The Qualities of a Great QB; Or, The Russell Wilson Thread :)

At the start of this thread, I planned to just write about two quotes I came across that captured my thoughts on what constitutes a great quarterback, but my quotes started getting me to think about Russell Wilson and the reasons I think so highly of him. So, in this thread, in addition to clarifying my thoughts (mostly for myself) on the attributes of a great QB, I’m will write about Wilson and his career–jotting down my observations and analysis on his development and performance as a QB.

But first, let me write about the two quotes I mentioned earlier. In addition to capturing my feelings about great QBs, the quotes are interesting, partly because they seem to contradict each other (but I don’t think they do).

Here’s the first quote, from Chris Brown’s (one of my favorite football analysts) Grantland piece, The Quarterack Curve:

Often, we associate being great with being spectacular, but that’s the secret about playing quarterback — great quarterbacks seek the banality of perfection. It’s about avoiding the bad play, hitting the right receiver, making the right read, and throwing an accurate pass, every time.

My translation: avoiding bad plays, making the right read, and throwing accurate passes every time–on mostly routine plays–are the foundation for being a great QB–NOT making spectacular plays. Most of the passes/plays a QB have to make are not, by nature, spectacular. Sometimes the right play can be running out of bounds for a one yard gain or throwing the ball away, and in general, most positive plays do not require flashy displays of throwing, running or catching the ball. They’re more routine plays that depend on preparation, understanding defenses and hard work, just as much as physical ability. The best QBs master these situations, consistently making the plays and avoiding the bad ones, especially in big games/moments. This is non-negotiable, and it’s the foundation for any great QB in my opinion.

Now some QBs make spectacular plays, but fail much too often at these more routine situations–making the wrong read, throwing inaccurately or impatiently, etc. These QBs would drop considerably in my estimation because one bad play can cancel out many good–even spectacular–plays. A QB can single-handedly win games, but if they also single-handedly lose games, the trade-off just isn’t worth it in my opinion. The top priority is avoiding bad plays and making the right one. A talented QB can make a bad play and turn it into a spectacular one, but great QBs will often wisely forgo the spectacular in order to avoid the bad play.

The second quote comes from Bill Walsh’s remarks about how he evaluates quarterbacks.

The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time. The clock is running down and your team is five points behind. The play that was called has broken down and 22 players are moving in almost unpredictable directions all over the field.

This is where the great quarterback uses his experience, vision, mobility and what we will call spontaneous genius.

Joe Montana exemplifies this quote, and, yes, I think Russell Wilson does as well (Andrew Luck may also be in this group, too)–particularly the “spontaneous genius” part. The spontaneous genius of both Montana and Wilson–and their ability to exhibit it in really big moments–is what sets them a part from many other QBs in my opinion. I think Elway had this quality, too–but did his great performances stem from this intangible quality or his tremendous physical gifts, such as his powerful arm and running/scrambling ability? I’m not sure. Wilson and Montana don’t have the powerful arm, although Wilson has exceptional scrambling/running ability (similar to Tarkenton, but Wilson’s a better runner–and, by the way, I wonder if Tarkenton had this spontaneous genius as well), and I feel that spontaneous genius is what sets then a part from other QBs.

Now I would argue that this quality wouldn’t be so meaningful if they didn’t have the attributes that Brown described above–that is, having this spontaneous genius would mean little if they failed at routine decisions/throws, frequently making bad decisions. Hence, Brett Favre is not high on my list.

Now, what Walsh describes could be characterized as spectacular, so doesn’t this contradict Brown’s quote? I don’t think so. Brown isn’t saying that great QBs don’t make spectacular plays. Instead, he’s saying that great QBs master routine ones,while avoiding foolish decisions–especially in big games. All great QBs have to have this attribute. If they have this attribute, then we can look for the quality that Walsh speaks about. But what Brown describes has to come first, in my opinion–it has to be a the foundation.

I also like the Brown’s description because it focuses on what the QB is primarily responsible for–and therefore judging them on these criteria appeals to me–versus looking at Super Bowl appearances/victories. Consider Archie Manning. He was a very good QB–possibly a great one–but he played on awful teams–teams that even Montana or Brady probably couldn’t help much. Additionally, a QB can make good decisions/throws and still fail at successfully completing a play. Receivers drop well-thrown passes or bobble them leading to a turnover; sometimes defenders make a great play on a well-thrown ball as well. If the QB made the right read, and accurate throw with sufficient velocity, I think he has fulfilled his job as a QB–and shouldn’t be penalized for this. But this goes the other way as well: if the receiver catches a poorly thrown ball or a defender drops a badly thrown ball they should have catched, that should count against the QB.

141 Responses to “The Qualities of a Great QB; Or, The Russell Wilson Thread :)”


  1. Reid

    By the end of last season (especially after the playoffs), I felt fairly confident about Russell Wilson’s future prospects as a QB–indeed, as crazy as it may seem, the trajectory seemed to be pointing toward Joe Montana. That’s who he reminded me. But that was based on a season where defenses didn’t really know what to expect–and he seemed to really come on toward the end.

    Because of that, going into this season I had some concerns about his arm strength, ability to pass effectively despite his height, the way he would respond to defenses keyed on stopping him, and how he would respond after taking some big hits (He didn’t seem to get hit very often last year.). At little over the half way point, I want to go over this list:

    Arm strength. Check. In evaluating qbs, Walsh mentioned looking at the array of throws a qb could make. I feel pretty confident that Wilson can make enough of them to be effective. The one throw I think he sometimes has problems is the line drives, especially toward the sidelines. The ball looks like it floats just a tad–although I could say the same for Romo and Brees. So I feel like his arm strength is not an issue.

    Height and deflected balls. Check. Again, this doesn’t seem like a real issue. He hardly has balls batted down, and his height doesn’t seem to be a major problem. However, a part of me feels like he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw in a solid pocket, as the pass protection has been fairly porous. Still, I feel like he’s passed this test.

    Responding to defenses. Check. I’m not sure if defensive coordinators/defenses have exhausted all the looks and approaches they could throw at him, but so far, in my opinion, he seems to have responded well. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t struggled, but I tend to think that has more to do with offensive line problems more than not being able to handle defensive schemes.

    Toughness Check. He’s taking some hits–including standing in the pocket, throwing a good pass knowing he’s a big hit is coming. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to phase him. In the recent game against Tampa Bay, TB’s defense played fairly well–including in the second half. Wilson just made really good plays, despite their defense (including pressuring and hitting him). So far, he’s passing the test with flying colors in my view.

    So what remains? I can’t think of very many things he needs to do to prove that he’s one of the all time greats–except consistently perform in an exceptional fashion in big moments and big games. At this point I’m very confident that he’ll do this (which isn’t to say he won’t make mistakes at times), and I would be surprised if he doesn’t do this. The only thing that I think will prevent him from doing this is a major injury. Barring that–and as long as he plays on the a quality team like the Seahawks–I see multiple Super Bowls in his future.

    Oh, perhaps there’s one other test. Walsh mentions that a good NFL qb has to be able to be effective, despite injuries. Given the toughness that he seems to have, I tend to think he’ll pass this test as well.

  2. Reid

    He’s an Android

    Sometimes when I listen to Wilson in press conferences, I feel like I’m watching a person who isn’t a human, as if he’s an android who is acting like a human being. He appears very affable, but what he says and how he says is very robotic at times. Of course, many athletes speak the same way, but he does the athlete-speak with such flawless perfection that it comes across as if he were an robot or android. (And it wouldn’t be surprise me if he thoroughly practices and prepares for press conferences, as he seems to be someone who really prepares himself.)The other thing is that he’s always positive and optimistic–and this also makes him seem fake or at least like a robot. (I don’t think he’s fake, but I can see if people would wonder.) “Boy-scout”–the consummate boy scout–is something else that comes to mind when I see in press conferences. He’s very nice, respectful and meticulous. “Square” wouldn’t be so far off, either. This may sound like a putdown, but it’s actually the opposite. (I’d love it if my son was like this.) Really, his behavior and presentation are a textbook example of what you’d want from a franchise quarterback.

    Bu this so-called robotic quality is really most important when it comes to game time. Here, I’m specifically referring to his even-keel, almost stoic demeanor during games–showing the same facial expression no matter what the situation is. He might show enthusiasm on a score, but other than that, he has the same look. To be honest, the expression looks like he’s a little uncertain, or slightly worried–at least that’s my impression. But that’s pretty much the expression he has all the time on the field (between plays), so I don’t think it means he’s uncertain or worried. Anyway, this equanimity and almost stoic pose are partly what contributes to his greatness. It allows him to be cool on the pressure, to be rock solid when he’s at the helm. After the Tampa Bay game, a reporter asked about Wilson’s INT near the goal line–asking how he managed to deal with that, and not getting too up or too down in games. Wilson responded with calmness and positive energy and he talked about how you have to have amnesia when you play–forgetting good or bad plays. He then said that he finds a place in every stadium where he can look to that will take him “back to zero.” And by this I understood him to mean that forgets the past and focuses on the present. (One of his most repeated statements is “stay in the moment.”) It’s a very zen approach and many other players and athletes strive for this frame of mind. I think Wilson does this as well as anyone and it’s one of the things that makes him great in my opinion.

    Decision Making

    Knowing when to throw the ball and when to throw it away is an important decision for a qb to make. With running qb, they must also decide when to throw and when to run. And when they decide to run, they have to know how to avoid big hits. So a running qb has a more complex set of decisions he has to make. One of things that really, really impressed me about Wilson was how he excelled at these decisions. We’re not talking a few times, but something he did on a regular basis. It was truly remarkable to see a rookie with level of mastery at playing the position. It was really one of the biggest factors that made me think so highly of him. If I had access to film, and I had to make a case for his greatness, I’d give of examples of him throwing the ball away or running for a short gain. I’d show many longer runs where he avoids getting hit, sliding at the right time or wisely running out of bounds. I’d also show how he used his legs to extend plays, always keeping his eyes downfield, but also showing a willingness to throw the ball away or for a short or no gain if no one was open–particularly on plays that could have resulted in a sack. Unbelievable.

    Of course, this isn’t the only reason I think he’s great. He’s got to be able to make throws and play in key moments–all of which he’s done. But his decisions on when to throw away the ball, when to run and how to avoid being hit is really phenomenal, especially when you consider how young he is. Nobody does it better.

  3. Reid

    The Willingness to Hand the Ball Off–A lot

    I suspect when traits of great qbs are mentioned, this quality is rarely mentioned. To be honest, I don’t think it’s a crucial quality, but I do think it’s worth mentioning. In my view, the unwillingness to hand the ball off a lot is not a small defect. This quality almost guarantees a mediocre running game because a good running game depends on a commitment to running the ball, which requires giving the rb carries, even when the runs don’t aren’t effective. When you have a qb who can single-handedly win game with his arm, staying committed to the run can be extremely difficult–for the qb and for the coach. In my view, this problem plagued Dan Marino, John Elway (in his prime), Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and maybe Warren Moon. I suspect that they didn’t have great running games primarily because the qbs were so good at throwing the ball and were unwilling to hand it off a lot. (To be fair, the Colts had a solid running game when they had Edge and Favre also had a good running game with Dorsey Levens.)

    On the other side, I would say the willingness to hand of the ball off made Troy Aikman special–and it made his teams one of the best I’ve seen. My sense is that Wilson is in the same mold. I can’t be sure of this, of course, and he may change over time, although my guess is that he won’t. For one thing, he doesn’t have a spectacular arm like Marino, Elway or Favre. Nor does he have the mind of a Peyton Manning. Besides that, I just sense that he cares more about winning above throwing the ball. Coincidently, before I planned to write this, I listened to a press conference with Wilson (during the week leading up to week 11 game) and a reporter addressed this very topic:

    Reporter: People might assume that quarterbacks like sitting back, throwing the ball forty times, but how much do you like the balance that you guys have?

    Wilson: Oh, I love the balance, although I’ll whatever it takes to win–if I have to throw the ball sixty times or ten times. At the end of the day I want to facilitate the ball to the right guy in the right time; get our offense in the right positions–whether it’s a run check, or a pass check, or a protection check, I want to make sure we’re in the right situation at the right time. My goal is to win the game, like I always say. And I mean it. Our goal is to go 1 and 0 and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

    Of course, this is the type of response that a qb is supposed to say, so we should take it with a grain of salt. However, based on what I’ve seen so far, I think he genuinely means it. Only time will tell.

  4. Reid

    Some comments on Wilson’s second year.

    Goodbye Fran Tarkenton

    Fran Tarkenton is the greatest scrambling qb of all time. Elway was very good, and guys like Jim Zorn and Archie Manning come to mind as well. But no one has come close to Tarkenton–except for Russell Wilson. But that was last year. Wilson is no longer scrambling in the same fashion. Yes, he’ll roll out and do some scrambling, but gone are those really deep scrambles, which Wilson reversing the field several times in one play. My sense is that Wilson has intentionally eliminated these type of scrambles, and while a part of me misses them, I prefer the move to stop doing them. Those scrambles are fun, but they’re extremely risky. Not only could could he get hurt, but he could lose big yards for his team. All in all, it’s not a smart play–and it’s only somewhat wise when you’re playing on a bad team. Clearly, that’s not the case. The ‘Hawks have a very good defense, running game and special teams. They don’t need the Tarkenton-esque plays to be successful. So I’m happy with the change.

  5. Reid

    The “It” Factor

    After the Monday night game against the Saints, Ray Lewis made some comments that I wanted to respond to–mainly because I whole-heartedly agreed with him. (I’m mentioning Lewis just to credit him, more than the fact that he’s the ultimate authority on the subject.)

    First, he said that Wilson has the “It” factor. While I completely agreed with this, the comment made me wonder what exactly is the “it” factor; and how does one identify it? I want to explore these questions for a moment.

    Off the top of my head, I’d say the “It” factor invovles being calm, confident and in total command–particularly in crucial moments during a game. These qualities are so strong that they extend outward to other players–making them feel calm and confident–even creating the expectation that the offense (and team in general–I think it can extend to the defense and special teams)

    I also think the “It” factor stems from a QB’s consistent demonstration of successful improvisation in crucial moments. “Consistent improvisation in crucial moments” is the important point, and by this I mean handling a broken play really well, including turning it to a meaningful gain, in important situations.

    When a QB does all of the above consistently, I believe it creates an aura–the “It” factor–that positively influences all the other players. In a way, I feel like this is the type of effect a great general or captain of a ship would have on his/her people. The leader being in complete command, demonstration their competence, particularly under pressure, will soon win the confidence of his/her people. This in turn will calm, reassure and even motivate his/her people to perform well. This makes sense, especially if you consider a leader/QB/general on the opposite end of the spectrum. Why try hard if the leader–the person in charge of the whole show–is incompetent or will crack in the most crucial moment? This won’t completely wipe out one’s motivation, but it can definitely demoralize him/her. In my opinion, the leader with this “It” factor can and does have this opposite effect.

    To me, this is the quality that Montana and Stabauch had–and I think it’s the main thing that set them a part from other QBs with more talent and/or better stats. For the most part, Elway also had this quality, although his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing was his strong point. On the other hand, I feel like Brady isn’t so strong on the improvisational aspect, but he is strong on his command of the offense and situations. Peyton Manning probably reigns supreme in terms of command and mastery of the offense, but he’s not so great at the improvising part (and I think he’s prone to big errors in crucial situations/games).

    In some ways, you could say all great QBs have this “it” factor. If the QB is really that good, to some degree, this will give their teammates confidence. But not all QBs have a great ability to improvise in key moments, nor do they do this with the same degree of calm or sense of mastery. My sense is that this is what really creates the “It” factor. (I wonder if this was something that separated Joe Montana from Steve Young. On the surface, they seem very similar. As far as I can remember, I think Young was just as effective in crucial moments and broken plays–or was he? It would be interesting to go back and watch some of the games.)

    And just to throw a bone to skeptics like Mitchell, perhaps what I’m talking about is a myth, a mere illusion. I can’t rule that out. But is charisma a myth and illusion as well? To me, when a QB consistently improvises with success–with a totally collected and calm demeanor and almost effortlessly–at the very least it creates the illusion that you’re watching something special, something magical almost. I guess it doesn’t matter if the QB actually possesses this “It” factor, as long as everyone else believes that he does.

    More later.

  6. mitchell

    Ha. Thanks for the shout-out. I appreciate the acknowledgement that this might be illusory, but I also agree (mostly) that if it’s illusion, it might still be valid.

  7. Reid

    I guess you could say that the “It” factor is the ability to make win the trust of those around you and make them really believe that you will succeed. With the QB position, that depends on the confidence, poise and competence of the QB, especially in pressure situations. And when they demonstrate this repeatedly, the belief in the QB gets even stronger, and the QB begins to have a kind of aura. Isn’t that the case with Montana and Staubach? (Unitas seemed to have this, too.) You see them, and you think, “That guy is a leader. He’s going to lead that team to overcome any obstacle.”

  8. mitchell

    I’ve seen too many football games to ever get the feeling a QB is going to lead a team through “any” obstacle, but I try (try) to disregard stuff like aura because I think our eyes fool us into thinking we see something we don’t, or don’t see something that’s true. Jeff Garcia, for example, has all the qualities you mention, and given good pieces (as when he was an Eagle), he proved he could win. But he was out of the NFL before he should have been, and nobody seemed willing to give him a starting job.

    Since I’m not privy to the info that Garcia’s coaches had, I’m guessing I don’t know the whole story. But Garcia didn’t have an “aura,” yet from where I sat, he was a pretty darned good quarterback.

    Dan Fouts had an “aura,” and so did John Elway. You know whose QB rating is better than theirs? Seneca Wallace (80.8 for Wallace; 80.2 for Fouts; 79.9 for Elway). Now, I know Fouts and Elway played a different game from the game that’s being played today, so comparing stats like that is questionable, but do you think the Vikings would take Elway or Fouts if either of those guys were available right now (I mean, assuming they were in their primes)? Sure they would, because of that aura. But the numbers make one wonder if the RESULTS wouldn’t largely be the same. I haven’t been following Wallace’s career (though I kind of plan to now), but I don’t think he ever had a John Jefferson or Charlie Joiner or Kellen Winslow to throw to.

    Either stats are largely bogus (and I’m not saying they aren’t; QB rating is a deceptive and flawed stat) or “aura” is kind of a myth. Okay, I guess it’s not an either/or situation, but if the sliding scale were in my hands, I’d tilt it away from aura.

  9. Mitchell

    I just realized that Garcia is one year younger than us, so maybe age was a consideration near the tail end of his career. I thought he was still a heck of a QB, and if Fouts or Elway had played to that age, they would still have been starters, but that’s asking a lot of a 40-year-old guy (he was on the Texans roster in 2011, when he was 42), and perhaps a backup role was better suited to him at that stage of his career anyway. Still, I think he could have been a successful starter.

  10. Reid

    But Garcia didn’t have an “aura,” yet from where I sat, he was a pretty darned good quarterback.

    He was a good QB, but do you think he was as good as Montana, Staubach, Elway or Fouts? (I wouldn’t say Fouts had the “It” factor I’m talking about, either. More later.) And is that difference based on something mostly illusory? Did Garcia just not receive enough credit and hype as the others did? Or did he not receive more praise and hype because he truly wasn’t as good as those other QBs? I’d guess the latter. Garcia, while good, had limitations. If he was as good as Montana, you don’t think he would have become a starter. And you remember he was a starter with the Niners (playing with TO). I believe he also had a chance to start with the Eagles. So it’s not like he wasn’t given a fair shake. (And from what I recall, he hung around for a long time, too.)

    …but do you think the Vikings would take Elway or Fouts if either of those guys were available right now (I mean, assuming they were in their primes)? Sure they would, because of that aura.

    But again, do you really think that Seneca Wallace is better than Fouts or Elway? To say this, in my view, is to have an absolute faith in statistics-based analysis–while ignoring any other type of analysis in my opinion.

    I want to address something you said earlier:

    Dan Fouts had an “aura,” and so did John Elway.

    I don’t think Fouts had this “It” factor I’m talking about–not to the degree that players like Montana, Staubach and Wilson have (and maybe even Unitas). I’m not just talking about a QB who is really good.

    Let me try to be more precise (and I’m doing this for my sake, as I want to try and understand this more precisely). The “It” factor or aura involve creating the impression that one is an absolute master at their craft. This goes beyond important physical abilities of a QB. I think it involves decision making–particularly in crucial situations–and to be even more specific situations where the original play falls a part. Was Jeff Garcia exceptional in this regard? That’s not what I remember. Plus, I don’t think Jeff Garcia was exceptional in more mundane situations–and while the “it” factor goes beyond the mundane, if a QB doesn’t consistently excel in the less spectacular plays, they won’t have this “aura.”

    Let me back up and reiterate a point. When I talk about mastering the position, I’m talking about excelling in both the routine and the more difficult situations a QB faces. When a QB does this consistently, it creates the impression that they can overcome any obstacle. (That doesn’t mean he literally can overcome any obstacle, or that those around him literally believe he can. But that feeling is created.)

    Now, earlier I mentioned that the aura goes beyond physical abilities. However, in order to consistently excel in both the routine and exceptional situations, a QB has to have considerable physical abilities. My sense is that QBs with the “It” factor are able to perfectly synthesize their decision-making with their physical abilities.

    Finally, I think the way they go about doing this–that is, the demeanor and how they interact with other–when doing all of the above is really important. Does their facial expression and body language suggest someone who is calm, focused, comfortable and in control, regardless of the situation? Are they serious and intense, but somewhat loose and not uptight? And do they seem to have the same expression or demeanor no matter what the situation is? (I don’t mean they’re literally always this way, but enough times to create this impression.) When they’re in the huddle do they create this impression to teammates, while also creating the impression that they are totally confident and in control? On this last point, I want to mention something I heard Jon Gruden say about Wilson. He expanded on what he meant by Wilson “talking with his eyes.” Gruden mentioned his charisma and the way he sells plays in the huddle, particularly in 3rd down and redzone situations–how he conveys that the play being called is the perfect play for the situation. (He mentioned that Joe Montana was the same way. Now, how Gruden knows all of this, I’m not sure, but if it’s true, it’s the kind of thing that contributes to the aura.)

    So the “aura” involves all of the components I mentioned above–to recap:

    >consistently making great decisions in both the mundane and spectacular plays, strongly suggesting that the QB has total command and mastery of the position. (Here, I’m thinking of plays that aren’t entirely successful–e.g., passes intentionally thrown away, etc.);
    >consistently succeeding in both the mundane and spectacular plays (e.g., completed passes, running for big gains, etc.)
    >consistently doing this with with a calm, confident demeanor and consistently communicating this to teammates through his verbal and non-verbal cues.

    Now, I’m mentioning the word “consistently” a lot, and I do think that’s a crucial factor. However, here’s where mis-perception and illusion may creep in. A QB can appear to be consistent, while actually not being very consistent at all. This can occur if a QB has a few iconic moments in the clutch. In that case, “aura” is more perception rather than reality. However, if QB really is consistent–in all the things I mentioned above–then I think that aura is really based on substance.

    One last point. Some QBs have some of the qualities above and/or have them to some degree. They can be good, if not great, QBs. But to really have that “It” factor, I think they’ve got to have all of these characteristics, to a high degree.

    What do you think? Am I making sense?

  11. mitchell

    Do you have to be a successful QB to have that aura? I assume there are successful QBs who don’t have it, but are there unsuccessful QBs who have it? Guys who project all the stuff you say, but just don’t have the skills or brains or teammates to win big games, despite that aura?

  12. Reid

    Do you have to be a successful QB to have that aura?

    It depends what you mean by “success.” As I mentioned, they have to “consistently succeed in big both the mundane and spectacular moments.” Success, in this sense, means things like completing a pass, running for good yardage, etc. So, yes, to have that “aura” you’ve got to succeed in the way I describe above.

    Then again, I think you’ve also got to win games–the more the better; and the bigger the better.

    Do you remember Dan “the Magic Man” Majkowski for the Packers? He had a short run, where he was making plays in big moments (hence, the “magic man” title). he wasn’t able to sustain this, though. You could say something similar about Jake Plummer, when he was at the Cardinals. He showed flashes of the same magic, but he also made other errors (due partly to the teams he played on.) I think Plummer had some of “aura” but it was to a minimal degree. (I think we can talk about aura in terms of having more or less of it.)

    Guys who project all the stuff you say, but just don’t have the skills or brains or teammates to win big games, despite that aura?

    I can’t imagine a QB having the qualities I describe without having the skills and brains to win games–not having the teammates is another matter. Maybe Bert Jones and Archie Manning didn’t have an aura because they played on crappy teams.

  13. Reid

    Playing Beyond His Years

    That was the other comment made by Ray Lewis after the Saints game. Again, I really agreed with that. Rookie QBs putting up good-to-great numbers almost seems like the norm, but Wilson’s decision-making and poise were–and continue to be–way beyond his years. Forget stats and just watch the way he plays the position–watch how he handles situations, especially the ones that don’t produce a lot of yards. You need to see these moments to see that he’s playing beyond his years–playing like a long-time veteran. In a way, this might be the most astonishing aspect of Wilson so far. He’s great at scrambling, running and throwing on the run, making spectacular plays. But how the heck did he acquire the maturity, leadership, knowledge, instincts and a confidence that only the most experienced, skilled QBs seem to have? It’s freakish and scary, as if he’s a QB Buddha, a kind of QB Golden Child.

