This post is going to be COMPLETELY subjective and COMPLETELY drenched in my homerizzm, but I don’t care.
I think Russell Wilson is pretty great at football. If you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably agree. I also think we’re just scratching the surface of Russell Wilson’s greatness. Based on the second half of his 2015 season, if you’re a Seahawks fan, you probably also agree.
Why do I think Russell Wilson is one of the four best quarterbacks in the NFL? It’s quite simple: I can’t think of more than three quarterbacks in the league for whom I’d be willing to trade our franchise guy. For the sake of this exercise, I should point out that I’m including age and experience in this thing, but I’m not really all that focused on the size of the contract or anything like that. This is a simple one-for-one swap: would I rather have Russell Wilson for however many remaining years of his career (probably well over 10 more years, if everything goes well health-wise), or would I rather have Player X? It’s not as simple as: you have one year, who is your starting quarterback? It’s also not as simple as: who had the best 2015 season? This is, going forward, who would you be willing to have start for your team in place of Russell Wilson?
Also, for the sake of argument, let’s forget about all the growing pains of bringing in a new guy, having him learn the system, having him build a rapport with the players, and so on. Let’s just assume, whoever you trade for, will know our system and will get along with the players as well as Wilson has.
To fulfill the “experience” and “quality” requirements, I chopped off over half of the league’s starters from last year. None of the 2016 rookies interest me whatsoever when compared to Wilson. Guys like Bortles, Mariota, and Winston are all very interesting, but they’re obviously not at the level of quality or experience that Wilson has. Tyrod Taylor is another interesting name, but I’m going to need more than 14 games started before I can take you seriously as a Wilson replacement. Osweiler is yet another interesting name, who’s had many years backing up a hall of famer, but only in 2015 was given the opportunity to start real, regular season games. Carr, with the Raiders, is the last of the young’uns I left off of my list. He looks every part the gunslinger that team has desperately needed for ages, but I just can’t quite put trust in any belief that his ceiling is higher than Wilson’s until I’ve seen it first.
The next group of candidates have the experience, but are lacking in the quality department, and have been left off for what I feel are obvious reasons. Foles, Kaepernick/Gabbert, Cutler, Stafford, Bradford, Alex Smith, Dalton, Flacco, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, and anyone else I didn’t list above, who deserve to remain nameless because they suck. I may get blowback on guys like Dalton, Stafford, and maybe even Cutler, but those guys have showed me absolutely nothing outside of a season here and there. They can’t consistently stay out of their own way and they tend to shit the bed when it matters most. To be honest, Joe Flacco is probably my favorite of this bunch; I think he’d fit in quite well with what the Seahawks like to do on offense (run the ball, play action deep passes), but there’s no way in hell I’m trading Wilson for him.
That brings me to the realistic candidates. Quarterbacks who have the ability to play at an elite level, but for various reasons I’d rather not give up Wilson for them. Let’s start with Tom Brady, because that’s obviously the name everyone puts at or near the top of any list of the world’s best quarterbacks. Yes, obviously, if I had one season and I wanted to win a championship, I’d consider trading Wilson for Brady. But, Brady is going to be 39 years old this August. While he’s still playing at an elite level this deep into his career, how many more years can you reasonably expect him to squeeze out, let alone at that aforementioned elite level? Two? MAYBE three? Remember, at age 37, Peyton Manning had the greatest season of any quarterback in the history of the game. Two seasons later, it looks like he’s played his last down. I’m not trading upwards of a decade or more of Russell Wilson for 1-2 more quality Brady years, sorry-not-sorry (people still say that, right?).
Same story for Brees. He’s got a lot of mileage and I’m not wasting a guy in his prime for a guy who will be out of the league soon.
Next up, I’m going to lump in guys like Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, and Ben Roethlisberger. Of all the quarterbacks playing today, Roethlisberger might be playing at the highest level (doesn’t hurt he’s got the weapons he’s got). But, all three of these guys are injury risks, which makes them older – in an NFL sense – than their actual ages. All are quality passers, but I just don’t think I’d ever trade Wilson for them.
Then, there’s Eli. He’s started every single game for the Giants since the start of the 2005 season; no injury concerns there. He’s going into his age 35 season, so you figure if things continue to go as well as they have, he’s probably got another good 5 years or so. I just don’t think, as a quarterback, he’s as good as Wilson (and that’s not even taking into account my opinion that Wilson will only get better as these next few years go on). Matt Ryan is another guy who’s been pretty durable, and when he’s got a good team around him, he’s shown he’s a franchise guy. But, like Eli, I don’t think Ryan is nearly the calibre of passer as Wilson. I mean, let’s face it, Wilson has done a lot of good with what’s been a pretty poor pass-protection unit. Ryan falls apart at the first instance of pressure! No thank you.
Philip Rivers is the last guy in this section, and he’s one I honestly sort of agonized over. He’s been on some pretty terrible and injury-riddled teams of late. One wonders what he’d be able to do on a legitimately great team like the Seahawks. He can go out and win you a shoot-out if need be. He can slow it down and play the high-percentage, short passing game. He’s not that mobile, but he’s lightning-quick in his decision-making. My only knock against him is that he tends to be a little too reckless with the football. Not as bad as Cutler, or some of these other guys lower on the list, but it’s still a concern. He’ll also be 35 years old by season’s end this year, so there’s fewer seasons to look forward to with him, compared to Wilson.
Of the players I feel are of equal or greater value to Wilson, I can count only three.
Andrew Luck is a guy I think, when it’s all said and done, will be a Hall of Famer. He needs to learn to get hit less on his scrambles, but it would also help if he had a better offensive line (Indy’s line makes Seattle’s look like the Hogs from the 80s). I still see a long and fruitful career for Luck; don’t forget, he’s largely been carrying that team with not a lot of talent around him. Imagine what he’d do on a stacked Seahawks team! Right now, I’d probably rank Wilson ahead of Luck, but I wouldn’t be totally devastated if they were swapped straight up.
Next up, obviously, when you talk about the world’s greatest quarterbacks, you’re talking about Aaron Rodgers. A-Rod will be 33 years old by season’s end, but who gives a shit? He’s another Hall of Famer, and another guy who should play into his 40s when all is said and done. I think, until Wilson really starts to pour it on (i.e. turns the second half of his 2015 season into many multiple FULL seasons in the future), you have to rank A-Rod ahead of him. Even though I think he’s a collosal douche, I’d trade Wilson for him straight up.
Finally, there’s Cam. No one wants to hear it, because everyone outside of Carolina hates Cam (and/or spends way too much time defending him when he acts like an immature little crybaby), but the dude is a straight-up baller, and not just with his legs (although, it doesn’t hurt that he’s so good running with the football). One wonders how his body will handle all the hits long-term, but I think his running ability will last a lot longer than Wilson’s (who I feel will slide into more of a pocket passer role the more he gets comfortable reading pre-snap defenses). Like Luck, I don’t know if Cam is necessarily BETTER than Wilson, but he’s certainly on par, and he’s young enough, and he’s carried sub-par teams to winning records/playoff appearances for multiple seasons. From a fan standpoint, I’d probably prefer Luck to Cam, but from strictly a player standpoint, I think I could be talked into taking Cam over Luck. Talk to me again in a year or two and that statement might look batshit crazier than it already does, but that’s how I feel right now, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
In conclusion, I’d like to reiterate (if it wasn’t already clear) that I think Russell Wilson is great and I don’t necessarily want to trade him for anyone in the league. But, if I HAD to, I’d only accept A-Rod, Cam, or Luck, in that order. Anyone else, I feel, would be beneath what Russell Wilson has to offer over the course of the rest of his career in this league.