Drew Brees and Russell Wilson don’t look much alike outside an NFL uniform, but in between the thick white chalky lines of NFL gridirons they are almost identical. Off the field they are regular sized individuals with down to earth personalities, but in their respective job fields they are Middle Earth hobbits in contrast to their colossal contemporaries.
The most vertically-challenged signal callers in the NFL squared up on Monday Night Football for the first time, but one left his guard down and got stuck with a first round knockout. Brees’ prowess matriculating the football through the air is well-regarded, but obviously the comparison ends with their diminutive measurements, right?
Wrong. Brees had some wheels on himself back in the day. Though he rarely ventures past the comfort and security of his line of scrimmage anymore, he remains one of the NFL’s most efficient play action passers because of his ability to roll outside the pocket and extend the play, giving his receivers more time to shake pesky defensive backs.
The major difference between Brees and Wilson’s career trajectory is that Wilson may be a more successful sequel to Brees. Wilson looks up to Brees and even emulated the path he’s taken, but found a shorter route to success. It’s been almost 10 years since the Chargers drafted Phillip Rivers, whose records Wilson scribbled his name all over at NC State, to push the subpar Brees off the field. Instead, everything clicked for Brees in his fourth season as Rivers witnessed him lifting his game to new heights. It wasn't until he tore his labrum in a meaningless Week 17 matchup of his sixth season that Brees relinquished his starting job in San Diego.
Unlike RGIII, Mike Tannehill, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, Wilson’s career didn’t begin in the pampered first round of the NFL Draft, and his collegiate origins weren't in one of those gadget offenses that became all the rage in college football.
Unlike those guys, Wilson played in offenses that relied on pro set formations and principles
Both carry a chip on their shoulder after getting tossed away like dirty rags by their respective teams. Brees became a Saint after Nick Saban made the worst move of his coaching career by signing Daunte Culpepper’s bad knee over Brees’ damaged torn labrum.
Wilson was released from his scholarship at NC State to make room for the 6-6 Mike Glennon. The official excuse was because of his unwillingness to take time away from baseball to practice with the football team in spring, but do you really think FSU would ever say that to Jameis Winston? It was a slap in the face, and as a result, Wilson nearly transferred to Auburn to replace Cam Newton in Gus Malzahn’s run-based offense.
Instead Wilson opted for Wisconsin, where he’d have to prove he could drop back and find throwing lanes behind their notoriously towering offensive linemen without getting his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. It was a bold and almost defiant move to make for his senior season, and for his NFL Draft standing. Were it not for a Kirk Cousins Hail Mary in October, it probably would have resulted in a trip to the BCS national championship.
At least, it should have helped his draft stock. He actually waited a round later than Brees did 11 years earlier to hear his name called. All that's moot now.
Wilson is 14-0 at home in his NFL career, and for good reason. The crowd at CenturyLink Field set the Guinness World Record’s crowd noise mark with a 137.6 decibel rating for the second time this year. Like every other quarterback who has had to endure the sonic boom emitted from their stands, Brees crumbled without a rushing attack to rely on and didn't complete a single one of his pass attempts beyond 15 feet, while Wilson turned in a 139.6 quarterback rating.
It wasn't all that surprising. Away from their home field track and field turf at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome, the Saints have stumbled around like a Bourbon Street crowd down the cobblestone streets at 3 a.m.
Thirteen years later, fans are no longer as enamored with Michael Vick’s athletic ability, but Brees’ cerebral skills allow him to continue threatening NFL records and bashing defenses upside the head. It remains to be seen if Wilson has the longevity in him to outlast his peers, but based on the growth we’ve seen from him this season, it’s a fair assessment to make that he’ll be probably be playing long after they’ve gone home in January.