Thursday, December 30, 2010

Higher Draft Position Matters, Possibly More Than Playoffs

The debate continues to rage on the InterWeb about whether losing is more beneficial than winning for the Seahawks this Sunday. The basic back and forth is that losing nets the team a higher draft choice, and the team has so many holes that they need it. Fans on the other side of the debate say that winning is always better, and that you can't replicate playoff experience. Many of the folks on the "winning is better" side are treating anyone that suggests losing is better as pariahs, "non-fans," and have no business even attending the game on Sunday. The whole debate is childish and misses the fundamental point that both sides want the same thing, a Seahawks Super Bowl. Neither side is more or less of a fan than the other, and to suggest so is obnoxious. Oddly, the majority of every Internet poll on the topic has heavily tilted towards wanting to win on Sunday, and Brock and Salk spent over an hour *begging* someone to call in that was actually hoping for the team to lose without any luck. To listen to the "winning is better" crew spit venom and build case after case stating how 10 spots in the draft does not matter, you'd think they were the minority fighting to be heard. That's simply not the case. Nearly every fan on both sides of the debate will be cheering on the team come Sunday. I can see both sides, and since the "losing is better" side has so few representatives, I'm going to take a few moments to explain why I can easily see how losing would benefit the team more in the long run.

Let's start by talking about the ultimate goal, a Super Bowl championship. Super Bowl winning teams are dominant. They may not dominate in every aspect, but in the areas they excel, they are generally the best. This could be in the form of the best offensive line in football, the stingiest defense, or the highest-flying offense. These dominant units are made up of dominant players, guys that are either perennial Pro Bowlers. The Pro Bowl is not the best measure of talent for a variety of reasons, so think of players that win their individual battles at a significantly higher rate than their peers. Players like this are almost always drafted. There are a few high-profile exceptions to this rule (e.g., Drew Brees, Randy Moss, Michael Turner), but not many.

Heading into 2010, the Seahawks had exactly zero dominant players. There were literally no players on the roster that were in the top tier at their position. Even worse, most of their best players were their veterans. Guys like Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, and Marcus Trufant. There was no reason to expect those players to grow into more than they already were. That limited the potential of the team going forward. Pete Carroll and John Schneider came in and did two fantastic things that shine through whatever bullshit performances we've witnessed down the stretch. First, they drafted players that are either in the top-tier of their positions already, or are poised to do so in the near future. These are guys like Earl Thomas and Russell Okung. Second, they found players lying around, and put them in position to be potentially viable parts of a championship team. Guys like Red Bryant, Mike Williams, Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Lawyer Milloy, Ben Obamanu, and Brandon Stokley are all playing better this year than they have in years. If the team had more depth, and more dominant talent around them, each of these guys could line up on a contending team. Making good draft choices, and then maximizing the talent you have is a great way to build toward the upper echelon personnel you need to compete for the big prize. It's also a long process, especially given where the Seahawks entered the 2010 off-season.

The other thing that almost every Super Bowl champion has is a top quarterback. In many cases, the surrounding talent does not matter without the dominant QB. The Colts would have been a borderline playoff team, at best, without Peyton Manning all these years. The Pats are nowhere near Super Bowl contenders without Brady. The Saints are not in the playoffs without Brees. Even being good at that position is often not enough. Matt Schaub is a darn good QB, and the Texans have some talent around him, but they can't even make the playoffs. The opposite is almost never true. Great quarterbacks rarely are sitting home watching the playoffs. Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers may be rare exceptions this year.

No Seahawk fan needs a primer on the team's QB situation. Even if Matt Hasselbeck was playing the best ball of his career, which he is not, he will probably not be around when the overall roster is ready to compete for a championship. The team needs a new QB that can grow with the team, and be ready to take the helm by  2012, at the latest. Teams get great championship quarterbacks through the draft. Again, rare exceptions like Brees or 2009 Brett Favre or Kurt Warner come along now and then. Counting on a free agent to get you to the promised land is a major gamble. As covered earlier on this blog, there are a variety of QB options that could be available outside the draft. There are also 3-5 first round-quality QBs in the 2011 draft.

Finally, the best way to even reach a Super Bowl is to gain home field advantage throughout and get a bye week to start. You need to at least win your division to accomplish this feat. The old adage, "to escape a bear, you don't need to be faster than the bear, just faster than your friends," applies here. You must be the best team in your division to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Looking around the NFC West, it would be easy to feel comfortable that there is no reason to worry on this front. That would be incorrect. The Seahawks still have arguably the least talented roster of any team in this division, and are still older at many positions. The Rams have their franchise QB, and will only get better. The Cardinals have a young and talented offensive line, good running backs, great WRs, and a playmaking defense. They are a quarterback away from being division contenders again. The 49ers have all the pieces except a quarterback and a coach. Each of these teams has fewer things they need to become contenders than the Seahawks. Carroll and Schneider's near-perfect off-season may have helped keep the Seahawks out of a multi-year cellar dwelling. And as bad as the Matt Hasselbeck has been at times, this team would have been lucky to win 3-4 games with Charlie Whitehurst in his place. The Seahawks are much closer to sliding off the mountain than they are to reaching its peak. The Cardinals are going to have the highest pick of the NFC West teams, and should be able to pick a potential franchise QB if there is one to be had beyond the #1 pick. Even if they use the pick another way, they might be a team that goes hard after a veteran via a trade since their window is closing.

Take a step back and acknowledge that the Seahawks have zero currently dominant players, are closer to quarterback chaos than a quarterback solution, and that their division foes have fewer holes to plug, and then ask yourself if making the playoffs will help address any of those issues. Then, ask yourself, what the odds are of the Seahawks wining the Super Bowl this season. If the odds are as long as we all know they are, why does making it to the playoffs matter so much? Are we all Howard Lincoln, just trying to be competitive, without ever winning the big game? That's not for me. I'd rather miss the playoffs for five straight years and win the Super Bowl once than make the playoffs for a decade and never win it at all.

Many are making the point that the difference between picking #21 (the spot the Seahawks pick if they lose in the first playoff game) and #10 is negligible. That's bullshit. Total, and complete, bullshit. Are great players picked at #21 or later? Absolutely. That counts on every team ahead of you missing on that great player. Pick at #10, and you get eleven additional players to choose from that would not be there at #21. How valuable is it? The Philadelphia Eagles traded up from #24 to #13 last year, and surrendered two 3rd round picks to gain those 11 spots. The Seahawks have no 3rd round pick this year. Maybe they decide not to draft a player at #10, and instead move back to #21 for two third round picks or more. Maybe they decide to draft the player they want at #10. Maybe the Eagles would be interested in a #10 pick for Kevin Kolb, but would want more than the #21. Maybe they package some picks and move up to draft the next great quarterback.The point is the Seahawks would have a choice. There are fewer choices at #21. None of this means making the playoffs is a bad thing. I will be cheering my head off on Sunday for the team to win, and then will cheer my head off at the playoff game.

The point is that missing the playoffs has many, many benefits that more logically lead to adding the parts necessary to be a championship team. Recognizing those benefits does not make you less of a fan. Just as cheering for a team that has zero chance of making the Super Bowl doesn't make you foolish. Both sides want the same thing for the franchise, there is just a difference of opinion in how best to get there. It would be great if the 12th man could spend less time tearing each other down, and more time building each other up for the biggest home regular season finale in 20+ years. Let's go kick some ass on Sunday, and let the rest figure itself out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hawk Blogger 2010 Power Rankings - Week 16

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Usually, these become most meaningful after Week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. I'm not sure any formula could have predicted their run.

If you'd like to see how teams rankings changed from 2008 to 2009, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
Seattle is really bad.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on. New England separating.

Show Some Class With Hasselbeck On Sunday

A large portion of the fan base no longer wants Matt Hasselbeck to be the Seahawks quarterback. Their reasons vary from poor play to age to just wanting a new face behind center. The last time Hasselbeck played in Qwest Field, he was booed off the field, and his backup was greeted with a Bronx cheer and chants of, "Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!"

It was despicable and showed zero class. Hasselbeck deserves better. He is a great guy on and off the field. He brought the Seahawks farther than any other QB, and has fully committed to a life in the NW, away from the rest of his family on the East Coast. He's never pointed the finger anywhere but at himself, and has a work ethic that is beyond reproach.

No matter how you feel about the future of the Seahawks QB position, let's treat the guy like a champion no matter how he plays this Sunday. We could lose 75-0, and he would deserve a standing ovation for his contributions to this franchise. If you've got a #8 jersey, make sure to wear it. Consider starting a "Hass-el-beck" chant. Cheer for him every chance you get, because there is no guarantee this city will ever see another quarterback of his quality. Cheer for him because Seattle has class. Cheer for him because he's earned it.

