What Happens After The Seahawks Have Another .500-ish Season?

In the last 9 years, the Seahawks have won the NFC West twice; they’ve made the playoffs six times, but failed to advance beyond the divisional round. In the last three seasons – the final one with an injured Russell Wilson, and the two with Geno Smith at the helm – we’ve gone a combined 25-26, including back-to-back 9-8 seasons.

That’s the nutshell of why Pete Carroll was fired. We’re hoping – with Mike Macdonald & Co. – to do significantly better than that.

Pete Carroll had a Win Forever mentality. That means no rebuilding, no tearing things down to build back better; rather, to maintain a consistent level of excellence, presumably to give yourself as many bites at the apple as possible. As we’ve seen from numerous middling-looking players and teams throughout the Super Bowl Era, all it takes is one hot stretch in the playoffs, and you too can be a champion, Joe Flacco! You too can be a Two-Time Champion, Eli Manning!

To some of us Seahawks fans, that feels like a Fantasyland of sorts. As we saw here, no team can win forever, not even one as lethally-constructed as the Legion Of Boom-era Seahawks. Contracts and egos and draft mistakes and compounding trade mistakes get in the way, and slowly, but surely, erode what you’ve built. You’re forced to make compromises, you get trapped into investing in the wrong position groups (so desperate to cling to the few stars you’ve managed to cultivate, even if it’s multiple safeties), until eventually you’re winning just enough to MAKE the playoffs, but you’re never good enough to do any real damage once you get there.

It’s the teams who tear down, who are able to fortify through high draft picks at key positions (quarterback, both sides of the line of scrimmage), they’re the ones who tend to pop more often than not. They’re the ones who get good and deep, who stay good for a while, before ultimately falling apart and needing to start the cycle all over again.

I would rather have THAT, than be Forever Mediocre, which is ultimately what the Pete Carroll system brought us. You’ll never become elite if you’re always drafting in the 20’s.

That’s all just a way of me saying: I think the Seahawks are going to be mediocre in 2024 once again.

Honestly? I don’t see any way it’s possible for these Seahawks to win fewer than 8 games. I don’t even care about the schedule; it doesn’t matter who we’re going up against. We have two decent, but not-great quarterbacks. Geno Smith has already proven he’s good enough to get us to 9 wins; he’s done it twice in a row! The drop-off from Smith to Sam Howell is negligible at best; there’s an argument to be made that the Seahawks might ultimately be better with Howell. Regardless, we won’t be worse.

The running back room is strong, the wide receiver room is strong, and the tight ends are fine (if unimportant to the passing game at large). The only way this offense takes a significant step back is if the offensive line is a total disaster, or if the offensive scheme is too much for these players to handle (or if our play-caller just isn’t ready for NFL adjustments). The thing is, the offensive line was already pretty bad last year, and a lot of the same pieces are returning (or similar-in-talent pieces to the guys we lost). I’ll be watching the OC closely, but given that he’s a former Husky – who presided over the best Husky offense we’ve ever seen – I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

As for the defense, the D-Line is as stacked as it’s been in years. We have talent at cornerback, so that’s the top two areas of need on any defense. We’re a little lacking in name recognition at linebacker and safety, but those are also two of the least-important position groups on any given team (and also the easiest to fill out with no-name players). Combined with Mike Macdonald being something of a defensive mastermind, I don’t expect this side of the ball to be any WORSE than it’s been the last few years (when it was down around 30th in the league in multiple areas).

The Seahawks have been 9-8 the last two years with a terrible defense and a Geno Smith-esque quarterback. Geno’s back, and the defense should be at least marginally improved, so I would expect nothing less than 8 or 9 wins this season.

With that being said, you might be wondering why I’m not asking what happens if the Seahawks are considerably better than expected? If, again, my floor is 8-9 wins, isn’t it at least possible that we win another 4 games and get to 12-13?

Sure, anything’s possible. But, again, this team has holes. The O-Line just isn’t there yet. Geno clearly has a ceiling that is going to prevent us from seriously competing against the very best teams in the league, and as long as we’ve got the 49ers and Rams in our own division, that dog just isn’t going to hunt. And, while I have the utmost confidence in our coaching staff, and believe we did a remarkable job wading through those waters in finding the correct hires this offseason, there’s always a learning curve that first season. There are growing pains, there are players who just won’t be good fits in our schemes, and there are players who will likely be resistant to change.

That’s my diplomatic way of saying: I don’t believe D.K. Metcalf will be long for this team.

All that put together, I’m expecting another 9-8 season in 2024. So, what happens when that ultimately transpires?

Well, I was discouraged to hear John Schneider – in some interview he gave recently – continue to espouse a version of that Win Forever mentality. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was a clunky way to avoid something that Pete Carroll either trademarked, or otherwise has his stink all over. Of course, what is an NFL GM going to say? They’re not going to tell us they WANT to have a shitty year or two, before rebounding and competing for a championship again. It just kinda has to come naturally, all while pretending you’re disappointed to be drafting in the Top 10 and getting a potential game-changing presence on your team.

This isn’t exclusive to the Seahawks, by the way. The Steelers seem to be a prime example of this philosophy. They haven’t seriously contended since 2016, when they lost in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots. Before that, it was 2010 when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Packers. Otherwise, you’re looking a nothing but early playoff exits and a whole lotta .500 ball or (slightly) better. I think this is precisely what the Seahawks want to be. Who’s more respected than the Steelers? They’ve had, like, 3 head coaches in the last 60 years or some shit. They’re rarely – if ever – truly bad; but outside of the Ben Roethlisberger era, they’re rarely great either. And, even in that Roethlisberger era, it was certainly front-loaded. For as talented as he was, later in his career, that team could never carry him over the finish line like the Broncos did with an elderly Peyton Manning.

I want to believe the Seahawks – upon finishing 9-8 again, or maybe even 10-7 and sneaking into a wild card spot – will cut ties with Geno Smith and make a serious push in the next year or two at drafting a quarterback of the future. Because how many of these mediocre finishes can we withstand? It’s the fucking WORST! I’d rather be fucking 3-14 than lose in the wild card round again.

But, I dunno. If Mike Macdonald is going to stick around here, he needs to do something great in the first couple years. Making a wild card as a rookie head coach might buy him a couple extra seasons, but will it also encourage this organization to stay the course? To put their faith in Geno Smith? To continue struggling to fill the O-Line because you can’t get any good linemen in the 20’s of the NFL draft?

It kinda feels like we’re in for another five years of this shit, until ultimately the entire house is swept away. Until the team is sold, Schneider is fired, and Macdonald is back coordinating defenses again. At which point, I’ll be pushing 50.

Good God, the passage of time is a cruel bitch.

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2022: The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel

It was another demoralizing defeat, it’s fine. This time, it wasn’t quite the bloodbath; I only just BARELY scored the fewest points in the league (the team I lost to the previous week – the team who scored the most that week – just edged me out by .05 points this past week). Car Talk With Josh Allen defeated RoundTine 142.95 to 117.25.

I got 2 points from Justin Fields. He’s looking like utter trash from a fantasy perspective. I would hold out hope for Mac Jones (who managed 13.15 points), but he just suffered a severe high ankle sprain. That means more Fields; lucky me!

