Sunday, January 24, 2010

Comparing 2009 Final Rankings to 2008

This shows who improved the most, and who went backwards according to my strength formula. As bad as the Seahawks were, they were essentially just as bad as the year before. Note that SF made the largest gain in the division, and there's reason to expect that to continue.

9 of the 15 most improved teams made the playoffs this season. Only Baltimore (#17) and Philadelphia (#21) made the playoffs as a statistically worse team than they were the previous year. What does that tell us? It's not enough to be a good team. You must be a BETTER team.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Final 2009 Power Rankings

All of the top 10 teams are in the playoffs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Advice To Our New GM

John Schneider, welcome to the Seahawks. You inherit a team with no clear strength (outside of punting and kicking), and few players who appear to be maximizing their potential. This is not a team, however, bereft of talent or hope. In fact, a shrewd personnel leader and effective coach could have the Seahawks back in the playoffs as early as next season. Reaching the playoffs sooner should not, of course, be prioritized above building a foundation that can win a championship.

With that in mind, let's talk about the things that tend to be key components of championship teams:

Perhaps the Seahawks most polarizing and most important topic. Matt Hasselbeck is undeniably the most successful quarterback in franchise history. I also consider him the best. Having said that, it's clear Matt has struggled to stay healthy the past two seasons, and his effectiveness has taken a nosedive. He is a "system" quarterback that thrives in the West Coast offense where timing, predictability of routes, and accuracy are key. He is not a guy that can sit back in the pocket, patting the ball, and then gunning it to an open receiver. Given the right system, reasonable protection and at least some running game, he can still get us deep in the playoffs.

When you replace a QB in the NFL, you can go one of two routes. Either you draft a young QB and groom him or you take advantage of someone else's development work and sign a free agent/make a trade. Unless the QB's name is Jake Locker, I think this team would be wise to go hard after a qualified free agent in either 2011 or 2012. The 2012 class includes folks like Drew Brees, Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, Alex Smith, and Vince Young. 2011 has Tom Brady, Derek Anderson, Trent Edwards, Michael Vick and Billy Volek. Granted, starting QBs are often franchised, but players like Matt Schaub and Matt Hasselbeck were acquired through trade.

This is the hardest position to project of any on the field. You just never know what you are getting, so that is why I lean so much toward getting a more known quantity that has been in the league a few seasons. Even with instant successes like Rothlisberger, Sanchez, Flacco and others, there are the Alex Smith, David Carr, Brady Quinn guys that give me pause.

I also would not forget about Mike Teel. He had as impressive a pre-season for a rookie QB as I've seen in Seattle. He has a strong arm and seems poised in the pocket. In short, I'd highly advise against using one of our 1st round picks on a QB this season. Taking a flyer on a later-round pick would be wise, but I think we have at least one more year to let the thing play out.

Max Unger is likely your center of the future. Everyone else is a question mark. I like Ray Willis, but would not cry if he moved on. Sean Locklear can play right tackle or guard and signed a big money deal, but I would not be shocked to see them waive him to get cap room if that makes sense cap wise. Rob Sim, eh. Chris Spencer, goodbye. The best thing we have going for us here is Alex Gibbs, and he doesn't even play.

I'm a little Jekyll and Hyde on this one. On one hand, I saw the Seahawks change a franchise by drafting Walter Jones in the top 10 of the draft, and I see some really strong offensive tackles available this year that make me excited. On the other hand, Alex Gibbs lines don't really use prototypical offensive tackles, and rarely draft them at all, let alone in the high first round. That means we may be able to fashion together a solid offensive line far cheaper and with guys that are easier to come by. My ideal scenario here is that Gibbs is sold on one of the talented tackles and we take one in the first round that is a cornerstone for years to come.

What I know for certain is that this line needs a major overhaul. It hasn't functioned as a unit since 2005. It will be interesting to see how much power Gibbs has over personnel here with the odd new power structure in place. What happens if Schneider wants a big o-tackle?

