Leland Stein III

Soaring Seahawks led by Wilson

In sports column on February 5, 2014 at 3:53 am

Wilson becomes 2nd African American to lead team to NFL title.

Pic Cutline: Michael Strahan hands trophy to Russell Wilson.  -  Gary Montgomery photo

Michael Strahan hands trophy to Russell Wilson. – Gary Montgomery photo

 

By Leland Stein III

NEW YORK – There is no doubt that the NFL is a quarterbacks’ league. It is safe to say the signal caller is the most important man on the field. Teams that win consistently year after year typically have one thing in common: an elite quarterback.

The Super Bowl XLVIII telecast became the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 111.5 million viewers.

Now all those football fans can firmly stamp second-year quarterback Russell Wilson to that elite list after he led his Seattle Seahawks to a governing and dominating 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.

The NFL has implemented a slew of new rules that give the quarterback added protection, and, conversely the changes have led to passing records and increased scoring.

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

The best quarterbacks of this generation have won Super Bowls over the past decade, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton and Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

So when the Denver and Peyton brought their record setting passing offense to Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, most concluded that his counterpart on Seattle, Wilson, would get blown off the field against the future Hall of Famer.

I was one of those that thought Wilson was not out of his league on the biggest stage in American sports. He had already convinced me that he had that special something, as I sat in the press box in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and watched him bring back his inferior Wisconsin and produce a last-second victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten’s first conference title contest.

Pic Cutline: Russell Wilson sits in pocket as good as any. – Gary Montgomery photo

I remember him saying at the time that he had “supreme confidence in himself,” partly because he has had to fight “stereotypes as a short smallish quarterback.”

Although Wilson finished his senior season with 33 passing touchdowns, the second-most in Big Ten history behind Brees’ 39. He also set the single season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8), while leading his team to a Big Ten title and the 2012 Rose Bowl.

No matter, because NFL scouts only saw a 5-foot-11 quarterback, in the 2012 NFL Draft Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in the third round (75th pick overall). Said one NFL scout, “If Russell Wilson was 6–5, he’d probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft. The only issue with him is his height.”

Said Wilson evolving from 3rd round pick to NFL champion: “I believe in myself. My confidence was never going to waiver. For me I just need and opportunity. I told Coach (Pete) Carroll and Mr (Paul) Allen when they drafted me it was the best decision they ever made, and, I was going to make the other 31 teams regret it

Wilson has clearly used his shortcoming as motivation and has now etched his name into the noteworthy Super Bowl winning quarterback fraternity. Also added to his growing lore is him becoming only the second African American to lead his team to football glory.

“To be the second African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl,” an elated Wilson said, “that’s history right there. There are so many guys before me that tried to change the game and have done a great job of it. God is so good, man. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Latino or Asian. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5-11. It’s the heart that you have.”

Pic Cutline: Doug Williams was first Black QB to win Super Bowl. – archive photo

Doug Williams was first Black QB to win Super Bowl. – archive photo

Doug Williams, who also won the game’s M.V.P. award, was the first African-American quarterback to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after leading the Washington Redskins to Super Bowl nirvana in 1988.

During the long span between Williams and Wilson, the late Steve McNair of the Titans, the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb, and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, each made Super Bowl starts in 2000, 2005, and 2013, respectively.

As I conversed with other media in and around New York, the black quarterback thing was noticeably silent. I suspect the difference this year is that Wilson will represent the largest cohort of African-American quarterbacks to have played in one season.

Williams, McNair, and McNabb were scarcities in their time. During some weeks of the 2013 regular season, as many as nine black quarterbacks started for the N.F.L.’s thirty-two teams, setting a league record. Three of the four quarterbacks who started in the N.F.C. divisional playoffs were black—Wilson, Kaepernick, and Carolina’s Cam Newton.

The only thing that puzzles me about the game is that Wilson was not named MVP. He seized the Seattle starting as a rookie and has wrecked shop ever since. Against the Broncos he was 18-of-25 for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His numbers were better than the great Peyton.

Williams agrees with me telling NewsOne: “It’s truly amazing for a young guy like that to come in and lead his team to a victory. This kid played with so much pause and confidence. It’s unbelievable. I was hoping that he’d win it because he really made some plays. He made about three or four throws – five throws at least – that were big time. If they had named him MVP, they wouldn’t have been wrong.”

Wilson became the fourth second-year quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Brady, Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger.

Wilson beat the classic pocket passer of all time. What does that mean? Maybe the tide has truly changed, where the new quarterback, like Wilson and Kaepernick, will be expected to relied on their feet as well as their arms to win games.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

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