If you’re still reading this, you’re at least slightly open to a little heresy. And suggesting that anyone other than Philip Rivers is N.C. State’s all-time best quarterback qualifies.
When he graduated in 2003, Rivers held nearly every N.C. State and Atlantic Coast Conference passing record. He is the all-time conference leader in attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. He’s second in quarterback rating and adjusted yards per passing attempt, according to sports-reference.com. Listing Rivers’ NCSU records would take up more space than the Internet allows.
Russell Wilson built a more humble legacy. It appears that he’ll leave N.C. State sharing the conference and school single-season records for touchdown responsibility, with 37 last year. He’s sharing that record with, of course, Rivers. Wilson also holds the school records for single-game completions (38 against Boston College in 2010), single-season pass attempts (527 in 2010) and single-season total plays (670 in 2010).
Rivers has a far deeper statistical footprint. But before you dismiss the idea that Wilson was in the same league, consider Quarterback A and Quarterback B:
Quarterback A, of course, is actually Quarterback P: Philip Rivers. And Quarterback B is Quarterback R: Russell Wilson. And you could make a compelling case that, through three years, Wilson was a better quarterback than Rivers. Considering only their passing, Rivers edges Wilson statistically: more passing yards, more yards per attempt and a higher completion percentage.
Also in Rivers’ favor: a 26-12 record, versus Wilson’s 19-14; and the fact that Rivers’ helmed the best Wolfpack team of the last 30-plus years, the 11-3 team from 2001.
Rivers’ advantages erode when you factor in Wilson’s freshman injuries. Wilson played fewer full games (34) than Rivers (38), leaving two freshman-year games early and missing another two. Had Wilson been healthy for those games, it’s reasonable to assume he would hold the upper hand in yards. Add Wilson’s rushing numbers and the comparison becomes a bit one-sided, in his favor.
Even the team success isn’t as fully in Rivers’ favor as it appears. Wilson’s best Pack team was the 9-4 edition in 2010. The ’10 Wolfpack was in the conference title race longer than the ’01 edition, staying alive until the 11th game.
Rivers was brilliant, but his sophomore and junior seasons were only a bit above average. His mind-numbing senior year (4,491 yards, 72.5% completions, 34 TDs, 7 INTs) and his durability cemented his status as one of the top 15 or 20 college quarterbacks ever.
Wilson’s legacy is less certain. Excellent from his first full game, he is, without question, the second greatest quarterback in NCSU history. Had he returned for a fourth season, however, he may have made a run at that number-one spot.
Through three years, he had a slight edge on Rivers.
*after three years