Monday, February 3, 2014

The Miseducation of Russell Wilson

A few points about last night’s game before I get into Russell Wilson:

Peyton Manning – People saying he choked last night are flat wrong. He’s a 37-year-old pocket passer with no mobility who relies on perfect timing, accuracy, preparation, and rhythm to pick people apart. You know what’s a deterrent to all of that? An elite front 7 constantly in your face and one of the best secondaries of all-time disrupting those timing throws the Broncos rely on to move the ball. Look at the three losses the Seahawks had this year. One of them was to the best running QB in the league in Colin Kaepernick and another was to probably the 3rd-4th best running QB in the league in Andrew Luck. The third was to Carson Palmer, granted, but my point is that you can’t beat that defense with a statue at QB, and that’s what Peyton Manning is at this point in his career. He’s still got unbelievable pocket presence, but when the pocket collapses, he’s toast. Getting dominated by a unit bigger, stronger, and faster than your unit isn’t choking, it’s getting dominated. Getting your arm hit for a pick-six isn’t choking. Missing throws because you have guys draped on your back isn’t choking. The Broncos, including Peyton Manning, got manhandled by a top 10 defense of all-time. It’s that simple.

Percy Harvin – I remember one of the smartest and best-looking bloggers on the Internet writing something last offseason about how Percy Harvin was absolutely worth a 1st-round pick to an already loaded team. The fact that the Vikings hit an absolute homerun by drafting Percy Harvin 2.0 (Cordarrelle Patterson) is irrelevant. It was much more likely that draft pick turned into someone that would never be close to the player Percy Harvin is.

Malcolm Smith – Did not deserve that MVP. Unfortunately whoever decides the award are box score watchers who apparently don’t watch the game. I’m not saying Smith didn’t have a good game, but he got the award for being in the right place at the right time, twice. He didn’t exactly make either of those plays, those plays made him. Kam Chancellor, Percy Harvin, and yes, Russell Wilson, were all more deserving of that MVP.

Champ Bailey – Time to hang em up bro. Getting toasted repeatedly by Doug Baldwin is not a good look.

Kam Chancellor – I do NOT want to fight you, ever.

Super Bowl Commercials – Step your game up next year. The only one I even smiled at was the T-Mobile “we’re not paying for an expensive commercial” spot. The rest were trash. I’m taking to Twitter next January to start the #BringBackWazzzzuppp movement.

Super Bowl Box Pools – So happy I finally committed to my rest-of-my-life pact to never do one of these things again. There’s no skill involved and I never win. I’d rather rely on actual football knowledge and put money on one of the teams and sweat the outcome of the game as opposed to some stupid score combinations. I’m pretty sure every single person in my office this morning, including the chicks, have talked about what scenarios they needed for their numbers to hit last night. Doooonnnttt caaaaaarree.

And now we get to Russell Wilson. Let me preface this by saying I have a blatant man crush on this guy so anything I say here can be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not like a full blown I-wanna-marry-that- dude Chandler Parsons type man crush, but that’s only because Russell Wilson isn’t that good looking.  I absolutely wanna marry his skillset though.

Playing in competitive fantasy leagues and having a group of friends who talk about sports 100% of the time when we’re not talking about girls or gambling, along with watching all of the “analysts” on TV talk about the Seahawks or QB’s in general, it’s become abundantly clear to me that Russell Wilson is disgustingly underrated. I’m tired of this guy being called a “game manager” or a “product of the system”. Russell Wilson is a stud NFL quarterback, plain and simple. First, let’s look at some of the attributes needed to be an elite NFL QB..

Arm Strength – There are few actual metrics (stats) to measure NFL arm strength, but the eye test tells me that he makes every throw an NFL QB is required to make. Numerous times in yesterday’s game alone he threw across his body running left and hit his guys in stride with 15-yard darts. Also, for his career he averages 8.1 Yards per Attempt. Anything over 7.5 is elite (Peyton Manning averages 7.7 for his career, Tom Brady 7.5). Game managers don’t average over eight yards a pass, guys who takes chances and throw downfield do. And yes, I completely understand that this was only his second year in the league, but I wouldn’t waste my time writing this if I thought he was gonna fall off anytime soon.

Accuracy – For his career, Big Russ (that’s what we’re calling him for the rest of this post) has completed 63.6% of his passes. Tom Brady? 63.4%. Eli Manning? 58.5%. Tony Romo? 64.6% (stud city). If he maintains his current pace, he’ll go down as one of the more accurate passers in NFL history.

Mobility – Big Russ ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, in high school. The guy can fly, and yet he’s always under control and looking downfield when scrambling. Colin Kaepernick may be faster, but sometimes he completely gives up on throwing the ball when he leaves the pocket. Big Russ never does that.

Intelligence – Putting all that race-baiting media “Russell Wilson is so well-spoken” bullshit aside, if you listen to the guy talk for five minutes it’s easy to see that he’s one of the smartest, most well-prepared, most motivated quarterbacks in the entire league, and it’s not because he speaks English well. Listen to what he says, rather than how he says it. His football IQ is off the charts and is a big reason why he gets the absolute maximum out of his skillset.