    A Teammate’s Perspective

    Russell Wilson Through Michael Robinson’s Eyes is an theMMQB.com article about Russell Wilson, from the perspective of Seattle full-back, Michael Robinson. Robinson also played QB at Penn State, so I guess this made his perspective even more appealing. Now Robinson is a teammate, so what he says has to be taken with a grain of salt, but I still think they’re worth noting, particularly since they corroborate some earlier statements. For example, I mentioned Jon Gruden’s comments about Wilson’s command in the huddle. We could question Gruden’s remarks since it’s unlikely he had firsthand information (although he sounded like he did), but Robinson has been in the huddle:

    “When he is talking in the huddle, you believe that the play he calls is going to work,” Robinson says. “I was with Alex Smith early in his career, and this is no slight to [Smith], but it was different. Obviously Alex grew, and he is a better quarterback now. But when Russell steps in that huddle, you don’t have to say anything; you’re just waiting to hear what he has to say, because you know he says it with conviction, and you trust what is coming out of his mouth. It’s not always like that with every quarterback.”

    Gruden said the same thing–that Wilson is able to make teammates believe the play is going to work.

    When the author asked Robinson what made Wilson so great, he replied:

    “That sophomore slump people talk about? Well, he worked even harder [after his first year],” Robinson says. “He had success as a rookie, and most rookies then kind of back off a little, say, ‘I made it.’ But he just works harder and harder and harder. I’ve never seen anybody work like that. He just never stops trying to be great. I’ve never seen the will to be great day after day after day—I’m talking about every day.”

    I’m pretty sure all the great QBs work just as hard, so I’m not sure if Wilson’s worth ethic is what separates him from the other great QBs.

  14. Reid

    Seattle Times had an interesting article on Wilson, particularly, Dana Bible, Wilson’s old offensive coordinator (OC) at NC State had to say:

    “Russell doesn’t get ambushed,”…. “He’s taking his play from Russell Wilson Quarterback 101 to Russell Wilson Quarterback 102 to Russell Wilson Quarterback 103. He’s going through the different layers and scenarios that are waiting around the corner for him.” […]

    “When he’s out there on the field, it looks instinctive,” Bible said. “But I will argue that it’s not instinctive. You’re not going to surprise him. That’s why when you watch him play he always looks so in control. When you see him run and create, he ain’t playing backyard ball. He knows exactly where his guys are.”

    […]

    “He can’t keep his game just in the pocket,” Bible said. “He has to be equally good when he extends and creates. And that’s where the long hours of studying come from because he has to look at the play when it’s running on the video and run it back three or four more times because he has to account for the extend-and-create part.

    These comments remind me of comments early comments I quoted from Bill Walsh:

    The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time. The clock is running down and your team is five points behind. The play that was called has broken down and 22 players are moving in almost unpredictable directions all over the field.

    This is where the great quarterback uses his experience, vision, mobility and what we will call spontaneous genius. He makes something good happen. This, of course, is what we saw in Joe Montana when he pulled out those dramatic victories for Notre Dame.

    And there’s also this:

    …most (offensive) systems require quarterbacks to look at primary and secondary receivers, usually based on the defense that confronts him. You can see if he locates that secondary receiver — or maybe even an emergency outlet receiver — with ease or with a sense of urgency.

    This should work like a natural progression, not a situation where it’s — “Oh, my gosh, now I must look over here … no, over there.” You can see which quarterbacks handle these situations with grace. These are the types who have a chance to perform with consistency in the NFL.

    Handling these situations with “grace,” poise and complete confidence describes Wilson’s play in my opinion.

    There are some other comments that Walsh mentioned that I fit Wilson and I might as well post them now:

    To become a great quarterback, there must be instincts and intuition. This is the area that can be the difference between a very solid quarterback and a great quarterback. This isn’t an area you can do much with as a coach. You can certainly bring a quarterback up to a competitive standard, but to reach greatness the quarterback must possess that inherently, ala Billy Kilmer, Sonny Jurgensen, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon.

    If throwing a ball were the only aspect of playing quarterback, then this would be an easy position to evaluate. However, because of the dynamic role he plays on the team, a quarterback must have physical, mental, emotional and instinctive traits that go well beyond the mere ability to pass a football.[…]

    Now, he must be courageous and intensely competitive. He will be the one on the field who is running the team. His teammates must believe in him or it may not matter how much physical ability he has. If he is courageous and intensely competitive, then other players will know and respect that. This will be a foundation for becoming a leader.

    Arm strength is somewhat misleading. Some players can throw 80 yards, but they aren’t good passers. Good passing has to do with accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with touch so it is catchable. This all involves understanding a system, the receivers in the system, and having great anticipation. It is a plus to be able to throw a ball on a line for 35 yards, but not if it is off target or arrives in such a way that it is difficult to catch. (Reid: See Cam Newton.)

    Remember, the goal of passing a ball is to make sure it is caught … by your intended receiver.

    (Comments can be found at this link.

  15. mitchell

    I’m curious about whether Walsh ever talks about an “aura.” While I won’t even pretend to be this interested in breaking down a quarterback to this level of detail, I understand that you respect Walsh and agree with what he’s saying. If you ask me, a quarterback who does all this doesn’t need an aura, or if there is a perceived aura, that aura is simply a figment of someone’s imagination because what’s really there are competence and confidence. Would a guy like Walsh, who (I assume) understands the specifics of good quarterbacking embrace such a concept or dismiss it as being irrelevant?

  16. Reid

    I don’t know Walsh’s thoughts on the “IT” factor or player’s “aura.” I feel like you’re fixated on whether this is something real and separate from just plain competence and confidence of a player, sneering at the idea in the process. I’ve said that I think there is a strong connection with aura/IT factor and confidence and competence; and I think I’ve also mentioned that the perception of others is basically more important than whether it, as some thing in and of itself, actually exists or not.

    I’ll say this: if teammates become more confident, optimistic and encouraged because they believe their QB will always give them a chance to win a game–particularly in big moments–wouldn’t you agree this is important? Whether this comes from some “magical” thing the QB has or not is irrelevant. But this effect on teammates is not; and I’d be surprised if Walsh disagreed with this. (Walsh touches on this a little in the quote above: “Now, he must be courageous and intensely competitive. He will be the one on the field who is running the team. His teammates must believe in him or it may not matter how much physical ability he has. If he is courageous and intensely competitive, then other players will know and respect that. This will be a foundation for becoming a leader.”)

  17. Reid

    Sophomore Slump?

    Wilson did not have a great game on Saturday–maybe one of his worst. More troubling is that this seems to be part of a trend that has started at least from the Giants game (four games ago; you could argue that it started from the Niner game, but I didn’t think he or the offense struggled so much as the Niner defense was really solid). To be fair, the problem has to do with the offense overall and not just Wilson. Defenses seem to have figured out a scheme that has slowed down the passing game. Does Wilson bear most of the responsibility for this?

    It’s a good question, and I don’t know if I’m knowledgeable enough to answer this; except for some of this throws, I can’t point to any specifics to place most of the blame on him. In the Cardinal game, I went back and watched the all-22 footage and on a lot of throws, the receivers seemed pretty well covered. Perhaps, with some great throws, a QB could have completed more passes, and Wilson may not have the skills to do that. However, I don’t know enough to answer this.

    Having said that, in yesterday’s game, I can point to a errors that falls almost entirely on him. There were at least two throws for first down that he threw badly. The pass protection was fine and the receiver was open. These failures were important because they came on third down and ended drives. Right now, the biggest issue for the Seahawk offense is extending drives, (They’re struggling somewhat in the red zone, too, though.) and Wilson has to come through in situations like that.

    So is Wilson in a sophomore slump? I tend to think he is. You can point to losing receivers–Rice and Harvin–with Harvin in, the offense did seem to be getting into a groove. But even after losing Rice (and not having Harvin), the offense still did fine.

    You could say that umimaginative plays and play calling are the problem, but I those things have been constants since last year. Now, if the defense has found a strategy, the coaches are partially responsible with countering it. Have they done a good job? Probably not as good as they could have.(But those errant passes I mentioned above aren’t the fault of play calling.)

    That leaves Wilson.

    Still, as I mentioned earlier, I really don’t know what he could do to make the game work better. In another thread, I mentioned an MMQB.com article that pointed out subtle things that Brady and Manning do to get players open. I’m guessing Wilson doesn’t have the same savvy as those two, so, in this way, you can say the blame falls on him. If those little thing could get players open and Wilson isn’t/can’t do them, then you could put that on him.

    At the same time, and in fairness to Wilson, I think his ball security and the end of the season is something worth pointing out–not just the fact that he hasn’t fumbled or threw a pick–but he hasn’t done anything to risk those things. (The last time was in a game against the Cardinals–probably the worst decision/throw he made all season.) Given the nature of the games, he played smart. Trying to make something more happen on offense would have been unwise if it increased the risk of turning the ball over. In the game against the Saints the Seahawk defense dominated, and Brees struggled, despite a very good running game. (And they used play action, and that often kept the pass rush at bay.)

    So he’s playing “well” in the sense that he’s playing smart–he’s managing the games and making enough plays to get by. But he’s missing on throws he should make and the passing game has struggled, and so the sophomore slump criticism is probably deserved.

  18. Reid

    A pretty good breakdown of Russell Wilson, addressing whether he’s just a “game manager.” (Some good video and graphics as well.)

    What caught my eye was a discussion of Pete Carroll’s football philosophy, and I really agree with a lot of it. (e.g., the importance of turnover ratio–protecting the ball while taking it away from opponents; simplifying things for the QB and not putting everything on them, etc.)

  19. Reid

    I want to jot some notes down about Wilson’s 2013 playoff performances.

    Divisional round– vs. the Saints: Perhaps Wilson’s Worst Game

    Why worst? Two reasons come to mind: First, he completely missed on two or three important throws (for first downs)–and, second, he had good pass protection and an open receiver. We’re just talking about two or three passes here, but this is a big game and they were big passes–particularly since the biggest problem this team had was converting third downs and just extending drives in general. (He wasn’t throwing the ball all that much, so every pass counts.) He also may have had one or two other errant passes that were on him. The offense also basically struggled to make first downs in the second half, and this gave the Saints an opportunity to come back and have a chance to win (despite excellent Seahawk defense). The offense didn’t do their job.

    Now having said that, I also think two other details are important. First, he made a huge 3rd down pass–a deep ball to Doug Baldwin (who made a terrific catch)–on a cover 0 blitz. This was a drive that eventually lead to a TD with about two minutes left in the game. This was a big time throw.

    Second, this was a night of wind and rain. The defense was also dominating. (They actually could have had one or two more turnovers. The Saints also hit on a flukish deep ball, which was tipped by two Seattle defenders.) Had the ‘Hawk offense had one or two longer drives, this might have been a blow out. In any event, I really do believe that Wilson and/or the coaches decided to play really conservative. Wilson certainly wasn’t imitating Tarkenton. There was even a throw to an open receiver in the flat that he pulled back on, when a defender jumped in front him. He could have–and probably should have thrown the ball–but he seemed to be extra cautious. His play was conservative, but you could argue that it was the smart thing to do.

    In the end, he didn’t throw any picks and didn’t make any passes that came close; nor did he do anything where he could fumble the ball. Besides the big throw to Baldwin, he was A+ for ball security.

    In terms of making positive plays for the offense, it was one of his worst games.

    I will say this: ultimately, when you evaluate a QB you have to look completions (especially the accuracy of the throws), yards and TDs–and you have to consider if the QB does this in key moments. However, this isn’t the only aspect of playing the position. You also need to examine the decision making a QB makes–decisions that depend on the nature of the game–including the weather, the way the defense is playing, etc. The QB is only one player on the field, albeit, the most important one. In order to win games, he must have a deep understanding of what the team and specific game requires of him to win. It involves weighing and managing risks within this context. A good QB will play according to context of the game. In this regard, I think Wilson is a master.

    NFC Championship–vs. the Niners: Hey Tarkenton, Where You Been All This Time?

    Don described Wilson’s play as “OK” and “not championship caliber.” At first I thought he sold Wilson’s performance a bit short, but after watching parts of the game, I don’t think he’s so far off–particularly after the last TD he scored. The Seahawk defense got the ball back twice in the 4th. After the first turnover, they not only failed to score in an ugly fashion. Lynch fumbled on the goal line, but this wasn’t Wilson’s fault. However, after the second turnover, either Wilson turned the wrong way or Lynch was out of place on a handoff. Wilson simply dropped a snap and had to throw the ball away. (Both Lynch and Wilson preventing disaster on both plays was a small accomplishment.) Reporters asked Bevell if Wilson felt nerves, and Bevell seemed to want to say yes, but kind of back off–reminding the reporters that this is only Wilson’s second year. I don’t know if the nerves got to Wilson, but this was a rather ugly series, although it did end in a field goal. On these two possessions, they could have really sealed the game–or at least not put the defense in a position to make a game saving play in the end zone. The offense didn’t get it done on those possessions, and Wilson has to share some of the blame.

    Still, besides these moments, I thought Wilson did well–even remarkable. I say that because he played in a completely different way then he did in the previous game–as if he was pulling out all the stops for this game–including bringing back the Tarkentonian scrambles, something he shelved for the entire season. This was the exact opposite of the way he played against the Saints! I mentioned that good QBs understand the nature of the game and situations in the game, they weigh risks and rewards and then play accordingly. Wilson (and/or the coaches) seemed to decide that winning this game required him to take much bigger risks. The fact that he employed this approach is pretty remarkable to me–especially after struggling in the previous game. When a QB is struggling, I tend to think he becomes hesitant and conservative. Generally, if you’re struggling to hit a baseball, you choke up on the bat to try and get a single, not try to hit homeruns. Wilson seemed to be going for homeruns! And he did this in the NFC championship! Now, this approach had drawbacks and lead to some costly mistakes and dangerous plays. Don solely blames Wilson for these mistakes, but I feel like the pass protection played a key role in this (particularly on blitzes). It’s important to remember that the risks paid off big time, too–particularly a 50 yard bomb to Baldwin.

    Even bigger was a throw on 4th and 7. Carroll was thinking of kicking the FG, but Hauschka either hesitated or flat out said he didn’t want to do it. (I think it would have been a 50 yarder or something.) Wilson urged to go for it (instead of punt or kick)–and either he or Carroll commented about drawing them off sides. Wilson draws them off sides with a double count and then makes, what I thought, was a big time throw. (Kearse makes a great catch as well.)

    Wilson made some other good throws–and, equally important, no throws that could be intercepted.

    I don’t think he finished with big stats, but Marshawn had a good game, and the defense made the game winning play.

    He did fumble the ball on the very first play. It was play action roll out to the left. Wilson said he was trying to backhand flip the ball to Zach Miller, but Bowman grabbed his wrist and spun him around. That’s when the ball popped out and the Niner’s recovered. Is it on Wilson? A backhanded flip can be a bit risky, but I don’t come down hard on Wilson.

    Super Bowl: Overshadowed by the Defense and Percy Harvin

    Wilson performed really well in this game, but the defense and Harvin’s TD return were more decisive. I think the Hawks ran over a 100 yards, but, really, a lot of that came at garbage time. For key parts of the game, they mostly passed the ball. Wilson had some decent scrambles, but he made throws from the pocket, too. Basically, this is the Wilson I saw before the slump. My sense is that Denver either used the wrong scheme or didn’t have the personnel to effective cover the receivers. I don’t know this for sure, but my sense is that the Seahawks find the best match-up and exploit it. On that night, it was Kearse, who had a strong game. (During the slump, there didn’t seem to be any exploitable match-ups against the defenses they faced.)

    I’m glad Seattle won, but a part of me would have wanted to see a closer game. The way Wilson and the offense was playing 9and Denver’s defense, which didn’t look that good–especially in the secondary). I think the offense could have won the game if they had to.

    Wilson did have a miscue at the beginning, which most people (including myself) attributed to nerves. Wilson was asked this in the post-game interview, and he denied this saying he honestly didn’t feel nervous. The ball just slipped from his hands, and he thinks this was because it was a new ball. (I believe they use a new ball for every play in the beginning of the game.) Should we believe him? I honestly have my doubts because he has never admitted to being nervous (not that I can remember) and he always talks about his sense of poise and the importance of being the “calm in the storm.” It makes me wonder if he would admit being nervous. Still, the way he’s played in big moments suggests that he’s telling the truth, too.

    He had a few errant throws, but not excessive. None were close to being intercepted.

  20. Don

    I was later thinking that although not MVP worthy, that Wilson did the second most for his team in the Super Bowl. Avril was the most important player in my opinion, in that he help or created the two interceptions that Manning had. However, Wilson was the one that sustained the first three drives with third down conversions. The first two drives only led to field goals, with good chunk of the yards coming from Harvin. Yet it was the third down conversions that set a tone which made the safety, the three and outs, and the turnover so impactful. In the moment, the game didn’t seem over at 15-0, yet looking back it was and Wilson was a huge part of that.

  21. Reid

    By setting the “tone,” do you mean augmenting a sense of despair on the part of the Broncos? I think there could be something to that (although I can see Mitchell already rolling his eyes at this). Coincidently, I saw and heard video “sound” clips from the game and one of them featured a conversation between Champ Bailey and another Bronco defender about the long length of time Seattle’s offense had the ball. They seemed kind of gloomy.

    But the bigger factor, in my view, was time of possession (around 10 minutes in the first quarter), which, in my opinion, helped the defense play at a high level. Really, the no-huddle offense didn’t seem to lead to fatigue at all. Wilson’s plays on 3rd down were crucial for this.

    Also, in the second half, I know you and Darren thought the game was over, but after watching the Saints playoff game or even the Arizona game at the end of the season, I wasn’t entirely comfortable. The Saints came within one TD away from winning despite being down 16-0 until the 3rd quarter. The offense shut the door on that possibility–although I think the kick off return was probably the nail in the coffin.

    Wilson’s performance was excellent, but I don’t know if he was the second most valuable to the team. Besides Avril and Smith, Kam Chancellor was also important–not only getting the first INT, but also by punishing receivers. (Indeed, I’ve heard some people emphatically believe Chancellor should have won it.) You could also make a case for Harvin as well.

    Basically, the defense was the key, but special teams and offense made significant contributions as well.

    Edit: The one other thing to keep in mind is that the Seahawks didn’t really run or run effectively, except at garbage time. They passed a lot during this game, as if Denver thought they could beat Seattle by keeping him in the pocket and forcing him to pass. Wilson basically wrecked that strategy. What’s impressive is that he had struggled for a long stretch, including in the New Orleans game, which was just two games ago. You’ve got to have mental fortitude to be able perform under those circumstances, particularly in the Super Bowl.

  22. Don

    During the game, I could put Smith and Harvin ahead of Wilson because maybe when they scored the game wasn’t necessarily over. However, taking the Monday Morning QB view and knowing that the game was decided in the first quarter and a half or two, I felt Wilson contribution was the second most important because he was the one that kept the ball in Seattle’s hands. He also set the tone of Denver better put some points on the board because we will score points ourselves, which in turn puts the pressure back on Denver’s offense.

    Bottomline is if someone told me that Seattle would convert on 60% of their third down conversions over the course of the game, I would have said Seattle won then. And my guess is that’s what Wilson and the Seattle offense did in the first half when the game was still undecided.

    That being said, to make the leap that Wilson “showed up” for this game (after his previous playoff games) and was impressive when they needed him most may be a stretch. He may be that guy in the future, but to annoint that now on him after this game is way too premature.

  23. Reid

    I don’t know if Seattle’s offensive effectiveness pressured the Broncos offense so much as demoralized the team as a whole because they put points on the board. More importantly, (and sorry to beat a dead horse) keeping the ball for 10 minutes in the first quarter kept the Denver offense off field–which not only kept the Seattle defense fresh, but it also can hurt the Denver offense by making it difficult to find a rhythm and adding a sense of urgency to score (as you said). Wilson definitely deserves credit for this, especially since they rarely ran the ball. (Well, Harvin’s runs were big, though.)

    Having said that, after the Seahawks scored a TD, Denver’s offense drove the ball from their 19 down into Seattle territory, eating up 9 minutes of the second half. Denver got into a nice rhythm; it was a nice drive, one that sort of weakens the claim that Seattle’s defense dominated the entire game. Had Denver not given up a pick six, and came away with at least a FG, the score could have been 8-3. And even after the TD, Denver drove the ball down into the red zone with a chance to either make the score 22-3 or 22-7. Hardly an insurmountable score. Really, even 22-0 wasn’t insurmountable. The Seahawks were down by 20 points near in the 3rd quarter against the divisional round last year, and, I might add, Wilson orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks I’ve ever seen in the playoffs. (Granted, I think Denver’s situation was a bit tougher, but not by that much.)

    But I’m not really disagreeing with you, or least not much. Wilson’s play was very good. I guess I’m not as certain as you that he was the second most important player in that game.

    That being said, to make the leap that Wilson “showed up” for this game (after his previous playoff games) and was impressive when they needed him most may be a stretch. He may be that guy in the future, but to annoint that now on him after this game is way too premature.

    Why’s that a stretch? When you’re struggling as a QB–and Wilson struggled on some relatively easy slants in the New Orleans game; the whole offense struggled to get first downs in the second half, too; now, maybe that was due to intentionally playing it safe (which Wilson alluded to in the post-game press conference)–but when you’re struggling over several games, it can be very difficult to play well, particularly on a big stage. (And to be fair, I don’t think Wilson was entirely to blame for the offensive struggles during this stretch). I think many QBs, even good ones, can easily go into a tailspin (something I suspect happened with Eli this year). This is one of the reasons I was so concerned going into the NFC championship and even the Super Bowl. And it’s why I thought Wilson’s play was so huge (and ballsy in the NFC championship). I really think it requires mental toughness and probably the ability to put aside what happened before. Greg Cosell, from NFL films (an analyst I like), analyzed six of Seattle’s previous games, noting that Seattle’s (and Wilson’s) 3rd down efficiency was one of the worst in the league. Now, that’s due to playing good defenses–and Denver’s pass defense wasn’t all that good–but when you’ve struggled for six games like that and then play outstanding on 3rd downs–in the biggest game of the year–that’s impressive, is it not? I felt something similar about Joe Flacco last year. Up until the game prior to the AFC championship, Flacco and the passing offense didn’t look in sync. That’s why I didn’t think they had a chance to beat Denver, let alone win the Super Bowl. But somehow Flacco and the passing offense got into a groove. I think that’s a pretty rare and difficult for a QB to do, and that’s what partly made Flacco’s performance so impressive to me.

    To be clear, in my last post, I wasn’t trying to say Wilson was an all-time great QB (if that’s what you thought I meant). My main point was simply that Wilson’s performance was impressive, especially considering the previous games.

    Having said that, I said from last year that the trajectory he’s on points to an all-time great QB. I mentioned that he reminds me of Joe Montana, and while he’s not there yet, I still feel like he’s on his way.

  24. Don

    From what I remember, Denver’s long drive came after the score was 15-0. I thought after the score was 8-0, Manning had his first pick and Wilson drove them for a touchdown (after the pass interference in the end zone). Then Denver had their long drive and Manning threw the pick six to make the score 22-0. I agree with you at the time I didn’t think the game was over (getting there, but not over), but looking back it was over at that point.

    I am not saying Wilson’s play was very good (but good enough). It was good, but not great since he had problems in the red zone. I’m only talking about when the game was on the line ie: in the first half. Yes he was able to drive Seattle to two more TD’s in the second, but at that point Denver was daring Seattle to throw to try and get back in the game.

  25. Reid

    Here’s a breakdown of the first half:

    Denver safety (2-0 Seattle
    Seatte FG (5-0 Seattle)
    Denver 3 and out
    Seattle FG. (8-0 Seattle)
    Denver’s INT (in three plays)
    Seattle TD (15-0 Seattle)
    Denver (8:30 minute drive) pick 6 (22-0 Seattle)
    Denver fails to complete 4th down. (2 minute drive)

    So, yeah, my mistake: if Denver hadn’t thrown the pick-6, the score might have been 15-3, 15-7 or even 15-0–all of which are still completely manageable.

    I am not saying Wilson’s play was very good (but good enough). It was good, but not great since he had problems in the red zone. I’m only talking about when the game was on the line ie: in the first half. Yes he was able to drive Seattle to two more TD’s in the second, but at that point Denver was daring Seattle to throw to try and get back in the game.

    OK, I’m not sure what your original point was or what you position is now. I thought you were saying that he had a really good game, hence, you felt he was the second most valuable player. I said I’m not as sure as you are about that, bu I thought he played very good game, especially since he and the offense had been struggling. To find his groove, despite the struggles, on the biggest stage, to me, that’s impressive. I think it takes a lot of confidence, poise, and it’s a sign of mental toughness as well.

    As for “daring Seattle to throw to get back into the game,” my sense was that Denver’s overall strategy was to take away the run and force Wilson to beat them with the pass. In the second half, they just stuck with that strategy. But at a certain point, I think the bigger issue was that Seattle had broken their will (which could have happened by Harvin’s TD, if not sooner). So if you want to say Wilson’s second half performance wasn’t as good because of this, I think there’s a degree of truth to this. Personally, I wouldn’t say it diminished his performance.

    And, again, I’m not trying to say that this performance definitively proves Wilson’s greatness, nor do I think it’s the strongest piece of evidence. But in my opinion, this performance–taken collectively with others–can make a case that he’s headed in that direction. I’ve seen enough that there aren’t many other QBs I’d choose ahead of him now–even for one year. (More on that later.)

  26. Reid

    I wanted to spend some time discussing the QB position in general. I started thinking about this when Don asked which QB I’d want for just one season. I struggled to articulate my choice and the reasons behind them, so in this post, my goal is to better understand my response to this question. For me, the QB I would choose depends heavily on my understanding of the nature of playing QB as well the role QB has–or should have–on a team. Therefore, I’m going to write quite a bit about both.

