A lot of fans have grown tired of not just the constant comparisons of Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, but also all the talk about the comparison of Wilson to Luck. But this is not a concept that’s new to the NFL, by any means. Fans have been comparing who has the better QB since the beginning of football, but what is new is that the Seattle Seahawks have never had a QB worth mentioning in such debates.
Matt Hasselbeck may be my favorite Seahawks of all-time, but nobody would have ever mistaken him for a “Tier I QB.” At most, we just hoped that national media would give him any recognition at all, while your most consistent debate may have been how he compared to Jake Delhomme.
Dave Krieg may get underrated nationally these days, but his peers were guys like Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, John Elway, and Warren Moon. There’s no comparison.
Finally it seems like Seattle has a quarterback worth putting into the debates and as soon as he gets there ... we want to stop having the debate? What is this, the (2016 political reference)? Wilson is one of the best QBs in the NFL and worth putting up head-to-head against any QB in the league today, so I think fans should embrace that rather than shy away because we’ve never been there before. And the QBs he’s going to mostly get compared to are his peers like Luck, Cam Newton, and perhaps someday soon, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, or Matthew Stafford. But even then you look at that list and should realize that only three or four QBs stay consistently worthy of that talk for more than a few years.
There are only so many guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Ben Roethlisberger, who are currently the only members of Tier 1 in Mike Sando’s QB Tier Rankings for 2016. What are those?
The voting panel for our third annual NFL QB Tier Rankings consisted of 42 league insiders -- 10 general managers, five head coaches, seven offensive coordinators, five defensive coordinators, eight personnel evaluators and seven other position coaches/executives.
I polled coaches and evaluators on 33 QBs, asking them to place each player into one of five tiers, with Tier 1 reserved for the very best and Tier 5 reserved for the very worst:
Tier 1: Can carry his team each week. Team wins because of him.
Tier 2: Can carry team sometimes but not as consistently.
Tier 3: Legit starter but needs heavy run game/defense to win.
Tier 4: Might not want this guy starting all 16 games.
Tier 5: Do not think this guy should be starting.
Last year, Luck ranked third in this poll, while Wilson was eighth. It’s a pretty significant difference. But Wilson was coming off of a down season (95 QB rating, 20 TDs) despite the fact that he went to his second straight Super Bowl, while Luck had just led the NFL in touchdowns and averaged a higher Y/A than Wilson. This was the pundits best chance to strike in the debate of “Luck v Wilson,” a match that Luck defenders are not going to stop fighting any time soon because it was only back in 2012 that they said Luck would be one of the greatest QBs of all-time while Wilson would probably never make it as a starting QB in this league. (Count me among those who would have agreed that was much more likely than the vice versa.)
But now it’s Wilson’s opportunity to strike while the iron’s hot, or at least, while Luck’s horseshoe is cold.
Wilson has moved up to sixth in Sando’s latest rankings while Luck fell to seventh following a season in which he had a rating of 74.9 in seven games. Here’s some of what was said about the Seahawks’ QB:
"Watching how bad their offensive line was last year and watching him have to overcome it and consistently make plays with his feet and arm is what convinced me," a personnel director said. "Who are his weapons? Marshawn was beat up last year. Jimmy Graham got hurt. They have an average corps of wideouts with a competitive, gritty, tough slot receiver who he trusts. So it's not like he has elite weapons, and that is what got me over the hump."
Wilson does have a league-high 20 victories since 2012 in games when his team was tied or trailed by one score in fourth quarters, counting playoffs.
"I put him as a 1," said a defensive coordinator who has faced Seattle multiple times in recent seasons. "The kid is a winner and not a guy you want to go up against. He is extremely, extremely gifted as a leader and a winner. Yeah, as a quarterback, you can point to this and that, but when you look at the whole job description of the position, he is a 1."
You could argue that Wilson should be higher, but the five QBs ahead of him are all pretty good so it’s not worth arguing about. I believe he’s clearly better than Newton, but might as well just let this season play out and see who does a better job of following up their historic 2015 campaigns. However, the bias towards erring on the side of “He’s definitely great you guys, let’s not start giving in now otherwise our 2012 predictions will look even worse” with Luck is clearly still giving him a huge bump in these rankings.
Luck was 32nd in passer rating last season. His stats were comparable to Nick Foles, who has since been released and relegated to backup duty for the foreseeable future. I can’t argue against the idea that Luck certainly looks like a franchise QB in the way he carries himself and throws the football, or that I don’t love his personality, work ethic, and attitude, or that I too would be hard-pressed to pass him up if starting a franchise, but the evidence still isn’t there that Luck is a top-10 QB right now. Is there anything to suggest he’s better than Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer, or even Andy Dalton, Stafford, Carr, or Alex Smith, at this point? I think you could make a pretty defensible argument that as of today, Luck is the 24th-best QB in the NFL or so. Not saying that’s where I would rank him, but I could definitely do it and make a good argument for why he’s there. You’d have a tougher time defending him at 7th, I think, as long as you were able to remove the fact that he was the first overall pick once upon a time, and deemed the next Peyton Manning.
It’s great to see that Wilson has moved ahead of Luck on the lists of more people today than he was a year ago, but for him to be only one spot behind him it means that there’s still a lot of lists out there that are getting it dead wrong.