With one game left, the rookie as kind and mean as a Wookiee is putting up one of the best seasons in franchise history.
When I think of Chewbacca, I think of a creature that is extremely dangerous to those that oppose him or his best friends, but also so sweet and cuddly that you would not mind spooning him while watching The Star Wars Holiday Special. I think that Russell Wilson shares some of those qualities, not that I am saying I would spoon with him, because come on guys I have a limit. Haha, I do have a limit. I do. I do. (Just keep telling yourself that.)
Yesterday I was talking to myself and I thought, "Okay, the 2012 Seattle Seahawks are good and going to the playoffs with a chance to win the division, but just who the heck is their starting quarterback???" I made sure to think exactly three question marks because that's how curious I was. Well, it turns out that it's the aforementioned Wilson. Apparently, he was a third round draft pick this year that fell in the draft because 31 other teams are doing a "The Producers" or "Major League" theme this year. Opting to lose instead of win and that's why Wilson was available after 74 other players were drafted.
What has happened since then is that Wilson is having one of the best rookie seasons by a quarterback in NFL history, but he is also having one of the best quarterbacking seasons in franchise history. Wilson has already blown past one group though: Rookies draft after the first round. Only five players in NFL history have thrown at least 20 touchdown passes in their rookie season if they were not a first round pick. Andy Dalton is the only recent and relevant example, and though he was/is good, Wilson has been much, much better. Some will remember that Wilson was the first opening day starter as a rookie drafted after the 2nd round since Kyle Orton in 2005. Orton started 15 games, completed 51.6% of passes for 1,869 yards, 9 TD and 13 INT.
Russell Wilson after 15 games: 237-of-374, 63.4%, 2,868 yards, 25 TD, 10 INT, 98.0 QB rating, 7.67 yards per attempt, 7.80 adjusted yards per attempt, 84 carries for 431 yards and 3 TD.
Now, stats in football are far from everything. Wilson attempts the fewest passes in the league and Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell (funny how I don't have to mention Tom Cable anymore, even if he has played a great role this year, for all I really know) have done a wonderful job of molding the offense for Wilson and not asking Wilson to mold into something he is not. I think a lot of quarterbacks fail based at least a little bit on the principle that a coach has a hard time letting go of his will to make a young player do what he wants and not the other way around. You drafted Wilson with a mindset that he is going to fit into your system, except that somewhere during the season they realized that was not quite working and since new schemes have been introduced, the Seahawks have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
That success has plenty to do with the coaches and plenty to do with Wilson. It would not work without accuracy, athleticism, and excellent decision-making. How many bad interceptions/decisions have you honestly seen Wilson make this year, especially in the last ten games?
What that has amounted to is one of the best seasons in franchise history. How best? Funny you should ask, because you didn't, I did, why did I put that question on you? Here are some notes about where Wilson stacks up in franchise history with one game to go:
Wins as a starter - If you think "QB Wins" is a dumb stat, I can dig that. Just FYI though, only Matt Hasselbeck in 2005 (13) and Dave Krieg in 1984 (12) have won more than ten games as a starting quarterback.
Completion percentage - Dave Krieg has the highest for a mostly starter, going 187-of-285 (65.6%) in 1991. However at a minimum of 300 attempts, Wilson (63.4%) ranks third, behind Hasselbeck 2005 (65.5%) and 2002 (63.7%).
Touchdown passes - With four touchdown passes on Sunday, Wilson moved up to a tie for 5th most in franchise history (25) with Warren Moon. When Moon accomplished that feat in 1997, he was 41-years-old and Wilson was 9-years-old. The leaders are 1. Krieg, 1984 (32), 2. Hasselbeck, 2007 (28), 3. Krieg, 1985 (27), and 4. Hasselbeck, 2003 (26). Yes, Wilson has more touchdown passes than Hass did in 2005. He has a shot at second-most in franchise history.
TD % - Nobody really talks about TD%, the percent of touchdowns per attempts, probably because it's such a relative stat, I guess you could say? Well, you've probably noticed that Wilson has a lot of touchdowns and not many attempts. His 6.7% mark is a tiny fraction ahead of Krieg's 6.7% mark of 1984. Still behind Krieg's excellent 7.8% mark in twelve starts in 1987.
Y/A - You will notice a very strong correlation between yards per attempt and wins or losses. Take Tom Brady for example. In his 60 best Y/A games of his career, Brady is 56-4. (35-1 in his top 36, 42-2 in his top 44.) When Brady hits 8 Y/A he is almost unbeatable. With a 7.7 Y/A mark, Wilson is second in franchise history (minimum 300 attempts), a hair behind Kreig, who posted 7.8 Y/A on one more attempt than Wilson in 1986.
