First off, I believe it’s important to start by saying Russell Wilson is by no means a bad quarterback. In fact, he is a very good quarterback, but for those arguing that he belongs in the same breath as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Tom Brady (deflate gate included), you are delusional. Then why do so many people slide him in with the best of the best?
I would venture that most fans of Wilson will allude to the fact he lifted the Lombardi Trophy at 25 years of age. Winning is applauded – winning young is idolized. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger (23 – XL) and Tom Brady (24 – XXXVI). To be wearing a ring after an infantile three years in the league is incredibly impressive; however, I’m not willing to say the accomplishment was due to his extraordinary play.
The NFL prides itself on parity, and Wilson undoubtedly reaped the benefits of being drafted by a team carrying massive momentum. Wilson is the epitome of a game manager, which is a wonderful asset if that’s all the team needs, i.e. an organization with arguably the stoutest defense of the decade that essentially reinvented the philosophy of the secondary. Nonetheless, if you were to take a closer look at his numbers, the world elite may not seem as applicable.
If the question is whether Russell Wilson is, or is not an elite quarterback, we first need to determine what characteristics are critical for a player of the position to excel. Of course there is the throw power and accuracy which nearly all the quarterbacks, other than the Gabberts and Fitzpatricks, of the league have. However, there are other abilities that a quarterback must possess in order to be considered elite. Initially, the traits that come to mind are the ability to go through progressions to make secondary and tertiary reads, as well as poise in the pocket under duress. Consequently, these attributes aid in decision-making and limit costly mistakes. I would argue Russell boasts neither of these essentials. The reason it is not noticed by the majority of fans, can be explained by his legs – they are his failsafe. According to statistics supplied by NFL.com archives, between the 2012-2014 seasons, Wilson scrambled out of the pocket an astounding 57.9% of plays from scrimmage.
Are some of these plays designed runs? Sure they are, but in the 2014 season there were only 24 designed runs out of the hundreds of plays called. Luckily for him, he amassed approximately 7 yrds/run which will surely help move the chains when defenses need to account for Marshawn “Beastmode” Lynch in the backfield.
While these figures are staggering, maybe he just isn’t getting enough time in the pocket to look down the field? Wrong. This is where I can truly separate him from the elites of the league. Out of all active quarterbacks from the last three seasons, Russell Wilson has had the most time to throw and most time to sack at 3.14 seconds and 4.05 seconds respectively; this means that Wilson escapes the pocket prematurely on a regular basis which is known as “phantom pressure,” despite lining up behind perennial pro-bowl Center Max Unger.
To his defense, Wilson’s receiving core is far from dangerous. His leading weapon was Doug Baldwin who was only ranked 42nd in yards in 2014 with 825 – behind numerous running backs and tight ends. Nevertheless, to be elite you have to work with who you have and make them better because of your ability to win games – regardless of the roster (enter Tom Brady).
Off the field, Wilson is the quintessential poster athlete: educated, no off the field issues, and a first one in, last one out type of guy. Press conferences are a walk in the park, and he has become a predominant figure in volunteer work. While none of these factors have anything to do with football, they absolutely assist in his notoriety. With the acquisition of star TE Jimmy Graham, and the wound of his Super Bowl- ending interception still fresh on his mind, Russell will certainly be ready to quiet the naysayers. One day he may, in fact, become an elite quarterback, but he isn’t there yet.
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