Thursday, June 20, 2013
Judging a QB by the company he keeps
By Mike Sando
NFL teams have played 768 regular-season games over the past three seasons. Quarterbacks have made 1,536 starts, and in all but 30 cases, they logged at least 15 "action plays" -- defined as plays other than handoffs, spike plays and kneel-downs.
Those quarterbacks' cumulative Total QBR score was 53.1. They produced single-game scores in the 90s in 163 starts or 10.7 percent of the time, and they went 154-9 in those games, with some of the defeats coming against each other.
These were special performances, and if you look at the charts at right and below, you'll notice the very best quarterbacks -- Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, etc. -- accounting for a sizable chunk of them.
You'll also notice all but one of these quarterbacks playing at least 32 games over the past three seasons.
Russell Wilson is the exception. He has only 16 starts over the past three seasons, but he has nonetheless accounted for five of these 90-plus games, including four of them in his nine most recent regular-seasons starts. Wilson and Manning have reached this exalted standard in a league-high 31.3 percent of their starts during the time period in question.
This shouldn't come as a surprise to those following along here on the NFC West blog. We've followed Wilson closely from the beginning and have seen him methodically answer questions about his height, his readiness to start as a rookie and his ability to throw from the pocket. Most of us have seen enough to expect great things from him in the future.
Not everyone is so sure. Here at ESPN.com, Jeff Chadiha suggested expectations for Wilson were unrealistic, a position we considered Tuesday. More recently, Chris Sprow raised concerns for Seattle and other teams ranked highly in our Future Power Rankings package.
The concerns seem overrated to me in light of the evidence.
Take another look at the names in the charts. Every player listed except for Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford has achieved Pro Bowl status. Wilson is the least experienced of the group by a wide margin, but that makes his inclusion all the more impressive.
Opponents could, I suppose, suddenly expose Wilson as a fraud, but they were having a tougher time stopping him as the 2012 season progressed. His development far outpaced opponents' ability to deal with him. That will not always be the case to the same degree, but Wilson so far hasn't met a challenge he could not overcome, and decisively at that. I wouldn't want to bet against him.