The NFL is a copycat league. Offensive coordinators from the Colts, among others, copy the Patriots’ two tight end sets. Defensive coordinators nearly everywhere have conformed to 3-4 defense. Players like Seattle Seahawk’s Bruce Irvin and Chicago Bears’ Shea McClellin (both 2012 first round picks) use their body types to copy the playing style of pass rushers like Broncos’ Von Miller and Texans’ J.J. Watt, respectively. Even Brandon Bolden, the New England Patriots’ running back, has look a lot like his predecessor, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They were both undrafted free agents that burst into the running back rotation with exceptional averages in their early careers. Even in the college game, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith looks an awful lot like Steelers’ Big Ben Roethlisberger. Copycatting and look-a-liking is no coincidence. Certain strategies and body types succeed in the league.
Then what about Seahawks rookie quarterback, Russell Wilson? What model does his playing style copy? At 5’10¾”, he is the shortest quarterback on any NFL roster, and he weighs just north of 200 pounds (just as a point of reference, the ever-breakable Michael Vick weighs 215). And yet, the Seahawks, who are known for breaking the copycat mold on both sides of the ball, are 2-2. I can’t mention their record without saying that the “fail mary,” a blown call by the replacement referees, aided them to one victory. Regardless, they are 2-2, and both losses came within a six-point margin (i.e. a touchdown could have won it). Once a punctilious passer in college, Wilson has four interceptions to match his four touchdowns. And yet, he is only one touchdown away from having the same ratio as Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts’ first pick overall.
Wilson has also maintained a 60 percent completion rate, a statistic that places him at 21st in the NFL, 3 spots above Drew Brees. Brees is the only current frame of reference for a quarterback with Wilson’s body type and accurate arm. Wilson, too, compares himself to Brees, and has said that he models his game after the small and shifty quarterback. Brees, however, did not have a successful season until his fourth year in the league. Brees also runs a completely different offense than Wilson operates under his innovative coach Pete Carroll. It seems as though any comparison hits a dead end.
Wilson breaks the mold by being the central cog in Carroll’s offense. If Pete Carroll’s coaching style had a mantra, it would be: “great minds don’t think alike.” His cornerbacks are both over 6’3.’’ His offense is reminiscent of the ground and pound teams from the ‘90s, when, (not) coincidentally, Doug Flutie played. Flutie was equally small, but simply was not a pocket passer like Wilson.
Can this mediocrity, thus far, progress into success? Or will it fail? The truth that I keep coming to is that it doesn’t actually come down to Wilson. His mobility and accuracy should manage games. He will continue to progress as a pocket passer, learning to shift within the pocket to throw (with his high release) over his linemen. Russell Wilson’s and Pete Carroll’s fates might rest on their reliance on the quirky defenses to win games for them.