2011 Seahawks QB Options

There was a lively discussion started around 6:30 AM this morning on Twitter regarding what options, outside of the draft, there are for the Seahawks at the QB position heading into next season. Carson Palmer's name was thrown out first, and before it was done, half-a-dozen names were tossed out there. Deciding the future of the QB position will define the Carroll era in Seattle, and the potential of the team for years to come. Drafting a stud QB to groom is always the best option, but it is not something that is always possible. Trading for near-ready vet is a close second. The most likely scenario is that the Seahawks will choose a vet to start for at least 2011, and possibly 2012 while also drafting a prospect that can be developed. Let's take a look at the options available to Carroll and Schneider heading into this off-season.

YOUNG & TALENTED (Guys that could step in next season and start for 7-10 years)

Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia)
I have already covered Kolb, in some depth, but he is the only player in this category that would come without baggage.

Matt Leinart (Houston)
Leinart is not as great of a prospect as Kolb, but has an attractive blend of youth (still 27), price, and experience. He will be a free agent, and signing him could make for an interesting in-division swap if Hasselbeck ended up signing with Arizona.

Vince Young (Tennessee)
Young would come with a ton of baggage, but Carroll knows first-hand that he's a career winner. He left the field this year with a 98.6 QB rating, is 27, and should be available on the cheap. Schneider already proved he can trade with the Titans, which matters more than you'd think.

Matt Flynn (Green Bay)
Flynn is a late add after torching the Patriots for a 100.2 QB rating @ NE. He's 25, and Schneider should know him well from his days at GB.

Colt McCoy (Cleveland)
McCoy is not likely to be available after having a strong rookie season, but the Browns may find another QB they like better in the draft, or even trade for one of the other guys in this list who can jump-start their turnaround, like Kolb. Holmgren is not usually in a rush to trade young QBs, but might feel compelled to do so if he has to trade away assets to get another one. McCoy has a solid 81.9 rating in his rookie season.

OLD & TALENTED (Guys that could hold down the fort for a playoff-contending team until a younger player was ready)

Carson Palmer (Cincinnati)
Palmer has more interceptions than Matt Hasselbeck this season, but is five years younger and still possesses the cannon arm that made him a top draft pick. He also has 25 TD passes to keep that TD/INT ratio in the positive. Palmer has USC ties with Carroll, and would appear to be a good fit for Bates' system, if there is such a thing as a good fit for Bates' "system." It's not clear the Bengals are looking to trade him, and fans should be careful about looking purely at stats. It would year one in a new system for Palmer for the first time in ages. Result will vary.

Kyle Orton (Denver)
Orton almost makes the young list, checking in at a shocking 28 years-old. It feels like the guy has been around forever. The Broncos are going in another direction, so Orton should be available. His contract runs through 2011. This is a guy with an 87.5 rating and a 20/9 TD/INT ratio. He is smart and accurate. I can't stand him for some reason, but have to respect his resume.

Matt Hasselbeck (Seattle)
Many will debate whether he fits in this category. I have no hesitation of putting him here. The stars are aligning against the franchise's best quarterback of all-time finishing his career in Seattle, but there are plenty of logical reasons why he might be the wisest choice. He wants to be back and he is the only QB on this list that would be entering his second season with these receivers and offensive coordinator.

Donovan McNabb (Washington)
McNabb is 34 and, according to Trent Dilfer, has been terrible this season. Not just bad...terrible. Getting McNabb would feel like change for change sake. He has won in big spots for a long time, so who knows?

Eli Manning (New York Giants)
Manning might be a surprise add to this list, but at 29 years-old, and continuing to struggle with the interception (24 this year!), the Giants may look to get something for him while he has value and start fresh.

OLD STOPGAPS (Guys that could hold down the fort, but are unlikely playoff QBs)

Jon Kitna (Dallas)
Old Jonny boy sports a sterling 88.9 rating this season at the creaky age of 38. He signed through 2013, but would have to be available on the cheap at his age.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo)
He's ten years younger than Kitna, but is having a "breakthrough" season with a pedestrian 81.8 rating. He might have some upside in him, but he's done little to make me think he's a legit starter on a winning team.

Jason Campbell (Oakland)
Campbell is a solid passer with a career 82.5 rating. He's 28, and signed through 2011. This guy won't lead you to a title, but could get you to the playoffs.

YOUNG & UNPREDICTABLE (Guys that are prospects with high risk, possible high reward)

Jimmy Clausen (Carolina)
Carolina would be wise to draft a QB if they find one to their liking in round one. Clausen has been mostly bad in his rookie year, but has gained valuable experience. Buyer beware on this guy.

Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh)
Dixon is an intriguing prospect. He stepped in while Dick Ben was serving his suspension and played well. He's a fantastic athlete and is a free agent after this season. The Steelers are not likely to go hard after him while the other guy is still around.

Chad Henne (Miami)
At only 25, Henne could be worth a look. He was once considered the long-term option for the Dolphins, but has fallen out of favor with a 18 picks this season. He shows flashes of talent and poise. He is signed through 2012, but should be available for a modest sum.

Brady Quinn (Denver)
Quinn's career came and went so fast, many have forgotten that he still is in the league. Buried in the Broncos depth chart, this guy is still only two years removed from being a first round pick. He is most likely a bust, but would be a cheap add and would be more interesting as a backup than Whitehurst who we already know has nothing to offer in the long run.

JaMarcus Russell (Free Agent)
Russell was on the John Clayton show a month or so back, and is said to be working hard on a comeback. He was beyond awful in Oakland, both on the field and off it. He is a freak athlete who could be a major steal if he ever got his act together. It is hard to believe a guy with his accuracy problems could ever pan out.

I'll take a look at the draft options after the season concludes. Only 1-2 players could successfully play in their rookie year. Most will need to sit out at least one season.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Elliott Baywatch

With all the talk about Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks quarterback situation lately, I had a weird dream last night. What if Hasselbeck had not been our quarterback all these years? What if someone else...someone with all the Hassel, but none of the Beck were at the helm? What if? What if? What... if.............

[PA Announcer at Qwest]
Now introducing...your starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. A man beloved in Seattle, and throughout the world. Number one, himself, David Hasselhoff!!

It's been an amazing ride for Hasselhoff as the Seahawks starting quarterback. He first made a name for himself by being the only player in NFL history to insist on singing every national anthem before his team's games. His awful singing caused every fan not of German descent to run screaming from Qwest Field at first, but people learned quickly, and brought ear plugs with them.



The league was unsure how to handle this new personality. They loved the increased popularity in Europe, but Commissioner Roger Goodell was concerned what example they were setting. Bad singing was one thing, but Hasselhoff's decision to eschew league-mandated uniforms, and instead play topless, threatened to unravel a sport built on down-home values like violence and money. After weeks of deliberation, they decided Hasselhoff's lack of jersey could be tolerated on two conditions. First, he would be the only player who could legally be hit helmet-to-helmet or after he released the ball, or even after the whistle was blown. Second, he was required to get an NFL logo tattooed on both pectorals. Hasselhoff agreed, and a star was born.

His line of Seahawks speedo briefs were an instant hit off the field. His ability to cause every play to snap into slow motion whenever he started running made him a hit on it. Defenses were powerless against his gleaming white teeth and stubborn refusal to ever...just...go...down...and.......stay down. They were merciless, and yet he still kept popping up. It was as if he had made a deal with the Devil. Everything he did was at once horrifyingly terrible and unfathomably successful.

Even his well-publicized rift with his daughter as he fought through alcoholism led to a lucrative endorsement deal for Carl's Jr.



Cheeseburgers became the official Seahawks giveaway anytime Hasselhoff vomited on-field from a late hit or his spiked Gatorade. The team rarely won a game early on because Hasselhoff had absolutely no talent, but fans could not help but continue to tune in and sellout his games. Of course, his influence on the cheerleaders had a little something to do with that. Hall of Fame Sea Gal, Pamela Anderson passed up a chance at Hollywood to roam the sidelines of Seahawks games. She, and a bevy of other buxom beauties revolutionized cheer-leading with their risqué outfits and constant slow-motion running of laps around the field.

Only the smartest, most clever intellect could have hoped to keep this circus moving in the right direction. Luckily for the Seahawks, they had the smartest head coach in football. Having a talking Trans-Am as a head coach was odd at first, but KITT proved to be the only entity capable of corralling Hasselhoff. Their union resulted in many unbelievably convenient endings. A franchise with a history of being on the wrong end of bad calls and scheduling, now regularly got every call it needed to win and never played another 10AM road game on the East Coast again. It was a miraculous transformation.



By the time it all had ended, Hasselhoff was still incredibly self-satisfied and talentless, KITT had turned into a Mustang, and Pam Anderson was known more for her sex tape with Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament than her cheerleading. The wins were great, but the team's success and flashy image didn't fit in the great NW. The Seahawks eventually re-located, becoming the first European NFL team, settling in Berlin, Germany. Seattle was left waiting for a team that better fit the mold of breaking hearts and causing hand injuries from punched drywall. It remains unclear if they will succeed in finding a new franchise, but one thing is certain, Seattle fans will be complaining between sips of $7 coffee about East Coast bias until they do.

