Russell Wilson was a revelation as a rookie. He led the Seahawks to a playoff victory, and very nearly the NFC Championship game. Everyone wants to see what he does in his second season. Some talk of sophomore slumps. This series will explore what history can tell us about just what to expect from Wilson in 2013.
No rookie quarterback had ever finished a season with a 100.0 passer rating or higher. Two, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, managed the feat in 2012. Plenty of advanced stat aficionados roll their eyes at passer rating. It does not penalize a quarterback for a sack. An interception thrown during a Hail Mary at the end of the half hurts a rating as much as one thrown that changes the game. All these criticisms are fair, if not a little obnoxious, but I have found passer rating to be a rather good measure of quality quarterback play. Take the players ranked 11-20 in passer rating in any given season and try to make a case for them to be ranked as have a better season than the players ranked 1-10. This measure of quarterback play sorts the great from the good, from the mediocre and poor, pretty well. So when I tell you no more than five players have reached that century mark in passer rating in any given NFL season, know that Wilson and Griffin’s accomplishment was about much more than setting a rookie mark.
In fact, only 32 quarterbacks have met the 100.0 bar (minimum 10 starts) since 2000. That works out to about 2.5 per season. Only eight–including Wilson and Griffin–have done it within the first three years of their career. Of the six players that did it before Wilson and Griffin, only one managed to reach that level again in their career, and that was Kurt Warner.
Carson Palmer reached a career high 101.1 in his second season. Chad Pennington hit 104.2 in his third. Brian Griese went for 102.9 in his third. Dan Marino sparkled at 108.9 as a sophomore, and Roger Staubach slayed the other players of his generation with a 104.9 his third season.
That tells us getting to the century mark in passer rating is no easy task. It also tells us reaching that mark early does not guarantee the player a great career. See Pennington and Griese. But let’s not forget we are in uncharted territory. No rookie quarterback has done what Wilson and Griffin did before last year, and looking at more recent history than Pennington (2002) and Griese (2000) would seem to indicate the likelihood of anything but stardom for a player hitting the century mark to be remote.
Only eight quarterbacks other than Griffin and Wilson that have passed for a rating at 100.0+ since 2008. Those players are:
That is not bad company to keep.
Maintaining that level of performance is not necessary to reach the ultimate goal. Only three of the quarterbacks for the last thirteen Super Bowl winners finished the regular season with a 100.0 passer rating or higher. That said, there is plenty of evidence to suggest Wilson’s ability to reach that mark in his rookie year greatly reduces the risk of him slumping as a sophomore.