It’s time to change your thinking about the prototypical NFL quarterback. In case you’ve been living under a rock with that Geico guy, the winds of change are blowing in the NFL, or is it the breeze of temporary fad? Hmmm…..good question.
Up here in Seattle there has been quite the hullabaloo made of a certain rookie quarterback named Rulssell Wilson. Coaches, media, fans, even his teammates just can’t seem to stop talking about this steely eyed rookie quarterback. I admit that even though I’m not much of a Seahawks fan, watching this kid develop throughout the year and going from a crawl before you walk newbie to a poised veteran with ice in his veins in a mere 16 games even drew me in.
But this story is far bigger than Russell Wilson. Wilson was part of a stable of rookie quarterbacks that perhaps has only been matched by the great QB class of 1983 that included legends Dan Marino and John Elway. As the season progressed all the talk in the NFL was focused on this impressive group othat included Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin the third (a/k/a RGIII), and Andrew Luck.
With all due respect to Andrew Luck, I’m going to politely kick him to the curb for the purposes of this post. Luck is an impressive young quarterback, but he hardly represents a revolution at the QB position. In fact, Luck compares very nicely to a long line of QB greats like Aaron Rodgers, the Borthers Manning, and Tom Brady. Instead I’d like to remove him from our triumvirate of quarterbacks and add in second year QB Colin Kaepernick from San Francisco.
Yes, the infamous running quarterback. But hold on a second. This ain’t your daddy’s running quarterback. We’re not talking Michael Vick or former Redskin Superbowl winner Doug Williams, or even Cam Newton. No. In fact, we’re not even talking about “running quarterbacks.” We’re talking about quarterbacks who can run. Semantics you say? Not at all. That sbutle difference means everything to the future of the NFL and more importantly, the defenses that have all off-season – or in the case of John Harbaugh and Ray Lewis about 10 days – to figure out how to stop them.
See, these guys appear to be able to do it all. They can drop back in the pocket and deliver 40 yard darts that would make Bill Walsh proud. They can roll out and throw accurately on the move going either direction. They can take a seven step drop and hit a 25 yard out route to the wide side of the field. And best of all, if you drop back in man and turn your back on them, they’ll gouge you for 20 yards faster than you can say QB speed is overrated.
To delve further into my point, I’m going to respectfully ignore RGIII. He may be the most talented of the three, but honestly I only saw him play two games at the end of the year (last home game versus Dallas and the playoff loss to Seattle) and by that time he was already injured so I never was able to see him at full strength.
I did, however, see Colin and RW play many times. In fact I watched every Seahawk game throughout the season and by the time triple zeroes appeared on the Atlanta game clock, I was ready to annoint Russell Wilson as the greatest thing since that little switch that makes the light come on every time you open the refrigerator.
You know, it takes a pretty dang good quarterback to make Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian. Yet, if you watched the divisional playoff game between San Francisco and Green Bay, that’s exactly what Colin Kaepernick did. Kaepernick’s arm strength is off the charts. The guy was dropping back and throwing frozen ropes 40 yards downfield and hitting Michael Crabtree on the chinstrap. And when he wasn’t doing that he was playing “where’s the football” and gashing the Green Bay defense for huge chunks of yards – and a few touchdowns to boot. 263 yards passing and 181 yards rushing. Are you kidding me??
Meanwhile Rusell Wilson was displaying his typical unflappable self in a come-from-behind road win against the Redskins and a why-are-there-still-30 seconds-left heartbreaking loss on the road against Atlanta. While Russell may not have the arm strength and raw speed of Kaepernick, his grey matter between the helmet holes is nothing short of spectacular for a rookie.
Already I’m hearing many NFL talking heads talking about how defenses will “catch up” to the option read play. And here’s where I think many people are missing the boat. First of all, sure, the defenses may “catch-up” with the option read play. Does that mean it’s obselete? Of course not! Have defenses caught up with 5 wide receiver formations? Sure. Yet it’st still an effective weapon.
Again, the difference is that these are quarterbacks that can drop back in the pocket and pass as well as anyone in the league. But they can also beat you with their feet. Why is this signiicant? Simple. The defense now has to account for everyone on the field.
The naysayers will point to the fact that Atlanta limited Kaepernick to only a couple carries and Colin didn’t hurt them with his feet. No, he didn’t. Do you konw why? Because they decided they weren’t going to let Kaepernick destroy them the way he did Green Bay. As a restult the defensive end was assigned Kaepernick come hell or high water. The result? Huge holes for running back Frank Gore who took handoff after handoff on the read option and pciked up 7 or 8 yards per carry.
Are Wilson, RGIII, and Kaepernick the new QB prototype? Not necessarily. There will still be plenty of traditional pocket passers in the league simply because the ability to pass and run like these three is so very rare. However, if you go back and watch that Green Bay – San Francisco game, or if you saw New England lose to Baltimore, who would you rather have at QB? Rodgers and Brady, or Kaepernick and Wilson? I know who I’d pick.