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Russell Wilson's Consistency Puts Him Atop List of Young Quarterbacks

The Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers are all penciled in as playoff teams as of today, but there’s a tremendous disparity when it comes to how and why those teams got to where they are.

Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson

Nov 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy to look at the current NFL standings and say you would want Russell Wilson to be your team’s franchise quarterback going forward. But it wasn’t always a no-brainer … even about a month ago.

The Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers are all penciled in as playoff teams as of today, but there’s a tremendous disparity when it comes to how and why those teams got to where they are.

It’s not fair to say Wilson gets overlooked as a franchise quarterback, but plenty of the attention paid to the Seahawks goes toward the team’s potent rushing attack and dominant defense. There’s no denying those two areas deserve the credit they receive — Seattle owns the No. 1-ranked defense and averages 146 yards rushing per game — but lost in the thick of things is how Wilson wills his team to victory time and time again.

Wilson does not turn the ball over. In his team’s 11 victories, the second-year signal-caller has a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio; even in their lone loss he only had one interception. Among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts this season, Wilson has six picks, which ranks behind only E.J. Manuel, Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and Alex Smith — four of whom have not played the full length of the season.

Among current starting quarterbacks, Wilson owns the sixth-highest completion percentage (64.9 percent) and third-best first-down percentage (38.7 percent). And that doesn’t include the first-downs he earns on the ground, as Wilson has a 32.5 percent success rate in that element.

Much like the debate that occurred with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning early on in their careers, Wilson is sustaining most of his success without any premier offensive weapons. The Seahawks’ leading receiver is Doug Baldwin, who went undrafted out of Stanford in 2011. Behind him is Golden Tate, a second-round pick, tight end Zach Miller and another undrafted receiver in Jermaine Kearse. The team’s supposed best offensive weapon, Percy Harvin, has not been able to stay on the field.

Overall, Wilson has led Seattle to a 22-6 record in his first two seasons in the league and a perfect 14-0 mark at home. With the convincing win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, the Seahawks looked poised for the top seed in the NFC.

Wilson’s stats and accolades speak for themselves, but his consistency is precisely why he has proven to be the best of the young quarterback crop that includes Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.

Luck, touted as the next Peyton Manning after being selected No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft by the Colts, has flashed signs of greatness, especially this season. Luck has led the Colts over the Seahawks, as well as San Francisco and Denver, but has also let his play falter in recent weeks.

The Colts have exchanged wins and losses each of the past four weeks, while Luck has tossed two touchdowns compared to five interceptions. Many would argue the absence of Pro Bowl wideout Reggie Wayne has taken a toll on Luck, but the Colts’ quarterback was able to lead comebacks against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans in subsequent weeks. And would the absence of one target translate to eight points scored at home to the St. Louis Rams and 11 points against the Arizona Cardinals?

Luck should not shoulder all of the blame for the Colts’ recent skid, but unlike Wilson he has not be able to will his team to victory. It’s impossible to argue Luck’s five interceptions over the past month has not contributed to the losses.

Onto Kaepernick, who has proven to be a catalyst for the 49ers in his second year as a starter. After taking over for Smith last season, Kaepernick ignited the offense all the way to a Super Bowl appearance. But in Season 2 of the Kaepernick Era, things have not been as well … peachy.

After putting up video game-like numbers against the Green Bay Packers in the season opener, Kaepernick’s regression against Seattle and Indy resulted in blowout losses Weeks 2 and 3. Likewise, as he found a rhythm the following five weeks as did the Niners, who reeled off five straight wins. Not coincidentally, Kaepernick had a 6:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the streak, not including three touchdown runs.

As evident by the Niners’ record, the team goes as their quarterback does. In victories, Kaepernick has thrown 13 touchdowns and one pick; in losses, six interceptions and just two touchdowns.

Finally, there’s RGIII, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year who taken a major step back in his sophomore season. In 2012 not only did Griffin win the awards and lift Washington to an NFC East title, he forced defenses to rethink their schemes as he thrived in the pistol offense.

Whether it’s a difference in opinion with the coaching staff or lingering effects of the knee injury he suffered in the postseason, Griffin has not been nearly as effective in Year 2.

Through the first three months of the 2013 season, RGIII has 15 touchdown passes, 11 picks and zero rushing scores. Last year at this time he had 17 touchdown passes, four interceptions and six rushing scores. Also, the Skins were 6-6 and surging toward the top of the divisional standings.

Griffin’s regression has a lot to do with physical setbacks, as well as poor offensive line protection. He has been sacked 33 times (sixth-most in the NFL) and because of mobility limitations has been forced to throw from the pocket more, but perhaps what doesn’t get noticed is the fact that — like a starting pitcher facing batters a second and third time through the lineup — defensive coordinators have come up with game plans to stymie the pistol offense.

What sets Wilson apart from Luck, RGIII and Kaepernick is simply his consistency. Three of the four quarterbacks have been healthy since being anointed as starters, and Griffin was cleared to start the season for the Redskins, a team projected to win its division despite injury concerns.

Wilson has thrived with both his arm and legs, much like the other quarterbacks, and has done so with arguably less talent. Consider that Luck has an electric T.Y. Hilton and a first-round back in Trent Richardson; Kaepernick has Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree; and RGIII has Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon and emerging rookie Jordan Reed.

And like Kaepernick Wilson plays in a competitive NFC West, and his out-of-division games included Carolina, Indy, Tennessee and New Orleans, all teams currently projected to be in the playoffs.

Ask me which quarterback I’d choose to put under center for my franchise the next 10-12 years and it’s not even a question. I would choose Wilson, who could win a Super Bowl this season and only improve with time.

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