This all started with him. It was innocent really. Two star-crossed quarterbacks just trying to make it in this crazy, mixed-up league. Two young people, kids really, with nothing and everything to prove. Intrinsically tied to one another for seemingly the rest of their careers, they barely play in the same universe. The two Q's.
The two cueees.
"The two whats?!"
Oh sorry. The two Q-Bs, the quarterbacks, they met for the first time only last October. Twasn't only the leaves that would fall that day.
The winner that week would end up being the steely- no. The stoic- no. The handso- haha, no. The winner that day ended up being the taller one. The heralded one. The gold, the future, and if not "the one," then at least, "the next one." Nothing that happened that day would do anything other than solidify Andrew Luck's position as the best under-30 quarterback in the NFL and the first player that any franchise would take if they could start from scratch today.
Or so they say.
The loser, Russell Wilson, used the loss as motivation and kept restive over the final 11 games of the season. Luck had ruined his perfect seasonne, but the Seahawks won seven in a row after the loss. We know what happened for both quarterbacks after that, through the Super Bowl, through the offseason, through the moments when many writers turned the Spring boredom into Summer discussion. Much of that discussion centered around Luck, Wilson, and their placement among the "elites."
Not since The Plastics of North Shore High School has group membership been so coveted.
Mike Sando said what he had to say on the matter, via secret ballot of NFL executives.
Ron Jaworski said what he had to say on the matter.
But most importantly, I Kenneth Arthur have almost finished saying what I have to say on the matter.
I contest that Wilson has proven himself better and more desirable to have under center than Matt, both Stafford and Ryan, than RGIII and NFI, than Cam'run, and most recently, than Colinfornia Kizzapitchen. And still one more remains, the most important one of all.
Even though Wilson and Kaepernick may meet, like, 10 times more often than Wilson and Luck will, the fact of the matter is that Kaepernick wasn't the gold, the future, the next big thing that was drafted 74 picks ahead of Wilson in 2012. Kaepernick's not the one that constantly seems to be the barrier between Wilson and the title of "best quarterback under 30." Wilson is stuck between a Luck and a hard place and even though that "hard place" is a goddamn Lombardi Trophy, for some, like Jaws, there are many quarterbacks more desirable than Wilson. And he'll never advance up their list, no matter what he does. No matter what he does.
I'm not going to get into a catfight and defend "mah man" against Jaws' hateful words, for that would be a time-waster. Instead, let's just focus on one final match.
Several weeks ago, longtime Stampede Blue (the Colts SB Nation site) managing editor Brad Wells went on a twitter rant (it wasn't his first) maintaining that Luck was so far ahead of Wilson in every aspect of the game that even discussing their abilities relative to one another would be an exercise in insanity. Wells went as far to say that even after winning a Super Bowl, John Schneider and Pete Carroll would trade Wilson for Luck without hesitation, inciting many Seattle fans to find out who Brad Wells was and why he was being so mean.
I met Wells in New York a couple of years ago and have nothing negative to say about him. He's always been very kind and helpful to me, and he is pretty much just as passionate about his team's quarterback as we are of ours; he just has a way of saying it more abrasively. I'm grateful that he did because it sparked an idea for me.
What if I reached out to him personally and asked him why he thought Andrew Luck was better than Russell Wilson and why he'd rather have Luck. Because I knew what reasons I have to defend Wilson over Luck, but I want to hear straight from the colt's mouth why Luck is so much better than Wilson, because nothing in the numbers were doing shit for Luck's case. Then I thought, "Why stop there? Why not reach out to a bunch of SB Nation writers and ask the same question, because there's certainly others out there besides Luck who are apparently also young and "better" than Wilson."
And so now we have the "Wilson is better" series that's been quite a thrill. Unfortunately, it will not include Brad Wells. Just as I was reaching out to writers the following week, it was announced that Wells was parting ways with Stampede Blue after eight years. We may never know for sure what Wells would have had to say to defend Luck as a QB in a class that Wilson could never reach (without citing height more than once), though maybe he will drop by the comments section and help push it to over 1,000 replies!
Instead I turned to Josh Wilson (with a name like that you know he's bound to get burned, am I right?) the new editor at Stampede Blue. Luck better than Wilson? Can't be true. But let's hear them out anyway.
