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Russell Wilson’s flirtation with the exclusive 70% Club

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It’s a terrible picture, I know. The backs of 3 NFL quarterbacks ... What was FTR thinking?

Trust me, there is a method to the madness.

Allow me to tell the story of the 70% Club ... and how our very own Russell Carrington Wilson nearly joined that club last year.

Our story starts with Ken Anderson, a player who many would argue should be in the NFL Hall of Fame ... but isn’t. In 1982, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback completed 218 of his 309 pass attempts for a completion percentage of 70.6%. In doing so, he became the founding member of the NFL’s 70% Club.

Anderson was alone in the clubhouse for 7 years. Then Joe Montana walked in. Five years later, Steve Young joined them.

Fifteen years passed before the trio became a quartet.

Drew Brees added his name to the membership log, right next to Ken Anderson’s, by completing 363 of his 514 pass attempts for a 70.6% completion rate.

Two years later, Drew Brees completed 71.2% of his passes (468/657) to become the first (and still only) 2-time member of the 70% Club.

Sam Bradford pushed the number of members to 5 in 2016. Over the past 3 seasons, 5 more quarterbacks have joined the 70% Club: Kirk Cousins (2018), Derek Carr (2019), Ryan Tannehill (2019), Aaron Rodgers (2020), and Deshaun Watson (2020).

Note: Remember the picture choice? That picture was the only one I could find in our database that showed two members of the 70% Club + RW3. THAT is why I chose it.

Now let’s talk about Drew Brees and the nature of records.

In addition to the 2009 and 2011 seasons, Brees also completed at least 70% of his passes in each of his final 5 seasons (2016-2020). That means that he owns 7 of the 16 seasons that a QB has hit the 70% mark. SEVEN!

Since joining the 70% Club, Drew Brees has owned at least a share of the record for all but one year. He shared the record with Ken Anderson from 2009 to 2010, then set a new record in 2011 (71.2%) and owned the top spot outright for 5 years.

In 2016, Sam Bradford took over the top spot at 71.6% - but Bradford’s reign didn’t last; Brees completed 72% of his passes in 2017. Then he shattered his own record by completing 74.4% of his passes in 2018.

In 2019, Brees proved that his record wasn’t a fluke by completing 74.3% of his passes. And, in his final season, he went 275 of 390 for a 70.5% completion rate.

That is a Hall of Fame career.

Next, let’s look at something that I intentionally glossed over when I revealed/listed the members of the 70% Club.

Chronologically, admission to the 70% Club looks like this: 1982, 1989, 1994, 2009, 2011, 2016 (x2), 2017, 2018 (x2), 2019 (x3), 2020 (x3).

Using Russell Wilson’s draft year as a pivot point:

  • The 70% mark was topped 5 times in the 3 decades prior to 2012
  • It has been topped 11 times in the single decade since then, including 6 times in the last 2 years; and 8 times in the last 3
  • In the last 5 years, Club membership has increased 150% (from 4 members to 10)

Want proof that the league is evolving?

This could be Exhibit A.

Worth Noting: The only players in the 70% Club who have a higher career average than Russell Wilson are Brees (67.7%), Cousins (67.0%), and Watson (67.8%). Rodgers is tied with RW3 at 65.1%.

Now, let’s talk about Russell Wilson and how close he came to (a) joining the 70% Club last year, and (b) topping Drew Brees’ record.

Here are the combined numbers for each “quarter” of the 2020 season:

  • Q1: Games 1-4: 103 of 137; 75.2%
  • Q2: Games 5-8: 108 of 160; 67.5%
  • Q3: Games 9-12: 94 of 139; 67.6%
  • Q4: Games 13-16: 79 of 122; 64.8%

Add those up and you get a combined stat line that reads: 384 of 558; 68.8%

Some context:

  • With just 7 more completions, Wilson would have become the 11th member of the 70% Club (391/558 = 70.1%)
  • With 32 more completions, RW3 would have finished the year 416 of 558 which is a completion percentage of 74.55% ... which would have broken the record.

I know what you’re thinking. I know because I thought it too:

7 more completions seems like it might have been doable, but there is NO WAY that Russ could have completed 32 additional passes on the same number of throws - especially the way the season went. It’s just NOT possible. Is it?

I’ll leave you with this:

Per PFF, Seattle’s route-runners dropped a number of catchable passes last year.

That number was ...