seahawks closed the 2012 season by dominating opponents, outscoring Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco by a combined 150-30 margin over a three-week span, and one of the many reasons for Seattle’s success was the way Wilson and the running game thrived running the zone-read option. The Seahawks didn’t have Wilson run a lot early in the season, which only made him that much more dangerous when he did so late in the year, and that was never more evident than in a 50-17 win over the Bills in Toronto. Wilson, who finished with 92 yards on nine carries, had three rushing touchdowns, the first three of his career, all in the first half while also throwing a first-half touchdown pass.
Wilson became the first player in NFL history to run for three touchdowns and throw for one in the first half of a game, and his uniform from that game is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
8. Rolling left, throwing right, and putting the league on notice.
When the 2012 Seahawks knocked off Tom Brady and the Patriots, Wilson came through with several big plays, most notably his 46-yard go-ahead touchdown to Sidney Rice that capped a comeback from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit.
But while the touchdown to Rice, one of Wilson’s three in the game, was arguably the game’s most important play, along with the defense’s two interceptions of Brady, Wilson’s best throw, one that highlights one of his most underrated traits, might be one that came early in the game.
For all Wilson does well with his legs, his throwing ability can sometimes get overlooked, but few quarterbacks if any possess his ability to make accurate throws on the run, something he says is in part due to his background as a middle infielder in baseball. Late in the first quarter, Wilson provided a textbook example of one of those throws, rolling to his left to avoid pressure before firing a strike deep down the field to Doug Baldwin for a 48-yard gain. The throw, which Wilson released while still running to his left, traveled more than 52 yards in the air and hit Baldwin in stride, just one of many examples of how strong and accurate of an arm Wilson possesses.
Another great example of Wilson’s ability to throw on the run came in a 2016 win over the Eagles in which Wilson, again while rolling left, somehow flicked a 20-yard strike to Jimmy Graham from a very awkward arm angle, a pass Graham took an additional 35-yards for a touchdown.
7. The coming-out party in Chicago.
Eleven games into Wilson’s rookie season, the Seahawks had, by design, held Wilson back a bit to make sure too much wasn’t on his plate early in his career. But with the Seahawks trailing late in a game with big playoff implications, Pete Carroll told his coaches to cut Wilson loose, and the result was a comeback victory that served as Wilson’s coming out party.
With the Seahawks trailing late in the game, Wilson led a 97-yard touchdown drive that gave the Seahawks a 3-point lead. And after Chicago tied it at the end of regulation, Wilson led an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime to give the Seahawks a victory that helped jumpstart a strong finish to the season that sent the Seahawks to the playoffs.
On those final two drives, Wilson was 9 for 12 for 118 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner to Sidney Rice, and he rushed for 47 yards on five carries.
“It was a big game for the coaching staff to recognize that we needed to let loose for Russell and not hold him back,” Carroll said last season before the Seahawks’ first trip back to Chicago since that 2012 game. “We were treating him like a young quarterback that needed to be kind of corralled so that we didn’t put him in situations he wasn’t prepared for, and it was in the middle of that game when I remember saying to the coaches, ‘Let’s go. Cut him loose. Don’t hold him back. Let him have a chance to do it all.’”
6. Making them look foolish.
Wilson has made plenty of defenders look bad throughout his career, but perhaps his most impressive run helped punctuate a lopsided victory in Arizona late in the 2014 season. Wilson, who passed for 339 yards and two scores and rushed for 88 yards in the game, put an exclamation point on the win with a 5-yard touchdown run that saw him make two defenders whiff in the open field. Wilson first made a pass-rusher miss in the backfield with the type step-back hesitation move you might see a basketball player make before pulling up for a three-pointer, then Wilson used another juke at the goal line to make a defensive back fall down, allowing him to walk into the end zone untouched.
5. A fumbled snap becomes a huge play in a playoff victory.
In one of the coldest games in NFL history, big plays were hard to come by for both the Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings, but a play that had the potential for disaster turned out to be one of the biggest plays of the day for Seattle in a Wild Card playoff win in Minneapolis.