Even if Luck is, in all honesty, a massive underdog.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The physics: 25 in September, 6'3, 235 lbs, and an arsenal of tools matched by few
The stats: 682-of-1197 in regular season career, 57% completions, 46 touchdowns, 27 interceptions, 6.8 yards per attempt, 81.5 passer rating, 125 rushing attempts for 632 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, and nine touchdowns. Last year Luck completed 60.2% of his passes while cutting his interceptions total in half from his rookie season but throwing the same number of touchdowns. He has made the Pro Bowl twice in two years, and won his first playoff game.
The question: "Andy Luck? Dat dood that's crouching down in Wilson's shadow over the last two years? Oh, that guy??? Tell me Josh, why the heck is Andrew Luck better than Russell Wilson and who in their right or left mind would NOT trade Luck for Wilson straight up, so that you could finally have a championship QB?"
Josh Wilson, Stampede Blue:
When we're talking about the best young quarterbacks in the NFL, the discussion has to start with Andrew Luck. While any first overall pick is going to have a lot of expectations to live up to, Luck has exceeded them in his first two years in the league. His arm is just as good as everyone thought and there has yet to be a throw I've seen that he really just couldn't make, but the most impressive thing about Luck hasn't been his passing (though that's been very) good but it's been a combination of things.
He has been phenomenal at maintaining his calm and leading the Colts back and in two seasons he has led eight fourth quarter comebacks and 11 game winning drives (including playoffs). He has that special quarterback trait that Colts head coach Chuck Pagano says is so important, and that's amnesia - he doesn't dwell on mistakes. He's incredibly smart and a natural leader, and the team embraced him as their leader from day one and he continues to pick up more responsibilities.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Andrew Luck, however, is that he is simply a playmaker. He doesn't run as much as many of the other quarterbacks, but he's just as effective (if not more so) when he does. He has a knack for scrambling for first downs or touchdowns and is a tough player. In fact, the Monday Morning Quarterback's Andy Benoit recently ranked him as the NFL's best running quarterback.
He has played behind a terrible offensive line but also has a knack for avoiding sacks, which has served incredibly important - no quarterback in the league over the past two seasons even comes close to taking the number of hits without being sacked that Luck has.
Luck has the complete package, and the perception of him around the league is beginning to show, such as when ESPN's Mike Sando ranked him in the tier one of quarterbacks and fifth overall after talking with "league insiders." With this debate of which quarterback you'd rather have I think we tend to often say one is good and the other is bad, and I don't think that's the case at all - the others, such as Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, etc. are all very good, but there's zero question in my mind that I'd take Luck over all of them if I were starting a franchise. He came to the worst team in the league and blew away expectations and has led them to two playoff seasons and several comeback wins despite the team's talent not being great. The sky is the limit for Andrew Luck, and there's not another quarterback in the league I'd rather have if I was starting a franchise.
The other quarterbacks are very good, but Andrew Luck is special.
Let's start with the expectations placed upon Luck as not only a first overall pick, but honestly the most hyped first overall pick since his predecessor, Peyton Manning.
Between 1965 and 1989, seven quarterbacks were draft first overall and four of them are in the Hall of Fame: Namath, Bradshaw, Elway, Aikman. When you reach that level of play, only one name is necessary. (Unfortunately for P Manning, he's got a wittle bwother that screwed up his legacy.) So does that mean that QBs that are picked first overall should be expected to be, if not Hall of Famers, then at least some of the best players of their generation?
Because right now P Manning is the only other first-overall-quarterback besides those four to be destined for the HoF. Since Aikman in '89, we've seen others fall by the wayside, guys like Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Tim Couch, Michael Vick, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, JaMarcus Russell, and Sam Bradford. You know ... two-namers. The best we've seen is Eli (sadly, a potential Hall of Famer), Stafford, Newton, and Peyton, with Vick and Bledsoe having their moments.
Yet surprisingly, P Manning seems to be well-ahead of every other QB drafted first overall. Out of 10 combined first-team All-Pro appearances by this group, Manning owns seven of them. No other QB that went first made more than one AP first-team All-Pro list. Manning has 19 more career wins than Elway, and 60 more than Bradshaw. He has 191 more touchdown passes than anyone else on the list. Among a list of players that had the highest expectations placed on them of all time, the absolute mega-hype train, Manning stands alone.
And it's by simply a sheer act of bad luck (as far as we know) that Andrew Luck happens to be following him. If Manning doesn't hurt his neck, then Luck is playing for the Rams, Redskins, Browns, or someone else. But he did. So not only did Luck enter the draft as probably the most talented prospect we've seen in almost 15 years, but he had to follow the very player to last carry those expectations.
Somehow he is living up them, so far.
