Kerry Byrne wrote a pretty interesting piece this week, asking (or demanding) “Where’s the hype for Russell Wilson?”
“In Luck’s last five games, the period during which the hype has begun to ratchet up, he’s thrown just 3 TD passes with 4 INTs. Wilson over the last five games: 10 TD, 2 INT. On what planet is Luck the better quarterback, given those numbers over the past few weeks. Luck certainly has the potential and the pedigree to be a Hall of Famer. Griffin III is the most talented athlete in the group and gave the hottest start to his career. But through Week 10, Wilson has been the deadliest, certainly most consistent, definitely the hottest right now and, yes, even the best rookie quarterback in football.”
It’s a compelling argument. I’ve watched three Indianapolis games this year, a couple of Washington games and four Miami games. I can see why people get carried away with Andrew Luck – he’s close to being the perfect young quarterback. He’s athletic, he’s accurate, he has ideal size and mobility, he scores highly for character and leadership. It’s only a matter of time until Indianapolis hosts playoff games again and Luck will probably top Peyton Manning’s solitary Super Bowl victory with the Colts.
Yet right now, on November 14th 2012, Russell Wilson is the better player.
What’s more, I’m not convinced Luck’s ceiling is much higher than Wilson’s. The one thing holding Wilson back in the draft process was the much-talked about height issue. Here we are, ten games into the season, and it’s had virtually no impact. Once you take away the height chatter, what’s the difference between the two players? Every quality Luck has, Wilson either matches or beats. He’s athletic, he’s accurate, he has the mobility and he scores highly for character and leadership. The only thing Luck dominates is the hype factor.
As Byrne writes, part of this is down to the ‘storyline’. People love to see expectations met and Luck had been expected to be great ever since he completed his sophomore season at Stanford. The Chuck Pagano angle is adding to the Hollywood nature of this script. The story will inevitably end with a Super Bowl victory against the odds – if not this year, then certainly in the future. And who would begrudge Pagano or Luck that success? Not me.
Wilson hardly had any expectations as a 5-11 quarterback taken in the third round. He was the story of pre-season at a time when virtually everything else was decided. Unless he turned Seattle into a Super Bowl contender as some (Bill Simmons) projected, he was never going to truly challenge Luck and Robert Griffin III for headlines once the proper football began. It means a different story of a battle against the odds remains untold.
Give Luck some credit because he’s playing without a lot of the key factors required to challenge. The Colts defense isn’t great. They don’t have a dominating ground game. This is pretty much the same roster that went 2-14 last season. For years Indianapolis relied on Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning alone. Now they might be about to rely on Andrew Luck. It’s working so far, but they’ll have to build up that roster pretty quickly.
Wilson has the benefit of a franchise that spent two years rebuilding and re-tooling. He can lean on Marshawn Lynch and big investments on the offensive line, at receiver and at tight end. The Seahawks have a top-tier defense. At the same time, he’s still playing at an unusually high level for a rookie quarterback. For that, Wilson deserves some of the limelight.
The crazy thing is, this year could’ve been even better for Wilson and the Seahawks. He has eight interceptions, but that includes an ‘arm punt’ against Arizona, a crazy day in St. Louis where all three picks could be blamed on other people and a juggled catch-turned-interception by Marshawn Lynch against Carolina. All quarterbacks have tough breaks so this is nothing unique or an excuse. Yet we’re talking about five interceptions out of eight. The other three were all Wilson – either a bad decision or poor execution. For the record, he’s thrown 253 passes this year. Three picks that were truly his fault and he hasn’t exactly had many near misses. He’s been the very picture of efficiency, while still flashing big plays.
What attention did Wilson get for out-duelling Tom Brady with a three touchdown performance, including a fourth quarter comeback? Or for mastering a victory over Rex Ryan – a coach with a legit track record against rookie quarterbacks? The same Rex Ryan who embarrassed Andrew Luck and the Colts recently?
Luck has a very mediocre game against Jacksonville – probably the worst team in the NFL – and he’s celebrated like a champion. One of Luck’s three defeats this year came against the same Jaguars outfit.
