Tom Brady thrived as a senior quarterback in the Big 10. His team’s championship hopes were seriously wounded on a close loss to Michigan State, immediately followed by another loss that completely crushed them. He went into the draft as a successful college QB who fell in the draft for physical “limitations.” He won a Super Bowl during his second season in the NFL. He was called a “game manager” for years.
He adapted, he learned new tricks, and he’s en route to winning his third MVP trophy at age 40. How many similarities can be made to Russell Wilson and what could we expect now that Wilson is transitioning into becoming the entire Seattle Seahawks offense?
As of Saturday, Wilson is the NFL leader in total yards per game (passing+rushing), just a fraction of a yard ahead of Brady.
For years, Wilson thrived in the record books as a quarterback who ranked among the all-time leaders in rate stats, percentages, and efficiency like passer rating and yards per attempt. This had his doubters claiming that he could not carry an offense and that Wilson only “looked” like a quality starter because of Marshawn Lynch and an elite defense. Well, Wilson has no run game (outside of himself) and the defense is losing starters faster than comedy nerds are losing heroes. And as Wilson rises up the leaderboards to be second in pass attempts/game behind only Brady (three more passes than Wilson, total), he’s mostly thriving.
If it seems as though Wilson is throwing more interceptions than usual, consider that he has seven picks in 10 games and that as a rookie he had 10 interceptions on just 393 attempts. Wilson has already attempted 377 passes this season. Wilson’s 1.9% interception percentage is nothing like current Brady (0.5%) but it is practically league average and Wilson should be expected to go through growing pains as he increases his attempts from 30.2 per game in 2015 to 37.7 per game this season.
After all, we can compare Wilson now to Brady now for all types of valid reasons, but we should also compare him to Brady at the same age and level of experience. Though Brady started his career a little more than a decade before Wilson (and prior to the Drew Brees-to-Saints hallmark moment of 2006 that changed football), it’s fair to compare them as Wilson is probably doing the same. Wilson is a smart guy and obsessive about getting better, so it would make sense that he’d be following the decisions and preparation techniques of someone like Brady, young or old.
Tom Brady age 28-29:— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) November 25, 2017
32G, 32.6 att/game, 62.4%, 50 TD, 26 INT, 7.3 Y/A, 238.7 Y/G, rating of 90.1
Russell Wilson age 28-29:
26G, 35.5 att/game, 63.8%, 42 TD, 18 INT, 7.6 Y/A, 270 Y/G, rating of 94
With six more games to go before the end of his age 29 season, Wilson is already taking on a bigger part of his team’s offense (which doesn’t even take into account here that Wilson is Seattle’s leading rusher and will probably finish the season that way) than Brady and having better rate stats to boot. Brady’s age 28-29 seasons were 2005-2006, so that means they also happened during seasons in which New England made the playoffs but missed the Super Bowl.
Then 2007 happened and the Patriots came within moments of a 19-0 season.
During Brady’s age 30 season, he threw 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 117.2 passer rating, 8.3 Y/A, 16-0 record, and of course, MVP. Of course, New England also added Randy Moss (23 touchdowns) and Wes Welker that year, so the Seahawks may need to make some more adjustments on that side of the ball for Wilson to enjoy similar success. (Not excluding offensive line changes, but if they are retaining Duane Brown, who is under contract for 2018, and keep Luke Joeckel or get someone above-average at left guard, they might not be far off 2007 Patriots’ line.)
I’m sure that Pete Carroll wants to enjoy rushing success again, especially given the reminder that the New Orleans Saints have given everyone on how valuable an unstoppable ground game is compared to 50 pass attempts, but for now he has little choice but to keep it in Wilson’s hands. He may not throw 50 touchdowns, but he’s getting the attempts needed to try.