    Three Components of Playing the QB Position

    In the original post of this thread, I discussed qualities of a great QB, but I want to describe my understanding of the nature of playing position, specifically, three key aspects of playing the position:

    1. The physical component. This involves the ability to hit open receivers, as well use their feet to help them do so or even gain yard by becoming a runner.

    2. The cerebral component. What I’m putting under the cerebral component involves understanding a situation and then making the appropriate decision. To do this, QBs not only have to understand their offense and the opponent’s defense, they also have to have an ability to take in information and process it almost instantaneously. This involves vision and awareness of the movements of all twenty-two players and deciding (often anticipating) the best action. To succeed in this area, I believe QBs have to study and prepare, and then successfully combine that with spatial awareness and instincts. (Note: I didn’t really include the way QBs can use their knowledge to help receivers get open or keep defenses off balance. That would fall under this category, but I’m mostly thinking of decision-making based on the circumstances in a given play and the larger context of the game.)

    3. The character component. Here, I’m primarily thinking of the courage and poise required to play the position. QB have to deal with fear and pain. Fast, strong and big defensive players are trying to inflict pain upon them as often as possible. They will hit the QB and this will affect all QBs to some extent, but the great QBs still remain effective, while avoiding costly mistakes. A QB might excel in the physical and mental parts of the game, but he will not succeed if he cannot manage his fear and emotions. (I could also mention leadership and the ability to inspire confidence in teammates, but I won’t go into that here.)

    The best QBs have and synthesize all of these qualities in a way that allows them to be productive and avoid costly mistakes.

    A Closer Look at the Cerebral Component

    In my comments above, I mentioned good decisions, which I suspect implies plays that gain positive yards. While good decisions lead to those results, good decisions mean more than that. Often a good decision involves choosing the lesser to evils, in order to avoid costly, even catastrophic, mistakes. For example, in some situations, a good decision might be to throw the ball away or even take a sack–especially if trying to make a positive play is a high risk. Additionally, taking that chance may be unwise if the team has a sizable lead, with the opponent’s offense struggling. A good QB takes all of these factors into account and plays accordingly. A QB may be able to make good decisions that lead to many completions or TDs, but if they also make decisions that lead to costly mistakes and untimely errors, the latter outweighs the former in my view.

    I believe some people refer to what I’m talking about as “game management” or understanding “situational football,” and in my view managing the game well is very close to the heart of playing QB. No other position can influence a game as much as the QB, and the quality of a QB’s decisions–both in terms of making positive plays and avoiding costly mistakes–that determine the outcome of the game. (Assuming they have good physical abilities and intestinal fortitude.) Great QBs can make great plays, but also have to occur within the context of a good decision. QBs who consistently make great plays from bad decisions often end up costing wins for their team, especially in the playoffs. For example, a QB make a risky throw, which results in a TD. People overlook the foolishness of the decision, since the results were positive. But I don’t agree with this. Looking at the wisdom of the decision is crucial, and I believe QBs should primarily be judged on this (again, assuming they they the necessary courage and physical tools to play the position).

    This is the aspect that I don’t think people fully appreciate–or at least they don’t seem to evaluate a QB in this way. Instead, they seem to focus on whether a QB throws for a lot of yards, TDs or makes spectacular plays. They don’t really evaluate the quality of the decisions overall. For me, while making plays that require a lot of ability in big moments is an important part of being a great QB, a QB’s understanding of situations and the quality of their decisions are just as important, if not more important.

    The Role of a QB

    I never really had a high opinion of Pete Carroll as a head coach, but I’ve recently read bits about his approach to football, and I agreed with a lot of it (which isn’t surprising since I really like the way the Seahawks’ style and approach). For him, he doesn’t want to have the team depend so much on the QB–for example, a Peyton Manning type of QB where everything is built around the QB. Carroll used the term “point guard” to describe his ideal QB–specifically the old school variety that basically gets the ball to the right people at the right time versus score a lot of points. (I’ve also heard Wilson use similar words to describe his approach, which I assume partly comes from Carroll.) Think of a John Stockton type of player versus a Derek Rose.

    In this approach, the success of the team doesn’t depend so heavily on the QB making a lot of plays. The performance of the running game, defense and special teams play an equally important role for the team’s success. I really like that approach (although it depends on drafting and developing a lot of good players) because the QB position is so difficult to play–which only becomes more difficult in pressure situations. Moreover, QB mistakes can really be devastating, so adopting a style of play that relies more on the running game, defense and special teams is a smart move (if you can get enough good players). This approach can limit the opportunities QBs have for making mistakes.

    This approach is dramatically different from Manning and the Broncos. There, everything is built around Manning and the passing game. The team wanted weapons for Manning and got them, which probably makes filling other positions more difficult. For most of Manning’s career, this pass-first offense lead to points, but I also believed it contributed to weaker defenses–or at least prevented dominant defenses. Almost everything depended on Manning: he had to put up points; he had to throw the ball a lot to do so. Throwing frequently also increased the chance of costly errors. To succeed in this style, particularly in the post-season, when playing the best teams, is extremely difficult. The QB has to almost be flawless, which is a lot to ask of a QB. (When the Saints won, I got the impression that Brees played almost a flawless game.)

    Which QB Would I Pick for One Season

    Here are the three criteria I would use to pick my QB:

    1. Decision making–especially good ball security.
    2. Play making ability–particularly in crucial moments. This is the ability of a QB to make big throws or plays when the team really needs it. It could be a game-winning TD or an important 3rd down conversion.
    3. Willingness to hand the ball off. The QB has to be one where they’re willing to play in a run-first offense–that is, an offense where they might not throw the ball all that much. Often, this means that QB isn’t an incredible passer–because a)QBs with this level of talent won’t often tolerate this; b) coaches will feel too tempted to go with a pass-first offense.

    With all of this in mind, Russell Wilson would be up there for me. This may sound crazy, but in terms of ball security and decision-making, I feel like he might be the best. If he had better pass-protection, I think he would have thrown far less INTs, and given the pass protection he had, I’d say his ball security was exceptional. I also have great confidence in his ability to make plays in clutch moments. I also like his ability to make something happen when a play breaks down. To me, only Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Luck are in the same category–and I’d put Wilson and Rodgers at the top (although, between the four of them, it’s close).

    I like Rodgers, but I like Wilson’s ball security better (although it might be close). Also, I’m not sure Rodgers is a guy that would accept handing the ball off 30 times, while only throwing 30 or less. I really like Luck, too, despite struggling with ball security. (I’m confident that once he gets weapons and the running game gets going, the ball security will improve dramatically.) Roethlisberger is up there, although I didn’t watch a lot of his games this year. He’s not necessarily durable, either.

    What about Brady, Manning and Brees? Brady probably belongs in the conversation, but I like the other guys for their ability to make plays with their feet. Honestly, I think Brady and Manning are old and they make mistakes that people may overlook because they still perform at a high level overall. I don’t like Manning just because for reasons I mentioned above. Brees seemed really shaky away from home, including protecting the ball, so he would be out for me.

  27. Reid

    “A Slightly Above Average QB”

    Colin Cowherd interviewed Greg Cosell, a guy I like, and Cosell mentioned that he spoke to three (or four) experienced (He mentioned twenty-five years of experience)coaches on the offensive side of the ball, and they said that Wilson is a “slightly above average QB” on a really good team. (Cosell goes on to say that that’s the consensus of NFL coaches.)

    Wow. I know less than these guys, but I see something totally different. We’ll see I guess.

  28. Reid

    Don, Mitchell and anyone else who is interested,

    So who you would pick for a QB for one season? And let me ask this: where would Wilson rank?

    Here are some of the potential candidates that could possibly chosen above Wilson:

    Aaron Rodgers
    Andrew Luck
    Tom Brady
    Ben Roethlisberger
    Phillip Rivers
    Drew Brees
    (Edit: Joe Flacco)
    Peyton Manning
    Cam Newton
    Tony Romo
    Eli Manning
    Matt Ryan
    Colin Kaepernick
    Jay Cutler
    Nick Foles
    RGIII
    Matt Stafford
    Matt Schaub
    Alex Smith
    Carson Palmer

    The list above is ranked, although some of the players could switch places. My first tier would be Rodgers, Luck, Brady, Roethlisberger, and Rivers. Wilson, Luck and Rogers would probably form my top tier–although I’d be comfortable with the rest.

    Many of the other QBs don’t make it because their ball security isn’t good enough. This includes Manning and Brees for me, although with the latter, this seems connected to playing on the road. (And maybe he just had a few bad games. Brees is borderline for the first tier for me.) Luck seems too high given my criteria, but I really think the circumstances (injured players and switching to an uptempo offense) lead to these turnovers. I think these problems will go away once the players get healthy and they move back to a more conventional pro, run-first offense. We’ll see.

    Re: Rodgers. I’m not entirely confident about his ball-security, and I would actually give Wilson the edge on this. I definitely prefer Rodgers’ arm, though. I haven’t really analyzed a lot of his throws this past year, too, so I’m assuming his decision-making/accuracy are very good.

    Re: Roethlisberger. I’m not so certain because I didn’t watch a lot of his games, and I didn’t get to analyze this throws/decision-making. But he seems poised and I like his ability to create when plays break down.

    Re: Brady. I think his accuracy declined, but the bigger issues are his lack of mobility–to create when plays breakdown–and I do think he can be rattled more than Wilson.

    Re: Rivers. I’m ranking him based on what I saw this year. I thought the was exceptional, although I occasionally saw him revert back to inexplicably bad passes. Obviously, his ability to create when a play breaks down is limited, but of all the pocket QBs last year, I think I liked him the best.

    Re: Peyton Manning. I feel bad–almost as if I have something against him. I really don’t think that’s the case, though. It’s just my honest feeling is that he’s old and kind of shaky. I’m not just talking about the quality of his passes, but the way he reacts to pressure in the pocket. It seems like he plays scared at times. The thing is, I don’t think he’s really been pressured so much this year, partly because he plays in a offense where he can get the ball out quick and partly because he hasn’t played against great defenses all that often.

  29. Don

    I think the elite passers in league are still Brady, Rodgers, Brees, and Manning. I would agree to some extent that all of them may have lost some with the exception of Rodgers. But with Brees and Brady I feel they just don’t have the weapons. As for Manning, he seems to have lost accuracy on his deep throws. What sets them apart in my opinion is twofold: 1) These guys seems to be the best at presnap reads. They know where to go with the ball before the ball is even snapped. And Manning takes this to another level. Manning is able to make quick throws because he’s able to quickly assess where to go with the ball. I think Reid assumes the offense makes Manning productive, but I think very few quarterbacks can make the presnap reads that makes those quick throws possible in the NFL. I think even Manning himself couldn’t make those reads early in his career. And 2) their ability to go through their progressions so quickly. I see less of this from Brees than the other three, but it could just be that his receivers run deeper routes, and thus he needs more time to go through his progressions. You add those two decision making skills to their abilities to throw the ball accurately and that’s what makes them elite.

    I think Romo and Luck have the throwing abilities of the above 4. They seem to be accurate and can make all the throws. Romo’s problem is he doesn’t make good decisions on where and when to throw it. Maybe Romo’s receivers are not great at getting open, but he seems to hold the ball way too long. Luck throughout the year and not only in the playoffs made some terrible decisions. That being said though, Aikman and Peyton was that way too in the beginning of their careers. If I go on potential, Luck is one of the elite, he’s just not there yet (and may never be there if his ability to read defenses doesn’t improve).

    Re Roethlisberger: He can make all the throws. He’s very poised as Reid has said and hard to bring down. His decision making is not great (probably in the same vain as Romo’s) and he a very streaky with his accuracy.

    Re Rivers: Rivers throws a lot of balls that look like Peyton’s. They can throw the ducks and get away with it because of their ability to anticipate. What I don’t like about Rivers is he holds the ball too long, and he doesn’t seem to create enough space in the pocket for himself. Brady and Brees when the pockets close in around them, seem to create enough space for themselves. I don’t get the sense that Rivers does that very well.

    Re Wilson: Wilson is great in all the way Reid describes him. However, he needs to learn to make quicker decisions (I know Reid will say his line sucks.). But to me his bigger problem is he not’s an elite QB in terms of accuracy. Reid seems to like QBs that can make good decisions when the play breaks down. Rodgers, Wilson, Roethlisberger, and Luck arguably are the best in the league in those situations. To me though the most important things in being a QB is making quick/correct decisions on where to throw the ball and then being able to make the pass accurately. To me the four I mentioned are the best in the league at that and that’s why they are so productive.

    On a side note, I think Wilson’s greatness will be measured when he is giving a big contract (which he will get and deserve). At that point Wilson will have less talent around him because of the cap and also more responsibility. He will have to be the “man”. Which reminds me you forgot Flacco on your list. Flacco is also at the point in his career in which his greatness will be measured after signing that big contract.

  30. Don

    Sorry forgot this is a Russell Wilson thread. Other than my elite 4, I think I would only put Rivers and Luck above Wilson. In fact I would just put Rivers, Luck, Wilson, and maybe Romo in a group below the elite 4.

  31. Mitchell

    I’m assuming the question is which would you have for one year right now, right? And I’m also assuming that every other variable is equal; that is, you aren’t choosing Rodgers with the current Green Bay receivers or Wilson with the current Seahawks defense.

    In that case, my pick is Aaron Rodgers. For something like this, you have to go for broke. Take Rodgers and you might not make the playoffs, but you could win every game by twenty points including the Super Bowl.

    I don’t think you can go with Rivers because his post-season record is so bad and because just last year, he was pretty awful. Peyton is my second choice, because assuming all other things are equal, he will make the most of the guys he has. Actually, for this reason I’m tempted to make him first, but it’s hard to ignore Rodgers’s amazing arm. Brady is third for the same reason.

    I’m putting WIlson right in the middle of the pack, mostly because I just don’t know what he can do across a whole season with the same defense everyone else has. In 2013, the Seahawks gave up the fewest points per game (14.4). The number sixteen team in that category, the Titans, gave up 23.8.

    The Seahawks offense averaged 25.7 points per game. That’s not an encouraging margin. The Broncos and Patriots were #1 and #2 in that category, in a year when neither of them had great receivers.

    I acknowledge that the Seahawks had a run-based offense, and of course that affects their numbers. But if we’re talking about all things being equal, we almost negate the running game, since (more or less) all the good quarterbacks hand the ball off with equal aplomb.

  32. Reid

    I’m not confident in my ability to evaluate a QB’s ability to read defenses (pre and post snap) or efficiently go through their progressions, but, having said that, Brady, Brees, and Manning do seem to excel at both. I’d guess Rodgers is up there as well, but I even less sure about him. In any event, I think he has the best arm of the four, and I can see why you include him in your top four.

    However, don’t you think the offenses these QBs run make their decision-making and throwing appear better than QBs who play in more traditional offenses (like Wilson and Luck)? I’m not saying that Manning, Brady, Brees aren’t better, but the nature of their offenses makes this hard to determine in my view. Their use a lot of receivers, using schemes (e.g., bunch formations, rubs, etc) that make covering every receiver almost impossible–at least one receiver will be open. Moreover, these offenses often rely on quick passes (I suspect to neutralize the blitz and pass rush)–whether it’s slants, receiver screens, crossing routes, etc. Dinking and dunking are a prominent feature of these offenses.

    But offenses run by Wilson and Luck are more conventional pro-style offenses. Seattle will use four receiver sets, too, but they don’t seem to use all these complex schemes to get receivers open. Instead, they seem to rely more on Wilson’s ability to extend plays. They’ll also rely on play-action to get receivers open, but when Rice went down (and Harvin was out), even that didn’t always help get them open. In short, the offense relied on different ways of getting receivers open–not so much on routes/schemes (e.g., bunch formations, using picks, etc.), but play action, scrambling and the receiver’s individual ability. Both Seattle and Indy were limited in terms of offensive weapons and even had trouble pass protecting.

    I will say this: if I wanted to build my team around the offense, I would probably use an offense similar to the ones those run by your top four (especially Patriots’ or Chargers’)–and I’d want the four guys you chose (plus Rivers). They are the best passing QBs, especially in that type of context.

    But, as you know, I don’t favor that type of offense or approach. The burden is too great on the QB–he must be almost flawless to win Super Bowls.

    This may sound crazy, but I think a QB’s ability to pass the ball might be overrated. I’m not just talking about the physical ability, but also the mental components needed to effectively complete passes. Playing QB is also about understanding situations and making good decisions. Favre is a better passer than Wilson, but I don’t think he’s a better QB. Why? Because he doesn’t understand (or chooses to ignore) situations and fails to make good decisions. You could say something similar about Matthew Stafford (although his accuracy isn’t beyond reproach).

    Brees, Brady and Manning may all be solid decision makers–but I’d choose Wilson over them, especially when it comes to ball security. I trust Wilson more than them–and that’s saying something given that Wilson can play in a risky way. To me, the fact that he’s a scrambler–sometimes as wild as Tarkenton–and a runner–and still manages to protect the ball and consistently avoid costly mistakes is almost a minor miracle to me. He hardly gets sacked on these marathon scrambles, he doesn’t throw picks when he improvises, he rarely takes big hits when he runs with the ball–it’s remarkable. If this weren’t the case, I definitely wouldn’t think as highly as I do of him.

    And yes, his play-making ability, including his threat to run, is another reason I’d choose him above those others. In terms of play-making ability, only Rodgers, Luck, Roethlisberger and Romo would be on par with Wilson. I would eliminate Romo because of ball-security. And if you’re right about Roethisberger’s ball-security and accuracy, I’d eliminate him, too (and he would drop considerably, depending on how bad he is in both areas–I didn’t really see this in the few games I watched).

    And then we look at making these big plays in big moments. That would leave me with Rodgers, Luck and Wilson. I actually like Wilson’s decision-making more than all of them, so I’d probably go with him. But Rodgers and Luck have better arms and they can hang in the pocket better. It’s a toss up.

    Here’s another way to look at it: if you’re in the Super Bowl and you need a QB to score on the last drive, who are you taking? I’d want a guy who was supremely poised. You’re probably playing against a good defense, and they’re going to come after the QB. If you’ve got a QB who can avoid the rush and extend plays, that’s something I really value. (Like Kaepernick, Wilson must be a nightmare for defenses in this situation because he can also hurt you running the ball, too.) However, this wouldn’t mean much if the QB didn’t have the solid pocket skills–which I think Wilson has. In a way, Wilson’s like an Elway with a weaker arm, but a stronger mind.

    Wilson’s Accuracy

    He did have problems, especially in the Saints playoff game. But even in that game, you’re talking two or three throws. I don’t know if QBs have gotten worse in terms of accuracy, but my sense (and I try to evaluate throws regardless if they’re completed or not) is that he’s not significantly worse than any of the top QBs you mentioned. Brady and Manning have been really bad at times. With Manning, you can’t say it’s weapons, because he’s got a lot and they’re big targets as well (unlike Wilson and Brady–with the exception of Gronk, and a few of his rookie receivers). Brees looked fine at home, it was just on the road, particularly toward the end of the season where he looked really shaky (not just accuracy but decision-making as well). He did not look like an elite QB against the Eagles and Seahawks.

    Sorry forgot this is a Russell Wilson thread. Other than my elite 4, I think I would only put Rivers and Luck above Wilson. In fact I would just put Rivers, Luck, Wilson, and maybe Romo in a group below the elite 4.

    So, to answer the original question you posed, you would take those six other QBs ahead of Wilson? At least that’s better than those NFL coaches who said he was only slightly above average.

    (Roethlisberger would fail to make the second tier? The thing about Big Ben is that if the Steelers get a better defense, I’d like their chances of winning a SB–better than Manning or Brees, for example.

    By the way, I feel like Romo could be in the first tier if he played on a different team.

    And I can’t believe I forgot Flacco. I think he’s up there. I like his poise, which seems unshakable. I added him to my list above.)

  33. Reid

    I forgot to address one other point:

    On a side note, I think Wilson’s greatness will be measured when he is giving a big contract (which he will get and deserve). At that point Wilson will have less talent around him because of the cap and also more responsibility. He will have to be the “man”.

    Less talent than he had this season? You really think he had a lot of talent? Marshawn Lynch is terrific, but this has to be one of the weakness offensive lines of a Super Bowl champion that I can remember–especially for the type of offense they have. They didn’t have Harvin for most of the season and Sidney Rice played only half. Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse make spectacular catches on those deep and sideline throws, but they’re smallish and don’t always get separation. Zach Miller has lost a step.

    Equally important, Darryl Bevell the OC is fine, but he doesn’t strike me as a coach who can get players open from his play design–not like Sean Peyton or Belichick (or whoever is responsible for their offense since he’s been there).

    If Wilson wins with less talent (including the OC) than he had to work with for this season, that’ll be amazing! I have a hard time imagining him doing that–unless he gets a better OC or if the defense gets even better than it is now.

  34. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I’m assuming the question is which would you have for one year right now, right? And I’m also assuming that every other variable is equal; that is, you aren’t choosing Rodgers with the current Green Bay receivers or Wilson with the current Seahawks defense.

    Yeah, basically.

    In that case, my pick is Aaron Rodgers. For something like this, you have to go for broke. Take Rodgers and you might not make the playoffs,…

    Wait, you’re sounding as if picking Rodgers is a risk. I don’t get that.

    I don’t think you can go with Rivers because his post-season record is so bad and because just last year, he was pretty awful

    Good point. I was mostly looking at last season. Also, I think McCoy/Whisenhunt’s offense and play calling were excellent, so I’d be far less certain about Rivers outside of that context.

    Peyton is my second choice, because assuming all other things are equal, he will make the most of the guys he has. Actually, for this reason I’m tempted to make him first, but it’s hard to ignore Rodgers’s amazing arm. Brady is third for the same reason.

    I agree that Peyton will make the players around him better (especially if he’s allowed to run his offense), and Brady can probably do things few other QBs can. But Peyton has had quality weapons to work with, and Brady has been with one arguably one of the best coaches of all time. Would Peyton do as well with the type of first round picks he’s had? Would Brady be able to make players better outside of the system he’s running now and without Belichick?

    And if you’re going by the “making players better” rationale, you don’t think Wilson belongs in the discussion? His offensive line wasn’t very good, and he didn’t play in a system that utilized a lot of quick throws. He didn’t have two of his top receivers for majority of the year. And his OC doesn’t seem to be on the level of a Greg Roman, Sean Payton or Belichick.

    Some say the success of the passing game stemmed from the play action, off a great running game. That helped, but I think this overstates the situation. Wilson had to consistently make plays with his arm and his legs–in a way that’s similar to a young Elway. I’m really not sure if Brady or Manning would have been as effective–if they played in the exact same circumstances.

    The Seahawks offense averaged 25.7 points per game. That’s not an encouraging margin. The Broncos and Patriots were #1 and #2 in that category, in a year when neither of them had great receivers.

    Several things:

    1. You have to look at the teams the Broncos and Patriots played–and then compare that to the teams the Seahawks played, especially the defenses they faced;

    2. You don’t think the Broncos’ receivers are very good? You had some people arguing they were the best weapons Peyton has ever had (and I believe Don leaned toward that position).

    3. The Patriots didn’t have great weapons–with the exception of Gronk (who was hurt a lot)–but that’s almost always been the case. With the Patriots, generally speaking, it’s not about the quality of the weapons, but the system/play calling and Brady’s ability to execute within that system. (In their first three Super Bowls in the past decade, can you remember any of their receivers? And do you think they’re really good?)

    But if we’re talking about all things being equal, we almost negate the running game, since (more or less) all the good quarterbacks hand the ball off with equal aplomb.

    I don’t think you can ignore the running game, specifically, the likelihood you would have a strong running game–and a run-first offense–depending on the QB you picked. If you picked Peyton, you’re basically accepting a pass-first offense. Given the success of Brady, Brees, and Rodgers, I would imagine coaches would put them in a pass-first offense–like the ones they run. How amendable would the QBs be to passing under thirty times a game? I’d want a QB who would be willing to do that.

  35. Reid

    What Will Determine Wilson’s Greatness?

    Don mentioned that Wilson’s greatness will depend on what he does after he gets the big contract. I responded to that remark above, but I wanted to more point to some other, bigger factors in my opinion.

    There are two things that are going to determine his greatnesss–at least in the mind’s of many people (not me):

    1. Impressive bulk stats. He’s going to have to pass more often, throw for more yards and TDs. I think if he continues to frequently throw under thirty times a game, people are probably going to overlook him as a great QB.

    Said in another way, he won’t be considered great unless he isn’t put into a pass-first offense, like the Patriots, Packers, Saints or Broncos. (Personally, I have a feeling he could run those offenses fairly well, but I just don’t think he needs to to be considered a great QB.)

    2. Producing iconic moments in the playoffs, especially the Super Bowl. If #1 doesn’t happen, he might achieve greatness if he can have an iconic moment or performance in a big game. Think of Montana running the two minute drill and scoring to win against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. If Wilson has one or more moments like that, he could be seen as great in the mind’s of many people.

    Without either of these two, though, I suspect a lot of people won’t consider him great–especially if Seattle continues to have a great defense and running game. Again, I don’t really agree with this way of evaluating a QB, but I feel like a lot of people aren’t going to evaluate him this way.

    Are Defenses and a Great Running Game Bailing Wilson Out?

    I think people don’t give Wilson the credit he deserves because he plays on a team with a great defense and run game, but, to be fair, I do think there are times when the defense did bail him out. One game that comes to mind is the Houston game. Not only was Sherman’s pick six decisive, but Wilson actually threw a crucial INT in that game (I believe it was the possession before the pick 6). That’s the type of situation that comes close to a defense bailing him out. (Wilson faced a lot of pressure in that game, too, though.)

