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The Rise Of The Mobile NFL Quarterback

Gabe Quintela |
September 13, 2013 | 4:18 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer


Can Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks to a win over the 49ers this weekend?
Can Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks to a win over the 49ers this weekend?
If I said two years ago that there would be a huge divisional match-up this weekend between two Super Bowl contenders in the NFC West, you would have laughed. But this divisional battle between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks is quickly becoming the most interesting rivalry in football. 

Growing up in the Bay Area, I suffered through a number of completely inadequate 49ers teams, led by even more inept quarterbacks. Since Jeff Garcia left after the 2003 season, the 49ers had started 10 different quaterbacks, none of whom were very successful (you too, Alex Smith), until Collin Kaepernick got his shot. In just 10 starts, Kaepernick took an upcoming franchise and willed them to be arguably the best team in the NFL. 

Seattle saw a similar phenomenon occur when Russell Wilson took a team that hadn’t seen a winning season in four years to an 11-5 record. 

The success of these young quarterbacks can be attributed to their mobility and capacity to place stress on defenses in ways that the league hasn’t seen before. While some teams have had limited success in the NFL under running quarterbacks (Michael Vick in his Atlanta days), quarterbacks like Vick were run-first type guys who never found accuracy in their passing game. Vick, in his prime, ran for over 1,000 yards in a season, but during his time in Atlanta he never completed more than 56 percent of his passes. This allowed defenses to establish a system to contain these quarterbacks quite easily. 

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What is unique about not only Kaepernick and Wilson, but also Robert Griffin III, is their ability to be accurate while throwing on run. All three of these quarterbacks completed at least 62 percent of their throws, with RG3 leading the way at 65 percent. These numbers, to get a better understanding, are only about four percent lower than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the quintessential pro-style quarterbacks, who completed 68 percent of their passes in the best seasons of their careers. 

These young quarterbacks are pass-first type players, true dual-threat athletes, who have the ability to evade defenses in ways that Brady and Manning never could. This is a scary progression for defenses around the league that are left puzzled, trying to figure out a defensive system that can both protect the pass but also contain the rush. 

While these quarterbacks seem unstoppable at the moment, there lies a fundamental problem in moving around as much as these guys do. As we saw with RG3 in the playoffs last year, moving outside of the pocket exponentially increases the chances of an injury. With defenses unable to stop these quarterbacks as it is, injuring them has almost become the only option. 

The NFL is a “copycat” league at heart, as we saw with the Wildcat offense that every team was fascinated with a few seasons ago. Kaepernick, Wilson and RG3 are pioneers in a revolution that is changing the dynamic of the most important position in sports. Assuming that they can stay healthy, there’s no reason for it to stop. 


Reach Staff Writer Gabe Quintela here.



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