Judging the rookie quarterbacks & Tuesday links

Russell Wilson deserves more hype as a candidate for rookie of the year

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.

Tuesday links

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.”

Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon) game tape vs USC:


  1. PatrickH

    I think one reason that Wilson isn’t getting the hype is because he has been overshadowed by the defense and by Marshawn Lynch, or at least he has to share credit with those guys. The Colts, on the other hand, has no one else besides Andrew Luck that one can point to in explaining that team’s success.

    As for next year’s draft, I wonder if getting a touchdown playmaker will be the focus of PC/JS? I remember PC saying that speed in the front 7 and TD playmaker are his priorities for the last draft, and it seems like that only the former need has been addressed.

    • Rob Staton

      It’s a good point Patrick – that is exactly what Pete said. He wants a touchdown maker.

      • Chris from Bolivia

        Then again, Golden Tate has come out of the woodwork to be that “touchdown maker”. We have the luxury of drafting a high-ceiling, but raw WR to be the #2 split-end. Think Ricardo Lockette, but a higher pick and better chances.
        I think our biggest “need” next year is getting a new Mike LB for Hill. We have two fast, rangy linebackers. We could add a bigger (yet fast) LB to be a run-stopper and sack artist. I’m thinking a Suggs/Ware type. Those kinds of players can be had in the late 1rst round still.
        Another 1rst round “need” would be a top DT to take over for Branch. Scruggs and Howard to have potential, but they seem more like rotational players. A big NT could do the trick (maybe pick up Taa’mu?), yet he’d also have to be athletic enough to rush, otherwise Mebane may get double’d-up on pass plays.
        That said, a top WR would be good. Who knows how long Rice lasts, and Tate could be similarly effective as the #3 receiver (not including Baldwin’s special role). Rice and another top receiver (thinking a Mike Wallace) would make great use of Russell’s arm. His best asset may be his long-bomb, although he is good at many things. A tall, fast, and productive WR opposite to Rice could pay huge dividens.

      • Henrique

        Russell Wilson is that “touchdown maker”.

        • Rob Staton

          In fairness, they weren’t talking about a quarterback in that press conference. In fact, they’d pretty much admitted they’d bring QB’s in during another segment and that there would be an open competition.

  2. pqlqi

    It’s going to be an interesting end of the season for the 3 top rookie QBs and Doug Martin in the ROY race. There are a few explanations for Wilson’s success relative to other rookies.

    Obviously he has boatloads of talent and the maturity to apply it well. He landed in a good situation with a defense and running game that’s allowed the team to minimize the risks he has to take to put the team in a winning situation. And maybe our front office is better at recognizing talent and fitting it to scheme than the majority of FOs around the league.

    But given how the majority of the rookies that come in here become pleasant or incredible surprises, I think we have to give just as much credit to the coaching staff for their teaching and development methods.

    I think part of the reason Newton and RGIII have hit a slump (plateaued) is that, for immediate success, the NFL teams basically instituted much of the playbook that the players used in college. Indy went so far as to draft Luck’s college security blanket Coby Fleener, even though Luck has a much better foundation of NFL style offenses. This helps the QBs have immediate familiarity with the gameplan, but some aspects of those gameplans ignore basic fundamentals of being an NFL QB – working from under center, 3/5/7 step drop footwork and hitch steps, OL protection calls, and deep progression reads. With Newton in particular this season, and to some extent RGIII, there may be a restriction in growth and absence of fundamentals due to the bandaid effect of not forcing a QB to go through growth pains and a proper development pattern.

    In contrast, Pete and Bevell have an offensive scheme that they wanted to run, drafted a QB that had shown the physical and mental gifts to run the offense that they had designed, and then rebuilt Wilson’s knowledge of quarterbacking from the ground up. We saw a player being forced by the FO to play strict ball control. We saw him making the safest throw, or just not making the throw. We saw him being taught to stay in, and move around, the pocket. We saw vanilla play calling. In each of these areas that felt so frustrating in the first 4 games of the season, we now are seeing the result of an excellent student working with excellent teachers.

