Rookie of the year
I’d first like to start off by saying that I’m not a fan of awards that aren’t based on metrics such as rookie of the year, comeback player of the year, etc. It’s like asking me what my favorite movie is. Depending on the time and my mood I will give you a different answer. Instead, I can give you a grouping of my top movies in no particular order. This is how I view the rookie of the year selection. Clearly there are a few offensive rookies that should be considered. In my opinion they are Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, and Alfred Morris. Sorry Andrew Luck, but if you lead the league in interceptions, you can’t be considered.
On defense the group is Bobby Wagner, Casey Hayward, and Chandler Jones. Sorry Janoris Jenkins, you have lots of talent but aren’t very disciplined at this point and need to improve.
Being the quantitative geek that I am, I have decided to compare Wilson and Griffin using some sort of quantifiable metrics. (Don’t worry, there will be lots of graphs, too.) Since I personally don’t really care who wins this award I came into this analysis without a dog in the hunt.
Let’s start by looking a quick set of basic metrics.
As you can see, Griffin edges out Wilson is every category except for touchdowns. That being said, Wilson’s TD/INT ratio is only 2.6 while Griffin’s is 4. Don’t get me wrong, they are ridiculously close but objectively Griffin has the edge in these basic stats. They also both threw 393 times and Griffin has only 82 more yards than Wilson. Wilson also attempted a higher percentage of deep throws than Griffin.
While those baseline stats are nice, they don’t really add much color. For instance, Seattle played a harder schedule than Washington. Seattle’s opponent’s winning percentage was .505 while Washington’s was only .494.
There is also the fact that both quarterbacks are not qualitatively all that similar. Keith wrote an article illustrating just that point. Given that, I thought it would add more clarity to break out the separate aspects of their games — passing, rushing, and total against the quality of the opposing defenses in those same categories. Let’s first look at rushing.
First, I include the game that Griffin did not play in because I believe that if a player gets statistical credit for playing a certain way and thereby accepting the risk of playing in such a way, then the costs of those risks should also be factored in. In this case, it’s the game that Griffin sat out. (In all fairness, Wilson also sat out about 2.5 quarters of the season.)
Some quick data information. The defensive averages are the average of a certain type of yard in games up to that game not counting yards from a Washington or Seattle game. So, in essence, a quarterback’s numbers won’t be used against himself. It’s his performance compared to the defenses performance against every other opponent, rushing and passing.
The quarterbacks’ cumulative average is the average of all games played up to the end of each week. I prefer this average because it shows trends rather than a flat line over the entire season.
You can see above that Griffin generally ran for more yards per game than did Wilson. This is both a stylistic difference in the players and a difference in play calling. Griffin was provided with an offensive scheme much more catered to his abilities as a mobile quarterback while Wilson was basically forced to stay in the pocked for the first half of the season. Wilson clearly began running more in the last third of the season and that moved his average up a bit, while Griffin was up and down all season. Griffin’s best rushing games came against Minnesota, New York, and Philadelphia. Wilson’s came against Chicago, Buffalo, and St. Louis.
Now let’s look at the two quarterbacks’ aerial statistics.
The passing data and charts show a different story. Wilson’s passing average increased by nearly 50 yards per game over the season while Griffin’s dropped by almost 100 yards per game. Even if you don’t count the Cleveland game his average still drops by over 100 yards a game over the season. Both Wilson and Griffin ended the season averaging nearly the same however, 195 and 200 yards per game respectively. I do think the upward trend of Wilson though speaks more to his actual development while Griffin trended down most of the season and became prone to injury toward the end. I would prefer to have a steady-as-she-goes upward trending quarterback like Wilson than someone who is a spectacular player when they’re healthy, but is unable to play a complete season. (Paging Michael Vick! Who, ironically, also had the best selling jersey in the NFL, before he decided he’d rather kill dogs for sport.)
The final set of charts shows the quarterbacks’ QBRs in each game overlayed their QBR rank and their opponent’s defensive rank for each game. I highlighted in green the games in which the quarterback was ranked first in QBR for the week. The ranks are at the top of each column.
Russell Wilson had three weeks where he was the best performing quarterback in the NFL. Those games came against Miami, Buffalo, and San Francisco. Seattle also played an average ranked defense of 13th. Washington’s opponents averaged19th. That’s a substantial difference in quality of defensive opponent. Griffin finished the season with a 71.4 QBR while Wilson had a 69.6 QBR.
In the end, I would probably vote for Wilson because I’m a Seahawks fan. I don’t see enough discernible differences between the two players to make an overwhelming case one way or the other. A vote for either man is completely defensible. In the end, I’d put money on Griffin to win, largely because of media bias and ignorance that is generally displayed week to week by too many of the people that get to vote in this popularity contest. I doubt many of the voters have done even the level of analysis I’ve done here. I’d value the award if there was some sort of objectivity inserted into it. Right now it’s more subjective than Olympic figure skating and gymnastics.
