Over the past several seasons, three young quarterbacks have emerged as glimmers of hope for their respective franchises.
The search for these cornerstone players is not easy. Teams spend thousands of hours scouting and studying a quarterback's every move, and then must ultimately decide if they believe the player is worth the valuable draft capital needed to acquire him or that large portion of the team's salary cap space to sign or retain him. Psychological exams, thorough background checks, and numerous skill exercises -- the scouts and coaches leave no stone unturned.
Unlike other positions around the league, talent at the quarterback position is uniquely scarce. Teams are desperate for competent leaders at the position (both on and off the field), so much so that they will overpay massively for mediocre talent.
Players like Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick and others have received contracts much higher than their expected value of contribution to the team. Without a strong quarterback at the helm, any hopes of Super Bowl chances are greatly diminished. Of course, teams have started to work around this: building up defenses to be so elite that they virtually carry the incompetent-quarterbacked team to a Super Bowl. See example one: Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Teams will do anything for a quarterback. Some say that if the Russell Wilson negotiations had broken down and the QB was allowed to enter free agency - Russell would have made $30M+ APY on the open market. And I believe it's safe to say those projections wouldn't be far off. If Brock, Kaep, and other mediocre talents are valued in the $18M APY range, then a stud quarterback's value is significantly more on an open market.
The three young quarterbacks I alluded to above that have leaped to the NFL's front stage are Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton. After a down year for Luck, many NFL fans are starting to look the way of Wilson and Newton as the next Brady versus Manning debate. When comparing quarterbacks statistically, it's easy to throw around often false, shallow media talking points that fail to contribute to intellectual discussion. And you know exactly what I'm talking about:
"Wilson is only good because of his defense."
It's takes like these that rarely contribute to a valuable discussion. A more appropriate, well though-out take might look like the following:
"The Seahawks' defense is one of the most menacing, impactful defenses the NFL has seen in a while. Their contributions clearly play a valuable role towards the success of the team."
But those takes take too much work. Too much thinking. And too much logic. I'm of the opinion that there's no unflawed, statistically perfect method of comparing quarterback play. However, I do think that analyzing a variety of factors and statistics that aid and explain quarterback play can serve as strong foundations to credible arguments. No stat is perfect, but a combination of statistics is better than none.
With that context understood, I compiled a list of statistics aided by the data provided from Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders. I actually posted this on twitter a few months back, but I figured an explanation behind these images would be conducive to some better discussion. I'm going to hold back any of my own commentary over these statistics - as I believe it's important for everyone to analyze the data and make conclusions for themselves (whichever side they land on).
So without further ado, I present to you a combination of statistics comparing Russell Wilson to the other top two young quarterbacks in this league.
(NOTE: the stats compared in the Luck and Wilson graphic are combined statistics throughout their first four seasons. For Wilson and Cam, it's 2012-2015 (due to Cam's extra year in the league). It's not perfect - but it's just what I went with.)
Wilson versus Luck:
Wilson versus Newton:
One more thing - I ran across a really impressive stat on twitter this morning and thought you might enjoy it:
Russell Wilson (8.11) is the only QB with YPA above 8.0 since 2012 (min. 750 attempts including playoffs).— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) May 23, 2016