Through Manning's first two seasons, he attempted 1,108 passes, completed 59.3% of those, for 7,874 yards, 52 touchdowns, 43 interceptions, and a rating of 80.6. The Colts went 16-16. On 89 more attempts through two years, Luck's completion percentage is a bit lower, his Y/A are a bit lower, he's got six fewer touchdowns, but he's passed for an NFL-record 8,196 yards with 16 fewer interceptions than what Manning had. Also, Indy has gone 22-10, and Luck is responsible for a significant portion of those wins because overall the team is fairly sucky
If they didn't play in the AFC South, then I don't think the Colts would be going to the playoffs in either of the last two years. But Luck doesn't choose his schedule and he's done very well against it. Many, many quarterbacks have done very, very worse with much, much more opportunity. He's also been sacked 73 times, which is more than double the number of sacks that Manning incurred through two years. Also, Luck isn't a better runner than Peyton Manning.
Because that would be like saying that Ryan Gosling has nicer abs than I do. Gosling has stuff you'd call "abs" and I don't even have anything like that under my seven layers of winter blubber. Luck is a really good runner, and Manning isn't one at all. This is evidenced by the fact that Luck already has almost as many rushing yards as Manning. Not in their first two seasons, but in their entire careers. By the third game of his third season, Luck will have run for more career yards than what Manning has in 16 seasons.
Andrew Luck has been all of these things:
- A very good quarterback among all players since 2012
- One of the greatest first-two-year quarterbacks in NFL history
- A playoff-winning quarterback
- The type of player that does shine in the box scores, but probably shines even more on film
and finally ...
- As overrated as Joseph Gordon-Levitt
I wasn't done with questions for Josh. I had to know more. I shot back an email asking him if he thought that Luck was being overrated, and cast in a certain light among executives and analysts because of what people kept expecting of him rather than what he actually has been.
Yeah, it's really tough to look at Luck and not think he's going to have one of those careers that maybe only two or three guys have per decade. That being said, do you think that he gets overrated, even slightly, based on the fact that he's Andrew Luck? By that I mean, I don't think Sando did him any favors by calling him a tier I quarterback already (or maybe not Sando specifically, but the people he spoke to collectively) when you could argue that Tom Brady wasn't "elite" until his seventh season in the league. Drew Brees wasn't until he went to New Orleans. Aaron Rodgers sat for a few years (though not by any fault of his own.) Maybe the only player that could have been considered elite out of the gate was Peyton Manning, after he had gotten a ton of interceptions out of the way in the first few games of his career. But I'd argue that Manning in 1999 was miles better than Luck in 2013. And yes, I'm using your own hero against you. Should you start a franchise with Luck today? Very probably. Is he already on the same level of Manning, Rodgers, Brees, Brady? Is that fair?
That's a low blow, using Peyton Manning against me like that! It's no secret that I'm a huge Manning fan, and I won't disagree with you at all when you say that Manning's 1999 season (his second year) was better than Luck's was in 2013 (his second year).
I don't think Luck is quite on the level that guys like Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees are today, and in response to Sando's piece, I would have put Luck in the upper part of tier two with the disclaimer that I expect him to get into tier one this year. Is he overrated by some people? I say it's both yes and no.
I think people can tend to overrate him in the fact that they base their argument about how Luck has done so far on his potential and not his actual play. Luck's play alone has done enough to merit consideration in this discussion and, in my opinion, put him first, but people can overrate him by placing too much on potential - in a sense, rating him on what they expect him to develop into instead of what he currently is. At the same time, however, I don't think he's overrated as much because people often compare him to guys like Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees as they are now, and Luck is only entering his third year. If they compared Luck to those quarterbacks through two years they'd find that he's ahead of all of them but Manning, and even then it's close.
So I guess I'd say that people place a lot on potential rather than his actual play (which is understandable), but if you factor in the consideration that he's only played two years, I don't think he's overrated that much. Some, probably, but I think he also gets the extra scrutiny that comes with being the number one overall pick, so it evens out a bit.
You saw me say it right there, that Luck has the chance to be one of the most special players of his generation. Is he the player that you'd draft first right now if every NFL player was for the taking? He'd probably be the most popular answer to that question, and it's hard to argue against it.
Last year, Luck lost his top receiver and top tight end to injuries, but the offense adjusted and a more subdued Andrew Luck was more efficient as a passer in every way other than Y/A. In that realm, he went down to just 6.7 Y/A, which was tied with Ryan Tannehill for 26th in the league. This season, Luck should see the return of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen, but also TY Hilton and Coby Fleener gained important experience as they became more involved due to the absence of those other players. Additionally, Hakeem Nicks is a massive upgrade over Darrius Hey-where'd-the-ball-go-Bey.
