Russell Wilson has become to the NFL what Lebron James has been to the NBA. But would he be recognized as such? If anything, the current Seahawks are to the NFL what the San Antonio Spurs are to the NBA.
The Green Bay Packers can talk Aaron Rodgers all they want. The Indianapolis Colts too can talk Andrew Luck all they want – marketability or potential, so they couch these things these days, only they do it with the abysmal backing of some of the most abominable stats in NFL history.
Next year, Andrew Luck will be the highest paid NFL player. Why? For luck?
What Russell Wilson has achieved in the NFL deserves nothing but commendation. In fact he deserves a special convoy to shuttle him to and from training for the rest of his life. He is epic. It takes special discipline and dedication to accomplish what Russell Wilson has done, day after day, from year to year, despite the obstacles to employment a Black man like himself faces.
And for what? Wilson signed a four-year $2.99 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks on May 7, 2012 and was named the team’s starting quarterback on August 26, 2012. Wilson won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award that same year, and the following year, 2013, he led the Seahawks to their first ever Super Bowl victory.
Wilson has already booked the Seahawks for another chance to win the Super Bowl ring.
Meanwhile, Andrew Luck who was signed for a whopping $22.1 million contract the same year Russell Wilson entered the league continues to be tooted by pundits around ESPN Sports and the NFL as if he’s already won five Super Bowl rings.
He hasn’t come even close.
Those accolades earned purely through perception perhaps, if perception is what the NFL now values, have worked in Andrew Luck’s favor. A deal that included a $14.5 million signing bonus and another $400,000 in salary for the 2012 season were attached atop Mr Luck’s signings. Bringing that paycheck to a walloping $37 million!
Let’s not forget that Russell Wilson is still receiving a paycheck based on a $2.99 million valuation. That is a stupefying $34 million difference between Russell Wilson’s talent and Andrew Luck’s.
Only Andrew Luck continues to stink up every corner of the league with some of the worst stats known to the sons of men. For a top draft pick, in fact the number one pick, Andrew Luck’s future stock price, tagged to his height and size, continues to go up notwithstanding, along an arc Stephen A. Smith and company of ESPN fame, have drawn up in their Schools of Economics.
Only, the Luck return on investment arc strung along every hallway at ESPN and the NFL continues a nosedive exponentially towards an infinity far more worrying than ever fathomed, and the law of diminishing returns creeping up at an ever faster rate along any possible point of inflection along this arc, so much so that every single time Andrew Luck is asked to throw his ball, you have to bet your money on who, on the opposite side, would fall for the interception. Do not ask Mr Luck to run with balls! He will fumble them to a feeble tackle.
While Aaron Rodgers and his lot, like the regular season fashionistas and practice champions that they are, also continue to look cool and rack up stats when they actually don’t count.
But even he, unlike Russell Wilson who was thrust in front of the wolves as the starting quarterback position within four months of his arrival to the NFL, Aaron Rodgers watched from the sidelines for four years after the Green Bay Packers drafted him in 2005.
When Aaron Rodgers finally took to the field, following Brett Favre’s departure, and at the back of a four-year-nurturing stint at the same team – an internship specially reserved for white men in America – his performance has been on par with any average quarterback in the league.
Although ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s ‘baaaaaaaad man’ Aaron Rodgers, has led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title following the 2010 season, there has been nothing to write home about ever since, except, like Andrew Luck, Mr Rodgers also holds a potential to win it (again) par excellence – in fact those two have acquired that quintessential arc that the NFL Economists who belong to Stephen A. Smith’s School of Thought love to latch unto whenever it comes to a white quarterback.
Robert Griffin III (RGIII) of the Washington Redskins cannot boast of the four honeymoon beach seasons that Aaron Rodgers enjoyed in complete hiatus, and the various similar years of preparation that almost all white quarterbacks in the NFL boast of. No! Cam Newton cannot boast of such a luxury. Neither can Michael Vick.
The pattern here is clear.
Even Aaron Rodgers wasn’t set to become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2014 season, before Green Bay opted to lock Rodgers up for the long run with a five year, $110 million deal, whose average annual value of $22 million is the richest in NFL history.
Andrew Luck is set to eclipse that in a new contract to be announced shortly this year?
Why? You would ask?
Stephen A. Smith and his lot suffer us to believe that they see potential. They see promise and they see a Hall of Famer in Andrew Luck despite being the most effective turn over machine the quarterback position has known in recent memory, more so because it follows his much celebrated top draft pick status in 2012.
The obstacles Russell Wilson has been subjected to have been immense. His tears at the end of last Sunday’s game drench wet an NFL filled with executives with no desire to develop Black talent. There is not position in the NFL that can be played by a white man that doesn’t have a white man playing it. And NFL pundits and sports analysts are no good neither in this country. They continue to feed a system that, though is more than 60 percent Black, still reminds us of Jim Crow America in caste.
Before Muhammad Ali fought the imposing George Foreman in their famous Rumble in the Jungle, a historic boxing event in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) held at the 20th of May Stadium on the night of October 30 in 1974, one of Ali’s trainers told him that there comes a point in every Black champion’s life, especially in a racist country like the USA, when he has to go into the lion’s den and snatch the meat from the lion’s jaws.
