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The Russell Wilson Debate

October 20, 2010

Should Russell Wilson be catching flak from State fans for his increased interceptions this season?

Editor’s Note: With work swamping me of late, fellow Wolfpack blogger and Technician alum Derek Medlin agreed to do some guest blogging here at R&R. You can find Derek’s other work online at his blog, Fourth Down And Long, and follow him on Twitter @Derek_Medlin.

Derek Medlin
Guest Columnist

As soon as Russell Wilson’s 52nd pass attempt found the arms of ECU’s Damon Magazu and ended NC State’s chance to move to 6-1 Saturday afternoon, the discussion began.

“What’s wrong with Russell?”

“Why is he making so many poor decisions in 2010?”

“Should Mike Glennon get the start next week against Florida State?” And on and on and on.

Before I could made it back up highway 264 from Greenville, Wilson had become the worst quarterback in the ACC and the sole reason the Wolfpack fell to the Pirates. Sometimes I’m truly amazed at just how ignorant people can be.

Another thing I realized Saturday is that the play of Russell Wilson during the last two-plus years has spoiled NC State fans as much as Philip Rivers did during his time in Raleigh. After watching Philip and what he did for Wolfpack football, I thought that wasn’t possible. Oh how I was wrong.

First and foremost, let me say this about the ECU game specifically. Wilson led a drive in the fourth quarter which gave the Wolfpack the lead with 2:59 to go. Much like the Virginia Tech game, all State had to do was get a stop on defense. In its two chances to get that done in 2010, the Wolfpack defense has failed miserably. I agree that in both games there are other circumstances to consider, but NC State led with less than three minutes to go. Get a stop and it’s ball game, end of story.

Ok, back to the “terribleness” of Russell Wilson. Let’s look at some numbers through NC State’s first seven games. Wilson has completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,124 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Not too shabby if you ask me, but for whatever reason people are trying to compare his decision-making with both 2009 and 2008. Fine, let’s do that.

For comparisons sake I only looked at the first seven games in 2009 and Wilson’s seven most successful games in 2008, which came during the latter part of the season after Wilson returned from injury following the South Florida game, and not including NC State’s bowl loss that year to Rutgers.

2010: 58% completion, 2,124 yards, 18 TDs, 9 INT

2009: 58% completion, 1,659 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INT

2008 : 55% completion, 1,455 yards, 13 TDs, 0 INT

Looking simply at these numbers, one would assume Russell’s decision-making abilities have gone down the tube. NINE INTERCEPTIONS?!  Oh my gosh, get him out now.

The funny part is stats don’t tell the whole story in any situation. And as much as people want to argue that numbers mean everything, it’s not true. Here’s some other numbers to consider after looking at those stats. In 2008 NC State went 4-3 during that seven game stretch. In 2009, 3-4. Can someone remind me where the Wolfpack sit currently in 2010? Oh yeah, 5-2 and two defensive stands away from 7-0. Interceptions be damned, Russell Wilson is not a worse quarterback than at any point in his entire career. The problem is he’s gotten good enough that the Wolfpack coaching staff is putting everything on Wilson’s shoulders.

Need proof? Heck why not, let’s look at some numbers. Wilson attempted more than 30 passes twice during his seven-game hot steak in 2008. During the first seven games in 2009 those numbers increased, but Wilson still only went over 30 attempts four times, including two games over 40 attempts.

Skip ahead to this season. Russell has gone over 30 attempts in every game, including three games of 40+ attempts and two games of 50+ attempts! Maybe I’m crazy, but the way my brain processes that information leads me to believe there are a heck of a lot more chances to Russell to not only make poor decision/throws but for defenders to make good plays. It’s pretty simple—if given more chances to make mistakes, people usually do.

And what’s more, NC State’s offense is now considered much more “potent” than in 2009 or 2008. The “perfect storm,” right? That potency comes from increased chances to have big plays.

Sure Russell has made some questionable decisions this season, but it’s not at the critical levels some fans and members of the media have made it out to be. His poor decisions this season have come at some very unfortunate times, especially in NC State’s two losses, but I’m not making the jump to placing blame on Wilson as many others have. That, in my opinion, is way beyond a stretch.

