Seahawks Death Week: Spread The Blame Around Nice N’ Thick

Had the Seahawks made the playoffs, I’m certain a topic of conversation would’ve been:  what do the Seahawks do well?  If things had gone differently – i.e. if the Seahawks won and the Panthers had beaten the Falcons – we’d currently be preparing to go on the road to Carolina.  The Seahawks would’ve been considerable underdogs in this game, and we would’ve been sitting around wondering how the Seahawks might match up with the Panthers.  Where is our edge?  In what universe could you imagine a Seahawks upset, as they’re currently constructed?

Boil it all down, and you come back to the question:  what do the Seahawks do well?

Well, at TIMES, the Seahawks have done lots of things well (except run the ball), so we should probably refine that to say:  what do the Seahawks do consistently well?  Or, to put it another way:  what DOESN’T need fixing for 2018?

I’m a little bit at a loss with this question, because I don’t think there’s even one single thing the Seahawks do consistently well.  Sure, they have Russell Wilson, and he’s a good quarterback you can win a championship with, but all too often he fails to step up in the pocket and make quick decisions with the football.  Either because he can’t see what’s going on (and he’s being super-careful with the football to not throw it into harm’s way), or he’s constantly waiting for something better to come along.  And, he thinks he can beat everyone when he escapes, which leads to further issues (fumbles, intentional groundings, sacks, holding penalties on the O-Line because they have no idea where he’s going).  For everything he does well, he does something that holds this team back, and when the rest of the team isn’t up to the task, our margin of error is extremely low, so more often than not that Russell Wilson Magic is useless.

The running game is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  That’s partly on the O-Line and partly on there being no dynamic running back on this roster for the last two years.

The receiving game is okay, but even there we have issues.  Aside from Doug Baldwin, guys don’t get consistently open, and Doug Baldwin can’t do everything.  Jimmy Graham seemed to always disappear unless we were 15 yards away (or closer) to the endzone.  Just about everyone aside from Doug (particularly the tight ends, particularly Graham) had issues with drops, which this team obviously can’t afford when – again – it can’t run the ball and can’t provide consistent protection for its quarterback.

The O-Line is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  Luke Joeckel was a bust.  Germain Ifedi is certainly trending towards the bust category (though, I want to see him get multiple years in one position before I make that declaration).  Ethan Pocic was a rookie.  Duane Brown came in mid-season and I don’t think ever became totally used to what we’re trying to do here (and how our quarterback plays).  And, quite frankly, Justin Britt made too many fucking mistakes to be considered anything but a so-so player.  He’s certainly not worth Max Unger-type money, and once the dead money isn’t prohibitive, I’d seriously consider getting rid of him and moving Pocic over to center (where he played so well in college).  Don’t forget, it was Britt’s boneheaded and pointless dive that landed him on George Fant’s ACL and started us down this whole messy road (when it appeared Fant was going to take the next huge leap in his development in the pre-season).  Consider me off the Justin Britt bandwagon.

So, for those keeping track at home, that’s NOTHING about the offense that I trust as far as I can throw it.  How about the defense?

Well, the pass rush was hit or miss.  Sometimes it was on point, sometimes it completely disappeared.  Michael Bennett got way too much playing time, and struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness down the stretch (as anyone could’ve predicted).  Cliff Avril’s loss (probably for good) was a huge blow.  Frank Clark was probably our most consistent player, but he never made that leap to superstar status we were all secretly hoping we’d see.  And, most annoyingly of all, we were never able to find a consistent interior pass rusher.  Malik McDowell is the biggest fucking moron on the planet and might have ATV’d his way out of football before his career even started.  Which necessitated in us trading for Sheldon Richardson, who was okay, but who also never really seemed to fit in with our scheme or make any sort of an impact.  Jarran Reed took a baby step forward, but was never a consistent threat.  Naz Jones looked great for a rookie, but got injured and probably hit the ol’ rookie wall.  The back-end of the roster guys would flash from time to time, but never consistently.  Way WAY too often, opposing quarterbacks had all day to pick apart our defense, and it seemed like we only ever got pressure when we blitzed, which isn’t this team’s way (but maybe it should’ve been; maybe we should’ve gone hyper blitz-happy and seen if that would’ve helped spur more turnovers).

The run defense is SUPPOSED to be this team’s strength, but all too often it was a weakness.  The 49ers and Titans early in the year ran all over us.  And the Jags, Rams, and Cowboys had no problem whatsoever gaining big chunks of yards on us late in the season.  Teams with elite runners doing whatever they wanted:  that rarely ever happened before this year.

Then, you know, there’s the pass defense.  Earl Thomas missed a little time.  Kam and Sherm missed a lot of time.  Jeremy Lane lost his job early and often.  Byron Maxwell came in off the street and started over Lane almost immediately!  And he’s no prize pig!  Shaq Griffin looked pretty good for a rookie, but I’d still like to see a lot of development in him before I annoint him with Lockdown Corner status.  Justin Coleman looked pretty good for a slot guy.  Deshawn Shead never really came back from his injury (aside from a few special teams snaps).  Bradley McDougald was a solid pickup at safety (and a HUGE improvement over Steven Terrell/Kelcie McCray).  When everyone was healthy, the pass defense was okay, but even then, everyone was healthy for that Deshaun Watson game, and he threw all over us!  Tennessee didn’t have any trouble moving the ball down our throats.  And even the Redskins had no trouble marching down the field late on our pass defense.  Then, once you factor in everyone’s injuries, you could argue this was the weakest part of our team by season’s end.

I guess, if you had one position group to laud this year, I never really worried about the linebackers, until the end of the season, when it was obvious Bobby Wagner’s injury was severely limiting his mobility.  And, K.J. Wright had that concussion game he missed.  And, I’d be hard pressed to say I loved our veteran depth; the drop-off from starter to backup was pretty severe.  Seems like we could’ve filled those spots in the draft if we hadn’t completely neglected it the last few years (opting for undrafted free agents and veterans on minimum deals over actual draft picks).

So, no, nevermind.  There are zero position groups you could say I was 100% comfortable with over the course of the season.  Every single player on this team played a part in why the Seahawks are not in the playoffs right now, and if they WERE set to play in Carolina this weekend, they’d surely get their asses destroyed.  I hope the guys who remain on this roster in 2018 take a good, long look in the mirror.  Do you want to be here?  Do you still love the game of football?  Let’s maybe think less about that paycheck and more about wins and losses.

Taking A Pre-2017 Look At The Seahawks’ 2018 Free Agents

There’s a great post over at Hawkblogger this week, taking a look at some of the decisions the Seahawks have to make looking beyond the 2017 season.  As it stands, this year is pretty much set.  The 2017 Seahawks might go dumpster diving at the tail end of the pre-season to pick up some bargains among other teams’ cuts, but for the most part what you see is what you get.

However, the 2018 Seahawks could look VERY different.  Well, okay, maybe putting the “very” all in caps is a bit of hyperbole, but there are some big pieces that could be playing elsewhere next year.  Big pieces to this team’s success dating back to 2012.  Guys we’ll always remember fondly for taking this team to such dramatic heights.

Obviously, part of this conversation – as noted in the Hawkblogger article – has to do with guys who will be cut after this year; guys just not getting the job done anymore, relative to the size of their contract.  Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane generally top this list, but there’s just SO MUCH that can change in a year.  People getting injured, people becoming disgruntled, people getting unloaded for other players and/or draft picks to try to fill a position of need.  I’m not going to get into that today, as I believe there’s enough to talk about among just the impending free agents for next year.

The biggest names are as follows:

  • Kam Chancellor
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Justin Britt
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Paul Richardson
  • Luke Willson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Bradley McDougald

I’m going to work my way backwards here.  Let’s start off with McDougald and Joeckel.  They were brought in this season, along with a flurry of other guys on 1-year deals (Aboushi, Wilhoite, Garvin, Arthur Brown, Blair Walsh, Austin Davis, maybe a couple/few others), and honestly we don’t know anything about these guys.  They were given 1-year deals for a reason; they need to prove that they deserve multi-year contracts.  A few of them might not even play for the Seahawks this year!  Others might be relegated to backup status.  And a few just might break out and have great seasons.  We’ll just have to let the year play out and revisit them next off-season.

KPL and Cassius Marsh have spent the majority of their professional careers as backups and Special Teamers.  Neither of these guys even have their jobs secure for THIS year, so it’s weird to talk about their futures.  I do think Marsh will make the team this year, but I’m not breaking the bank to bring him back in 2018.  Unless he gets blown away by another team – either with more money or an opportunity for more playing time – I think maybe Marsh goes year-to-year with the Seahawks, until either he has a breakout season, or it starts to cost too much money to keep bringing him back year-to-year.  As for KPL, I think the writing is on the wall.  The Seahawks went out and brought in A LOT of linebackers on 1-year deals to come in and compete for his very roster spot, because by and large he’s been something of a disappointment.  I think he’s been pretty good on Special Teams, but probably not an elite-level player at that spot.  Unless he’s coming into Training Camp having taken a HUGE leap, I think he’s one of the final roster cuts as the team gets to 53 players ahead of opening weekend.