There are a lot of other conclusions and analyses that can be drawn from these charts and the underlying data but I already feel like my head is so far up my own butt in doing this that I should probably stop. If you want the data to go down the rabbit hole with me, let me know. I was unable to find any sort of massive database available from the NFL or ESPN that could be downloaded so if you want the individually and painfully collected data to do something else with it, I’ve got it.
*I refuse to use the pretentious and obnoxious III moniker. As far as I know there isn’t a Robert Griffin I or II in the NFL. Same goes for all the idiots putting “JR” and “SR” on their jerseys for no reason. This is more a statement to the ridiculous trend of players to get creative on their jerseys than a stab at just one player. I’m getting off my soapbox now.
This was supposed to be a two man race for Rookie of the Year (ROY) honors. It was going to be either #1 Draft Pick Andrew Luck of the Colts, or it would be Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. These two QB’s have been playing steadily all year, turning their teams around, transforming them from cellar dwellers to playoff teams, and catching nearly all the headlines of the major sports media. But a funny thing happened on these two guy’s way to the ROY award. Russell Wilson of the Seahawks has put up a ROY season of his own, having guided his team to 10 wins and the playoffs. All the more amazing when you consider how Wilson started his pro career just months earlier.
Who is this Russell Wilson guy? He was drafted 75th overall in the third round and started the season as a 3rd stringer behind the previous year’s starter and a new free agent with a big contract. Wilson whose height will never crack 6’0″, so impressed his coaches in summer camp that they made it a 3-way competition for the QB job. After he won the job, most “experts” in the sports media confidently predicted Wilson would “be a good backup, but is not starting QB material”. He was dismissed as too short, but they overlooked Wilson’s primary asset as a player. His brain. He is a student of the game like no one other than maybe Peyton Manning. His work ethic is second to none. His leadership is contagious. His confidence is off the charts. His stats are right there with the other two guys. What’s different is Russell Wilson is actually re-defining the position of NFL quarterback to fit HIS capabilities.
Sunday night everyone in the country finally got to see what the whispers were all about on this rookie QB Wilson way up in the United State’s version of western Siberia, Seattle Washington. The first hint that something was happening in western Siberia came when the Seahawks beat the division leading Chicago Bears at home in week 13. It’s safe to say no one saw that coming, including a lot of people in Seattle, since the team had just lost to the Dolphins the previous week. The amazing thing about that win over the Bears was Wilson had to win it twice. After seemingly securing the win with a long drive with under 30 seconds on the clock, Seattle’s defense allowed a long pass to get the Bears in field goal range. They made the kick and the game went to OT. This is when things changed for Seattle’s season. Wilson put the team on his shoulders, and took the ball 80 yards on Chicago, throwing and running through their defense at will, and getting the winning score while Chicago’s offense sat helplessly and watched the birth of a green and blue monster.
The next week Wilson and Seattle spanked the Cardinals, who they lost to back in week one, 58 – zip. That shocking score gained the solid interest of the national sports media. The following week, Seattle put the stake through the heart of their “road curse” by dominating the Bills in Toronto in another 50 point blow out. Now the media had all eyes and ears on Wilson and Seattle, and Russell Wilson has officially entered the ROY “discussion”. Sensing something was happening in Seattle, the network changed the Seahawks/49ers game to the ‘Sunday Night Football’ showcase.
With the nation’s eyes on Seattle and their rookie QB, the Seahawks dismantled THE BEST DEFENSE in the league, while holding the 49ers potent offense to two field goals until late in garbage time where they finally managed to cross the goal line. And this was the same 49er team that only a week before beat New England in their own stadium.
Tweets by sports writers after the game not only indicate Wilson is “in the discussion” for ROY, but may now actually be LEADING Luck and RGIII. Russell Wilson may be late to the party, but he’s just kicked in the door and taken over the DJ’s booth. And he’s playing his own tune, the one that says a 5’10″ quarterback CAN play in the NFL. He’s having to redefine how a quarterback plays to get back whatever advantage he loses by being 4 inches too short for an NFL quarterback. But that’s all the more reason to give him the nod for Rookie of the Year. How many other rookies have had to redefine their position in order to play at a high level? The ROY award has been given to lots of “prototype” quarterbacks who came into the league and had a good year. But maybe this year it’s about more than that. Maybe it’s about a “pioneer” as commentator Trent Dilfer said on a post game show; a guy who will open doors and eyes and make it a little easier for undersized players to play quarterback in the NFL.
Russell Wilson has a way of making himself “Mr. Relevant”. When he came to Wisconsin looking for another year of college football after trying minor league baseball following his junior year at NC State, within 2 weeks he was the starter and elected captain of the team. In the early days of spring training with the Seahawks the wet behind the ears round 3 rookie so impressed Pete Carroll with his play that he earned himself the right to be part of the Quarterback competition with Tavaras Jackson and newly acquired veteran free agent Matt Flynn. Wilson went on to impress the coaching staff enough in his backup roll in his first two preseason games he was able to earn a start in game three vs. Kansas City. He went on to dismantle the Chiefs with his aggressive running and passing style and proved he could do it against the first team defense. That performance earned him the starting job with the Seahawks.