No offense to Mike Glennon, but Russell still gives NC State the best chance to win games and it’s not even close. How unfair would it be to Glennon to throw him out there against FSU on a Thursday night and expect greatness? It just doesn’t work that way, at least not very often.

To those of you who have been drinking the Russell Wilson haterade this week, put on your big boy pants and realize that NC State is 5-2 with a great chance to make it to eight or nine wins. Back away from the ledge and enjoy the ride.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    October 20, 2010 10:29 am

    I think the biggest thing is the fact that he’s not willing/the coaches strongly discourage him scrambling. I think a huge key play early on was a 3rd and short deep in ECU territory and RW rolls out and no one is close to him but he basically throws it away in one of those situations where you throw it making sure it won’t be picked off, but you semi give your guy a chance. A. he could’ve just fallen forward for a first or B. ran like Fr RW and probably get the score.

    We missed the field goal and ECU marches down and puts up another TD. Who knows what happens if we get in the end zone to tie. Maybe their defense loses confidence, Maybe DD feels more pressure that HE has to win, maybe those insane students in the boneyard quiet down a notch.

    One thing I didn’t see as often as I thought we should and which has been a bread and butter play, is sending two wide outs deep and George Bryan and another wide out shoot through the middle while Greene/Haynes stay in to block, and then come around the line if no ones open and a little dump pass that gains 13-20 yrds.

  2. Scott permalink
    October 21, 2010 8:49 am

    I think the issue is a combination of a few things. Defenses seem to have adjusted to him slightly. V Tech did a good job of blitzing him and the game plan seemed to be throw it up deep when that happened. I believe some of it is just law of averages catching up to him, too. Also, his confidence is up, so he’s forcing more throws than he did his first two seasons. Russell Wilson is a rare talent. The key to a successful season lies in his hands. Mike Glennon will get his chance, but it shouldn’t be while Wilson still wears an NC State jersey.

  3. Core permalink
    October 21, 2010 10:33 am

    I think more than anything it shows the inability of the defense to make a key stop to win the game. In State’s two losses the offense has driven down the field to put points on the board to take the lead with only a few minutes remaining. All that was needed to secure the win was the defense to make one stop on the ensuing series. VPI drove the length of the field and scored a touchdown, forcing Wilson to carry the team back down the field with little to no time left. Turnover. ballgame. ECU game, State kicks a field goal to take the lead and then the defense proceeds to allow ECU to promptly drive down the field to kick the tying field goal with around a minute to play. One three and out by the defense, after playing lights out in the second half to that point, ballgame. Wilson then sees the defense give up the touchdown in overtime, knowing he has to get a tying score.

    Simply put we are asking Wilson to do more than he is capable of. We are throwing the ball around the lot this year to all our frisbee catching dogs and the opportunities for turnovers increase with that big play potential.

    We are averaging 28.5 pts in our two losses so it’s not like we are really stinking up the joint. Defensively if we can force a couple more stops I think we’ll be ok at the end of the season. I am still optimist at 5-2 (had no real expectations of that after last season) that we still make some noise and have a good to great season.

  4. Rcteach permalink
    October 24, 2010 1:32 pm

    Russell Wilson has fallen in love with the deep ball. You could see O’Brien upset with him ( as upset as TOB gets) and read his lips saying that was not what we wanted at the last drive of regulation. My son looked at me when M.Greene ran the ball three times after ECU had missed the extra point and facing a 3rd and 12 said Wilson would go for it in the endzone and be intercepted. And that’s exactly what has happened. Anyone can see he has fallen in love with”going after it, or deep”He seems to have abandoned the underneath game and throws regularly into coverage anticipating his receivers ability to go up top and get the ball. I think Wilsomn is an excellent QB who has gotten himself into a rut by constantly going deep evem when different routes are open underneath. I hope he reads get better, he tempers his enthusiam and plays more conservatively while reading through his progressions.


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