Brady & Wilson: A study in contrasts

 

Breaking stereotypes: Seattle’s smallish QB has proven to be a giant-killer

 
 
 
 
Tom Brady and Russell Wilson battle Sunday in the Super Bowl.
 

Tom Brady and Russell Wilson battle Sunday in the Super Bowl.

Photograph by: Getty Images, File photo

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PHOENIX — Tom Brady fits neatly inside the borders of a handy cliché: the man who has everything.

Tall and fiery and implausibly good-looking, with his Irish-American roots and the expertly mussed hair, the chin dimple, the million-dollar smile. Married to one of the most famous supermodels on the planet, with a trophy room full of MVP awards and distinctions unique in the history of the National Football League, he is the very avatar of a classic NFL passer.

Russell Wilson? Not so easy to pigeonhole.

Shortish, for a quarterback, with an untrimmed black playoff beard that somehow makes him seem a bit scruffy and even less prepossessing, he could be well on his way to building a football resume as strong as anyone’s.

A second Super Bowl title on Sunday, in his third year as starter, and the Seattle Seahawks’ 26-year-old field general would match Brady’s early accomplishments over the same time frame.

But because he won last year’s Super Bowl and is positioned to do it again in the shadow of one of the most proudly brutish defences the NFL has seen, and alongside running back Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” ferocity, Wilson may never gain the notoriety of the Patriots’ iconic QB.

Does it matter? Wilson doesn’t seem to think so.

He is, as a Seattle writer calls him, a human Hallmark card, his patter a series of positive, confident but never quite cocky statements. Eternally upbeat, outwardly unconcerned about personal accolades, he is all-in with the Seahawks’ Band of Brothers philosophy, even if one of the brothers anonymously was quoted by Bleacher Report earlier in the season as saying Wilson wasn’t “black enough,” whatever that means.

He’s black enough to make this stat stand out: In Seattle, where only 36 years ago it was a very big deal that Warren Moon jumped from the University of Washington to the Edmonton Eskimos because the NFL still wasn’t quite convinced a black man could be trusted to quarterback a football team, the defending champions’ depth chart at quarterback consists of three African-Americans: Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson and B.J. Daniels.

This is stereotype-busting of the highest order, but Wilson’s only reference to race at Media Day this week was when he brought it up himself.

“One of the things I’m glad people don’t talk about, but I think is pretty cool, is our quarterback package,” he said. “Three African-American quarterbacks. We were here last year. That’s history. I’m grateful. I think that shows how our world is changing, slowly but surely for the better.”

Proof that there is more than one way to win in the NFL lies in the contrast between the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Brady and the (possibly) 5-11, 206-pound Wilson, a two-sport star at North Carolina State who ended up transferring to Wisconsin for his senior year because his NC State football coach didn’t want him to continue to pursue baseball.

Brady is textbook: Big and strong-armed and accurate, a pocket passer with great field vision. Wilson is more … what’s the word? Resourceful. By necessity.

He has an uncanny feel for approaching pressure by the pass rush, a great touch on the deep ball, and an ability to throw accurately on the run or take off with the ball himself, either on the read-option or in full scramble mode. And when he takes off, he is hard to track down.

“It’s tough. I mean, I think you’ve got to try to keep him in the pocket and make him throw from there,” said Patriots DB Devin McCourty. “When he’s on the run and he’s throwing well, now you don’t know if he’s going to run for 30 yards or throw it over your head for 50 yards. Once he gets that going, I think it’s pretty close to impossible to stop him.”

Wilson’s ability to extend plays by moving around makes all his receivers more dangerous.

“They have guys that are short, quick guys. It’s very tough to try to stay with them,” McCourty said. “You don’t know how long the play’s going to last. A lot of times you talk about a clock in your head, but with Russell Wilson there’s really no clock. A quick three-step drop, that should be a play that happens fast. He can spin out of it and turn it into a 10-second play. You’ve got to cover a guy like (Jermaine) Kearse or (Doug) Baldwin or (Ricardo) Lockette for those whole 10 seconds.”

“He is a short guy, so it’s kind of hard to find him sometimes, but you eventually find him,” said Kearse, who hauled in a perfect 35-yard TD toss from Wilson in overtime to beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.

“I mean, he’s all over the place. It’s tough for defensive linemen to bring him down just because his ability to move around in the pocket and then let him unscramble.”

What both quarterbacks have is command of the huddle.

“He really takes control and when you have a guy like that, you’ll have guys that follow. And we follow,” Kearse said.

So far in his young career, Wilson has led and the Seahawks have followed to the tune of a 10-0 record against Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks; Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers being the latest victim.

Brady has already been one of them, though the teams haven’t met since 2012, when Seattle rallied with 14 points in the final 7:31 to beat the Pats 24-23.

The ESPN.com story that day began: “Tom Brady and the best offence in the NFL got upstaged by an undersized rookie.”

He’s not a rookie any more, but that may always be how Wilson is perceived in these matchups with superstar quarterbacks. He may always be cast as a giant killer, the little train who could.

But that’s all right. He’s quite happy in the role. It worked out OK a year ago, when the Seahawks humbled Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8.

“To win the Super Bowl last year,” Wilson said this week, “to go against a great quarterback in Peyton Manning who I have so much respect for, plays the game the right way, does it better than anybody could probably ever do it, and then to face Tom Brady this year — two guys that I’ve looked up to since I was a little kid. It’s a tremendous honour, a tremendous honour to be on the same field …”

You get the idea.

Brady’s legacy is safe. He is already the only quarterback ever to lead his team to six Super Bowls, and a fourth win Sunday would tie the record shared by Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana.

Russell Wilson is still working on his legacy.

“Hopefully Tom doesn’t play too good,” he joked. “I know he’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game … but hopefully we find a way to win.”

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Tom Brady and Russell Wilson battle Sunday in the Super Bowl.
 

Tom Brady and Russell Wilson battle Sunday in the Super Bowl.

Photograph by: Getty Images, File photo

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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