---Tune in next week for a look into Matt Hasselbeck's career in TV!---

[Convervative Life Guard, Elizabeth Hasselbeck]
Matt, you've got to give this guy CPR. Tim and I just pulled him out of the water!

[Matt Hasselbeck, Head Life Guard, and lead actor]
I've signaled the Coast Guard for help by reflecting the Sun off my head. They'll be here soon. I've been trying to resuscitate this guy for what feels like years. I think we're losing him. I might as well just smother him and end all hope.

The Morning After: Bucs Beat Seahawks, 38-15

Gloom, doom. Gloom, doom. Self-pity. Self-pity. Irrational lashing out. Blind faith. More gloom and doom. Now that we have got that out of the way, let's talk some football.

The Seahawks suffered their worst loss of the season yesterday. A horribly flawed Bucs team, after being dominated for one quarter, trounced the Seahawks for the next three. There was little to explain the change after the first quarter from a football perspective. The Bucs may have made some play call adjustments or line assignment clarifications to attack the defense, but it was not immediately obvious from watching the game. There is the possible human explanation that the the combination of meaningless game and injury to Hasselbeck infected their desire to go full speed, but that seems like a stretch. Analyzing it is a waste of time. A few points are worth making, though. One, this defense was not the defense we watched last week. The injury to Junior Siavii was far larger than anyone will want to admit. How can a career backup be such a big loss? There is simply nobody that can fill-in at that position with the strength necessary to set the edge. Kentwan Balmer may not even be on the team next season, he has proven to be so ineffective. For those that question whether injuries to role players matter, they absolutely do when those roles are foundational to the way the team functions. Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley designed a defense that has a few key pillars:

1) The Elephant defensive end (e.g., Red Bryant) that controls the strongside tackle, and sometimes to the guard
2) The strongside linebacker that covers the tight end (Aaron Curry)
3) The speedy single high safety that covers a large chunk of the field (Earl Thomas)
4) The run-stopping safety that doubles as a linebacker to cover the run (Lawyer Milloy)
5) The 3-technique defensive tackle that stops the inside run (Colin Cole)

They designed the defense to maximize the little talent the team has. They looked at Aaron Curry's strengths and weaknesses, did the same thing for Lawyer Milloy, and realized that out of all the schemes they have run, this one had the best chance of matching their "talent." They got that part right. This defense has been inspiring when the key pieces were in place. Holding one of the best offenses in football last week to their lowest yardage total by more than 30 yards was inspiring. When even one pillar is missing, the whole system appears to cave in on itself. Yesterday was the first time it appeared the effort was starting to ebb. That had to be the most concerning thing to Carroll. No team can keep losing like this every week and not start to question whether this is all they are.

The second point to make is the pass defense is a disaster. A fading pass rush and corner back play that has to be at, or near, the bottom of the NFL is a 30+ point disaster. It is so bad that I'm actually starting to wonder whether drafting a CB in round one is smarter than going after a franchise QB. It is clear both will be among the first few picks in the draft.

The offense came out with a predictably conservative game plan. That proved to be a wise decision as the Bucs defense was bad enough that slow and steady easily moved the Seahawks down the field for a 7-0 lead. One could make a compelling argument that the Seahawks have flashed and then faded offensively in many games, so blaming it all on Matt's injury would be too convenient. Those who watched the game saw how the game completely turned on a dime after Whitehurst threw his first horrid pass. Everyone on both sides of the ball and in the stadium had to be thinking, "What the Hell was THAT?" after Whitehurst threw a simple swing pass three yards behind the running back and into the ground. His next four passes over three series were equally as bad as he started 0-5 passing and gave nobody reason to believe the Seahawks would score again the whole day. If you don't think that effects an opposing team, or your own defense, you are kidding yourself. Blood was in the water, and the Bucs pounced.

Whitehurst was a guy I thought had been unfairly criticized in the Giants game. It was an impossible scenario. He showed some productive signs in Arizona, and then again last week. There was reasonable hope heading into this game that he might even be the quarterback bridge to the future the franchise so desperately needs. Now, even calling him the bridge to nowhere is too kind. This guy will never be a starting quarterback for a competitive team in the NFL. He has three fatal flaws. First, he is habitually inaccurate. The interception along the sidelines in the Giants game, and almost every pass he threw yesterday were below NFL standards for accuracy. Throwing behind a guy is one thing, missing people by 3-5 yards gets you a QB rating below 50, like the one he has. The second fatal flaw is his decision making. He makes mistakes like a rookie. He is not a rookie. He's been in the NFL for several seasons and is now 29 years-old. Throwing late to the outside can't happen, and he's done it multiple times. Moving through your progressions must be automatic by this stage in his career. It is not. That is a multi-year process to fix, and something only worth doing if the player is young enough to still be your future franchise QB when it is done. Whitehurst is not young enough, and does not have the upside to warrant such an investment. His final fatal flaw is his pocket presence. I noticed since the pre-season that he has the courage of a kitten in there. At the first sign of pass rush, he drops the ball and runs around, often into a sack or a rushed throw off his back foot. When you combine inaccuracy, bad decision making and heartless pocket presence, you have a dog that just won't hunt. There is value in having learned that this year. Nobody wants to imagine spending next season with this guy at the helm.

This was a game the Seahawks were going to win. I have no proof of that. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary. The Seahawks, though, had control of the game on both sides of the ball before Matt's injury. The defense certainly would have still yielded yards and points, but they would have been on the field far less, and been supported by more points. The whole makeup of the game would have been different. It matters little at this point, but little is all Seahawks fans have to hold onto lately. Word is that the game next week has been moved to Sunday Night Football. Of all the ways one could have imagined the Seahawks getting flexed into prime time, and of all the possible opponents, this may be the least likely of all. Two of the NFC's worst teams girl-fighting (apologies, ladies, it was the image I was looking for) their way into the post-season. There will be weak slaps with eyes closed and possible hair-pulling. It will be like Frank Drebin solving a crime in Naked Gun. One team will emerge victorious, but will have toilet paper hanging out the back of their pants and fans may be committing hari-kari behind them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SEAHAWKS@BUCS PREVIEW PART II: What A Seahawks Win Might Look Like

Winning a game on the road is never easy, especially for the Seahawks. Beating a playoff contending team that is above .500 on the road is even harder. This week is different. Despite all the Seahawks history losing on the road and the epic struggles from their quarterback, the Seahawks have no excuses going into this one. The Bucs have allowed 369 yards rushing in the last two weeks to the #23 and #28 rushing teams in the NFL. They have the second fewest sacks in the NFL, with 20, and they have no healthy player that has registered a sack in the last three weeks. A key strength of their defense has been a secondary that included Ronde Barber and Aquib Talib. Talib is now on IR, as is their starting free safety. They just signed a player off the Buffalo Bills practice squad to play. Going from having a great secondary to signing players of the Bills practice squad? Ouch.

Drew Stanton passed for over 250 yards and a 91.3 QB rating last week against this defense. Maurice Morris ran for 109 yards and a 7.3 average per carry. Mike Williams will have had another week of practice and healing, as will Ben Obomanu. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett averaged over 5 YPC last week, and the offensive line has largely settled in finally. Seattle's offense should put up over 400 yards and score at least 21 points on their own. Turnovers will be key, more because it will be in everyone's mind. The offense should be able to overcome some mistakes, but psychology just has to be factor given the events of the past few weeks.

It would be easier to be bullish on the Seahawks defense if Junior Siavii wasn't hurt. The Bucs are 1-4 in games in which they have rushed for less than 100 yards. That's notable not just because of the record, but because they've only been held under 100 yards rushing five times all year. The Bucs should be able to move the ball and score on the Seahawks. Seattle has had little luck in creating turnovers or pass rush on the road recently. Finding a way to two turnovers could seal the deal for the Seahawks.

It is rare to expect a team struggling the way the Seahawks are to win a game on the road against a quality opponent. The team should be expected to win this game. The conversation would be quite interesting next week if Matt Hasselbeck throws for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns in victory. It also could be equally interesting if Charlie Whitehurst relieves him and has a breakout performance against a bad defense. The biggest obstacle in the way of a Seahawks win is going to be Jeremy Bates. Only two teams average less rushing attempts per game than Seattle. Bates *must* challenge the Bucs run defense consistently. It will help his offense, his defense and his quarterback.

SEAHAWKS@BUCS PREVIEW PART I: What A Seahawks Loss Might Look Like

Each week I attempt to see both sides of the upcoming Seahawks match-up. Let's explore what a loss could look like first.

