Through the first six games of both Deshaun Watson’s and Russell Wilson’s careers, they had taken over their respective franchise’s reigns at quarterback and redirected the team’s path. In 2012, Russell Wilson beat out Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson in a three quarterback competition in the preseason. He transformed a 7-9 team the year before into an 11-5 team and took them to the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. Wilson’s ability to extend plays gave the Seahawks a skill set they had never had at quarterback before. Unlike Wilson, Watson was told from the start that he would be a backup his first year in the league. Even when the Texans tried their darndest to stay mediocre, Watson’s transcendence at the quarterback position was on full display once he took over against the Jaguars.
Considered an undersized prospect from the University of Wisconsin, Wilson was a “big-time question mark” entering the NFL Draft. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft as the long-term solution to the Seahawks’ terminal quarterback woes. At first, it seemed that Wilson was going to sit behind Matt Flynn, who was signed to a three-year, $20.5 million deal that offseason. When Pete Carroll announced that Wilson would be the starter, he said that "he is so prepared, he does not seem like a first-year quarterback,” Carroll set the franchise on a path to winning a Super Bowl.
Does this sound like something we have heard from Bill O’Brien about our quarterback?
After the first six games, Wilson’s stats read 95 of 152 (62.5%) on passes, 8 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He rushed for 109 yards with no touchdowns and two fumbles. Overall, the Seahawks’ run-first approach was not fully utilizing Wilson’s talents.
There was a completely different feel about Russell’s future leading the team four weeks into the season, however. Michael Lombardi of NFL.com wrote an article titled “Seattle Seahawks Should Sit Russell Wilson and Play Matt Flynn”
Lombardi probably would like to keep that article in a folder called “Never Mention To Anyone.” Imagine an alternate reality where Matt Flynn was given the starting job after an unsuccessful first four weeks of Russell Wilson under center. Maybe the Browns are doing just that with DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan.
After Week Six, Seattle was 4-2 in mostly narrow victories. At this point in the season, Wilson’s best game came against the New England Patriots, where he threw for a season-high 293 yards and 3 TDs. He engineered a 14-point comeback against the Pats and quieted many critics’ complaints about Seattle’s conservative offense. With less than two minutes left in the game, Wilson dropped a 46-yard dime over the Patriots’ defense. His poise in this game was the first instance of what we have come to expect from Russell Wilson.
In comparison, Deshaun Watson is 107 for 174 (61.5%) on passes for 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He leads the NFL in passing touchdowns and can attribute several of his interceptions to easily fixable mistakes. Rushing the ball, Watson has 202 yards and 2 TDs. He has been exceptional evading rushers behind a constantly breaking down Texans O-line. Watson has shown progression in his understanding of the playbook and opposing defenses. This is most evident when Watson is inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.
There, he is 9 for 11 with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The Texans are 3-3 and some will debate whether they are poised to make a run at the playoffs, while some will debate whether this season’s ceiling has been lowered with the injuries on defense. Either way, the Texans are in a similar position to the Seahawks in 2012.
The comparisons drawn between Wilson and Watson’s body type and playing style encourages one to predict Watson’s future. However, their paths to the NFL were different. Wilson played at North Carolina State and transferred to Wisconsin under the graduate transfer rule. Wilson proceeded to take over at Wisconsin and led them to the Rose Bowl. Watson, on the other hand, took the nation by storm with two trips to the National Championship Game, winning the second time. Watson was expected to be a first round pick, but Wilson was expected to go anywhere between the second and fourth rounds in 2012.
Watson is taller than Wilson, but Wilson is known as a more accurate passer. They are both considered scrambling quarterbacks, but neither rely on their feet more than their arm. Both do a good job of stretching the field and delivering well-timed passes over the middle.
Big plays at timely moments. That’s the mark of an NFL quarterback. Wilson has demonstrated a knack for overcoming his height limitations with intelligence, mobility, and accuracy. Watson is showing promise in his first six weeks that is comparably better than Wilson’s first six games. The wrinkles in Bill O’Brien’s playbook utilize Watson’s mobility, forcing defenses to respect his scrambling. The spotlight has never been too bright for these two young quarterbacks, and Texans fans would not complain if Watson leads the team to the same heights as Wilson has the Seahawks.