What a difference a couple of seasons make. The NFC West went from sending a sub-.500 Seattle Seahawks team to the playoffs in 2010 (7-9), to a few years later boasting arguably the two most talented rosters in the NFC, the aforementioned Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.
Phenomenal drafting and the insertion of head coaches who have seized the locker room and molded their teams in their image have played an extraordinary role in the resurrection of the NFC West.
The fact that there is no love lost between the teams makes a juicy new story even juicier.
At the end of the day, however, this is the NFL, and the NFL is all about the quarterbacks. As ferocious as these defenses play, as powerful as the running games may be and as brilliant as the coaching staffs are, the insertion of quality signal-callers has rejuvenated these two teams for the foreseeable future.
Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks crashed the party last season, turning the two-man race for the future face of the NFL between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III into a four-horse affair.
Here comes the fun part, though. For teams as evenly matched as these two, it will likely be the play of their newly minted starting quarterbacks that will decide who takes the division crown.
A great team makes the playoffs. A great team with a great quarterback excels in the playoffs.
Who, then, will build on last year’s success and guide their team to the status of best in the west? It’s time for a little player comparison, the Kaepernick vs. Wilson edition.
Out of all the comparisons, this is by far the one with the greatest divide. Wilson has a strong arm, but Kaepernick's is otherworldly.
This is no dig at Wilson. One of the biggest takeaways for me in the controversial Seahawks/Green Bay Packers debacle last season was how easily Wilson got the ball into the end zone. There is a difference between heaving the ball 40 yards and actually throwing it.
As ludicrous as the call was, the pass itself was right on point, and the ease by which it was thrown was striking.
At the end of the day, however, what Wilson can do from 40 yards, Kaepernick can do from 60. I really do pity the receivers of the 49ers. Those fingers are going to be in for a world of hurt after a full season of catching passes from that rocket arm.
This was an extremely tough call. While Wilson led Kaepernick in completion percentage, 64.1 percent to 62.4 percent, respectively, that minute difference can be attributed to Kaepernick attempting slightly longer throws, his average passes equating to 8.29 yards per completion compared to Wilson’s 7.93.
Why, then, does Wilson get the nod? At this point in their careers, the mechanics behind Wilson’s throws simply appear to be more fluid. The more fluid the motion, the greater the accuracy will be.
We’re nit picking, obviously, but for the sake of this discussion, a winner must be declared. The higher completion percentage and fluid throwing motion earn Wilson the nod here.
I would estimate that 99 times out of 100, Russell Wilson is the most athletic person in the room. That one time, though, he was in a room with Colin Kaepernick.
Wilson runs a blazing 4.55 40-yard dash. Kaepernick runs an even faster 4.53. Not a big difference, sure. But when you consider that it’s a man of 6’4” and 230 pounds turning on those kinds of jets, well it’s kind of hard to bring him down.
The strength, agility and speed that Kaepernick possesses was terrorizing for opposing defenses last season, especially when coupled with one of the elite offensive lines in the NFL.
While no slouch himself, Wilson simply doesn’t offer the same threat that Kaepernick provides. Lets put it this way: Wilson can make a defender miss. Kaepernick consistently made entire defenses crumble.
The hardest call, by far. On one hand, you had a rookie quarterback who came in and took control of the locker room from game one, earning the respect of his teammates through his work ethic and dedication to getting better.
On the other was a second-year player who took the reins of a powerhouse team, taking over for Alex Smith in the middle of the season. Smith, in fact, was in the midst of a career year. Let’s just say that there could have been more than a little division in the locker room.
There was something about Kaepernick, though. His coach, Jim Harbaugh, saw it. And after a few games, his teammates saw it, too. It wasn’t his incomparable physical tools. It wasn’t his sparkling personality either. The man was simply born to lead, setting the tone from the moment he stepped on the field.
What Wilson did is a testament to his physical abilities, as well as his character. But taking over a directionless team is far easier than handling what could have very quickly turned into an ugly situation.
In terms of sheer excitement, there might not be a more fun player in the league to watch than Kaepernick. Excitement is what puts butts in the seats, especially when it’s coupled with winning.
Wilson is everything an organization could ever want in a player, as he is talented, humble and the ultimate role model. Kaepernick, however, offers those same qualities. When coupled with his off-the-chart physical attributes, all the makings of the NFL’s next big thing appear to be set.
Wilson will be a star for the foreseeable future. Kaepernick, however, could become the star of the entire league. With Peyton Manning and Tom Brady both well past the wrong side of 30, the stage is set for Kaepernick to grab the mantle.
While Wilson projects to be great, he simply does not possess the same type of upside that we see in Kaepernick. The sky is the limit for the young San Francisco stud.
At the end of the day, we’re left with two fantastic quarterbacks, playing for two fantastic overall teams, led by two fantastic coaches. The NFC West will be extraordinary for years to come, the two quarterbacks serving as the catalyst for sustained greatness for the next decade.
Expect incredible duels between the 49ers and Seahawks next season. Appreciate the greatness Wilson brings to the table. Even more so, however, be aware of what you could be watching in Kaepernick. If last season was a precursor of their futures, the future is indeed very bright.