Photos from every year of Russell Wilson's outstanding NFL career — from his Seattle success to struggles in Denver

  • Russell Wilson has enjoyed a standout NFL career, but it's come with highs and lows.

  • He started out hot with the Seattle Seahawks and even won a Super Bowl with the franchise.

  • Wilson has struggled to find similar success since joining the Denver Broncos in 2022.

Russell Wilson has, at points throughout his career in the National Football League, looked like a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

But at other moments, the star quarterback has struggled to set himself apart among the league's top talent.

Wilson has seen more peaks and valleys than most superstars through his 12 years in the NFL. He enjoyed a dominant rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks and went on to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances — and earn a win — in his second and third years in the league.

But his hot streak in Seattle cooled from there, and after several seasons of the Seahawks struggling to return to the mountaintop despite his own strong individual play, Wilson made a blockbuster move to join the Denver Broncos.

His arrival in the Mile High City did not usher in the immediate success many suspected it would for the Broncos. But now, in his second year under center in Denver, Wilson is looking to right the ship with Sean Payton's squad.

Take a look back at each year of Wilson's NFL career:

2012: Wilson led Seattle to the postseason during his historic first year under center.

Russell Wilson during his rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson during his rookie season with the Seattle Seahawks.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Seahawks selected Wilson, a former Wisconsin Badger, with the 75th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. And even though Seattle had just signed free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn, Wilson had earned the starting role by the time the regular season was set to begin.

He shined throughout the regular season, leading the Seahawks to an 11-5 record while earning a 100.0 passer rating — good enough to set the rookie record at the time and rank fourth-best in the league that year. He also tied Peyton Manning's record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie quarterback with 26 on the season.

Wilson led Seattle past Washington in the NFC Wild Card Round, but lost a last-second heartbreaker on the road against the Atlanta Falcons to bow out of the playoffs in the Divisional Round. Still, his remarkable efforts in his rookie season helped him earn 2013 Pro Bowl alternate status.

2013: The Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII.

Russell Wilson celebrates winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson celebrates winning Super Bowl XLVIII with the Seattle Seahawks.REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Wilson led his franchise to the mountaintop in just his second season as an NFL player. After a 13-3 regular season in which he threw for 3,357 yards and 26 touchdowns to earn a 101.2 passer rating, the sophomore quarterback earned his second Pro Bowl nod in as many seasons and led Seattle to the top seed in the playoffs.

The Seahawks readily handled Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round, then edged out the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLVIII. Wilson played a stellar game on football's biggest stage, throwing for 206 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions to earn a 123.1 passer rating and lead Seattle to a 43-8 victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Wilson made history as the shortest-ever quarterback to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy, per Men's Journal. He also became the second Black quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a title.

2014: Wilson led Seattle back to the promised land, where they stumbled in heartbreaking fashion.

Russell Wilson reacts to throwing an interception during Super Bowl XLIX.
Russell Wilson reacts to throwing an interception during Super Bowl XLIX.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Seahawks enjoyed yet another stellar season in 2014. They finished with a 12-4 record, and Wilson threw for a then-career-high 3,475 yards while adding what is, to this day, a career-best 849 rushing yards. He earned a third-straight Pro Bowl nod thanks to those efforts.

Seattle once again nabbed the top seed in the playoffs and easily won its Divisional Round matchup against the Carolina Panthers. In the NFC Championship Game, Wilson threw four interceptions which led the Seahawks to a 16-0 halftime deficit against the Green Bay Packers.

But thanks to a successful onside kick and lots of luck, Seattle scored twice in the final five minutes of the game to take a narrow lead. The Packers tied the game with a last-second field goal to force overtime, but Seattle won the coin toss and Wilson threw a touchdown pass on the opening drive to secure the improbable comeback victory.

That luck would come back to haunt the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, however. Despite harboring a 10-point lead entering the final quarter of the game, the Patriots managed to score back-to-back touchdowns in the waning minutes, leaving Wilson just over two minutes to overcome a four-point deficit.

The third-year quarterback marched Seattle's offense down the field but, once the Seahawks reached the one-yard line, they made the highly controversial decision to throw the ball. New England cornerback Malcolm Butler famously intercepted Wilson's pass to secure the victory for the Patriots.

2015: Wilson enjoyed an MVP-caliber season and led the Seahawks to the playoffs without several of the team's top stars.

Russell Wilson rolls out during a 2015 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Russell Wilson rolls out during a 2015 game against the Minnesota Vikings.AP Photo/Jim Mone

Wilson inked an impressive four-year, $87.6 million contract to remain in Seattle ahead of the 2015 season. The deal made him the second-highest player in the NFL at the time, per ESPN.

But Wilson didn't play up to that level to start the season. The Seahawks started the season 4-5, and through those first nine games, Wilson threw almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns.

But from then on, the team and its quarterback turned things around in spectacular fashion. Wilson threw 19 straight touchdowns without an interception, and Seattle won six of its final seven games — including five straight. He finished the regular season with 34 passing touchdowns — a franchise record — and a 110.1 passer rating that led the entire NFL. And while he didn't win MVP, he managed to nab yet another Pro Bowl selection.

Wilson managed the feat while leading a depleted offense, as legendary running back Marshawn Lynch and star tight end Jimmy Graham were both sidelined with injuries. Still, the Seahawks advanced to the playoffs, where they narrowly defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card before falling to the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional Round.

2016: Wilson helped the Seahawks on yet another playoff run despite suffering several injuries during the season.

Russell Wilson throws a pass for the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson throws a pass for the Seattle Seahawks.AP Photo/John Froschauer

2016 was a year of adversity for Wilson, but even still, he managed to steer the Seahawks to another successful season. He picked up a Week 1 ankle injury and, two games later, suffered a knee injury after taking a tough hit from a linebacker.

The injuries limited Wilson, who is known for having lethal running ability in addition to a strong arm, from escaping the pocket as easily as he might have otherwise. But thanks to his status as a dual-threat quarterback, Wilson was able to lean on his arm in a major way; he threw for a career-best 4,219 yards on the season.

Seattle finished with a 10-5-1 record to secure a spot in the playoffs. Wilson and company took down the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card Round, but they lost their Divisional Round game on the road against the eventual NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

2017: He missed the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Russell Wilson looks to pass against the New York Giants.
Russell Wilson looks to pass against the New York Giants.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson enjoyed an outstanding season from an individual standpoint in 2017. He led the league with 34 passing touchdowns on the year and earned a 95.4 passer rating — enough to earn Pro Bowl honors for the fifth time in his six NFL seasons.

Still, his efforts weren't enough to carry the Seahawks to the postseason. After finishing with a mediocre 9-7 record, Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time in Wilson's career.

2018: Wilson led an injury-plagued squad back to the playoffs.

Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson.Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With many of their top stars sidelined with injuries, the Seahawks looked to Wilson to keep the team afloat. Still, few expected Seattle to re-emerge as a playoff contender.

Thanks in large part to yet another Pro Bowl season from Wilson — complete with 3,448 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns, and a career-high 110.9 passer rating — the Seahawks earned a 10-6 record and a spot in the postseason. They lost a close Wild Card Round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, but vastly defied expectations for what many supposed would be a lost season.

2019: Another stellar season from Wilson put Seattle back in the hunt.

Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson.Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season began, Wilson signed a four-year, $140 million contract to stay with the Seahawks and become the NFL's highest-paid player, per But unlike the last time he'd inked a massive deal — when he stumbled out of the gates in 2015 — Wilson's 2019 was outstanding from the very beginning.

He finished the season with 4,110 passing yards to go along with 31 passing touchdowns and only five interceptions — good for a 106.3 passer rating on the year. Not only was Wilson named to yet another Pro Bowl roster, but he also earned the No. 2 spot — his highest-ever ranking — in the following offseason's "NFL Top 100" as voted on by his fellow players.

Seattle ended the regular season with an 11-5 record and advanced to the playoffs for the second-straight year. Wilson almost single-handedly led the Seahawks past the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, accounting for a whopping 95% of the team's total offense in the 17-9 victory.

But the star quarterback didn't have enough juice to power Seattle past the Divisional Round, where they lost a close one to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

2020: Wilson posted another Pro Bowl season and once again led the Seahawks to the playoffs.

Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another Pro Bowl nod and postseason run for Wilson. After an exceptional 2019 season, the star quarterback started 2020 by throwing an NFL record 14 touchdown passes in Seattle's first three games, per Bleacher Report.

He kept his foot on the gas from there, throwing a career-high 40 touchdown passes on the year. Wilson finished the regular season with 4,212 passing yards and a career-best 68.8% completion rate, which helped lead the Seahawks to a 12-4 record and a first-place finish in the NFC West.

But Wilson and company couldn't carry the momentum from their stellar regular season into the playoffs, where they suffered a surprising loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round.

2021: He gutted out an injury-riddled final season in Seattle.

Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson's relationship with the Seahawks' top brass deteriorated by the time 2021 came around, and according to reporting from The Athletic, the franchise quarterback had "checked out" midway through the season.

Seattle started the season 2-2 and, during a Week 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, Wilson broke his finger and needed surgery, per He returned to the field in Week 10, by which point the Seahawks were 3-5, but Seattle dropped its next three games even with the superstar QB under center.

Though Wilson managed to power the Seahawks to four wins through their final six games, the team missed the playoffs and finished with a losing record for the first time since his arrival in Seattle nearly a decade prior. Despite his shortened campaign, Wilson finished the year with 3,113 passing yards and 25 passing touchdowns to earn yet another Pro Bowl nod.

2022: Wilson got off to a rocky start after joining the Denver Broncos.

Russell Wilson during his first game with the Denver Broncos.
Russell Wilson during his first game with the Denver Broncos.Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After the strain between Wilson and his longtime team came to a head over the offseason, the Seahawks shipped their franchise quarterback off to Denver in a blockbuster trade. Many suspected the Broncos would be instant contenders with a quarterback of Wilson's caliber under center, but the team and its new star both struggled.

Denver lost five of its first seven games, and Wilson suffered a series of injuries that kept him on the sidelines for a game and hampered his play upon his return. He finished the season with just 3,524 passing yards and a career-low 16 passing touchdowns with 11 interceptions. The Broncos won just four games on the year and had the worst scoring offense in the entire NFL, per Pro Football Reference.

2023: He's looking to right the ship in the Mile High City.

Russell Wilson throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Russell Wilson throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs.Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson underwent surgery on his knee after his first season in Denver, per, and he's looked much more like his old self through the first half of the 2023 campaign. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 1,806 yards through the Broncos' first nine games, helping the squad match its win total from the year prior with eight games left to play.

Though Denver still isn't in a position to make the playoffs, back-to-back impressive wins over Patrick Mahomes' Kansas City Chiefs and Josh Allen's Buffalo Bills — both of which featured stellar play from Wilson — should offer a glimmer of optimism for Broncos fans as they look ahead.

Read the original article on Insider