Gabe Davis didn’t do much of anything for me; looked like he dropped a TD pass in that one. Everyone else did just sort of okay, but when you’re getting that kind of nothing out of your two QB spots, it’s going to be hard to get over the 100-point hump week-in and week-out. Even if I were able to cherry-pick my very best lineup, I still would’ve lost by a marginal amount, so I’m not too devastated. My calls would’ve been proven right had Davis nabbed that touchdown.

No waiver claims this week, but I did pick up Romeo Doubs from the Packers as a free agent. Once again, we’re playing for the future, and so I’m on the rookie receiver trail, hoping to find the next Justin Jefferson. I already picked up Garrett Wilson, now I have Doubs. In his place, I dropped Diontae Johnson, who is perfectly fine, but he’s got Mitch Trubisky throwing to him. That’s not reliable. Eventually, he’ll have a brand new rookie quarterback throwing to him. That’s also not reliable. Plus, there’s a lot of competition for targets in that offense. It all adds up to a nice little pick-up for someone else in the league to get a dependable receiver going forward.

Meanwhile, I get Doubs, who (for now) has Aaron Rodgers throwing to him. I like that a lot more. That seems VERY reliable.

It’s on to next week, against Beasts, one of the best fantasy football owners I know. Here’s who I’ve got:

  • Jameis Winston (QB) vs. Min
  • Justin Fields (QB) @ NYG
  • Gabe Davis (WR) @ Bal
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) @ Det
  • Javonte Williams (RB) @ LV
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) vs. Was
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE) vs. Sea
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) vs. Was
  • Evan McPherson (K) vs. Mia
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) @ SF

I’m sitting Doubs because I’m always reluctant to immediately start my brand new lottery ticket. I did the same thing with Wilson last week and was proven correct, as he only got 12 points. I’ve still got Wilson on my bench this week, waiting for a matchup that isn’t the Steelers. He still got a great target share last week, but I think I’m also waiting for Joe Flacco to not be his quarterback anymore. Zach Wilson can return anytime he likes, as far as I’m concerned!

Do you want to see a dynasty team that’s LOADED? Take a look at Beasts:

  • Justin Herbert (QB) @ Hou
  • Russell Wilson (QB) @ LV
  • Cooper Kupp (WR) @ SF
  • Courtland Sutton (WR) @ LV
  • Christian McCaffrey (RB) vs. Ari
  • Derrick Henry (RB) @ IND
  • Mark Andrews (TE) vs. Buf
  • Tyler Lockett (RB) @ Det
  • Tyler Bass (K) @ Bal
  • Tampa Bay (DEF) vs. KC

He might have to swap Herbert out due to injury, but otherwise this is a cakewalk. Do you know what it’s like to go into a contest and know – without a shadow of a doubt – that you’re going to lose? It’s like if I walked into a ring with vintage Mike Tyson. Hell, it would be like walking into a ring with TODAY Mike Tyson! What would it take for me to even be competitive? Every single one of my players would have to have the game of his life, and even then I’d get -4.05 from Fields and lose by 20.

I’d be more demoralized if I wasn’t a combined 5-1 in my other two leagues. I can still do this! I can still be a smart fantasy football guy! I just got trapped inside a hell of my own making with this league.

At one point, Tua was my future. I let him go. At one point, I had Tyreek Hill, and I traded him for some magic beans. At one point, I could’ve had Herbert or Dak or Hurts. Hell, I could’ve had Jared Goff this year and instead I opted for a fifth receiver I don’t really need! This quarterback conundrum has been neverending, for the better part of a decade. Even when I thought I had a good one, I managed to get him in the absolute worst year of his career (I’m having flashbacks to Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers at their pre-old guy nadirs). In this league, I can’t do anything right. Even when I think I’ve gotten everything BUT the quarterback position settled, it’s all just kind of mediocre. I’m in another league where I took that strategy, and it’s working splendidly. But, this league? For whatever reason, my non-quarterbacks can’t seem to get much more than 10 points per week, and often get far less.

I think that’s why I’m reluctant to move on from Jones or Fields. If Tua can do what he’s done so far this year, why couldn’t Fields – at some point – develop into the kind of player who can get me 40+ points? He was great in college, like Tua. He’s not necessarily super mobile with his legs, like Tua. He’s starting out his NFL career without much in the way of offensive talent around him, like Tua. Why couldn’t he blossom in Year 3 or Year 4?

There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be patient. It’s not like these guys are going anywhere. I’m guaranteed at least a top 4 pick for next year. Here’s hoping I’ll find someone among the incoming rookie class to hang my hat on.

How Long Will It Take The Seahawks To Find Their Franchise Quarterback?

19 of the 32 NFL head coaches were hired in 2020 or later. That gives you some idea of the kind of turnover we’re talking about in the league. It also gives you a little bit of an idea of how many well-run franchises are out there. The teams with head coaches hired since 2020 by and large haven’t been very good. There are exceptions, of course; Tampa and New Orleans had legit guys either retire or take a year off. But, for the most part, when you think of the worst-run franchises in the NFL – the Giants, Jets, Texans, Jags, Bears, Lions, Commanders, Browns – and even the mediocre franchises – Panthers, Cowboys, Falcons, Dolphins, Eagles, Vikings, Raiders, Chargers – they’re all on this list.

I would say the best-run orgs with new head coaches are the Broncos, Saints, and Bucs. The Broncos just made a huge move to bring in Russell Wilson. The Saints are on year two of trying to replace Drew Brees. And we’re well aware of the Bucs and how they’ve done with Tom Brady.

It’s no coincidence that to win in the NFL – and therefore to be considered a well-run organization – you need a quality quarterback. But, even that doesn’t guarantee anything. Do we think the Bengals are a well-run organization? Of course not. But, they lucked into Joe Burrow, who seems to be a generational talent. Do we think the Cardinals are well-run? No way! But, they’re saddled with Kyler Murray through a second contract, and we’ll get to watch them fail to make a Super Bowl for many years to come. The Titans and Colts have won a lot of games in recent years, but I don’t think either franchise is super thrilled with their quarterback situations.

What I’m trying to get at here is the Chicken/Egg question: are well-run organizations more prone to finding quality franchise quarterbacks? Or, is it the quality franchise quarterback that makes an organization appear to be well-run?

What makes it tricky is the fact that head coaches don’t usually get opportunities to stick around through multiple quarterback changes. Either the coach finds his quarterback, and they make a pact to run it back for a long time, or the coach is brought in after the quarterback is already in place – maybe having underachieved during a prior head coach – and they make a pact to run it back for a long time. But, very rarely – especially in today’s game – do you bring in a coach, and he sticks around beyond the one main guy.

Bill Belichick, obviously, went from Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady to Mac Jones (we’ll see on how good Jones ends up being). If Mac Jones pans out, I think that speaks very highly of Belichick and the organization as a whole being an environment that’s able to foster quarterback development. But, he’s also the greatest head coach of all time, so what are we talking about here? He’s a one of one. If anyone can do something like that, it’s him.

The Steelers will be an excellent case study, because Mike Tomlin is the second-longest tenured head coach in football, and as a whole they are considered to be probably a top five organization. They’re moving on from Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since Tomlin has been there. If they can turn Kenny Pickett into a star – especially when he wasn’t graded out super-high in this poor overall draft class for quarterbacks – then that’s another notch in the belt of Organization being more important than simply finding a fluke of a quarterback in the lottery that is the NFL Draft.