Wilson’s early regular season starts were not impressive, but he did take care of the ball and managed games pretty well as he learned to read defenses and got used to the speed of the NFL. His mistakes were few and not too serious. Carroll insisted this slow start was by design. Still, fans were not convinced. They wanted more from the QB position and Flynn supporters were making themselves heard. It was obvious Wilson was improving with every start but didn’t quite have it all figured out through the first 7 weeks of the season. Carroll kept his fledgling QB on a short leash for the first half of the season. Most games Wilson threw fewer than 25 passes but people were asking for more. There was never a loss you could really pin on Wilson, yet the clamor for Flynn continued.
Around week 8 it seemed like Carroll let out a little more rope on his new QB. He allowed Wilson to have more influence on the game with his passing and Russell responded. Wilson went 25 for 35 for 236 yards and 2 TDs against the Lions. That game was a loss, but it was a loss the defense got the blame for. For Wilson it was a breakout performance. Since then the Hawks have gone 3 for 4, with the Bears vaunted defense being the latest and most significant victim of an increasingly relevant Russell Wilson.
A quick look at the stats shows Wilson ahead of Luck and RGIII in passer rating for the months of October (90), November (128), and thus far in December (104). Wilson has 19 touchdowns (more than Luck and Griffen), and has winning drives in the last possession of the game in three games. With Wilson at the helm the Seahawks have also beaten NFL top rung QBs like Arron Rogers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, and Jay Cutler. Wilson’s performance against the Bears has caught the attention of all the major sports media including Sports Illustrated, ESPN, SportsNation, Yahoo Sports and others. Those stories will start showing up in Fridays’ sports pages. Oh, and one other thing; Russell Wilson won player of the week in a week when he, RGIII, and Andrew Luck drove their teams to last minute victories. Why? Because Russell did it twice in the same game.
You can make a good argument Offensive Rookie of the Year honors will go to either Luck or RGIII using a number of the various rating categories, but you can’t ignore Wilson. His numbers are similar, his contribution to his team is just as large, and his leadership is unquestioned. He’s in the conversation now, kind of like when he got himself into Seattle’s QB competition during spring training. Expect “Mr. Relevant” to be in position to step up.
Earl Thomas is in the process of becoming the future.
He was an extra pick Tim Ruskell fanagled out of the Broncos and then was never allowed to take.
Thank god it wasn’t Ruskell making the call. He would have peed his pants, hollered out Tim Tebow’s name, and fainted into a fetal position twitching every once in a while whispering, “Timmy,” only to fall gently back asleep.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll went with Thomas.
So far the the 14th pick is 2nd on the team with 30 tackles, tied for 1st on the team with 5 passes defended, and tied for 2nd in the NFL with 4 interceptions. He plays with with just enough cockiness to be cool. He becomes a tornado near the ball fighting through defenders disrupting play after play. At times this season, he has looked like the most dominant defender on the field.
Earl Thomas has arrived, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
E.T. combines his natural talents of speed and reaction time with a lunch pale work ethic. One of his most memorable plays this year came on an 86 yd touchdown pick against the Vikings. Thomas’ speed looks unreal in the following clip. It seems like the clip has been sped up for production. He looks like a cartoon character leaving a line of dumbfounded defenders and smoke. He looks like the future.
Great players learn a lot between failure and success. If handled with patience and discipline, failure is simply a beginning point and success the end. One cannot exist without the other, and the farther each man travels between the two, provided he reaches his goal, the more he learns about himself.
Thomas’ character is a combination of struggle, fight, success, and love. In 2005 Earl Thomas was just 16 years old when a hurricane destroyed his family’s home forcing them to seek shelter in a nearby hotel. Eventually the family found their way to his grandparent’s house where they resided during Thomas’ collegiate career. Thomas looked to be a consistent starter on a nationally ranked team during his first season at Texas until adversity struck Earl one more time. Unfortunately, Thomas found himself partly responsible for a play invoving Michael Crabtree
which prevented the Longhorns from securing a spot in the National Title Game.
I can’t help but wonder how many times Earl Thomas watched that play between his freshman and sophomore season and what he thought about.
The following year Thomas had 8 picks. Two were returned for touchdowns. The longest was 92 yards and highlighted the unrealistic speed Thomas possesses. At just nineteen years old, Earl Thomas demonstrated the ability to learn from failure rather than be destroyed by it. Most of us have the luxury of learning that lesson amongst our friends or family. Earl Thomas did it alone and on a National stage.
I can’t remember the last time a rookie has shown this much potential so early on. He has the character of Mack Strong, Galloway speed, Chad Brown intensity, and the talent potential of Wa… Wait a minute. It’s still a little early for that one. At this point, however, Earl Thomas is showing enough to be a strong consideration for Rookie of the Year honors. He is showing enough to be a Pro Bowl consideration for this and many years to come. He is showing enough that I just might have to buy his Jersey next weekend. He is showing us glimpses of a future that will cultivate one highlight reel after the next. Big hits and and many picks later, Earl Thomas will be the future.
Right now he is just in the process of it and already has my undivided attention. I can’t even begin to imagine what comes next.