Ali upset Foreman, regaining the heavyweight title in style and securing his legend not only as one of the greatest champions of all time, but also as a Black man who withstood every racist obstacle that had been thrown at him while growing up in Jim Crow country.
Last Sunday, Russell Wilson faced a similar challenge. He, like Muhammed Ali, had been champion once before. He, like Muhammed Ali was stripped of his Title because he wouldn’t fight in Vietnam for a country that oppresses him, had been denied that Title ever since the Seattle Seahawks humiliated what remains a shadow of a quarterback in Peyton Manning. In the eye of the sports media and the American public, Russell Wilson never won a championship, the Legion of Boom did and Russell Wilson was just the water boy who went along for the ride.
Last Sunday, the lion’s den was Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Pack. But the lion was left toothless. His pack dejected and left to only find a culprit in Brandon Bostick alone. As if Mr Rodgers did not have four quarters available to him? As if he wasn’t given the ball with 1:25 minutes left on the regulation clock and 2 timeouts to strengthen his jaws tight on his advantage? At this point, you couldn’t even remember the last time Aaron Rodgers had sent his pack towards the end zone.
But no. Russell Wilson went into the den and snatched what has always been denied him – his championship, his birthright. Russell Wilson, like Muhammed Ali, is a champion.
On the other end last Sunday, Mr Luck and his Indianapolis Colts were devoured by the wolves of New England, for the fourth consecutive time. It was not a humbling end for Luck and the Colts, it was a humiliating defeat. Mr Luck who recorded another set of abysmal stats – 0 TDS, 2 Interceptions – was well torn apart 45 to 7.
The Colts could have played without a quarterback, after all.
Sunday’s performance by Russell Wilson against Aaron Rodgers — flawless when it mattered most — may not change American perception in Russell’s favor, since most observers are likely to point out that the Green Bay Pack defeated itself.
So it goes in a country that incarcerates Black men at alarming rates, for absolutely no law enforcement reason!
It is still a matter, of course, for experts like Stephen A. Smith, whose parents hail from the US Virgin Islands, and who boasts a basketball resume at Winston-Salem State University under Hall of Fame coach Clarence Gaines, to discuss the hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks. And when they do they draw up a list with some ordering of Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
Russell Wilson is never mentioned. While Mr Luck, who plays half of his games under a dome in conditions he dictates, like a remote temperature knob in his pocket, is routinely acknowledged as the prince in waiting.
But if Luck is the prince, what does that make Wilson?
Wilson has as many Super Bowl rings as everyone in the above list except Brady. He is 10-0 against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks over his first three seasons: 3-0 against Rodgers; 2-0 against both Eli and Peyton Manning; 2-0 against Brees; and 1-0 against Brady.
Why has it been so difficult to change the Russell Wilson narrative? Is it because, at 5-foot-11, he is considered small for the position? Is it because he plays far from the East Coast’s major media markets? Are his achievements all overshadowed by the Seahawks’ outstanding defense?
You might ask.
Or is it perhaps because — even in 2015 — experts still find it difficult to shower an African American quarterback with the heroic, Paul Bunyan-type accolades long reserved for traditional drop-back passers like Brady and Manning?
Wilson, who led all passers in rushing yardage this season, is marginalized as a running quarterback, even though in Seattle’s offense he looks to pass first and relies only on well-timed runs that emerge from that.
In fact, he calls his own plays! Like in those final minutes, last Sunday, when Wilson put Aaron Rodgers and his pack of Green Bays to sleep once and for all, by calling on his favorite wide receiver in Jermaine Kearse to accept his final touchdown pass to end the game 28 – 22.
In doing so, Russell Wilson separated himself from contemporaries on that ‘holy’ white list. He had found a way to snatch the meat from the lion’s jaws.
For all the comparisons to Mr Luck, Russell Wilson has more in common with RGIII and Michael Vick of Atlanta Falcons fame – how quickly the carpet was pulled from under that one! In the name of dogs? Tons of chickens, pigs, sheep and cattle meat are slaughtered and wasted every second in America but a Black man’s career must be altered and he must be incarcerated because of a dog fight at his house?
But those three quarterbacks can throw effectively and they can make runs just as easily. Each has the gift of leadership and a knack for making the right decision at the right time.
When it comes to collecting Super Bowl rings, Wilson has pulled even with the likes of Brees and Manning in only three years. Lest we mention how long it took both Brees and Manning to accomplish what is now revered as close to herculean.
That leaves Brady, and Russell Wilson can close that gap in two weeks.
Russell Wilson is an inspiration not only for any athlete in America and beyond, but unto his community. He inspires boys like him with the belief that they too can snatch the meat from the lion’s jaws! They too, notwithstanding being shot at everywhere they turn and choked in the streets of New York by white cops for absolutely no law enforcement reason, can with patience and timing, snatch the meat from the tight jaws of the lion.
Without the experience of the suffering that Black men like Wilson are exposed to on a daily basis in America – like Muhammad Ali before them, like Frederick Douglass before them, like Martin Luther King Jr. before them, and like Malcolm X before them – Wilson’s heroics would remain only shallow and in vain.
For us African Americans stuck in the plains of racist America, the pain we live with gives to our character a depth that seldom comes from the experience of happiness. Russell Wilson showed, when he wept at the end of last Sunday’s game, that we can also weep like him and still snatch that meat from the lion’s jaws.
Because we can!