    Wilson also threw a game-ending INT against the Colts–that mostly fell on him. He was pressured on the play (and pressured a lot during that game), but the pass wasn’t a very good one. (To be fair, the defense gave up one or two deep TD passes, and the Colts blocked a FG and returned it for a TD.)

    The Derek Jeter of Football

    Since this is Derek Jeter’s last year and Wilson is now at the Rangers’ Spring Training, I wanted to share this story about Jeter–primarily because I feel the same way about Wilson.

    There was a Houston Astro scout who said that this about Jeter: “This guy is going to win you a lot of championships.” When the Astros didn’t draft him high, the scout quit.

  36. Reid

    At theMMQB.com, Peter King talked with Pete Carroll about Russell Wilson. Here’s an excerpt:

    I asked Pete Carroll abut the continued development of Russell Wilson, and he told me two interesting things: He thinks Wilson can be a 70-percent passer, and Wilson and Percy Harvin are already throwing together this offseason. And also this: Carroll will not be going light on Wilson now that he’s won a Super Bowl. “He needs all the attention that everyone else needs, and he’s gonna get it,” Carroll said. “Russell’s just a young guy figuring it out. Of course, he applies himself so well that you think that he’s okay. I think that would be a tragic mistake. He’s just developing. He’s just coming on. He needs work fundamentally. He needs work on the principles of what we’re doing. He needs repetitions with the guys he plays with. All of that will just continue to add to his play. So we’re not going to treat him any differently than anybody else. We’re gonna battle like crazy to make him push his game as far as he can take it. So that’s what this offseason is about. He’ll be available as much as a guy can be available. He’s already traveling with our guys. Throwing with our guys. Working out with guys all over the country. He’s ringing the bell now. Wherever he goes, they know he’s coming. He’s gonna get them out and get them on a field somewhere, and throw the ball around, and do something with the fellas.’’

    (bold added)

    Carroll’s attitude or Wilson’s current behavior isn’t surprising, but it’s really good to hear. A couple of days ago, Wilson remarked that he’s trying to be the greatest QB of all time. Again, not surprising–and not really exceptional, as most good QBs have this aspiration–but it’s good to hear.

    On a sidenote:

    The Difference With This Super Bowl Championship Team and Others in the Past and Why That Makes Me Optimistic

    Staying on top is always difficult because getting to the top almost always means team maximized its potential. This implies that the team previously had areas to work on. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but they still have some major areas of improvement–particularly on the offense. The offensive line really needs to improve, and Wilson can also make improvements. In general, they’ve got to get more consistent as a unit. Having said that, I think the defense can improve, especially against the run. They’re still vulnerable to run-first offenses, in my view, and while dramatic improvements may not be possible, it does give the defense something to shoot for.

    This is the reason I’m optimistic. It’s harder to be complacent, when you still can make significant improvements. Yes, reaching and winning the Super Bowl can diminish some motivation, but I feel like this team has enough things to work on to keep them motivated. Plus, they seem to have players who genuinely care about getting better. If they come into next season showing signs of complacency, looking like a team resting on its laurels, I’ll be shocked.

  37. Reid

    A Performance Close to Perfect

    First, I’m talking about Wilson’s performance against the Bears in week 3 of the preseason. I’ve rarely watched preseason games, and I never know how to appropriate gauge them. I recall players/teams who have done well in the preseason, only to perform poorly in the regular season. Still, I feel like Wilson’s performance is worth mentioning for several reasons.

    Before I got into those reasons, his stats were 15-20, for a little over 200 yards. He threw two TDs and ran for one. 0 turnovers.

    Why do I want to mention Wilson’s performance, especially with those stats? First of all, I understand that teams play their starters the most in the 3rd preseason game. I’m not sure exactly why this is (probably trying to rest/protect their players before the first game), but my sense is that the team comes closest to what they’ll look like in the regular season.

    Having said that, here are other reasons, I found Wilson’s performance noteworthy:

    1. All of his passes were almost perfectly thrown–except for one, which was tipped at the line of scrimmage; and the receiver still had a slight chance to make a play on the ball. Granted, he only threw the ball twenty times (and left the game sometime in the 3rd quarter, I believe), but still, I had never seen Wilson throw the ball this well. (He had two balls he intentionally threw away to avoid being sacked.)

    2. Additionally, he didn’t always have a lot of time to throw. Several of his throws came on scrambles, which weren’t easy plays.

    I should say that the OL played well, for the most part and that Percy Harvin seemed to make a huge difference, not just directly, but indirectly. I do think that receivers are more open because of Harvin’s presence on the field. Harvin also impacted the game, especially via YACs.

    If the OL can stay healthy (which isn’t really a reasonable expectation), this offense could be deadly this year.

  38. Reid

    Week 1 of the 2014-2015: What Happened to Perfection?

    I talked about how Wilson looked perfect against the Bears in preseason, and I’ll add that Wilson maintained this impression in the one drive against the Raiders in the following week.

    Unfortunately, that impression changed in the week 1 game. First let me say that Wilson played well overall. As far as I can remember, he really didn’t any problems with accuracy–in that regard, he maintained this aura of perfection.

    However, there were a few problems that startled me. (I want to say “alarm,” but that seems too strong.) I’m thinking of two passes he threw that were almost intercepted–and you could argue they should have been if not for the terrific plays by Wilson’s teammates preventing them. The first one was a short throw to Zach Miller. The problem was that Wilson was staring down Miller, telegraphing the pass. As a result the defender, hit Miller knocking the ball in the air. I was pretty surprised. I don’t remember him throwing many of these type of passes.

    Later, he throws a deep pass to Baldwin, that falls short and is almost picked off by the safety. I’ve seen Wilson underthrow balls, but this one seemed like he just recklessly threw the ball up there, almost as if he didn’t see the safety. In any event, it was very poorly thrown ball.

    Wilson has made these type of mistakes through the course of season, but they’re pretty rare. Two in one game seemed like a lot, too, especially given the way he played in the previous games (and I realize they were preseason games, but still).

    I should also add that he threw two other passes where the receivers where able to interfere with the route. On one of them, he hesitate, double-clutched, and then threw the ball–while staring down the receiver. The defender ran back toward the receiver and knocked the ball away. There was another play where the defender knocked the ball away, too. All of these are dangerous passes, the type that can get picked off. If this continues to throw a couple of these a game, that’s going to be a big problem.

    On another note, my sense is that Wilson does tend to choose a receiver or area and then stare at that area after the snap. This isn’t a problem if the receiver he throws to is basically open and/or Wilson gets it there without any danger of the ball being picked off. But these throws were different–as they were riskier. It’s not something I’m used to seeing by him. (Maybe he just didn’t have a good handle on the speed of the Packer secondary. If so, he better make this adjustment sooner.)

    I also still think he needs to pump fake more.

    Other than that, I don’t think they there was any other major problem that I noticed. He seems to have eliminated the balls that sail a bit high, which is obviously a good thing.

  39. Don

    I was listening to part of the game on the radio and Boomer made the comment that there are throws the Wilson is “unable to make”. “Unable to make” is very vague. He doesn’t have the arm strength (although as I have contested before, Wilson’s arm strength is good to very good and possibly underrated, IMO), or the timing or talent, Boomer didn’t clarify. However then Green Bay got the ball back and Rodgers completed that pass to Jordy Nelson in which Jordy was being held and still completed the pass (well that’s how it was described on the radio). Boomer said, “See that’s the pass Wilson is unable to make.”

    Being that Boomer should be an expert in QBing, is it possible that Wilson has limitations in terms of throwing the football?

  40. Reid

    Oh, I definitely think he has limitations in terms of arm strength. Here’s what I said earlier in the thread:

    I feel pretty confident that Wilson can make enough of them to be effective. The one throw I think he sometimes has problems is the line drives, especially toward the sidelines. The ball looks like it floats just a tad–although I could say the same for Romo and Brees.

    He threw these out routes in his rookie year, but last year, he very rarely threw them, if I remember correctly. While he can’t make all the throws well, perhaps, my sense is that he can make enough of them for this to not be a major issue.

    I’m more worried about the issues I brought up in the post above. I’m hoping that he’s just adjusting to regular season. (You couldn’t watch the game? It was actually pretty good game, at least for the first half. Dude, you need to get NFL gamerewind.)

  41. mitchell

    Dang, the game was on at 2:30. Not everyone can get in front of a TV at that hour. 🙂

  42. Marc

    I think the throws that Boomer is referring to involve the ones where Wilson is in the pocket and supposedly can’t see over the line because of his height. Can’t see the receiver, therefore can’t make the throw. I don’t think there’s much question about his arm strength.

  43. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I’m pretty sure the game was replayed right after at 7 PM. Besides, I thought you had TiVo.

    Marc,

    It depends what you mean by “questions about his arm strength.” Can he make all the throws–and throw them well? Personally, I think he has trouble on some throws, which is to say that he has limitations. But I’m pretty sure that’s true for many QBs.

    To me, his arm strength isn’t an issue in the sense that I think he can make enough of the throws he needs to.

    By the way, here’s a page that shows some GIFs of the (deep) out route throw I was referring to. I believe the writer has these clips to show that Wilson can make one of the most difficult throws–and it’s true, Wilson completes these throws, and they are pretty terrific throws and catches.

    However, in my opinion, these throws are kinda dangerous and risky, partly because of the lack of velocity on his throws. Notice the arc on the balls–it’s not being thrown with a flat trajectory. This is the “floating quality” that I mentioned before. In order to make these throws, while minimizing the risk of the defender jumping the route, the timing and accuracy have to be perfect. I’d guess, he’d probably have to throw the ball early, with more anticipation to make it safe. In any event, these clips were from the 2012 playoffs, and I don’t think he threw many of these in 2013 (unless the receiver was wide open).

  44. Marc

    I’m not sure how to assess Wilson’s arm strength and ability to make all the throws and I’m not sure how important that is in the first place since the Seahawks seem more about emphasizing strengths than worrying about weaknesses.

    Here’s a quote from Darrell Bevell after the Green Bay game in response to a being asked about his offense not having any obvious weaknesses. I think it highlights their philosophy, which seemingly should be the philosophy of everyone right?

    “You’re wrong,” Bevell said. “We do have weaknesses. The players have weaknesses. But it is our job as coaches to find the strengths in what our guys do. They all have strengths, and that’s what we highlight. What really helps is having Russell. He is so committed to improving on the littlest things every day. I try to find a word for this sometimes, but I can’t … it’s his refusal to fail. No detail is too small, and he makes sure to stress that every day.’’

  45. Marc

    Actually, here’s a link to the whole article from mmqb.

    http://mmqb.si.com/2014/09/05/seattle-seahawks-green-bay-packers-nfl-week-1/

  46. Reid

    To me, Wilson’s arm strength isn’t an issue in the sense that it’s not something that will stop him from being a great QB. At the same time, I hear some Seahawk fans talk about Wilson’s great arm strength, and sometimes I think that’s overstated. He can’t drive the ball the way QBs like Rodgers, Newton or Kaepernick–but their arms are among the strongest in the league. Wilson has limitations on his deep ball as well–for example, he probably can’t throw it as far as Flacco. At the same time, Wilson’s accuracy on the deep ball is really good, maybe the best in the league. He also has way better touch than Newton or Kaep.

    I agree good coaching should maximize a player’s strengths, while mitigating their weaknesses. But I’m reacting more to the way some Seahawk fans seem blind to Wilson’s limitations.

  47. Reid

    Week 2 (2014-2015): What Happened to Great Playmaking?

    I was bummed about the Seahawk loss, but just as unsettling was some aspects of Wilson’s play. He didn’t have a bad game, by any means, but the sort of playmaking ability that I’ve seen from him week in and week out since he’s been in the league just wasn’t in this game. He seemed like just an ordinary QB.

    Specifically, I’m thinking of his ability to extend plays. I don’t think there was one play like that. Now, to be fair, the Charger got good pressure on Wilson (not surprising especially since they played a total of forty snaps). Still, Wilson’s faced pressure for his entire career and made good things happen during them.

    He also failed to make these plays when it mattered most–namely, with about three minutes. He didn’t come through, and he didn’t look good. (I was wondering if there was some confusion as they called two time outs in a row, which seems like a huge failure in the coaching or QB play.)

    It gives me no joy to say what I’m saying, but that’s how I saw things.

  48. Marc

    I think it’s hard to make an accurate assessment based on a small sample size because everyone can have a bad game (see Broncos in the most recent Super Bowl) that is probably not truly reflective of overall performance. We could say these same sorts of things about Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, or any other QB when discussing performance during one game or the 4th quarter of one game. So while it’s appropriate to say that Wilson didn’t make the game changing plays we were hoping for, he has a fairly lengthy history of making these sorts of plays.

    From what I can tell of local analysis, most seem to think that QB play was not one of the big reasons for the loss.

    Looking forward to the rematch this weekend!

  49. mitchell

    It’s all about sample size. Pro Football Focus has, after two weeks, Matt Ryan as the top-ranked QB, Aaron Rodgers as #2, and Ryan Tannehill at #3. When Dan Le Batard interviewed Steve Palazzolo, who runs the website, about how Tannehill can be #3 when it’s obvious to everyone that he hasn’t been the third-best QB in the league, Palazzolo said that the QBs who are better haven’t put together two good games. These guys look at every play and they give QBs credit for passes that were obvious drops (Tannehill has lost 113 yards to dropped passes). I haven’t gotten familiar with the site yet (you can see the QB rankings here), but they apparently really break things down, saying that in the mid-range passing game, Tannehill is among the best, even though he’s clearly not great with the long ball and has been shaky down low.

    PFF also has Samson Satele the fifth-best center, which simply cannot be true. I’m eager to take a look at how the advanced metrics guys are exploring ways to evaluate and rank offensive linemen. I can’t really spare the $27 annual fee for the premium membership, but if I sell an extra article this month, I just might do it.

  50. Reid

    Marc,

    My remarks pertain to one game–I’m not really making any judgment about Wilson as a QB overall. In that one game, he wasn’t awful, but he did not display the qualities that have made him special in my opinion. And I’ll add this, for what it’s worth: I think I’ve seen every one of Wilson’s NFL games, some of them multiple times, and this is one of the only games where Wilson has not flashed that playmaking ability.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean he’s not a good QB. It’s one game. Also, as I think I mentioned, I sense Wilson and the offense are going through a transition. The impression I’m getting (and this is highly speculative) is that Wilson is making a concerted effort to play from the pocket, maybe even resisting the urge to scramble. I say that because he’s not scrambling as much and when he does, he doesn’t seem as good at it. (The Charger pass rush was very good, though; and they were hardly on the field, so they were probably really fresh.) Also, there was a play where he got wacked in the pocket and fumbled the ball. I expected him to avoid the pass rusher, but he just stood there, almost getting blindsided (but it was on his right).

    On a positive note (and I forgot to mention this), none of his passes, as far as I can remember, were even close to be intercepted; and he had two slightly errant passes, one caught, the other dropped–i.e., his accuracy has been really good. (Edit: He had at least one more errant pass–the pass on the last possession, which sailed over the head of the receiver.)

    Mitchell,

    If they’re ignoring past performance and strictly looking at the first two weeks, they’re rankings may not be so questionable. Then again, I, personally, wouldn’t rank Tannehill that high, and Rivers would probably be my #1 QB. I suspect I have different criteria from PFF.

    By the way, I recall seeing their criteria and some descriptions of how they approach ranking QBs. I liked what I saw, but I don’t think they went far enough–that is, I think there are more variables that they probably should consider. But this is based on a vague memory.

  51. Reid

    Week 3 (2014-2015): First INT Sign of Trouble?

    You can tell I’m a pessimist by the subtitle–which could (should?) have read something like, “Great Drive in OT.” The drive was very good, and Wilson made some nice, important plays during that drive.

    Still, I’m stuck on the problems. The INT, by itself, isn’t such a big issue. The greater concern is the cause of the INT. In the post-game press conferences, I think both Carroll and Wilson said that Wilson tried to force the throw in a tight window. If that’s all this was–a small lapse in judgment–I’m not really worried.

    However, my concern is if Wilson is staring down receivers and defenders are not able to jump routes because of this. I think I mentioned that this happened four times against the Packers. Four times might not sound like much, but it is to me. I don’t recall seeing this occur in the second game, but it happened twice against Denver, both involving Talib. Talib would have intercepted another ball, if Ricardo Lockette did not grab Talib, getting an offensive pass interference penalty. Maybe these two plays speak more to Talib’s abilities than to some flaw in Wilson’s game. It’s too early to tell, but I’ll be watching if a pattern develops.

    On a more positive note, Wilson may not have made some great plays scrambling, but he had some nice throws under pressure. Denver’s defense deserves some credit, in that they didn’t allow Wilson to really hurt them by extending plays or running the ball–at least for most of the game. I think Denver also did a good job in coverage, as I didn’t get the sense that the receivers were often wide open.

  52. Reid

    Week 5: Return of Great Playmaking (Via Fancy Footwork)

    The sloppy play against Washington really dominated my thoughts, and it reminded me of the 2013 season again, particularly with the OL penalties (taking big plays back) and pass protection problems. On the bright side, Wilson flashed the playmaking that was so prominent in the past two years–something I mentioned he didn’t seem to display much this season.

    The one that stands out is the pass in the 4th quarter on an important 3rd and 4 play. If you haven’t seen it, you can see two angles
    here and the end zone angle, play. here. It’s pretty dang amazing. I mean, the fact that he escaped the pass-rushers is amazing by itself, but for him to complete the pass, while running to his left? Not only did running under pressure to his left make the pass difficult, but the angle of the pass, the touch required and the fact that there’s also a defender who is in position to intercept the ball if the throw is off–all those things really made this play difficult. Not many QBs could make that play, if any.

    Wilson also had some other nice plays throws. One that was similar to the one above, that went to Lynch again just shy of the first down marker. This was important because it allowed the team to fake a FG (successfully). He also had two other nice plays running to his left (again)–one to Cooper Helfet, the TE, and another to Doug Baldwin, who uncharacteristically dropped the ball. Both were perfectly thrown passes, under fairly difficult circumstances.

    On the ball security front, I didn’t notice any passes being close to be intercepted. The problem with defenders jumping routes didn’t manifest itself at all (although Washington’s secondary seems pretty bad).

    Wilson also killed Washington by running the ball. He was like Kaepernick against the Packers. As usual, he pretty much avoided big hits on his runs.

  53. Don

    Reid,

    What is your take on how effective Dallas’ blitzes were? I wouldn’t have thought blitzing Wilson would be a good idea since he’s so good with his feet. As great of a decision maker he is, he wasn’t able to make the quick throw to beat the blitzes.

  54. Reid

    Did they blitz all that much? I have to go back and watch the game–and I’m not keen on doing that, but will probably force myself to do so.

    What’s on my mind aren’t the blitzing, but the way defenses using a typical 4-3 alignment, rush four or maybe five and/or have a spy on Wilson. They drop back everyone else in coverage or the LBs crash on a run play. Starting from last season–the second SF game–that’s what I noticed teams doing, and it was pretty effective. (In the Super Bowl, I think Denver didn’t have enough good players to pull this off successfully.)

    The problem is either Wilson, the receivers (unable to get separation) or both–at least that’s my guess. (By the way, I was coming around to the idea that the loss of Tate was a bigger factor that I imagined, the problems started last year when Tate was playing. However, they seemed less prevalent when Sidney Rice and Golden Tate were both playing.) The OL could also be contributing to this problem was well.

    Anyway, I’m having this depressing thought that we may be seeing some major limitations by Wilson (some of which I alluded to in that Luck vs. Wilson thread). I’m planning on writing about it soon, but I’m not relishing it.

  55. Don

    Dallas was definitely blitzing more than they normally do.
    I thought you were saying that because they lost Tate, that Seattle’s offense was going away from throwing the ball downfield. If that’s the case then yes in a sense the lost of Tate is the reason, but I think Kearse and Baldwin are serviceable. Tate is great at attacking the ball and making great catches, but I don’t see him one with great speed or being physical (ie: Michael Irvin). What I’m getting at is I think Seattle should go back to the offense where the receivers would spread the field horizontally, and that the lost of Tate shouldn’t really affect that decision because he’s not a speed guy anyway.

  56. Reid

    I don’t know if Dallas was blitzing more than they normally do–that’s not something I track–but I’ll take your word for it. Whether blitzing was a big factor in this game, I’m not sure. I’ll watch the game again, and get back to you.

    I don’t think the loss of Tate has caused the decreased the attempts at bombs, although I can’t rule that out. I feel this way because Carroll has expressed that this type of passing game is a priority, which makes sense: most run-first teams also want to stretch the field vertically.

    The thing is, Seattle is now trying to incorporate the college-type of plays. (They actually ran two, where Wilson pitched/threw the all on the run.) I think that’s interfering with the run/play action dynamic, but I’ve mostly chalked this up to growing pains. Now, I’m starting to wonder if the two approaches are even compatible.

    As for Tate, I’m a little confused–did you mean to say that they should go back to spreading the field vertically? They didn’t really spread the field horizontally last year–it’s this year where they’re trying to do that, with the jet sweeps, bubble screens, etc.

    It sounds like you’re saying Tate didn’t have great speed, but they still stretched the fields vertically. Yes? I don’t think speed is crucial for the team, but I think Tate’s–and Rice’s–impact was that they drew the opponent’s best corners, leaving the weaker defenders to Baldwin and Kearse. That created a favorable match-up for Seattle. Now, Baldwin and Kearse are getting better defenders, so maybe they’re not getting separation or having more difficulty beating their defenders in jump ball situations. Further proof that this occurred and is part of the strategy is the the team has sometimes targeted Bryan Walters, a guy who was cut before the start of the season, and even Cooper Helfet, a third string TE. Some fans are annoyed by this, but the strategy makes sense–if indeed, those guys are better than the weaker defenders on the other team.

    My sense was that Harvin would draw better coverage, but Seattle is using him more like a RB, and using him to stretch the field horizontally. So maybe the best CB’s aren’t covering him. I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem to be helping Kearse and Baldwin get open. (You’re getting the sense that they’re not open, too? I get that sense, but it’s hard to see that on TV. It just assume that because Wilson seems to take a long time to throw on some plays, and I’m assuming it’s not because he’s terrible at reading the defenses. If so–that’s a big problem and it’s on him.)

  57. Don

    Yes sorry I meant vertically and not horitzonally. 🙂

    You may be right about the Tate drawing the good defenders, but I think with Kearse and Baldwin have the skills to stretch it vertically as well. I would even say they are probably both faster than Tate. Harvin got deep against the Redskins, but I didn’t see any of that against the Cowboys.

    Bottomline I thought their offense was better last year, whereas I was getting the idea that pundits was thinking their offense would be better this year.

  58. Reid

    Baldwin and Kearse have the capability of stretching the field vertically–and they did that last year–but I’m guessing they got the the opponents’ top cover defenders. Do you feel like they’re good enough to beat those players? Me, I’m having my doubts. (Why would they target Walters in key situations?)

    As for Harvin, all the emphasis seems to be in the short passing game or even running the ball. They don’t seem to be using him all that much in the vertical game. (By the way, Ricardo Lockette is very fast–he burned Talib in the Denver game–but he’s a non-factor. For what it’s worth, he’s an undrafted player, and by all accounts, came a long way to develop as a receiver–meaning: he might not have the greatest receiver skills.)

    As for the offense this year versus last year, it depends on what part of the season you’re talking about. After the second 49er game, they struggled for stretches against the Cards, Jets, Saints and the Niners again in the playoffs–all good defensive teams last year. (I might be missing some teams as well, but those are the games I remember.) The struggles look very similar to the struggles now–e.g., defenders getting pressure, receivers not getting open, Wilson not seeing open receivers, etc.

    I think pundits thought that Harvin would open things up. Plus, they had two promising rookie receivers in Norwood and Richardson–but Norwood hasn’t played at all yet. And people were excited about Christine Michael, who hasn’t played.

    To me, I think the Harvin stuff might have been interfering with their bread-and-butter. It’s hard to balance all the plays they want to run.

    Finally, I did rewatch the Cowboy game. The Cowboys rushed five about three or four times, and I only remember them rushing more than that once. I’ll try to comment on this in the week 6 thread, as I have to comment on other games as well.

  59. mitchell

    I’ve been reading this in small pieces for a while and think one of the interesting facets of the discussion is toughness. Reid’s mentioned Wilson’s physical toughness, but only once, in the original post. Since then there have been a few mentions of mental toughness.

    Where do you guys rank Wilson for toughness among active QBs? I haven’t seen him play enough to say, and it’s one of those things that doesn’t show up in the box score.

    1. This list has to start with Roethlisberger, right?
    2. I kind of want to put Manning and Brady on the same line here.
    3. Cutler?
    4. Eli, Rodgers, and Flacco, in some order.

    I feel like I’m leaving someone out.

  60. Don

    It’s hard to measure Wilson’s toughness because he’s so good at not taking big hits. He took a big one against Washington stayed down longer than usual, but got up and seemed fine. Also as Reid has alluded to Wilson tends to not step into the pocket because he’s so good at scrambling, which is where a lot of that perceived toughness is bestowed.

    Is mental toughness a willingness to take a hit or like being a great leader and cool under pressure? If it’s the latter, than I would say Wilson is off the charts.

  61. Reid

    As Don alludes to, we should clarify if we’re talking about physical or mental toughness, as they’re not exactly the same, although for QBS they’re closely related. For example, physical toughness, to me, relates to the ability to take hits. Someone like Tim Tebow is physically tough, but may not be mentally tough.

