By Brady Henderson
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll cited several times how Russell Wilson only had four passes batted down while playing behind a massive offensive line last season at Wisconsin. It was one way Carroll tried to dispel the notion that Wilson’s height has ever limited the diminutive quarterback while throwing from inside the pocket.
That was during the summer, before Wilson won the Seahawks’ starting job. Twelve games later, he has a 7-5 record, the league’s seventh-best QB rating and a place in the discussion for offensive rookie of the year.
Still, not everyone is over the height issue.
ESPN personality Skip Bayless had this to say on “First Take” on Monday, a day after Wilson used his arm and his legs while leading late touchdown drives of 97 and 80 yards in an overtime win over the Bears:
“I’m sorry, I am not yet sold on Russell Wilson. I will be the first to say because I watched most of the game, Russell Wilson played shockingly sensational at Soldier Field yesterday against a very good defense, but he’s still only about 5-feet-10-inches tall, he still has a hard time seeing out of the pocket.
“… Inconceivably to me, Lovie Smith and company, the Chicago Bears routinely let him slip to the left or to the right out of the pocket, break all kinds of contain and break their hearts. He would run for first downs, he would throw for first downs. He can see the field if you let him outside of the pocket.”
Translation: Wilson is better when he operates outside the pocket, which he must do to avoid limitations presented by his height.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com joined “Brock and Salk” on Wednesday and provided evidence to the contrary. Wilson’s numbers from inside the pocket, according to Sando, are comparable if not better than those from outside the pocket.
Inside the pocket: 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions, a 95.2 passer rating and a 77.4 score (out of 100) in Total QBR, ESPN’s metric for quarterbacks.
Outside the pocket: five touchdowns against one interception, a 95.1 passer rating and a 60.8 QBR.
“To say that he is dependent on getting outside the pocket for a lot of his gains would really be inaccurate,” Sando said.
As Sando noted, it would be easy to come away with the wrong impression about Wilson having only watched him play against Chicago. He was particularly effective while outside the pocket, especially on the two late touchdown drives. He threw the game-winner to Sidney Rice while rolling to his left.
As for the batted down passes, those haven’t been much of a problem for Wilson. According to Sando, he’s had just five of them this season. Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who is 6-foot-4, is tied for the league lead with 15.