Luke Willson and Paul Richardson are a couple of interesting players.  Both were Seahawks draft picks with unique offensive abilities.  Both have, I guess, underwhelmed in their tenure here?  That’s probably not fair on Willson’s part; I think he’s been a fine player (coming from a terrible 2013 draft class) and I think he’s done what’s been expected of him.  He’s been healthy for the most part, he’s in an offense that doesn’t throw a ton compared to others around the NFL, and he really hasn’t had that many opportunities to be the TE1 on this team.  Sometimes guys ahead of him have gotten injured and thrust him into that role, but no one is going to put him up there with the great tight ends around the NFL.  The last couple years, he’s been firmly behind Jimmy Graham (i.e. the team was so concerned about the position, they went out of their way to make a blockbuster trade to bring in a true TE1).  As a TE2, I think Willson is fine.  He’s had his moments, he seems to be a good all-around player, and he hasn’t really cost this team a whole lot.  He’s making $1.8 million this year, on a 1-year free agent deal, because he couldn’t find anything better anywhere else in the league; that should say something about his value.  I’ll be really interested in where the Seahawks go with the tight end position going forward.  I think a lot has to do with what they do with Graham.  If Graham gets an extension, I think that’s it for Willson.  If they let Graham go in free agency, and Willson has an okay year, maybe you see the Seahawks bring him back on a 2-3 year deal at a very modest salary (just because I think it would be crippling to lose both of your top 2 TEs in the same year).  Some of it will have to do with Nick Vannett, a draft pick from 2016; is HE going to take a step up?  If he proves to be a capable and competent TE2, then the need to re-sign Willson goes way down (unless, again, Graham goes bye bye).

As for P-Rich, he’s the true underwhelming player of the two, from an underwhelming 2014 draft.  Of course, most of that has to do with all the injuries he’s sustained, but we really saw a whole new side of him down the stretch last year and in the playoffs, once Tyler Lockett went down.  The question we have to ask is:  who is the real Paul Richardson?  Is it the injury-prone string bean?  Or, is it the athletic freak who’s jumping all over the place making crazy catches through defenders?  Because, you know what?  The Seahawks could REALLY use the latter.  Indeed, the Seahawks have been looking for the latter pretty much since Pete Carroll got here.  Richardson isn’t that tall receiver we always talk about, but when he’s doing what he was doing in the playoffs, he PLAYS like a tall receiver.  If you pair THAT guy with the all-around greatness of a Doug Baldwin, and the speedy Lockett, we’re talking about one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league.  For a lot of these guys coming up, I’m going to be talking about whether or not the Seahawks should do an extension ASAP, do an extension at some point during the season, or wait until the season’s over and try to re-sign them; with P-Rich, it’s still early, but I think if he comes out of the gates on fire, you look to do an extension mid-season.  Get him locked up before the rest of the league has a chance to get its hooks in him.  I know the injury risk is there, and I’m sure any extension would reflect that in its guarantees/incentives, but if he looks as good in the first couple months of the season as he did in the playoffs, I think you LOCK THAT DOWN.

Eddie Lacy is another guy the Seahawks brought in on a 1-year prove-it deal, but he’s different than those depth guys.  He’s actually shown he belongs in this league.  I think he’ll come in here in the shape they want him to be in, and I think he’ll really flourish in this system.  That having been said, I’m really waffling on what the Seahawks should do with him.  I do think they need to wait it out a little bit before thinking about extending him.  Part of that has to do with the running back market itself; I don’t want the Seahawks to necessarily bid against themselves.  Part of it also has to do with how Rawls and Prosise look.  If those two stay healthy, and consistently blow teams away, is there really a need to keep Lacy beyond 2017?  Ultimately, I think you have to hold off until the next off-season and do a big picture assessment.  If Rawls and Prosise are hampered with nagging injuries again, and Lacy has a good year, then by all means wrap him up.  But, definitely wait and see.

The Seahawks caught a bit of a break in the DeShawn Shead situation.  On the one hand, yeah, it sucks balls that he’s hurt, and that he was hurt so late into last season; but on the other hand we WILL see him again in 2017.  He’ll get substantial action towards the back-half of the season, which will determine his fate.  Also, by that time, we should have a pretty decent idea of what we have in the new guys.  If one or more of the rookies really steps up and gets better as the season goes on, then there’s less of a need to go all out in re-signing Shead.  Also, if Shead fails in his rehab, or gets re-injured, then obviously his future is going to be determined by prove-it and/or incentive-laden deals.  But, if Shead comes back, plays like the Shead of old, and the rookies have more growing pains to go through than expected, then I fully expect the Seahawks to put in a good effort in bringing him back.  But, this would be another situation where I’d have the Seahawks hold off until next off-season.

As for Justin Britt, I’m surprisingly on the fence.  Going into this, I have to point out that the Jags just gave their center the highest contract ever for a center, at 5 years and $51.7 million, with $24 million guaranteed.  Is Britt worthy of that?  I’m not sure; his 2017 season will have a lot to say about that.  But, at the very least, that’s the market price now.  It’s the high-end of the market, but it’s out there, and it’s what Britt’s agent is going to aspire to.  I like Britt.  I like Britt as this team’s center, and I’d like to have Britt around for the rest of Russell Wilson’s career.  I like setting up a QB/Center duo and keeping them together for as long as possible; I think it’s very important to an offense’s success.  I also like the fact that they’re comparing his work ethic and leadership abilities to Max Unger.  I WANT that!  But, do I want to pay him upwards of $50 million?  When you take a look at that Hawkblogger article at the top, it shows you the percentage of what the Seahawks pay per position, and it’s clear that the team is robbing the O-Line to pay the secondary (and the defense as a whole).  While we can expect a bump in the NFL’s salary cap, will it be enough to offset Britt’s new deal?  Will that also allow us to extend other guys they want to or need to extend?  After all, we do need to start thinking about Frank Clark, and third contracts for guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and so on.

There’s also the issue of Ethan Pocic that I find utterly fascinating.  To date, he really hasn’t been talked up as a guy in the driver’s seat for a job on this offensive line, even though it was God awful last year, and even though he was a 2nd round pick this year.  In years past, as we’ve seen with guys like Britt and Ifedi, those higher draft picks have been slotted into starting jobs immediately upon entering the league.  So, what gives with Pocic?  I mean, I think the Seahawks have done an okay job in bolstering the depth along the O-Line, but it’s by no means vastly improved!  You’re telling me from a strict talent point of view, Pocic isn’t immediately better than some of these crappy veterans?  Which gets me to wondering if maybe this team isn’t grooming him to be Britt’s replacement.  After all, he was a center primarily in college, and that appears to be his best position.  Do we give him a year to learn behind Britt, then hand him the keys in 2018?  Thereby saving this team money and allowing them to fill in other spots?

I guess we’ll see.  In a vacuum, I’d say Britt has earned an extension and he’s earned it yesterday.  But, taking everything else into consideration, where does center rank on this team’s priorities list?  I’d wager not as high.  In an ideal world, Britt is here for the duration, but I don’t know if that’s how the Seahawks want to operate.

Moving on, we’ve got the case for Jimmy Graham.  I’ve been in love with his contract ever since we got him, because essentially nothing was guaranteed.  We could’ve cut him at any point without any dead cap; and from day 1 I’ve been clamoring for the team to let it play out just as they have.  So, it would make zero sense for them to extend him now.  If they were going to do that, they should’ve done it before the free agency period, so they could’ve used the extra cap space to get someone better than Luke Joeckel to be this team’s left guard.  Now, they COULD do the extension mid-season, but I think that would be a mistake.  He made it through all the games last year intact, but I have to believe the injury from 2015 is weighing heavily on their minds.  Quite frankly, I don’t like the way he’s taken some of the hits he was taking last year; he tends to get blown the fuck up in the middle of the field, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he sustains another serious injury.  Also, let’s face it, he’ll be 31 in November; how many more great years does he have left?  He’s obviously going to be looking for another bigtime contract, because he’s one of the most talented and athletic tight ends in the game today, but do we really want to risk it on an aging player?

For what it’s worth, even if he does get injured, as long as it’s not another devastating knee injury, I think he’ll have a nice second act to his career.  I could very much see him being a Tony Gonzalez type, a veteran presence who knows how to get open and work the open zones of a defense.  But, I think his years of being an elite, Top 3 tight end in this league are numbered (and I think that number is one you can count on one hand).  For me, I think you let him walk.  I think you thank him for his services, but you do NOT pay him whatever the market price will be for him in 2018 and beyond, and I think you go in another direction for your big red zone presence.  Because, let’s face it, with all of 8 TDs combined in his two seasons here, it’s pretty fucking obvious the Seahawks STILL haven’t figured out how to get him the ball in the endzone.  So, why chase good money after bad?  Keep tight end the fringe offensive weapon it’s supposed to be, and look to Luke Willson, or some other young guy, to get those 30-40 catches per season.  Frankly, I’d rather have another Zach Miller type anyway, with the way this team struggles in pass protection.

