Dec 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) rolls out during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEX Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA Today Sports

Russell Wilson And Robert Griffin III: A Comparison


In the coming days, I’m sure we’re going to read online, and see on TV, a number of comparisons of Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Washington’s Robert Griffin. It’s a natural comparison, especially since the two rookies face off this Sunday in the playoffs.

Both QBs are dual threats; equally dangerous with their legs as well as their arms. They both are accurate, and are high velocity passers. They also both take care of the football, leading to very few turnovers.

The similarities really do end there.

Dec 30, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks to pass against the St. Louis Rams during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Their running styles are both extremely effective, but they are very different. Russell Wilson is fast, but he’s downright slow compared to Griffin. Griffin has elite straight line speed that is among the best in the NFL at any position. The only Seahawk who’s in the same league as Griffin in terms of pure speed is Earl Thomas.

On the other hand, Griffin (and the rest of the NFL for that matter) just doesn’t have Wilson’s ability to stop, restart, change directions, and juke defenders out of their shoes the way that Wilson does.

The difference can be seen when they drop back to pass as well. For all his improvement, Wilson is still only an average  QB inside the pocket. It’s once he gets outside the pocket, whether a designed rollout or when he’s just extending the play, that Wilson becomes an elite passer.

At this point in their development, Griffin is better inside the pocket, and definitely looks more comfortable when asked to asked to take a traditional 5 or 7 step drop. When forced outside the pocket though, he tends not to try and extend the play, but instead pulls the ball down and takes off as a runner more often than not.

The QBs also tend to prefer different passes. Wilson throws the ball deep on 16.3% of his passes, which is the 2nd highest in the NFL. Griffin on the other hand threw deep on just 9.5% of his passes, which was the 2nd lowest in the league.

Another way to look at it is that much of Griffin’s passing yards come from yards after the catch (YAC). According to football outsiders: “27% of [RG3's] completions failed to gain meaningful yardage towards a new set of downs.” So over a quarter of Griffin’s completions were for minimal gain. Or if you prefer to think of it in another way, According to ProFootballFocus, 61.4% (5th highest) of Wilson’s passing yards come while the ball is in the air, which just 53.2% (21st in the league) of Griffin’s passing yards come while the ball is in the air.

That isn’t meant to be a knock on Griffin, and shouldn’t be taken as one. Griffin actually has a league best yards per passing attempt (8.14) this season, while Wilson was 4th with 7.96 yards per attempt. So while Griffin’s targets aren’t as far downfield, the plays are actually designed in way to try and get the receivers in space where they can run after catching the ball.

So there you have it. While these two QBs might seem similar on a superficial level, they are actually very different when you begin to dig a little deeper into the stats and break down the tape. Then again, there is one more thing that they have in common: both are very very good.

Tags: Robert Griffin Robert Griffin III Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks

  • Hawk_Eye

    As you stated Russell might not have the straight line speed that RGIII has, but Russell is quicker. I think that is more important at the quarterback position. The ability to make defensive players miss.

    • 12thMan_Rising

      I said that he was. His acceleration is crazy, both in starting and stopping. I also tried not to get into the “importance” of certain traits for this article.

      I really just wanted to point out that both players are good, but get the job done using surprisingly different skill sets. Especially since we’re going to hear how similar they are a lot this week.

      • Hanley H. Bonynge

        It’s agility/lateral quickness versus speed. They aren’t really the same thing.

        • 12thMan_Rising

          you’re right. they’re very different skills, which was the point I was trying to make. The key word there (apparently) was “trying”

          • Hanley H. Bonynge

            I was agreeing with you, just adding more clarity. I understood what you were saying.

  • True_Blue

    In this comparison are you factoring in that RGIII is not 100% with the knee injury he has been nursing since Dec. 9th? I do agree with you if both QB’s are 100%.

    • 12thMan_Rising

      I was not referring to RG3 at 85% or whatever he’s at right now. Just in general.

  • Hawk_Eye

    In the last 8 games, Russell Wilson is #1 in 3rd down, red zone and 4th quarter efficiency in the whole NFL. These are the stats that determines who the best quarterback is in the NFL. When you need that 1st down, that touch down and that score in the forth quarter to win games, Russell has played better than Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and all the other quarterbacks in the NFL. Russell Wilson deserves the rookie of the year award.