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.
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.