Which brings us to Kam Chancellor.  I’ve been on the Extend Kam train for a while now, and I still think we can get a deal done – a la with Marshawn Lynch’s final contract in Seattle – where he gets the money he deserves, while the Seahawks get the cap security they want.  After all, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t want to go throwing around a ton of guarantees for a guy who hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2013!  If that’s what he’s expecting, or if he’s still got a sour taste in his mouth from his holdout, then maybe he just wants to get out of Seattle and finish out his career elsewhere, which would be a shame.  For a guy who’s been as critical, as inspirational, as fun to watch, I’d really hate for this relationship to end poorly.  And, for the record, I do think he has some good years left in him.  I’d LOVE to see him retire as a Seahawk and one day go into our Ring of Honor, and who knows?  Maybe he’s already done enough to get in there.  But, he’s a unique talent, and I’d hate to see him come back in another team’s uniform and start murdering our guys.

All in all, a lot of intrigue for this 2017 season.  Not just because of this being another year in the closing Championship Window for these Seattle Seahawks, but in how this team transitions from one Championship Window to (hopefully) the next.  Who will be the biggest stars and key components of the 2018 season and beyond?  Will guys like Clark, Prosise, McDowell, and Griffin be the next studs who deserve huge, bank-breaking second contracts?  And, who among those studs we have now will deserve even huger, bank-breakinger third contracts?  2017 will go a long way in parsing that out; it should be fun to watch.

Seahawks Death Week: The “2016 The Year” Of Football Seasons

There’s just nothing to like about that season by the Seattle Seahawks.  Not a damn bit of good came from it.  That’s two years in a row of spinning our tires in the mud, with not a lot to show for it.  All we got was another year older.  Instead of being the next great dynasty, we’re just another good team.  One Super Bowl win, with the hope that we’re able to squeeze another one out of Russell Wilson before he moves on.  More and more, it’s looking like instead of a Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger situation, we’ve got a Drew Brees situation.  Maybe one title is all this group gets.  Maybe we spend the rest of our time with this core just slowly getting worse, until it’s just Wilson and Carroll, and a bunch of stiffs, regularly finishing in 3rd and 4th place in the NFC West.

The worst part is, I don’t even know how to define this season.  Yeah, the O-Line stunk, but they didn’t stink in every single game.  Yeah, we lost Earl Thomas, but there were plenty of times where this defense looked inept with Thomas in there.  If you go game by game, it’s a pretty frustrating exercise.

***

The Seahawks barely beat the Dolphins at home in week 1; the offensive line was definitely our primary fault in that one.  Wilson’s ankle got rolled up on, and that was the genesis of Hobbled Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks lost on the road to the Rams in week 2; again, the O-Line was crushed.  We lost three field goals to one, in the second game where the offense was totally out of sorts.

The 49ers were some home cooking in week 3; but, then Wilson got rolled up on again, this time injuring his knee, sending him to work with a brace for the rest of the regular season.  No fun there.

The Jets on the road were supposed to be a big test in week 4; they ended up being 5-11 on the year and one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Seahawks, with Hobbled Russell Wilson, won by 10 points and settled into a much-needed BYE week.

The Seahawks were able to squeak by the Falcons in week 6; I think we all know enough of that game.  One bright spot was that, even in spite of a disastrous third quarter, we were able to fend off a last-minute drive, like we weren’t able to do in 2015.  The defense, when most everyone was healthy, was certainly better in 2016 than 2015; but the defense was rarely healthy.

Just when we were hoping to build on some momentum of a 3-game winning streak, we went and tied the Cardinals in week 7.  The third game out of six for the Seahawks where the offense was absolutely manhandled.  Of course, had Hauschka not been a ninny, this would’ve been a win.

The Seahawks followed that up with a road trip to New Orleans, and a baffling defeat in week 8; but, a defeat very similar to ones we have every year.  Not a good look for our defense, but the fact that our offense was held to 13 points (the other 7 attributed to an Earl Thomas fumble return for TD) against that defense is unconscionable.  Four games out of seven where the offense was a fucking trainwreck.

The Seahawks played the Bills on Monday Night Football in week 9; turns out Rex & Rob Ryan are the cures for what ails this offense.  It was less encouraging for our defense to give up 25, but they were able to foil a 2-minute drive at the end of the game to lock it up (again, shades of this not being the 2015 season).

In a game everyone expected the Seahawks to lose, they went into New England on Sunday night and upset the Pats 31-24.  Even with Michael Bennett on the shelf, this was a watershed game for our defense, as Kam returned and locked down Gronk in New England’s final series.  This was also a coming out party for C.J. Prosise, showing what this offense can do when it has a healthy, dynamic running back.

The Seahawks followed this up with a dominating performance over a then-contending Eagles team at home in week 11.  Prosise had another big impact in this game, with a 72-yard touchdown run, before leaving injured and not returning for the rest of the season.  Not a ton of people talking about the loss of Prosise as the 2016 Seahawks’ downfall, but let’s just say if we’d had him healthy for the full season, things might’ve gone a lot differently for this offense.

On the heels of another 3-game winning streak – and probably the best 3-game stretch for this team in the 2016 season – the Seahawks went to Tampa in week 12 and had their fifth terrible offensive game of the season.  This one is all on the O-Line, but one could argue things might have gone differently had Britt been healthy.  Either way, after going down 14-0 in the first quarter, and giving up no points the rest of the way, that was a real missed opportunity for the Seahawks, allowing the Bucs to hang around in contention for a while longer.

Injured guys started trickling back for the next game, at home, against the Panthers in week 13.  Britt was back, Bennett was back, Rawls had worked his way back to being a workhorse, Wilson was on the mend.  For the first time in a long time, things were FINALLY looking up for the Seahawks.  We crushed the Panthers, 40-7, and this was around the same time where we always go on our late-season runs of dominance.  But, because 2016 is the fucking worst, this was the same game where Earl Thomas broke his leg and was lost for the season.  Hashtag WeCantHaveNiceThings.

It was hard not to be deflated over the Thomas injury, but I refused to believe things would fall apart just because he was out.  We still had Kam after all!  Well, week 14’s game in Green Bay should’ve been our first clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and the Seahawks were blown out for the first time since 2011.  Also, this was the sixth terrible offensive game, but mostly due to Russell Wilson’s interceptions.

In week 15, we handled the Rams on Thursday Night Football, in the game where Richard Sherman put Darrell Bevell on blast.  He would go on to put most everyone else on blast the rest of the year, in what should’ve been our second clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  The Seahawks don’t lose their cool.  Even when they lose their cool, it’s for a reason.  There wasn’t much of a reason for this.

In spite of the Seahawks being an up-and-down team, they held their fate in their hands.  All they needed to do was beat an underwhelming Cardinals team at home, then finish off the 49ers on the road.  Simple, right?  Win those two games, lock down the 2-seed.  Lock down the 2-seed, get the first round BYE.  Get the first round BYE, then host the Falcons in the Divisional Round instead of the other way around, and maybe our crowd does enough damage to their offense to allow the Seahawks to win and host the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.  But, the defense gave up 34 points to the Cardinals in week 16, and all of that was washed away.  The third and final clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality:  now we’d be a 3-seed, be forced to play in the Wild Card round, and have to go on the road to the Falcons, where we would go on to lose.

The Seahawks were able to take down the 49ers in week 17, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been.  Was it us taking it easy, knowing the Falcons would lock up the 2-seed in a matter of hours?  Was it the defense continuing to struggle without Earl Thomas?

Then, the big Wild Card win at home.  The last hurrah, over a pretty inept and banged up Lions team.  Not a lot to learn from that, and ultimately the next game would look nothing like this one.

***

I mean, how do you wrap your head around a season like that?

To start, you can’t say a damn thing about it without getting into the offensive line issues.  This was the second year in a row that the Seahawks went with a bullshit, makeshift O-Line, instead of ponying up the money for proper blockers.  Justin Britt had his position moved for the third time in three seasons, and that was the ONLY move that worked.  He’ll go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 as our starting center; that makes me happy.  You can take the other four guys and throw them in a fucking volcano for all I care.

The Seahawks, in their prime, 2012-2014, always got by with Just Okay offensive lines.  Adequate, middle-of-the-road, doing just enough to let Marshawn Lynch run by them, and to let Russell Wilson run around them.  Then, slowly but surely, all the good parts were stripped away:  Unger traded away; Giacomini, Carpenter, and Sweezy allowed to hit free agency; Russell Okung – probably the most talented of the bunch – also allowed to hit free agency and sign a terrible deal in Denver.  Ending up with two rookies, a second-year player getting his first starting action, a third-year player switching positions for the third time, and Garry Gilliam, the only guy starting in the same spot from the year before.  Oh, and don’t forget the two free agents – Sowell and Webb – who were terrible, lost their starting jobs, and won’t be around beyond this season.