I don't call out specific parts of the defense because it really seems to be great defenses, as a whole, win Super Bowls. We are where we are with our LB crew. I'd highly recommend exploring a trade of Lofa Tatupu to see what might come back. David Hawthorne had more tackles in half of a season (117) than Tatupu has had in any of his whole seasons except one (122). Hawthorne plays sideline-to-sideline. We need that. Tatupu has had less of impact each season since his rookie year. His value is still high, and if we could turn that into a package of draft picks or fill another hole, I'd do it without hesitation.

It makes me want to punch a wall, but we need ANOTHER defensive end and probably two, despite drafting a boatload of them in the Ruskell era. If I had one big message to Schneider and Carroll it would be to FORGET THE FUCKING TAMPA-2!! Stop stock-piling under-sized, try-hard guys so that we can run a system that is not resulting in disruption or pressure. I wish Jim Johnson's Eagles defense had a name, because that's what I'd like to see. Blitzes from all angles at unpredictable times. We need to be drafting great defenders at their position, and stop drafting players that "fit our system." Until we have a system like the old Broncos running game where you can drop anyone into it and succeed, we need to focus on talent.

The obvious focal points here going to be safety and defensive line.

If QB is the hardest position to project and to fill reliably in the NFL, RB has to be the easiest. Any Joe coach potato can see a runner that makes people miss and has big-play potential. There are very few that can be great despite their offensive lines (e.g., Barry Sanders). You don't need that to win a Super Bowl. What you need is to constantly be stock-piling YOUNG runners through the draft. DO NOT sign free agent running backs. That's like buying a used car for new car prices. Most runners give you their best production in years 1-7. If we can get a guy like CJ Spiller, you get him. Otherwise, draft another guy to play alongside Forsett and call it a day. Forsett can be a good-enough running back in this league. I have little doubt he could pile up 1,300 yards rushing if given the chance, but he's not a Pro Bowl player. Adding a starter that actually *is* better than Forsett (as opposed to Julius Jones) to play alongside him would be exciting to see.

My last bit of advice to Schneider is to resist the potential slant toward USC players, or even West Coast players. Pick the BEST players. If you follow all of these simple instructions, we should get along just fine.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sources: Alex Gibbs joins new Seahawks staff

Sources: Alex Gibbs joins new Seahawks staff

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The Myth of Collaboration

It probably is no longer accurate to describe the Seahawks front office as a train wreck. Train wrecks are a finite occurrence, eventually they stop. This thing has stretched on for the last two+ seasons, and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The clown car that is the Seahawks front office just got a little wackier. It is not even possible to read between the lines anymore because they are so scrambled, M.C. Escher would be confused. One thing that triggered my cringe reflex was reading about how Leiweke is committed to managing the collaborative decision making across the myriad of front office roles.

I have never played organized football. I have never hired an executive. I have never paid someone a kajillion dollars. One thing I have done is manage some of the most complex projects in the software industry. I have inherited and overseen some of the most convoluted management structures one could imagine where literally dozens of high-ranking officials believed they owned each decision. There was always a lot of talk about collaboration and "doing the right thing for the business." What I learned was that collaboration should be used as way to generate and/or validate ideas, it should never be used as a decision-making model. Defined authority equals defined accountability, and vice versa.

How many people will need to be involved when the moment of truth arrives for a free agent offer? Can our new GM make that decision on his own? Will he need to run it by Carroll? What about Leiweke? What will the velocity of our decision making be? Will players know who decides what?

"My job will be to synthesize that group," Leiweke said. "But everybody is going to sign on to a plan where they're going to work together."

He went on to say, "We're going to have collaboration on the draft. Our general manager will hear from Pete, and that's a really important thing. And that's really how we wanted to set this up. There's two kinds of tension, good tension and bad tension. We're going to set this up where there's good tension where people are weighing in and we're talking and we're communicating.

"No one person will sit in judgment of sweeping issues."

