Dr. Saturday: Quantifying the Russell Wilson Effect

You just can’t do any better work than this. Please go read the article and support work that is this good.

This is the kind of work we strive to do here…but quite frankly, it is very difficult to go so deep when you are a non-revenue site and operate as a hobby for a group of authors who all have to function in the real world. Although, one would think that a couple of those websites & magazines where readers pay would/could have come up with something like this before now.


Outside of their triumphant performance in the William & Mary game (with still included two interceptions), Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck collaborated for three scoring drives all season, despite taking a solid majority of the snaps against South Carolina, South Florida and in the bowl game against Rutgers, and part of the game against Clemson — in which Beck replaced Wilson for one play in the first half and was intercepted for a Tiger touchdown. The Pack was four times less likely to score a touchdown with Beck or Evans as opposed to Wilson, and about eight times more likely to turn the ball over. If all 28 touchdown drives with Wilson on the field had ended in punts instead, he still would have been significantly more efficient than his colleagues with his eerie aversion to interceptions (1 in 275 attempts) alone.

The effects on the win-loss column, of course, were about as stark. Again discounting the William & Mary game, N.C. State started 1-3 with Wilson moving in and out of the lineup — where the lone win, a 30-24 upset over East Carolina, was the only game Wilson played start to finish in September, and the worst loss by far, a 41-10 disaster against South Florida, was the only game he didn’t play in at all — only to finish 4-3 with Wilson starting the rest of the regular season, including a four-game winning streak in November to sneak into a bowl game.

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40 Responses to Dr. Saturday: Quantifying the Russell Wilson Effect

  1. LRM 07/23/2009 at 8:26 AM #

    Gotta love some engineers. Good stuff.

  2. Par Shooter 07/23/2009 at 8:51 AM #

    Even having witnessed all of this first hand and knowing what a dramatic effect RW had on our offense, those numbers are still staggering.

  3. WTNY 07/23/2009 at 9:15 AM #

    Wilson is great, no doubt, but one factor in the chart is how un-great our other QBs were last season.

    Looking forward to Sept 3rd!

  4. BJD95 07/23/2009 at 9:26 AM #

    And the funny thing is – “their” performance against W&M wasn’t exactly triumphant. IIRC, we had like 1 first down (or maybe none) in our first 7 or 8 possessions against W&M before Evans turned the reins over to Beck. We moved the ball and scored with Beck, although he still threw a Pick Six.

  5. foz 07/23/2009 at 9:33 AM #

    An anomaly in the stats is that without RW our “Drives ending in punt” % is 10 points lower. I’m sure this is because without him, we turned the ball over so much we seldom got the chance to punt.

  6. PacknSack 07/23/2009 at 10:02 AM #

    That is fantastic work.

  7. waxhaw 07/23/2009 at 10:27 AM #

    Watching that video of the SC game and the cheap shots on Wilson make me want to beat their asses that much more.

    I really don’t think they know what is coming.

  8. GoldenChain 07/23/2009 at 10:29 AM #

    My son (also a rising college Soph that plays F’b up North) and I went to see him play baseball in the Gashouse a month ago, RW got on base 4 of 5 at-bats and drove in the tying RBI in the bottom of the 9th and scored the winning run!
    The guy is just a phenom!

    Up close he is really unassuming at less than 6′ and an atheltic build but not juiced-up overboard.
    I think it’s what’s between his ears that makes him sooooooo good!

  9. Par Shooter 07/23/2009 at 10:38 AM #

    Regarding the punt stat, many head coaches of a more conservative bent will tell you that a drive ending in a punt is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the ones ending in turnovers that just kill you and Evans/Beck had that covered.

  10. PackMan97 07/23/2009 at 10:46 AM #

    Wilson needs to work on those drives ending in a punt. We actually did better without him than with him!!!!

    (disclaimer: joke!)

    I guess the two other types of drives ending are….
    Run out of Time (end of half/game)
    Turnover on Downs

    With Wilson, we have 11.8% of drives end this way. Without, 19.4%. So, not only is Wilson far more likely to score and not turn the ball over, he’s a lot more likely to manage the clock properly and not end the game with the ball in his hands.

  11. Noah 07/23/2009 at 11:05 AM #

    And the amazing thing is that if you roll back the clock a year, there would be dozens of people who were CONVINCED that Daniel Evans was THE MAN that would lead us to victory.

  12. BJD95 07/23/2009 at 11:09 AM #

    ^ All sports fans (perhaps even more for State fans, since we have suffered so much and just WANT to see success so badly) tend to conflate players they like for personal reasons (scrappy, good attitude, etc.) with actually being good.

  13. rtpack24 07/23/2009 at 11:11 AM #

    95% of the time RW drives do not end in turovers. That is impressive. Forget stats, RW has it! It can not be coached or taught. He has that unique ability to make everyone he plays with a better player.

  14. PackMan97 07/23/2009 at 11:20 AM #

    Noah, really? I don’t recall anyone thinking DE was going to be the man last year. Maybe if you go back two or three years?

  15. howlie 07/23/2009 at 11:43 AM #

    TD drives WITH 28
    TD drives w/OUT 2

    There’s your sign…

  16. GoldenChain 07/23/2009 at 11:44 AM #

    The only time I remember DE being “Da man” was after the that ‘Hail Mary’ BC game.
    We quickly learned it was a fluke (although I did enjoy a number of games with his dad at QB).