Tampa Bay is a lot like the Seahawks in one key way, injuries have drastically altered the product on the field. They are missing important players on both sides of the ball, but still have managed to put an effective offense on the field behind 2nd year QB Josh Freeman, rookie receiver Mike Williams, tight end Kellen Winslow and waiver wire pickup of the year, RB LeGarrette Blount. They are a balanced attack that averages 31 pass attempts and 27 rush attempts per game. Compare that to Seattle's 34 pass attempts and 23 rush attempts. The Seahawks average the 3rd fewest rushing attempts per game in the NFL. Tampa can win this game on the ground. In the confusion of all this quarterback controversy, most people have completely missed that Seattle's rush defense has returned almost to where it was with Red Bryant healthy. The difference can largely be traced to Colin Cole's return to the field. Not only has Cole been a difference in the middle, but he allowed DT Junior Siavii to slide to Bryant's defensive end position. It worked amazingly well against the powerful Atlanta rushing game, keeping them under 3 yards per carry. The problem is that Siavii is out indefinitely with a stinger (which can be career-threatening, by the way). Expect the Bucs to test the Seahawks run defense early and often. Blount is better than the Saints Chris Ivory, and will force the Seahawks to tackle him the way they did with Michael Turner last week.

Freeman sports a nice 88.8 QB rating and an 18/6 TD/INT ratio. The Seahawks secondary has been vulnerable to just about everything, so Freeman will have opportunities to make plays. If the Bucs can gain over 330 yards of offense and control the clock with a ground game, they will have enough to get a win.

Defensively, Ronde Barber is a terror no matter how old he is. If given the chance, he will make a play to change the game. The Bucs will be forced to gamble on defense based on their recent results and injuries, so Matt Hasselbeck will need to make proper reads and not get baited into the crippling mistakes he's made the last two games. If the Seahawks have more than one turnover, they will not win.

Matt Hasselbeck Fits Just Fine

Matt Hasselbeck is a bad fit for this offense. The Seahawks offense is best when it is conservative. The last two weeks prove it. Wrong. Flat out, wrong. Captain Wrong, himself, Steve Kelley embarrassed himself again with a column this morning explaining why the Seahawks are best when they imitate the Patriots ball control offense, and have been at their worst when being aggressive. This same line of thinking has saturated sports radio this week.

A few facts to consider:


  • The Seahawks offense eclipsed 300 yards of total offense just three times in their first eight games, including a 302 yard effort in Qwest against Arizona
  • The Seahawks offense eclipsed 300 yards of offense in four of their last six games, including the only two games where they gained more than 400 yards (@ARZ and @NO)
  • Matt's yards per attempt in his first seven games (Whitehurst played the eighth) was 5.98. His YPA in his last six is 7.68. Only six QBs in the NFL average more than 7.68 YPA for the season (Rivers, Vick, Rodgers, Brady, Cutler, Roethlisberger)
  • Matt's three week total of 981 yards @ARZ, @NO and vs. KC was the second-highest three-week total of his career which makes it the second-highest in the history of the Seahawks franchise for a QB.
  • Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu were healthy and starting for only two games all season @ARZ and @NO, and Williams left the NO game with an injury. It is stretch to say Williams and Obomanu were healthy this past Sunday.
These are not opinions. What do these facts tell you? Were the Seahawks a better offense, as Kelley tells us, at the beginning of the season? Does the offense appear to thrive when Matt is throwing shorter passes? 

The unfortunate fact for sports radio jockeys and bad columnists is that the last two weeks have a very a simple explanation. Matt Hasselbeck has made horrible, crippling decisions, that cost his team any chance at winning the games. That does not mean he is a bad fit for the offense, or that the team needs to be exclusively conservative in its play-calling. It just means Matt has to make better choices. 

Sunday was the first time in four weeks that Mike Williams played in a game (he only lasted two plays vs. CAR), and the first time in five weeks he played a whole game. Ben Obomanu has a split down his hand between the pinky finger and ring finger that has 20 stitches in it. Even with these major obstacles to timing and anticipation, the Seahawks had one of their finest drives of the season to open the game. Having both of the receivers in the game is a major factor. Having them healthy and practicing puts the offense at another speed entirely. 

If you look at each of Matt's interceptions, and even the fumble on Sunday, they are the result of bad judgment. He is choosing to go for the aggressive option, instead of making the smart play. This is a guy who admitted to letting a bad holding call cause him to lose his head and throw a pick in the Super Bowl, so this is not new territory. 

Matt does not need a new offense to succeed. He needs to make better decisions within this offense, and to have some stability at the top of his receiving corps to work with. This game in Tampa represents the first real test now that Williams and Obomanu will practice for the second-straight week. Don't believe everything you are hearing and reading right now. This offense, and passing game specifically, has reached heights this franchise has almost never seen before. It has happened in the first season with almost entirely new faces. The yardage per game has improved dramatically as the season has unfolded, largely due to a new ability to make big plays. Turnovers and injury, more than anything else, has held the unit back. Matt can do a lot to effect the first part, and luck appears to be allowing the injury issue to subside.

The team may succeed or fail in their next two games, but it will have absolutely nothing to do with Matt being a good or bad fit for the system, and it won't be because they threw the ball deep. The facts simply don't support that line of thinking.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hawk Blogger 2010 Power Rankings - Week 15

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Usually, these become most meaningful after Week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. I'm not sure any formula could have predicted their run.

If you'd like to see how teams rankings changed from 2008 to 2009, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
If San Diego doesn't make the playoffs, they will have the honor of being the highest-rated HawkBlogger team to not make the second season. These guys have a crazy point differential of nearly 10 points, and are barely above .500. The Seahawks reach a new low, with teams like Buffalo and Washington ahead of them. Ugh.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on. Big gulf between top two and the rest.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Morning After: Falcons Beat Seahawks, 34-18

There was a time, about nine years ago, when I mercilessly booed Matt Hasselbeck and begged for Trent Dilfer or Brock Huard to come in the game. Hasselbeck played with such unfounded arrogance that it made my teeth grind. He rolled left or right to avoid a pass rush and then would heave a hopeless pass down field that invariably ended up in the arms of the other team. His arrogance was eventually traded for savvy, his interceptions for touchdowns, his losses for the best wins in franchise history. He left his hometown of Boston behind, and grew roots in this community. He even adopted the Seattle grudge against East Coast bias. There has been no better leader to pull on a Seahawks jersey, and arguably, only one better player. One win from tying the franchise record for wins by a quarterback, Seahawks fan ignored all of that. They showered Hasselbeck with boos, and worse, gave loud Bronx cheers to his backup. Watching Hasselbeck throw away a game this team might have won was aggravating. Hearing fans treat him the way they did made my blood boil. You should be ashamed. This not Alex Smith. Hasselbeck has won for this team, and made Seattle his home. If this becomes his final farewell, it should be done with dignity and respect.

None of that is to say Carroll made the wrong decision in bringing Whitehurst in. Any other choice would have been an indictment on his coaching. Hasselbeck left him with no other choice, and it would be a surprise if Whitehurst doesn't get the ball in Tampa next week. Carroll has shown amazing commitment to a QB he inherited, especially given the price he paid for a backup. Now the team must find out what Whitehurst is capable of. His first start was a disaster, but was also nearly an impossible situation. He made a few plays yesterday that Matt simply is not capable of. Knowing he will make mistakes has likely kept him on the bench, but even Whitehurst will have trouble eclipsing the number of mistakes out of the QB position the last two weeks. It is a perfect time for a real audition. As much as I believe in Hasselbeck, nothing would be better for this team than to find out Whitehurst could be the next starter. Valuable draft picks, free agent dollars, and time will be spent finding a suitable replacement for Hasselbeck if Whitehurst is not the guy. The only certain thing is that who becomes the next quarterback will be Carroll's defining decision. Make the right choice, and this could be a franchise heading back to contention as early as next year. Make the wrong decision, and almost nothing else will save the team from being a perennial loser. Just look at Arizona, San Francisco and St. Louis to see whether its better to have a good QB and bad rest of roster, or vice versa.

Once you hack your way through the forest of quarterback controversy, you see one of Seattle's finest efforts. The Atlanta Falcons offense entered the game as arguably the best in the NFC. They have a great quarterback, great running back, great line, great receiver, and a great tight end. They have played Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Green Bay. No team this season held them to 266 yards. No team had held them under 290 yards. Their vaunted running game yielded a paltry 2.6 YPC on a whopping 37 attempts. This team fully expected to come into Qwest and impose their will. Matt Ryan averaged a pathetic 5.0 yards on 35 attempts. The Seahawks played defense, especially against the run, with a heart that deserves celebration. Colin Cole led the team in tackles for the second time this season. He has officially answered the question about whether it was only Red Bryant that was playing at a Pro Bowl level before the Raider game. Cole has been back for two weeks, and the team has gone from allowing over 5 YPC to under 3 when he is in the game. It provides hope that all does not rest on Bryant's ability to recover from a serious knee injury. Junior Siavii, a career backup, occupied the left end position well. The team got results against a terrific offense, which bodes well for the scheme Gus Bradley and Pete Carroll have implemented. Developing depth will be a critical factor going into next year.