Those words should make every Seahawks fan shudder. We now are left to hope that this wackado structure magically forms into a functioning whole, where the left arm and legs belong to one person, the right arm and heart belong to another and the brain is spliced across all three. Dr. Frankenstein failed with such experiments dozens of times, and his "success" killed people. Hawks fans will soon be saying, "Rise....RIIIIISSE," to more than just our battered QB.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reactions To Mora Firing

Despite the fact that it became clear to me Jim Mora was not the answer as our head coach, I was surprised to hear he was fired today. I respected Mora's sincerity and passion for the franchise and for the game. I think he brought in some serious defensive coaching talent in Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Dan Quinn. I think he made a fatal mistake in bringing in an offensive coordinator that installed a completely new system. As much as I love Matt Hasselbeck, he is a system quarterback. He does not possess a cannon arm and pinpoint accuracy that would allow him to just sit back, pat the ball and then gun it to the open receiver. He relies on timing and familiarity with the system and his receivers. When that is in place, he's a Pro Bowl QB. Without it, he is forced to rely on his modest physical talents and the results are often mediocre.

I also believe Mora rode Julius Jones, and even Edgerrin James far too long when he had a superior back in Forsett ready to take a larger role from day 1. Say what you want about the bad offensive line. Forsett consistently found more yards behind the same line. Not seeing that and taking advantage of it was a coaching mistake.

I had resigned myself to the fact that we'd have at least one more wasted year with Mora as coach before moving forward, so in that sense, I'm happy the Seahawks realized we needed a new direction now. I applaud them for making an unconventional move. However, this move without an absolutely clear upgrade in place concerns me.

Reports are bouncing around the interweb that Pete Carroll is coming here. I can't say I'm blown away by at possibility. The guy has impressed me with his recruiting (mostly irrelevant in the NFL) and his development of assistant coaches (tons of respect for Sark). Carroll has won championships, albeit at the college ranks, which shows me he can get a team to the mountain top. However, his USC teams were known for blowing their championship chances each year with a shocking loss to a lesser opponent.

I want the Hawks to hire someone who has an identity that we want associated with the team. What's Carroll's identity? If I asked you the same thing about Bill Cowher, you'd all say defense, intensity and smashmouth football. Jon Gruden brings intensity and a west coast offense. I'm simply unsure what Carroll would really bring other than a recognizable name. If we were looking at college, I think I'd be more excited about Nick Saban.

This all still brings me back to Mike Holmgren. Water under the bridge, I know, but does anyone feel like we are going to end up with a coach, GM and/or president better than Mike Holmgren at this point? Letting him walk may end up being comparable to the bungling of the Steve Hutchison contract.

One thing we can say for sure is that we'll have another season with a new system, likely on offense and on defense. Knowing what I mentioned earlier about Hasselbeck, I can only hope it's a system similar to what Holmgren ran. Or, perhaps, this would begin the courtship of Matt Leinert as the Seahawks next QB as a free agent.

Even the most optimistic Hawks fan could only say Mora deserved another year to prove himself. Most fans I spoke with were pretty sure he was not the answer. Anytime you prolong the inevitable, it's a bad thing. Even moving on to another coach that ends up being bad is better than sticking with one you already know is.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Crazy Ivan

As I read story after story dissecting the Seahawks needs for the upcoming draft, one thought keeps hitting me. When identifying needs, you generally need to assess a team's strengths and weaknesses. I could not tell you what the Seahawks strengths are at this point. Hasselbeck can no longer be considered a real strength. Offensive line: no. Defensive line: no. Linebackers: not based on last year. Secondary: no.

So here's a crazy idea. Instead of drafting a single offensive tackle or defensive lineman with our top picks, use both on one unit. Most mock drafts have us selecting an offensive tackle and a QB. I'd rather see us create a strength by drafting TWO offensive tackles, sliding Locklear inside to guard, Unger at center and letting the rest battle for the remaining guard spot. Doing that could lead to an improved running game and passing game, which would also relieve pressure on the defense. Go out and then spend some free agent $$ on a pass rusher or d-tackle.