    Physical toughness can also involve not letting those hits really impact your play–but I tend to feel this is moving into mental toughness territory–which involves not letting things like fear (which can result from an imminent big hit), pressure or even pain and fatigue negatively impact your play. Of course all these things, at some point, do negatively impact performance, but the really mentally tough athletes can hold this off and mitigate these effects–maintaining the ability to think clearly and make good decisions, while also physically performing at a high level.

    Actually, I think I’m mixing in courage, which might be a distinct quality from mental toughness. For example, Phillip Rivers seems really courageous based on his willingness to hang in the pocket for so long, and sometimes taking a hit as a result. Does that mean he’s mentally tough? Big Ben is the same way. (And if he’s hanging in there just because of his size and strength, does that mean he’s necessarily courageous?)

    In any event, all three qualities–physical and mental toughness as well as courage–are important.

    Regarding physical toughness, Don is right in that Wilson doesn’t take a lot of big hits due to an extraordinary and uncanny knack at avoiding them. (His ability at doing this is really phenomenal–maybe he’s the best ever at doing this.) But throughout his career, I’ve seen him take hits–he had a bunch last year–and it really doesn’t seem to impact him too much. Now, I don’t think he took a whole lot of big hits in one game, so I’m not sure how he’d respond, but the sense I get is that he’s plenty tough, physically speaking.

    As for mental toughness (including courage)–I think Don’s “off the charts” remark is pretty spot on. Is Montana off the charts? Because Wilson’s poise and ability to handle fear and pressure is one of the things that makes me think of Montana.

    Mitchell,

    1. This list has to start with Roethlisberger, right?
    2. I kind of want to put Manning and Brady on the same line here.
    3. Cutler?
    4. Eli, Rodgers, and Flacco, in some order.

    It sounds like your conflating the various definitions I’ve listed above. Big Ben and Cutler seem tough physically, but I’m not sure about mentally (and I mean I really don’t have a good idea.)

    I definitely wouldn’t put Manning near the top, but he’s your man, so I won’t say more. Brady’s probably up there, although pass pressure seems to affect him more adversely for a top QB. His courage may not be as good, but I think he handles pressure in big game situations very well. (The bigger problem is his accuracy, which can be too inconsistent in my view.)

    Wilson is really near the top of the list for me–for all three qualities–and it’s one of the reasons I’d prefer him over guys like Brady, Brees and Manning. Flacco is another guy that I’d put up there. Whatever you want to say about Flacco, he seems really poised and unaffected by pressure, in any form.

    Beyond those two, I have hard time ranking or talking about the other QBs. Rodgers, Big Ben, Rivers–I think they have the poise and ball security (which is not really the same issue) in big situations. Luck has the poise, but I’m a little less certain about his ball security.

    This is getting confusing and difficult to talk about.

  62. mitchell

    okay. I was talking about physical toughness, so nothing in my list should factor mental toughness or courage in, although there is a mental component I was considering, which is aggression. Aggression is not a requirement by any means, but it adds to physical toughness in some of the guys (I always think of Favre this way). More later–I’m in a place where typing this is a little awkward.

  63. mitchell

    PS: Manning is definitely on the physically tough list.

  64. Reid

    OK, got it. Based on that Roethlisberger would come to mind–although big QBs seems to have an unfair advantage in this. Really, physical toughness would involve playing through enduring physical pain, which doesn’t really relate to size. I’d say that’s really hard to assess unless we know of anecdotes of QBs playing through pain. Still, we can’t really penalize QBs just because we don’t know these anecdotes. (For example, I understand Wilson sustained a shoulder injury last year, but I didn’t know about it until after the Super Bowl. Actually, I still don’t know much about it–including how serious it was. There’s also something else that I recall Troy Aikman saying when he was asked about who the toughest teammate he played with. He said it was Mark Tuinei, and he explained that sometimes the guys talk about their pain aren’t really the toughest guys–it’s the guys that rarely say anything about it.

    Among the QBs you chose, I’d have hard time evaluating their toughness, let alone ranking them. The only guy I heard stories about is Cutler. I don’t know if Rodgers, Eli, Peyton, Brady or Flacco are among the physically toughest. Are they really tougher than Kaepernick, Romo, Foles, Rivers?

  65. Reid

    Week 6: Ugh

    Perhaps that’s not a good word to describe Wilson’s performance, and it might be more appropriate for the entire offense (including the play calling). Still, one can’t say Wilson performed well, although ever after re-watching the game (including all-22 footage), I have difficulty evaluating his performance. For one thing, on a lot of the plays, the receivers don’t seem to be very open. Now, I must say that as I’ve been watching the all-22 footage, I’ve become aware that knowing if receivers are open or not isn’t easy. QBs can throw with anticipation and that means they can throw the ball before a receiver is open. Still, I can say that on many of the pass plays, there’s a Cowboy defender close to receiver. It was rare that a receiver was wide open.

    So is that Wilson’s fault? It could be, but I tend to think not. I suspect a lot of QBs would struggle in a similar situation.

    I’ll say this: I do think Wilson maintained good composure and patience, for the most part. The exceptions were the last INT as well as another play where he forced a short throw on a scramble that came dangerously close to being intercepted. The last one was not a good pass, and it came at an important time. But the way the entire offense was playing, I feel like they wouldn’t have been able to drive down the field. Still, that’s not a valid excuse: that’s a bad pass, and he can’t do that. (This game as well as the San Diego game should be remembered as failed attempts to bring his team back. At the same time, what should be kept in mind is that the entire offense wasn’t functioning well and Wilson’s supporting cast has some significant limitations of their own. For example, he does not have the weapons of Petyon Manning, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo or Colin Kaepernick. Nor does he have an offense or coaches like the Saints or Patriots.)

    Can Wilson Throw from a Crowded Pocket?

    I want to touch on a thought that came to mind after re-watching the game–namely, the question of whether Wilson can actually throw, both effectively and safely (i.e., preventing a turnover) from a congested pocket. I hear Seahawk fans make remarks like, “He left the pocket too early on that play,” or “He felt phantom pressure.” They seem to assume that Wilson can actually climb the pocket. It’s a reasonable assumption–because if Drew Brees, who is not much taller than Wilson, can play from a fairly crowded pocket, why can’t Wilson? Does a little more than an inch matter? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m starting to feel like it might.

    Before I give my reasons, let me say that if Wilson actually can throw from a pocket, but he’s not–for whatever reason–that’s a significant black mark on him in my view. Now, he is young, so if he’s leaving the pocket too early because he’s just jittery or not used to staying in the pocket, then maybe I wouldn’t come down so hard on him. Plus, he has played with a very unreliable OL. I can’t rule this line of thinking out and that last reason is fairly compelling to me.

    Having said that, I still favor the theory that Wilson’s height prevents him from seeing and throwing, both effectively and safely (as in, protecting the ball)–and this is the main reason he seems to bail prematurely.

    Here are some reasons I feel that way:

    1. He seems to have the skills and willingness to throw from the pocket, but only when the pocket space is quite large, especially in front of him. Once the space in front of him shrinks to about a yard and a half, he seems to bail. He almost never steps into or throws a pass unless he has more space in front of him.

    2. I can’t remember one time when he’s thrown from a three step drop back from under center–except for bubble screens. And when he does do this, you can see the defenders jumping into the passing lane. It looks like a really dangerous throw. They never throw quick slants from under center, only from the shotgun.

    3. Fear and nervousness are often reasons QBs leave a pocket prematurely. Wilson doesn’t seem like the nervous type–just the opposite, really. There are very few other QBs that are as poised, clear-thinking and in control as Wilson. And he displays all of these qualities in those crazy scrambles of his, too. Leaving the pocket due to panic seems very inconsistent from everything else I’ve seen.

    4. Another possible reason for leaving the pocket is that he’s just not comfortable hanging in the pocket–for reasons other than the fact that his height limits his ability to do this. I guess, that’s possible, but I have a hard time imagining what those other reasons could be. He also played at Wisconsin for a year, which has a more pro-style offense (which was of the reasons he decided to play there; another was that their OL is very tall). So this argument doesn’t seem so compelling to me.

    What other reasons are there? None come to mind–besides his height of course.

    More later.

  66. Reid

    The Ramifications from Not Being Able to Throw from a Crowded Pocket

    If Wilson can’t throw from a crowded pocket, that has some significant ramifications–namely, that this will be a huge challenge to overcome. Here are some of the ramifications:

    1. The routes have to develop quickly. In other words, the receivers have to get open quicker. That means the routes have to be shorter or the receivers have superior to defenders–to the point where they can get open almost immediately. That’s a huge limitation on the plays. The virtue of the a QB who can hang in the pocket is it gives time for the routes to develop. That one second more can be enough to allow a receiver to break free. This is one the reasons experts come down hard on running QBs–these Qbs don’t allow the routes to develop. But a lot of these QBs prematurely leave the pocket because they get too anxious. With Wilson, I think he just can’t see or throw effectively from a crowded pocket.

    2.The OL has to form and maintain a spacious pocket for a long time. I do think Wilson can throw from a pocket, just not a very crowded one, especially at the base on the pocket. Interestingly, while watching Drew Brees, I think the Saints OL do a good job of anchoring the bottom of the pocket, giving Brees space. Or, they allow him to nice lanes to step into. It’s conceivable that Wilson could thrive if he had a similar pocket to throw consistently from.

    Unfortunately, Seattle’s current line hasn’t been able to do that. I’m not sure if the current personnel or Tom Cable knows how to orchestrate such a pocket–at least on a consistently.

    3. The offense will have to rely quite a bit on designed movements or improvisation. By “designed movement,” I’m thinking of play action boots. Still, the same issues will still apply: if he doesn’t have the space he needs, he’s going to try and create some.

    That leads to improvisation. I don’t feel good about a heavy reliance on this approach, as I tend to agree with experts who believe QBs can’t succeed consistently with this approach. For one thing, this leaves QBs vulnerable to getting hurt. Two, QBs can’t just improvise–they need good schemes to be successful.

    If any QB can succeed with a lot of improvisation, it’s Wilson. Still, I’d much rather have him succeed in more conventional ways.

  67. Reid

    Week 7: Solid Game–But Can He Do It Against Good-to-Great Defenses?

    Maybe that’s an unfair subtitle given the fact that he was the first player to throw for 300 and run for a 100 since the 60s. But I’m not into stats–and those specific stats really aren’t that important to me. Still, Wilson played well for the most part.

    He had two throws that concerned me: one that went into coverage and could have been easily intercepted. It just looked like a terrible read. It’s very rare that I see Wilson do that. There was also another throw on a on-route where the trailing defender was able to catch up on the ball and bat it away. Either the throw was a little off or lacked enough velocity. This has happened enough where this might be an issue. So far, it hasn’t lead to a turnover, but on two occasions the pass-catcher had to prevent it. (Miller in the Packer game and Lockette against the Broncos.) This is a big concern for me, and it’s a relatively new development. He can’t do this in the post-season.

    OK, but he did have a solid game, and the line didn’t really give him great pass protection, especially in the first half. He definitely flashed the terrific playmaking that got my attention early in his career. I wish I could post some gifs/videos, but there was one on a play action where two defenders got pentration, ignored the fake and was on Wilson in an instant. While falling to his knees, Wilson throws a sideline pass for about six yards. Holy heck. I don’t know how he did that. The pass to Cooper Helfet in the end zone was also nice, and it was a great catch by Helfet.

    But here’s the thing: the Rams defense isn’t that good, not in the secondary anyway, especially after they lost Janoris Jenkins to injury at some point. I want to see Wilson and the offense do this against the better defenses.

    Now, to be fair, I really think the receivers’ ability to get open is huge. My sense is that they have struggled mightily to get open at times and that has made it tough on Wilson. I’m not sure any QB could succeed in those situations. I feel like if the receivers get open, Wilson will find them.

    In any event, this is something I’ll definitely be watching.

  68. Marc

    I think Reid has valid points and criticisms of Wilson. To support this from a statistical perspective, the two evaluation systems that I respect the most are the total QBR by ESPN and the ratings by Pro Football Focus which you can look up. In both of these systems, Wilson is rated middle of the pack so far this year after being higher in past years. I would agree with these assessments based on the games that I’ve watched although I have to admit that I missed the San Diego game and the Dallas game entirely, so I’ve missed two of the losses and certainly the one where he and the offense played the poorest.

    But while he is middle of the pack so far this year, I think he has considerable room to improve. And I’m pretty sure that the Seahawks are still the team that teams would least prefer to see in the playoffs regardless of their 3-3 record right now.

  69. mitchell

    You think the Seahawks are less preferable an opponent than the Broncos? I’d like to see some poll results on that one.

  70. Marc

    I was thinking more NFC teams, but I think a poll would be interesting because you could apply that thinking to the pre-Super Bowl period last year. How many teams (not fans/media) would have preferred to face the Broncos versus the Seahawks in 2013 or 2014?

    There’s no way to know that answer, and the Broncos seem to have been very impressive this year. But the only game that I’ve seen the Broncos play was against the Seahawks (granted that was in person and surrounded by screaming fans) and Manning and the Bronco offense didn’t seem all that impressive to me that day, regardless of the late 80 yard drive.

  71. Marc

    And to honest, I probably should have thought more before I wrote that blog entry. The team I would least like to face based on current performance is probably Dallas given their tremendous offense. I’m not quite sold on their defense yet though.

  72. Reid

    At this point, I’d say most teams would prefer the Broncos than the Seahawks, although perhaps it’s a close call. The thing is, it’s hard to know which Seattle team will show up. They’re kind of in a state of flux right now, dealing with injuries and the loss of Harvin.

    I agree that the Cowboys would be the team I’d fear the most. I’m not certain about the defense, either, but I’m pretty sure they’re not awful. (I want to see them go against a really good pass first team–like the Packers or Broncos.)

  73. Don

    So you are not buying that all QBs need throwing lanes. Brady is 6’4”. You think he doesn’t need a throwing lane to throw a slant? He’s not eight feet tall, which he would need to be to throw over a lineman and hit a slanting receiver. Either that or the receiver needs to be eight feet tall.

    I cannot buy he cannot see either. There may be things close to the line of scrimmage that he may miss, but down the field I doubt his height would hurt him that much. I definitely cannot see how a few inches here or there would matter especially when comparing to Brees, who’s only an inch taller at most. If that one inch matters that much, Wilson should just wear lifts in his shoes. Plus Flutie played in the league as well, and I think he’s a couple inches shorter than Wilson (just guessing).

    The way I’m interpreting Reid’s post is that, he’s defending Wilson’s “decisions” to leave the pocket “early”, and that defense is Wilson’s height. In other words, “Wilson is not making bad decisions. He has to leave the pocket early because of his height.”

    Again my take is that his height is an “overrated” handicap. Meaning I don’t necessarily think his height limits him enough to matter. I also don’t think he’s making bad decisions leaving the pocket. Are there times it would be better if he steps into the pocket and make the throw, I’m sure. But I’m sure for the QBs that step into the pocket, that if they had Wilson’s ability, there will be times that they shouldn’t step into the pocket, because the little time that will buy you will not be enough to make the throw.

  74. mitchell

    There’s a stat out there somewhere that says Ryan Tannehill is the best QB in the NFL when throwing on the run. When you have a guy whose talent is out there, it makes sense to use him there when you can minimize risk. Since everyone (and really, I mean just about everyone) talks about Wilson’s uncanny ability to avoid contact, to leave the pocket and make something happen that doesn’t put him at much risk, I don’t see why that shouldn’t be part of Seattle’s game.

  75. Reid

    So you are not buying that all QBs need throwing lanes. Brady is 6’4”. You think he doesn’t need a throwing lane to throw a slant?

    I think QBs need throwing lanes–I’m not sure why you would ask this. Are you saying that since all QBs need throwing lanes, even tall QBs, that height is not really an issue?
    My feeling is that shorter QBs need better throwing lanes than taller ones…actually, my larger point is that the shorter QB has greater requirements (e.g., more room and maybe bigger lanes, etc.) to throw from the pocket. Do you disagree with that?

    I cannot buy he cannot see either. There may be things close to the line of scrimmage that he may miss, but down the field I doubt his height would hurt him that much. I definitely cannot see how a few inches here or there would matter especially when comparing to Brees, who’s only an inch taller at most. If that one inch matters that much, Wilson should just wear lifts in his shoes. Plus Flutie played in the league as well, and I think he’s a couple inches shorter than Wilson (just guessing).

    I want to reiterate that I’m not just talking about the ability to see–but the ability to see and throw safely and effectively.

    Let me address the vision issue. Would you agree that the vision of the QB increases the more space there is between his OL and the pass rushers? If so, wouldn’t this be even truer for shorter QBs? Personally, I think this is true. Now, if there is a lot of space between O-linemen and the D-linemen they are engaged with, then this isn’t as big an issue. But if they’re all bunched up in the middle, and the short QB is right behind them, I can see how it would be very difficult to see. To me, a lot of this has to do with the angle of vision. The shorter QB has to try and look up and over. The vision of the taller QB is either equal or at least not too low.

    But I don’t think vision is the only issue. You’ve bot to be able to throw the ball without defenders knocking it away. Again, I think this is an issue of angles as will as positioning the ball. To help visualize this, imagine if you were playing QB and some elementary kids chased after you. As they surround you, you can protect the ball and easily get it off because you’re above them. But imagine if you’re pass rushers are as tall as Marshall, and the pocket is collapsing. It’s not only hard to throw, but there’s a danger that they’re going to knock the ball out of your hand as you try to throw.

    The thing about Brees height is the one of the most compelling arguments against what I’m saying. Let me say a few things. First, many people believe in the height requirement for a QB, which is why Wilson wasn’t drafted higher. I believe Bill Walsh said 6′ 3″ was the limit, and lower than that the success rate was very low. Second, I think the spread offenses have helped a lot, and may have lowered the requirement. Again, I think this has to do with angles–the QB in the shotgun, making quick throws. Think about it: would Brees have been as successful playing in a conventional offense–let’s say if he played in the 80s. Flutie played back then, but it seemed like he did better from the shotgun. When he was with Chicago, they had to try and get him to move as well. In other words, he really wasn’t throwing from a crowded pocket-which is what I’m talking about. Let me reiterate: I think Wilson can throw from the pocket–I’ve seen him do this–but he seems to need a lot of space–that is, he can’t really throw from a pocket right when it’s about to collapse. I also think this is a significant limitation.

    The way I’m interpreting Reid’s post is that, he’s defending Wilson’s “decisions” to leave the pocket “early”, and that defense is Wilson’s height. In other words, “Wilson is not making bad decisions. He has to leave the pocket early because of his height.”

    I just want to confirm this: yes, that’s basically what I’m saying. Now, there are times when leaving the pocket is warranted–but I’m not talking about those times.

    Are there times it would be better if he steps into the pocket and make the throw, I’m sure. But I’m sure for the QBs that step into the pocket, that if they had Wilson’s ability, there will be times that they shouldn’t step into the pocket, because the little time that will buy you will not be enough to make the throw.

    The question is, is he leaving the pocket more often then he should? If he can actually climb the pocket, then I think the answer is yes. When I watch the all-22 footage, there are times when the receivers are open, but Wilson doesn’t see them because he’s scrambling or he’s move to one side of the field, closing the door to the open receiver on the other. If Wilson can climb the pocket and pass effectively from it, then he would complete more passes.

    I just want to say that one or two seconds more in the pocket may not seem like much, but I think it can be a lot. That time can mean the difference between an open receiver or covered one. Additionally–and equally important–if you’re in the center of the field, you have more throwing options. What’s difficult for QBs–including the ones that don’t have physical limitations to throw from a crowded pocket–is that you have to trust that a receiver will get open in that one or two seconds you gain by stepping into the pocket. Also, you have to be willing to get crushed. So, you’re putting your body in harm’s way, with the hope that someone will be open. It takes a lot of courage and poise to be a pocket QB. This is one of the reasons I marvel at Phillip Rivers and why I love Luck and Hoss, for that matter.

    I actually think Wilson has the courage and poise to do this–he’s displayed it in other ways. But he hasn’t taken a lot of hits, as you mention, so I can’t be sure. He’s passing and decision-making don’t seem to diminish significantly when he’s under threat of getting hit, though.

    Finally, I think QBs should almost always step into the pocket, if the pocket seems pretty stable. Not if the OL is untrustworthy with regard to creating a stable pocket, or if pass rushers are just getting through untouched–then, yeah, the QB should try to leave the pocket, if they’re good at it and won’t make foolish decisions. And, to be fair, that’s the type of OL Wilson has had for his career. It’s somewhat understandable if he’s leaving too early because the OL is untrustworthy. But generally, if there is adequate space to step up and make a throw, that’s what a QB should do.

    Mitchell,

    Wilson’s uncanny ability to avoid contact, to leave the pocket and make something happen that doesn’t put him at much risk, I don’t see why that shouldn’t be part of Seattle’s game.

    I’m not saying his scrambling/running shouldn’t be part of the offense. I’m saying that if he can’t throw from a crowded pocket–for whatever reason–that’s a significant limitation. If the reason is because he’s too jittery, that’s a black mark for me. If the reason is height, I’m not holding that against him.

  76. Don

    I don’t necessarily agree that a shorter QB needs more room in the pocket to get their passes off. I will say in some cases yes, maybe there is a window, for example 7 – 12 yards down the field where based on their height shorter QB may have more problems. So in just these throws the shorter QB would need a throwing lane whereas a taller QB may need less of one or not need one at all. However if you throwing a quick slant which is what you referred to in a previous post I don’t think the height of the QB would matter. If they make a throw to a receiver 3 yards from the line of scrimmage a guy 6’7” and a guy 5’8” would still need the same space to throw that ball. This holds true for a pass 20 yards or more down the field.

    I think space in the pocket has more to do with release point and quickness of the release then it does the height of the QB. If you have a long or wide throwing motion then you probably would need more space in the pocket.

    I also disagree that QBs should always step into the pocket if possible. Unlike what you said stepping into a pocket may give you half a second at most to throw the ball. The average pass happens between 2.5 to 3 seconds (you can google it). So that half a second gives you one extra read at most and if that one receiver that you looking at isn’t open you better get rid of it. In most cases my guess is once you step into the pocket your chances to get out and scramble (Wilson’s bread and butter.) is gone. So for every time Wilson currently gets out of the pocket now, let’s say he’s able to step into the pocket 60% of the time. Will the fact that Wilson will get out of the pocket 60% less than he currently does be better for his offense? I would say no, and even if it’s a little better is it way better, I would say definitely not. You don’t think Wilson can step into the pocket and still be able to get out of the pocket correct? So it would be one or the other right?

    Even if I agree, which I don’t, that Wilson would be better off throwing from the pocket and that his height is limiting that ability, looking at what this whole posts are about which is basically how good overall is Wilson, his height limitations shouldn’t matter. Meaning if his height is going to trump some of his “great” QB characteristics, then saying Wilson is “great” is not correct. In that case you can say Wilson is the “best” QB under 6’, but you cannot consider him one of the “greats”, even if technically it’s not his fault he’s short.

  77. Reid

    I don’t necessarily agree that a shorter QB needs more room in the pocket to get their passes off. I will say in some cases yes, maybe there is a window, for example 7 – 12 yards down the field where based on their height shorter QB may have more problems. So in just these throws the shorter QB would need a throwing lane whereas a taller QB may need less of one or not need one at all. However if you throwing a quick slant which is what you referred to in a previous post I don’t think the height of the QB would matter.

    I don’t get why a shorter QB would need a bigger window/more space to throw a ball 7-12 yards downfield, but not for a quick slant. A quick slant is in that range or a bit less perhaps. ?

    You really don’t think throwing the ball when a shorter QB is right behind the OL and defenders versus several yards behind them makes no difference? Because the former describes what’s going on when the QB is throwing a quick slant from under center.

    By the way, I’m almost certain that Wilson has never thrown a quick slant from under center while playing with the Seahawks, but he has thrown quick slants from the shotgun. Moreover, the only 1-3 three step passes that he throws from under center are bubble screens. But when you watch many of them, you can see defenders waving their arms or jumping into the passing lane. It looks really dangerous–and my guess is that they try to really limit these throws because of that.

    I think space in the pocket has more to do with release point and quickness of the release then it does the height of the QB. If you have a long or wide throwing motion then you probably would need more space in the pocket.

    Wilson has a high release point, so I’m not sure that’s the issue. His wind-up is kind of long, and I do think that’s an issue as well. But I don’t think that’s the only think. While he’ll step into his throws, he often won’t step into his throws unless there’s quite a bit of space in front of him. In other words, it looks like he doesn’t feel comfortable stepping into a throw if that would take him really close to a player(s) in front of him.

    I also disagree that QBs should always step into the pocket if possible. Unlike what you said stepping into a pocket may give you half a second at most to throw the ball.

    Half a second? I don’t think you can generalize that way. If the pocket is only going to give you half a second, I’m imagining the pocket integrity is shot. Under those circumstances, I wouldn’t say one should always step into the pocket.

    I’m referring to pockets that seem pretty sturdy, not going to collapse instantly–where the OL can maintain their position between the QB and the defender, and they’re not on skates going into the QB. Perhaps, it’s too difficult to talk about. We’d have to look at specific situations.

    I don’t know if we understand each other perfectly, but it sounds like I’m more of an advocate of pocket play than you are. I like the ability to move out of the pocket and create because I think that in big moments this is an important ability. It entails the whole spontaneous genius that Bill Walsh talked about.