The Ravens succeeded pretty well in transitioning from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson (and even Tyler Huntley balled out in limited duty); the fact that they’ve won as much as they have speaks volumes. The Chiefs obviously hit the aforementioned lottery with Patrick Mahomes, but would he be the consensus #1 quarterback alive without Andy Reid’s system? The Rams certainly took it to another level when they brought Matthew Stafford into the fold, but they were winning at a tremendous clip with Jared Goff of all people. The 49ers have been pretty injury-prone under Shanahan, but he’s definitely built up a solid overall roster, and if Trey Lance hits, I think that’s another feather in his cap.

Clearly, this is all preamble before I talk about the Seahawks. I would put the Seahawks up there – at least in the top 10, if not the top 5 – in well-run organizations. But, maybe that’s mistaken. Maybe that’s the homer in me. After all, we’re talking about the VAST majority of our success coming in years where Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback. Clearly, we fared a lot better when we had a bomb-ass team around him – a bomb-ass team built through Pete Carroll and this organization – but even when the team around him faltered, Russell Wilson kept things afloat, almost by himself.

Before Russell Wilson, it was two years of rebuilding, with mediocre quarterback play (though, to be fair, I don’t know if even Russ could’ve won with the collection of “talent” we had in 2010 and 2011). Now, in 2022, it’ll be just the third season without Wilson at the helm for Pete Carroll & Co.

One thing’s for sure: I don’t believe our next franchise quarterback is on the roster at the moment. Geno Smith is a mediocre quarterback at best, Drew Lock might be even worse, and Jacob Eason seems to be destined for the XFL or USFL or working at a car dealership. Best case scenario, 2022 will be a rebuilding year akin to 2011. If everything goes right and we’re able to build up the roster around the quarterback position, maybe we luck into that franchise guy in 2023 and beyond.

Assuming we don’t trade for Jimmy G – who I would not place in that franchise quarterback bucket, especially since now we’re talking about not one but two teams who’ve given up on him – then we’re talking about 2023 at the earliest. But, even if we’re bad this year – which most people agree that we’ll be in the bottom 10, and maybe bottom 5 – that’s no guarantee that the guy we draft next year will be The Next Russell Wilson, or The Next Fill-In-The-Blank.

Think about all of those teams who’ve hired a new head coach since 2020. You don’t think they tried repeatedly to draft their franchise guy? For some of those organizations, that’s all they ever do! The Bears are STILL trying to find The Next Sid Luckman!

But, I also believe there’s something to the notion that better teams – with a solid foundation in place, both in coaching, as well as personnel – are better able to find those franchise guys, just as they’re better able to win with perhaps sub-par guys (see: the Titans). We’ll find out how true that is with the Seahawks, when they presumably draft a quarterback next year in one of the first three rounds (almost certainly in the first round, but you never know). I think that’ll give us a pretty good sense of what we’re dealing with here. There’s a good contingent of Pete Carroll haters out there – or, at least, Pete Carroll doubters – and I think they’re all of the same mind, that this team needs a breath of fresh air before we go out and find the next quarterback. I disagree. I want Pete Carroll here during these uncertain times. Why? Because he led us out of the wilderness during the LAST period of uncertainty.

Growing up, the Seahawks went from being a relatively well-run organization – through at least the early portion of the Chuck Knox era – to without question the worst-run organization. We were a laughingstock in the late 80s and early 90s. Really, it wasn’t until we hired Mike Holmgren before things turned around. He built us into winners. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, just as I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pete Carroll was able to do what he did in the last decade. Winners find a way to win. They attract other winners.

Obviously, it’s fair to question whether or not the game has passed Carroll by. I think that’s the argument for a lot of the doubters. We’ll see. I think he’ll get through this year no matter what our record is. Then, I think he’ll get 2023 to see if we can turn things around and start looking competitive again. If we fade in 2023, then I highly doubt he’ll have 2024 or beyond to do anything.

The next two years will say a lot about the question of Organization vs. Quarterback. Can we find and develop the next franchise guy? Can we win with just an okay guy? If not, then there’s no way this doesn’t get blown up by 2024. And if THAT comes to fruition, then who the fuck knows how long it’ll take to find our next franchise quarterback? We could be talking decades!

2024, not so coincidentally, will also likely coincide with the Seahawks potentially being sold to a new ownership group. That’s something else to keep in mind. Maybe that’s a reason to keep Carroll an extra year or two, to make the transition. But, all that uncertainty might make a clean break ideal for all parties, especially if the Seahawks are bottom-dwellers over the next couple seasons.

Culture Is Everything In The NFL

Buyer beware, because I can already tell this is going to be a long, rambling mess. Buckle up!

I’m on record as being in favor of the Seahawks retaining Pete Carroll, even if it’s at the expense of Russell Wilson demanding a trade out of Seattle. Yes, I’ll acknowledge the obvious: it’s really fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL who’s capable of leading you to a championship.

There are differences between run of the mill franchise quarterbacks, and those who can take you all the way. Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback for many years; he led the Bengals to the playoffs a number of times. But, he was never going to win them a title. Not without a remarkable level of talent around him, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I would lump guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford into that camp, even though Flacco won it all, Ryan very nearly won it all, and Stafford very well might win it all this season. Flacco rode an elite defense and a red-hot playoff streak to a title; Ryan had the biggest Super Bowl choke job in NFL history; and Stafford has a crazy fantasy roster around him helping prop up his damaged throwing hand and shaky decision-making.

The point is, none of those guys are on the level of Russell Wilson. And I would still pick Pete Carroll over him, even though odds are Carroll’s time in the NFL will come to an end first. Because I would argue it’s just as hard – if not harder – to find a quality head coach in the NFL to build the kind of winning culture you need to succeed for many years.

Head coaching in the NFL is a neverending revolving door. Really, you can extend that to all the major professional sports.

The Seahawks have been lucky in that regard. We’ve had three Grade-A culture builders in our relatively short tenure in the NFL. Chuck Knox was the first, and arguably one of the most underrated; if he was blessed with a proper ownership group, there’s no telling where he could’ve taken this franchise. Even still, from 1983-1991, he led the Seahawks to the second-best winning percentage in franchise history (minimum of 10 games), even better than Mike Holmgren (who everyone points to as the first great culture builder in Seahawks history). Holmgren, obviously, helped build and lead the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Then, we’ve got Pete Carroll, hands down the best of the bunch. Those three guys comprise 31 of the Seahawks’ 46 seasons of existence; we’ve been spoiled with great culture builders!

You’ll notice, though, of the 15 other years, we had a total of 5 separate head coaches. And that’s common throughout the NFL. I couldn’t tell you what the average is, but it feels right to say guys get approximately 3 years to prove if they’re winners or not. When you consider it’s predominantly the worst organizations who are doing most of the hiring of new coaches – you don’t see the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, or Seahawks hiring and firing guys all willy-nilly all the time – it’s doubly hard to turn things around. You really have to catch lightning in a bottle with the right quarterback, the right roster construction, the right scheme, and the right salary cap situation to see those kinds of quick results. All just to prolong your tenure an extra few years! But, as you’ll frequently see, even guys who’ve won it all don’t get a free pass forever. One or two bad years and suddenly you’re washed up. This leads to going the complete opposite direction with who you hire next: a stern disciplinarian might give way to a “players’ coach”, a defensive guru might give way to an offensive mastermind, etc.