The secondary remains messy. Kelly Jennings may not even get picked up by another team  when he is let go next season. Walter Thurmond has not be as great as people would like to claim, although rookie CBs always struggle. Kennard Cox in Jennings best friend since he gives opposing quarterbacks someone else to pick on. And Marcus Trufant is having trouble staying healthy. Cornerback is rocketing up the charts in terms of need areas. There is at least a two year rebuilding project that must happen before the secondary can be capable of  goodness, let alone greatness.

Watching the first drive by the Seahawks offense was encouraging not only because they scored, but because the play calling looked wise and repeatable. High percentage passes were mixed with hard-nosed runs, and the occasional throw down field. The team ended the drive with 44 yards passing and 46 yards rushing. Jeremy Bates obviously did not like what he saw because he abandoned what was working by the team's third possession. Seattle took the ball, down 10-7, at their own 28. First down was a deep pass to Mike Williams that fell incomplete. Second down was a deep pass to Ben Obomanu...incomplete. Third down was another deep pass to Williams that was incomplete. Three low-percentage plays that were essentially a vacation for the defense that had not proven it could stop the run or the short pass. Taking shots down field is necessary, but featuring low-percentage plays as often as Bates does will result in horribly inconsistent offense. He deserves major scrutiny this off-season. Nobody wants yet another offensive system installed, but this would be the year to make that one final change if you are Pete Carroll. Bates has done very little to instill confidence as a play-caller, and his bad decisions have had a negative impact on this team.

Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett averaged a combined ~5.0 yards per carry. They carried the ball 14 times. This was not because the team fell behind in the 3rd quarter. As bad as Matt looked in getting sacked for a TD, Bates looks just as bad for calling a deep pass play from his own four-yard line when he has two backs gashing the opposition. That play never had to happen.

That was a game with many of the ingredients necessary to pull off a dramatic upset. A variety of factors conspired to turn that opportunity into another "cover your eyes" defeat. The choices Carroll makes in the coming weeks will reverberate for seasons to come. Right or wrong will only be revealed by the events that follow. As a lifelong fan, I wish the coach clarity and confidence. His success is my success, and I'm growing weary of this failure.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kevin Kolb? Don't Hold Your Breath

Every Seahawks fan agrees we need a new quarterback. When we need that new quarterback to play, who that quarterback should be, and how we should attain him is where there is massive disagreement. Out of that chaotic mess has come one scenario that appears to have more support than any other, trading for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb.

Kolb is in his fourth NFL season, and was anointed the Eagles successor to Donovan McNabb after McNabb was traded to the Redskins. Kolb received a $12.26M contract extension through the 2011 season before this season began. He started in the Eagles opener, but was injured in the first half, allowing now MVP candidate Michael Vick to take the field. Vick was electric as soon as he took the field, but did yield the position to Kolb again due an injury of his own. Kolb played four straight games, going 2-2, and posting QB ratings 103.3 @SF and 133.6 vs. ATL. In two losses, his QB ratings were a pedestrian 76.0 and an ugly 56.9. His overall rating for the season is 85.3, which is very solid, especially for a 1st year starter. He has thrown for over 300 yards in three of the six times he has played a full game, including a mouth-watering 391 in his 1st career start last season against the Saints.

Kolb was a second-round pick in 2007, and is 26-years-old. He played college ball out of Houston where he threw for 12,964 yards, which ranked 5th all-time in NCAA history. With Michael Vick's emergence, there is a lot of speculation that Philly will entertain offers for Kolb. It seems unlikely they will keep both past 2011, and hanging onto both next year would leave them with no compensation after one of them walks. Let the games begin.

The Seahawks need a young QB who is accurate and has a propensity for tossing the long ball. Check, check and check. It doesn't hurt that he has been brought up under QB coach extraordinaire,  Andy Reid. Reid, as you may recall, started Matt Hasselbeck's career. There would be some irony if he had a hand in ending it.

One can see why so many Seahawks fans are jumping on the Kevin Kolb bandwagon. I'm here to tell you it is extremely unlikely Kolb will ever pull on a Seahawks jersey. As we've all heard many times, players values are set by the market. Supply and demand is pretty darn simple. In this case, the demand for new franchise quarterbacks is at a crescendo. Teams like Arizona, San Francisco, Miami, Buffalo, Carolina, Washington, Seattle, Cleveland, Oakland, and Tennessee are all at varying levels of desperation for a new QB that can lead them to the promised land. Demand is high.

Supply? Not so much. This was shaping up to be a banner 2011 draft for quarterbacks, but possible #1 pick Jake Locker has scuffled to pre-Sarkisian performance and guys like Ryan Mallett, Cam Newton, and Christian Ponder all have serious flaws that make them big gambles. Andrew Luck is the surest bet, and will go to the team with the #1 pick. That removes one team from the list above. Figure another team or two will target a QB in the draft and pull out of the Kolb running as well. After all, history shows drafting a QB is far more successful than signing a free agent or trading for one.

Teams like SF and ARZ are less likely to consider the draft route. They have veterans either in their primes, or exiting their primes. There is no time to wait for a QB to develop. Teams like that are going to be willing to pay a higher bounty than a team still in an overall rebuilding mode, or one that has a viable alternative. Seattle falls in the latter category. Re-signing Matt Hasselbeck is still a better option than either ARZ or SF has in their own roster. Even if one of them goes after Hasselbeck, the other would still be in more desperate need than a Seattle team that just overpaid for Charlie Whitehurst one season ago.

A player like Kolb will require at least a first-round pick in return. If you are the Seahawks, would you really surrender the chance to draft a shutdown corner like Jimmy Smith just to have Kolb AND Whitehurst on the roster? Even if you would, that desire would have to fall short of what a team like SF would surrender to get him (not to mention keeping him from Seattle). San Francisco and Arizona have pretty competitive teams everywhere but the QB position. Seattle does not.

None of this is to say I wouldn't want Kolb if we could get him. I might put myself in the category of being willing to outbid everyone and go all Herschel Walker on the Eagles to get him. I just don't think the Seahawks would do that. More likely is they keep their draft picks and add a young QB prospect somewhere in there to try and develop. Re-signing Hasselbeck is still the right move if the team can't get a player like Kolb. There are multiple paths to Heaven and to Hell for the Seahawks. The Kevin Kolb path to the promised land is likely the road less traveled.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hawk Blogger Podcast: Week 14

It's back! The moment you've all been waiting for, a chance to listen to a recording of two guys talking football over the phone! Ryan Burns of FootballSickness.com joined me for some NFL talk and a national view on our Seahawks.

Joining us on the podcast include the GPS lady in my rental car, the rental car lady at the airport, and the train lady between the rental car place and the terminal. I make up for all this audio pain by giving a little Seattle retribution to the streets of SF. You have been avenged, Seahawks fans! The parts you can hear should be worth a listen. Enjoy.

>>Download the podcast<<

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

15 Seconds Of Fame

Following every Portland Trail Blazers game is a post-game show called "The Fifth Quarter." Every once-in-a-while, I would get so worked up about something a caller or host said that it became an obligation to call in and right the wrong. My friends used to all hassle me the next morning about hearing 12-year-old HawkBlogger on the radio spewing off statistics that confused the hosts who likely wanted nothing more than to be lobotomized for a few hours while listening to one ridiculous call after another. Armies of people would call in, which meant hold times could be 10-30 minutes, but I waited. It was a rush each time I got on the air. Fast forward a few decades to December 15th, 2010 at around 9:03 AM. I was just landing in San Jose while Brock Huard and Mike Salk on KIRO710 were talking about little ol' me.

How was this possible? I didn't call in. There was no half-hour of hold time. These two handsome, brilliant, funny, radio personalities were talking about me on their own. I, of course, had no idea since I was in California at the time, but a loyal Facebook follower alerted me to the event. It was one of those moments where the 12-year-old boy resurfaces and just thinks, "that's pretty cool." This blog was never intended to get much notoriety, which works out well considering I probably have a few dozen readers. It's always been about giving me an outlet to vent and analyze the Seahawks in the way that I want, when I want. Every time somebody tells me they appreciated a post I wrote, it makes my day. In the end, it's all about connecting with other fans and creating a conversation free from influences like advertisers, team officials, editors or schedules. I appreciate Brock and Salk giving me a little leg up in meeting those goals.