And, I get it.  I understand what the Seahawks were doing.  There’s only so much money to go around, and they preferred to give that money to their star players at the skill positions.  Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Wright, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor.  Those guys take up a lot of money.  Where can we save?  The O-Line!  Hell, we’ve got Tom Cable, surely he can build them up to be respectable by season’s end!

They damn near did it in 2015.  It looked like, once Patrick Lewis took over at center, things settled down for that unit.  Then, we got into the Divisional Round, against the Panthers and their ferocious interior linemen, and that unit was reduced to rubble.

But, without much of a choice, they did the same thing again in 2016.  As I mentioned, Britt was moved to center and that worked.  Glowinski was drafted in 2015 to be a guard of the future for this team, so why not let him work on his craft in actual games?  Germain Ifedi came at the price of a first round draft pick in 2016, so there was no way he wasn’t starting.  They made it through the season mostly unscathed, and you can ALMOST see a future with those guys in those spots, but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

And, while the guards made PLENTY of mistakes, and were often the worst parts of this unit, in my book they’re taking a back seat to the tackles, who were God-fucking-awful.  George Fant was a tight end in college, and here he was as our starting left tackle.  He was almost constantly over-matched, when we weren’t chipping defensive ends with our tight ends and running backs to give him a little help.  Gilliam was a little better – particularly later in the season, when he essentially had his manhood questioned by the coaching staff – but he too was often overmatched.  Together, neither of them are starting talents in the NFL.  Gilliam is a guy who might be a swing tackle for a good team, a 6th guy on the line who can start for you in a pinch.  But, he has no business being in there everyday.  Fant should’ve had this year to just develop in the background, but since this organization did absolutely nothing to replace Okung – aside from signing Sowell, who is a known commodity as one of the worst tackles in football – Fant was put in a position he had no business being in.  And, in that sense, he did all right.  He could be another guy who is a quality swing tackle, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter either.

This team needs, at a minimum, two new offensive tackles.  Ideally, one high in the draft and one as a free agent.  Luckily, we’ve weathered the storm of our salary cap being up against it, and should have enough extra money to make some moves, as 2017’s cap looks to be up to $170 million or more.  Not so luckily, we draft 26th again, and no quality offensive tackles will be there waiting for us.  I don’t know what the free agent market is going to be like, but things are going to get REALLY salty in Seattle if this team sits back and does nothing.

***

Aside from that, it’s a lot to do with what I was talking about yesterday:  our shoddy depth.  Starting with the 2013 draft, let’s look at who panned out:

  • Luke Willson – backup tight end
  • Spencer Ware – quality running back who we waived; he’s playing well for the Chiefs
  • Paul Richardson – 4th receiver, started coming on in this year’s playoffs with Lockett injured
  • Justin Britt – starting center, with 2016 being his first good year
  • Cassius Marsh – backup pass rusher & special teamer, 3 career sacks
  • Frank Clark – quality defensive lineman
  • Tyler Lockett – quality receiver & returner
  • Mark Glowinski – guard, started in 2016
  • Germain Ifedi – guard, started in 2016
  • Jarran Reed – quality run-stuffing defensive tackle
  • C.J. Prosise – quality running back who can’t stay healthy

That’s it, and I’m really stretching the definition of “panned out” with some of these guys.  The quality guys who we still have on this team include:  Britt, Clark, Lockett, Reed, and Prosise.  Beyond that, when you talk about this team’s depth, it’s a lot of young guys who haven’t really gotten a chance to start – because they’ve been boxed out by all the studs we’ve got starting on this team – but these same guys also aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do find themselves on the field.  That means the coaches are failing them, or that they’re just not working very hard, but I don’t think this coaching staff or this team would sit by and let a bunch of slackers fuck around in practice.

Also, not for nothing, but when I talk about depth, I’m mostly looking at the secondary.  The depth on the O-Line is, I’m sure, a real problem, but so are the starters, so why beat that dead horse?  There’s solid depth at receiver – as shown by how P-Rich stepped his game up in the playoffs this year like a fucking CHAMP!  PROUD of you, boy! – and at tight end.  There’s also good-enough depth at D-Line and in the linebackers’ room to get by.  Where this team – and particularly this defense – struggles is when we get into the depth in the secondary.  When Kam Chancellor goes down (as he seems to do every year now), and when Earl Thomas goes down.  When, inevitably, Richard Sherman goes down (because he’s such a monster tackler; I can’t imagine those shoulders will hold up forever).  Or, like in this last game, where Shead went down with what looks like an ACL.  We thought Jeremy Lane would be enough – and I think he did okay, I’m not in this big hurry to run him off the team – but this team needs more back there.  It’s a shame too, because that’s supposed to be Pete Carroll’s specialty.  He should be ashamed of the depth we had back there in the secondary – particularly at safety – and he should be looking to shore that up in a major way in the upcoming draft.

No team stays healthy for a full year, but you’ve got to have guys to come in there and pick up the slack.  We weren’t able to do that this year.  That, and our O-Line troubles, doomed us for two years in a row.

It sounds insane to be this disgruntled about a team that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in the last two years, but that’s what comes with success.  We’re not very far from those teams, in terms of talent and in terms of years, but we’re also trending in the absolute opposite direction.

I Really Wish I Could’ve Seen The Version Of That Game Where Kevin Pierre-Louis Didn’t Have That Dumb Holding Penalty

Believe me when I say that I would never blame a single play or event as to why the Seahawks lost to Atlanta.  There are SO MANY factors, and not even factors in that game, but across the entire season, and possibly across many seasons.  Having the worst offensive line in the league.  Losing Earl Thomas.  Losing out on the 2-seed by getting beaten by Arizona on Christmas Eve (or, shit, how about losing out on the 2-seed by settling for a fucking tie in Arizona earlier in the year when Hauschka had an opportunity to give us the improbable victory).  An inability of this coaching staff to coach up its depth players for when they’re pressed into duty thanks to in-game injuries.  Those very in-game injuries themselves, like DeShawn Shead and Germain Ifedi.  Russell Wilson being alarmingly inaccurate this season (and in particular on that pass in the third quarter, down by 16, when he had Doug Baldwin wide open in the endzone and overthrew him).  The pass rush not getting home.  Our zone defense being completely and totally ineffective, thereby not giving the pass rush more time to get home.  Our entire blitz package being a complete failure.  Marshawn Lynch retiring before the season.  Trading Unger for Graham.  Signing Percy Harvin.  Letting Golden Tate go.  Losing Dan Quinn as a defensive coordinator.  I could go on and on and on.  There’s never any one thing that decides a football game, even a game decided by one score, but ESPECIALLY a game you lose 36-20.

P.S.  Look who guessed Atlanta would score 36 points this game

And I get that momentum isn’t a thing, so I’ll try to avoid talk of that mumbo jumbo.  But, what IS a thing is being sent backwards from the Atlanta 7 yard line to the Seattle 7 yard line thanks to one stupid fucking holding call on Kevin Pierre-Louis – who was pancaked by the blocker, then proceeded to compound his ineptitude by pulling the blocker down with him like a fucking moron – which led to the Seahawks losing 3 yards on first down before losing the other 4 yards on a safety because our backup rookie right guard stepped on our quarterback’s foot, leading to this fucking Three Stooges scenario where Wilson falls on his ass and gets landed on for 2 points going the other way.

What was a 10-7 lead, with the Falcons forced to punt on a 3 & Out, with Devin Hester – in what I’m hearing will be his final game ever – returning a booming punt 80 yards, with the Seahawks facing first and goal and at a MINIMUM poised to add another 3 points to our total, with a better than average chance of taking a 17-7 lead and changing the entire complexion of the game; instead became a 10-9 lead, with the Seahawks free-kicking it away to the Falcons, who promptly drove it down and went up 12-10, then holding the Seahawks to a 3 & Out, followed by the Falcons going up 19-10, and the rest is history.

All because Kevin Pierre-Louis made one idiotic mistake, which was compounded by a baffling series of mistakes.

Still, I’d like to see what that game would’ve looked like with the Seahawks up 17-7.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Maybe we still would’ve lost.  But, I’ll tell you this, we wouldn’t have been trailing 19-10 at halftime in this scenario, with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  Worst case, we probably would’ve been tied at 17 at halftime with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  And, even if things would’ve shaken out like they did for most of the second half, we at least would’ve been within 7 points with the ball late in the fourth quarter.  We at least would’ve had a SHOT!

And, who knows?  Maybe if the Falcons are down double-digits, maybe they start making the mistakes.  Maybe they press, trying to get back in the game.  Maybe Matt Ryan – who was one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the entire NFL just one season ago, when he had a mind-boggling 21:16 TD to INT ratio and led to my keeper league fantasy team dropping his ass in the final week, to avoid even the TEMPTATION of keeping him for another mediocre season – would’ve made some of those Matt Ryan poor decisions that led to so many turnovers in the red zone.  He may end up with the MVP award this year, but he is NOT a good quarterback, and he’s certainly not the most valuable player in the NFL I’m (not) sorry to say.

