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NFL: Forget Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson is emerging as the next best quarterback of the modern era

Controlling the pocket for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson has long proved his status as one of the game’s best quarterbacks, alongside Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, among others. But an incredible eight year streth has not only cemented such a title, it has propped Wilson up right behind Tom Brady, the widely proclaimed GOAT (and rightfully so) as one of the greatest of the modern era.

The script over the last decade has seemingly been ‘Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers’, but how about Brady or Wilson? At what point will he jump into that conversation? My guess is if not right now, very soon.

Russell Wilson holding the Lombardi trophy (andrewtat94)
Russell Wilson (centre right) won a Super Bowl in just his second season. (Photo / andrewtat94)

Russell Wilson has long been associated with winning, charisma, leadership, and winning.

Did I say winning twice? Good.

He has put up some of the best and most efficient numbers since being drafted in 2012, while maintaining a team-first mentality that makes him one of the more attractive leaders of the game right now. Wilson is also one of the most physically gifted athletes at the quarterback position, becoming the best post-snap player in the league with the ability to create plays in and out of the pocket.

The upward trend he has been on the last four years in an attempt to snag Lombardi trophy number two is set to place Wilson higher than Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, and level him with the likes of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Wilson is coming off his best two-year stretch yet. Across the 2018 and 2019 seasons he has a combined passer rating of 108.6 and a completion percentage of 65.9, along with a total of 66 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. As 2019 dragged on, he began inscribing his name in the record books. Wilson is the fifth quickest quarterback all-time to reach 200 passing touchdowns; those that sit above him include Dan Marino, Rodgers, Manning and Brett Favre – some elite company. Alongside Manning, Wilson is one of two players to post 20 passing touchdowns and 3,000-plus passing yards in all of his first eight seasons. Among quarterbacks with at least 1,500 attempts, he currently ranks second in career passer rating with 101.2, trailing Rodgers who sits at the top with 102.4.

Wilson is also one of the two winningest quarterbacks through a player’s first eight seasons. He sits top with Tom Brady tied with 86 career regular season wins and second in all-time wins with 95, trailing Brady by just five. He will pass Manning for most wins through nine seasons if he can muster a mere seven victories in 2020, which if recent history is anything to go by, will easily happen.

Does it mean he is the most talented all time? Of course not. Aaron Rodgers is the purest passer to ever play in the NFL. On arm strength, accuracy and ability, I have never seen anyone else throw the ball as perfectly as the baaaaaad man. That talent has propelled he and the Packers to a Super Bowl win and four NFC Championship games, and handed him two MVP awards, a Super Bowl MVP and three All-Pro selections.

But like any sport, talent can only take you so far. It is about constant success, achieving the pinnacle of your code and most importantly, never letting up. The intangibles play as much a part.

Do we ever hear crticisms coming out of the Seahawks’ camp about Wilson and the way he conducts himself in and around the team? There has been one, at the very most, which the organisation dealt with quickly. For Rodgers, there have been many, for some time now. Read into that what you will.

Aaron Rodgers
The numbers show it – Aaron Rodgers has been far from his best recently. (Photo / Keith Allison)

To the playing side of things, and this is no slight on Aaron Rodgers, but over the last three seasons his production has declined since the team qualified for the 2016 NFC title game. Rodgers has won 59 per cent of his games played since 2017, lower than Wilson’s mark of 61. He has a passer rating of 96.7 and completed just 63 per cent of his throws (down from 65.3 per cent in his first nine years as a starter), both less than Wilson’s efforts in that stretch, who has managed a passer rating of 104.2 and completed 64.3 of his passes.

Throughout his career both help and protection have been a constant for Rodgers as well. Since becoming a starter in 2008, receivers Rodgers has thrown to have made the Pro Bowl a total of seven times, with one All-Pro selection. The linemen in front of him have accounted for a whopping nine Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro honours. Wilson on the other hand since being drafted has thrown to four Pro Bowl receivers and zero All-Pros, and had four linemen selected to the Pro Bowl with two receiving All-Pro nominations.

It is incredible to remember that Wilson has achieved so much with so little. If you have happened to catch a Seahawks game on TV over the last decade, chances are you would have noticed that quite literally, he runs for his life.

In fact, it is only in the last year or so the Seahawks have begun to structure a reliable offensive line that can offer Wilson the protection he both needs and deserves. Since trading perennial All-Pro centre Max Unger prior to the 2015 season and letting go of star tackle Russell Okung a year later, they have struggled to form a staunch line.

From 2015 until 2019 the Hawks ranked 30th, 25th, 25th, 30th and 24th in pass protection according to Football Outsiders. Below shows where the Seahawks ranked in sacks and quarterback hits in that period.

2015 – 6th most sacks, 3rd most quarterback hits
2016 – 6th most sacks, 4th most quarterback hits
2017 – 11th most sacks, 3rd most quarterback hits
2018 – 8th most sacks, 16th most quarterback hits
2019 – 10th most sacks, 4th most quarterback hits

The stats do show a small decline in the disruption Wilson has had to endure, and that is due mainly to some handy touch-ups. The line currently consists of All-Pros Duane Brown and Mike Iupati, as well as capable starter Ethan Pocic. This offseason they made a handful of additions including former first round picks Chance Warmack and Cedric Ogbuehi, and took Damien Lewis in the third round of the draft.

2020 is looking bright for the 12th man. Veteran tight end Greg Olsen has signed, and still has a few good years left in him, and experienced receiver Philip Dorsett joins Pro-Bowler Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf out wide.

Is it safe to assume Wilson’s production in 2020, whenever it does get underway, will go up extraordinarily? How good will he be if ‘going up’ is an improvement on the game’s leading touchdown passer in 2017 and last year’s second team All-Pro quarterback? The only way is up from here, and there is not a name, aside from Tom Brady, more suited to success in the NFL than Russell Wilson right now.

Lachlan Waugh View All

Sports writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have a strong passion for a range of codes, including the NBA, NFL, Soccer, Rugby and more.

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