  17. LRM 07/23/2009 at 12:30 PM #

    Daniel Evans was arguably the worst athlete to ever start an ACC game. That Hail Mary against BC was actually bad for us over the long run, because too many overlooked his 16 INTs vs 7 TDs the rest of the season. The fact that he was our “best” option for two seasons is simply appalling.

    I can’t imagine Beck or Burke standing on the sidelines watching as Evans’ backup ever helped their confidence in any way, because it left no doubt how truly terrible they each were.

    The key for me with Wilson is the stark contrast in the intangibles, namely the good decisions he made time and again while the pocket was collapsing or when he had to check down to his third or fourth option.

  18. CStanley 07/23/2009 at 12:40 PM #

    I won’t come down too hard on Evans, because God knows he took that scholarship with the thought that he wouldn’t ever have to step for us. He did the best he could and had his 15 min. of fame against BC & FSU. He loved NC State, he just didn’t have the tools to be a starter or contributor for us.

    But Beck…man, he truly was P.O.S. The combined sucktitude of both of them just revealed how bad our QB situation really was. It’s amazing what TOB was able to do in his first season here.

  19. Thinkpack17 07/23/2009 at 1:22 PM #

    I had Peyton Manning on my fantasy football team a few years back. After about 4 games when he went into his 5 step drop and let it go I would throw up my hands and yell “Big Play!”. I never thought it was going to get picked off and I always knew it was on target. That’s the state of mind I am in when I watch Russell, and I love it. It was just a matter of was Owen going to bring the ball in or not. Everytime Evans or Beck put the ball in the air I would hold my breath and by the end of the game I was sweating buckets.

  20. StateFoxer 07/23/2009 at 1:34 PM #

    Evans throwing that hail mary against BC was one of my favorite college memories. He’s the rare exception where I’m willing to give him a pass because of how much he loved State. (not fact based or objective like SFN likes, just me looking the other way)

    And that BC game got us TOB. So in a way he pulled through for us twice.

  21. choppack1 07/23/2009 at 1:39 PM #

    Regarding Evans – I remember posting on the other board after the Wake game (where we were driving and Evans threw the INT to end the game) – that this was the first time that Evans had “failed”…and it would be interesting to see how he responded to it.

    If you watched Evans, he generally did OK until he was first hit w/ adversity. When it hit him, he didn’t handle it well.

    Beck just didn’t seem to care.

    As for Wilson – what more can be said. Simply put, he had the most “mature” season I’ve ever seen. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had a very good record when we had RW, and our big 3 defenders on the field…and even w/out our “big 3” defenders on the field, we were at least competive.

    As good as he is – he appears to really inspire everyone around him. He may never play a down in the NFL, but he has the kind of leadership qualities that can take you to very high places.

  22. Noah 07/23/2009 at 1:42 PM #

    Oh yes, there were plenty of “our Daniel” supporters last year. I remember in July and August when people would ask, “Who is our QB going to be?”

    I had heard from one of the assistants that the entire offense was being structured around Wilson. They had gone to Mizzou and studied their film and were employing a very similar style of attack to maximize Wilson’s athleticism and arm. Wilson, like the Mizzou QB, is also pretty short…so that was another factor.

    Plenty of other posters had heard the same thing and yet, there were plenty of people who wouldn’t hear it. Evans has “it”! Just like Rivers!

    Yeah…what Rivers had was an encylopedic knowledge of offensive playbooks and the most accurate arm in ACC history. Tell me again which of those things Evans had?

  23. GoldenChain 07/23/2009 at 2:06 PM #

    Noah, you must have been a classmate of Gibbs. There might have been people who thought DE was the ‘best option’ of the ones we knew about at that time (before any of us ever saw RW take a snap and not having your ‘inside info’).
    I don’t know of anyone who thought DE was the end-all all-ACC QB type.
    Feel free to dig the archives up if I’m mistaken.

  24. bradleyb123 07/23/2009 at 2:09 PM #

    I remember one of Daniel’s passes that sailed AT LEAST 10 feet over the head of a wide open receiver, in what WOULD have been a minimum 25 yard gain, if he had been able to catch the ball. And I believe the pick-sixes Daniel threw against Carolina in 2007 were completely unforced errors, just horrible passes. And I remember a few routine sideline passes Daniel threw that fell several feet short of the intended receivers, and they were NOT that far away. It looked like he didn’t have the arm strength to get the ball to them.

    Come to think of it, didn’t he have some kind of rotator cuff injury he was playing through or something? I can’t remember.

    But I also think Daniel was a victim of horrible offensive lines at times. When he had to run for his life a lot, he never could get settled in or something. The O-line was a little better toward the end of 2008-09, and I think if we had played Daniel in our bowl game instead of Beck, we still would have won that game. He actually came in and played pretty well in that game. I was glad to see him do alright in his last stand, because even if he really didn’t belong on the team, his heart was pure red and white.

  25. choppack1 07/23/2009 at 2:12 PM #

    Noah – are you sure you aren’t getting Evans and Marcus Stone mixed up?

    I recall back when the QB race was Jay Davis and Stone, the latter had plenty of supporters…Stone supporters were big on saying that Stone had “it” (I think that they were mistaking something else for “it”, but that’s another story.)

    Stone never put up decent #s as a QB. However, if the game plan called for simply handing it off and occasionally completing a wild looking 3 yard pass – he was your man.

    I never recall a huge, Daniel is da man movement.

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