If Luck does not start to put up those "elite type" numbers that his "elite" mates are putting up, with that supporting cast, then people will probably have to lean heavier on arguments that his talents simply don't show up in the box scores like some others do. We can call it "The Troy Aikman defense" if you like.
Despite the interceptions difference, Luck is a few paces behind where Manning was at this stage of his career. In Manning's second season (and at a year younger than where Luck is now) he was a much easier choice for being "elite." By his third year, Manning was the best quarterback in the NFL.
This isn't about Manning versus Luck, it's about Wilson versus Luck, but it's also about scrutiny. It's about expectations. It's about adjusting expectations. It's about stubbornness. It's about change. It's about views, and scouting, and word-of-mouth, and bias.
That's right, it's about all of the reasons that Luck is still considered to be a better quarterback than Wilson.
I know Brad Wells says that the Seahawks would trade Wilson for Luck in a heartbeat, but that's something that I would be quick to shoot down. Seattle has zero reason to do that deal, because they've proven they can win a Super Bowl with Wilson and Wilson has done nothing to intimate he won't be a great, great talent. So it seems like the two sides are far apart when comparing the two players. Some Seahawks fans would put Luck ahead of Wilson slightly, many would have Wilson over Luck. But in Indy it seems like everyone has Luck way, way ahead of Wilson.
Statistically, Wilson is well ahead of Luck after two years. That being said, if the two players were swapped over the last two years, I'm sure that Luck would have benefited greatly over the time with better field position. Though, I think it's weird that people say Wilson has a better "supporting cast" because he has one of the worst offensive lines, and I'm not sure if Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin and Sidney Rice are better than Reggie Wayne (for a year) and TY Hilton and Dwayne Allen (for a year) and Coby Fleener. Wayne and Hilton might be the two best receivers on that list for 2012-2013. I think Wilson's decision-making, arm, legs, leadership are all underrated. Most see him as a player of opportunity because of his height, but if nobody knew what anyone's height was, I wonder what they'd be saying about him. In the games, it's clear that he makes the same plays as any good QB that's 6'3 or what have you. Sorry, I don't think I even asked a question that time! Just spitballing.
I totally agree. Like I said in my first email, I think many tend to argue so much for one guy that they end up implying that the other isn't good. In this case, I think Wilson is the second best among the young quarterbacks to only Luck, because, like you said, he's proven himself and has done very well. I think it's one of those things where both teams are extremely happy with who they have. Just because I think Luck is better doesn't mean I think Wilson is bad, just like when I argue Peyton Manning is better than Tom Brady it doesn't mean that Brady is bad, just that I think Manning is better. Without any hesitation I think that Luck is the better quarterback, but I think Wilson is one heck of a QB too and I think he's a tremendous talent. And the thing I'm adamant about telling people about is that I'm very confident these two quarterbacks will face off in a Super Bowl very soon, perhaps even this year.
There's no rule that says you must choose "one." There can be lots of "ones" and you might get away with anything from 10-20 decent choices at quarterback to start your season with today. In fact, several different quarterbacks in NFL history have won a Super Bowl. You're thinking, "No, only Trent Dilfer has!" but there were others. Wilson has one. Luck could, and probably will, have one too.
If I choose Wilson and someone else (a lot one's else) choose Luck, that's fine. There isn't a right answer.
But then again there is a right answer, and it's Russell Wilson.
If you didn't know anything about football or the NFL but enjoyed numbers and statistics and I asked you to start naming off the best young quarterbacks in NFL history based on independent research absent of narrative like "size" and "expectations" then Wilson's name would come up a lot more often than Luck's. If Wilson was a top five pick, would there be so much constant question as to his belonging to these lists? Are people really that stubborn?
- Only 15 quarterbacks in NFL history have thrown for over 6,000 yards through their first two seasons. Wilson is one of them (6,475 yards) but of the other 14, all but three were first round picks. Two of those three are special exceptions that got late starts: Jeff Garcia and Warren Moon. The other, Andy Dalton, was picked 35th overall, just shy of the first round. Wilson, picked 75th, has to work that much harder to prove he belongs.
- Only Dan Marino has thrown more touchdowns through two seasons than Wilson's 52. Which is tied with Peyton Manning for second. But with 24 fewer interceptions.
- With a minimum of 600 pass attempts, only Marino has a higher passer rating through two years than Wilson's 100.6.
