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QBs from A (Aaron) to almost Z (Wilson)
One quarterback is from CA, the other VA. The father of each QB also played the sport at the collegiate level. Both QBs have a Wisconsin connection.
And Monday night at CenturyLink Field, their similarities and disparity will be on opposite sidelines as rookie Russell Wilson leads the Seahawks against Aaron Rodgers, the league’s reigning MVP, and the Green Bay Packers.
“Aaron Rodgers is one of the top quarterbacks, for sure, playing in the National Football League,” Wilson said Friday, on the eve of the eve of the eve of playing in his first “Monday Night Football” game. “So to be able to play against him the Packers is something special, obviously.
“It’s going to be pretty cool to play against them. When I was at the University of Wisconsin, that’s all everybody was talking about, either the Badgers or the Green Bay Packers.”
Rodgers, who grew up in Chico, Calif., the son of a former college and semi-pro offensive lineman, already has been where every kid who’s ever played the position longs to go – Super Bowl champion, league MVP, three 4,000-yard passing seasons in the past four years, NFL record holder for career (103.6) and single-season passer rating (122.5 last year), franchise records for passing yards (4,643) and TD passes (45) and so on and so on.
Matt Flynn, Rodgers’ backup the last four seasons and now filling that same role for Wilson with the Seahawks, had a front-row seat for Rodgers’ ascension from Brett Favre’s backup to the latest QB legend to play at fabled Lambeau Field.
“He’s stepped it up every year. I’ve seen the offense blossom. They have so many guys that have been there together for so long that they have an unspoken chemistry that you can’t teach, you can’t coach. It’s just kind of developed over time.
“I think he’s the best quarterback in the league, and I think he’s the most dynamic.”
Wilson, who grew up in Richmond, Va., the son of a former college football and baseball player, is only two steps into his NFL career – having gotten off to a rough start in the season-opening loss to the Cardinals in Arizona but bouncing back with an efficient performance in Sunday’s upset of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s also directing an offense that remains a work in progress, and relies much more on a running game – led by Marshawn Lynch and his Beast-Mode blockers – than the version of the West Coast approach that Rodgers’ is running.
“The running game, you have to be impressed with what they did, particularly in the second half,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the Seahawks rushing for 182 yards against the Cowboys and Lynch getting 100 of his 122 yards in the final two quarters. “We have a lot of respect for Marshawn Lynch, the type of year he’s off to and really the type of player he’s been the last couple of years.
“Their offensive line with Tom (Cable, the line coach), they’re very physical and really kind of took over the game in the second half.”
As for the rookie QB who was playing at the University of Wisconsin last season, McCarthy offered, “Physically, he had everything (coming out) as far as what you’re grading. I’m sure he’s tired of hearing about his height. But I thought his mechanics and the way he threw the football, his arm strength, his athletic ability to play inside and outside the pocket, was something that graded out very well.”
The Packers’ offensive potency will test a Seahawks’ defense that ranks third in the league in average points allowed (13.5) and sixth in average yards allowed (274.5). But it also could compel the Seahawks offense to keep pace.
“Obviously there’s a lot of talent there, at all the positions,” Flynn said of the Packers. “What they do is they make the simple things look easy. Everything from just running your basic routes – sharp, crisp routes, the way they teach it. They’re good at it. They have good timing. They have good chemistry and they’re explosive. They’re all fast. They all have good hands. They’re all strong.
“And Aaron is extremely accurate.”
And almost always very much in control.
“They’re really smart, in that they run the ball when the numbers fit and they throw the ball when they fit properly,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s all on the shoulders of the quarterback, and he can do it.
“Much like Dallas, they really take advantage of a really sharp single-caller. So we’re going to have to stand up to some of their best plays versus the best looks for them. We won’t be able to fool them the whole time. We’ll try to mask things, but he’ll figure it out. For the most part we’re going to have to execute.
“It’s a great system and that’s a great advantage to have such a smart kid running it.”
All elements that Wilson can aspire to as he continues to grow along with the offense.
“I’d like to protect him well, so that we can see him stand back there and gun the ball around,” Carroll said when asked about a progress checklist for Wilson. “He’s had to move a little more than we’d like. It’s just a matter of time before he really makes some big things happen on then move, because we know he can and he will. We’re hoping that will show up a little bit more. And you watch Aaron, he makes huge plays when he’s on the move.
“Russell is just growing and he’s doing fine. He’s really on it. … Right now, we want to see him play really, really smart. And he’s able to do that right now.”
Playing smart. It’s an ability Wilson displayed at Wisconsin last season, when his 191.7 pass efficiency rating set an NCAA record. It’s a trait he has continued to show with the Seahawks, especially when given enough time.
“More than anything, in terms of playing smart the quarterback position it’s to facilitate the ball to the right guy at the right time, execute the offense – whether if it’s checks to running plays, checks to passing plays.” Wilson said. “Just being efficient. Being great on third downs. Taking what they want they give you. Being effective in the red zone. Don’t try to force any issues.
“And then when things breakdown, really be effective with that. Don’t just give up on the play. I think that’s the main thing – just keep playing football and pickup positive yards when things don’t work out to well.”
Aaron Rodgers has shown just how far doing all of that can take you, and it’s a path Russell Wilson is planning the follow.