RENTON, Wash. — Doug Baldwin does not want to be in the middle of this debate.
On one side is his guy from college, Andrew Luck, whom Baldwin believes will one day be recognized as one of the all-time great quarterbacks. On the other is the guy delivering passes to Baldwin now, Russell Wilson, who is enjoying just as much success as Luck, both in their second NFL seasons.
Two great QBs, two decidedly unique talents that will meet on the field for the first time on Sunday when the Colts host the Seahawks.
Of course, the first meeting between the two leads to comparisons and discussions of what traits or skills one has that the other doesn’t. It makes for great debate and was not a path Baldwin wanted to go down.
“They’re both very, very good quarterbacks,” Baldwin said. “Highly intelligent. Both can make plays with their feet. Both have great arms.”
And then Baldwin paused and chuckled.
“I don’t want to take it any further than that,” he said.
Luck and Wilson are part of a quarterback class that will always be linked and overanalyzed, even if they are all very different players. While Robert Griffin III won the rookie of the year award, it’s been Luck and Wilson who so far have enjoyed the most overall success.
Seattle is off to its first 4-0 start in franchise history. Indianapolis is 3-1 and sitting on top of the AFC South along with Tennessee. Sunday would be a big game without these two quarterbacks involved.
“They vary in some ways, but they’re also very similar in some ways,” Baldwin said. “The cerebral part of the game, they are definitely similar in, and they both study the game of football tremendously and take different aspects of players they have watched like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. I know Luck loved watching Aaron Rodgers and I think the cerebral part of the game is very similar.”
Luck is the prototype, the guy who fit the mold of how a quarterback should look, how he should analyze the game and how he should lead a team. The one who was calling his own plays in college and amazes teammates past and present with his knowledge of the game.
“He’s an incredibly perspicacious guy. He’s incredibly intelligent at the line of scrimmage, he uses great verbiage, he recognizes defenses quickly,” said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, a teammate of Luck’s at Stanford. “He’s probably one of the most intelligent quarterbacks out there in the way he reads coverages and the way he reads the games.”
Wilson is the outlier, who breaks convention with his lack of size, but makes up for being vertically challenged with his smarts and the athletic ability to keep plays alive when nothing is there.
“He’s a phenomenal playmaker when things go south. NFL arm strength, you can make every throw, you see him spinning out, running backward, and chucking the ball 70 yards down field in stride to someone running, which is incredibly impressive,” Luck said. “So when things sort of go south or guys run free, his ability to extend plays and make something happen is very impressive.”
Statistically, both are about even early in their sophomore seasons. Luck has thrown for more yards, although with an improved running game in Indianapolis he’s not being called upon to pass as much as he did last year. Wilson has a slightly better passer rating and has thrown for one more touchdown than Luck.
Even what would seem to separate the two, doesn’t.
Wilson’s improvisation when a play breaks down is part of the Seahawks offense. While Wilson’s need to scramble for safety has happened more than Seattle would like — especially last week against Houston — he’s escaped a number of potential negative yardage situations and has only been sacked 13 times, a number that for most quarterbacks facing the pressure he has would be higher.
That has led to Wilson rushing for 131 yards so far this season, good for fifth in the league among QBs. But right behind him is Luck, with 126 yards rushing.
“When I have watched him, seems like he does a great job staying in the pocket, stepping up sliding and just extending plays. Finding a way. He’s so athletic for how big he is, I think that’s the thing that impresses me the most about his game in general, he’s a very athletic football player,” Wilson said. “My creativity, I just try to extend the play. I try to keep my eyes downfield. Try and facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time, and if it’s not there then try and make something happen.”