    However, this is for times when the play breaks down–because the defense has basically blown it up–sort of like when Romo converted on that 3rd and 20. Or when Wilson converted on the 3rd and 4 against Washington. The defense had the QB dead to rights, but the QBs’ great playmaking got them out of that–on very crucial plays.

    But when a play isn’t breaking down, I’d prefer the QB throw from the pocket. I think the fact that Wilson scrambles so much–for whatever reason–creates huge challenges for the offense.

    As for Wilson’s height relating to his greatness, let me be clear. Personally, I think if his height limits him from throwing from a crowded pocket, that’s a huge limitation–it’s something I’m concerned with. But this limitation and my concern means little if he’s able to overcome this limitation and play great–that is, make the plays he needs in crucial moments while also securing the ball. What I’m saying is that my judgment of Wilson isn’t based on whether has certain qualities I prefer in a QB–my judgment is based on his performance, particularly in big moments. So far, based on his performance, I’d say he’s great.

    Let me just say another thing, too–and I think this is important. His supporting cast matters. He doesn’t have an elite OL or elite receivers–not even one. This could make a huge difference. Eli was horrible last year. Brady struggled without Gronk and Hernandez. So maybe the limitations that I’m talking about wouldn’t even be an issue.

    I do think that the struggles on offense does relate to Wilson not being able to stay in the pocket, the receivers not being able to get open and the OL not being able to protect well at times. I can’t really isolate which factor is the biggest. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the problems disappeared if Wilson had at least one elite receiver and a solid OL.

  78. Reid

    On the Nature and Art of Quarterbacking, a thread I started on V-I, that I want to be able to link here.

    By the way, in that thread, I don’t talk about Russell Wilson specifically, but he was definitely a key inspiration for that thread. A lot my thoughts and ideas came from my observations of watching and analyzing Wilson. The idea that good quarterbacking involves creating a synergy between judgment and execution describes much of Wilson’s play–as does doing this under heavy pressure in big moments, often via improvising through broken plays. That’s Wilson.

  79. Reid

    Week 8: Solid Performance, but Still Not Against a Really Good Defense

    I don’t remember him throwing any foolish or dangerous passes. He did throw a pick, but that one went right through Marshawn Lynch’s hands (and it probably would have been a TD had Lynch caught it). Maybe Wilson threw it, too hard, but I wouldn’t say that.

    His accuracy was a little more off than usual–throwing a couple of balls a little too high (both caught, though) and two misses near the end zone. On the pop pass, Wilson seemed to decide to pass instead of run at the last minute and in the process messed up the pass. The other throw, going into the end zone, was just way off. I have no idea what happened. He had two passes deflected at the line, which is pretty rare.

    Many of his passes were from the pocket, and there were some decent pockets. Wilson threw most of these passes really quickly, so it wasn’t like he was hanging in there going to his third or fourth read. This isn’t a bad thing, but I’m just trying to describe the nature of the throws.

    The thing is, I really don’t think the Panther defense is all that good. My sense is that the throws from the pocket worked mainly because the receivers got open quickly. I’m worried that this isn’t going to happen consistently against the better defenses (like the Cardinals or Niners).

    My hope is that Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood will either get open quickly themselves or help the other receivers get open.

    Wilson made some good plays with his feet, and, as usual, most of his decisions were really good.(Two mishandles with 3rd string center, Steve Schilling and Christine Michael, backup RB–the former lead to a crucial fumble. I’m not sure if it was Wilson’s fault, but I understand Schilling tried something different and failed to get the ball into Wilson’s hands.)

  80. Reid

    Week 9: The Ugly and Painful Truth

    I’m happy the Seahawks won, but the sloppy play really tempers the enthusiasm. More than the team’s overall performance, I’m really bummed about Wilson’s play–specifically the conclusion I have to draw about the earlier concerns I’ve had about defender’s jumping on Wilson’s routes.

    There was another play like that in yesterday’s game. At this point, I’d have to say it’s a pattern–one that will repeat itself. If this was Wilson’s first year, I would also say that it will show up in the playoffs and come back to haunt this team, making their chances of winning it all all but impossible.

    The one and only thing that gives me hope at this point is Wilson’s past playoff performances. He seems to focus on and take care of the ball even more–in some games last year it was almost too cautious.

    To make matters worse, Wilson also overthrew a slant that was intercepted. Luckily for the Seahawks, the Raiders committed a penalty on the play.

    But Wilson really should have had two INTs that game–really both are the type of mistakes I see from Kaepernick. For the season, I believe Wilson had three INTs, but he really should have five more, giving him a total of eight, which is not awful I guess, but it’s much worse than three.

    I’m bummed about this, but it’s the cold hard truth, at least in my opinion.

  81. Mitchell

    John Saunders said this at the end of the Sports Reporters Sunday. I thought it was well done.

  82. Mitchell

    I’m not sure what you’re saying is the truth: that he’s playing poorly or that he’s not as good a quarterback as you were led to believe. Is it one of these?

  83. Reid

    Sorry, the unpleasant truth I had in mind is the fact that Wilson has a bad tendency to throw passes that defenders can jump on. I’m at the point where I would say this is a pretty solid pattern, and if I discount his performance in previous seasons, I would say that the Seahawks chances of going far into the playoffs would be pretty slim–primarily because these things will lead to turnovers at some point. (Of course, the team might not be good enough in other ways for them to go far.)

    Then again, do I dismiss his first two seasons–particularly in the playoffs? Which one is better predicts how they will play, particularly in the playoffs?

    Generally, I would choose the recent performance–if the QB has done enough to establish a pattern. I’m sort of at the point where I feel like Wilson has established this bad pattern. But I hope I’m wrong about that. (It wouldn’t totally surprise me, as his judgment is one of his strongest attributes–and he really does seem to care about ball security.)

    How Does Wilson’s Teammates Feel About Him?

    I like the Saunders clip above, but I won’t really comment on the black enough thing, because I feel like I’m a complete outsider, and I don’t know the dynamics of the issue.

    I will say that I can understand how Wilson can annoy some people around him. According to some of the reports, some teammates said that he’s like a “teacher’s pet.” I can totally see that! I can also see how that can annoy teammates. What makes matters worse is that he’s so young, and, from what I understand, he acted that way right from the start.

    At the same time, I can see Wilson can annoy some teammates, without that being a big deal. We all have co-workers or friends that annoy us. At the same time, it’s still possible to respect and even like these people. So those comments could be true and not a big deal at the same time.

  84. Don

    “… friends that annoy us”. You are not the us, the rest of “us” is the us. 🙂

    I think if “annoy” is the right word, then I will tend to lean with Reid on this one. If it’s more the words I heard used, like “divided” the team or “not one of us”, then it may be more of a factor.

  85. Reid

    “… friends that annoy us”. You are not the us, the rest of “us” is the us. 🙂

    I’m ignoring that comment. 🙂

    I think if “annoy” is the right word, then I will tend to lean with Reid on this one. If it’s more the words I heard used, like “divided” the team or “not one of us”, then it may be more of a factor.

    But who is coming up with those words–the journalist or the players? And I wonder how strongly they feel about about him being “not one of us?”

    And why is this coming up when they team loses? Is it just that people get more testy when they’re losing, and more tolerant when they’re winning? That makes sense to me.

    But I really don’t know what’s going on.

    I do know that they played with a center that they just picked up a week ago. And that the starting LG got hurt in the game, and the starting LT wasn’t playing. That left one two-year starter and a rookie on the right side. The starting center is coming back, hopefully, next week. They’re going to need him and Okung, otherwise it could look ugly again.

  86. Reid

    Week 10: More Evidence for the Unpleasant Truth (Sigh)

    To wit, a Giants DB jumps on a comeback route and intercepts the pass. Based on my evaluation, this is an established pattern, and I’d expect to see this happen again and again–maybe not in every game, but I’d predict it would happen at least once in the playoffs. It would almost be enough to doom their chances, even if the defense was playing as good as last year.

    Wilson also had another pick–basically a bad throw on a deep pass. Not sure if he lacked arm strength, but the ball should have gone outside, but when inside. Wilson threw a similar pass early in the season against the Packers and also against the Rams last year (where Golden Tate made a good adjustment and actually scored a TD).

    The significant ball security advantage that I ascribed to Wilson over other QBs is gone–at least based on the evidence from this season’s games.

    If there’s a ray of hope, it resides in the following:

    1. Wilson’s ball security in previous seasons–including the playoffs–have been terrific, so maybe those two seasons are more indicative of his ball security. What we see might be a fluke. This isn’t totally out of the question, especially with the major changes in the offense, plus the instability in the OL;

    2. Unlike other QBs, Wilson seems extremely conscientious about ball security. At times last year, he was criticized for being too cautious;

    3. Pete Carroll really cares a lot about ball security–devoting one day in the week to emphasize this; having the first team defense and offense compete to based on generating turnovers and protecting the ball, respectively.

    #2 and #3 means that both the coaches and Wilson will work really hard to address this issue.

    If it weren’t for these factors, I’d be very certain that we’d see these errors for the rest of the season.

  87. Reid

    Week 11: A Pretty Clean Game…Until

    Just more bad news. When I took notes on the game, I jumped ahead to write a summary, stating that Wilson had a clean game. But then I get to the second to the last throw, and it’s almost picked off, with a defender jumping on a pass. (He looked like he was in zone coverage.) Wilson throws a pass down the middle. There wasn’t much time on the clock and Seattle was on their side of the field. It was 3rd and 18, and initially, I thought Wilson didn’t have any other option. Well, he had Lynch to his left for a short pass. I’m guessing he didn’t opt for Lynch because Lynch was too far for a first down. Still, I’m guessing that would have been preferable, since the ‘Hawks were in four down territory. The defender might have just made a good play or Wilson just might not have seen him. Still, given the pattern that has been established this wasn’t a good throw.

    I must also say, as painful as this is, Wilson hasn’t been Montana-like in these last drives. This is the third end of the game drive when he wasn’t able to drive his team down the field. (The first two occurred against Chargers and Cowboys.) To be fair, the rookie RT and Sweezy, the RT, had trouble pass blocking in the drive, allowing the rushers to get around them pretty easily.

    I don’t think Wilson is entirely to blame–as I don’t think he has great pass-catching weapons and the OL, as noted, is not reliable in pass protection.

    Still, that he failed to drive the team down the field should be noted.

    I really hope the ‘Hawks win and Wilson has a great game next week. I’m getting discouraged of writing these posts.

  88. mitchell

    I’m curious about your standard for excellence. It sounds (and I admit I’m only skimming these nowadays) as if it only takes two bad throws in one game to drop a QB’s play in your estimation. Does greatness mean no bad throws?

  89. Reid

    Two bad throws in one game doesn’t disqualify a QB from being great. The issue is whether the QB has a strong tendency to make these bad throws–even one or two per game. And let me be precise: by “bad throw” I’m referring specifically to a pass that a defense has a good chance of intercepting. An errant throw that’s slightly off the mark or has very little chance of being intercepted doesn’t really count (although if a QB throws too many of those type of passes–particularly on routine plays/situations–that can be bad as well).

    What is so disheartening about Wilson’s performance so far this season is that I believe he has developed a strong tendency for these type of throws. There’s pretty solid pattern that he seems to have established–and I would predict that he’s going to make these throws later, like in the playoffs, and it’s going to result in costly turnovers.

    That’s normally how I judge all QBs.

    The two things giving me hope is a) Wilson’s previous playoff performances have been exceptional with regard to ball security (including throws that are safe); b) he and the coaching staff really put a high priority on protecting the ball. (Yes, all coaches feel this way, but not to the same extent. And I don’t think all QBs feel this way–Cutler, cough.)

  90. Don

    At this point Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs are about 50-50, especially since they have the Cards and Niners twice. So at this point we may never know if he could turn an average season around in the playoffs.

  91. mitchell

    That’s weird, because I was thinking that the schedule favors Seattle. Despite their disappointing record right now, if they win either of the road games and go 3-1 against those teams, they’re in a great position for the post season. I don’t think that’s a stretch.

  92. Don

    Right now they are three behind the Cards. Seattle would have to sweep the Cards to even have a chance to overtake them (Unless the Cards fall apart due to Stanton.). Seattle is only one behind in the wild card which gives them the best chance of making the playoffs. My point was that Seattle’s chances shrink because they have such a tough schedule versus the other wild card teams. I think if Seattle is at 10-6 they still might not make the playoffs because the teams’ schedules in front of them should put them at around 11-5. I think Seattle’s best chance to make the playoffs is hope Dallas sweeps Philly, since Seattle still has a game against the Eagles.

  93. Reid

    I agree with Don that Seattle’s remaining schedule is incredibly difficult, and I didn’t mean to imply that they would definitely get in the playoffs.

    Indeed, objectively, I see them having a rough time against the Cardinals, even at home, with Stanton as QB. The Cards defense is really good against the run, and they have crazy blitz packages with secondary that can cover one-on-one–and Seattle doesn’t have any elite receivers. To make matters worse, Seattle has to play a 5th string center, Patrick Lewis, who they picked up several weeks ago. (They also recently picked up their former 2nd string center, but he’s coming off a neck injury, and might not start.) My sense is that the Cards d is vulnerable to a spread attack–which is why the Niners when to a lot of empty sets when they played and why the Broncos shredded them. But a spread attack isn’t really Seattle’s forte, especially with the limitations I mentioned. (One thing to watch for is if Seattle goes to a no-huddle–as they have looked good when they’ve done this. Personally, I don’t like this, but I could see the logic behind the move.)

    I think Seattle’s d not only has to get turnovers, but they probably have to score for them to win it. Stanton had took rookie-like picks last week, so it’s possible that he’ll turn the ball over. On the other hand, if Seattle’s run defense plays like it did against the Chiefs, the Cards may not have to pass much. (Seattle picked up a DT from Atlanta’s practice squad, but you can’t expect that he’ll have much of an impact.)

  94. mitchell

    My point is that if you’re Seattle, you’re glad to have four games left against the Niners and Cardinals, because if you’re a good team (which you have to believe you are), the remainder of the schedule puts things in your hands. Maybe you had some bad bounces mid-season, the kind that can happen to any team, but now you get to prove whether you belong in the post-season or not. It’s like in college basketball where conference play is saved for after the meaningless holiday tournaments and out-of-conference schedule. Win your conference tournament and get the automatic berth.

  95. Reid

    Eh, I think Seattle is a team that is struggling and in flux mainly because of the injuries. Basically, they’re in survival mode right now. I’m not sure they’re “glad” to play the 9-1 Cardinals and a Niner team that got back Aldon Smith and may have Navarro Bowman by next week.

    Each of the teams they play definitely have vulnerabilities and can be beaten, so you never know. But no way is this an easy road.

  96. Reid

    (Note: Re: Don’s comment–“So at this point we may never know if he could turn an average season around in the playoffs.” I just wanted to be clear that I was mostly referring to Wilson’s ball security this season, not his play overall. His play has been spotty, but I don’t put most of the blame on him for that, whereas I do tend to hold him accountable for the bad ball security patterns.)

    Week 12: There’s the Greatness That I’ve Come to Expect!

    I’d say this was Wilson’s best game all season. If you go back to last season, maybe his Super Bowl performance was better, but when you consider the pressure he was under yesterday, I might argue this one was better. Certainly, Cardinal defense was better than the Bronco defense.

    Not only was Wilson under heavy pressure, but he maintained poise and made some difficult throws, some of them off of his incredible scrambling ability. I haven’t re-watched the game, but my impression is that the Cardinal defense just dominated Seattle’s OL for most of the game. Usually, when a defense dominates the opposing OL like that, the QB and the offense have a terrible game. (See Eagles-Giants early this year–where Eagles killed the Giants OL.) The Seahawk offense struggled to move the ball, but they managed to do enough, and they did have one or two notable drives. (I really loved the last drive to end the game, which went for almost 7 minutes!)

    Not only did Wilson do it all, he avoided any passes that could have been picked off. Now, this doesn’t mean he’s broken the pattern. Indeed, I would assume the tendency is still there. He’s going to play a lot more games where this tendency doesn’t appear for me to believe he’s broken the pattern. (Of course, his patterns relating to ball security in the post-season have been exceptional.)

    His accuracy was pretty dang good as well.

    Terrific game.

  97. Reid

    Week 13: Another Solid Game, Except…

    He fumbled twice–one on a handoff exchange and another on a run, while switching the ball from one hand to the other. This isn’t a big deal by itself, but he’s had a few other games where he’s fumbled the ball. Luckily, the ‘Hawks have recovered almost every one. Still, it’s a bit worrisome, and I’ll be watching if this becomes a trend.

    Besides that, I thought Wilson’s ball security was excellent. His play overall was very good, too. He had one terrific scramble play which went for a huge gain. (He actually should have hit Baldwin, but he was under a lot of duress.)

    Hopefully, he can not fumble and maintain his safe passing.

  98. Don

    Where would you rank Wilson’s performance against the rest of the league this year? I’m interested how he would rank against Big Ben, Romo, and Carson Palmer (although is out for the year which may skew it).

  99. Reid

    Well, that’s an interesting question and it takes me aback a little because I assume you mean just how the QBs have performed in the regular season so far. Also, asking about their performance is slightly different from how good a QB they are.

    In any event, I never evaluate a QB like this, as I’m always thinking about their performance in relation to the playoffs–that is, based on how they perform in the regular season, how well will they perform in the playoffs.

    So to answer your question, I’ll have to modify the way I look at and evaluate QBs. I have a hard time doing this. Plus, with Wilson, I think he played with an unreliable line, limited pass-catching weapons and the offense had to make dramatic shifts at some point (from moving on from Harvin). How much should I factor those things in? I’m not sure.

    If we look at performance alone, I’d put Big Ben ahead of him. I’d put Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Rivers ahead of him. I’m not sure about Romo and Palmer. I’m not sure about Brees, but I probably would put him ahead of Brees.

    I don’t know, this is pretty hard question to answer for me.

  100. Reid

    Week 14: One Pass Almost Ruined the Victory for Me

    And it wasn’t even intercepted. Wilson threw the pass with about 7 minutes to go in the fourth. If I recall correctly, another defender jumping on a (crossing?) route. It was a pass that came from a broken play, and it looked like a hasty throw, almost as if he panicked (although Wilson’s throws can look like that when he’s scrambling).

    The throw was so disturbing because it fits the pattern that I’ve been talking about, and in the past two weeks I thought maybe he broken the pattern, once and for all.

    Again, if it’s any other QB, I’m almost sure I’m saying this is going to show up in the playoffs and doom the QB and his team’s chances of winning. That’s why the pass bothers me so much.

    I’m even trying to think of a way I could be wrong–going so far as to second guess my whole method of evaluating QB’s, particularly ball security. The main premise is that repeated behavior suggest entrenched behavior–behavior that will repeat itself in the future. We’re not just talking INTs–but specific throws that have a good chances of being intercepted, whether they actually are or not. There is a possibility that these mistakes are not part of some deeper problem, but just random and unrelated mistakes…nah, I don’t really think that as many of the passes are very similar.

    However, this situation was slightly different. A lot of the problem passes seemed to come off really quick throws–as if Wilson decided where he’d pass prior to the snap. This wasn’t like that. He did have one or two problem passes when he stared down a receiver as well, and the pass in this game might have been like that.

    He played fairly well overall, though, and he didn’t fumble the ball. Ball security is so important to me, though, that the throw really did bug me a lot.

  101. Reid

    Scout/GM uses the dreaded experession–“it factor”

    Obviously we are really interested in passers with better height, but this guy may just be the exception to the rule. He has the ‘it’ factor.

    That’s what Scot McCloughan said about Russell Wilson in an ESPN article. McCloughan–who was the former GM for the Niners (before Baalke, I believe) and also helped build the current Seahawk roster. According to the article, he’s a highly respected talented evaluator. (I believe the quote occurred when Wilson was coming out of college.)

    (On another note, McCloughan seems itching to get back with a team. I’d be kind of excited if the Raiders hired him as GM–although I have a little concern because the Seahawks might have parted ways with him because of alcohol abuse.)

  102. Reid

    Week 15: Played Well for a QB Running for His Life

    The OL returned to ugly: committing penalties that really made it tough for the offense. The Niners got consistently good pressure on Wilson as well, smacking him around a few times in the process. Given this situation, I thought Wilson played well, making some really difficult throws.

    Notably, he didn’t have any throws that the defenders jumped on (although the Niners were without Culliver, one of their better DBs). Wilson did throw a pick–a pass that was too high over the middle. I’m not as concerned with the quality of the throw, as he rarely makes this type of mistake–but the decision to throw the ball was a problem as it probably would’ve prevented the Hawks from scoring at the end of the half (even if it wasn’t intercepted). Wilson made several mistakes that prevented field goals in the previous game. He’s got to stop doing that, but I feel confident that he’ll take care of this.

  103. Reid

    Week 16: the Epitome of College-Style QB-ing

    I forget to write about this game last week. It was a really good game by Wilson, both in terms of passing and running. I think all season the Seahawks have used Wilson in a way that resembles a college QB–i.e., utilizing the QB as a serious running threat. Normally, I’m not keen on this approach, but Wilson’s uncanny ability to avoid hits and his ability to make great decisions when he scrambles and runs, avoiding stupid mistakes, makes this approach acceptable to me (although he took a lot more running the ball this year in my opinion and still took too many while passing). The game against the Cardinals probably might be the best example of bringing in the college style to the NFL (at least for Wilson; Kaepernick and RGIII, in his rookie year, might be better examples).

    Wilson almost had a pick in this game, leading a receiver a little too much on a slant. This doesn’t concern me too much as Wilson doesn’t do this too often…well, he has shown a penchant to do this, but receivers generally can make a play on the ball, so I’m not that concerned. (Indeed, it looked like the receiver, Richardson, should have reached out for the ball, at least.)

    I’ll leave a link of Wilson’s terrific TD run in that game. Here’s one with the color commentary, which is kind of cool.

    Week 17: The Ability to Function Under Duress

    I feel like this is an under-appreciate aspect of Wilson’s game. When a pocket is unstable or unreliable, I think even really good QBs can struggle and start looking like average, or even bad, QBs. Wilson is one of the best at dealing with an unstable and unreliable pass protection in my opinion. And you could see some of that in this game.

    There were some worrisome mistakes those, like the fumble and mishandled snaps. Wilson, when he’s a ball-carrier, has shown that he can fumble the ball. He and the Seahawks just have been really lucky in recovering these fumbles. It’s something that I’m concerned about.

    Wilson also had a pick–a pass that was a little too high over the middle–but I’m not worried about this so much. (He was scrambling to his right and turned to look at the middle and fired. The receiver was open, but the pass was too high.) He really hasn’t had a strong tendency to do this.

    I’m just pleased that defenders didn’t jump on any of his passes. The truth is, Wilson has established a fairly strong tendency to throw passes that defenders get a jump on. It’s there, and I would expect this to come back and haunt both he and the team in the playoffs…unless Wilson and the coaching staff really make a concerted effort to take care of this. That’s my hope anyway.

  104. Reid

    Concerns Heading Into the Playoffs

    There are two: the passes that defenders jump on and the fumbles–he’s had 11, all recovered! (He has some throws on slants that can be too high or too far ahead, but I’m a little less worried about those.)

    Now, in the past three weeks, he hasn’t thrown a pass that the defenders jump–so that’s a good sign. Has he gotten over this pattern or is it something still entrenched? Objectively, I’d say it’s something I’d expect in the next few games–and that’s going to be huge (which bums me out.) But that’s my objective analysis.

    What makes me hesitate is that I believe Wilson and the coaches are extremely conscientious about turnovers–so it’s something I think they’ll take care of in the playoffs. Moreover, Wilson’s previous playoff performances, with regard to ball security, have been excellent. So there’s that as well. At the same time, I can’t tell if this is just wishful thinking on my part, since Wilson is my favorite player.

    The fumbles are also a concern, and I’d expect to see them appear, except for the caveats I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

    I’m hoping going into playoff mode will take care of all of this. (By the way, I’d be a little less bummed out if he turns the ball over in some other way–a tipped pass, etc.–then if he does this throw one of the patterns I’ve cited.)

  105. Reid

    2014-2015: Divisional Round Vs. the Panthers

    Wilson was pretty awesome, doing most of his damage in the pocket, and on 3rd down. I believe he was 8 for 8 on 3rd down, scoring 3 TDs. (I think he got sacked once, though.) With Max Unger back in the line-up, the pass protection was solid (The Panthers were without Star Lotulelei, though.) The receivers also got open as well.

    In other good news, Wilson didn’t throw any INTs, or passes that came close to being intercepted. Yes! He did fumble on the snap, which he recovered (which makes 12 fumbles for the year. Ugh).

  106. Reid

    NFC Championship vs. the Packers

    Wilson has maybe one of his worst games of his career (and the rest of the offense and special teams weren’t that great, either), but then leads an incredible comeback after ward.

    Let’s talk about his bad play first, specially the turnovers. Two weren’t really his fault. The passes were on slants, and for the most part, they were on target. Both bounced off the hands of Kearse, the receiver (although, to be fair to Kearse, the defender made a good defensive play).

    The other two were under thrown balls, pretty badly underthrown–one to deep seem route and the other in a one-on-one situation in the end zone. The first throw was just a bad decision as Wilson forced the throw into double-coverage, and I think it’s one of the rare instances he’s done this all season. The decision on the other throw wasn’t bad, but the throw, like I said, was slightly underthrown.

    I actually didn’t feel distressed about these picks–not as much as I would if the defender jumped on the route.

    Speaking of which, a defender did jump on a route, but couldn’t come up with the ball–but he should have. I believe this was in the 4th quarter, and that point, I didn’t care as much.

