clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Russell Wilson is better, part I: Wilson vs the still youngish-but-good QBs

You don't have to prove that you're better than anyone else. But it's still fun.


The "my dad could beat up your dad" argument has been waged since... well, since yesterday when this dweeb had this loser-ass dad that my dad would kick the shit out of. He was super lame.

What's not super lame is comparing quarterbacks, not unlike how we compare dads. Not many hours, or, MAN-Hours as I like to call them (grunt grunt grunt grunt) have been spent debating which NFL team has the best guards, linebackers, or even left tackles (despite the high value of that position) but for as long as football as been popular in America, fans have argued quarterbacks.

"Who is elite?"

"Who is the best?"

"Who is EJ Manuel?"

For most of Seattle franchise history, our fans have rightfully had no right to debate whether or not the Seahawks had an elite quarterback. Though Dave Krieg and Matt Hasselbeck have had their moments -- Krieg is still top-15 all-time in completions, yards, and touchdowns, while Hasselbeck totally owned that fake snake once -- fans have been forced to cast light on other subjects in football. Like how Seattle has the loudest stadium, the richest owner (and the richest coffee blends, featuring a hint of oak, timber, and rich mahogany), or most majestic mascot.

Plus, Bo Jackson totally owned that fake linebacker once.

Well, that was all before Russell Wilson showed up. For most of the last two years, Wilson has been more than just an excellent source of inspiration, and a heartwarming story of perseverance, homey can also play dat. Wilson is already a Pro Bowl QB, a Super Bowl-winning QB, and has done things through two seasons that only a couple of other players in league history can also claim. In fact, after only two seasons, he's already fourth in franchise history in touchdown passes.

Every rate stat has him well-ahead of anyone else that's ever played the position for Seattle, including Krieg and Hasselbeck, and it's not even close. But how does Wilson compare to other young quarterbacks around the league? Rather than simply answer that question for myself, an admittedly-biased Wilson fan who doesn't spend nearly as much time watching other players, I asked some bloggers around SB Nation.

First, let's eliminate some quarterbacks and teams from contention.

Quarterbacks who are "too old" to bother making the comparison with: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer

I don't think that Rodgers is too old. I think every team should want to start with Rodgers. And since I don't want to lose any debate, I'm skipping him.

If you wanted to just win over the next couple of years and your only guarantee would be to pick a QB, ignoring anything else like skill players and defense, then you may want to take Manning, Brady, or Brees over Wilson. But only if those were your only qualifiers. Roethlisberger, Romo, and Rivers aren't too bad, but when you combine every factor into the equation -- age, money, style of play -- I don't think it's worth much of a debate.

Eli and Palmer, just no, really.

Quarterbacks whom only a fool would take over Wilson: Ryan Tannehill, Geno Smith, EJ Manuel, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Johnny Manziel, Jake Locker, Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, any Vikings QB, any Bucs QB, Sam Bradford

Let this be a reminder to you that the AFC is a lot less talented than the NFC.

You could argue that Flacco just had one "bad season" and Dalton had just one "bad game" but why would you take the most overpaid QB in the NFL over Wilson? They have the same number of Super Bowl wins, but one costs considerably less and has much better stats. As for Dalton, Wilson is better and slightly further away from getting paid.

And even as a fan of Cutler's abilities like I am, we're again at a standstill in terms of payment balanced with abilities, but with the added bonus of youth. No sane* person would take any of these quarterbacks, all things considered, over Wilson.

*Excludes the Browns, of course.

Let's start today's debate with a couple of highly-rated, highly-skilled, highly-paid under-30 quarterbacks:

Matthew Stafford, Lions

Me: "Why would you rather have Matthew Stafford over Russell Wilson, and/or why is Stafford better?"

Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit:

The Lions have built their offense to be a passing threat more than anything. They have some talented running backs in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, but their offense is built around beating defenses through the air. I suppose that's what happens when you have Calvin Johnson, but for what the Lions are trying to do, Matthew Stafford is a perfect fit. He's got a big arm and he isn't afraid to go for the big play. Granted, that came back to bite the Lions quite a bit the last two seasons, but when he's on his game, it's beautiful to watch (see 2011, when he threw for 41 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards).

Now, to be perfectly honest, if we could go back in time and have Stafford and Wilson swap teams, I'd probably say yes to that simply because of their respective contracts. I know Wilson is in line for a big extension here soon, but the Lions drafted Stafford in the era of the old CBA. As a result, he got a monster contract right from the start, and combined with Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh -- they also got big contracts as rookies -- it's been tough for the Lions to navigate the salary cap. They've had to constantly restructure deals, which is why Suh now has a ridiculous $22.4 million cap hit and Stafford has already received a massive extension.

Simply based on what they do on the field and how the Lions have set up their offense, Stafford seems to be the better fit in Detroit. I'm sure Russell Wilson could adapt to a pass-first team like the Lions if he had to, but they've really built their offense around having a quarterback like Stafford -- someone with a big arm who can fit the ball into small windows and create opportunities for Megatron (and now Golden Tate) to take over the game.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about Stafford is that he is less than a year older than Wilson. He is one of the most experienced under-26 players in league history, and in fact only Drew Bledsoe attempted more career passes before he turned 26 than Stafford's 2,497 attempts. Only Dan Marino and Peyton Manning have thrown more touchdown passes before their 26th birthday, than Stafford's 109 career scores.