    I had a golf teacher who once said that you don’t take a shot out on the golf course until you can succeed at it 90% of the time in practice. Watching Wilson, the OL, and the offense as a whole, we have seen a stepwise progressive institution of offensive playbook starting with base personnel, protections, routes, and progression and advancing through 5 wideout sets, read option plays (Carroll stated in his press conference Monday that this took 4-5 weeks to work out the exchange well enough to use it in game), end around WR passes, flea flickers, and double passes.

    We’ve seen the same great results with Sherman, Browner, Wagner, KJ, Sweezy, and a gaggle of other players. Under the direction of Carroll, I expect to see a continuing focus on teaching and development that exceeds the capability of other FOs and coaching staffs, and that is why we willl have a dynasty

    • Rob Staton

      Great post, pqlqi.

      • Bobby Cink

        Pickles is a baller.

    • MattH

      Can I like this on Facebook, retweet it on Twitter, email it to all my friends and do whatever you do on MySpace with this to show support?

    • Hawksince77

      You’re right – Wilson landed in the perfect situation, the perfect fit for the team, and PC is making it pay-off.

      Gonna be great.

  3. glor

    Obviously, people Wilson is managing games vs winning them, where as they feel luck is “carrying the team”

    • Snoop Dogg

      Check this out:

      Russell Wilson, Seahawks QB: He started off shaky and made some bad first-half decisions, but Wilson, like he always does at home, walked away with the victory, completing 12 of 19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns (with one lost fumble). Unlike many of the other rookie quarterbacks’ teams, the Seahawks don’t need Wilson to be a hero. So he doesn’t usually play like one. But for the most part, he also plays solidly enough to help his team win. Grade: B


      This shows the media’s ridiculous negative bias. Describing the nfl’s leading home field passer as “shaky” (it was true in context) without listing the positives is simply a system of the national media being afraid to stick out from the norm and get off the Andrew Luck hype train for a 3rd round, 5-11 pick. .

      • Michael

        Where the heck is John Gruden when you need him?

      • Rob Staton

        He’s been a hero a few times this year. Clearly whoever wrote that piece doesn’t watch much Seahawks football.

  4. A. Simmons

    They sure needed Wilson to be a hero against New England. He performed the role well. He would have did the same in Detroit, but the defense gave the game up at the end.

  5. A. Simmons

    Nice article Rob. I agree. I don’t think Wilson is better than Luck or vice versa. I do feel Wilson deserves more support for RotY.

    People act like Luck is doing it alone. He isn’t. He has a quality group of receivers including a number one in Reggie Wayne. The last four games the Colts defense has held teams to 13, 20, 14, and 13 points. The team is winning, not just Luck carrying the team. That’s an insult.

    Russell started off splitting reps. He started off with inconsistency at the receiver position. He was reigned in with a conservative, ball control offense. He has almost 10 less attempts per game than Luck. He’s getting very little love.

    Russell’s going to have to have a spectacular finish to get in the conversation. I hope he does it. If he does finish strong and takes a run at Peyton’s rookie TD record, that would be great for Seattle.

  6. Steve in Spain

    While Wilson’s raising some eyebrows around the League, the popular perception is that his success is mostly a phenomenon of Seattle’s absurd home-field advantage. And if you look at RW’s home-road splits, there’s some ammo to that argument. Until Wilson takes his peculiar show of efficiency and explosiveness on the road, the hype train won’t leave the station.

    But RW’s got a tough row to how to get into the OROY discussion. It’s not just his inferior pedigree. It’s that his final 6 opponents feature THREE top-5 defenses. That’s an amazing feat of dumb luck when you consider that Seattle itself is one of the other two top-5 defenses. The only easy opposing defense will be the Bills and we catch them on the road at 10 AM. If RW pulls this off it’ll be one for the ages.

  7. Hawksince77

    Wilson will probably have to get to the Super Bowl, maybe even win it, to garner any significant rookie awards.

    And that’s probably okay. What ultimately matters is how well the Seahawks play, getting to the playoffs and at some point, winning a championship. I would much rather have the hype-train stopping elsewhere and not living up to it, than playing entertaining, competitive football. I mean, check out what has taken place in Phili the past few years: dream team, the hype around Vick, yadda yadda yadda. Or the hype that follows Tim Tibow everywhere. Yikes.

    The only hype train this year that the fans are likely enjoying is the one driven by Peyton Manning. That team seems legit and dangerous in the AFC.

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