That game, the one where Kevin Pierre-Louis doesn’t exist, would’ve been SO MUCH more enjoyable.

But, no, I’m not blaming one guy for one massively stupid penalty.  He can go fuck himself for being an overall disappointment though!  One of many duds we’ve drafted and failed to develop since 2013.  Does John Schneider deserve a little slice of blame?  You betcha.  They all do.  Every last man, woman, and child on this team.

So begins Seahawks Death Week for another year.  Where I complain about the season that was, try to keep things a bit in perspective, and look forward to what this team needs to do in the coming offseason to get back on track and start winning their way into the top seed of the NFC again.  Because, apparently, this team is only able to nut up and play with heart when it’s got homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  Without that, it’s one road loss in the Divisional Round after another.

Short Week For Me: Seahawks/Saints Preview

Is it unfortunate timing on my part to be going to Disneyland on such an important football weekend as this weekend?  Is it even more unfortunate that whenever I take these trips to California, the Seahawks always seem to inevitably lose to some team they have no business losing to?

Hi, meet the New Orleans Saints:  some team the Seahawks have no business losing to.

The Saints are 2-4, with wins over Carolina and the Chargers, and losses to Kansas City, Atlanta, the Giants and the Raiders.  Are they any good?  Tough to say.  They’re certainly better than they were last year, but it would almost be impossible to NOT be better.  Particularly here, I’m talking about their defense, which went from being among the worst all time, to still pretty bad.  They still give up the most points per game in the league, but they only give up the FOURTH-most yards in the league, compared to second-most of last year.

Their worst trait is their pass defense (3rd-most yards given up in the NFL), but they’re still in the bottom third in rush yards given up as well.  They’re middle-of-the-road in takeaways with 8, but 6 of those are fumble recoveries, which are flukey as hell.  They’re also tied for the 3rd-fewest sacks with 9 on the year.

So, in other words, this defense is literally the exact opposite as the one we saw down in Arizona.  If the Seahawks can’t move the ball at will against this unit, they’ve got deeper problems than just a leaky offensive line.

On the flipside, the Saints get the second-most yards per game (behind Atlanta) and the third-most points per game (behind Atlanta and San Diego).  It’s neither here nor there that the Saints have played some of the least intimidating defenses in football in their six games so far, in the eyeball test they look like the real deal.  Drew Brees is up to his old tricks, and they’ve finally re-loaded their passing game with lethal wide receiver weapons.

Brandin Cooks is an all-around fantastic receiver, who has over-the-top speed.  Willie Snead, when healthy, is a tall, physical possession receiver who – if we’re not careful – will have 12 catches before we even blink.  Rookie Michael Thomas looks like he was cut from the Marques Colston mold.  Then, you’ve got newly-signed tight end Coby Fleener who hasn’t done a TON of damage yet with his new team, but that’s just because he hasn’t played against the Seahawks yet.

Their running game, while maddening from a fantasy perspective, is still good enough to keep you honest.  I like Mark Ingram as a power back, even if he’s criminally under-utilized on the goalline.  Of course, they brought in John Kuhn (from Green Bay) to vulture those TDs.  And the resurgence of Tim Hightower is one of the better NFL stories of the last year.  Top it off with a veteran, stout O-line (led by Max Unger and the return of Jahri Evans, once we cut him before Week 1), and you’ve got all the makings of an offense that should be able to do a helluva lot more than the Cardinals last week.

How do the Seahawks win this game?  Well, it’s not realistic to expect them to replicate what they were able to do last week on defense, so if the Saints come down for some easy early touchdowns, don’t piss your pants.  Granted, they will have to get SOME stops, but this game is all on the offense.  I think we need, minimum, 28 points to win this game.  And, if we can’t do that – if we can’t get out of our own way with penalties and allowing the pressure to get to Wilson too quickly – then stop the season, because I want to get off!

This would be a great game for the offense to try to get the run game going.  Ground and pound early and often, let the run game work for you to open up more opportunistic passing plays.  I hate to go all Member Berries on you, but ‘member the Seahawks’ offense from three years ago?  ‘Member how awesome it was to control the clock and take calculated risks down field through the air?  Let’s do that again.

A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Why The Front Office Deserves Its Share Of The Blame For The Seahawks’ 2015 Failures

File the 2015 Seahawks under “Missed Opportunity”.  Maybe not as frustratingly eyeball-stabbing as the 2014 Seahawks, but it’s impossible to look back on 2015 and not say, “What in the fucking FUCK just happened?”

The general, lazy narrative surrounding the 2015 Seahawks is that the offensive line did them in.  Granted, the O-Line did them few favors, and is certainly in need of some overhauling – especially in the pass protection realm – but the truth is there’s a smattering of reasons, all across the board, for why this team broke down and ultimately fell far short of its goal.

If you want to bring up the December Rams defeat, and the loss in the playoffs, I’ll go along with you on the O-Line argument:  we were absolutely obliterated up the middle for most of those two games.  It was the reason why the Rams were able to slow down our wrecking ball offense, who had been on a run of five straight dominating performances to that point; and it was a big reason why we were shut out in the first half against the Panthers as they steamrolled us to a 31-0 lead.

But, those are just two games.  Furthermore, who knows how the season would’ve gone had the Seahawks not blown those early games?

Yes, the offensive line sucked in the first half of the season, and certainly got better over time as the same five guys were able to – for the most part – play consistent snaps together.  But, the O-Line wasn’t the primary reason why we lost those first four games.  Especially galling was that first Rams loss, where Nick Foles & Co. moved the ball at will; but the defeats to the Packers, Panthers, and Bengals were all pretty bad in their own rights.  In all four of those games, we’re talking about late defensive breakdowns in conjunction with an offense that was unable to play add-on.  The secondary stunk, the pass rush stunk, the offense as a whole stunk, and the coaching stunk.  Furthermore, it could be strongly argued that roster construction played a big factor in torpedoing this season.  I know John Schneider and Co. tend to get saintly praise for all the great they’ve done – and for good reason – but there were some serious flaws heading into this season that I don’t think any of us (myself included) could have seen coming.

The big pre-season moves (not counting extensions) were as follows:

  • Trade Unger for Graham (with swapped draft picks)
  • Sign Cary Williams to replace Byron Maxwell
  • Sign Ahtyba Rubin to replace Kevin Williams
  • Draft Frank Clark
  • Draft Tyler Lockett
  • Sign Thomas Rawls to replace Robert Turbin
  • Sign Fred Jackson to replace Christine Michael
  • Draft/sign various other depth players

That was our offseason in a nutshell.  That’s what a back-to-back Super Bowl team did in hopes of making it three in a row.  Signing Cary Williams was a failure, but I don’t know what other options the team had.  I don’t recall a lot of better options out there on the free agent market, and we really got bitten on the ass by Tharold Simon not playing a down this year.  We did know that we needed SOMEONE, what with Jeremy Lane a lock for the PUP list; and we knew we couldn’t afford Byron Maxwell, so it’s somewhat easy to defend the choice to sign Williams from that standpoint.  But, an argument could be made that this team should have seen this coming and planned accordingly a year in advance.  The 2013 draft class gets a lot of flack for its lack of pizazz, especially compared to the classes of 2010-2012.  But, the 2014 draft class might go down as an all-time dud of duds, and might go a long way towards explaining why the 2015 Seahawks never had enough pieces to get the job done.

Paul Richardson has seemingly spent more time injured than contributing.  Justin Britt has been a starter since Day 1, and has been mostly mediocre the entire time.  Cassius Marsh has been a valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our depth along the D-Line.  Kevin Norwood is just a waste of a God damn draft pick in the middle of the 4th round.  Kevin Pierre-Lewis is another valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our linebacking depth (then again, it’s not like the guys ahead of him have given him many opportunities to make plays on defense).  After the 4th round, only Eric Pinkins is still on the roster, and he’s played hardly at all.  Among the undrafted rookies, we brought in Brock Coyle (backup middle linebacker, mostly a special teamer); Garry Gilliam (elevated to starting right tackle in 2015, did mostly all right); and Dion Bailey, who you may recall fell down and gave the Rams the game-tying touchdown in Week 1 of 2015 to send that game into overtime, where we’d go on to lose.

Maybe the board didn’t shake out too well when it came time to make draft picks, but there’s a notable lack of youthful talent in that class.  And, there’s a distinct lack of cornerback help which – when you factor in Simon’s injury, Lane’s injury, and the nothing we got out of Cary Williams – is a big reason for a lot of our ills in the secondary for the first half of the 2015 season.