I don’t think there’s any question that these two players will be compared time and time again during their careers. Perhaps more so than Luck and Griffin III. After a brilliant debut against Washington, RGIII has been mostly efficient with moments of brilliance. The big problem is the Redskins don’t have the scope to build around their prized asset. Without a first round pick until 2015, how are Washington going to repair their offensive line, improve the secondary, add playmakers and bolster the front seven? This is the type of quandary Seattle and Indianapolis don’t have to consider. Griffin III has avoided turnovers but has also made some questionable decisions – including taking avoidable hits with reckless play. He’ll have to learn to protect himself better. And while he’s clearly capable of greatness on any given play, can he show the same level of unflappable consistency we’re seeing from Luck and Wilson?
Ryan Tannehill didn’t impress me much in college and I remain sceptical now he’s in Miami. He’s had some good games. He’s also shown the same kind of issues we saw at Texas A&M – bad decisions, avoidable picks, tipped passes by the dozen. After nine games he’s scored just five touchdowns. Five. That’s compared to nine interceptions. He’s struggled in the red zone and Sunday’s beat-down at home to struggling Tennessee compounded the reality check. That’s not to say he won’t grow and develop. After all, he has a worse current situation than even Griffin III. Washington at least has the patented Mike Shanahan running game. The Dolphins have Reggie ‘one week on, one week off’ Bush and nothing at receiver. However, Tannehill has got a better press than his performances warrant. He’s still showing a lot of the concerns highlighted at Texas A&M and will need to improve to justify the #8 overall pick.
Brandon Weeden is the other rookie starter and like Tannehill is faced with an unfavourable situation. Mike Holmgren did his best in Cleveland and actually made some good choices along with GM Tom Heckert. They’ve also made some questionable calls. At the time, trading down for a bounty of picks to allow Atlanta to get Julio Jones seemed like a smart move. Now, I bet Browns fans would rather have Weeden throwing to Julio. Cleveland essentially had an opportunity to build an offense around Jones and fellow Crimson Tide playmaker Trent Richardson. Instead, they’ve thrown Weeden in to pass to Greg Little and the raw but talented Josh Gordon. The decision to trade away Julio Jones will go down as a classic example of a team overvaluing picks vs talent.
Weeden’s already 29 and needed a fast start to warrant any level of first round investment. Unfortunately, the Browns are 2-7. While Weeden hasn’t been truly awful (he’s had his moments), he needed more than numbers to prove his worth. He needed wins. This was a ‘win now’ selection. You don’t draft a soon-to-be 30-year-old quarterback for the future. Whether it’s Weeden’s fault or not, he had to come out swinging and winning. It was probably always an impossible task and destined to fail.
The Seahawks played a waiting game to get their quarterback and so far, got the best of the bunch. Whether Wilson can remain the best will be a tall order, especially given the huge potential in Luck and Griffin III. But so far, he deserves to be ranked at #1 among this quintet of quarterbacks and a serious contender for rookie of the year. He won’t win it, but he probably should.
Dan Kadar at Mocking the Draft has an updated draft order following week 10 of the NFL season. The Seahawks are listed at #21 although I think they should be at #22 due to strength of schedule. New York shares the same win/loss record, but the Giants have a weaker SOS (Seattle’s .459 vs New York’s .439).
Tony Pauline has some interesting nuggets of information via Draft Insider.net. He reports that Johnathan Hankins is likely to declare despite pressure from Urban Meyer to return to Ohio State. Pauline also says he’s been told Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter will both turn pro, but Cordarrelle Patterson is expected to stay at Tennessee for another year. If Bray and Hunter head for the NFL, I’m not sure what benefit Patterson will get from sticking around under a new regime. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is also going to turn pro, according to Pauline’s sources.
Andy Bitter reports that Logan Thomas will submit paperwork to the NFL draft committee. It’s an interesting development after Thomas had previously announced his intention to return to Virginia Tech. He might get second thoughts if he gets a positive report, especially in a year without a large group of top end first round quarterbacks. He’s had a tough season for the Hokies, but has the physical tools NFL teams drool over.
Kevin Wiedl at ESPN/Scouts Inc has a take on Tyler Wilson and E.J. Manuel. On Wilson: “It’s clear Wilson has the physical tools to entice teams into giving him a late-first-round grade. There is still work to be done on his character and leadership qualities, but based on the tape and what I saw in person, Wilson likely will get into that first-round discussion.” On Manuel: “Overall Manuel looks more like a mid-round developmental prospect than a franchise-type quarterback.”