    Let me say a couple of things about Wilson’s play. First, Wilson commented that if they were going to lose, he was going to go down swinging, and I think that explains the interception on the deep route and the end zone pass. (He was being too impatient on the first one, though, as I think there was still a lot of time in the game.) But I actually like this aggressive, no fear type of mentality. Not only do I think the attitude is acceptable, given the situation, but it shows that Wilson adjusts the way he plays according to the situation and nature of the game. I think I’ve written before that Wilson is terrific at this sort of thing, and this is another example of that, even though the results weren’t good.

    The other point I want to make involves these bad results. This may sound like an excuse, but Paul Richardson, their fastest receiver, didn’t play as he was lost for the season in the previous game. Richardson’s a rookie and has been starting to come on toward the end of the season. My feeling is that losing him was huge because the receiving weapons was just barely effective. Reviewing the season, I feel like the passing game struggled when they lost Harvin and Zach Miller. Then it seemed to get better when they picked up Tony Moeaki, and continued to improve when Richardson seemed to become more of a factor. So it seems like adding or subtracting a solid pass-catching target could make a huge difference. (And it’s a big concern going into this Patriot game. One possible result is that the receivers struggled to get open against the Patriots.)

    This doesn’t excuse those INTs, though. But if Richardson had played, Wilson might have had more open targets to throw to.

    Given the bad performance, I think Wilson’s performance at the end was noteworthy. It is not easy to push aside the mistakes and continue to have a good game (something that Andrew Luck also did against the Chiefs in the playoffs last year). So Wilson should be given props for that.

  107. Reid

    I’m obviously biased by I thought this Inside the NFL piece on the NFC Championship game was awesome, including on a cinematic level. I loved the percussion-based score, narration and the player sound clips that they used.

    The reason I’m putting this link in this thread is that I liked Wilson’s sound clips. In addition to his positive words and demeanor, despite struggling and being behind in the score, there’s a couple of other noteworthy aspects of these sound clips.

    For one thing, this is the most intense I’ve seen Wilson. I don’t watch sound clips of Wilson for every game (and I’m not sure they exist), so I don’t have a lot to compare, but I’ve never seen him this emotional. It was cool to see the intensity.

    The other thing is the way he calls out plays before they happen. There’s the game winning TD throw that he predicts in almost Ruthian fashion (You can hear that in the OT Sound FX link below), but the clips show he talking to Marshawn about a being ready for a throw on a wheel route. (I love Marshawn’s casual, but confident “it’s all good” response, too. Some of the sound clips of other players, like Kam and Sherm, were pretty fun, too.)

    If you liked that, there’s also Sound FX clips from the 4th quarter and OT. I thought they were cool, too.

  108. Reid

    Super Bowl 49 (vs. Patriots): Evaluating the INT

    I’ve been putting off writing this, but I can’t put it off much longer, otherwise I won’t remember much. Normally, I like to go back and watch the game, but I haven’t done that with this game and I don’t know want to, for reasons that should be obvious–so I’m mostly going by memory of the game (which isn’t always reliable).

    To me, Wilson played a solid game–his passes were accurate and didn’t make any bad decisions–with one big exception–namely, the pass that the Patriots intercepted, to basically end the game. Should Wilson bear the brunt of the blame? Or do his teammates bear equal blame? Or was it just a great play by the Patriots? I really don’t the answer to that question, and I have hard time knowing if I’m objective or not.

    Off the top of my head, I’d say the interception was part of a pattern I’ve been worried about for most of the season–namely, the way defenders would jump on Wilson’s passes. That’s what happened here. If Wilson had some “tell” that Butler, the NE DB, read–a tell that the Patriot coaching staff helped identify–then I’d say most, if not all, of the blame falls on Wilson. But I have no way of knowing those things right now.

    From what I remember of the play, Lockette, the Seattle receiver, looked open–I didn’t see Butler making a beeline to the ball. It really happened to fast.

    Still, Wilson could have thrown the ball more to the outside–that is, not lead Lockette so much. Had he done so–and/or threw the ball lower–Butler probably would not have intercepted the ball.

    So, I’m leaning toward putting a lot of the blame on Wilson on this. (Or should I?)

    Anyway, what a painful loss.

    My hope is that this play will be something that drives Wilson (and the rest of the team) for many years to come.

  109. Reid

    On Wilson’s new website, he posted a video, talking about his mindset now, after the Super Bowl loss. (The video can be seen by scrolling down on the link above.)

    Here’s a preface he wrote for the video:

    Call Me Crazy
    February 19, 2015

    One yard. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been thinking about that one yard for the past 17 days. Everyone wants to know how I feel. Well … it’s complicated. Walking off that field in Arizona and seeing the disappointed Seahawks fans in the stands was anguish. How could I not feel like I let them down? I tried to be positive, but I’m not perfect. I have been away from the game for almost three weeks, trying to escape football and clear my mind. But the funny thing is, I’ve never felt hungrier to get in the weight room and the film room, and keep pushing until we get to Super Bowl 50.

    How do I feel? I don’t know if I can fit it into a soundbite. I definitely couldn’t fit it into a 30-second Instagram video. So, after the Players’ Tribune roundtable event on Saturday, I had the camera crew stick around so I could talk it out. Sorry if it’s not perfect. There was no script here. I just wanted to talk directly to the 12s. This is for you.

  110. Reid

    Are the Distractions Getting to Russell Wison?

    Wilson hasn’t looked good in the preseason. Yeah, preseason performance may not be a big deal, although I recall that Wilson played almost perfectly in last year’s preseason games. Also, the OL has been shaky and is a significant question mark going into this season. (Their starting center played on the practice squad last year–as a d-lineman!)

    Still, I think asking if the distractions have contributed to some inconsistent play is a valid question. He had contract negotiations, and a new celebrity girlfriend (Ciara). I tend to believe it’s not affecting him, or at least it won’t be a big deal because Wilson is so focused. But he’s human, and he has limits. So it’s a possibility.

    Some Other Thoughts Going into the 2015 Season

    Off the top of my head:

    1. Wilson is going to be making a lot of the OL calls now. Wilson and the coaches have raved about Nowak’s intelligence and quick learning, but Wilson’s still going to be shouldering the majority of the load for line calls (at least for now). Going against the Rams–who not only have arguably the best DL (at least on paper), but they have a mad blitzing DC in Gregg Williams. Talk about trial by fire for Nowak and the OL. (Justin Britt a second year RT has also recently moved to LG, and Garry Gilliam, a second year player, who played TE in college, is now the RT. All these moves occurred in the second preseason game.)

    What I’m wondering is if this has had an adverse impact on Wilson’s play, and if so, will it continue in the regular season. It’s something to be mindful of, although I have no way of knowing what kind of effect, if any, it’s having on Wilson’s play.

    2. With the new OL, I’m nervous about Wilson’s ability to develop in the pocket, but also avoid injury. The ‘Hawks used four draft picks to get Tyler Lockett, who has looked really good so far, and they also drafted Frank Clark, who has also looked real good. But the ‘Hawks picked both before drafting an OL. One of the three drafted was a d-lineman that they’re trying to convert into a center or guard. I think Seattle is on to something with converting d-linemen to the OL, but I feel they needed reliable starters and two backups going into this season. As good as Clark and Lockett have looked, I would have preferred they went after solid O-linemen or at least tried to bring in a FA or make a trade. The Seattle front office is rolling the dice in my view.

    3. Last year I noticed Wilson developed a tendency to throw balls that defenders could get a good jump on–often on slants or comeback routes. I really hope he’s overcome this, and he doesn’t develop any other patterns that relate to poor ball security.

  111. Reid

    Week 1 vs. the Rams

    The bad defense and ST mistakes are strong enough that I couldn’t really focus on Wilson and his play–and I honestly didn’t care about analyzing his play as I usually do. I didn’t even watch to re-watch the game to analyze Wilson, and I usually have the enthusiasm to do that. (Watching bad defense is really something that is hard to watch for me–for any team, not just the Seahawks or Raiders.)

    But I did watch the game, until some time in the third quarter. The bad news is that Wilson threw an INT and another that came close–again, on plays with the defender jumping on the route. The first not just a matter of having some tell that tips off the defender, but it was just an uncharacteristically bad decision by him. The pressure was on and Wilson, while backpedaling, just flung the ball out to the slideline, trying to hit a mostly stationary target. The ball probably didn’t have enough zip and the defender came back and got it. On the second near INT, Kearse cut into the middle, and the defender jumped the route, and almost got it. If I were a journalist, I would ask questions to Carroll, Bevell and Wilson about this–specifically, if they think Wilson has some sort of “tell.”

    Other than that, I thought Wilson played a pretty decent game, considering the inconsistency with the OL. (He was sacked 6 times, and I would say most of those were on the OL.)

  112. Reid

    I have very little enthusiasm to break down Wilson’s throws (and his play in general). The losses are not only dampening the enthusiasm, but, maybe more than that, the way the defense has been playing. It has a dispiriting and discombobulating effect on me. Watching bad defense is depressing, and even more depressing when it’s a team you root for.

    But I’ll try to re-watch the game and analyze Wilson’s throws. (He had a pick, which wasn’t awful, but it came at bad time. He also had another throw a defender jumped on. 🙁

  113. Reid

    Wilson Doesn’t Get Enough Credit for Playing with an Unreliable OL–Particularly with the Type of Offense Pete Carroll Favors

    Pete Carroll mentioned that Wilson missed some open receivers in last week’s game, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s done that more often than we would expect from a really good QB. The thing is, the pass protection has been very inconsistent and therefore unreliable. This doesn’t only apply to this year, but for much of his time in the NFL, at least as far as I can remember. (After his first year, besides improving the pass-rush I thought improving the pass protection was the most important off season move for the team–and that hasn’t changed much since then.) To me, this makes succeeding almost impossible for a QB. The greatest pass catchers would matter little if the QB couldn’t depend on the pass protection. It’s likely that the QB would make a lot of costly mistakes in those situations or sustain a serious injury. For a QB to avoid both would be an accomplishment in and of itself. Wilson has not only done this, but has been productive and allowed the passing game to be functional.

    To be fair, the pass protection in the last game seemed a lot better and there are stretches when the OL provides decent protection (especially when defenses adopt a mush rush). But even if this is true, expecting a QB to automatically perform well when this occurs doesn’t seem entirely reasonable to me. The OL has to sustain decent protection before the QB can really get comfortable. The good protection can’t occur sporadically. So far, that’s the way the OL has performed (and again, not just this year).

    I don’t think enough people factor this in when evaluating Wilson. To me, his productivity, given the circumstances, is not only remarkable, but his growth as a QB is remarkable as well–specifically, the fact that his confidence hasn’t been destroyed. Indeed, I feel like Wilson is one of the most confident, mentally-tough QBs I’ve ever seen.

    There’s one more point I wanted to add. The bad pass protection may not be that big of an issue if the Seahawks ran an offense like the Patriots or Chargers–that is, an offense designed to get the ball out quick. However, Carroll favors a run-first offense, and so he has a lot of plays that are not conducive to a quick passing attack (although they do run those plays as well).

    This puts Wilson in a really tough position–one where very few other QBs would be able to thrive and maybe not even survive. Wilson’s mobility and mental-toughness allow Carroll to have his run-first offense, while going cheap on the OL.

  114. Reid

    2015-2016: Week 7–Two Bad INTs. Russ, what the heck?!

    I’m really happy the ‘Hawks won–so happy that the two INTs by Russ didn’t bother me–well, not as much as it normally would. They weren’t good. For the first one, he seemed to either force the ball (something he almost never does) or he just didn’t see a defender. The second one seemed like he threw it up for grabs on a deep throw–which wouldn’t be bad if it was single-coverage.

    Still, there are some silver linings. One, as long as these two decisions/throws are one-off type of mistakes, I’m not worried. It’s when these become a trend/pattern that I become real concerned. Two, in the press conference Wilson mentioned staying in “attack mode,” which I took to mean that he was staying a big aggressive. I kind of like that, because in the past few games, when the team had the lead, the offense got real conservative, maybe a little too conservative. In the first INT, a TD would have been a knockout blow, virtually ending the game, so I like that he’s not getting tentative (just settling for the FG). The second one was a bomb–and I’ve been wanting to see more attempts, as I think hitting on these once or twice is crucial to this offense. (They used to do this more often in the past; but I guess the pass protection is not allowing them these opportunities.) Finally, both really didn’t hurt the team too much. The first one came at the end of the half and the second one had the effect of a punt. (I still don’t think it makes the decision OK, though.)

  115. Reid

    Week 8–Clean pocket, but Russ Still Kind of Struggles

    The title is a bit misleading as Wilson did make plays–especially when the team needed them in the end. But the offense only scored 13 points (one blocked FG and a big INT in the 4th quarter, which stalled a drive; more of great play than a bad decision by Russ), and the Cowboys defense, while solid, isn’t among the best.

    And OL played the best they’ve played–not just in pass protection (where they didn’t allow any sacks)–but run-blocking as well. (At leas that’s the way it seemed to me.) Yet, Russ threw some errant passes and missed some open receivers. All QBs do that, but some of them were hard to excuse. Fieldgulls.com has some good footage and analysis of this, although it also includes good plays. (The one I have in mind involves Graham running across the field, wide open. Russ throws the ball, but far too late and the play is broken up. Ugh.)

    But let me offer a defense for Wilson. Given the way the OL has played–they’ve given up the most sacks, most pressures and most hits (not entirely all their fault, but a lot of it is, in my opinion), the OL has not earned the trust of the Wilson–and rightly so. One good game is not going to win that trust, either, and I imagine Wilson still needed to be wary every time he dropped back–using energy and attention that probably inhibited his downfield awareness and his accuracy.

    Now, if the OL plays the way they did from here on out, then I expect Wilson’s play to improve. If not, I don’t think I’ll be able to defend him very well.

  116. Reid

    My Hesitation Over Choosing Wilson Over Derek Carr, and How That Actually Shows How Remarkable Wilson Is

    Ultimately,I would choose Wilson, but I hesitated. I have a feeling that Carr is sufficiently poised, will take care of the ball in big games and be able to make difficult throws in those games. But I really am not sure, as I haven’t seen enough to be confident; whereas, I’ve seen Wilson do this over and over again. Yeah, so it’s Wilson over Carr for me.

    But here’s why I hesitated. Carr has a really good arm, and can play from the pocket. I think Wilson has the skills to play from the pocket, but I think his height creates significant challenges. For example, I think he requires a more spacious pocket (especially in the bottom of the pocket), which puts a greater demand on the OL. I think the height limitations creates more challenges for the offensive coordinator as well, especially if they’re not going to invest in a great OL and rely, instead, on Wilson’s mobility and improvisation.

    A part of me feels that if Carr or even a QB like Flacco played on the Seahawks, the offense could do more things that they can’t do now–especially in terms of routes that take a little longer to develop. Those two QBs could have more options as they stay in the pocket as well–in terms of what they would see and their ability to throw the ball safely.

    On the other hand, with the inconsistent OL, I could see them getting crushed and really destabilized. It could definitely get ugly for them as well. But it’s hard to say, because I think the plays and play calling could conceivably change in significant ways.

    So how does this underscore how remarkable Wilson is? Well, the reason why Flacco and Carr would appeal to me is because they wouldn’t have the challenges that Wilson faces. Wilson has an uphill battle that those two don’t–which is probably a big reason most coaches wouldn’t want a QB of Wilson’s stature. But Wilson someone manages to function and make big plays despite these challenges. It’s truly remarkable. Indeed, I still feel like the bubble could burst any moment, and he’ll no longer be effective.

  117. Reid

    I haven’t post much this season. I think the main reason is that I was pretty disappointed in the team–especially the defense and the OL. The OL seemed to improve–and when that happened–Wilson really started shining. (He had some great stats, but I don’t really care about stats, so…but he did play well.) I think it was hard for me to write because the question marks I had just overwhelmed my thoughts about Wilson’s play as a QB.

    He and the offense did struggle early, but I think he handled it extremely well, considering how shaky the OL was (probably the worst I’ve seen it, at least early on). Once the OL stabilized and the WRs/TEs got open, I think Wilson proved that he can and will shred a defense.

    Seahawks are now out of the playoffs. Wilson had two INTs–one for a very costly pick 6. You could argue that the blame isn’t entirely on Wilson, but I’ll put it on him, especially the first one. But he also lead what was almost one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.

    The NFL had a Sound F/X segment on the game. Three things caught my attention:

    1. I forgot about the shots he took–he took some hard ones that they show in the game;

    2. I love the fact that Wilson starts saying, “This is going to be the greatest comeback of all time”–and then begins to start backing that up. In fact, if they got the onside kick, with a minute left, I think they would have tied the game–or one it. But dang it, it wasn’t meant to be. Anyway, it’s cool to see him jacked up saying these things.

    3. Oh, and the TD where he’s scrambling and throws a ball that goes right over the hands of the defender–that was incredible. It was almost like a crazier version of “the Catch.” Wilson’s incredible.

  118. Reid

    Andy Benoit on Wilson’s height limitations

    Tweet 7/27/2016:

    Andy Benoit ‏@Andy_Benoit 16h16 hours ago
    #Seahawks notes Wilson’s height an issue at times. Can’t climb pocket when its collapsing. Why he’s NFL’s most prolific out-of-pocket passer

    (emphasis added)

    And yet, prior to this he said the following:

    #Seahawks notes: Wilson best sandlot QB in NFL, but TV+stats don’t show throws he leaves on the field going sandlot unnecessarily.

    I want to say a couple of things I’m wondering about (and I’m thinking of writing directly to Benoit about this):

    1. If Wilson can’t climb the pocket of his height (whereas taller QBs can climb the pocket), then could it be that Wilson is resorting to a sandlot style because of he can’t climb the pocket? If this is true, you can’t really criticize him for leaving throws on the field, if he had to leave those throws because he couldn’t climb the pocket. Right?

    2. I want to ask Benoit if he agrees that one has to evaluate a QB that plays a sandlot style differently from a traditional pocket QB (i.e., one who plays within the structure of the play design). I don’t know if I’ve already used this comparison before on V-I, but I compare this to evaluating classical music versus jazz. When you evaluate classical music, you can follow the score and see how faithfully and accurately the musicians play the piece. This seems to be similar to traditional pocket QBs. If you know the play (and what the defense is doing), you can evaluate the decisions and the throws of the QB–it’s like following a classical piece with the musical score. But you can’t evaluate a jazz performance this way because there’s no score to follow–not during the improvisation. With a QB that’s willing to improvise, I think a different standard of evaluation has to occur. Clearly, there are times when the QB will leave throws on the field, when they decide to improvise; they will take bigger losses for sacks then if they simply got rid of the ball when the play seemed to be irredeemable. On the other hand, if the improvise successfully, they can salvage broken plays and turn them into a something positive; the style can be really hard for defenses to defend as well. To me, once you decide that the rewards outweigh the risks, you have to adjust your evaluation–you can’t judge the QB like you would a strictly pocket passer. I wonder if Benoit agrees with this and makes this adjustment.

  119. Mitchell

    It doesn’t sound like he’s really taking points away from Wilson; it sounds like he’s just making the observation.

  120. Reid

    “but TV+stats don’t show throws he leaves on the field going sandlot unnecessarily.” (emphasis added)

    That sounds like mild criticism at least, right?

  121. don

    I think it does sound like criticism, but that wouldn’t warrant your response (ie: classical versus jazz). If he said, “Wilson was overrated because …” then I could see you responding as such.

    I have a few thoughts about Wilson and climbing the pocket. First of all I think he doesn’t have as much opportunity to climb the pocket because of how the defenses play him. Defenses will try to keep their lanes with Wilson, meaning trying not to take that wide of an angle at him or trying not to get too deep into the backfield. In that sense Benoit comments may be an exaggeration or could be interpreted as a bigger problem than maybe it really is. That being said though, from what I’ve seen, Wilson almost never climbs the pocket, and I think it shouldn’t be a blanket statement that he can never climb the pocket. He cannot stay in a pocket like Phillip Rivers can, but if there is enough space between the interior linemen and the outside rushers, Wilson should be able to step in there in many more occasions then he does. But really that is just nitpicking and not a huge deal. Also I haven’t seen a lot of Wilson in the second half of last season when he was lighting everyone up from inside the pocket, so he may already improve in that area.

  122. Reid

    I think it does sound like criticism, but that wouldn’t warrant your response (ie: classical versus jazz). If he said, “Wilson was overrated because …” then I could see you responding as such.

    That’s a reasonable reaction, but I failed to mention that Benoit (and Greg Cosell) has said other things at other times to suggest a bias against “sandlot” style–about Wilson and even Aaron Rodgers. Here’s an MMQB.com post about Rodgers and the Packer offense. He’s not explicitly criticizing sandlot play, perhaps, but it does seem to be there in a subtle way. Here’s what he says about the Packers offense after they loss to Denver last year:

    I had just one question: Did they think their passing game could sustain season-long productivity being as dependent on sandlot plays as they’ve come to be? That’s a polite way of saying that Aaron Rodgers and his targets have lacked rhythm and continuity.

    Later,

    And Rodgers, for all his greatness, has a tendency to leave some throws on the field, leaving guys open within the timing of the design in order to extend the play in hopes of a bigger payoff later in the down.

    I’ve heard the criticism of “leaving throws on the field” applied to Wilson (even before the Benoit quote above), but I was surprised to hear this directed at Rodgers. With Wilson, people seemed to think that Wilson a) wasn’t seeing the field well enough; b) lacked understanding of defenses (versus more experience QBs like Brady and Manning); c) left the pocket prematurely and started improvising instead of operating within the play design. When Benoit said this about Rodgers I was shocked because I would think “a” and “b” doesn’t apply to Rodgers. I also didn’t think he improvised excessively.

    In the piece, Benoit says the Packers were relying too much on isolation routes by WRs versus “man-beaters,” where WRs run routes that intersect and overlap, which help them beat coverage schematically. With isolation routes seems to be a good match for Rodgers ability to extend plays, but the WRs need to beat their defenders in one-on-one situations–something that wasn’t happening last year.

    Benoit’s solution was to have the Packers run more man-beater concepts, which, according to him, would lead to easier and quicker reads for Rodgers, thus leading to quicker throws and better timing. This prescription is analogous to saying: let’s make the offense more like a classical piece of music, and less like jazz.

    First of all I think he doesn’t have as much opportunity to climb the pocket because of how the defenses play him. Defenses will try to keep their lanes with Wilson, meaning trying not to take that wide of an angle at him or trying not to get too deep into the backfield.

    I fee like “not taking a wide angle” and “not getting too deep” are two different things that sort of don’t go together. I feel like the DE want to take a wider angle, versus a more narrow one, because they want to keep Wilson in the middle of the field. As for “getting too deep,” I feel like in some ways, they don’t want to do this because they don’t want to “overshoot” Wilson. This leads to some teams employing a slower, “mush” rush, which gives Wilson more time, but forces him to throw from the pocket. On the other hand, I feel like the DEs might rush upfield as as long as they prevent Wilson from getting outside.

    In that sense Benoit comments may be an exaggeration or could be interpreted as a bigger problem than maybe it really is.

    Wait, how does this connect with the first point?

    He cannot stay in a pocket like Phillip Rivers can, but if there is enough space between the interior linemen and the outside rushers, Wilson should be able to step in there in many more occasions then he does. But really that is just nitpicking and not a huge deal.

    The key, in my view, is the how much space he has between himself at the interior linemen. For what it’s worth, I’ve paid special attention to watch how much space he has in front of him when he throws, and my conclusion is that he needs way more space than other QBs to throw the football. If he doesn’t have considerable space, he seems to look to leave the pocket–and this creates the impression that he’s leaving the pocket prematurely (He has “happy feet,” etc.)

    Like you said, he can’t hang in the pocket and climb it like Rivers (or Luck). Actually, his ability to do this is probably less than other QBs as well–that’s not a small limitation (simply “nitpicking”). When there is a wall of bodies at the bottom of the pocket (guard-center-guard), Wilson will not throw the ball if that wall is close to him. I’ve watched for this, even go back to his college videos–he just doesn’t do it. Now, the pocket is decent, but one interior pass rusher breaks free and charges toward him, he seems to be able to wait and throw when the pass rusher is upon him–but even this is pretty rare. I would say, throughout his career, I could count on two hands the number of times this has happened.

    Also I haven’t seen a lot of Wilson in the second half of last season when he was lighting everyone up from inside the pocket, so he may already improve in that area.

    In my view, the pocket got a lot better, a lot more consistent. It didn’t look like a chaotic mess as much; you could consistently see a nice “u” shape, and there was quite a bit of space for Wilson to step into. If this occurs and the WRs/TEs get consistently open, Wilson can and will shred a defense from the pocket. I’m pretty confident about that. But I don’t think he’ll ever be able to climb and throw from a muddy pocket like Rivers or Luck or many other QBs.

  123. Reid

    Here’s a link to Greg Cosell and Ron Jaworski being critical of Rodgers, for some of the reasons we’re talking about. Check it out.

    Cosell talks about how “Rodgers is a quick to breakdown”–meaning (I think) that he gives up on the play too quickly and starts “ad libbing”. Before this, he mentions how the WRs struggle to get open and the OL has had problems as well. I believe what happened to Rodgers last year is almost exactly the kind of thing that happened to Wilson, through many stretches of his career.