Beyond the Williams debacle, there’s actually a lot to like about our pre-2015 offseason moves.  Rubin played like a stud in helping us dominate against the running game.  Clark didn’t make a huge impact, but he started to come on towards the end of the season (and I tend to give receivers and pass rushers a lot of leeway in their rookie seasons, since it’s so difficult to make an impact as a rookie receiver/pass rusher).  Which makes the Lockett draft pick so essential to our 2015 success and our future success; that’s another starter and Pro Bowler picked in the 3rd round or later for this team; another guy to hang one’s hat on.  Rawls ended up being an upgrade over Turbin, and could be Lynch’s replacement as soon as 2016.  The team didn’t take a step back with Fred Jackson, who had his role and played it well enough (plus, we ended up getting Christine Michael back anyway, along with Dallas’ 7th round draft pick, so bully for us).  And, the various other depth players are just that:  depth.  I won’t nitpick our choices in the back-end of this roster too much; that’s not really the point of this post.

The other major move that came to define the 2015 season was the trade for Jimmy Graham.  I’m on record as being in favor of that trade, even after knowing how the 2015 season ended.  I don’t think Unger is too much longer for this league, and I think there’s a lot we can get out of someone like Graham.  But, his insertion into this roster is endemic of a larger fault of this front office, which ultimately came to ruin this season.

We learned a hard lesson this past year:  the Seahawks have no business being in the market for veteran skill players from other teams.  Percy Harvin was the first strike, and Jimmy Graham was a quasi-second strike (like a foul tip behind the catcher’s outstretched glove).  The rationale SORT OF makes sense – as why would it be a bad thing to add really talented weapons to your offense? – but not when you pair it with this team.

The Seahawks, ever since Pete Carroll took over, have been a run-first operation.  We pound the ball, we take some chances down field, but we more or less only throw when we need to.  So, what’s the point in shuffling around so many resources to bring in guys to improve a part of your offense you don’t use as much as most other teams?

I hate to keep harping on it, but I can’t stop/won’t stop:  the team should have never gone after Percy Harvin and should have just kept Golden Tate instead.  At this point, I’d take Tate over both Harvin AND Jimmy Graham, but that’s not the point.  The point is, this coaching staff didn’t know what it was doing with Harvin and, for most of the first half of this season, didn’t know what it was doing with Graham either.  When teams make personnel decisions, they need to make them with a plan in mind.  The decisions to bring in these elite receivers seemed to have more of a fantasy football focus in mind, rather than a practical focus FOR THIS TEAM in mind.

It’s hard breaking in new, established receivers into a different offensive scheme; you’re almost begging for growing pains.  And doing so, while creating yet another hole along your offensive line – when you were already losing your left guard, and still unsure that your right tackle was the right guy for the position – at a semi-premium position like Center (who is in charge of a lot of the protection calls for the line), was the ultimate in final straws for what broke this team’s back.

Maybe we should have seen the slow start to the season coming.  But, either way, it’s obvious now.  And it starts at the top.  This team didn’t have a clear succession plan in place at its left cornerback spot.  This team let its offensive line completely fall apart, to where they were scrambling three weeks before the regular season, shuffling players around.  This team didn’t make smart use of its new tight end weapon.  And, ultimately, all of this cost the Seahawks four games in the first half it could have easily won (I won’t count that Cardinals defeat, as that was a pretty sound whuppin’, in spite of the close score).

A team with a more talented offensive line/secondary probably wins 14 regular season games and gets the #1 seed in the playoffs for a third straight year.  This Seahawks team with the top seed most likely gets another crack at the Cardinals in the Divisional Round, while the Vikings would go on the road to Carolina (hopefully with their stout defense able to bruise the Panthers up good), then likely hosts the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game (again, I’d like to see how well they would have played coming off of a tough matchup against the Vikings the week before, while also playing on the road, like the actual 2015 Seahawks had to do).

“Missed Opportunity”, from the top of the organization on down.  Here’s to hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, and have done enough to sufficiently set themselves up for a championship run in 2016.

Seahawks Death Week: A Lot To Like About 2015

Last year’s edition of Seahawks Death Week wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  A lot of rage and soul searching went into those posts, as well as a lot of not writing about sports at all.  Just shutting down in hopes of getting to the next month with a clearer head.

This time around, it’s actually not that bad.  When you have a Lowest Possible Moment as a sports fan, any other bad moments you have after that will always pale in comparison.  Oh, the Seahawks lost to the Panthers in the Divisional Round?  Well, at least they didn’t blow a Super Bowl by getting too cute with the play calling!

My point is, yeah, it sucks not having football anymore, but at least I’m not questioning whether I should even follow the sport anymore.  At least I’m not so aggravated that I’m worried about sending myself to an early grave (for what it’s worth, there are many other ways with which I AM sending myself to an early grave, but being a Seahawks fan thankfully isn’t one of them).  If I can get over the Seahawks throwing the ball from the 1-yard line, I can get over this trivial nonsense, because literally everything is trivial nonsense when compared to the Worst Thing In The World.

Yes, there is a lot to pick at with this team, but today I’m going to try to stick to only positive things.  From this point forward.  Probably.

For starters, the 2015 Seahawks won more games than they lost.  That’s always a good place to start.  10-6 regular season record, not too shabby.  Good for a Wild Card berth, which easily makes us one of the top 12 teams in the league, and when you discount the Texans and Redskins right off the bat, you’re talking about one of the 10 best teams in the league.  If this were college, and we’re talking about rankings, there’s an argument to be made that the Seahawks were one of the 5 best teams in all of football.  I know the season didn’t end the way we wanted, but watching quality football week-in and week-out always beats the alternative.

On top of that, I think it’s important that this is a team that you can be proud of.  The Seahawks had to overcome SO MUCH coming into this season!  I don’t know what’s harder, getting over the Super Bowl hangover after you’ve won it all, or getting over the Super Bowl hangover after you lost, but I don’t think there’s anything worse than getting over a Super Bowl hangover after you lost the way we lost last year.  That shit is magnified times a million.  Not only is that your last image of your previous season, but that image is replayed for you over and over and over again, all off-season, and all during the next season.  I wish I had kept a record of how many times we were all forced to re-watch that play throughout 2015, but it had to have been in the dozens.

If the Seahawks had finished around 8-8, I don’t think anyone would have been surprised.  The target was on their backs for a second straight year, the dark cloud of humiliation was constantly hovering, they were tired and fractured and questioning everything they knew about the game of football.  And yet, they plowed through, beat the teams they were supposed to beat, and got stronger as the season went along.  They started the season playing like a mediocre, middle-of-the-road also-ran; they finished the season as one of the best teams in the game.  What ultimately was their undoing – it could be argued – is that their crappy start was too much to overcome.  A Seahawks team – playing as well as they were in December – with home field advantage in the playoffs would’ve been a force to be reckoned with.  Instead, having to go on the road for the duration of the post-season was ultimately too much, and a terrible first half in Carolina did them in.

Regaining the players’ fire and passion for the game makes this one of the best coaching jobs of Pete Carroll and Co.’s careers.

2015 looks to go down as the turning point in the Pete Carroll Era of his Seahawks tenure.  Up until now, the Seahawks have been a defensive juggernaut, with the offense doing just enough to survive.  Not counting the strike-shortened 1982 season, 2012-2014 were the three greatest seasons in Seahawks history from a “points allowed” perspective (we gave up 231 points in 2013, 245 in 2012, and 254 in 2014).  Obviously, those were all best in the NFL for those respective years, and 2015 was no different, as we gave up 277 points, good for 6th all time in franchise history (non-strike year edition).

The offense the last few years has been pretty good, of course.  But, in 2015, the offense made a huge leap forward, scoring 423 points, good for second all time in franchise history.  256 of those 423 points came in the final 8 regular season games, or nearly 61% of our total output.  That coincides with the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s play (and, by proxy, the offensive line).  And, when you talk about 2015 being a “turning point”, you can’t forget that this was the season where Russell Wilson elevated his game to the next level.  Where, if he can keep it up for the long haul, he’s looking at a probable Hall of Fame career.

Wilson has always been good.  You don’t get to back-to-back Super Bowls if your quarterback isn’t good.  But, take a look at his numbers this year compared to an average of his numbers from 2012-2014, and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

  • 2012-2014:  265/417, 63.5% completions, 3,317 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, 6 Fumbles
  • 2015:  329/483, 68.1% completions, 4,024 yards, 34 TDs, 8 INTs, 3 Fumbles

I mean, that’s a massive increase in production.  If he matches those numbers – or hell, if he manages to get BETTER – you’re talking about a consistent MVP candidate every year for the next decade.  2015 will go down in Seahawks lore as the year Russell Wilson started to put it all together.  Just think, we’re right at the start of his prime!  And he MIGHT be even better than anything we’ve seen to date!

Wilson’s improved play obviously trickled down to the receivers.  Doug Baldwin was the primary beneficiary, and it’s nice to see him start to get the recognition he deserves.  78 receptions, 1,069 yards, and 14 TDs were all career highs, the 14 TDs tying him for the league lead with Brandon Marshall and Allen Robinson.  11 of those 14 TDs came during an all-time great outburst of production over five games, from Week 12 thru Week 16.  Here’s to hoping it continues, and the Wilson to Baldwin connection goes down in Seahawks history with the likes of Krieg to Largent (or, I guess Zorn to Largent, I can never remember who Largent did more with).

