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Matt Calkins: Kurt Warner says Seahawks’ Russell Wilson isn’t a top-five NFL QB, and he might be right

UPDATED: Thu., May 23, 2019

By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Twitter story, or real story? It can be hard to tell. Sometimes a tweet gets fired off, 36 people get fired up, and all of a sudden there’s “controversy” when, in reality, no one beyond those 36 cares.

I have a feeling the latest with Kurt Warner is closer to a Twitter story, but hey – it’s just a list. So why not indulge him?

A few days ago, the Hall of Fame quarterback was on NFL Network, giving his top five QBs heading into the 2019 season. There were 10 quarterbacks on the list he whittled from, yet none was Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson.

After giving his top five – which had the Patriots’ Tom Brady at No. 1, the Saints’ Drew Brees at No. 2, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes at No. 3, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers at No. 4 and the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and No. 5 – Warner tweeted that Big Ben beat out Wilson for the fifth spot.

Some people around here got mad. My first reaction? It’s just a list.

My second reaction? Are those rankings really that crazy?

Brady just won his sixth Super Bowl, including his second in the past three years, and was the NFL MVP in 2017. Brees just posted the best season in his 18-year, Hall of Fame-lock career, when he produced an NFL-best passer rating of 115.7 for a team that had the top record in the league.

Mahomes beat out Brees for MVP last season, tallying 5,097 passing yards and a league-high 50 touchdown passes for a team that went 12-4. Rodgers, well, he’s Aaron Rodgers. He may have had a subpar year for his standards, but he still threw for 4,442 yards with a league-low interception percentage of 0.3, the best percentage of the two-time MVP’s career.

And with no Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, the Steelers leaned on Roethlisberger more than ever, and he responded with a career-high and league-best 5,129 passing yards.

There is also the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, who tied his career-high passer-rating mark of 105.5 (amazingly, he’s finished the season with that exact number three times). And there is the Falcons’ Matt Ryan, who, two years removed from his MVP season, racked up 4,924 yards and a rating of 108.1.

Am I making the case that all these guys are better than Wilson? No. But it’s easy to forget how much talent behind center there is in this league.

Here’s what we know about Wilson: He is the most elusive QB to play and one of the most efficient. Only Brees and Mahomes had a better passer rating last season than his 110.9, and only Rodgers is above him for career numbers. He has won a Super Bowl, has been to another and had perhaps the best five-game stretch in NFL history in 2015.

Here’s what we also know about Wilson: In the seasons in which the Seahawks lacked a running game, he wasn’t spectacular. When they asked him to throw 546 times in 2016, he finished with 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career-low passer rating of 92.6, although he was banged up for most of the year.

When they asked him to throw 553 times in 2017, he finished with a career-low completion percentage as the Seahawks missed the playoffs. Is it hard to be efficient when everybody on the field knows you’re going to throw? Sure. Then again, Roethlisberger did it quite well last year.

Not that any of this stuff really matters. Player rankings are fun, but they’re really nothing more than that. It’s speculation that’s often contingent on what the other 45 guys in uniform do, and is fueled as much by emotion and media narrative as it is fact.

Personally, I’m OK with Warner’s top five. Wilson may have a ring and a unique skill set, but he also had a lot of help on both sides of the ball early in his career. He may have some dazzling numbers and six Pro Bowls to his name, but he also hasn’t reached the NFC Championship Game in four years or advanced past the first round in two.

The man has proven a lot. No doubt. Still, as the de facto leader of this team, he still has things to prove.

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