Trailing 9-0 in the second half, the Seahawks needed to make something happen, but a promising drive threatened to be undone early in the fourth quarter when a shotgun snap got past Wilson and bounced toward midfield. Almost any quarterback would have simply fallen on the loose ball, taking a big loss to avoid a turnover, but Wilson slid to corral the loose ball, popped to his feet, scrambled to avoid multiple oncoming rushers, then hit a wide-open Tyler Lockett in the middle of the field for a 35-yard gain. That catch and run gave the Seahawks the ball at Minnesota’s 4-yard line, setting up the only touchdown in an eventual 10-9 Seahawks win.
4. Double spin and a big play to Doug Baldwin.
It wouldn’t be difficult to make an entire Russell Wilson highlight list out of only plays that involved him spinning away from an oncoming pass rusher and turning a potential sack into a big play. Perhaps the best example of that was Wilson’s 54-yard completion to Doug Baldwin in a 2017 win in Arizona. Wilson spun away from pressure not once but twice, then flung a pass toward the sideline that Baldwin was able to catch with an impressive leaping effort before sprinting down the left sideline for a 54-yard gain that set up a touchdown.
That play didn’t just highlight Wilson’s elusiveness and his play-making ability, it was one of countless examples of the connection he and Baldwin have built over the years. Baldwin wasn’t the intended receiver on the play, and in fact stayed into to block on the initial play, but after things broke down, he found space, and Wilson found his Pro Bowl receiver for a game-altering play.
3. Super Bowl XLVIII
Given how thoroughly Seattle’s defense dominated the highest scoring offense in NFL history, it’s easy to understand why the play of Wilson and the offense was a bit overshadowed in the Seahawks’ 43-8 win over the Broncos, but Wilson and the passing game deserve recognition for the role they played in the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history. Considering how well Seattle’s defense played, it’s hard to envision any scenario in which the Seahawks wouldn’t have come out on top on that Sunday evening in New Jersey, but part of the early dominance was the way Wilson and the offense came through on third down, keeping Denver’s offense off the field—not that the Broncos could do anything when they did get the ball back.
The Seahawks went 7 for 12 on third down in Super Bowl XLVIII, including 4 for 6 in the first half, and Wilson completed his first three third-down pass attempts to move the sticks, including a beautifully thrown deep ball to Doug Baldwin for a 37-yard gain that set up a field goal. For the game, Wilson went 18 for 25 for 206 yards and no interceptions, throwing touchdowns to Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, and posting a passer rating of 123.1.
2. The fourth-down throw that helped send Seattle to the Super Bowl.
Richard Sherman tipping the ball away from Michael Crabtree and towards Malcolm Smith for a game-clinching interception is the enduring image that came out of the win that sent Seattle to Super Bowl XLVIII, but it was a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse earlier in the fourth quarter that put the Seahawks in front for good.
Trailing 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Seahawks faced fourth-and-7 at the San Francisco 35-yard line, and initially it appeared they might attempt a long field goal. But after a timeout and a conversation with kicker Steven Hauschka, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll instead decided to go for it. Wilson was able to draw the 49ers offside with a hard count, and knowing he had a free play, he took a shot deep, hitting Kearse in the back of the end zone to help send the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
1. The NFC Championship Game comeback, capped by an overtime throw for the ages.
For three-plus quarters, Wilson’s performance against the Packers in the NFC Championship game was one of the worst of his career, statistically speaking, but the way Wilson and the offense finished spoke to the resilience of both Wilson and the entire team that has been a defining trait of the Pete Carroll era.
Yes, Jon Ryan to Garry Gilliam got the comeback started—who saw that coming?—and an onside kick recovery was one of the game’s biggest plays, but two Wilson throws helped the Seahawks finish the job. First, Wilson pulled off the type of improvised play that have helped define his career on a 2-point conversion attempt late in regulation, scrambling to avoid pressure before throwing a pass across the field that somehow found its way to tight end Luke Willson.
Then in overtime, Wilson recognized a favorable coverage look, checked to a deep shot to Kearse, and after four earlier pass attempts to Kearse ended in interceptions, the fifth resulted in a game-winning touchdown that sent the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl.
Take a look back at some of the best photos from quarterback Russell Wilson's time with the Seattle Seahawks as he signs a contract extension with the club.