Now, take a step back and look at the Mariners, for instance. Lou Piniella was our greatest and longest tenured manager in franchise history; he was out following the 2002 season. Scott Servais is already the second-best and second-longest tenured manager in Mariners’ history at only 6 seasons. Of the Mariners’ 45 years in existence, Piniella and Servais have managed for 16 seasons; of the remaining 29 seasons, the M’s have had 18 official managers (interim or otherwise). That’s insane. Merely taking into account the 13 seasons between Piniella and Servais, we had 8 managers. When you think of the worst-run, most-dysfunctional North American professional sports franchises, you think of – among many others – the team with the longest playoff drought: the Seattle Mariners. Is it any surprise that we would have 8 managers in 13 seasons, until finally stabilizing things under Servais and Dipoto? I’m not saying either of them are perfect, but unless things go totally FUBAR, they should be the ones to lead us back into the post-season (even if an extra playoff spot will help necessitate it). I’d say it’s looking good – with the talent we have at all levels of the organization – that they’ve done a good job of both finding the right talent and turning the culture into a winning one. They still have to go and do it, of course. But, that’s how hard it can be. That’s how long it can take. The Mariners were one of the best baseball organizations from the mid-90s through the early 2000’s; then they were one of the worst for almost two full decades. That has everything to do with the culture we let fall apart with the loss of Lou Piniella and Pat Gillick; finding their replacements has been exceedingly difficult.

Now, take a look around the rest of the NFL. The longest tenured head coaches are Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid. All are guys at the top of their profession, who regularly take their teams into the playoffs and have won at least one championship. But, aside from Belichick, they’ve all weathered some down periods. Down periods that lesser organizations might’ve fired them over. Of course, they’re still employed because those down periods aren’t very long, nor are they very bad, but still. Head coaches have been fired for a lot less, because their organizatons lack the fortitude to ride out the rough patches.

Every coach aside from those top five have been hired in 2017 or later. Not coincidentally, I would argue those head coaches are one or two bad years away from also joining the unemployment line, even though they’re coaches who’ve led their teams to conference championship games and Super Bowls.

Not all of them, of course. I think there’s a valid point that a great head coach needs a great quarterback, but I would also say the reverse is true: a great quarterback needs a great head coach. Granted, great quarterbacks have been propping up good-to-mediocre head coaches since time immemorial, but a great QB by himself is only going to take you so far. How many titles has Aaron Rodgers won in his Hall of Fame career? How about Drew Brees? On down the line.

I would argue great quarterbacks are helped along and nurtured to their fullest potential by the elite head coaches who’ve built a culture in which they can thrive. It’s when they try to bash heads with the head coach and the culture where things go sideways. And organizations – fearing reprisal from the fanbase – will almost always side with the elite QB over the elite head coach.

For those who wanted to put the issue to bed after one Tom Brady championship in Tampa Bay, just look at what Belichick has done in that same time: he had a down year with Cam Newton at the helm, then he turned right around and made it back to the playoffs with a rookie QB. Now, it looks like the Patriots are set up for another decade of success, while Brady just went and retired. THAT is what an elite coach – with an elite culture – can do for an organization.

Meanwhile, look at the Dolphins. They just fired Brian Flores after back-to-back winning seasons. His first season with the team was arguably his best, in spite of a 5-11 finish. The ownership and GM did everything to strip that team of all its talent; yet, Flores managed to win 5 of his last 9 games with a nothing roster.

Now, he can’t get hired anywhere, even though I think he’s proven to be an effective and winning head coach with a great culture. The reason why the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs in 2021 has everything to do with being saddled with a sub-par quarterback. And yet, Flores still managed to coach them to a winning record! He’s suing the NFL and I think he has a point; the Giants knew who they wanted to hire well before they “interviewed” Flores for the job. Flores was only cursorily considered for the job because he’s a person of color, and therefore fits the requirement under the Rooney Rule.

Look at David Culley of the Houston Texans. He – another person of color – replaced Bill O’Brien, someone who gutted the organization in his desperation to cling to his job. O’Brien, not for nothing, was a mediocre coach and culture builder, responsible for some of the worst and most lopsidedly terrible trades I’ve ever seen. How he kept his job for as long as he did is baffling. Culley only won 4 games this year and was fired after one season on the job. A season, mind you, where the Texans – much like the Dolphins in 2019 – gutted the roster to try to tank for the top draft pick. The fact that they won any games at all is a testament to the job Culley did.

These are just two examples of dysfunctional organizations; I haven’t even mentioned the Washington Football Team, which seems to embarrass itself on a monthly basis with its variety of scandals. Or the Jaguars, who churn through terrible head coaches like cheap sticks of gum. Or the Lions or Bears or Cowboys or Raiders or Jets, who have done nothing but underachieve for years and years and years. They continue to fuck up on the regular, with zero accountability from the top.

Is that what you want for the Seahawks?

Most franchises pay a lot of lip service to diversity and doing the right thing; very few actually back that up in their hiring practices and the way they construct their organizations. The Seahawks aren’t perfect; no team is. But the Seahawks do it better than most.

I don’t worry about the Seahawks paying lip service to hiring their next defensive coordinator. Because they have the culture in place, and a proven track record of hiring based on their scheme and the qualifications of the coach, regardless of race. If the Seahawks hire a white guy, I’ll at least be satisfied with the fact that they searched far and wide for the best person for the job. If the Seahawks hire a person of color, ditto.

The thing about culture is it has to be about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for everyone involved. It can’t be all about one man’s ego trip. That’s where you see pitfalls throughout professional sports. The ego of the owner, the ego of the general manager, the ego of the head coach, the ego of the quarterback (or that team’s best player, whoever it may be). Once it becomes about one man’s quest to be the best, all is lost. That person is the cancer, and that person is who needs to go. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done, the higher they are on the organizational chart.

The Seahawks Should Trade D.K. Metcalf

Right off the bat, I have to say this is predicated on Russell Wilson demanding a trade out of town. I’m just assuming that’s going to be our reality after this season; it was vey nearly our reality after last season! What about the 2021 Seahawks would lead Wilson to believe things are trending in the right direction? Especially since it seems to me – at least – that Wilson is a major reason why it’s trending in the wrong direction.

If we take that as our eventual reality, then there’s really no point in hanging onto D.K. Metcalf. Presumably, the Seahawks will get a nice little haul of draft picks and/or players in return for Wilson. Whether or not this is the best draft for these purposes remains to be seen, but our front office is going to have to make it the best if we’re going to rebound in the coming years. Regardless, what we get in trade for Wilson won’t be enough to fill out this roster. Not right away. I would guess the return for him will include any number of draft picks over the next 2-3 years. So, we’re going to need more than just that to rebuild.

2022 is set to be the final year in Metcalf’s rookie contract. In other words, he’ll still be a bargain. His value from a contract perspective is as good as it’s ever going to be; very soon, he will be making money commensurate with the top receivers in football. We have one year left until he’s no longer a value player, but just a very good player. And, really, we might have zero years left, because would it surprise anyone to see him hold out for a new deal this upcoming offseason? I mean, the guy is already allegedly engaging in four-ways; he’s got a lifestyle to support!

I only want Metcalf here if he’s got a franchise quarterback throwing to him. Otherwise, I think it’s a waste of his gifts. If I’m right, and the Seahawks trade Wilson this offseason, I’m assuming we will sign in free agency some retread of a veteran quarterback, like Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, or Joe Flacco. Do you really look forward to one of those guys making severely off-target throws to D.K. Metcalf, while Metcalf is earning $20 million a year? What’s that going to get us?

