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Russell Wilson has thrown 12 picks in four games.
#LetRussCook didn’t work out for the Seahawks, did it? At least, that’s the mood in the sports media world lately. I think I heard it over and over again last week. Maybe it’s just me because I listen to too much sports radio and football podcasts. But, call me a skeptic. I have some details about Russell Wilson 2020 here:
- 4 bad matches: 10 TD, 10 TO, 1-3 record
- The 12 other games : 30 TDs, 7 TOs, 11-1 record.
- 1 game with chances under 70
- 3 games with a QB rating under 80
- 11 games with a QB rating over 90
- His two worst games of the year still resulted in 3 TD performances. When was the last time a bad start by a Chicago QB led to 3 offensive points of any kind?
There’s also the belief that #LetRussCook failed because Pete Carroll pulled the plug. Earlier in the year, Wilson was allowed to play his own free agency game. But later in the year, after the Seahawks lost three of four games after a 5-0 start, Pete Carroll pulled the plug and banned Wilson from the field and from playing.
So, uh… Which brings us here. We all hope that Russia will sacrifice orange and navy in 2021 and be the penultimate answer to our wildest dreams. What could be better than diving into an Excel spreadsheet and looking at football stats all day?
This is the beginning of my dive into the Seahawks’ usage and results with Wilson in 2020, an analysis of who gets the blame between Wilson and Carroll in the second half of the production slump, and an assessment of how Wilson will fit into Matt Nagy’s play-calling tendencies.
First, I look at how Russ’ usage has changed over the course of the season. I define the occupancy rate (%) as follows:
Recalls + QB scrambles = QB plays.
QB games / team games = QB utilization rate (%)
Russell Wilson vs. NFL average vs. 2020 Bears
In 2020, the average utilization rate for an NFL QB was 66.4%. That means the average QB either threw the ball, ball on ball, recovered the ball, or carried the ball into the end zone on 66.4% of his team’s plays.
- In the first decades (1st and 2nd decade), the average QB usage was 60.5%. Teams are more likely to run the ball on first downs than on last downs. There’s nothing revolutionary about that.
- For late starts (3rd and 4th starts), the average QB utilization rate was 87.9%. Teams miss late practice far more often than races.
- In Russia as a whole, the occupancy rate was 67.3 percent. Effort was above average for early departures and below average for late departures.
We will look at the season in two different groups:
- Nine games of 1 to 10 weeks. This is the first game this season where Seattle has gone through a rough patch that ended in a loss against the Rams in Week 10. At this point, Carroll may have pulled the plug on #LetRussCook.
- The other seven games were between Weeks 11 and 17, where Carroll may have relied more on the ground game, limiting the Russians’ attacking options.
Tampa Bay was ahead of us at #3
Wilson’s occupancy rate was high (71%). That’s 4.6 percent above the league average and equal to the average of the 2020 Bears between Foles, Trubisky and Tyler Bray’s glorious five-game campaign.
- The first attempts allowed the Russians to attack for all they were worth. They had the ball in their hands 66.5 percent of the time, compared to a league average of 60.5 percent and 61.9 percent for the Bears.
- In the end, Carroll chose to play it safe by keeping Wilson at 82.8% bet. The league average was 87.9% and the Bears had an 88.4% average.
Wilson’s occupancy rate fell to 62.5%. That’s 3.9 percent below league average, 5.3 percent below the Bears’ 2020 average, and 8.5 percent below Wilson’s first base percentage.
- In the first few attempts, the Russians had the ball only 57.1% of the time. That’s 3.4% below league average, 4.7% below the Bears’ 2020 average, and 9.4% below Wilson’s first base percentage. It seems like Carroll was taking the ball away from Russ and not letting him get into a rhythm or letting him struggle in manageable 3rd down situations where the Seahawks led late in the season, despite what the numbers suggest.
- In the end, Carroll didn’t change his tendencies much and kept Wilson’s bet at 82.2%. That’s 5.7% below the league average, 6.2% below the Bears’ average for 2020, but only 1.2% below Wilson’s Gate 1 rate.
- Think about it. Wilson hasn’t been allowed to make as many decisions early in the game, meaning they work more on first downs and limit their ability to make easier 3rd and 4th downs. They still ran more often than most NFL teams on 3rd and 4th down. Seattle scored an expected point gain (EPA)/game of .016 (6th in NFL) and 43.7% (6th in NFL) rushing on first downs in Weeks 11-17. So they ran the ball effectively.
- Traditional stats show 923 yards and 4.7 YPC in the #2 window. But 188 of those yards came from Wilson, and that’s important in QB games. Seattle’s non-QB ball carriers totaled 735 yards against 4.65 YPC. It’s an impressive clip.
From week 1 through 10, Russ was allowed to cook at a very high rate, with the exception of the late rounds when Carroll picked even more than the average NFL team.
From 11 to 17 weeks, Russ wasn’t even allowed to look in the kitchen.
I think somewhere between week 9 and week 11, the problems between Wilson and Carroll surfaced, but they’ve probably been drinking for years.
The good news is that when Russ comes to Chicago, Matt Nagy is happy to make sure all the time is spent cooking! He has been known to leave chefs unemployed in his kitchen.
Denial: There is some variability in these data, as the success of early drops may result in lower QB usage on later drops and vice versa.
Next time: I look at Wilson’s EPA per game in window #1 vs window #2 on early and late downs, compare it to NFL averages, and then compare it to the 2020 Chicago Bears. I’ll also look at the DVOA (Defense Adjusted Value vs Average) value of the striking power on the schedule.
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