2015 was a markedly down year for Marshawn Lynch (and sadly, probably the last for him in a Seahawks uniform), but it saw the rise of Thomas Rawls, before he was tragically cut down with a broken ankle in Week 14.  Before that, in somewhat limited action, he ran for 830 yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average (both leading the team).  As this was his rookie season, we should still have him under team control for the next few years.  If he recovers from his injury and returns to form, the offense doesn’t skip much of a beat if the team indeed lets Lynch go.  Rawls is still a rookie, and has some stuff to work on (mostly his hands in the pass-catching part of his game), but there’s a lot to like about where this team is headed as we enter in the great unknown of a Lynch-less future.

Speaking of other exciting, productive rookies, Tyler Lockett was an All Pro returner who just so happened to quickly integrate himself into the offense as the team’s third receiver.  He finished his rookie season third on the team in yards with 664, and second on the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns with 51 and 6 respectively.  His speed is among the best in the league, allowing our offense to take out the top of opposing defenses; even when he’s not catching long bombs, he’s a weapon other teams have to plan around, opening up options underneath for guys like Baldwin, Kearse, and Graham.

Speaking of Kearse and Graham, I thought they were wildly successful in 2015 and I hope to have both back in the fold going forward.  Kearse is a free agent, so it’s unknown at this time what his market is going to be.  It’s also unknown how much the Seahawks are willing to allocate to him, with so many other needs on the roster.  Kearse isn’t flashy, but he’s gotten better every year.  He’s got reliable hands and a good rapport with Wilson.  As Baldwin ascended to become one of the top receivers in the league, Kearse sort of supplanted him as Wilson’s security blanket.  You’re not going to get a ton of big plays out of him, but he runs good routes, and he’s physical.  As a fan since his UW days, I could understand it if the Seahawks moved on, but I have to admit I’d be a little heartbroken to see him in another uniform (maybe watch out for the 49ers on this one; he seems like a guy who’d be right up their alley as they try to replace Anquan Boldin).

Graham, on the other hand, caught a lot of shit early on this season.  Well, partly Graham, and partly the offensive coordinator.  I always liked the move to bring Graham in (though, I’ve come around on the point that the Seahawks should probably build up their receivers from within, as opposed to trading or signing for big name studs); I thought Unger was poised to continue breaking down (he ended up playing in all 16 games for the Saints, but he is getting up there in age), and I thought we could get by with the guys we had in camp along our offensive line.  But, when the team struggled out of the gate – and the offensive line played like a turnstile – it was obvious all around that the team had miscalculated some things in their off-season plan.  Letting Unger and Carpenter go proved to be a major setback, much more glaring than we ever could have anticipated.  And, with the Seahawks struggling to get Graham the ball through the first five weeks of the season, the whole thing looked like an unmitigated disaster!  But, I’ll say this:  Graham’s numbers improved as the season went along and everyone got more comfortable with everyone else.  The offensive line settled down with Patrick Lewis, giving Wilson time to throw, and Bevell finally figured out the right plays to call to get the most out of our Pro Bowl tight end.  While Graham’s touchdown numbers never came around, he had big games against the Panthers, Cowboys, and Steelers before he was lost for the season with a torn patellar tendon.  On the plus side, he should make a full recovery, and the hope is for his rapport with Wilson to get better and better.  If we can just figure out how to get him the ball in the red zone, there won’t be any stopping us!

This post is already starting to balloon on me, so instead of cramming the defense in today, I’ll save that post for tomorrow.  In spite of my negativity towards that unit, there is still a lot to like about that side of the ball, for 2015 and going forward.

Is It Time To Declare The Jimmy Graham Trade A Failure?

It doesn’t make me happy to write this.  Not by a long shot.

I’m not afraid to admit that I pretty much loved the trade immediately after it happened.  I didn’t love losing yet another first round draft pick, but I thought everything else was fine.  Graham is a dominant red zone presence.  He seems like a good clubhouse guy (or, at least, not the fucking maniac that is Percy Harvin).  He plays a position of need (tight end/receiver).  Max Unger had spent the better part of the last few seasons on the training room table, was getting up there in age, and looked to be well on his way to breaking down and leaving the league.  Plus, with Unger’s constant injuries, it felt like our offensive line was getting by with Okung and Smoke & Mirrors anyway, so what would it matter if we skimped on that if we could drastically improve the rest of our offense?

Well, I think it’s safe to say things have sufficiently blown up in our faces so far.  The Seahawks have yet to beat a team with a winning record (Chicago at 4-5 is the best so far, and they were without their top quarterback and wide receiver in that game).  The offensive line has been just so fucking miserable.  The passing game seems to focus so hard on getting the ball to Jimmy Graham just to avoid criticism from the press that our quarterback is missing other wide open targets.  And, most mind-bogglingly of all, the passing game ISN’T directing its concentration to him enough when we get near the endzone!

That’s why I wouldn’t say Jimmy Graham is the reason why this trade is a failure, ignoring a couple bad drops in the Cardinals game.  I just happen to agree with the sentiments of the Hawkblogger and others.  It’s hard to integrate skill position players into your already-established offense.  These things generally take years to develop, not weeks.  And, ideally, they’re established by bringing in rookies and draft picks; guys who more easily adapt and can grow into your system.  Jimmy Graham was already an established player when he came here.  He had years and years of experience in the New Orleans system, which is about as different as it gets compared to what the Seahawks have been running the last few years.  So, it’s reasonable to expect some growing pains when trying to integrate him into your system.  It’s also not entirely UNreasonable that he may never truly mesh with our system, and our offense will continue to struggle accordingly.

It’s still possible for him to take this year, and the next full offseason, to get fully comfortable with what we’re trying to do (just as it’s possible for our coaching staff and quarterback to figure out how to use him when we’re close to the goalline), and end up being a force for us in 2016 and beyond.  At that point, maybe I have to go back and renege on these comments of the trade being a disaster.  Except, here’s the thing:  if the Seahawks fail in their goals for 2015, the trade will STILL be a bust.  Because those goals are winning a championship, and failing in that goal means we’ve lost yet another year in our ever-dwindling Championship Window.

Now, obviously, I’m not going to sit here and cite Jimmy Graham as the sole reason why the 2015 Seahawks won’t win the Super Bowl (or get to the Super Bowl, or win the division, or make the playoffs, or …), but I will say that our struggling offense as a whole is the primary reason why things have gone so poorly so far.  Did the defense give up some late 4th quarter leads?  Absolutely.  Did our offense do anything to extend those leads, or prevent the other team from getting the ball back?  Absolutely not.  The defense hasn’t been its sharpest, there’s no doubt about it.  But, if we’re weighing the reason why the 2015 Seahawks are on the outside of the playoffs looking in right now, more than 50% of the blame falls on the offense as a whole.  That has to do with play-calling, that has to do with line play, that has to do with the quarterback’s decision-making and poor execution, that has to do with Lynch’s nagging injuries, that has to do with the receivers not getting open, and yes, that has to do with Jimmy Graham.  You can divide that pie however you see fit; shit done gone wrong with this group.  But, a lot of it comes back to the Jimmy Graham trade as a whole and the chain reaction of repercussions that have followed.

Like I said, it’s partly the play-calling; the focus on getting the ball in Graham’s hands.  And, in a major way, it has to do with the offensive line, which we’ve been talking about all year.  Last I heard, Max Unger has been relatively healthy this season; at the very least, I haven’t heard of him missing any games.  What would this team look like without Jimmy Graham, and with Max Unger?

Considering the center position has been a trouble spot, I’d like to think Unger’s presence would be a huge bonus for us.  Considering Justin Britt has been a nuisance at left guard, I’d also like to think Unger’s presence would be a double-bonus for us:  he could assist in double-teams, and/or he’d be there to call out protections like he did so well in the past.  And, who knows?  Maybe with Unger in there, we’re able to use someone like Patrick Lewis at left guard; at the very least he probably gets a chance to push Britt for playing time in practice, right?

Unger is signed to a moderate contract in 2016 ($6 million, $1.5 million in dead money, should he be released).  Jimmy Graham has cap hits of $9 million & $10 million in the next two years (with $0 in dead money should he be released).  One thing you can say that helps soften the blow of this trade is that the Seahawks haven’t extended Graham, or otherwise turned any of his money into guaranteed money (not to say they won’t do that this offseason, to free up some cap space, but they haven’t yet, so I’m calling that a silver lining for now).  Also, if we never made the deal (or any other type of similar deal), you have to wonder what the Seahawks would have done differently in the draft.  Do they go after the top-rated college tight end?  Do they shore up the O-Line?  Do they end up with Tyler Lockett in the third round?  After all, the Seahawks did trade the 4th rounder they got from New Orleans in that package with Washington to move up to get Lockett.  Does that deal still get made?  Or, do the Seahawks go wide receiver with their first round pick and let someone else nab Lockett?