Then, there’s the matter of that contract Metcalf will command. We’re looking at $20-$25 million a year. Is ANY receiver worth that? Maaaaaybe, but it depends on the team and the scheme. Is Metcalf worth that? Same answer: depends on team and scheme. Is Metcalf worth that on THIS team with THIS scheme? No and no. Why would you pay a receiver that kind of money and then run a scheme that aims to throw the ball no more than 25 times a game? That’s insanity.

It’s even more insane to do that with Russell Wilson out of the picture. Because that then makes Metcalf the top dog on this team, and when has that EVER worked out, for ANY team? Elite receivers earning elite money on teams with sub-elite quarterbacks is only a recipe for headaches and losing (see: the careers of OBJ, Terrell Owens, Ochocinco, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, etc.). With Wilson around, you at least have someone to help keep him in line. I guarantee there will be a vast increase in sideline tirades with Wilson gone, and Metcalf unhappy with the number of balls he’s getting thrown in his direction (hell, there might be an increase anyway; Metcalf is pretty volatile).

Of course, the key here is what the Seahawks would get in return for Metcalf. I’d love multiple first rounders, but I’d also take a first and a future second (or vice versa). I think the peace of mind alone would be worth it, as well as being able to spend $20-$25 million in other areas of the team where it would be money better spent.

The combo of trading Wilson and Metcalf would be quite a haul in draft capital! We can use that to improve the team as a whole, or we can use some of that to trade up and maybe find the next franchise QB.

I’ll also say this, as someone who has Metcalf in a fantasy football dynasty league: I worry about his longevity. He takes a lot of hits. I’d be concerned about Metcalf’s availability over the course of his second – and especially third – contract.

I could be wrong, of course, about all of it. But, right now I see a Seahawks team that’s one of the very worst in all of football. Changes need to be made. And, other than Wilson, there’s no one else on this team that has the kind of value to make franchise-altering moves. Metcalf is the next best player to trade. So, I think the Seahawks should do it. There will never be a better time.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Justin Fields Looks Far From Ideal

Well, it was a nice idea: Justin Fields had been slowly, but surely, getting better every week he’d been starting for the Bears. But, that offense is broken and they’ve done nothing to help their rookie quarterback succeed. The Bears even managed to be the first team this year to successfully run the ball against the Bucs! You’d think with that advantage, they would’ve mustered something against a depleted secondary. But, based on my eye test, I didn’t see a lot of play-action. Just a lot of plays that were probably designed for an Andy Dalton-led offense (or, given Matt Nagy’s reptuation, probably just a generic offense he’s hoping to shoe-horn into any situation, regardless of who’s under center).

There are two things at play: either Justin Fields just doesn’t have it and is a bust, or the Bears coaches are failing him and will likely be fired at season’s end (if not sooner). Either way, that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in Fields’ viability as a fantasy quarterback. Certainly, he’s not someone worth hanging onto for next year.

Of course, I’m not going to waive him; I’ll let the season play out and see if there’s a dramatic turnaround. But, I’m assuming we’ll see more of the same conservative, unoriginal play-calling, resulting in the same conservative, mediocre offensive scoring output. That will, ultimately, break Fields as a prospect and we’ll all be wondering which team he’s going to be a backup on in a few years.

Mac Jones, on the other hand, looks pretty good! It’s hard to say if he’s going to be an elite fantasy quarterback; he very well could just be one of the better game managers a la Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Carson Wentz (in Indy, so far) and not a Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow or Patrick Mahomes. That doesn’t do me a lot of good, though those types of game managers – in their primes – can be okay as a second quarterback in a 2-QB league. But, you really need a stud to anchor your team week-in and week-out in fantasy, and it’s still up in the air whether or not Jones can be that guy.

His 29.25 points (for my bench) this week against the Jets was a season (and therefore career) high. Prior to this week, he had three games right around 20 points, with three other games significantly under 20 points. It’s fair to say they haven’t taken his training wheels off yet, so the best may still be to come. But, there’s also the chance for – as he gets more freedom – increased turnovers and other mistakes. Also, 29.25 is fine, but a stud will get you 30+ on the regular. Let me know when Mac Jones has multiple 40+ games. Also, 29.25 came against the Jets. I know they hampered him earlier in the season, but their defense is starting to get mighty depleted, and I bet any mediocre QB would’ve done something similar against that flailing team.

Taylor Heinicke (also for my bench) managed to out-score either of the guys I started this week, and he was close to having a 30+ point game. That was on the road, in Green Bay, against some shaky officiating, so color me moderately impressed. I’m not giving up on him just yet, though he might be running out of time, with Fitzpatrick on the mend and set to get his job back when he’s ready.

As expected, Snoopy & Prickly Pete lost to COVID Bubble Boys 171.25 to 111.20. Even if I had fielded a FLEX guy, I would’ve lost. Perhaps if I’d played my best two QBs AND fielded a FLEX guy, I could’ve made it interesting (this would also assume I’d drop Trey Sermon – who had zero stats in the 49ers game this week, as he seemed to be strictly an emergency back for them – and inserted a running back from the scrap heap), but even with COVID Bubble Boys starting Trey Lance at QB (who wasn’t even active), he scored a ton of points that my team wasn’t equipped to cover. You hate to see it.

No roster moves this week, so it’s on to Week 8. Snoopy & Prickly Pete goes up against The Lance Petemans. He’s in 9th place, I’m in 10th place (out of 10 teams); we’re both 2-5. We very well may be looking at a future Consolation Bracket matchup, so it’ll be fun to scout things out now.

Here’s what my lineup is looking like:

  • Jameis Winston (QB) vs. TB
  • Mac Jones (QB) @ LAC
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) vs. JAX
  • A.J. Brown (WR) @ IND
  • Ezekiel Elliott (RB) @ MIN
  • Khalil Herbert (RB) vs. SF
  • Noah Fant (TE) vs. WAS
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) @ MIN
  • TBD (K)
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) @ HOU

You know what? I’m not gonna lie to you, I like a lot of my matchups! I like a Jameis Revenge Game at home against the Bucs. I like Mac Jones needing to throw a lot on the road against the high-flying Chargers. I like D.K. against the Jags (where the Seahawks should FINALLY have a get-right game with Geno at the helm). I like A.J. against a depleted Colts secondary. I really like Fant against a suspect Football Team defense. And, the Rams should have no trouble making life miserable for the Texans and their inept offense (though, I’m less than thrilled with the prospect of Tyrod Taylor returning; he’s actually competent).

My bench includes Diontae Johnson, who has to go on the road to play a tough Browns team. I could see that game being very low-scoring, but I could also see Johnson racking up points anyway and making me rue the day I went with D.K. over him. Otherwise, it’s Fields against the 49ers (we’ll see) and Heinicke against the Broncos on the road (far from ideal).

