Mike Pettine commits coaching faux pas in evaluation of Russell Wilson

(Icon Sportswire)

Depending on your definition, it could be a legitimate stance to say Russell Wilson is not an elite-level quarterback. But that kind of hollow, litmus test is generally fodder for sports-talk radio not the head coach of an NFL team, especially one that’s 3-10.

Lately, that Bose wireless headphones spot featuring Wilson has come to life because the NFL has been the Seattle QB’s world over the past month, as the star signal-caller has tossed a mind-numbing 16 touchdown passes versus no interceptions for a 145.9 passer rating during a 4-0 run that has the once-floundering Seahawks now resembling the two-time defending NFC champions once again.

And Wilson has done much of that damage without his most high-profile target Jimmy Graham and all of it without superstar running back Marshawn Lynch behind him.

Yet Mike Pettine, whose Cleveland Browns are set to become the latest road apple in the way of the semi that is the Seahawks right now, took the curious route of insinuating that the bird over there is not really Wilson’s.

“Would you put him there with the guys that can transcend their supporting cast?” Pettine responded when asked about Wilson’s current stature in the game. “The (Tom) Bradys, whether it’s Aaron Rodgers, (Drew) Brees, (Ben) Roethlisberger, the ones that you would consider the two, three, four elite guys? No.

“But he’s certainly played himself into that next tier.”

Says the guy who has ping-ponged between Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown and Austin Davis over the past two seasons, a motley cast that will almost surely have Pettine looking for a new job when Black Monday rolls around next month.

On paper, Wilson has a bad offensive line, is down his best receiver in Graham and now his two top running backs in Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls. That’s the very definition of transcendence.

To be fair, Pettine did pump the brakes a bit after his coaching 101 faux pas and remembered to heap the effusive praise earmarked for any upcoming foe, never mind a really difficult one, although a caveat remained.

“(Wilson) has ascended,” admitted Pettine. “He plays at a high level. He’s very productive and they win. A lot of that I think is a function, too, of him being the perfect quarterback for what they do. To me, it goes both ways. They have also built it around him.”

Wilson, who wins far too much to be worried about a moribund franchise like the Browns or a lame-duck coach like Pettine, refused to take the bait.

“I don’t worry about all of that,” Wilson responded when told about Pettine’s perceived bulletin-board material. “I think it comes down to winning games, I think that’s the ultimate measure of a quarterback so that’s the only thing I care about.”

Think about it this way: Wilson now has his 44 regular-season wins since arriving in the Pacific Northwest in 2012 to match Baltimore’s Joe Flacco for the most to start an NFL career, a mark that will almost surely be his alone after Sunday’s game. Add in the postseason and Wilson is 50-19 as the Seahawks starter with a Super Bowl title and the two NFC championships.

You have to go back to ’06 to accumulate 50 wins for Cleveland’s football team they’ve tried 15 different QBs over that span to do it.

There is only one bad man in this one-way, manufactured feud and when Pettine’s breathes in Sunday, he will quickly realize that he’s enjoying Russell Wilson’s air.

“Everything has been hitting right on the money,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told the Cleveland-area media on a conference call when discussing his QB. “The protection has been good. (Wilson) has taken advantage of that. Receivers have been on it, which our guys really catch the ball well. They have been doing it for years. I just think we are the best we have been in the throwing game right now.”

— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.

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