In fact, Manning's career numbers at that point in his life are barely any better than Stafford's right now:

Manning's first 64 games: 2,226 attempts, 61% completions, 111 TD, 81 INT, 85.1 rating

Stafford's first 61 games: 2,497 attempts, 59% completions, 109 TD, 73 INT, 83.1 rating

Yes, Stafford has Calvin Johnson, but Manning had Marvin Harrison. Few people get too far in this league without some help, and Stafford could be a lot worse. As far as top pick quarterbacks go, he could be a lot worse. And his numbers could look even more impressive if he didn't play in only 13 of a possible 32 games over his first two seasons. He has not missed a start over the last three years however, and in that time Stafford ranks first in attempts, second in completions, second in yards, and fifth in touchdowns.

When you look at the total package, perhaps Stafford is still at the early stages of a Hall of Fame-level career. However...

Why Russell Wilson is better:

In that same period of time as mentioned above, Stafford has also thrown 52 interceptions, the second-most behind only Eli Manning, and is only 13th in yards per attempt. He's just 11th in QB rating and the Lions are just 21-27 over the last three years.

"But it's not his fault that Detroit sucks!"

Do they not actually have a very talented roster? Would you expect them to go 21-27 with many other starters in this league? In fact only two regular starters over the last three years have worse records than Stafford: Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick. When the Lions collapsed in 2013 and Jim Schwartz got himself fired, Stafford threw 12 interceptions in a seven game period in which Detroit went 1-6. Four of those losses were by three points or less, and in three of those four games, Stafford threw multiple interceptions.

Even as someone who would like to see the Lions do well, and roots for Stafford to do well, and thinks one day he could do very well, I have to be honest when I say that it makes me wonder what Ryan Leaf would look like if he had been plopped onto the Lions as a rookie in 2011, and got to play with Calvin Johnson, instead of on the Chargers in 1998 with Charlie and Freddie Jones.

Stafford might be the prototype from a physical standpoint, but everything else so far in their careers is "Advantage, Wilson."

Wilson is better and I'd rather have Wilson.

Matt Ryan, Falcons

Me: "Why would you rather have Matt Ryan over Russell Wilson, and/or why is Ryan better?"

Dave Choate from The Falcoholic:

Allow me to put on my helmet first.

Why would I rather have Matt Ryan than Russell Wilson? On paper, this is a tough argument to make, mostly because Russell Wilson is younger, cheaper and has a Super Bowl ring. But I think looking at Ryan's career arc helps make the case for me.

Like Wilson, Ryan started of his career on a team with a potent ground attack, which set him up for a lot of success. While he gets knocked for his dependence on his weapons even now, Ryan is a confident passer who can take hits, a valuable and quiet leader in the same way Wilson is, and his arm and decision-making are extremely underrated.

If you toss aside the Super Bowl ring—which is a tremendous thing to have, but not necessarily an indication of a quarterback's superiority over another—Ryan has put up fantastic numbers and has consistently led the Falcons to the playoffs over his years in the NFL, and he's still just 29 and in the prime of his career.

I think this is close, and I wouldn't necessarily bet against Wilson surpassing Ryan's career when all is said and done. Given Ryan's strong track record, however, I'd still take him.

Dave makes it tough because right off the bat he concedes that maybe Wilson is the better quarterback to have, and maybe when one day looking overall at their careers, the better player. But let's take an even closer look at Matt Ryan.

Stretching back to the last four years, Ryan is tied with Rivers for fifth in touchdown passes, fourth in yards, ninth in passer rating, sixth in completion percentage, and fifth in wins. While "wins" may not be a great "stat" for "quarterbacks," I do think that not losing is a very important trait to have. Great quarterbacks simply lose less often than average or bad quarterbacks.

The Falcons had never made back-to-back playoff appearances in franchise history until Ryan took them to three straight postseasons from 2010-2012. Two of their three highest win total seasons have come under Ryan, winning 13 games in both 2010 and 2012. Playing with a "full deck" of skill players in 2012, Ryan set franchise records with 32 touchdowns and 4,719 yards.

In that respect, Ryan is not unlike Wilson. He is easily the best quarterback in franchise history. And since he doesn't turn 30 until next May, it's possible that even though he only has one playoff win in six years, Ryan will finish career with a number of awards and trophies.

That being said...

Why Russell Wilson is better:

Ryan beat Wilson in the playoffs last year for his first postseason win, so Wilson responded by winning his next three playoff games and a Super Bowl. But since "quarterbacks don't beat quarterbacks" let's just go to the numbers.

Going back to the last four years, Ryan is a top 10 player in many categories but why is he only 16th in yards per attempt? A subdued offense run by guys like Dirk Koetter and Mike Mularkey? Sounds like "mularkey" to me...

Ryan attempted 615 passes in 2012, and though he did set those franchise records, is that the best bang-for-your-buck? Only 7.7 yards per attempt, with 14 interceptions, and you play with Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, and Michael Turner? Arguably a more talented cast of receivers and tight ends than what Peyton Manning had in Denver last year.

With Jones and White on the mend last year, Ryan threw the ball even more, but had fewer touchdowns, fewer yards, more interceptions, and a more Flacco-like 6.9 yards per attempt, and the team lost as many games as they did the year before they drafted Ryan.

Over the last two years, only Manning and Rodgers have a higher Y/A than Wilson. Only those two and Nick Foles have a higher passer rating. And while Ryan has thrown six more touchdowns than Wilson in that time, he's also thrown 12 more interceptions. And he's done it with Jones, White, and Gonzalez, while Wilson has not had a three potential Hall of Fame talents at his disposal.

On paper, the question of who a team would rather have is rather easy. But as far as who is better?

Russell Wilson is better and I'd also rather have Russell Wilson.

Coming up next... The NFC East