Should The Mariners Sign Matt Chapman?

You know what? I was 100% ready to come on here and say “No, don’t even bother with Chapman. Save your money, Mariners, and maybe look to make a deal sometime mid-season, once you know where you need the most help.”

But, I’ll be honest, I don’t really know much about Matt Chapman, other than what I’ve gleaned from the way people talk about him on the radio and on the Internet. When I hear about someone having personality defects in sports, I feel like that can go any number of directions, but it seems to me, if you’re hearing it from a media personality, then that means the particular athlete in question just doesn’t like talking to the media. Now, maybe where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and bringing a Matt Chapman into your clubhouse is a recipe for inviting cancer into your body. But, my guess is, if he’s doing well, and/or the team is doing well, I’m sure he’s a fine teammate. Winning and success tend to cover a lot of warts.

I also didn’t really know that much about Matt Chapman the ballplayer. I hear he’s a good defensive third baseman. Sounds like he’s got some pop in his bat, but maybe not so hot with the batting average, and will increase your team’s strikeout rate. He’s probably good enough with getting on base, but also his best days are almost certainly behind him.

After looking at his stat sheet, that’s more or less all true. What I was expecting was to see someone who absolutely cratered in 2023, but that’s far from the case. He’s been in the league since 2017, and other than the COVID-shortened season, he’s had at least a 3.2 WAR every year (and that rookie campaign of a 3.2 WAR was limited to 84 games). We’re talking about a guy who – at his very best – was an MVP-calibre player (7.6 and 7.8 WAR in 2018 and 2019 with the A’s). But, his last three years have been pretty damn good, with no less than a 3.5 WAR between Oakland and Toronto. Indeed, he actually had his third-best career WAR season last year with 4.4!

That’s all while averaging $12.5 million per year over the last two years. Considering he’s yet to sign and Spring Training has already started, I would say his value hasn’t skyrocketed. My guess is, you could probably get him on a similar deal today if you offered it to him. And $12.5 million for a 3.5-4.4 WAR guy is kind of a bargain in this day and age!

Now, compare that to a likely platoon of Luis Urias (who, it was announced today, had shoulder inflammation at the start of camp, and had to be shut down for a couple weeks) and Josh Rojas. They combined last year for a 0.3 WAR. Neither is all that good defensively. Their best seasons were both in 2022, when they were at 3.1 and 3.2 WAR respectively. But, considering they both played at least 119 games, it’s not like you can add those two numbers together and hope for a replication of that. Also, that was kind of an outlier year for Rojas; his next-highest WAR was 0.8. Urias had a 3.3 WAR in 2021, but again, I don’t know how likely that is to be replicated in 2024, given his injury history and his performance level in 2023.

What I fear people are thinking is that the Mariners are just one player away. I think we all can agree that the Mariners have a significant problem at third base. It would be a considerable upset if things pan out at that position; my guess is – at best – we’ll get replacement-level production (with a strong likelihood that we’ll be sub-replacement-level). So, when people dismiss Chapman, the thought process becomes, “Well, with our starting pitching, and a good bullpen, the Mariners can survive one black hole at third base.” But, that’s a faulty assumption.

You can’t go into this thing thinking there will only be ONE weak spot; there’s going to be multiple. Somebody’s going to get hurt; likely multiple somebodies, given the histories of some of these guys. Somebody’s going to have a down season – a season that’s not reflective of their recent past that we’re anticipating will continue – for reasons that will mystify. And, again, probably multiple somebodies will have down seasons, or at the very least go long stretches struggling to make an impact. So, signing Matt Chapman isn’t a case of the Mariners papering over their lone blemish; it’s filling one significant hole on a team that’s practically guaranteed to have more than one. It’s a means to try to mitigate some of the damage, and put a competitive product on the field.

The Mariners have done quite a bit this offseason, given their self-imposed constraints. But, overall, they haven’t done enough. This feels like a team that’s poised to beat up on crappy teams, but get bowled over by the good ones. What does that get you? Right around .500, maybe a little over, but ultimately a few games short of the playoffs.

What does Matt Chapman get you? 3-4 wins! That MIGHT just be the difference between a wild card berth, and being a game or two out. Of course, that assumes he does actually come down to Earth on his asking price. It’s hard for me to believe that Seattle would be an attractive place to try to boost your value on a prove-it type of deal. But, if there are no other suitors, he might want to go somewhere that would surely give him an everyday role, on a promising, up-and-coming team. How many open third baseman jobs are there REALLY? I’d venture to guess not many.

