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.