Aug 24, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Javier Arenas (21) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

What do Preseason Stats Mean? Yet Another Post on The Quarterback Debate


When I sat down to write an article today I told myself I was going to steer clear of the quarterback situation. I looked into other topics, I tried to stay away. I really did. Ultimately, I could not help myself. The quarterback competition is “the story” surrounding the Seahawks right now and it cannot be avoided. Discussion about this conundrum has become heated and frenzied, especially following Russell Wilson’s outstanding performance against Kansas City. Personally, I believe that Flynn should be given the opportunity to open the season as the starter and Russell Wilson should be brought along slowly. I understand people believing that course of action to be too conservative, and while I respect their point of view, I really do think it is too early to assume that Russell Wilson will be a star or even a viable starting quarterback based on a few preseason performances. In this article I will look at preseason passing leaders over the last five years to see how well their performances carried over to the regular season in an effort to decipher the significance of Russell Wilson’s extraordinary preseason. I will use passer rating as my tool of evaluation because, although it is imperfect, it gives an overall snapshot of quarterback performance and with smaller samples the leaderboards for counting stats like touchdowns are very clustered.

Preseason 2011- Top 5 Rated Quarterbacks*

1. Charlie Whitehurst (91.1)- I couldn’t make this stuff up. I think we all know the story here. Last year Whitehurst started two games, both of them losses, completing 48.2% of his passes with a single touchdown for a 62.9 Passer rating. Clearly his stellar work in the preseason did not continue into the regular season.

2. Stephen McGee (89.0)- McGee filled in for an injured Tony Romo in one game last year throwing for 182 yards and one touchdown for a solid, but unspectacular 83.2 Passer rating. An admirable performance for a backup QB but not one suggesting he will unseat Romo any time soon.

3. Greg McElroy (87.9)- I had never heard of McElroy before beginning to write this piece and I’m guessing you hadn’t either. He has never thrown an NFL pass.

4. Joe Flacco (82.7)- Flacco had arguably his worst year as a pro last year with career lows in completion percentage and yards per attempt. His Passer Rating of 80.9 was fairly similar to his preseason mark but his season was clearly a disappointment.

5. Matt Ryan (80.8)- Matt Ryan had possibly his best year last year setting career highs in touchdown passes (29) and Passer Rating (92.2). He is the only one on this leaderboard to exceed expectations over the course of the season.

Preseason 2010- Top Rated Quarterbacks

1. Luke McCown (99.2)- McCown went on to appear in one game with the Jaguars in 2010, throwing for 120 yards and a 76.6 rating. One should not forgot that McCown is an absolutely dreadful quarterback as demonstrated by the almost unfathomable 39.0 passer rating he managed when he opened the season as Jacksonville’s starter in 2011

2. Kyle Orton (95.4)- Despite the fact Denver was awful in 2010 Orton had a good year throwing 20 touchdowns compared with only 9 interceptions for a 87.5 rating. Although he didn’t match his preseason rating this was the best year of Orton’s career statistically.

3. Brian Hoyer (93.5)- We know very little about Hoyer who appeared in 5 games in 2010 primarily in mop up duty and produced 122 yards, one touchdown and a 69.3 passer rating. As long as Hoyer remains in New England we are very unlikely to know if he’s any good or not.

4. Joe Flacco (90.9)- Flacco makes his second appearance on the preseason leaderboards. This time he would go on to have a career year with his highest ever totals in yards (3622), touchdowns (25) and passer rating (93.6).

5. Rudy Carpenter (87.6)- Carpenter is another player I had never heard of who has not thrown a pass in the NFL.

Unfortunately some record keeping error at has made the preseason passing stats for 2009 disappear, probably due to widespread conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the United States government. That annoyingly breaks up the flow of our magical journey into the history of preseason passing leaders so I suppose I’ll cut things short. For the sake of brevity I will tell you that the three top rated quarterbacks in the 2008 preseason were David Carr, Brady Quinn and Dan Orlovsky. In 2007 they were Sage Rosenfels, Bruce Gradkowski and Gus Frerotte. I think you know where I’m going with this.

Russell Wilson has shown us some very exciting things in this preseason and after the win against Kansas City he has done so against first team defensive players. This does not mean nothing. However, it seems that there is virtually no correlation between preseason success and regular season success. So perhaps we need to take these performances with a grain of salt, or two, or five thousand. I’m not saying that Russell Wilson can’t or won’t be the starting quarterback for the Seahawks this year or in the future. I’m merely saying that we need to take a step back and have a little bit of perspective in terms of what he’s done so far. When Russell Wilson does what he’s doing now against NFL defenses during the regular season consistently then I will gladly hop aboard this bandwagon, until such time we need to keep our expectations within the realm of what is reasonable, especially for a rookie quarterback.