Here’s what The Lance Petemans are running out:

  • Ryan Tannehill (QB) @ IND
  • Kirk Cousins (QB) vs. DAL
  • Tyreek Hill (WR) vs. NYG
  • Calvin Ridley (WR) vs. CAR
  • Darrell Henderson (RB) @ HOU
  • James Conner (RB) vs. GB
  • Tyler Higbee (TE) @ HOU
  • Keenan Allen (WR) vs. NE
  • Matt Gay (K) @ HOU
  • San Francisco (DEF) @ CHI

He’s got a pretty good team, that’s clearly favored over me this week, and would likely defeat me even if I pick up a kicker. He’s unfortunately got Tyreek Hill going on Monday Night, which means A LOT would have to go right for me and wrong for him on Sunday if I were to – at the last minute – want to pick up the Giants’ kicker on Monday Night. Hill always has the potential to go off for 40+ points in any given game, and the Giants’ defense is God-awful. So, we’ll see, but I’m not holding my breath.

If I do end up dropping anyone, it’ll be Trey Sermon. It’s probably a bad sign that the 49ers have two rookie running backs, and the lower-ranked one is the workhorse in this situation. I’m sure there’s still ample opportunity for Sermon to pick up the offense and be a dynamic player late in the season. But, they have another running back returning from PUP or IR pretty soon, so it’s looking highly doubtful.

Splinter League Round-Up!

No trouble this week for BUCK FUTTER! I had the biggest blowout in the league, 198.44 to 131.26 over I REGRET NOTHING. Huge days from A-Rod and Stafford, huge days from my TB receivers, and a huge day from Kamara on Monday Night all sealed the deal. I REGRET NOTHING mistakenly left in Sterling Shepard even though he was inactive (probably leading him to regret that, at least), but it wouldn’t have mattered. This time I had the third-most points scored in the league, but lady luck was on my side (as I didn’t go up against one of the top two). That brings my record up to 4-3 (third place overall), still with the second-most points scored in the league this season. Now I get the luxury of going up against the last place team, sitting on a ton of injuries. Here’s hoping I don’t massively underperform!

The Seahawks Won Their First Division Title Since 2016

The Seahawks haven’t felt special in a while. In looking over the list of recent seasons, nothing has really stood out since our last trip to the Super Bowl. Losing before the conference championship game has become commonplace. Sure, that probably sounds spoiled; Jets fans/Lions fans/Browns fans/Bengals fans/Jaguars fans would LOVE to have that problem. But, there are two different types of football teams in the NFL: those who already have a championship-calibre quarterback and those who are still looking for a championship-calibre quarterback.

There are only so many elite quarterbacks out there, but when you have one, as a fan your life is totally different from most other fanbases. You go into EVERY season believing there’s at least a chance of winning it all, if not outright expecting to win it all. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t win it all with a lower tier guy (Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning come immediately to mind), but a lot has to go right (mainly, having a defense and skill position guys who can carry the team). The margin of error is greater as the talent level of your quarterback improves.

The Seahawks have had a championship-calibre quarterback since 2012. We went to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It felt like we were just getting started on a nonstop upward trajectory, but the last half decade has felt pretty mundane. Like the Seahawks were just going through the motions. Like winning 10 games and making the playoffs was “good enough”. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty impressive achievement to see what the Seahawks have done. They really have sustained success throughout the Pete Carroll/John Schneider marriage, particularly when Russell Wilson was brought in to complete the ménage à trois.

From the 2010 season through this year, we have five NFC West titles, nine playoff appearances, and nine consecutive winning seasons; and yeah, two Super Bowl appearances are great in such a timespan, but only one title feels a little like a rip off. Even though – OF COURSE – it’s friggin’ hard to win a championship in the NFL! A dynasty like the one the Patriots sustained for two decades is unprecedented, even in the pre-free agency eras. Yet, that’s the standard, so that’s what we have to compare ourselves to. Because it’s been pretty much just the Patriots and Seahawks over the last decade as the top two organizations in the league, and we are lagging WAY behind (with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes getting set to leap right over us).

With all the talent we amassed, it’s always going to feel like the Seahawks have underachieved … until they win the next one. And, if they never win another title with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, then it’ll forever feel like something got away from us.

It remains to be seen if the 2020 Seahawks are special. But, they’ve made a big first step. I’ve written ad nauseam about how important it is for the Seahawks to not have to play on the road throughout the playoffs. So, getting to host a game at least in the first round is better than the alternative. But, clearly, being that #1 seed is the ultimate goal, and as I’ve previously mentioned, losing to the Giants all but eliminated us from contention (I’ll write about how it’s not technically impossible in the next day or so). For these Seahawks to be special, they’re probably going to have to do something they’ve only done once in the history of the franchise (1983), and that’s win a road game in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

I do feel better about these Seahawks than I have since probably the 2015 season (when we won six of our last seven games, though ultimately had to settle for a wild card spot), for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, it does feel we’re in the midst of another upward trajectory period, albeit less pronounced than the rocketship into the atmosphere that was the period from 2012-2014. The Seahawks really bottomed out in 2017, while missing the playoffs for the first (and still only) time since Russell Wilson entered the league. The 2016 divisional championship even felt like a bit of a fraud, since no one else in the NFC West won more than 7 games. We got back to the playoffs in 2018, but that felt like a bit of a fluke; we were certainly just happy to be there, especially after starting that season with a 4-5 record. With last year’s team, it felt like we were more on the right track, but injuries really derailed things by the end, as we lost three of our last four games (ultimately falling just a yard short of beating the 49ers in the final game of the regular season to win the division).

Just as 2019’s Seahawks were incrementally better than they were in 2018, this year’s team feels similarly improved over last year. First thing’s first: we won the division. We also have a +85 point differential through 15 games; last year we were only +7 (meaning that, even though we won 11 games last year, we were unsustainably lucky to not be closer to 9-7 or even 8-8). Also, even as we’ve seemed to struggle throughout the season, it’s impossible to ignore how much we’ve improved.

The defense was an undeniable disaster through the first eight games of this season. And, as the offense has regressed towards the mean (to say it kindly) or totally fallen off the fucking map (to say it bluntly), it’s been encouraging to see the defense not only step up and assume its share of the responsibility in this relationship, but actually turn into the strength of this team as these Seahawks look remarkably like some of those Seahawks teams of old: where we needed our defense to keep us in games, while the offense sputtered along until it managed to win games in the end one way or another.

It’s scary to think about how the 2020 Seahawks have yet to really put together a complete game (I don’t count the Jets debacle; I don’t care how many games they’ve won in the subsequent two weeks). Scary in the sense that it might not ever happen (and we might be tantalized with thoughts of what might’ve been), but also scary in that if these Seahawks ever DO figure it out, they’ll be right up there among the very best teams in football.

Ultimately, though, I think the main reason why I feel better about these Seahawks than I have in years is a matter of being relieved. We got back over that hurdle of winning the NFC West again. This has been a difficult division, probably the best in all of football the last three seasons; the last two NFC West winners have made it to the Super Bowl, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’m also relieved because we knocked the Rams down a peg; I’ve considered them to be our primary rivals this year, so it was important to get them out of our way (at least, until we have to play them again in the playoffs).

While relieved, though, I can’t say yesterday’s game inspired a lot of confidence. The Seahawks’ offense – once again – failed to surpass 20 points. Russell Wilson just looked sort of okay; he didn’t have any turnovers, but there was a surefire interception that the Rams dropped. The rushing attack was so-so (24 carries for 95 yards). The offensive line predictably gave up 5 sacks (remains to be seen what was Wilson’s fault vs. what was just poor blocking). Lots of little mistakes added up to a 6-6 tie at halftime. The Seahawks mounted a touchdown drive to start the second half, then did nothing until midway through the fourth quarter when they generated a second touchdown drive to seal the deal.

