Somewhere between bites of the delicious BBQ burger at the Taphouse Grill last night, ESPN flashed the news that Deion Branch had been traded to the Patriots for a 4th round pick. Thankfully, I had completed swallowing my last bite, because I most certainly would have choked on it upon reading the news. I turned to my two friends who were watching MNF with me and said, "Holy shit! We just got a 4th round pick for Deion Branch!" They both looked at me at mumbled a "wow. cool." It wasn't that they didn't care, but it was clear that the full brilliance of the move wasn't sinking in. The reality is that when you have a 2-2 football team that just lost 20-3 to a mediocre Rams team, front office brilliance is rarely highlighted.
Even my ebullient tweets were met with skepticism. "Don't get ahead of yourself," people said. "The product on the field has to prove these are great moves." No additional time is needed. The 228+ moves John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made since taking over the roster have been as close to perfect as anyone could reasonably expect. Don't take my word for it, though, let's examine every single move and compare rosters between 2009 and 2010.
I only had to send one picture of my privates to @LizMathews12 in order to get a pointer (no pun intended) to a list of every roster move. Instead of breaking down every single practice squad move, I have gone through and graded every move as positive, neutral or negative. Here are the results:
POSITIVE (38/228 or 16.7%):
These are moves that either added value or cut dead weight. Moves that Seahawks fan are unlikely to regret, and are likely to celebrate.
NEUTRAL (178/228 or 78%):
These moves generally fall into the irrelevant category. You would be hard-pressed to be happy or sad about anything in this list.
NEGATIVE (12/228 or 5%):
These moves were flawed in some way. Either the player we moved was lost for below-market value, the player was a bust, or a player was acquired for over-market value.
You may quibble with a categorization here or there, but not enough to greatly impact the overall distribution. The vast majority of moves Schneider has made have been inconsequential. Of the moves that had an impact, an overwhelming majority have been positive. I could make the case that every transaction in the negative category is neutral simply due to the complete lack of consequence. The draft picks given up for Charlie Whitehurst and the salary paid to him are the only truly questionable decisions that could end up being poor depending on how he works out. It would seem they could have got some value back for Housh if they had found a place on the roster for him. Other than that, are we really going to lose sleep over moving Rob Sims to Detroit or cutting Kevin Vickerson? On the plus side, there are some absolute home runs. Every single draft choice outside of injured 7th round pick Jameson Konz has already contributed on the field in 2010. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas and Golden Tate are on their way to forming a core for the future. Despite a slow start, Mike Williams may end up being the shrewdest addition of them all considering nothing was given up to get him. Adding Chris Clemons for Darryl Tapp, trading Deion Branch for a 4th round pick, acquiring Marshawn Lynch for a 4th round pick, signing Brandon Stokley off the street are all significant wins. Even lesser discussed moves like trading for Kentwan Balmer, trading for Tyler Polumbus, signing Michael Robinson and signing Raheem Brock have made the team better. When you have a GM that is making this making this many positive moves while making so few negative moves, it's time to acknowledge his work.
We all saw the Jack Z trip from the penthouse to the outhouse, but the Seahawks have already been in the outhouse. Schneider and Carroll have transformed this roster in less than a year from one with little talent and almost zero upside to one with moderate talent and moderate upside. Take a look at the starting lineups from last year and this year on offense and defense and tell me where you think we are worse off either in talent or in upside potential:
Many will argue that Kelly Jennings is major downgrade from Josh Wilson. Wilson can barely sniff the field in Baltimore while Jennings has not been a disaster for Seattle. Neither one has a future here, and Schneider has acquired two potential replacements in Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis. It is hard to argue that the current receivers are better performers than Housh and Nate. However, neither Housh or Nate had any upside left to give. Butler, Williams and Tate all should be far better next year than they are this year. We don't know their ceilings yet. Chris Clemons, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung and Marshawn Lynch are major steps forward both in talent and potential over their 2009 counterparts. Lawyer Milloy would have been cut loose by most NFL clubs, but the Seahawks kept him and he is among the best players on the entire defense so far in 2010, and the unquestioned leader. Carroll, Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn deserve credit for making some of the repeat players better due to a scheme change (Bryant, Cole, Mebane, Curry). That's less about transactions, though, and more just solid coaching.
Anyway you slice it, this front office is batting nearly 1.000. The question is not whether the moves being made are good or bad. The question is how many of these hits are singles versus slugging for extra bases. Answering that will take more time.