Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson exemplify opposite approaches to building a roster

Mar 8, 2016, 9:05 AM | Updated: 10:03 am
Russell Wilson was a finishing touch to Seattle’s rebuild while Peyton Manning was chosen No....
Russell Wilson was a finishing touch to Seattle's rebuild while Peyton Manning was chosen No. 1 overall. (AP)
(AP)

Peyton Manning changed the way a quarterback is measured in the NFL.

That’s a popular refrain in the wake of his retirement, one that Trent Dilfer voiced on Twitter Sunday night and one that Brock Huard echoed Monday morning during “Brock and Salk.”

That’s true … for Manning’s generation.

He was the gold standard for the franchise quarterbacks of his era, but it’s worth contrasting his first four seasons to what Seattle’s Russell Wilson has done to wonder which blueprint teams will seek to copy.

This isn’t to argue that Wilson had a better start to his career. He was not asked nor was he expected to do nearly as much as Manning was in his first four seasons after he was drafted by a Colts team that won three games the season before he arrived.

Wilson was drafted onto a team whose offense was built around its running game and whose defense has allowed the fewest points in the league each of his four seasons. That’s not to diminish anything Wilson has accomplished. He has executed what Seattle has asked of him almost perfectly.

It’s just that he was the finishing touch for Seattle’s rebuilding effort while Manning was the starting point. He was the first quarterback to be chosen No. 1 overall in four years, and once the Colts set him in place, they began building. Their success in doing so set in place a model that others sought to follow.

In the 10 years before Manning entered the NFL, three quarterbacks were chosen with the No. 1 overall pick. In the 14 years after Manning came into the league, a quarterback was chosen first overall 11 times.

One of two things is true: Either the quarterbacks coming into the league in that time were better than ever before, which is kind of hard to believe when you consider that Tim Couch, David Carr and JaMarcus Russell were among the first overall picks since Manning. More likely, teams decided that the value of a quarterback was such that when you had to rebuild, you should start with the best quarterback you could acquire and go from there.

Peyton Manning vs. Russell Wilson: First four seasons
Quarterback Pass yds/G Comp TD INT Rating Record (playoffs)
Manning 256.5 60.9 111 81 85.1 32-32 (0-2)
Wilson 218.3 64.7 106 34 101.8 46-18 (7-3)

Manning holds the record for passing yards both in a single season and in a career. He threw more touchdown passes in a season than anyone else as well as more touchdown passes in his career. He started in four different Super Bowls while playing for four different coaches.

But as he leaves the game, it’s also worth wondering whether the model of franchise building that he embodied – picking the quarterback first and letting everything else sort itself out – is the best way of doing things.

Through four seasons, Wilson hasn’t thrown for nearly as many yards as Manning had in his first four seasons. He has almost as many touchdown passes, though. And many more victories.

Manning may have changed the way quarterbacks are measured in the NFL, but he didn’t alter the formula for a successful team.

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Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson exemplify opposite approaches to building a roster