This game was all about the defense, which was better than I’ve seen it in YEARS! Three sacks (two by Jarran Reed, to give him 6.5 for the year, which makes his new deal money well spent so far), 7 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, and a whopping 9 hits on the quarterback. Jared Goff looked as miserable as ever, which was a refreshing change of pace. The Rams were able to convert some frustrating third downs, but we kept them out of the endzone, capitalized on one of the most baffling interceptions of all time, and ultimately injured his thumb to the point where Goff will either be lost for the year or will have to have offseason surgery to get it fixed.

In seven games, the Seahawks’ defense went from the very worst, to only the 10th worst in yards allowed. Granted, we’ve still given up the most passing yards in the league, but it’s no longer the most passing yards given up ALL TIME. Also, we went from giving up among the most points per game, to almost exactly middle-of-the-road. The Indianapolis Colts are considered to have one of the better defenses in the league this year; we’ve given up exactly the same number of points through 15 games. That’s an impressive turnaround!

But, as I said, we won’t really know if these Seahawks are special until at least a month from now. Things are trending in the right direction, but I won’t be truly happy until we’re playing for championships again. Steven A. Taylor settles for nothing less than the best!

The NFL’s Best Game Of The Week Is The Ravens At The Seahawks

Intensity of a thousand suns take: we’re going to watch some fun football this weekend.

I’m utterly fascinated by the Baltimore Ravens this year. Honestly, I wish I could’ve seen more of them to date; if I had NFL Sunday Ticket, I’d be tempted to put them on just about every week! After two games, they looked on track to compete for a Super Bowl slot with the Patriots and Chiefs; but were we watching fool’s gold? Wins over the Dolphins and Cardinals – blowouts that they were – are obviously not very impressive. You’re supposed to kill those teams.

Nevertheless, my expectations for this Ravens team heading into the season were completely out of whack compared to what they put out into the world. I was not a Lamar Jackson believer, for starters. I thought he was a fine fantasy quarterback, in the same way Josh Allen is a fine fantasy quarterback. Rushing yards can make all the fantasy difference at the QB position. But, in real life? In the NFL, where wins matter above all else? Where you need to prove you actually have an arm and can use it for something other than jabbing it into a defender’s face as you run by him for extra yardage? I couldn’t buy it.

The fact of the matter is, the Ravens’ offense from 2018 threw me off the scent. Lamar was a rookie, after all, and they used him like one. He sat behind Joe Flacco for an uncomfortably long time. Then, when he got in there, the offense looked so drastically different, it seemed like they pared down the playbook to a post-it note. I figured, at some point – probably as soon as Week 1, 2019 – defenses would adjust to the Run-First/Run-Second/Run-Third ethos of what John Harbaugh was trying to instill, by stacking the box and forcing Lamar to throw deep.

And, they might have very well done that! But, funny thing: Lamar just went over the top and blew everyone’s doors off!

He threw for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns against Miami (with only 6 yards rushing). He followed that up with another 272 yards and 2 more TDs against Arizona; and the MVP chatter was in full effect.

I watched that Ravens/Chiefs game in Week 3 pretty closely for a while, until the score got out of reach (I missed a lot of the garbage-time points the Ravens scored late), and honestly I liked what I saw. The Ravens took chances, went for it on 4th down, went for two on the game’s opening touchdown; they knew that field goals and field position weren’t going to be enough to beat the high-flying Chiefs offense. It was a brilliant strategy, poorly executed (especially in the first half).

What I saw over everything else was a defense that isn’t NEARLY as good as I expected them to be. The Ravens’ defense, in 2018, really carried the mail. They were the reason I had them in the hunt at all for a possible wild card spot. I figured it would be more of the same as 2018; that’s usually my mistake when making pre-season predictions.

To be fair, I don’t know exactly what they did exceptionally last year, but I’m assuming it was the front seven. With the addition of Earl Thomas in the backfield, I figured he would do what he did for many a mediocre Seahawks’ defenses in the last few years: pick them up on his back and make them look much better than they actually were.

But, he hasn’t really stood out (aside from almost killing that Steelers quarterback), and I contend they’re using him wrong. I haven’t watched the tape or anything, but I can’t believe he’s lost that much of a step after looking fantastic in his few games in 2018; yet he’s seemingly never in a position to make a play. I put that on the scheme. My hunch is they’re playing more of a Tampa 2 when he’s coming from a Single High scheme. Let your dog hunt! Set Earl loose and watch the magic happen!

Anyway, the Ravens biffed it against the Chiefs, and completely fell apart against the Browns (giving up 33 and 40 points respectively). That’s on the defense. Things have settled down the last two weeks – they beat the Steelers and Bengals in closer games than they probably should’ve been – but again, those are terrible teams. The Ravens are 4-2 and have beaten probably the 4 worst teams in the league through six weeks.

So, what does that tell us?

I don’t know if it’s told us a whole lot. Lamar Jackson has looked much more like the player I was expecting in the last few weeks. Fewer passing yards, more rushing yards, fewer TDs, more picks. But, he’s yet to face this Seahawks defense.

A defense that’s as much of an enigma as I’ve ever seen.

Jarran Reed returns this week. I hope and pray that brings with it a bit of stability, but I’m worried he won’t play as much as we probably need him to. He drastically improves our depth in the front seven and in particular in the defensive tackle rotation. He’s a great run stuffer, and as he showed last year, he can be a whiz rushing the passer. We need the middle of that line to be as good as it’s been all year to slow down the Ravens’ rushing attack. Between Lamar and Mark Ingram, they’ve got a couple of LOADS that are tough to stop, who only get stronger as the game goes on.

I would hope that our defense will shut down their deep passing attack, but I’ve seen so many breakdowns this year, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see one or two get behind us for big gains. I’m more concerned with the rush defense though, and the pisspoor tackling we’ve seen from pretty much everyone.

I’ve stopped banking on this team actually getting sacks, but if it’s EVER going to happen, this would probably be the game to see ’em. The Ravens love some play action and Lamar loves to extend plays, so we should – if nothing else – see some coverage sacks.

I’d honestly be surprised and a little lot disappointed if we let the Ravens score in the high 20’s or 30’s. This is probably a game the Seahawks should win in a semi-grudge match. Something like 24-16.

It should be raining, which is always a concern for the Seahawks’ offense. The last time it rained for a home game was against the Saints, and you saw all the freaky shit that happened.

I have to believe the Ravens will sell out to stop the run, which is playing right into Russell MVP Wilson’s hands. There’s no doubt Earl will make his presence felt in this one, but the rest of their secondary is pretty ordinary, so we shouldn’t have any trouble throwing on the outside.

I’m expecting a workmanlike, forgettable Seahawks victory in this one. I’m also expecting to be surprised by the Ravens as I’ve been pretty much all year, so I can’t wait to watch this game.

Can The Seahawks Win With Russell Wilson Making A Million-Billion Dollars?