Adjust Y/A - Adjusted takes into account touchdowns and interceptions, along with yardage per attempt. Wilson's 7.8 mark is a touch behind 2005 Hasselbeck, who had 7.9 AY/A.
QB Rating - The merits of QB Rating is bandied about from "Something" to "Absolutely Nothing" and my opinion on it is that you will never find one number that quantifies how good a QB is. It's so much more than that. But I rarely see a bad QB with a high QB rating and a good QB with a low QB rating.
Hasselbeck's 98.2 rating in 2005 is the best in franchise history. Wilson is at 98.0.
Sacks - With fewer dropbacks, you'll see fewer sacks, naturally, but Wilson's elusiveness is obvious. Just for funsies though, Wilson has been sacked 27 times and has 374 pass attempts. Krieg attempted 243 passes in 1983, and was sacked 38 times. Dave Krieg was sacked a lot.
4QC and GWD - Eh, these stats are whatever. In the beginning of the season, we needed Wilson to complete 3 game-winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks. Only Krieg (1990) and Hasselbeck (2006) have more fourth quarter comebacks. But when you're good, you don't need that shit, it doesn't make Wilson worse for having obtained 30, 40, or 50 point leads.
Rushing yards for a QB - Nobody has more than Wilson's 431. His 3 TD's are behind Jim Zorn's 6 TD in 1978 and 4 TD in 1976.
Russell Wilson vs The Rookies
He's well ahead of any rookie ever drafted past round one, but when you throw in the first round, he's still right around the best numbers of all-time.
Wilson and Robert Griffin III are the only rookies to ever post a QB rating above 90 with a minimum of 300 attempts. Maybe this is where people have an issue with QB rating, because Cam Newton posted a 84.5 last season and Andrew Luck is at 75.6 this season. (I won't ignore interceptions though, because they are very costly. Wilson does not attempt as many passes as Luck, but he still throws an interception on a fewer percentage of pass attempts.)
I don't really know how to quantify every stat against the rest in rookie history, what do you want to know? That he is one touchdown shy of Peyton Manning for most as a rookie in NFL history and that Robert Griffin and Luck, the consensus top two phenoms, won't get there? That Manning had 28 interceptions that season? Ask me about a great quarterback and I can tell you what they did in their first season.
In Brady's first full season, after sitting for a year, he had 63.9% on 413 attempts, 2,843 yards, 18 TD and 12 INT in fifteen games. (And won a Super Bowl.)
In Drew Brees' first full season, after sitting for a year, he had 60.8% on 526 attempts, 3,284 yards, 17 TD and 16 INT with only 6.2 Y/A.
Who else is a guy that is "good" at "throwing the ball and stuff"?
In Aaron Rodgers' first full season, after sitting for three years, he had 63.6% on 536 attempts, 4,038 yards, 28 TD and 13 INT with 7.5 Y/A. In his fourth NFL season, after his fourth training camp and fourth preseason and fourth year to learn the plays and work with receivers, Rodgers had a lower Y/A, nearly identical completion percentage, almost the same amount of TD and INT.
Matt Ryan as a rookie: 61.1% on 434 attempts, 3,440 yards, 16 TD, 11 INT, 7.9 Y/A. Ryan posts a great Y/A and then regresses to 6.5 Y/A in each of the next two seasons.
Ben Roethlisberger, with the Steelers going 13-0 in his rookie starts, had 66.4% on 295 attempts, 2,621 yards, 17 TD and 11 INT with 8.9 Y/A. Maybe a tad high on the interceptions and he attempted even fewer passes per game than Wilson, but that's actually pretty damn good.
I can keep naming off quarterbacks, but the fact is that you will only need a minute to name the ones that had comparable rookie seasons to Wilson. Robert Griffin. Dan Marino. Cam Newton? Jim Kelly? Roethlisberger. Of course, we live in a new era of football. Quarterbacks have become more successful as rookies as coaches and franchises seem to have learned from past mistakes and understood better how to integrate a young player into the league at the most difficult position.
As time goes on, there will be more quarterbacks to put up seasons like the ones we are seeing right now from Wilson and Griffin. It's undeniable that Wilson has been given a lot of help this year from his coaches and players, lifting him to even greater heights than we could have imagined, but I also would not deny where Wilson has done his part in making those around him look better too. It's a marriage, a beautiful, beautiful marriage that hopefully won't end in divorce, I can't go through that again mom and dad.
There is always the chance that Wilson will take a step back from this season, we've seen it happen too many times before to ignore that one season does not make up a whole career. He could get better, he could get worse. But as far as 2012 goes, it is one of the five best in franchise history or in rookie history. That's something that will never be taken away from him.
And we haven't even started the playoffs yet.