I’m So Ready For Julio Rodriguez To Dominate For The Mariners

Julio Rodriguez appears to be a consensus fifth in the American League MVP race according to Vegas (behind top guy Aaron Judge, then Juan Soto, Corey Seager, and Yordan Alvarez). It’s gotta be exciting for these guys, because Shohei Ohtani is in the National League now, so somebody else can finally win for a change!

Fangraphs has Julio seventh in all of baseball for projected WAR with 5.6. ZIPS has him third in all of baseball at 5.7 WAR. Pretty much wherever you go, there’s Julio, projected right there among the very best players in baseball.

This is interesting to me, because while Julio was clearly the best player on the Mariners last year, I wouldn’t say he had a GREAT season. He was definitely hotter than the sun in July and especially August, but other than that he had long stretches where he struggled, especially in the first half, but also down the stretch in September.

Now, clearly, a struggling Julio is A LOT different than a struggling Ty France, or a struggling Taylor Trammell (which is pretty much his entire career). Even when he’s having a tough time, he’s still awesome. He’s still a presence. He’s still a guy other teams have to fear. And, of course, he’s going to give you great defense regardless. He’s still going to play hard and make some moves when he does get on base. He’s going to find ways to contribute.

But, his slash line in 2023 was down across the board compared to his 2022 rookie season, which is why his WAR fell from 6.0 to 5.3. Again, still great! He finished 4th in MVP voting last year, but no one voted him higher than 3rd.

It takes quite a special season to win the MVP award. The Mariners have had exactly two MVPs in their history: Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997, and Ichiro in 2001. Griffey that year was the leader of the most fearsome offense baseball had seen since the ’27 Yankees. And Ichiro entered the Major Leagues like a house on fire, leading the team to a 116-win season. THIS is what I would like to see from Julio. And 2024 is no better time to make that happen.

There’s a lot of hype that the Mariners have improved their offense this year. I’m still in a “I’ll believe it when I see it” mode of thinking. Regardless, I would say no one is expecting these Mariners to blow the doors off of the 2023 variety. It’s all “cautious optimism” and probably a marginal step up.

If you want to see significant improvement from this team, it has to be twofold. First, the depth has to be stronger. The bottom of the order MUST be better. I’m not saying we have to be lights out 1 through 9 in the order, but we can’t have the bottom 4-5 batters completely stinking up the joint like they did for most of last year. If we can see some competence, if we can have more professional at-bats, if we can even just make better and more productive outs, I think it’ll make a world of difference.

But, even that hinges on the second part: we need our stars to be super.

We need J.P. to continue to dominate at the top of the order. We need Cal to continue being a power machine. We need our veterans – Garver, Haniger, Polanco – to step up when they’re healthy. Ideally, we need this Driveline experience to hit the jackpot with Ty France. And, more than anything, we need Julio to play at an MVP level. Not just good with some elite stretches, but consistently great throughout the year.

Even if it’s just the veterans playing AS good as they were last year, and some semblance of improvement from the bottom of the order, I think we could really make some hay with an MVP Julio.

That’s kind of what I’m banking on here, if I have any hope whatsoever of the Mariners making it back to the playoffs. I’m expecting the starters to be great. I’m expecting them to figure it out in the bullpen. But, I’m also expecting the offense to be a dud yet again, costing us winnable games and seeing us ultimately falling short of a wild card berth.

However, if we get MVP Julio? Then, I’ll be willing to suspend my disbelief. I’ll be willing to go all in on this team with its cheapskate ownership group. I’ll be willing to hope that we can somehow put it all together for a magical playoff run.

Now is the time! He had his Rookie of the Year campaign. He had his Sophomore Slump. Now, it’s time for the MVP trophy. Now, it’s time to take that next step into the stratosphere. Be the envy of everyone, and the face of baseball, as you were destined to be!

Geno Smith Is Still With The Seahawks, For Now

I wouldn’t say this is Earth-shattering news, but it was announced today that the Seahawks will be keeping Geno Smith beyond Friday’s deadline. That deadline? Keep Geno and have his 2024 base salary guaranteed (at $12.7 million), or let him go and save that amount.

So, there’s a couple things to keep in mind with this move. First, the base salary figure obviously isn’t equal to his cap hit for this season, which will be considerably higher; after all, you have the pro-rated portion of his signing bonus to factor in ($8.7 million). Second, there’s also a $9.6 million roster bonus that triggers on March 17th. All told, with a $200,000 workout bonus, we’re looking at a total cap hit of just over $31 million, if Geno Smith is still here on St. Patrick’s Day.

Clearly, if Geno Smith is still on the Seahawks at that point, he’s here to stay at least through this season. That doesn’t prevent us from looking towards the draft for his replacement, but it would be tricky to trade him after that point.

Though, I dunno, maybe not. If we eat his roster bonus, then presumably we could get more in return after it vests. But, ideally, we’d find a trade partner beforehand, and avoid that unpleasantness altogether, while still getting some semblance of a return.

I don’t have a very strong opinion on this matter. It doesn’t sound like Geno Smith is getting a ringing endorsement. I will say that my opinion will largely hinge on what we do at backup. If we’re simply going to run it back with Geno and Drew Lock, with no attempt at drafting anyone of significance (i.e. someone in the first three rounds), I think I’ll be pretty upset. Because clearly it isn’t working with this configuration, and now it kicks the can another year down the road when it comes to finding a long-term solution. On top of which, everyone in the know says that the 2025 draft class is going to be pretty meagre when it comes to the quarterback position. I guess that can always change, but I dunno. Feels like another 9-8 type of season if we keep the status quo.

But, if we end up making a big draft splash and getting a quarterback this year, then it’s a pretty solid move to keep Geno one more year, let the rookie sit until he’s ready, and then move on for 2025 (while not having to eat nearly as much in dead money).

As usual, we can’t really have a strong opinion one way or the other until we see the other moves in the works. Ain’t it always the way?

The Seahawks Hired Ryan Grubb Away From Alabama

There have been a number of interesting moves this offseason when it comes to college coaches bolting for the NFL (or lesser jobs at their own level). There seems to be this segment of college coaches who are tired of all the bullshit that’s required in the game today. And until this nebulous mess eventually gets sorted out and morphs into the semi-pro football league it was always destined to become, I think you’re going to find more and more people trying to get into more stable NFL jobs (and yes, I see the irony there; NFL jobs are anything but stable).

Chip Kelly took a demotion – going from UCLA’s head coach to Ohio State’s offensive coordinator – just to try to escape the drama. Jim Harbaugh left his dream job at Michigan to go back and be a hired gun with the Chargers. And now we have Ryan Grubb – formerly attached to the hip of Kalen DeBoer – leaving one of the most prestigious college programs in Alabama, to do the same job with the Seattle Seahawks.

I like this hire for any number of reasons. First and foremost, I think Ryan Grubb is an excellent offensive coordinator and play-caller. Guys were constantly getting open, and defenses were almost always on their heels trying to figure out a way to counter.

Of course, the question we have to ask ourselves is: can he do it without Michael Penix? I don’t know much about his career before Washington. My hunch is that he was still great, but you never know. An elite quarterback can paper over a lot of questionable calls.

There’s also the challenge of doing it at this level, where the resources are infinite. Teams are eventually going to figure out a way to slow him down. That’s when he’ll need to figure out a way to shift gears and adjust on the fly.

What intrigues me most about this is maybe this is the first step in reuniting him with Penix. The Seahawks have the 16th pick. If things shake out the way we expect, Penix just might be available in that range. I would be elated with this turn of events!

And finally, sticking it to DeBoer and Alabama feels exceedingly satisfying. It hasn’t been the smoothest transition for the Crimson Tide – though, I contend they’ll be just fine in the long run – and this is just another speed bump they have to endure before they get rocking and rolling. Will they suffer any new defections as a result? I hope so!

I couldn’t be happier with how this offseason has gone, from a coaching standpoint. The Seahawks have done everything I would have done if I were in charge of the team. In that sense … I dunno, is that a bad sign? What the hell do I know?! Either this all goes perfectly, and we get right back to our winning ways in a hurry, or it blows up in our faces and we’re left wondering if we know anything about the game of football whatsoever.

Given my history of prognosticating on sports, I’d bet the latter.

It’s Been A While Since The Mariners Haven’t Had A Third Baseman

By and large, Mariners fans have been spoiled through the years, in this one very specific area. Third baseman is a weird spot on a team. It’s one of the few true power positions, but it also requires a level of athleticism and defensive ability to where you can’t just throw any old hulk over there. He’d get eaten alive by too many hot shot grounders. That’s what seemingly makes it one of the toughest spots on the team to fill. You need that athleticism, you need a strong arm, and you ideally would also have some semblance of extra base-hitting ability.

With second base, you can hide athletic infielders who don’t have the arm or the pop. With first base, obviously they’re almost exclusively lacking in athleticism, but they generally come with more power. A competent third baseman who has all three facets of the game is kind of a unicorn! And yet, with few exceptions, the Mariners have been pretty well stocked at the position dating back to the mid 90s (and maybe beyond).

Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Seager before him, then there was Adrian Beltre, David Bell, Russ Davis, Mike Blowers, and way back in the day, a young and fit Edgar Martinez.

The last time we didn’t really have much of anything at third base, you have to go back to 2010 and the first half of 2011. That’s when we had a year of Jose Lopez, and half a year of Chone Figgins (before Seager got the call-up and promptly took over). I don’t know if you remember those days, but they were terrible! And, unless something huge happens soon, I think 2024 is going to look a lot like those days.

I don’t care what anyone says, Luis Urias stinks! Even at his very best, in 2021, he had a 112 OPS+, which is better than average, but by no means great. Josh Rojas appears to be his platoon partner over there – at least, on paper – but he’s only valuable if he’s hitting for a high average. Neither one has extreme power numbers; Urias is probably better than Rojas in that regard, but I can’t imagine – as a righty – he’s going to have much success hitting in Seattle.

Who else are we looking at? Maybe Dylan Moore, maybe Sam Haggerty; the usual suspects of suck.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the moment the Mariners traded Suarez, they were punting on the third base spot. Not that I have tremendous confidence Suarez will bounce back in 2024, but I have WAY more confidence in that than I do the Mariners having a competent third baseman currently on their roster.

If we don’t see the third base spot hitting in the bottom third of the order, it’ll be both a surprise and probably a total breach of judgment. Just be prepared for a humongous black hole in that spot.

It’s frustrating to know this now, and it’s not even Spring Training yet. If the Mariners somehow hang around contention, they MIGHT make a deadline deal for an actual third baseman. But, they could save us a lot of headaches by just doing a deal with someone NOW! Let’s get ahead of it, before we’re all booing every single third baseman we see.

Looking At The Mariners’ Bullpen

My concern throughout this offseason is that the bullpen wasn’t being fostered as much as it should, and that it would be this team’s biggest weakness (even worse than a probably-terrible offense). Matt Brash can still be prone to blow-ups, and Andres Munoz can be pretty inconsistent at times. And how long before either has a serious arm injury knocking them out for the season?

Gregory Santos helps in that regard. Now, we appear to have a true three-headed monster at the back of the bullpen (as long as they stay healthy), which just means we have to slot the rest in behind them.

The Mariners are pretty clearly in a three-tier system with their bullpen, with the above-referenced guys in that very top tier. In the next tier down, I’m putting guys like:

  • Gabe Speier
  • Tayler Saucedo
  • Eduard Bazardo
  • Ty Adcock

They were all varying degrees of “fine” in 2023 for the Mariners. They could grow into something more, they could regress hard, or they could stay middle-of-the-road relievers, eating up innings mostly in lost causes, with the occasional bursts of usefulness in higher leverage situations (when our elite relievers are taxed and need a rest).

Then, we’ve got the total wild cards who currently reside on the 40-man roster:

  • Carlos Vargas
  • Austin Voth
  • Trent Thornton
  • Cody Bolton
  • Jackson Kowar
  • Mauricio Llovera

Llovera was claimed off waivers and seems like camp fodder. Bolton was purchased from the Pirates and looks like he had somewhat of a rough rookie season in 2023 (after pretty good numbers in the minors). Kowar came over in the Kelenic trade (who was himself flipped by the Braves after playing in the Royals’ organization) and seems like the best possibility to make good on that otherwise terrible deal for the M’s. Kowar hasn’t really been good since 2021, so we’ll see.

I’m on record as not understanding what Thornton is doing on the Mariners. Sure, his ERA looked amazing last year (2.08), but his FIP was 4.72 and that seems to be closer to his actual value. He got lucky last year; I expect that luck to run out very soon. As for Voth, I guess he has a sweeper pitch that might be something. Both of these guys are veterans, so I guess the hope is they prove capable enough to stick and be some mentors to the younger guys.

Carlos Vargas might be the most interesting prospect of the bunch (he came over in the Suarez deal). He’s still pretty raw and I’m guessing will start off the season in Tacoma. But, we need plenty of depth to hang out in AAA until they get the call up for injuries or ineffectiveness.

I’ll tell you what, though, the bottom of this bullpen could look VERY dire, unless we have a surprise or two make it big out of Spring Training. I guess I should stop doubting the Mariners’ abilities in finding diamonds in the rough, because they’ve done it every year for God knows. But, how long until the luck runs out, or the well runs dry, or whatever you want to call it?

My sentiment on bullpens for a while now is: since they’re so incredibly volatile, you might as well not pump a ton of free agency dollars into them. Especially if you’re a team like the Mariners and there’s a finite amount of those dollars to go around. I’d rather spend that money in more useful areas. But, if our ability to develop these nobodies ever falters, or if we find the wrong set of nobodies who don’t take to our partcular teachings, then there’s nothing worse than a truly terrible bullpen. The best way to win more games than you otherwise should – i.e. the best way to paper over a subpar offense – is to go above and beyond in your bullpen. But, conversely, the best way to look like the absolute fucking worst, is to blow a bunch of games you should’ve won, because your starting rotation is awesome and your hitting is sometimes competent, but your bullpen just can’t lock it down.

Which is why I don’t usually give the bullpen a ton of thought. I don’t want to know all the ins and outs. I just want to show up when the regular season starts and find out who’s great and who needs to go.

The Seahawks Hired Leslie Frazier To Be The Assistant Head Coach

There’s a positive and a negative way to take a hire like this, but unfortunately we don’t know all the circumstances around the hire, so the best we can do is speculate. In spite of what remarks are given to the media, we’re not behind closed doors and able to understand the full rationale for Leslie Frazier being the Assistant Head Coach.

For starters, it should be pointed out that not every team HAS an assistant head coach. Usually, someone gets that moniker as a fluffed up promotion of sorts, to coincide with their other job, be it coordinator or some position coach. But, rarely do you see someone as JUST the assistant head coach.

The positive spin on it is: Leslie Frazier is an experienced professional who can help create a softer landing for Mike Macdonald, first-time head coach. Frazier’s been a head coach before, he’s interviewed to be a head coach umpteen times, he’s been a defensive coordinator multiple times over, they worked together briefly, so I’m assuming they’re both pretty like-minded in their football sensibilities. But, no matter how good you are at calling plays, no matter how smart of a football mind you have, there’s no substitute for experience. Someone to teach you, or remind you, of certain things you might not have considered otherwise, when you were focused solely on one side of the football.

The negative spin on it is: the Seahawks just hired a babysitter for Mike Macdonald. They’re hedging their bets a little bit. You’ve got a first-time head coach over here, and you’ve got a well-respected NFL veteran over there, and who are the players going to listen to? Who are the players going to trust more? Maybe Frazier sees this as his last chance to make a real impact. If he can drive a wedge, and maybe Macdonald makes a mistake or two, there’s a chance to be an interim head coach, and if he plays his cards right, a full-time head coach sooner rather than later.

I will say that seems incredibly unlikely. Everything I’ve heard about Frazier is that he’s a phenomenal human being. I have no reason to expect there’s any ulterior motives about this move. But, it is interesting.

If Frazier is really the mentor he’s made out to be, then maybe Macdonald’s whole plan around hiring the remainder of the coaching staff is to go younger across the board. Sure, Macdonald will call the plays at first, but if he hires a green assistant to be a first-time DC, Frazier can be right by his side to guide his hand and help accelerate his development. We don’t know how long Macdonald intends on calling the defense, but presumably he would like to pass the baton sooner rather than later, so he can proceed to being what he was hired to be: this team’s head coach. As he said, the head coach has to coach the entire football team, not just his specialty.

My hunch is that this will be a good thing. My hunch is also that Frazier probably won’t be here longer than a year or two, and then either he’ll retire or he’ll find another job somewhere else. In the grand scheme of things, probably not a huge deal. But, potentially significant in the overall development of Macdonald the Seahawks’ head coach.

The Mariners Traded For Gregory Santos

After the last deal, for Jorge Polanco, the Mariners made a weak spot that much more flimsy by raiding from a bullpen that was already down Paul Sewald (as well as promising youngsters Isaiah Campbell, Penn Murfee, and Matt Festa, among others we’ve shipped off over the last couple seasons). The loss of Justin Topa meant that our third-best reliever (and maybe our first-most-consistent reliever) was gone. I mean, can you imagine what a bullpen would look like with Sewald, Brash, Munoz, AND Topa? Well, we had it for most of last damn year, and look at where it got us!

Well, over the weekend, the M’s made a trade with the White Sox. We gave them reliever Prelander Berroa, minor league outfielder Zach DeLoach, and a very nice 69th overall draft pick. In return, we get reliever Gregory Santos.

Berroa was a promising reliever prospect who pitched primarily in AA last year, while drinking a sip of coffee with the Mariners in two appearances. There’s some incredible stuff there, a blazing fastball, tons of strikeouts, but also a little iffy on the command. I find it extremely interesting that the Mariners – an organization prized for developing bullpen arms – would give up on a prospect like Berroa. Maybe they’re worried about his arm holding up, maybe they doubt his ability to rein in his command. Whatever it is, it feels like he was the most talented of The Pile we have on the 40-man roster today. Ultimately, the thinking is: Santos has it right now, whereas Berroa might still be another year away. And if you believe that this team is trying to win in 2024 (which I’m still not so sure they are), then obviously you like a Santos more than a Berroa.

With Santos, there’s lots of club control, and instead of being a huge maybe, the belief is that he’s a legitimate stud. My concern is his durability and his ability to generate strikeouts.

He appeared in 60 games in 2023, all with the White Sox. In 2022, he pitched in 37 games (mostly in the minors); in 2021, he pitched in 17 games (also mostly in the minors), and in 2020 he didn’t pitch at all due to COVID. So, it’s no wonder he landed on the IL late last year with arm problems; the hope is that it was just fatigue. But, the Mariners tend to be one of those teams that over-taxes their bullpen, so I don’t know if I’m jumping for joy.

As for his strikeouts, it’s not like he DOESN’T strike batters out. But, he’s not in the upper echelon of a Brash or Munoz. He averaged 9.0 stikeouts per nine innings last year; Munoz averaged 12.3 and Brash averaged a whopping 13.6! What’s interesting about Santos is that he has reverse platoon splits. As a right hander, he’s actually BETTER against lefties. It’s a sample size of one season, but still. Lower batting average, on-base, slugging. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is leaps and bounds better. While Brash and Munoz aren’t BAD against lefties, when they do struggle, it tends to be because lefties get to them. Santos might be a salve for this problem. We can mix-and-match a little more, if an opposing team has a run of lefties coming.

What sounds crazy to me is that Fangraphs or someone has projected Santos to be the best reliever in baseball in 2024. If that’s the case, then DAMN is this a good deal!

Obviously, we don’t know what Zach DeLoach is going to turn into (or Gabriel Gonzalez, for that matter, from the Polanco deal), but neither projected to be much of anything for the Mariners in 2024. DeLoach played all of last year in Tacoma, and was presumably their best and most consistent hitter, but was he ever going to crack our ever-growing chasm of Quad-A utility guys? I mean, shit, we already have Haggerty, Raley, Canzone, Marlowe, Moore, Trammell, and Clase. And that’s not even factoring in Julio and Haniger! Frankly, DeLoach going to the White Sox feels like the best thing for him. My guess is, as someone who’s already been traded multiple times, he’s not going to pan out at the Major League level. But, if he does, a place like Chicago, with low expectations and lots of opportunity for at bats, just might do the trick.

In a future post, I’m going to write about the bullpen. There’s still work to do, but I don’t know if that’s going to come from outside the organization. All those developmental coaches are going to have to earn their paychecks this spring!

The Huskies Hired Steve Belichick To Be The Defensive Coordinator

It’s been a tough last few weeks to be a Husky fan. There was the whole unpleasantness with the National Championship Game, the ensuing coaching carousel, and the myriad of player defections. But, it’s starting to feel like things are turning around a bit.

I’m hearing more about players coming IN rather than players leaving. Maybe not enough for the Huskies to be worth a damn in 2024, but hopefully well-equipped for a bounce-back in 2025.

I also got the chance to listen to Jedd Fisch on the radio last week, as he hopped on the Brock & Salk program. I had kind of avoided a lot of the news when he was originally hired, so this was really my first introduction to our new head coach. It’s not that I don’t believe in him; I think it’s as good of a hire as we could’ve gotten, given the circumstances. What he did in turning around the Wildcats so quickly is nothing short of DeBoer-ian. I’m sure he’s a great coach, great recruiter, and he’ll do excellent work for the University of Washington.

But, I mean, he had one foot already out the door before he even signed on the dotted line. Florida is apparently his dream job, and I’m guessing the moment that becomes available, he’ll be gone. Short of that, I’m sure with even moderate success at Washington, he’ll use it to bounce to the SEC and that’ll be that. I give it three years, tops, and only because this first year is looking to be a little down for Washington.

So, I’m not going into this situation with any delusions that Fisch is going to be here long term. College Football is what it is. It’ll be smart for the University of Washington to have people dedicated to tracking more up-and-coming head coaching candidates for when this needs to happen again.

My take-away from the Fisch radio interview is that I’m actually impressed. He does seem really forthright, even if there’s a used car salesman sort of vibe about him. He said that the whole “interview process” consisted of about a 45-minute phone call. Then, a few hours later, he received a formal offer; that was it! Compare that to what the Seahawks went through before landing on Mike Macdonald, and it’s night & day!

Fisch never once talked about Washington being the be-all, end-all. He never made any promises to be here for the duration. His biggest reason for coming here isn’t the locale or the history or even the recent success; he came to Washington because we’re going to the Big Ten next year, and it’s vitally important to be in either the Big Ten or SEC going forward, if you want to compete with the big dogs.

That’s it. His sales tactic to recruits is as follows: we’re in the Big Ten, we’re running a pro style system (so if you want to go to the NFL, best to get your feet wet here), and we’re going to be willing to play Freshmen (because that’s the only way you’re ever going to manage to KEEP your Freshman, since so many would rather enter the transfer portal than red shirt), even if it means we have to endure the growing pains. The main difference between Fisch and DeBoer appears to be Fisch’s insistence that building through high school players is preferable to trying to poach the transfer portal. Of course, at this point, DeBoer won’t have any trouble getting players any way he wants them. There’s no stopping the Alabama train.

Another feather in the Fisch cap is his connections. He has pretty extensive ties in both college and the pro ranks. That experience and network should work wonders. Which brings us to Steve Belichick, our new defensive coordinator.

Belichick has been calling plays for the New England Patriots under his dad for the last however-many years. It’s been a while. The only reason he wasn’t deemed to be the Defensive Coordinator there is because they also had Head Coach In Waiting Jerod Mayo on the defensive staff, and it appears Bill didn’t want to play favorites.

Regardless, Steve Belichick might’ve been a nepo hire originally, but I think he’s proven himself quite well. Say what you will about the Patriots since Tom Brady left, but their defense has been up to the task of at least keeping them in games. I think this is a phenomenal hire! And I can’t wait to see what it does for our recruiting going forward.

I guess you could say I’m coming around on this whole thing. I still don’t know how good the Huskies will be in 2024. There’s really two pieces to this thing: the recruiting part, and the development part. DeBoer was always known as a superior head coach who needed to work on his recruiting prowess (seems like, if you’re a great coach, and you win all the time, what more do you really need to do to sell yourself?). Fisch, on the other hand, has been lauded for his recruiting. But, he only has one 10-win season under his belt so far as a head coach. Will he have what it takes on fall Saturdays to make up for a temporarily-lacking roster? We’ll find out.

What’s More Important For The Seahawks: Scheme Or Talent?

You know what’s always been hard for me to wrap my head around? The Seahawks under Pete Carroll – for multiple years in a row – had the best defense in the NFL. They drafted well, they developed well, they hit on some free agents, and they had a scheme that put it all together, worked to everyone’s strengths, and was a menace for opposing offenses to play against.

Then, for many years after that – still under Pete Carroll – the Seahawks were among the worst defensive teams in the NFL. Same coach, ostensibly the same scheme, yet for whatever reason nothing was working, no matter how many resources we poured into that side of the ball.

Well, the simple argument there is that TALENT is more important. When this team had multiple All Pros and future Hall of Famers, they were amazing; when they lost all those guys, the Seahawks were crummy.

But, I keep coming back to this post, and the point I made about every team that was worse than us defensively in 2022 were LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than us in 2023. We’re looking at the Lions, Vikings, Texans, Bears, Raiders, and Falcons. Other than the Texans drafting Will Anderson, there really wasn’t much help for any of those teams. I know the Bears made some trade deadline deals, but I don’t know if there was a ton of influx among those teams. Certainly not a ton of big names! I’m willing to wager there was a lot of talent-holdover from 2022 to 2023; yet some significant improvements were made!

That has to be scheme, right? Yes, the L.O.B. had a unique scheme – Cover 3 – that not a lot of other teams were utilizing the way we were. But, eventually, teams started to hone in on routes to defeat Cover 3. Sure, the talent declined, but also the scheme got stale, and the combination of that really did us in.

It never felt like the Seahawks took that next step – made that next adjustment – to fight back against what offenses were doing against them. They had their mantras: don’t get beat deep, focus on stopping the run. But, that just left a wide swath of the middle of the field wide open, and our softer coverages were incredibly beatable.

There’s talent on this defense. Devon Witherspoon, Riq Woolen, and Tre Brown are all good to great. Jordyn Brooks continually shows you why he was deemed a first round talent. Nwosu, Mafe, Leonard Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Julian Love; there are and were DUDES on this side of the ball. In spite of their age, there’s a lot guys like Quandre Diggs and Bobby Wagner can bring to the table; on the flipside, I’d like to think there’s more we could be getting out of Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall. We don’t have that one huge defensive line pass rush monster, but then again, do the Falcons or Vikings? Are the guys on the Raiders or Bears THAT much better than our guys?

Or, did those teams and respective coaches scheme their guys up to play better than their overall talent might otherwise indicate?

I watch a good amount of football, not just Seahawks games. Yet I never really see other teams play quite like we do. Every fucking week, it’s like we get bled dry on defense. Teams picking us apart, getting easy completions, rarely seeing any sort of consistent pressure. Oh sure, the Seahawks will pick it up against inept offenses. But, if you’re even remotely competent, you’re going to have a pretty easy time moving up and down the field and scoring points.

Carolina, with Andy Dalton, should not be able to generate 378 yards and 27 points, I’m sorry! The Steelers, on their second offensive coordinator and their third quarterback, should not be able to come into your house and get 468 yards and 30 points! This isn’t getting routed by the Ravens, or the Cowboys not punting once. These are TERRIBLE offenses moving the football at will, on the road, in one of the loudest environments in the NFL.

Which is why I was so excited to hear that Mike Macdonald is planning on calling the defense, at least at first. I have zero doubt whatsoever that we could bring back exactly the same D as 2023 and see vastly superior results, just with the change in scheme.

What have we heard so often from players who left Seattle for other teams? Especially the defensive linemen: the Seahawks don’t let you do anything. They’re more worried about plugging gaps than they are about getting up field and making plays on the quarterback. They’re so concerned about giving up anything over the top that they play hyper-conservative and welcome teams taking the underneath stuff. The only problem with that is when they DO take that underneath stuff. It makes converting on third down easier, it makes avoiding third downs entirely easier, and inevitably your team is going to make some mistakes causing you to give up a deep ball or two anyway.

And what have we heard about Mike Macdonald? That he’s cerebral. That he studies tape more than anyone. That he’s the most prepared guy on the team, who’s going to find your weakness and exploit it. He’s going to make the offense’s job miserable. And that, in turn, is going to lead to more sacks, more turnovers, and doing it all with less blitzing.

Sure sounds like the scheme can be awfully important! I mean, I’d love more than anything to have that nice cross-section of both; who doesn’t want more talent on their roster? But, I’m not prepared to put it all on the feet of the talent.

Granted, if you’re the 49ers right now, you’ve got quite the bounty on that side of the ball. But, we don’t even need to be the best of the best. I would settle for just being better than we’ve been. Let’s start there, and see where Macdonald and company can take us.