In return, I want to help Salk out a little. Despite having targeted Salk in my post yesterday, I don't dislike the guy. In fact, I am a little embarrassed by how Seattle has treated him since he's been here. Each and every day he gets on the radio with a guy who is a local kid who played for both the Huskies and Seahawks ("played" is a stretch) and oozes positivity. Radio programs full of two hosts agreeing with each other for three hours does not work. Huard is already known, and has taken the good cop role. What's a good co-host to do but play the bad cop? Salk pokes and prods and incites listeners by taking controversial, and often negative opinions. He tries to play it off as if it's just part of the job, but the guy moved out here with his wife from across the country and practically gets spit on every morning. Nobody is immune to that kind of venom all the time. When talking about my blog this morning, Salk jokingly asked Huard what he would have to do in order to be a "local hero" like Huard. Here's where I think I can help, you, Salk.

Having family in Boston and New York myself, I identify with your style more than most in the NW. People out here expect their sports radio personalities to be enmeshed with the teams they discuss. They want to feel like you are just as happy or sad as they are. These fans are also very adept at picking out posers. Much of the negative energy directed at you, and the reason your home town always comes up, is because you are not a fan of the teams you are analyzing. If you want to ever move past being treated like an outsider, you are going to have to start caring like a local. In some ways, your timing is lucky since I think your real love is baseball and the Mariners are less popular now than at any time in the last 20 years. Everyone is down on that team, which gives you a great opportunity to be the voice of optimism. Break out of your negative pigeon hole. Make people feel better through this long, wet, dark Winter instead of worse. If you can do that, this town will treat you like a king.

Take that advice, or leave it, but thanks again for baiting me into a blog post last night and giving my blog a plug on air. That was a cool moment. Oh, and tell Huard that if he wants to be mentioned in my blog, he has to actually fight his own fights on air. He may have written the original post that got you guys talking yesterday, but once you hit the airwaves, he was defending the coaches and the players. He wasn't doing a particularly good job of it, so I decided to write my bit, but he was certainly not the antagonist. Maybe you need to buy Brock a pointed goatee he can stick on so he feels safe being negative for more than 10 seconds. Just a thought.

SEAHAWKS/FALCONS PREVIEW PART II: What A Seahawks Win Might Look Like

A win on Sunday is not quite as ridiculous as the average fan might think. I admit to initially feeling this would be a complete disaster on Sunday, and it very well may be. Looking a little further into the stats tells a potential path to victory for the hometown Hawks.

Atlanta's offense is for real. Counting on them to under-perform is foolhardy. Atlanta's defense, however, is pretty darn suspect. They hide behind a 7th-ranked points against (18.7), but this is a group that gives up some yardage. Their run defense ranks 13th in yards allowed, but a jaw-dropping 26th in YPC against at 4.6 yards each rush. That is a lot of real estate. Their pass defense is ranked 24th in yards allowed and 21st in overall opposing QB rating at 86.8. They are 28th in the NFL in opposing QB completion percentage, allowing 65.8% of opponents passes to reach their destination.

Drill a little bit further and you see a group of cornerbacks all under 6'0". Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu will have chances to make plays. A key question will be whether their injuries allow them to take advantage of those opportunities. If Williams and Obomanu combine for over 14 receptions, the Seahawks have a shot. Holding onto the ball and converting 3rd downs has been a critical factor in determining how effective the Seahawks defense can be. There was a time the defense could keep the offense in the game. That time is gone for 2010.

Matt Hasselbeck is the town bike right now. Everyone is taking him for a ride. He can silence some of those folks with a strong performance on Sunday. A QB rating over 90 is a must for Seattle to have any shot at a win. I can only imagine the cockamamie explanations for why he sucks after pulling off a game like that.

In the two games the Falcons have lost, they rushed for under 70 yards. A hidden bright spot in the 49ers debacle this past Sunday was an encouraging performance against the run with Colin Cole in the lineup. That will be tested this week in spades. If the Seahawks keep Atlanta under 100 yards rushing, there is reason to be optimistic, regardless of the outcome.

There has not been time to dig deeper into Atlanta's season, but the defensive numbers tell a surprisingly convincing story of vulnerability. Seattle does not appear ready to exploit those vulnerabilities due to injury, but if the receiving corp is healthier than expected, Seahawks fans could be in for a shock on Sunday.

SEAHAWKS/FALCONS PREVIEW PART I: What A Seahawks Loss Might Look Like

Each week, I attempt to preview the upcoming game from a balanced perspective. Let's start by exploring what a Seahawks loss might look like.

This may be the world's shortest blog post. If you are having trouble envisioning what a Seahawks loss would look like against the Falcons, I would like a swig of whatever you are drinking. The Falcons are my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They have a good, nearly great, quarterback that plays smart and is at his best in the clutch. Their running game is fierce, with a good line, and strong runners like Michael Turner. They have given up fewer sacks than all but three teams, and are the fifth-highest scoring team in the NFL.

Any quarterback that can walk and chew gum at the same time has been shredding the Seahawks defense of late. Matt Ryan passes that test, and will be a nightmare to stop.

Given the general state of the Seahawks fan base right now, it won't take much for the Qwest faithful to turn on the home team and become the Falcons 12th man.

Time of possession will be a key indicator. The combination of a feckless offense and porous defense has led to massive differentials in time of possession in favor of Seahawks opponents. If Atlanta can convert 3rd downs at a high rate, it probably won't matter what the Seahawks offense can muster.

The Falcons come in battling for their division title and home-field advantage. Anything but a dominating performance would register as a surprise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

You Win, Mike Salk

Mike Salk co-hosts the KIRO 710 morning show Brock and Salk with Brock Huard. He is good at his job. His style and personality are an odd match for the Northwest, but he plays the bad cop well. Having gone to school for sports journalism, and now working at a company whose products are used in every form of media, I know the game Salk plays. He is not emotionally invested in any of the local teams, except to the point that they impact his well-being. A winning team usually generates more listeners, more calls, and more advertising dollars. When a team loses, like the Seahawks are now losing, it is Salk's job to incite a conversation. He is not alone. Every media member is doing the same thing, looking for any angle that gets your attention. Even though I know all this, I can't help but write an entire post just to refute the contrived argument Salk put forth today about the Seahawks. He doesn't care if he's right or wrong, and just writing this encourages more irresponsible analysis, but I can't help myself. You win, Salk.

The Seahawks started 4-2, and have since gone 2-5. Salk made two main assertions aimed at discrediting the coaching staff. First, he said that injuries cannot be completely to blame for the deteriorating season. Second, he says that injuries don't explain why players like Aaron Curry, John Carlson, Kelly Jennings, Marcus Trufant, Earl Thomas, Matt Hasselbeck, Golden Tate, and Chris Clemons have failed to improve as the season wore on.

I've spent the better part of two posts today already addressing the first assertion. If you have not already read about why consistency has escaped the Hawks or how big of an effect even a single injury can have on a team, take a moment to read them. Salk claims that it all can't be attributed to Red Bryant being out, but that's missing the point. If only Red Bryant was out, that would be a fair question. Guess how many of the last seven games have seen Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, Mike Williams and Russell Okung step on the field at the same time? Forget the myriad of other injuries and shuffles along the lines and at wide receiver. Just those four players have played exactly zero minutes together, as a group, in the last seven games. What about just three of the four? How many games of any combination have three of those guys been on the field at the same time in the last seven games? The correct answer is two. What about the first six games, when things were going well? All six of those games saw at least three of those players on the field (plus Red Bryant). The only game ALL SEASON that all four of those players have played a full game together was @CHI. Not surprisingly, most would call that the Seahawks best performance. Injuries do matter. Discounting them is lazy and sensationalistic.

Now, to the second part about lack of improvement. Before I tackle each and every player he mentioned, let's discuss the players he conveniently omitted. How good was Ben Obomanu at the start of the season? Wasn't he on the 53-man roster bubble for many? What about Cameron Morrah? Any improvement there? Deon Butler and Kam Chancellor have made strides. David Hawthorne is playing better now than to start the year. Sean Locklear has stabilized, as has Mike Gibson. Additionally, of the players Salk listed, I disagree that Curry, Clemons and Hasselbeck have not improved. Clemons had 5.5 sacks through the first six games and has 4 in the last seven games. That's not exactly a major dropoff, especially considering the extra attention he got after his fast start. Curry has three of his four sacks in the last five games, and after averaging 3.17 tackles/game in the first six, he's averaging 6.14 in the last seven. That sure looks like improvement to me. Hasselbeck is the controversial one, but in the TWO GAMES he's had a healthy Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu starting he threw for more yardage than any two-game stretch in his entire career outside of one series in 2002. Every Seahawk fan that watched the @ARZ and @NO game saw jaw-dropping improvement in the passing game.

Of the other guys, some can just be explained by saying they are veterans who are who they are going to be no matter what the coaches do. There is no upside to be had. Players in this category include Jennings and Trufant. Carlson has only himself to blame. Maybe he'll get better after another year in the system, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Tate has some maturing to do. This off-season will show how dedicated he is to becoming an NFL receiver. He also was injured for a long stretch, so improvement before the year is out is still possible. When the coaches start Ruvell Martin over you as a second-round pick, it should be a wake-up call. Lastly, Earl Thomas is hard to judge. He has not stood out to me as a guy whose play has dropped off dramatically. He has missed some tackles and some assignments, but tossing him into the "not improved" bucket is questionable, at best.

