By John Boyle
By now Seahawks fans know the story very well. Russell Wilson was too short to be an NFL quarterback. Then he wasn’t, proving he, not Matt Flynn, should be Seattle’s starting quarterback.
And less than two years after Wilson was a third-round pick mostly because of his height (officially 5-10 5/8), he became a Super Bowl champion.
One question to come out of Wilson’s success is whether or not his ability to excel will lead to more NFL teams looking at undersized quarterbacks. Wilson’s athleticism and ability to make plays happen after the initial play breaks down are also huge parts of his game, something that the traditional NFL pocket passer may not have, but something available in this year’s draft, particularly in the form of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel was listed at 6-1, but says he’ll measure at 6-foot even at the NFL scouting combine. He is expected to be a first-round pick—some have even projected the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner as the No. 1 overall pick—and Manziel says Wilson is part of the reason he will be get that chance to be a top pick.
“I think he’s kicked the door wide open,” Manziel told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “You’re seeing more guys being successful avoiding that first wave of pressure — get out and do things outside the pocket.
“Wilson does some things he’s not asked to do, when things don’t go exactly as scripted. He’s able to extend the play. One reason they were so successful early in the Super Bowl was that he was four-of-five on third down and was able to continue to push the ball down the field and get them where they needed to be.”
But while Wilson may indeed make teams rethink the value they put on a quarterback’s height, it would be foolish to think every sub-6-foot QB who succeeds in college can do what Wilson has in the NFL. Wilson may not meet the usual height requirements for the position, but he has an above average arm, he’s intelligent, he has big hands, he’s a great athlete, a leader, an incredibly hard worker, and so on. Basically, Wilson is everything an NFL team could possibly want in a quarterback minus a few inches. Very few, if any, undersized quarterbacks will have the total package that Wilson offers.
Manziel very well could end up drafted higher because of Wilson’s success. Assuming another undersized quarterback will be the next Wilson, however, could be dangerous for other teams.
If you want to hear more on that and a whole bunch of other topics, I filled in for a snowed-in Brock Huard on 710 ESPN Seattle with Danny O’Neil this morning. You can hear the podcasts of the show, in which we talk about Wilson, the Seahawks’ offseason, the Mariners, Bode Miller’s tears, youth sports in Norway (seriously) and more, below: