Why RGIII-Russell Wilson Comparisons Are Stupid

Here with a guest post is the man SiPhi, who’s becoming a regular.

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After watching yet another Redskins loss on Sunday, coupled with another Seahawks win, I started hearing and seeing Russell Wilson-RGIII comparisons. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it has been a constant since both mobile QBs entered the league in 2012.

Their rookie years were arguably the best and second-best years ever by a rookie QB, as they became the first rookie QBs to hit triple digits in the passer rating category (surpassing Big Ben’s previous rookie record of 98.1). The future looked bright for both, culminating in their first-round playoff matchup at FedEx Field. We all know what happened in that fateful game, but no one knew how the narrative would shift over the next two years.

As it stands, Wilson is a Super Bowl champion and constantly praised as a mature QB with moxie and pocket presence. He is a passer first, runner second — a true leader. The talking heads love to point to Wilson as what could Griffin could have been. Griffin is now considered, in some circles, a bust. He can’t read defenses. He doesn’t do enough with his arm. He doesn’t have the ability to drop back and pass. He is a locker room cancer.

I am here to explain why we can’t compare the two at this stage in their careers, and hopefully change the narrative of: RGIII = Suck; Russell Wilson = Elite.

After Sunday’s game, probably on Redskins Postgame Live (though it could have been Twitter), I heard something like, “Robert just can’t get it done. Russell Wilson, he gets it done.” This stupid argument has been pissing me off for the past two years, so I decided to do a little statistical digging.

My argument has always been that if you switch the QBs on the two teams, you would have Griffin doing well and Wilson doing poorly. This is because the Seahawks as a team are probably a 9 out of 10, not counting QB. The Skins are probably a 4, if I’m being generous.

The image I included below is a little digging I did on games in which the QB throws 1 TD pass or less. Throwing 1 TD pass or less doesn’t necessarily mean a ton, but it helps gauge the respective team strength surrounding the QB. Comparisons based on statistics can be funky, but luckily (or unluckily if you are Griffin) the number of games both QBs have had 1 TD pass or less is remarkably similar. Griffin has had 13 such games and Wilson 14.

Notes

In 2012, both the Redskins and the Seahawks were playoff teams. Griffin threw 1 TD or less in 10 of his 15 starts. The Redskins happened to have a reasonably competent defense and special teams, which led to a 5-5 record in those games and, subsequently, a playoff appearance. Wilson threw 1 TD pass or less in eight of his 16 starts, with a 5-3 record. Both QBs seemed like they had turned their franchise around and were possibly heading towards becoming consistent winners.

Enter 2013. Griffin and Wilson each had eight games where they threw 1 TD pass or less. Their records? The Redskins were 2-6 in these games, while the Seahawks were 6-2. Imagine that. They had the same number of games where they threw 1 TD pass or less, yet Wilson was beginning to be lauded as someone who was understanding what it takes to be a pocket passer, and rumblings about Griffin being a bust started to take hold.

How did this happen? The Redskins in 2013 had the worst special teams DVOA of all time. ALL TIME. It was by a significant margin at that. The Seahawks meanwhile had a ferocious D, playmaking special teams and ended up winning the Super Bowl.

Leading up to the 2014 season, a narrative had been established in the media and even in significant portions of our fan base. Griffin didn’t get it. He got benched by a two-time Super Bowl champion coach and was a diva that got him fired. Wilson was a Super Bowl champion himself. Jaws (I don’t really value his opinion, but his list was easy to find) had Wilson as the ninth-best QB, ahead of Tony Romo. He had Griffin at 21.

Griffin this season, admittedly, has not been great. He also has not been as poor as some people think; it has just become even more evident that the Redskins’ entire team is dreadful. In all five of Griffin’s games with significant playing time this year he has accounted for 1 TD or less. Not doing enough to win games? Maybe, but definitely not losing games by himself. Turnovers, lack of turnovers on defense, lack of anything good besides Tress Way on special teams and the inability of our defense to cover people has contributed to these losses far more significantly.

What about our good friend Russell Wilson? Surely this being his third season in the league, coming from a pro-style system in college, being nearly two years older than Griffin, and garnering praise for his passing ability he won’t have more than 1-2 games with 1 TD pass or less right? Wrong. Russell Wilson has had six games this year with 1 TD pass or less, and the Seahawks’ record in these games is 5-1.

Each year the Skins’ winning percentage when Griffin throws 1 TD pass or less has declined, while the Seahawks winning percentage when Wilson throws 1 TD pass or less has improved. Overall records when throwing 1 TD pass or less:

Robert Griffin III: 2-11
Russell Wilson: 11-3

So what do I want you to take away from this? Stop comparing Robert Griffin to Russell Wilson. Both are still developing quarterbacks at 24 and 26, respectively. It is an unfair comparison when the teams surrounding them are polar opposites in terms of talent and ability.

You can’t claim that Russell gets it as a pocket passer and Robert doesn’t when their records at similar production levels are so drastically different. Instead of saying, “If only we had Russell Wilson,” maybe we should start saying, “If only we had a competent personnel department that could build a team with a ferocious defense and offensive line like the Seahawks”.

One last thing to keep in mind, which these numbers are also intended to help justify, is that football is a team sport. It is not a single player on one of three phases sport.

My prediction for this week’s game is Eagles 35, Skins 24.

P.S. — Mobile quarterbacks get sacked. Griffin has been sacked at a career rate of 2.91 times per game (not counting the Rams and Jags game in the game count, otherwise it would be 2.74). Wilson has been sacked at a career rate of 2.50 times per game.

P.P.S. — It’s fitting that the NFL team playing closest to a skill level resembling college gets to play on Saturday.

3 thoughts on “Why RGIII-Russell Wilson Comparisons Are Stupid”

  1. So let me get this straight…you say “stop comparing them”…and then you do a comparison on their records to validate why we should stop comparing them?

    It is totally fair to compare them. The Redskins passed on Russell and I think everyone in the world would take him as their starting QB over RGIII today…even RGII.

    In regards to your stats, in those 1 TD pass games…what were the ratios in sacks, turnovers, and 3-and-outs by each QB?….surely the bar charts will be pretty lopsided and that is quite telling in regards to which QB has football smarts.

  2. The Skins weren’t the only team to pass on Russell. If you put Wilson on the Skins in 2012 through now and Griffin on the Seahawks in 2012, both teams would be in the same place they are now. They had the worst Special Teams of all time last year. Their defense has been poor in stopping the other team from scoring AND generating turnovers. You need to be able to do at least one of those things so your offense isn’t always playing from behind/starting drives inside the 20. When you are playing on long fields from behind your suspect pass protection gets worse because teams can rush harder. The Skins started three drives inside the ten last week. They have the second worst average starting field position in the NFL, the Raiders get the honor of first.

  3. Also read somewhere that since the start of 2012 the Seahawks have given up around 718 points and the Redskins have given up over 1236. With my trusty calculator that comes out to (not counting playoff games) Seahawks at 16 a game and the Redskins at 27 points a game. When your defense gives up an average of 11 points a game more compared to the Seahawks, hard to expect your QB to look very good. Hell, even a Wilson led offense is only averaging 25 points a game since 2012. How the hell can any team win when giving up 27 points a game…

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