When I sat down to write this piece, it was originally going to be a “we told you so” about Jameis Winston and how da god has been more than advertised for the lowly Bucs franchise. He’s Doug Williams 2.0.
How ironic is it that on a day when the 2015 No. 1 overall pick out of Florida State leads Tampa Bay to a must-win over division-rival Atlanta, Williams returned to be honored by a team he took to the NFC Championship game in 1979. The Bucs, who had never been to the playoffs before Williams arrived and won just two games in franchise history, went to the playoffs three times in four years with the Grambling legend throwing darts that could peel an orange.
Let's hope that they treat the crown jewel Jameis with more respect and appreciation than they treated Dougie The Fresh. Despite his success, Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse didn't want to pay Williams what he was worth. In fact, he treated him as a secondary laborer, offering him a salary that would keep him among the lowest paid starters in the league. Williams saw it for what it was -- a slap in the face. He bounced to the USFL for two seasons before returning to the NFL to make history with the Washington Redskins.
Hiring Lovie Smith, betting the house on Winston and officially acknowledging the mistake they made by letting Williams go is a great starting point.
Williams became the eighth player inducted into Tampa Bay's Ring of Honor during halftime of Sunday's game. Winston is definitely in Williams’ mold. His leadership exceeds his athleticism. His football intelligence is supreme. His toughness is super legit and taken for granted even. He throws missiles that are becoming increasingly accurate with every game. In other words, when he’s on the field and on his game, he makes everybody look dope.
With all due respect to Cam Newton's dabbing, dashing and splashing on the opposition with a 12-0 Panthers squad and the way Winston is proving his undeniable leadership and star power (like we told you he would), did anybody notice that Russell Wilson’s been balling his ass off over the last three weeks? Yeah that Russell Wilson, in case your band wagon has since left Seattle.
In the ever-changing, fickle world of pro sports, where every season is a re-do, a new band of black QBs has ascended (or in Cam's case re-ascended) to the top of the topic meter on your daily sports talk shows.
Killa Cam has surpassed Tom Brady in the MVP race with some prolific and fan-captivating balling. As a rookie, Winston has willed a Bucs team that was projected by most to have no more than three or four wins to a 6-6 record and a tie for second place in the NFC South with the Falcons, who got smoked on Sunday in Tampa by some vintage, Winston-inspired, late-game gangsta heroics.
Consistency is the key in the NFL because a player’s popularity meter shifts with the weather and whim of a social media mouth. Wilson has lost some of his luster since winning and then losing a tough Super Bowl. He also took some flak and lost some brownie points from jealous women because of his relationship with R-N-B diva and actor Ciara (which I asked him about in an exclusive April, 2015 Shadow League interview), who was coming off a relationship with rapper Future. The two have a young son together.
Hating on Russell Wilson, however, is like pouring water on somebody in the rain. The boy been hated on from door, but continues to preach the virtue of humility boosted by an extreme confidence in himself and his squad. He was never given anything. He went from third-round maybe to big c’hip baby, and all of the abnormal praise he’s received following his playoff success the past couple of years, probably felt uncomfortable as hell, although Mr. Slick makes everything look pretty easy and manageable. I always had the hunch that Seattle would recover and make a game of it.
Word on the streets was that the Seattle's D turned from dope to dog food, causing Wilson to lose his effectiveness and the clutch heroics he was known for. The hater flow was that Wilson couldn't "carry a team offensively". They said "he lost too many weapons" on offense and Marshawn Lynch has been banged up.
At 4-5 and coming off a 39-32 home loss to the division-leading Arizona Cardinals (10-2), NFL pundits started counting the Seahawks out and openly doubting a playoff return. The Russell Wilson haters came out the woodwork. Guys who couldn’t do a damn thing but kiss his Super Bowl booty and sing his praises began the narrative that he is a “game manager” and “not elite” --- like we haven't peeped the boy do his Joe Montana thing on several occasions. Like he isn’t every bit of the leader a Brady or Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers is.
The Seahawks kicked off the season a dismal 2-4. If you haven’t noticed, Wilson’s wing is on full fling of late and his All-Pro play has since lifted the Seahawks to a 5-1 record, including three straight wins -- one more do-or-die than the next.
In the past three victories for Seattle, Wilson has gunned for 879 yards, 11 TDs and no picks. Wilson completed 21 of 30 passes for 345 yards with a career-high five touchdowns in the Seahawks' 39-30 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 29th. And he boasts a passer rating of 144.1 over that stretch. His uncanny, lightening-quick elusiveness also remains in tact. He’s been nearly flawless in orchestration, completing almost 80 percent of his passes. In a crucial matchup with a potential wild card opponent in Minnesota on Sunday he played lights out and the game was a 38-7 destruction by Seattle to the surprise of many doubters.
The Seahawks are 7-5 and in control of their own destiny. Carroll's Kids have three very winnable games coming up with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams (combined record 10-26), before attempting to get some revenge on Arizona to end the regular season. Wilson has put Seattle back in the driver’s seat and re-established them as a force to be reckoned with, particularly on offense where the former Wisconsin gunner has regained his chemistry with Doug Baldwin. Thomas Rawls, the 5-10, 215-pound rookie running back from Central Michigan is on his way to a 1,000 yard shocker. He leads the team in rushing (5.6 yards per carry) and has become quite the turf torcher in Lynch’s absence.
As much as we deservedly bashed Playboy Pete and RW for botching up a guaranteed Super Bowl win last season, credit should be given to those same two NFL warriors for sticking together through the worst adversity. Billion dollar music groups have broken up over less than what happened between Wilson, Carroll and the Lynch freeze-out at the goal line last year. It’s still too painful for most Wilson or Seattle fans or New England Patriots haters to stomach.
At a certain point this season, it seemed as if the sting of that loss and a crew of changing faces would spell doom for the "Legion of Boom" as they somersaulted down the standings. Wilson is teaching those of little football faith that the heart of a champion and the swag of an elite leader should never be second-guessed or doubted.
In four quick seasons, Wilson has flexed every intangible and executed every play that we expect to see from a championship QB. A Hall of Fame QB. He has led his team to a Super Bowl and made plays to help them win. He did that as a baby in the game. He’s dealt with heartbreak and the worst kind of defeat and rebounded to lift his team out of an abyss and back into the championship flow.
Seattle may not have a Super Bowl-caliber team, but it helps to have a championship-proven soldier at QB leading the charge. People continue to sleep on Wilson's heart and vicious, win-at-all-costs mentality. Maybe it's the silky hair and the "era of the sexy beard" thing he has going on that stops some folks from giving him his due as a spine crusher.
There aren’t too many Russell Wilson’s in the NFL. If you believe otherwise, then you’ve been wearing blinders on your eyes and pouring antifreeze on your heart for far too long.