Before we get into the heated commentary that has permeated this site over the past few days I would like to point out that this article is not meant as an assault on Russell Wilson. If Wilson starts for Seattle in week one I will cheer for him with as much enthusiasm as any of the people out there calling for him to start. What people seem to forget is that both Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn are Seattle Seahawks and regardless of which one you would prefer to see start for your team they both deserve your support as a fan. Last time I checked this was a Seattle Seahawks blog not a Russell Wilson blog or a Matt Flynn blog. If someone wants to start one of those they should go ahead. Let’s not let our opinions on this quarterback situation cloud the fact that we all cheer for the Seahawks regardless of who plays where. I will support the Seahawks whether they put Russell Wilson at starting quarterback or third string defensive tackle (to be fair, he might be a bit short for that), and I hope you do as well.



*Quarterbacks had to have thrown 14 passes a game to qualify for the passer rating leaderboard

Next Seahawks Game View full schedule »
Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:00Chicago BearsBuy Tickets

Tags: Joe Flacco Kyle Orton Matt Flynn Matt Ryan Russell Wilson

  • Michael Bernazzani

    So… I’ve heard all of the reasons why it’s “safer” to start Flynn, because he’s studied the NFL for longer? The difference between college & the NFL isn’t scheme or system, its ATHLETES. I know I sound like president of the Wilson fan club w/ these comments, but these arguments I’m hearing for Flynn just aren’t holding any water. So he had 1 really good start on the last day of the season, & IMO an even more impressive start when he went into Green Bay. I PROMISE you opposing teams would MUCH rather see Flynn behind center, because they know that’s exactly where he’ll be, behind center. BOTH will make rookie mistakes as it would be the 1st season as an NFL starter for BOTH of them. I feel like the Matt Flynn excuse makers are doing so only because they don’t wanna eat crow. I’m confident in both because all they have to do is be better than TARVARIS JACKSON & UPCHUCK WHITEHURST for crying out loud. Come on Pete please just name him the starter now, this whole “sore elbow” thing must make the locker room giggle, especially Tarvaris “torn pec” Jackson. Love that guy, but he can’t diagnose as quickly as Wilson which is the key to not-holding-onto-the-ball-too-long leading to sacks of Jackson AND Flynn. Incoherent again I know :/

    • Hanley H. Bonynge

      I don’t think anybody is making “excuses” for Flynn so much as presenting an unpopular case. There are legitimate reasons to start Flynn. You might not agree, but they are there. Flynn does have more experience, even if it comes from the sideline, reading defenses than Wilson. That can make a difference with all the stunts and disguises that DCs now use in the NFL. I agree that both are a lot (or more accurately, are capable of being a lot) better than T-Jack and Whitehurst. And I think PC really needs to stop dragging this out. It can be called whatever you want, but it is coming right up to the line of being detrimental to the team and the fan base.

    • Hawkman

      Flynn took some sacks because he was trying to allow someone in the WR corp to DO SOMETHING!!!!! He wasn’t playing with Braylon or Rice Or tate most of the time . Plus as I stated before Denvers D is twice as good as KC’s. The Rams put up near 450 yards on KC’s starters . Plus game 3 had them without 2 starters in the backfield and lost 1 LB in the 1st Q. I would just like to see some balance in the way this so-called competition is held. Like having some of the same play calling or wait a minute how about letting the QB’s call their own plays and lets see how it goes, WITH THE SAME PLAYERS AROUND THEM! How about 1st quarter ( game 4) Flynn goes under this concept and 2nd Quarter Wilson the 3rd MF and 4th RW. That ought to tell everyone what we need to know!

  • Michael Bernazzani

    sorry, I meant when Flynn went into New England, not Green Bay.

  • Dennis Ashley

    I have been a proponent of starting Flynn, too, but here is what you left out of your stats–a comparison between the quarterback rating of the guy who had a reasonably good preseason and the distance between him and the next potential starter’s QB rating. You see here, is the deal: Flynn only has a 56 QB rating. Wilson’s is 134. It’s not like there has been a difference of a few points. Flynn has been very, very careful but he hasn’t actually produced. And by the way, in the second half of last season Kansas City had a strong defense. Wilson played against those guys, not back-ups.

    • Hawkman

      Like Pete Carrol says , you have to count the balls that normally would be caught. Like TO’s TD and there are others . They went over this on KJR and when everything up to game 3 was took into consideration Flynn would actually have had the better rating!

      • Guest

        1 day you will all feel sheepish for not appreciating what we stole in the 3rd round. Look how close Wisconsin was to going UNDEFEATED last year, & put his #’s up against an

      • Michael Bernazzani

        when’s the last time we’ve averaged 30+ points/game? Does anyone realize how close he was to going UNDEFEATED last year & probably taking the Heisman from Griffin? OK I’m done, we can all agree our D is SICK. GO HAWKS