Turnovers – For his career, Big Russ has thrown 19 interceptions total. There were six QB’s that threw at least that many in this past season alone. Granted, he only ranked 22nd in pass attempts, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

Clutch Factor – Big Russ had five game-winning drives (4th quarter drives where his team was either tied or behind that put his team ahead for good) this past season, most of any QB in the league. He’s also now 4-1 in the playoffs with one ring (and counting).

Now that we’ve established the fact that he possesses a skillset befitting of an elite NFL QB, let’s look at some of the biggest knocks against him..

He’s too short. I think what we’ve seen Drew Brees do in the NFL coupled with the fact that Big Russ just got his ring, I’m pretty sure this one can be put to bed.

He doesn’t have eyepopping stats. This one is geared at all the fantasy football players out there. For the 2013 season, Russell Wilson finished as the eight highest scoring quarterback in standard ESPN leagues. Even if you play in a shitty 8-player league, that’s good enough to make him a QB1. Guys who finished behind him who generally went well before him in drafts include: Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, and RG3. Assuming we’re not counting on Philip Rivers to have another ridiculous year (he might in that McCoy system, but I’m still ranking Wilson higher), the only QB’s I’d take before him in next year’s draft are Rodgers, Peyton, Brees, Cam, Luck, and Stafford (Nick Foles, you’ll be exposed next year). 

He plays on an elite team. This one bothers me the most but it’s also true so it’ll be the hardest to dispute, but here goes. When I hear an argument like this, undoubtedly the most popular criticism for the Russell WIlson skeptics out there, I immediately think about Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen is one of the single most underrated professional athletes in the history of sports, not because of the type of player he was, but solely because he played on an elite team with the best player in NBA history. Go watch any Bulls game from the 1990’s on NBATV Classics and I promise you the third thing that comes to your mind after “Michael Jordan was absolutely unguardable” and “90’s fans were awesome” will be “Wow Scottie Pippen is the best athlete on the court, by a MILE”. Pippen was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to LeBron when it comes to sheer athleticism from the small forward position, or any position for that matter. He’s probably the best perimeter defender of all-time (actually second behind Aaron Craft, amirite OSU homers?), was an elite passer, rebounder, and scorer around the rim, but all anyone ever says about him is that “Michael Jordan carried Scottie Pippen to six championships”.  It’s one of the most ridiculous statements anyone can ever make, but unfortunately the general public outnumbers the educated fan, so chances are if you hear a group of random dudes talking about Scottie Pippen in a bar, the majority of them will share that same “Pippen was overrated” sentiment.

Now taking a look at this Seahawks roster, they’re absolutely loaded. They’ve got a top 5 running back and as I said before, one of the 10 best defenses in NFL history. Because of this, Big Russ plays a ton of his games with the lead, an undoubtedly advantageous position to be in from a QB standpoint. But what about his other weapons on offense? It’s not like he’s throwing bombs to a triple-covered Randy Moss or jump balls to a pre-incarcerated Plaxico Burress out there (sorry, had to take one more shot at Brady and Eli). Last night he made Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse look like Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, hitting them on the numbers and in stride on every single throw and putting them in the best position to make plays. Again, the pressure subsides a little when you’re playing with the lead so often, but after he airmailed Zach Miller on his first throw, he was razor sharp for the rest of that game because that’s what he does.

My main response to the “his team is loaded” haters is this: Russell Wilson is one of the smartest QB’s in the league and knows that all he has to do is win the game. Winning. That’s all he cares about. If he only has to throw 15 times to get the W, who cares how many yards and TD’s he throws for? He sure as shit doesn’t. He’s not gonna sit out there and check to pass plays when he knows he has Marshawn Lynch behind him. He’s not gonna force the ball on 3rd and 18 from the 35-yard line because he knows his kicker has missed two FG’s all year and will get them three points if he just protects the ball and runs for seven yards instead. If the game requires he play game manager, he’ll manage the game. If it requires he throw for 385 yards on 36 passes like he did last year against the Falcons in the playoffs (I know they lost that game, but he CARRIED them because he had to), he’ll do that too. To criticize the guy because of the quality of his supporting cast is completely unfair. It’s not like the Seahawks won a bunch of games 3-0 this year. The fact that they lost to Carson Palmer in their own building in probably the worst game of Wilson’s career proves that they need him to play well in order to be successful. Russell Wilson has a great team, but he’s also great. You’re allowed have a great team AND be a great player. Just ask any NBA star (Dirk Nowitzki aside) who’s won a ring in the let’s-join-forces era.

Was Russell Wilson the main reason the Seahawks won that game last night? No, the defense was, and it’d be foolish to think otherwise. But you certainly can’t plug in any of the other 31 QB’s in the league and expect them to hang two scores and a 121 QB rating on a decent defense on the biggest stage in all of sports either, a performance that more importantly included a ton of clutch 3rd-and-medium conversions to keep the Bronco offense on the sidelines. When this current Seahawks roster loses a few key parts in the next couple years (it almost has to happen based on all the young stars they’ll have to pay soon, Wilson included), we’ll finally get to see him try to shed this notion that he’s just an OK quarterback playing for a great team. And my prediction is obviously that he’s going to thrive in any circumstance and in any system you throw him in for the rest of his career, because Russell Wilson is a great player and great players are going to be successful no matter what.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I read this on several occasions - hoping someone would respond but I will since everyone is scared to. To all the naysayers, eat crow. DANGERUSS is here to stay.