There are two schools of thought dominating the NFL landscape nowadays:

  1. You can’t win without a Franchise Quarterback
  2. You can’t win with a Franchise Quarterback taking up too high of a percentage of your salary cap

Which essentially boils down to:

  1. You can only win with a Franchise Quarterback on his rookie deal, or
  2. You can only win if you have Tom Brady and you cheat the salary cap in some way that has yet to be exposed

So, that’s great if you’re the cheatin’-ass Patriots, but otherwise it’s a pretty minuscule window of opportunity for the rest of the league. For starters, how many Franchise Quarterbacks are there in the league right now? Let’s count ’em out, in no particular order:

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Ben Roethlisberger
  3. Andrew Luck
  4. Patrick Mahomes
  5. Philip Rivers
  6. Aaron Rodgers
  7. Matt Ryan
  8. Cam Newton
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Russell Wilson

I think that’s pretty much it. You could make an argument for Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Kirk Cousins, but I think you could also make plenty of arguments against those guys as well. Anyone I haven’t listed here is on that next tier down; doesn’t mean you can’t win a Super Bowl with those guys (see: Eli Manning, Nick Foles, Joe Flacco), but obviously you need to hit on a roster full of studs around them.

Regardless, we’re talking approximately a third of the league having bona fide Franchise Quarterbacks. Everyone else has some variation on a question mark. Everyone else needs to be special in other ways (like the Rams, with their coaching staff) or they’re selling out to find that elusive game-changer at the game’s most important position.

So, let’s pull it back to just the cream of the crop; how many are Tom Brady or on a rookie deal? Well, Tom Brady is Tom Brady, so the Pats are set. Other than him, you’re talking about Mahomes, Watson, Wentz, the Rams (in spite of Goff more than because of him), and let’s throw in the Browns for shits n’ giggles. We’re talking about 6 teams who are in a prime position with their quarterback and salary cap situations; should we just lop off the rest of the teams in the league?

Or, do the Seahawks have a shot?

It’s funny, because in the days leading up to Russell Wilson’s contract extension, everything I read was some variation on: DON’T BE STUPID, YOU HAVE TO EXTEND WILSON BECAUSE HE’S AMAZING! Then, as soon as Wilson announced his signing, everything I’ve read since was: THE SEAHAWKS ARE PAYING TOO MUCH FOR THEIR QUARTERBACK, THEY’LL NEVER WIN!

Ostensibly, the argument is: if you’re going to run all the damn time, what’s the point in paying a quarterback $35 million a year? Pay someone adequate like Case Keenum to be a game manager, and use the rest of the money to bolster other areas.

The first knock against that line of thinking is that you’re never going to build the perfect team. The 2013 Seahawks were a fucking unicorn; being able to draft or otherwise acquire that much Hall of Fame talent in one roster is nearly impossible. There are always going to be holes and weaknesses, even on the best teams, and that’s before you get into the injury attrition that nearly every team faces every single year.

The second knock against that line of thinking is that, even on the best teams, you’re still going to need your quarterback to put the team on his back and win you a handful of games. Even the 2013 Seahawks needed some Russell Wilson magic against Carolina, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game (before The Tip, there was the 4th down bomb to Kearse). Could you envision that team with the likes of Case Keenum winning it all? Because I can’t.

In fact, I would argue that it’s even MORE important to have someone as clutch and efficient as Wilson on a team like the 2018 Seahawks, where running on 1st & 2nd downs were the norm. There’s so much more strain on Wilson to do more with fewer opportunities than there is on someone like Mahomes, who threw it 36 times a game compared to Wilson’s just under 27 attempts.

Ultimately, in the reality we’re living in, would you rather have Wilson on the deal he got, or whatever’s behind Door #2 (maybe trade him for draft picks while he’s got the most value, then either try to acquire whatever semi-competent veteran is still on the market, suck for a year with Paxton Lynch, and/or draft a new QB in this year’s questionable class)?

For me, I’ll take the certainty that Russell Wilson provides.

The obvious trade-off, though, is that there’s not as much money left to spread around the rest of the roster. Which gets us back to the topic of this post: can the Seahawks win with Russell Wilson making a million-billion dollars?

The answer, of course, is yes. How likely is it? I dunno, but let me flip it back on you: how likely is it for ANY team to win a Super Bowl? Because, that’s what we’re talking about, right? The worst nightmare of any NFL fan is ranging anywhere from 8-8 to 10-6 and at best winning a Wild Card berth while going nowhere in the playoffs and constantly drafting in the mid-20’s. If that’s what we’re doomed to be for the next 5 years with Russell Wilson under this contract, then I’ll admit to being pretty disappointed. It’ll further fuel the fire of those who list off all the Super Bowl champion teams with quarterbacks making under such-and-such percent of their team’s cap (conveniently ignoring the cap status of those teams who lost their respective Super Bowls, though they were just as capable of winning those games had certain things broken their way).

Ultimately, it’s all randomness! There’s no one blueprint to winning a Super Bowl (unless you cheat and get away with it like the Patriots). You need a good quarterback, we know that. Beyond that, you need the strengths of your team to overcome the weaknesses. You don’t NEED a dominant defense, you can easily overcome that the way the Chiefs did last year by scoring a ton of points. Even the Pats never really have super great defenses, but the coaches scheme the shit out of their opponents and ultimately those D’s do just enough to put Brady & Co. in position to win (the fact that the Pats constantly get to coast to a division championship every single year because the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets are all inept notwithstanding).

I would argue, the Seahawks have a Top 5 quarterback. The Seahawks have a Top 5 coaching staff. The Seahawks have enough skill position players on offense to move the ball and score on the regular, as well as an offensive line that can keep the whole thing moving. The question at this point would be: do the Seahawks have enough talent on defense to take it to the next level and compete for a divisional title? Or, conversely, do the Seahawks have enough on offense to mask their defensive deficiencies? That ultimately remains to be seen.

More than anything, if the Franchise Quarterback is 1-A most important, luck is 1-B. Good luck with injuries. Good luck with hitting on draft picks and free agent signings. And good luck with key roster guys making big leaps from year to year. And, quite frankly, good luck in those 50/50 games that keep a 10-6 team from being 12-4 or better. The Rams were 3 games better than the Seahawks, but beat us by a combined 7 points in two games. What happens if we find a way to win those two? What happens if we beat the Broncos in week 1, or the lowly 49ers in week 15? Just a couple bounces of the football here or there. What happens if we keep Dak from scoring on that insane 4th down run in the Wild Card game?

Sure, you need the Franchise Quarterback to put you in a position to win those 50/50 games, but it’s luck more than anything else that decides if you’re going to be 13-3 or 10-6.

My thought process, heading into the 2019 season, is we’ve got the most important piece locked in. Luck will hash out the way it hashes out. But, beyond that, I think the Seahawks have a winning formula they can follow. I believe in this team running the football, using its giant goons up front to punish opposing defenses. Running the football keeps the clock moving, keeps the defense off the field, and limits the punishment Wilson has to face (especially when you factor in how our O-Line still isn’t super great at pass protection).

The Seahawks were 6th in points per game with 26.8. That’s with a new offensive coordinator, a new offensive line coach, and a lot of new pieces on that side of the football. Sure, it ended crappy in Dallas, but I think with the continuity in place, this coaching staff learned a lot about what this team is made of. I think they’ll be able to tweak things enough to improve upon those points per game and be even more efficient going forward, without the need to drastically increase the number of times we throw the football. Having all of this set and ready to go TODAY – as opposed to learning on the fly and figuring things out heading into Week 3 last year – puts us at a greater advantage over the 2018 squad. From there, I’ll trust that this coaching staff and front office knows what it has to do to improve the defensive side of the ball.

Plus, let us not forget, we’ve got a Pro Bowl kicker now. You scoff, but let’s go back to that whole luck argument: how many games did a kicker cost us in 2017?