When people look at the 2012 NFL quarterback draft class, two names now stand out above the rest: Andrew Luck & Russell Wilson. There’s still time for the 2012 Rookie of the Year, RGIII, to re-insert himself into the discussion. But, with the collapse of the Redskins in 2013, the turmoil at the top of the organization, and the utter lack of depth around their world-class field-leader, it’s safe to say RGIII is a step behind the Top Two.
Anyone who’s completely objective will rank the two quarterbacks as Andrew Luck – 1 and Russell Wilson – 2. I don’t happen to agree with that, but then again I’m not objective. Nevertheless, you can’t argue with the fact that Luck is FAR more important and FAR more integral to his offense in Indianapolis than Wilson is to Seattle’s. Luck has passed the ball more often, because his team can’t run the ball, and because his team is more likely to need to come back from behind because their defense isn’t as good. As a result, Luck has thrown for far more yards and touchdowns, but also more interceptions. That was his big knock as a rookie and ultimately what cost him the ROY award. That was also my knock against him when I ranked Wilson higher than him last year. But, after his 2013 season – and specifically his performance in that 28-point come-from-behind victory against Kansas City last week – I’m starting to have my doubts about my original position. I’d still rather have Russell Wilson, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers and the production (especially when you consider that Luck cut his mistakes WAY down in his second year as a pro).
Here’s the thing, though. The Seahawks are STILL playing Russell Wilson with kid gloves. Yes, the entire playbook is open to him – where it wasn’t for the beginning of his rookie season – but the play CALLING isn’t. We’re still predominantly a run-first offense, which we take great pride in, because it’s not like every other team in the NFL. Nevertheless, for all the good things being a run-first offense does for this team (keeps the other team from having the ball as long, wears down opposing defenses to make it more difficult to stop us later in games), it also tends to hurt us.
In 2013, the Seahawks have played in 8 games where the final score was decided by seven points or less. In those 8 games, we’re 5-3 (obviously, we’re 8-0 in games decided by more than seven points). That would stand to reason, because we have the very best defense in the league – giving up 14.4 points per game in a year where it was the highest-scoring season in league history – we’re going to be IN all of our games. And, that was true: we had a chance to win every single one of our games.
- Against Indy, we led 28-23 going into the fourth quarter. We gave up a long drive for a touchdown & 2-point conversion to trail 31-28. Then, our offense went 3 & Out. Then, we gave up a field goal to go down 34-28. Then, our 2-minute drive stalled and ended with an interception on 4th & 15.
- Against the 49ers, we trailed 16-14 going into the fourth quarter. We traded possessions until the Seahawks managed a deep punt return that resulted in a field goal to go up 17-16 with a little over six minutes remaining. Then, immediately after, there was that clock-killing drive by the 49ers (highlighted by a 51-yard Frank Gore run and an 8-yard Kaepernick run on 3rd & 7) that resulted in a 19-17 defeat.
- Against the Cardinals, we trailed 6-3 going into the fourth quarter. A penalty-assisted drive by the Cardinals gave them a 9-3 lead before the Seahawks immediately turned that around with a touchdown drive to give us a 10-9 lead. Then, on the subsequent Cardinals drive, they ate up over five minutes of clock, punctuated with a 31-yard touchdown pass on 3rd & 6. The next Seahawks possession ended with a very questionable interception on the first play (the ball that bounced off the ground, yet supposedly bounced off of Doug Baldwin’s arm, in defiance of all forms of physics).
In each of those games, the Seahawks had a lead at some point in the final quarter. In each of those games, the defense gave away our lead. And, in each of those games, we were denied an opportunity to come back in the end. Against Indy, we were denied because their defense simply stopped us. Against San Fran, we were denied because the 49ers’ offense took almost all of the time away. Against Arizona, we were denied because the refs are fucking idiots. Are, not were. Are. They are and they always will be. For every time I’m ever impressed with a ref’s call on a play, there are dozens of times I’m absolutely flabbergasted.
It’s unfair to blame the defense in these situations, because you’re talking about the BEST defense in football! What MORE could they possibly do? They’re holding teams to just a hair over two touchdowns and two extra points per game! If you got that week-in and week-out, you’d win every time! It’s the same argument they used to make about the Mariners’ offense just scoring 4-5 runs per game. If they did that day-in and day-out, they would’ve probably won more than they lost.
If you’re running a football team, you’ve got to give your guys more of a chance in the end. You can’t keep relying on the defense to keep it close and hope Russell Wilson has another miracle to pull out of his ass. Those replacement refs aren’t walking through that tunnel anytime soon (though, to be fair, the real refs aren’t that much better). To give ourselves more of a chance, I would argue that we need to give Wilson a little more leeway. Like Andrew Luck has in Indy.