Nobody wants a radio show question that can be answered simply and directly. I get it. The part that drives me batty is how it actually starts to shape public opinion. Pete Carroll and staff have done an admirable job of finding anyone and everyone who could contribute to a winning team. When you start with arguably the worst talent in all of the NFL and have this many injuries to core players, bad things are going to happen. Nobody is likely to be singing Carroll's praises while the team gets their heads bashed in repeatedly, but any honest assessment of the franchise's overall progress must be overwhelmingly positive.

The Mike Williams Effect

Mike Williams is big. He's a big man. He's got big hands. He makes big plays, and he leaves a very big hole in the Seahawks offense when he is not on the field. It took Jeremy Bates all the way until the bye week to really push Williams into the #1 receiver role after Deion Branch was traded. I wanted to get a better feel for just how big of an impact he has by comparing team stats from games in which Williams played the entire game versus ones he has been injured. The results were eye-popping, if not altogether surprising.

A few things to note: (1) I did not count the Carolina game as one he played a full game because he sat out most of that game. (2) I'm only looking at games after the bye week since he was used so differently after that point.

First, we can just look at the team record during this stretch. Starting at the Bears game, the Seahawks are 3-2 when Williams plays and 1-3 when he does not. I was very much on the fence about whether to include the Oakland game in the "Williams played" category because he missed so much of that game, but I felt the Saints game had to be included and Williams' minutes were probably comparable. If you take the Oakland game out, the Hawks go to 3-1 with Williams and 1-4 without.

Take a look at some other major team stats with, and without, BMW:



The Seahawks gain an average of 51 more yards per game, pass for 36 more yards per game, and most notably, average almost 8 more minutes of possession. That additional time of possession leads directly to fewer yards and points for the opposition. The cause and effect is not hard to figure out. If you want to pull the Oakland game from the games Williams played in, look at the change:



It's almost two entirely different teams. Did someone ask which team is going to show up on any given week? You may want to check the injury report to see if Williams is on it. Now, we all know there were other factors at play here including opponents and other injuries. Williams played twice against the Cardinals, but he also dominated the Bears and the Saints. It's hard to say this was completely due to opponent. Other injuries like Red Bryant and Colin Cole definitely played a big factor, but they were out for the win @ARZ and the loss @NO, that both were considered strong overall games for the Seahawks.

None of this is to say that the Seahawks will magically be good enough to beat the Falcons on Sunday when Williams is back out there. In fact, I have doubts about whether Williams will truly be the same player we saw before his double injury to the same foot. What it should tell people is that who plays in a game can make a sizable difference throughout the team. That might seem obvious to some, but others pile on players like Matt Hasselbeck as if there should be no asterisk next to games he plays without the services of players like Williams. In case you have not seen, Peyton Manning is struggling just a tad playing with a bunch of "Ruvell Martins," and Manning is possibly the best QB in NFL history. Hasselbeck is no where near the best QB in NFL history, but he is effected by the same things. It takes time to develop chemistry with a receiver. Hasselbeck is not a big-armed gunner who can pat the ball until someone gets a tiny crease that he can launch a rocket through. He needs to play with anticipation and timing. He has that with Mike Williams, and the numbers show how much of a difference that can make. Consider this coming week a scratch since Williams will have been out for four weeks by the time he steps on the field. If he can stay healthy, look to the Tampa game as one where we can get our next data point as to whether the Mike Williams Effect is real.

Fans Can Be Own Worst Enemy

Eight years ago, I was furious. The Seahawks were scuffling to a disappointing finish in 2002. Trent Dilfer had been promising at QB, but was knocked out in a game at Dallas that would end up being the true beginning of Matt Hasselbeck's reign as franchise QB. The team performance was not what caused my anger. It was Mike Holmgren's fifth season as GM/Coach, and the underwhelming 2002 results had fans and local media starting to call for his ouster. Opinions ranged from requiring full dismissal to relinquishing his GM title to focus on coaching. It was bullshit. Despite an inspiring end to the season that still stands as Hasselbeck's best statistical stretch, then Seahawks President Bob Whitsitt felt the need to placate the fans by yanking Holmgren's GM title. That slight nearly caused Holmgren to walk away that off-season, and did eventually cause him to walk away to find the authority he once had. It was a classic example of how a short-sighted and frustrated fan base can lead to actions that only make matters worse.

Holmgren continued to act as GM while Bob Ferguson acted as front man/donut boy. His character and stubborn nature was great enough to overcome the PR-induced farce and build a Super Bowl-worthy team. Tim Ruskell gets credit for Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill, Joe Jurevicious, and Chuck Darby, but every other important player came from Holmgren.

I sit here today, delaying my exit for work, because I'm pissed off again. It feels so familiar. Fans and local media are talking about this Seahawks team with such myopia that you might think the first seven weeks of the season never happened. There is a growing population of fans that only see the horrible play on the field, and completely ignore the players off it. All this talk of "inconsistency" is based on such embarrassingly superficial analysis that it belongs in a political ad. If you don't already know, let me tell you, THESE ARE NOT YOUR SEAHAWKS. Let's play a quick game. Name the Seahawks 10 best players this year. Here's my list (in no particular order):


  • Russell Okung*
  • Earl Thomas*
  • Red Bryant*
  • Chris Clemons*
  • Matt Hasselbeck
  • Mike Williams*
  • David Hawthorne*
  • Lawyer Milloy
  • Brandon Mebane*
  • Colin Cole*

* Players that we have no viable replacement for

I could throw Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, Ben Obomanu, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, or Marcus Trufant   in there, but they just don't make my list based on performance this season. Now let's look at how many games each has missed during this recent seven game stretch where the Seahawks went 2-5.

  • Russell Okung* (Missed 3 Games)
  • Earl Thomas* (Missed 0 Games)
  • Red Bryant* (Missed 7 Games)
  • Chris Clemons* (Missed 0 Games)
  • Matt Hasselbeck (Missed 1 Game)
  • Mike Williams* (Missed 4 Games, also half of Raiders and Saints game)
  • David Hawthorne* (Missed 0 Games)
  • Lawyer Milloy (Missed 0 Games)
  • Brandon Mebane* (Missed 2 Games)
  • Colin Cole* (Missed 6 Games)
* Players that we have no viable replacement for

That's a total of 23 missed starts by our top 10 players during that span. Obomanu and Trufant missed time in there as well, as did a number of other players. There can be no consistency when you are missing this many key players at different times with different combinations in a season with new coaches and new schemes. To expect consistency is foolish. The team has had no more than half of its starting defensive line for six of the seven games. Injuries happen to every team. Some teams are not built to handle them. No teams are built to win without their best players. If I have time later, I plan on illustrating the "Mike Williams effect" as one example of how much of a difference one player can make. My point here is that we have been watching an impostor. It's like to talking to my grandmother who had Alzheimers, she looked like my grandmother, but the core of who she was had gone missing.

No matter what happens in the last three games of the season, I consider 2010 a stunning and rousing success. I have seen a winning defense that can be sustained when healthy and filled in with more quality depth. I have seen a league-best special teams that is the best Seattle has seen since Rusty Tillman roamed the sidelines. I have seen an offense that found itself when healthy, and has tremendous upside with improved offensive line talent. Injury has kept all three of those groups from showing up the same time in a given week. An off-season will correct that. Of those top ten players I listed, an eye-popping six of them did not play for the Seahawks last season (Milloy and Bryant were on the team, but did not play meaningful snaps). That group includes what I consider the team's top four players (Bryant, Thomas, Okung, Williams). That, all by itself, is success. One more off-season like that, and the Seahawks go from having possibly the worst talent in the NFL to a legitimate playoff team. If you let yourself get lost in the filth of what is happening week-to-week with this team, you will miss the mosaic being built at a record pace.

Hawk Blogger 2010 Power Rankings - Week 14

PRIMER
Power rankings are always debatable. I don't buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach is simple, I measure offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate "Team Strength" is as follows:

(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) - (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)


The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success. Even in the first week of the 2008 season, 5 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff bound. As with any statistic, it becomes more meaningful as the sample size grows. Usually, these become most meaningful after Week 3. In 2007, 9 of the top 10 ranked teams were playoff teams, with the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at #15. In 2008, 8 the top 10 were playoff teams, with Arizona being the lowest ranked playoff team at #19. I'm not sure any formula could have predicted their run.

If you'd like to see how teams rankings changed from 2008 to 2009, you can read more here.

