Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scott Simon asks that you not sleep on Russell Wilson

With the best day of the year only two weeks away, Scott Simon gets us started with a love letter to Russell Wilson -- a true RFH-style, two-sport hero...

A few things to get out of the way right off the bat…
1. I went to the University of Wisconsin and have followed the program religiously since 2003.
2. I don’t work for ESPN, so this is not a promo for ESPNU’s Camp Confidential: Jon Gruden’s QB Series starring Russell Wilson tonight on ESPNU.
3. I am not bullshitting you.

Russell Wilson is the second best quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft. I’ve got Luck first and Wilson tied for second, along with Robert Griffin III.

Now, let’s get two more things clear: I’m not saying Wilson is the second best quarterback prospect in the draft (he’s probably third), but he is the second best draftable quarterback right now and a future NFL starter.

Let’s also quell the notion that this is some badger-bias bologna and that I just feel like pumping up my boy. That’s not what this is either. I’ve seen a ton of quarterbacks come through the Wisconsin program, the big ten, and the entire nation. Few quarterbacks I’ve seen are as accomplished as Russell Wilson in the history of college football. Four years of superb play includes All America honors twice. He’s second in ACC history in total touchdowns. He’s the most efficient passer in the history of college football. Put that and Brandon WEEDen in your pipe and smoke it.

With actual talent around him, Wilson’s senior year was impeccable. 33 TDs and only 4 INTs with a 72.8% completion percentage with a ridiculous 10.3 YPA (second in the country). My favorite stat: he misfired only 84 times all season (6.5 per game)! A unanimous first team all Big Ten selection, Wilson also rushed for over 300 yards and five scores. Now remember Wilson only made it to Madison in July and had a short time to get to know his teammates (who eventually named him a captain), coaches, and their tendencies.

He’s everything you could want in a quarterback outside of the obvious: he’s short. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Let’s build the perfect QB, shall we?
The first thing you need is smarts. Wilson graduated NC State in three years and picked up Paul Chryst’s pro-style playbook in a month.
Second, and this is just my personal opinion, I want accuracy. If you can’t complete passes you can’t play. You hear me, Tim Tebow?
Third, I’d like athleticism. Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fifth round and was going to ply his trade as a second baseman or outfielder until he decided to give football (real football, not that ACC crap) a go. He runs a 4.5 forty and with a 34 inch vertical. Forget numbers. Watch this.
Fourth, toughness. If you can’t stay on the field, what good are you? Wilson played four straight seasons and has no injury history whatsoever.
Fifth, some leadership skills would be great. Wilson was named a captain at NC State (no surprise) AND Wisconsin (pretty remarkable given the short time he was on campus). I’ve got leadership fifth because Eli Manning is no General MacArthur and he wins, and Tim Tebow is a tremendous leader and he’s, well, awful. In short, Wilson has leadership qualities in spades. It might be one of his best characteristics.
Sixth, a good arm is always nice to have. RW has that too. He can throw the route tree. Hell, he can throw the route tree on the run.

I’ve got size seventh. And here is where we’re stopped in our tracks by the elephant in the war room. Wilson is 5’11 in his Adidas, which means he’s a QWERTY row from being average NFL QB height. This would concern me if I didn’t know any better… but I do. Wisconsin’s offensive line is one of the biggest in football. Not college football. All of football. Their center, Peter Konz, is 6’6”. The tackles go 6’7” and 6’8” respectively. Wilson had no problem throwing over them thanks to his unique overhead throwing motion. This isn’t that David Carr three-quarters nonsense.

Work with me here. Pantomime throwing a ball. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You’ve got it cocked by your ear right? Now raise your arm six inches. That’s Wilson’s unique release point. (You can take your arm down now.) And because he’s such a tremendous athlete, Wilson doesn’t need to be in perfect form each time for him to be effective throwing the rock (hi, Kirk Cousins). And because he’s smart and a veteran, he can see windows to throw better than some of these novice QBs, or system QBs entering the draft like Brock Osweiler (only a year of actual game experience). The fact that he’s got great feet and can move is really just an added bonus and perfect for moving the sticks on third downs.

Let’s look at the top two QBs for a hot one:
I think Andrew Luck is probably the easiest #1 overall decision since Michael Vick in 2001. He’s got everything I’d want in a QB. He ticks all the boxes. #1 for me. No doubt.

Robert Griffin III and Wilson had very similar seasons. Eerily similar, in fact. Their numbers are close, and they both led their teams to 10-3 records. Here’s why I have Wilson ahead of RGIII: In conference play, Wilson was much better. RGIII threw four INTs which resulted in three of Baylor’s losses. Wilson threw two in all of conference play (both at Michigan State where the Badgers lost on a hail mary). The Big Ten was probably the defensive conference then the basketball-on-grass Big12, but I don’t have the inclination to test that theory. I do know this, Baylor’s defense ranked 114 (out of 120) in the nation. Perhaps it was because they were on the field so often because the offense was putting up points. Or, were they so bad that Griffin and the offense needed to carry the team, and thus, his numbers are ‘inflated’ out of necessity. The truth, likely, lies somewhere in between.

Now, I can find faults in the rest of the QBs in this draft class. From Ryan Tannehill’s average completion percentage to Brandon Weeden’s age, and Brock Osweiler’s erratic play to Kirk Cousins noodle arm and wimpy athleticism all come with serious holes.

You can likely throw out Cousins and Osweiler right away. Neither will be major contributors. Cousins is a system kid with a good head but little in terms of NFL desirables. Osweiler, who I admit to having seen little of, has been labeled with “high bust potential” by several scouts.

And I wouldn’t trust Tannehill or Weeden either. You know who the most decorated, Big12-seasoned QB in the league is? It’s Josh Freeman. Then Colt McCoy. (The jury is still out on Sam Bradford. It has to be).

You can argue Griffin III over Wilson with me. That’s fine. RGIII has all the tools to be a fine NFL starter and franchise QB (despite his Big12 background), but don’t tell me Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Kirk Cousins or Brock Osweiler are better players than Russell Wilson. In time they could be, but I highly doubt it. Wilson is everything I’d look for in a leader and gun-slinger. He should be the third quarterback off the board at the end of the month, but as we all know, he won’t.

Sorry for getting all Tom Hanks on you. I just really, really like Wilson.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Day for the Dodgers

Last week a friend of mine from college asked me to write a piece for his new website about Magic Johnson, et al's, purchased of the DOdgers for $2 bajillion.  I accepted, but what came out was more about Frank McCourt's departure than Magic's entry.  Enjoy.

To say that Mr. McCourt left a sour taste in this, and most, Dodger fans’ mouths would be a gross understatement. He was a carpetbagger is the truest sense, the Boston mogul come West to poach a fledgling former champion with the sole intent of personal gain and notoriety. It’s difficult to express the full extent of my disgust with Mr. McCourt, so allow me to explain my connection with the Dodgers and what his expulsion means.