By Jim Bearor
Every football fan is pretty familiar with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and how similar they seem to be.
Almost everyone has seen the Madden 25 commercials, where the two young stars are made out to be lifelong pals who are always competing in a buddy-buddy way. To clear things up, that was just a commercial and there is no real-life relationship between the two outside of their budding rivalry.
There is no doubting their parallels on the field, though. Both are young, very talented quarterbacks who were lucky enough to fall into the situations they have. There might not be any better surrounding casts in the NFL than the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks – both teams are stacked across the board, so the developing quarterback doesn’t have to be the hero all the time.
Wilson is about 5 inches shorter than Kaepernick, and doesn’t have the same incredible arm strength, but he has this innate understanding of the game of football that helps him compensate for that physical advantage – for example, he is a bit less trigger happy to tuck the ball and run, he instead uses his legs to create plays in the passing game. Kaepernick is a hair faster than Wilson, but not enough to set him apart (Wilson’s 40-yard-dash at the Combine: 4.55; Kaepernick’s: 4.53).
They lead different personal lives as well, although they are made out to be different versions of the same person by much of the media.
Russell is married, leads a low-profile lifestyle, and is very humble and grounded (just watch how he acts when he isn’t taking the snap).
Colin seems to have a very different persona, he is single and often out with friends and just doing what one might expect from a young celebrity. He is more energetic and outgoing with his emotions (he has his own touchdown celebration, if that says anything), but – to this point – has stayed out of trouble.
What I take from all of this is that Russell Wilson – appearing to be the more focused and mature of the two – has the mental makeup of a successful NFL quarterback more so than Colin Kaepernick does. If you haven’t noticed by now, if I had my choice between the two, I would go with Wilson. However, if I had to pick the team that is more conducive to the success of a young quarterback, I’d definitely go with the 49ers.
Although the Seahawks and 49ers are not so different in their makeup – both great defensively and in the running game – I would argue that Kaepernick is in a better situation, because it’s tougher for opposing teams to put pressure on him.
San Francisco’s offensive line is what really sets them apart from most other teams in the league. I’m not talking in terms of pass protection necessarily, but the holes that are opened up for Frank Gore do wonders in slowing down the pass rush of the opponent. San Fran runs more than any team in the NFL, and because of this, the defense makes stopping the ground game its primary focus. Now, when Kaepernick works the play action – something he does very well – the defense is more off-balance than usual. Another advantage for Colin is a talented group of pass-catchers, especially now that Crabtree is healthy. With Crabtree, Boldin, and Davis all on the field, anyone could be the primarty target on any given play.
While the “Legion of Boom” will likely handle this trio effectively, they will be put at a disadvantage by the mismatches created by the running game.
Russell Wilson is handing the ball off to the more talented running back, but he doesn’t have the same caliber line as that of Kaepernick. Also, his best receivers are currently Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, instead of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin – assuming Harvin is still concussed. It also should be mentioned that this depleted Seahawks offense has to deal with the best front 7 in football, so the pressure will always be on.
Wilson has been vulnerable as of late, and his stats have suffered. In Seattle’s last 5 games, Wilsons Total QBR has fallen from 67.5 (above average) to 30.4 (significantly below average) and on average, he is holding on to the football for nearly a half-second more than usual. Even though Wilson is a quarterback who tends to extend plays longer than most, this statistic shows that he is having difficulty finding open receivers. You can only draw a play out for so long before the defense catches up to you.
So what I think I’m trying to get at here is that if the two were in a vacuum, I would pick Russell Wilson. But that isn’t the case, and Kaepernick is more set up for success with all things accounted for. It is going to be much more difficult for Wilson to have a standout performance than his counterpart, but who knows, this is the NFL we’re talking about and the avid fan knows to expect the unexpected.
Some links I reference about the two quarterbacks: