Russell Wilson in Seattle: Six of the Last Nine Rookies to Start Opening Day Went to Playoffs

By Jason Lisk

He benefited from two very questionable roughing calls against Tamba Hali on the scoring drive right before halftime. Other than that, he earned all of it, making plenty of excellent throws on third down, hitting guys downfield, and scrambling for big plays.

It’s a really rare feat for a quarterback drafted outside the top two rounds to be inserted immediately as a starter. As Scott Hanson notes, it’s been since 1973 (Joe Ferguson) that a third round draft pick started opening day as a rookie. I went through the history of rookie quarterbacks who started opening day while being drafted outside the first two rounds in Friday’s preview post. Over the last 30 seasons, only one “out of college” rookie under the age of 25 started opening day – Kyle Orton in 2005. In addition, Chris Weinke was 29 when he was a fourth round pick and started the opener for Carolina in 2001. Most of the later round rookies who started the opener did so because of either injury to the starter, or they were playing for an expansion-type team.

Clark Judge at CBS thinks that inserting Wilson in the lineup means that Seattle’s playoff chances take a hit? Is that really the case? Over the history of football, yes, very few rookie quarterbacks started on good teams. They either got opportunities on bad teams or waited in line in better organizations. However, over the last eight years, nine rookie quarterbacks have started opening week.* Six of those teams went on to make the playoffs, and I would say that none of them were worse off by starting the rookie over the other option on the team. The three teams that didn’t make it were all quarterbacked by first overall picks (Stafford, Newton, Bradford) and played for really bad teams the year before – situations more similar to what Andrew Luck or Brandon Weeden is facing this year. All nine teams to start a rookie, on average, went from 4.2 to 8.4 wins.

Can Seattle make the playoffs with Russell Wilson at quarterback? I don’t know. They were 7-9 last year with a near league average SRS ranking, with some combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. I kind of like their chances. I don’t think they took a hit by starting the better quarterback, though, rookie or not.

*Why nine? Because going back one year means I get to torture Detroit fans with Joey Harrington, and invoke David Carr. Still, 6 of 11 shows rookies have had more success recently at a team level.


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[photo via US Presswire]