Is Russell Wilson the Best Quarterback in the League?

January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) moves out to pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
January 7, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) moves out to pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half in the NFC Wild Card playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports /

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson still seems to ignite controversy when discussing where he ranks on the list of NFL quarterbacks right now. Could it be we are watching the best in the league?

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson doesn’t have the pedigree, the passing records, or the Super Bowl rings of a few quarterbacks in the NFL who are regularly bandied about as the best in the league right now. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, etc. consistently rank as the top passers in the NFL, and their admiration is well-deserved.

But a couple of articles I saw on one of our rival Seattle sports blog sites, Field Gulls, made me stop and question who the best in the NFL is. When I thought about this coming season, Wilson’s career so far, and the current pantheon of NFL quarterbacks, I realized that the audacious claim made by Field Gulls writer Kenneth Arthur might not be so audacious after all.

Arthur is in the midst of a series of articles going through all the other quarterbacks in the league and comparing them to Wilson. So far, he’s laid out why the dregs of the league can’t compare to Wilson, and why Wilson is beyond the middle tier of quarterbacks. Part three in Arthur’s series will presumably lay out why Wilson is better than even Brady the Golden Boy, Brees, Andrew Luck, etc.

Jan 14, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) warms up prior to the NFC Divisional playoff against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Rather than steal Arthur’s thunder and pour over comparisons to current NFL greats, I wanted to put Wilson’s performance thus far in his career into some context.

First, let’s remember that, even though Wilson’s statistics last season weren’t as good as past seasons, he’s only 28 years old. Brady’s season at age 28 was a fine year, better statistically than Wilson’s, but most of the great quarterbacks of the current era didn’t hit their full stride until they were 30 or older. (Brady’s age 30 season was 2007, when he threw 50 TD passes, 23 of them to a man named Randy Moss).

In terms of yardage, Wilson had the best season ever for a Seahawks quarterback. He wasn’t as efficient with his career-high 546 attempts last year, falling from an excellent 8.3 yards per attempt (YPA) in 2015 to a still solid 7.7 YPA last season. But his 4219 passing yards were impressive, considering he took 41 sacks and lost a league-high 293 yards on those sacks behind an the worst offensive line in the league last year.

Here’s a fun game. I’m sure Arthur will go over this in his next article, but just for giggles, let’s play guess the quarterback. I’m going to embed the passing stats (courtesy of Football Reference) of one active Hall of Fame quarterback through his first five seasons in the league next to Wilson’s. Try and guess which stat line is Wilson’s and which is the Hall of Famer’s:

Player A:

Passing Table

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2017.

Player B:

Passing Table

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/8/2017.

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You probably guessed by the career numbers on the bottom that Player A is indeed Tom Brady and Player B is Wilson. Wilson has two 4000+ passing yards seasons under his belt already. Brady, at the same point in his career, had one. Wilson’s 2015 season was more impressive than any Brady season in his first five years in the league. Wilson also never averaged less than 7.7 yards per attempt in his first five seasons, while Brady fell below this mark three times. Toss in Wilson’s rushing yards, the state of his offensive line and his various injured body parts last season, and you have career so far that was better than Brady’s first five seasons.

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The Seahawks have hurt Wilson’s standing as an elite quarterback in the NFL so far because they also have one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history backing him up. As he progresses in his career, however, Wilson could go down as one of the best in the game. He’s already well on his way to being named one as such in the coming seasons. Game manager? Just stop.