- Wilson is the only player in NFL history to post two 100-rating seasons in his first two years.
- Wilson and Manning are the only players to throw for at least 26 touchdowns in each of their first two seasons.
- With a minimum of 400 attempts, only seven players have posted a higher Y/A than Wilson has. Of those seven, four are in the Hall of Fame. Two more, Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger, are possibly on their way. The other is Daunte Culpepper.
- None of whom faced questions because of their height, though Warner also shared a lot of doubt, and still does, because of his situation rather than his ability or numbers.
- Through two seasons, Wilson has 20 career games (including playoffs) with a passer rating of at least 100. Which is FOUR MORE than any other QB EVER. It's eight more than every other QB ever except Marino, Palmer, and Roethlisberger.
Only Marino had more 2-TD games (25) than Wilson (18.) Luck, try valiantly as he might, was just behind Wilson with 17 such games. And the Seahawks are a running team.
Only Roethlisberger had more 8.0 Y/A games (20) than Wilson (19.) That's not a category that Luck is in the top 100 of. His four career such games are two fewer than what Tim Tebow had in his first two seasons. (Sorry for pulling the Tebow card, but you made me!)
But we can go on and on and on. The real question is this: Why do we have to keep playing this game? Josh was kind enough to say that he favors only Luck over Wilson, but for every Josh there appear to be 12 Ron Jaworski's. A dozen others willing to say that no matter what he does, Wilson will never by the type of QB you win a Super Bowl with.
Will never be the type to be a Pro Bowler.
Will never be the type to put a team on his gnomey shoulders.
It's the defense that does it all after all, right? RIGHT?
- October 28, 2012: Wilson gives Seattle a 17-7 lead over the Lions in Detroit. The Lions come back to take the lead but Wilson throws for 66 yards on a late fourth quarter drive to give the Seahawks a 24-21 lead. Wilson had a lapse on defense though and Detroit came back to win.
- November 25, 2012: Wilson gives Seattle a 14-7 lead over the Dolphins in Miami. Up 21-14 late in the game, Wilson fucked up on defense and the Dolphins came back to win.
- January 13, 2013: Wilson gives Seattle a 28-27 lead over the Falcons in Atlanta in the playoffs, following a 20-point fourth quarter comeback in which he scored twice. Dumb-dumb Wilson couldn't hold on defense for the last few seconds. Seahawks lose.
- December 8, 2013: Seahawks are up 17-16 against the 49ers in San Francisco with 6:20 left. Hey, Wilson, buddy ... Defense ... ever heard of it? Phil Dawson kicks a game-winner with less than a minute to go.
- December 22, 2013: In one of his worst career games, Wilson still finds the gumption to toss a go-ahead touchdown against the Cardinals in the fourth quarter. Clearly he knows shit-all about defense though, and Arizona comes back to win it.
These are just the losses, by the way, if you hadn't caught on to that. One more ...
- October 6, 2013: Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts.
The Seahawks were more than just a third-down, red zone nightmare that day. Seattle should have won by 20 points, at least. Wilson could have played better. But this is a road game, against a playoff team. Against the gold, the future, the chosen one. And Wilson not only kept Seattle in the game, but the Seahawks led throughout.
Wilson could have played better. Wilson threw for 210 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and rushed for a career-high 102 yards. Wilson could have played better. Especially on defense.
An 80-yard drive that eats up almost half of the fourth quarter. A loss. Wilson didn't have it all that day. 312 total yards, two touchdowns, on the road. Wilson didn't have it all that day. In the battle of the 2012 draft picks that were a world apart and a multiverse together, Luck struck first and struck hard.
Four months later, it was Wilson that was holding a Lombardi Trophy. Ironically, it was Wilson that was looking over his shoulder at Peyton Manning and muttering to himself, ever humbly, "I'm better." They said it would be Luck, been saying it for years, been repeating themselves hard enough to almost will it to be true. But the real truth is that it's you, Wilson.
It's always been you.
There's nothing that Luck has ever done that Wilson has not done. There are many things that Wilson has done that Luck has not. I'd much rather have the guy that makes you crave statistics rather than the one that sometimes forces you to find arguments that avoid them.
Andrew Luck came into this league with an almost un-reachable amount of hype and Russell Wilson came in with practically none, other than a "Ha, he's trying, that's so adorbs!" And thank the motherfucking Lord for that because if everyone knew then what we know now, the Seahawks would not have been able to draft him.
Wilson is better and you're goddamn right I would rather have him.