The only thing that differentiates Russell Wilson from Patrick Mahomes right now is how much the Mahomes team is prepared to give him the ball and let him work.
In terms of PFF rating per play in the past two seasons, Wilson actually beats Mahomes (albeit in a limited way). Wilson also had the highest PFF rating in the league last season, generated the most wins over replacement (PFF WAR), and led the league in several other statistical categories. Despite this, 14 quarterbacks have backed down to spend more than Wilson in the past two seasons.
The Seattle Seahawks have leaned harder than any other offense in the league outside of the Baltimore Ravens during that time, and they appear to be intent on getting the ball out of Wilson’s hands as much as possible.
When I looked at how well Wilson had been playing, I took a cursory glance at his performance in games where the conservative plan had gone out the window and the Seahawks had to rely on his passing ability.
Wilson has been better than average when it comes to scoring above 75 when he falls 40 or more times in a game, but he’s not on the same level as the game’s best quarterbacks. You only have one of those games with a PFF rating higher than 85 and no games rated higher than 90.
If you look at the past two years, their numbers are more favorable, but the sample size becomes very fragile, so it remains an open question.
What about the rest of the league? Are passers-by struggling en masse or separating as elite when forced to drop out of the race and spend more?
Patrick Mahomes’ rise bites Tom Brady’s heels
As it is becoming the norm, Mahomes is virtually unmatched when it comes to passing. His young career has already seen 26 games with 40 or more setbacks (including the postseason), and he is the only quarterback PFF has recorded to be over 75 in more than 50 percent of those games. Additionally, 7.7 percent of those games have seen him rate above 90, which is the second-best rate of any quarterback in the PFF era (2006-present).
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees round out the top five and represent a group that contains possibly the best five quarterbacks that PFF has rated.
Brady has the highest percentage of elite rated games (90 or more) of any passer we’ve seen in these situations, as well as the highest rate of rated games over 85 and over 80. Only Mahomes, in a Sample size less than 20 percent from Brady’s, has a higher rate of games rated higher than 75.
During the PFF era, Brady has been the king of games in which the quarterback has been heavily supported to get the job done with volume, though Mahomes and Rodgers in particular are on his heels.
Deshaun Watson continues his trend of being one of the league’s most intriguing QBs. Like Mahomes, Watson has already seen many games in which the burden has been placed on his shoulders to pass without rest. And while he hasn’t been as successful as the league’s best quarterback, he has a very high baseline in those games: 40 percent of his happy passing performances have seen him post a PFF rating above 75; only 16 percent of them exceeded 80; and none have risen more than 85. This is in stark contrast to Mahomes, who has rated above 80 in 26.9 percent of his high-volume games.
That profile is similar to what we saw of Peyton Manning over the course of his career within the PFF era. Manning’s playing base in these high-volume games was extremely high, but he rarely reached the heights of his best game and reached those levels lower than either Brady or Rodgers.
The 2004 quarterback class also makes interesting comparisons. Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger showed a significantly higher baseline than Philip Rivers when they were forced to spend a lot in one game, with Roethlisberger, in particular, having the best overall production in the group.
Dak Prescott and the underperforming
Perhaps the “good” quarterback with the lowest score is Dak Prescott, who has had 28 career games in which he has been forced to air so many times, two fewer than Mahomes, but he only has five in the who has registered a rating. 75 or above and only one in which you have rated above 80.
It’s almost the same story looking at Jameis Winston, who is ranked 14 on the list above. Winston lost his initial job this offseason and is now working to repair his reputation as a backup in New Orleans. He has had 47 high-volume games in his career, and while they have produced some stellar performances, they have been few and far between: Only 6.4 percent of those games scored higher than 80, which ranks around Blake Bortles. , another quarterback with massive failures that eventually the league lost patience as a starter.
Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton, two passers-by who have had large numbers at times, have also been surprisingly ineffective when forced into high-volume games. Neither player has scored an overall rating higher than 80 in more than 12.3 percent of their games.
The last names to highlight are Matt Ryan, Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield. Ryan, again, shows that he can be a little underrated in circles throughout the league. The 21.7 percent of high-volume games he’s rated over 80 ranks seventh in the PFF era, and he’s right behind the best quarterbacks we’ve seen. Its even better games rating is also high, and it has one of the best ratings of any passer at any rating threshold we set.
Taylor has been a low-volume passer for most of his career, protected by his offense and supported as part of the running game rather than as a passer. On the few occasions when he was forced to air and spend more, Taylor responded well. Taylor’s highly rated game rating when forced to spend a lot is surprisingly high for a player whose team has been reluctant to ask him to do that. Maybe it’s a product of how rare it happens, but it could be food for thought for the Los Angeles Chargers as long as it starts there.
Lastly, we have Mayfield, whose game rate rated 75 or higher is below average for high-volume games, but almost all of those games don’t just break 75; they break 80 or even 85, too. Mayfield’s baseline in high volume games is not high, but when he scores better, he scores much better.