We’ll never know all the other variables.  As such, we won’t really know how to dissect this trade until it’s all played out over the next few years.  Maybe the Seahawks miss out on the playoffs this year, but maybe they return with a vengeance in the next couple years and win that Super Bowl trophy again.  If that’s the case, do we even care what happened in 2015?

If you forget the variables, and take the trade at face value, then yeah, the trade has failed us.  There’s still time to turn it around, but the odds are long; the hole we’ve dug ourselves into is probably too deep.  It’s going to take a lot of improvements on the fly in the second half of the season – as well as a mighty winning streak against some fairly stiff competition (the Steelers, Vikings, Rams, Cards won’t be pushovers).

The lesson we have to learn is:  don’t take the guys in the trenches for granted.  You want to have a good offense?  You need a good quarterback (1-A) and you need a good offensive line (1-B).  Or, at least a competent offensive line, and not the worst fucking offensive line in the entire league.  Take the Pats, for instance.  They got the quarterback, check.  We’ve got the quarterback, check.  When the Pats – with their good quarterback – have an offensive line that gives him even a smidge of time, the Pats do very well on offense.  When the Pats’ O-Line struggles (as it did early in 2014, for instance), they tend to lose games, as Brady gets knocked around and starts to look his age.  Same deal here.  The Seahawks don’t need to have a line on par with the Cowboys, or those old Holmgren teams; something middle-of-the-road like we’ve had in recent years will do just fine.

Save your trades and your bigtime free agent signings for positions where it’s easier to integrate.  With your skill position guys, it’s always best to stick with the home-grown crop, even if they’re not as flashy or as good as some available veterans.  I’d rather be winning, and still contending for a division title, with a group of pedestrians, than losing and vying for a better draft pick with hired guns who don’t necessarily fit into our system.

Taking A Mid-Season Look At The Seahawks, Part 2

Well, we’ve made it through the weekend, and no new complaints!  No one died, no one got arrested, no one got fired; you can’t ask much more out of a BYE weekend.

So, we continue on.  Last week, we took a look at The Good about the Seahawks’ 2015 season to date.  Today, we take a look at the rest, in a season where we’re coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, where we were once favored to make it three in a row; now sitting at 4-4, tied for second in the NFC West, two games behind the surprisingly healthy Cardinals (and, at the moment, decidedly on the outside looking in at any Wild Card spot).  God, where do I even begin?

The Bad

How about the ol’ standby, right at the top of the list with a bullet:  4 blown 4th quarter leads in all 4 defeats.  Need a refresher?  Of course not, no one does; but here it is anyway:

  • At St. Louis – up by 7 points with less than 5 minutes to go; lost in overtime
  • At Green Bay – up by 1 point at the turn of the quarter; lost in regulation
  • At Cincinnati – up by 17 points at the turn of the quarter; lost in overtime
  • Vs. Carolina – up by 9 points with 8 minutes to go; lost in regulation

It comes as no comfort that two of those teams are still undefeated at 8-0, with a third still leading its division – and it should be of no comfort to you either.  If you’re willing to settle for, Aww Shucks, At Least We Got Beat By The Best, then you’re a loser and I’ve got no time for you.  To be the best, you need to beat the best, and so far the Seahawks haven’t beaten anyone REMOTELY even competent.  Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Dallas are all bottom-feeders.  If we’re only barely better than some of these bottom-feeders, then what does it say about the state of the Seahawks’ football team?  We need to rise up and beat a good team, and we need to do it this week.

Going down to the player level, you can’t look anywhere else until you look squarely at the offensive line.  It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s all there is to it.  While you can’t blame them for every single sack against Russell Wilson, you have to blame them for most, because there’s a huge spike in sacks and hits this year compared to last.  And, I’ll give you they’ve showed improvement as the season as gone along – which should give all Seahawks fans at least some hope that this will be a somewhat useful unit by season’s end – but you have to wonder if it won’t be too late by that point.

For allowing this liability to get to this drastic level, there’s no one you can point to but the front office.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have totally and completely dropped the ball here when it comes to the offensive line.  You could argue it starts with the 2011 draft.  People believe that Pete & John have held that draft against Tom Cable – because they went Carpenter in the 1st and Moffitt in the 3rd, and neither panned out – but that’s juvenile and ridiculous.  They’re not going to actively harm their franchise just to make a point to an assistant coach.  The fact of the matter is, James Carpenter probably wasn’t worth the first round grade, and John Moffitt was a total wash-out.  The Seahawks subsequently spent the 2012 & 2013 drafts selecting offensive linemen no higher than the 7th round, then followed THAT up by putting a second round grade on Justin Britt – a wash-out at right tackle who looks no better at guard.  All the while, they let Carpenter and Giacomini walk, they traded Unger to the Saints, and they traded away multiple first round picks for offensive skill players while ignoring the meat & potatoes guys.

John Schneider has shown to be a savvy scout of college talent, but there have been some real draft busts in recent years.  The aforementioned Britt hurts the most – he’s our starting left guard now, but who knows how long that’ll last?  Kevin Norwood is a 4th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Jimmy Staten is a 5th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Christine Michael is a 2nd rounder from 2013 who was traded for next-to-nothing.  Chris Harper & Jesse Williams – 4th & 5th rounders respectively – from 2013 are gone.  Tharold Simon – 5th rounder from 2013 – can’t stay healthy.  Any of those picks could’ve been devoted to an offensive lineman or two – to pad out our ranks if nothing else – and for the most part they’ve been squandered.

Then, in 2015, we were back at it.  A couple guys taken in the 4th round are supposed to fix things?  They remain projects at this point, as they’re nowhere near reaching the point where they’ll see any playing time.  If the Seahawks don’t go offensive line hard and heavy in the first three rounds of the 2016 draft, then it’s going to be a long, hard few years for our beleaguered quarterback.

Moving on, we have to shout out Kam Chancellor in this section, for holding out the entirety of the pre-season, and the first two games of the regular season.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Rams squarely on his shoulders.

Shout out to Michael Bennett – one of my co-MVPs in last week’s Good section – for being an unstoppable Falling For The Hard Count machine.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Packers on him for giving Aaron Rodgers every conceivable advantage with all those free plays.

Shout out to the offensive coordinator for not using Jimmy Graham properly down near the goalline, aside from any number of baffling decisions in his career calling plays for the Seahawks.

Shout out to everyone affiliated with the offense in our four losses.  Where’s that killer instinct?  You can’t leave it on the defense to do EVERYTHING!  Sometimes, a defense is going to give up a lead; it’s your job as the offense to make those leads insurmountable.  On four attempts, you failed to either extend a drive to kill more clock, or play add-on with the score.  Those defeats are just as much in your hands.

Shout out to Chris Matthews who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to ingratiate himself with the coaching staff enough to get on the field and get some long-bomb plays called for him.  After a Super Bowl like that, being 6’5, with a crazy-insane catch radius, how is it you only have 4 receptions on 6 targets for a measly 54 yards?  Don’t blame the offense!  Don’t blame it on how conservative we are, because there are opportunities for down-field throws in this offense!  There are PLENTY of opportunities.  Instead of watching Russell Wilson try helplessly to throw to a double-covered Jermaine Kearse, I should be watching him throw to a double-covered Chris Matthews as he makes yet another sick catch for a long gain!  Instead, nothing.  Silence.  All the promise in the world and what does it mean?  You’ll almost certainly be playing elsewhere next year, and it won’t be long until you’re out of the game entirely.  Have some pride!  Step it up in practice and force your way out onto the field!

Shout out to Bobby Wagner for not really having much of an impact.  Outside of that fumble recovery in Cincinnati, when was the last time you marvelled at something Bobby Wagner did?

Shout out to Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark for doing their best impressions of Guys Who Don’t Show Up On The Stat Sheet.  We don’t need you guys to do your jobs, we need you guys to make an impact!  To step it up and let us scale back the snaps on Bennett and Avril so they can stay fresh all year.  And, not for nothing, but eventually we need you to replace those guys when they either get too old or expensive, so hop to it, huh?

Shout out to Cary Williams who is who we thought he was:  the weak link by a million miles in the Legion of Boom.  Shout out to injuries to Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and Marcus Burley that continue to hold this unit back.

Shout out to the Ricardo Lockette injury that drastically reduces the effectiveness of our coverage units on special teams.

Shout out to Dion Bailey for whiffing hard on that touchdown pass in St. Louis.

Shout out to the entire Seahawks defense for making Nick Foles look like a God damn world-beater when the rest of the time he has looked like a sack of dribbling shit.

Shout out to Bruce Irvin who’s on pace to be a serious Contract Year Cautionary Tale.

Shout out to whoever was at fault on those two Tyler Eifert touchdowns up the seam.

Ditto to whoever was at fault on that Greg Olsen touchdown.

The second half is here.  No more lip service.  A lot of this bad shit needs to be corrected, or else 2015 will go down as one of the great lost seasons in our generation.