Yes, Luck threw three picks last week that nearly cost his team the game. But, in the end, he led his team all the way back and ended up throwing four touchdowns. We don’t see that out of Wilson unless this team improbably falls behind in a game. Like that game against Tampa, or the one against Houston. And, even dating back to last year, with the playoff game in Atlanta, the home game against New England, and the overtime thriller in Chicago that really kick-started this whole run we’ve been on. In THOSE games, we were forced to turn the game over to Russell Wilson. And, as soon as we did so, our offense really started clicking.
I understand the whole ball-control issue. I understand how important it is to win the “turnover battle”. But, winning the turnover battle week-in and week-out doesn’t automatically give you the Lombardi Trophy! Yes, if your offense goes a little pass-wacky – like they’ve got in places like Indy, New England, Denver, Green Bay, and of course, New Orleans – your chances of turning the ball over goes up. It’s only natural. The lion’s share of all offensive turnovers come from the quarterback in some way (either by strip-sacks or interceptions). The more you put the ball in his hands, the more he’s going to give that ball away to the other team. With less-qualified quarterbacks – like Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Andy Dalton, and Eli Manning – you’re going to have a problem if you adopt a pass-first/pass-only offense. You’ll notice the Bears were a lot more efficient this year when Cutler was injured and they adopted more rushing into their offense. You’ll also notice that when Cutler came back, the Bears went to shit. AND, you’ll notice Philip Rivers is a new man now that he has a new coach with a dedication to running the ball and to short, high-percentage passes.
But, we like to think Russell Wilson is better than the Cutlers, Daltons, and Eli Mannings of the world. We like to think of Russell Wilson as we do of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and yes, Andrew Luck. Guys you can count on to go out there and win you a football game all by themselves. Granted, it doesn’t ALWAYS work. I mean, Eli still has two rings. Joe Flacco has a ring. The elite of the elite passers don’t always come out on top.
But, they’re always there. They always give their teams a chance to win. I don’t care how good your defense is, it can’t do everything. Coming out, being predictable, S L O W I N G T H E G A M E D O W N … that shit will get you in trouble if you’re not careful. Or, if you’re not perfect.
I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I have to imagine that the Seahawks rank pretty low in number of possessions per game. How many drives do we have? How many chances do we have to score in any given game? I have to believe that we’re WAY behind teams like Denver, New Orleans, Indy, and the like. The more drives you have, the more chances you have to score. The more chances you have to score, the more times you ACTUALLY score. The more points you score, the better your defense will be, because it’ll force the other team to be one-dimensional to catch up, or it’ll force the other team to change from what they do best (most likely passing the ball) to try to keep the ball away from YOUR offense (by running the ball to artificially slow the game down on their end).
We like to think of this team – and this coaching staff – as being pretty aggressive. Flying by the seat of their pants and all that. Granted, we use some aggressive tactics (blitzing and loading the box on defense; playing 1 safety deep because Earl Thomas is the man; lots of play-action deep passing on offense), but as a philosophy, this team is pretty conservative. You can argue by defying convention (pass-first offenses), that we’re bucking the trends. But, really, more than anything we’re a little stuck in the past. No one runs as often as we do! Except for Philly, but they do it in a hurry-up mode. The only problem is, Philly’s defense isn’t good enough to keep up, so they have to win shoot-outs. But, our defense is the best! So, why don’t WE play more hurry-up?
Not just when it’s absolutely necessary. Not just when it’s in the final two minutes of a half, or when we’re down by double-digits. But, right out of the gate! And I mean, right fucking now! This week! Imagine how it will throw the other team off! The Saints won’t know what hit ’em! Our defense can handle it. We’re good enough to force teams into a bunch of three-and-outs. Plus, we’re fresh off of a week off. Why not take advantage of a tired team, flying across the country, after having just played a hard-fought game on the road a week prior?
Let’s put the ball in Russell Wilson’s capable hands. Let’s see if we can play him the way Indy plays Andrew Luck. Let’s see if we have a guy we can rely upon to perform the bulk of our offense’s plays. It’ll put a shock into our opponents (both this week, and next week, when the winner of that San Fran/Carolina game won’t know WHAT to think). Let’s see if we, indeed, have the best quarterback of the 2012 class.
I think we do already, but the overwhelming evidence against me is mounting by the week. It’s time to take the restrictor plates off of Russell Wilson and REALLY see what he can do.