    Here’s what seems unfair: if

    a) the WRs/TEs are struggling to get open;
    b) the OL is having problems, and;
    c) the QB is really good at improvising (i.e., playing outside structure)

    It seems a little churlish and unfair to ding this QB for prematurely abandoning the pocket and going outside of structure. To me, ad libbing isn’t a legitimate option for QBs like Brady, so he doesn’t have to struggle with staying in the pocket and playing within structure, versus leaving the pocket and ad libbing. QBs like Wilson and Rodgers actually have a tougher decision to make, and if they’re OL and WRs/TEs aren’t playing well, they’ll probably make more “bad” decisions. I have “bad” in quotes because how does one really determine if the decision is bad–unless you strictly look at the results? If a QB stays within the structure of a play, identifying when the QB makes a bad decision is a lot easier–just as identifying mistakes from classical music is easier because we can follow the score. But how do determine if deciding to abandon a play is the right or wrong decision–especially if you’re QB is good at this and your OL isn’t reliable and your WRs/TEs struggle to get open? I don’t think there’s really away, except to look at results and how often good things happen versus bad.

  124. Don

    I feel like the DE want to take a wider angle, versus a more narrow one, because they want to keep Wilson in the middle of the field. As for “getting too deep,”

    There’s probably a misinterpretation going on here, but basically what I was trying to say is in both cases when a DE takes a too wide angle or over penetrates, looking at it from the offensive line perspective, it creates a gap between the tackle and guard that Wilson can run through. It’s much less worrisome to a defense if Wilson needs to run around the tackle, then if he gets that gap between the tackle and guard.

    my conclusion is that he needs way more space than other QBs to throw the football.

    The question is whether he “need way more space” or wants way more space. I feel like it’s more of the later. I think that’s a big difference between how you and I view Wilson.

    his ability to do this is probably less than other QBs as well–that’s not a small limitation (simply “nitpicking”).

    I was trying to say that Wilson makes it a small limitation. His game is to improvise and I think if things were different and he did climb the pocket more, then he may not be as effective.

  125. Reid

    There’s probably a misinterpretation going on here, but basically what I was trying to say is in both cases when a DE takes a too wide angle or over penetrates, looking at it from the offensive line perspective, it creates a gap between the tackle and guard that Wilson can run through.

    OK, I see what you’re saying. But I’m not sure this would limit his opportunities to “climb the pocket”–or, it would lead to situations where he wouldn’t have to climb the pocket; that is, the pass rush would be slower (to prevent overpenetration), so Wilson should stand back and throw without stepping up. I’ve seen some teams employ this approach, “using a mush rush” (or they just failed to get good penetration–I think the Eagles did it and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

    The question is whether he “need way more space” or wants way more space. I feel like it’s more of the later. I think that’s a big difference between how you and I view Wilson.

    So do you think he’s leaving the pocket out of fear? In other words, if he’s not leaving the pocket because he has to (because he can’t see or throw effectively), then do you think he’s leaving out of panic? Bottom line: we would have to criticize him for leaving the pocket when he could actually stay. If what you’re saying is true, I’d be critical of him.

    By the way, I’m reading a book by Phil Sims now. In one passage he says that he can tell when the OL is winning the physical battle because he can “see the field much better.” I take this to mean that the OL is stoning the pass rush and/or creating a lot of space for him to see. The Seahawk OL doesn’t consistently provide this kind of protection, and if the it can impact Sims’s vision, then it’s reasonable to assume it will have a bigger impact on Wilson’s.

    I was trying to say that Wilson makes it a small limitation. His game is to improvise and I think if things were different and he did climb the pocket more, then he may not be as effective.

    I think if his WRs/TEs got consistently open, he would be really effective if he could and did climb the pocket. To me, when you climb the pocket, you’re giving just a little more time for your WRs/TEs to get open and you’re staying in the middle of the field, maximizes your passing options. Sims also talked about the importance of how good footwork in the pocket can buy you a split second of time and how that can make a huge difference. This is a similar thing. I’m confident Wilson would be really effective in the pocket–say he played on an offense with the Steelers roster. Of course, playing this way wouldn’t preclude him from using his mobility from time to time as well.

  126. Don

    But I wasn’t referring to a mush rush, but I think defensive linemen are taught to try and “stay in your lanes” against Wilson, more than other teams.

    So do you think he’s leaving the pocket out of fear?

    No not out of fear, out of doing what he does best which is extending plays and making plays with his feet. That’s why I said it’s not a huge problem, and it’s nitpicking. Because maybe in 80% of the plays Wilson is doing the right thing in leaving the pocket (maybe the percentage is higher), because even if he stepped up into the pocket it wouldn’t buy him enough time. Remember other QBs don’t have that luxury of leaving the pocket, so for them it isn’t even a choice. However, there has to be times that Wilson could step up and deliver, and in those times Wilson leaving the pocket is a mistake.

  127. Reid

    But I wasn’t referring to a mush rush, but I think defensive linemen are taught to try and “stay in your lanes” against Wilson, more than other teams.

    I agree, but why would this approach reduce opportunities for Wilson to climb the pocket? The bigger issue is the pass pro. If the opposing DL is more disciplined, and the OL blocks reasonably well, I would think that would create a space to climb the pocket. Now, if the pass pro stinks–especially at the bottom of the pocket, then that will reduce Wilson’s ability to climb the pocket. But I would think that’s true no matter how the DL attacks him.

    Because maybe in 80% of the plays Wilson is doing the right thing in leaving the pocket (maybe the percentage is higher), because even if he stepped up into the pocket it wouldn’t buy him enough time.

    Oh, so you’re thinking Wilson will leave not because he can’t see or throw; rather he’ll leave the pocket because leaving the pocket would buy him more time than staying in it? That’s a possibility, but based on what I see, I don’t really think that’s it. If this were the main reason, I would expect seeing him climb the pocket much more frequently, but he doesn’t–not in pockets with the same degree of muddiness I see from taller QBs. I’m not saying I’m 100% right, though. I think it’s really hard to know the right answer for this.

  128. Don

    I agree, but why would this approach reduce opportunities for Wilson to climb the pocket?

    The normal climb the pocket scenario is when the outside rushers are deep (and usually out wide) in the backfield, which creates the opportunity for the QB to step up or climb the pocket. If the defenses stay in their lane or are basically more of a straight line there is nothing to step up into.

    If this were the main reason, I would expect seeing him climb the pocket much more frequently, but he doesn’t–not in pockets with the same degree of muddiness I see from taller QBs.

    I don’t get what you are saying here. Climbing the pocket can only give you a second at most before the rest of the defenders squeeze that pocket even tighter. However getting outside the pocket, in Wilson’s case, can buy much more time then that.

  129. Reid

    The normal climb the pocket scenario is when the outside rushers are deep (and usually out wide) in the backfield, which creates the opportunity for the QB to step up or climb the pocket. If the defenses stay in their lane or are basically more of a straight line there is nothing to step up into.

    But what you’re describing sounds like Wilson would be able to go outside the pocket. If that’s the case, I don’t think that’s the way defenses try to play Wilson. Generally, I think they want to contain Wilson in the pocket, so the outside pass rush tries to prevent Wilson from getting around them. At the same, time they try not to penetrate too deeply either.

    I don’t get what you are saying here. Climbing the pocket can only give you a second at most before the rest of the defenders squeeze that pocket even tighter. However getting outside the pocket, in Wilson’s case, can buy much more time then that.

    Two things:

    1.) I think that “second” can really make a huge difference–in terms of giving the extra time for the WR/TE to get open. Again, I’ll try to find the quote from Phil Sims, who was actually talk about the way good footwork can buy you just a bit more time and how that can make a huge difference. I think he said something like this extra second can account for something like ten more completions. What I’ve seen over the years, supports this claim. How many times do we see a QB hang or climb the pocket, release it at the last second and complete the pass? I’m talking about situations where it seems like that extra second made a difference. I think this is one of the reasons playing QB is so dicey–QBs need the courage to stay in the pocket when it’s collapsing, even if the WRs/TEs aren’t open. In a way, the QB is trusting/hoping that one more second will allow the WR/TE to get open–and that happens more often than you would think.

    2. The QB staying in the pocket has more options; once a QB leaves the pocket, that generally cuts the field in half. I marvel at the way QBs can complete passes when they run to one side of the field, because the defense knows that they generally only have one side to throw to.

    Also, when a QB makes the move to leave the pocket this can interfere with the QB seeing WRs. When I watch the all-22, there are many occasions where WRs/TEs begin to get open, but Wilson starts scrambling and he either doesn’t see them or he’s in a position where he can’t get them the ball. If there were a pocket he could throw from, he would have completed the ball.

    I believe this is one of the reasons that film analysts have a slight bias against scrambling QBs. Once the QB leaves the pocket, it constitutes playing outside the structure of the play design. That is, the QBs should stay in the pocket and let the play design develop to fruition. The QBs that improvise leave throws on the field. (I understand where they’re coming from and generally I agree, but when you have QBs like Rodgers and Wilson–QBs that are great at playing outside structure–I think you have evaluate them a bit differently.)

  130. Don

    Generally, I think they want to contain Wilson in the pocket, so the outside pass rush tries to prevent Wilson from getting around them. At the same, time they try not to penetrate too deeply either.

    You right I shouldn’t have said straight line, but regardless I think because the defenders are trying not to open up any huge gaps, the defensive ends are not too deep or too wide, which doesn’t really form a pocket to step into. That’s basically my theory.

    I’m not sure why you think I’m disagreeing (or maybe you don’t) with climbing the pocket. I’m saying it is generally the best thing to do (which you are saying). I also agree that Wilson and Rodgers, but to a much lesser extent, are different and should be evaluated differently. They have the ability to get outside the pocket and “survive”, which is why it’s not necessarily a bad thing especially if more than an extra second is required. Brady doesn’t have that option. So for arguments sake let’s say that 10 passes a game, Wilson could climb the pocket. And out of that 10 times, he could actually complete two extra passes buying himself the one second and climbing the pocket. However, getting outside the pocket he could complete an extra three passes, then I’m fine with Wilson not climbing the pocket and getting to the outside. So the ideal would be to complete the two by climbing the pocket and complete the three outside the pocket and basically knowing the difference. But is that a reality, that he will know when to do which every time? So if Wilson errors on the side of leaving the pocket too early, I think that’s fine with him missing on the two he could have gotten climbing the pocket. Not to mention when Wilson does get outside, it creates another problem for the defense in having to defend him as a runner.

  131. Reid

    You right I shouldn’t have said straight line, but regardless I think because the defenders are trying not to open up any huge gaps, the defensive ends are not too deep or too wide, which doesn’t really form a pocket to step into. That’s basically my theory.

    But if the DEs aren’t too wide or too “narrow”, I would think that should create a pocket (assuming the OL does their job). A QB wouldn’t be able to climb the pocket if there really weren’t space at the bottom of the pocket. This could occur if the DTs got good penetration and/or if the DEs squeezed into the bottom. But if they did this, that allow Wilson to get out of the pocket. Basically, the way I’m envisioning this, if the pass rushers just stay in their proper lanes, that can lead to a pocket to climb. You don’t agree with that?

    So the ideal would be to complete the two by climbing the pocket and complete the three outside the pocket and basically knowing the difference. But is that a reality, that he will know when to do which every time? So if Wilson errors on the side of leaving the pocket too early, I think that’s fine with him missing on the two he could have gotten climbing the pocket.

    In general, I think we’re on the same page here–and if the above is your main point, I’m totally with you. What you’re saying above is the reason I get annoyed when guys like Cosell and Benoit criticize Wilson and Rodgers for playing too much outside of structure, leaving throws on the field. When you say “is that a reality,” I interpret this as, “is this reasonable?” And I agree. It’s unfair and unreasonable to expect the QB to make the proper calculation to leave or stay in the pocket. I would argue that the answer is almost unknowable–or it’s only knowable with hindsight.

    The one disagreement I would have is in the numbers of your hypothetical. I tend to think that if a QB can climb (and throw) from the pocket, that would give him 8 more throws, whereas if he leaves, in the same situations, he’d have 3-4. That is, it’s almost always better to stay in the pocket then leave it.

    Some exceptions:

    The WRs/TEs struggle to get open and the play design relies on them to win one-on-one match ups. In that case, leaving the structure might be justified.

    If the QB really can’t see or make a safe throw, then they shouldn’t stay in the pocket.

    I also can’t come down hard on mobile QBs if their OL isn’t reliable. They’re going to leave prematurely some of the time because of this, and it’s hard really to blame them too much.

  132. don

    What does 8 more throws mean? They can throw the ball 8 out of 10 times to a receiver with one extra second? That seems extraordinarily high. I said they can complete an extra 2 passes per 10 attempts. So does it seem unreasonable that one second can improve a QB’s efficiency by 20%? So when you said Sims said, “this extra second can account for something like ten more completions”, he was talking per game? If that’s true that’s a wow.

    Anyway, based on your hypothetical numbers you think that Wilson would be twice as effective climbing the pocket (if able) then if he left the pocket. And thus your line of thinking is Wilson leaves the pocket because one he’s too short and two his teammates (ie: WR, TE, and OL) are not good enough at their positions. If that is true then yes we are in a disagreement. I’m more in the line of thinking that for Wilson leaving the pocket may buy him three seconds instead of one, making him more effective (even with the limitations of leaving the pocket as you stated such as taking away half the field) outside the pocket then inside. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean he’s always better off leaving the pocket, but if he only did one versus the other, he would be better off if he left the pocket rather than climb the pocket. But basically you stand on the other side in that if he could only do one (sans the bad teammates and height) he would be more effective inside the pocket?

  133. Reid

    What does 8 more throws mean? They can throw the ball 8 out of 10 times to a receiver with one extra second?

    I was thinking about 8 completions. I really don’t know what the exact number is, but I was trying to give you a sense of how much better staying in the pocket would be versus leaving the pocket and improvising. (As for Sims, I’ll go look at the quote and get back to you later on that.)

    Anyway, based on your hypothetical numbers you think that Wilson would be twice as effective climbing the pocket (if able) then if he left the pocket. And thus your line of thinking is Wilson leaves the pocket because one he’s too short and two his teammates (ie: WR, TE, and OL) are not good enough at their positions.

    I don’t know if he’d be “twice” as effective, but I will say that he and the offense would be better off he could stay in the pocket–assuming that he has a solid supporting cast. (I’m also not saying that there shouldn’t be designed roll outs.) If the pass protection is good and the WRs/TEs can get open, QBs should stay in the pocket. The only time I wouldn’t say this is if if the QB isn’t that great of a pocket passer–and the QB could play outside the pocket. Maybe that’s where we differ? Do you think Wilson is a good pocket QB? For me, as long as he has the space and the WRs/TEs can consistently get open, I’m really confident he would shred defenses. Last year, when he went on that great six game run, I believe he made many plays from the pocket. I don’t really put a lot of stock into QB ratings, but I understand his QB rating is very high from the pocket.

    I’m more in the line of thinking that for Wilson leaving the pocket may buy him three seconds instead of one, making him more effective (even with the limitations of leaving the pocket as you stated such as taking away half the field)

    I disagree with that. The extra time doesn’t outweigh advantages of throwing from the pocket in my view.

    But basically you stand on the other side in that if he could only do one (sans the bad teammates and height) he would be more effective inside the pocket?

    You mean, if height weren’t a factor and he had good teammates? Yeah, I would lean that way. I’m surprised you wouldn’t too. Does this mean that you would prefer a QB like Wilson over someone like Luck (assuming that Luck had good talent around him)? In general, I’d prefer a guy like Luck. I might choose Wilson, specifically (but he’s a kind of freak), but, generally, I prefer QBs like Luck over Wilson.

  134. don

    To clarify, only in the case of Wilson would I prefer him outside of the pocket rather than inside. To me that is Wilson’s strength and I wouldn’t want him to play any other way. That being said though, I cannot take that to the next step and say that I would rather have a QB like Wilson over a “traditional” pocket QB, because I would probably say the opposite is true.

    So to take this a step further, if you think Wilson and Rodgers are much better off staying in the pocket rather than getting to the outside, the criticisms by the pundits aren’t wrong right? Because in most cases or more times than not they should be climbing the pocket. So if you want to say the criticisms are incorrect because outside factors (ie: talent around them) make it almost impossible for them to climb the pocket, that take sounds reasonable (although I don’t necessarily agree). But to say style of play should negate the criticisms is not correct if you think their style of play gives them less chance of succeeding. It almost sounds like you are making similar criticisms as the pundits are. What am I missing?

  135. Reid

    To clarify, only in the case of Wilson would I prefer him outside of the pocket rather than inside. To me that is Wilson’s strength and I wouldn’t want him to play any other way.

    Wait–you mean you prefer that Wilson throw from outside of the pocket versus inside? I thought you were saying that you don’t mind if he leaves the pocket and misses out on a few completions he could have had in the pocket. But what you’re saying above is that you prefer he throw from outside the pocket? Or, do you just mean that you wouldn’t want him to reduce his improvising/throws outside the pocket?

    So if you want to say the criticisms are incorrect because outside factors (ie: talent around them) make it almost impossible for them to climb the pocket, that take sounds reasonable (although I don’t necessarily agree).

    Yes, I’m sort of saying this. Let me be more specific:

    1. If the WRs/TEs aren’t getting open consistently–and the QB is really good at extending plays–then it would make sense that these QBs would try to extend plays more often. But of course if they increase the amount of times they try to improvise, they will also increase the amount of times they leave throws on the field (had they just been more patient in the pocket). This criticism doesn’t seem fair to me. You either say–Don’t ever leave the pocket, and I’ll live with forgoing great sandlot plays, or you say–go to those sandlot plays, and we’ll understand that you may give up opportunities within the play design.

    By the way, both Cosell and Benoit mention that the Packers WRs struggled to get open. The also mentioned that the Packers were relying on the WRs to beat their defenders one-on-one. They both recommended using schemes to help get the WRs open. I’ve also heard Benoit issue a similar criticism and cure for the Seahawks in the past.

    (This makes me wonder if the approach is linked to the QB’s ability to improvise. That is, a one-on-one approach pairs well with a mobile QB. To me, this makes good sense in man coverage. If you send the WRs deep, this creates a lot of green space for the QB to run and the defenders won’t be looking back at the QB. If the QB gets past the front seven, he can run for a big gain.)

    2. Inconsistent pass protection can not only make it really difficult to climb the pocket, but it makes knowing when to be patient and when to bail incredibly difficult. Like you said, for a “stationary” QB, the option to run isn’t really there, so for these QBs, there really isn’t much of a decision (to improvise or not). For great improvisers like Wilson and Rodgers, the decision is super hard–they can actually turn a broken play into something really good, with very low risks. In this kind of situation, is if fair to criticize a QB for leaving the pocket too early? To me, it doesn’t–the QB deserves a lot more slack. (With Rodgers, I actually didn’t think the pass protection was bad. The main issue was the WRs/TE and maybe a lack of a running game. The Packers have a very good OL in my view. The situation with Seattle’s OL is different, especially early in the season. Once the pass protection improved Wilson went on a tear.)

    3. If Wilson needs a more spacious and clean pocket, then you obviously can’t compare him to what taller QBs do. If I’m not mistaken, Benoit acknowledges that height could be an issue. If so, then if Wilson leaves the pocket earlier than a taller QB would, how can you criticize him for that?

    Now, if Wilson and Rodgers had really good pass pro (consistently sound pockets with adequate time and space) and their WRs/TEs got open consistently–AND then they scrambled as much as they did–then I’d be with Benoit and Cosell.

  136. Reid

    Addendum Re the WRs/TEs

    Last year, I don’t know if Jordy Nelson was such a big factor, but whatever the reason, the Packers WRs/TEs struggled to get open. They got desperate and picked up James Jones at some point–Jones was cut by the Raiders and then cut by the Giants. Jones couldn’t get open when he was on the Packers. If it weren’t for back-shoulder throws, he might have lost 3/4 of his receptions. (I’m making that number up, but that’s what it seemed like). It seemed like every time Rodgers threw the ball to someone, they were covered. That is incredibly difficult circumstances for a QB–which is one of the reasons I thought this was one of his best years. He also stayed poised and hardly turned the all over while attempting to make something happen. It was unbelievable to me.

    Having said this, did this lead to bad habits (dropping his eyes down, leaving the pocket too early, etc.)? Yeah, I think it did, but what do you expect? The WRs/TEs weren’t getting open. If he stayed in the pocket, I doubt they would have gotten open within the design of the play. And remember, the Packers weren’t running a lot of schemes/man-beaters to get the WRs/TEs. (They seemed to do more of this later in the season, but even that only helped a little.)

    I think something similar can be said about Wilson, especially early in 2015 and for a lot of 2014, especially after losing Harvin and Zach Miller. When Baldwin and Kearse became #1 and #2 WRs, respectively, against better defenses, the WRs/TEs struggled to get open (which is why they went after Graham). I think the OL wasn’t/isn’t as good as the Packers’ as well. So, Wilson might have developed bad habits; or, he didn’t have time to settle in and get in the groove. (For much of his career, Wilson hasn’t been able to really get comfortable in the pocket–not for a string of games–the one example is the six game stretch last year–and he did really well when that happened. I should also say that the defenses during that stretch weren’t that good.)

    So you have to factor these things in. Maybe the coaches could have used more schemes to get WRs/TEs open, but if they didn’t, what should the QB do? I don’t think the results would have been significantly better had they waited longer in the pocket.

  137. Reid

    Don,

    Here’s the Phil Simms comment I mentioned:

    How many more big plays are created with the quarterback moving in the pocket, giving himself that extra half second to throw instead of running? If I had to put a number on it, I would say it is easily 10 to 1–and I’m being conservative.

    I’m not sure what he means by “10 to 1.” It sounds like for every (1) instance a QB could run (successfully), there would be 10 big completions he would have had. ?

    By the way, when he says “running,” I’m not totally clear on if he means, “tucking and running for yards” and/or “scrambling out of the pocket to throw.” It sounds like he means the former–in which case, that’s different from what we’re talking about (as we’re talking about scrambling to throw vs. throwing from the pocket). But there’s some ambiguity because a few pages earlier he talks about why throwing from the pocket is superior from throwing outside of it, with the former being better than the latter. He also mentions Steve Young as a example of a QB who “combined great scrambling and passing ability”–describing how Young started out as having a “run, run, run” mentality when he couldn’t find an open WR to “Let’s look. Let’s run” and finally to “Let’s look, look, run.” This make is sound like “running” is both “scrambling” and “running for yards.” From what I remember, Young wasn’t really a scrambler–he was mostly a runner. So when Sims says Young was a great scrambler, I feel like he’s conflating scrambling and running. Anyway, take that for what you will.

  138. don

    I think that quote is absolutely correct for 95% of the QBs, but I don’t think those numbers are correct in referring to Wilson. He makes so many plays (and the quote says “big plays”) outside of the pocket, I find it hard to imagine he would be that much better climbing the pocket (ten times better would mean he’s the best to ever play by far). I think it’s possible that he can make more plays climbing the pocket (even then I’m not sure especially when you count Wilson running), but probably a majority would be little swing passes, and not by definition a “big play”.

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to infer that I would rather Wilson be outside the pocket on every play, just on plays that breakdown.

  139. Reid

    He makes so many plays (and the quote says “big plays”) outside of the pocket,…

    That’s true, but you’re basically saying these plays would generally be better than if he climbed the pocket and played within the structure of the play (again, assuming that the WRs/TEs don’t struggle to get open). I can’t really say that. It’s hard to know how often he makes a big versus small plays outside of the pocket. I’d say a large majority are modest. (Some of these modest gains are incredible, though, given the degree of difficulty behind making them.)

    …but probably a majority would be little swing passes, and not by definition a “big play”

    You think so? I tend to think the extra second allows for bigger plays, although I guess it depends on the offense. For the Colts, Luck’s ability to climb the pocket allows him to get complete those deep crossing routes–which I assume takes time to develop. Most big plays require more time to develop, right?

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean to infer that I would rather Wilson be outside the pocket on every play, just on plays that breakdown.

    Wait, what do you mean by “breakdown?” As in, the defense blows up a play? If that’s the case, then, yes, I would rather have Wilson play outside the pocket, but that seems obvious.

  140. Don

    I think in most cases, when the QB needs to step up into the pocket, he knows he better get rid of the ball quickly. I think in those cases, it’s rare that he will find someone deep. Although it’s very possible, the more likely scenario is the QB would check it down.

    When a QB has to step into a pocket, you don’t consider that as the play starting to breakdown? I sort of do. The ideal would be for the QB do stand there and survey the field, anything short of that (unless it’s planned) is the start of the play breaking down at least in my view.

  141. Reid

    Although it’s very possible, the more likely scenario is the QB would check it down.

    I don’t know if this happens when QBs climb the pocket, but when they do hold the ball for a while, this often happens as well.

    When a QB has to step into a pocket, you don’t consider that as the play starting to breakdown?

    Yeah, but I wasn’t sure if you meant a playing being blown-up versus a play starting to breakdown. Given the definition above, I go back to what I’ve been saying: if Wilson can climb the pocket and stand tall, and the WRs/TEs can consistently get open, then I would want him to climb the pocket when it starts breaking down, instead of leaving the pocket. (Also, I’m again assuming the OL is solid. With a solid OL, the pocket will deteriorate in an orderly and sometimes gradual way.)

    I’d want to leave the pocket if the play is blown up (e.g., a pass rusher comes in immediately untouched, not by design), or if he can’t see or throw safely.

    Another way of saying this: I’d like him to improvise only when he has to–when the play, as designed, fails. If the plays are working (which includes the OL and WRs/TEs doing their jobs), then he should climb the pocket (if he can see and throw). Think of someone like Steve Young. He got to the point where he’d play from the pocket and only run when he needed to. If Wilson becomes like that (with the supporting cast being solid), he’ll be almost unstoppable like Young.

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