Over the past few years, the "elite" quarterback debate has been beaten to death, but, what the heck, let's bring it back from the dead and focus on Seattle Seahawks signal-caller Russell Wilson.
Seriously, just read on—you won't gouge out your eyes.
The "elite" quarterback debate is inherently flawed because…we all have different definitions of "elite."
How much should stats be considered? Should it only be about statistics? How many "elite" quarterbacks should there be? The majority of us have come around on the idea that quarterback wins aren't exactly the best way to evaluate or judge a signal-caller, seeing as though football is the ultimate team game. But to some, wins and more importantly, Super Bowl titles matter.
Remember "you can't spell elite without Eli"? Yeah, that slogan was born after Eli Manning's second Super Bowl win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in February of 2012.
While I won't pretend I'm the omnipotent decider of who the elite quarterbacks are in the game today, I do have some numbers to throw your way regarding the opportunity Wilson has in front of him in Super Bowl XLVIII.
First things first—accuracy. It's the most foundational aspect of playing the position. Arm strengths differ. Some quarterbacks are courageous. Others are risk-averse.
But we can pretty much all agree that throwing the ball to the intended target and giving that target a reasonable chance to catch the football is vital to the quarterback position at any level.
Before this Super Bowl, in 32 regular season outings and four playoff games, Wilson has a Pro Football Focus Accuracy Percentage of 74.4.
("Accuracy Percentage accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball – factors that hurt the quarterback's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are. The formula: ((Completions + Drops) / (Attempts – Throw Aways – Spikes – Batted Passes – Hit As Thrown")
Although there's no gray area with completion percentage—catch or no catch?—Accuracy Percentage does a significantly better job determining a quarterback's accuracy.
To put that 74.4 into perspective, over that same time frame, Aaron Rodgers' AP is 79.8. Drew Brees comes in at 77.6. Peyton Manning's is 77.5 and Matt Ryan's has been an even 77.0. But Tom Brady's is only 73.1.
Essentially, Wilson's been just below the "elite" level in terms of Accuracy Percentage; however, there's a caveat.
In 2012, Wilson's average depth of target was a robust 10.2 yards—higher than all the names listed above. Brady was the closest at 9.1 yards. This year, the aveage depth of target for Seattle's quarterback was higher than Rodgers, Brees, Manning, Ryan and Brady at 9.8 yards.
Heck, Ryan's aDOT was only 7.0 and Rodgers and Manning tied at 8.3.
Would Wilson's AP be higher if he were typically throwing it shorter?
Therefore, in the most vital aspect of playing quarterback, it's not ridiculous to argue Wilson as "elite."
Wilson's touchdown percentage in the 36 NFL games he's played since the Week 1 of 2012 is 6.18. Brady's is 4.5. Brees' is 6.0. Rodgers' is 6.38. Manning's is 7.25 with help from the greatest quarterbacking season in league history this year.
Wilson's interception percentage of 2.2 is higher than the aforementioned names, but not by much.
He hasn't had to be a 600-attempt gun-slinger in Seattle like Manning, Ryan, Brees and Brady have been in their respetive cities, but should we fault him for that?
While the strength of the team around Wilson shouldn't be totally disregarded, does an elite quarterback have to be the guy who masks flaws on a team that's not particularly well rounded?
I'm not sure if that's logical.
Is QB rating your thing?
If so, you'll like Wilson.
His regular season QB rating is 100.6, slightly below the ratings of Rodgers and Manning, just about even with Brees and considerably higher than Ryan and Brady since the start of 2012.
And if you're still stuck on wins, well, Wilson's 27-9 as a starter…which equates to win percentage of 75.
Here's his "average" game stat line: 16 for 25, 204.5 yards, 1.5 touchdowns, 0.55 interceptions and 32.5 rushing yards.
The last thing Wilson needs is, quite obviously, a Super Bowl ring to place on his finger like Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers.
Although I don't particularly agree with the notion that a quarterback can't be elite until he hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy, many do. Like a lot of people.
So, based on his high-level accuracy, touchdown and interception efficiency, if Russell Wilson plays well in Super Bowl XLVIII—let's say he has his "average" game—and takes down Peyton Manning, who, remarkably, had the finest season of his illustrious career at 37, you can feel "safe" placing the Seattle Seahawks quarterback among the NFL's "elite."