THIS WEEK
Any team that truly can contend for a Super Bowl berth is in the Top 10. The Jets have trailed off a ton, but still represent a major threat. San Diego has been dismissed enough--for good reason--that they still can sneak up on people who underestimate just how good they are when they play the opponent instead of themselves. Any of the Top 8 teams are your best bets, with Atlanta still being my NFC pick. Seattle has settled in with the likes of Buffalo, Cincy and Washington. That's who they are.



Scatter chart of the rankings. This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on. Four horse race, perhaps, at the top.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Morning After: 49ers End Seahawks, 40-21

One team entered this game on the mathematical precipice of darkness. Any loss, big or small, would eliminate any hope of a playoff berth. Their season had started with so much promise, and had been so thoroughly disappointing that their fans saw fit to boo their first two offensive plays of the game on Sunday. A quarterback that was picked to lead his team to the playoffs had become a pariah. The other team began the year with little hope, but sprinted to a surprisingly solid start. A quarterback that was assumed to be playing his final season with the team, surged to the point of contract extension murmurs amongst the fans. It had been eleven games since these two teams last met. Symmetry can be both beautiful and cruel, and eventually unavoidable. Seattle faced that reality Sunday in a game that effectively ended their season, even if the rules say otherwise. Lose this game by a few points and there would be reason to cling to hope. Doing so after the performance we witnessed yesterday is just begging for heartache.

At some point a fan has to question whether a division title with a 7-9 record is even worth winning. Is there more glory or ridicule from being the first sub-.500 division winner in NFL history? It is relatively certain whoever wins the NFC West will be 7-9. It has been easy to hope for a playoff game because there have been glimpses of greatness when key players are healthy. The Seahawks team that lost to New Orleans a few weeks ago could rightfully believe a playoff victory at home was possible, even probable. The team that has showed up the last three weeks would have almost no chance of winning a playoff game. Take a step back and see how much farther this franchise has to go to be a Super Bowl contender. Another high draft pick next season by a front office that has made so many wise selections could set the foundation for the next great Seahawks run.

Losing begets losing, though. This is shaping up to be Seattle's third straight losing campaign. Breaking free from that tradition can be like escaping the Earth's gravitational pull. Nobody wants to be Detroit or Buffalo, in a seemingly permanent low orbit. The Seahawks trajectory still appears skyward. Playing meaningful football in December with promising young talent could not be further from where this franchise was 12 months ago. Most people will spend this week tearing down the team, questioning the coaches, and crucifying the quarterback. Go ahead. Vent your pain. When this team returns in 2011, it will be equipped for a legitimate run at the division title and possibly modest playoff success. Some of the key pieces have been found and the philosophy has been set. The injuries and severe lack of depth have robbed this team of anything beyond superficial substance. They are a Bentley on blocks with cloth seats and a lawnmower engine. Pete Carroll and John Schneider will spend the off-season adding quality to the roster. Think of the difference-makers they have added in one off-season:

- Mike Williams
- Russell Okung
- Earl Thomas
- Leon Washington
- Red Bryant (bench player all last year)
- Lawyer Milloy (bench player all last year)
- Ben Obomanu (bench player all last year)
- Marshawn Lynch

If another 5-8 high quality players are added to this roster, it will be safe to start believing again. The Rams are more improved than the Seahawks based on where they were the last few seasons, and should challenge for the division title for years to come. The 49ers and Cardinals are a very good QB away from being fantastic, but it is not going to be easy for them to find a great QB. The opening for Seattle will remain as long as they continue to add talent.

The Seahawks are slotted somewhere between the 12th and 14th pick in the 2011 draft based on current records. That could become another player of Earl Thomas' talent, it could be traded for a future QB star like Kevin Kolb, or it could be a bust. Make the playoffs at 7-9 and lose in the first round gets you a pick around 22-23. Very few franchise players slip that low, and few great players can be had for that price. Seems like an easy choice, if given the chance to make it.

The game yesterday was a abysmal. It may have been the worst thing I've watched on TV since a rerun of Showgirls was on the other night. Oh, and that's not even counting the actual football being played. Whoever dreamed up the ridiculous music playing in the background of the game should be immediately fired. It was easily worse than the way the Seahawks played or the broadcasting of Brian Billick and his bumbling partner who managed to call an interception by a Seahawks defender while the Seahawks offense was on the field, and the ball was not intercepted. I like the sounds of a football game. The billions of dollars spent on the game by other fans would appear to indicate others do as well. Don't mess with success.

It is not worth the effort to defend Matt Hasselbeck. People have already found their truth on that matter. Seeing Ruvell Martin announced as a starting wide receiver was an eye-opening symbol of who this team is right now.  There may not have been a worse pair of starting wide receivers in any NFL game this season. Golden Tate better see the writing on the wall because the coaches are using neon ink. Ruvell Martin? Ouch.

One bit of good news was the play of Aaron Curry and Colin Cole. Cole's return did bottle up the 49er run game. The only successful runs by SF happened with Cole on the sideline. When he was in the game, the 49ers averaged just over two yards per carry. Curry came to play with a sack, and a near-blocked field goal. Any signs of improvement from him are welcome.

Symmetry is at the heart of many Eastern religions. I am not a Buddist, but I do believe there is a ying for every yang. It is what keeps me believing that fortune will eventually shine on the Seahawks. Today is lost, but tomorrow could be here pretty soon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Colin Cole Revealed

Despite the constant ragging on the now miserable Seahawks defense, it was not always this way. Only one team in the NFL was better at defending the run the first six games of 2010. We all know the story by now. Colin Cole and Red Bryant were injured in the team's seventh game and Brandon Mebane missed some time as well. It became clear in the weeks that followed this was not a defense that could afford to lose half of its defense line.

Most acknowledge Bryant's unique role in stopping the run. Few 320 lb men play defensive end, but Bryant played it like a boulder in a raging river, with blockers flowing off him in all directions. Colin Cole, though, was the forgotten man. He did leave that Raiders game with 11 more tackles than Bryant had, and recorded a whopping seven tackles the week prior against Arizona. Most interior lineman, however, are not judged by tackles. Since both men got injured the same week, it's hard to be certain whose absence had a bigger impact on the defense.

This week, we get to find out. Cole will be back in the lineup with Mebane next to him. There is talk that backup nose tackle Junior Siavii will slide over to Bryant's defensive end position on occasion. It should not take long to figure out if Cole is the difference make every Seahawks fan hopes he can be. Do we still see a 4.0+ YPC for the opposing team? Are linebackers getting smothered by guards, or do they have a chance to shoot gaps?

If the Seahawks defense looks improved on Sunday, it will say a lot about one man. If the defense looks just as vulnerable against the run as they have the previous few weeks, we'll know Bryant is even more valuable than the most bullish fans could have thought.

Blasphemous Seahawks Thoughts

Pittsburgh beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl with no help from the referees. Walter Jones was overrated. Steve Largent was just a glorified possession receiver, not a Hall of Famer. Ken Behring always put the best interests of the franchise before his own. Qwest Field noise is piped in. Say any one of these things to a long-time Seahawks fan and you are likely to get an earful.

Every franchise has taboos. Trolls in the fan base, and rival fans, love to tweak people by bringing up these sensitive spots whenever they get the chance. As obnoxious as it sounds, we all have probably done it to an opposing fan at one point or another ("How's that Matt Leinart decision working out for you?"). The point is, certain topics elicit visceral reactions from fans. Take heed, because I'm about to talk about a few for our beloved Hawks. Cover your eyes if you start feeling queasy.

Most Seahawks fans acknowledge that we need to find an heir-apparent to Matt Hasselbeck. Make the same statement about Lofa Tatupu, and you're likely to get a much different reaction. After all, he's only 28, and has played a full season thus far after two injury-plagued campaigns. He still gets the defense set better than almost any other middle linebacker in the league, and is clever in coverage, as demonstrated by the pick-six he had last week jumping a route. In fact, in many ways, he's an ideal 3rd and 4+ yards linebacker. If passing is a high likelihood, he may be the best LB on the team to help the defense. The problem is that it's become more and more questionable whether he is even a viable player against the run. Take some time to study him on running plays and you will regularly see offensive players planting Tatupu on his back. The injuries to Colin Cole and Red Bryant obviously play a role since Tatupu has always been highly dependent on a defensive line that can "keep him clean," but Tatupu was not playing significantly better before the injuries. Take a look at the tackle trend for Lofa.



It's not only the tackles, but big plays by any measure are rare now for Tatupu. He has not had more than 1.5 sacks since his rookie season or more than 1 forced fumble or interception since 2007. The Seahawks don't have a great backup plan for Tatupu. David Hawthorne is the team's best linebacker, and would be the heir apparent, but there is nobody who is starting caliber that can play weakside linebacker if Hawthorne slides over. Hawthorne also struggles in coverage and pre-snap adjustments. He's the anti-Tatupu. There are no prospects coming up behind the three starters. There is no replacement for Curry, Hawthorne or Tatupu. Will Herring is a capable backup who can fill in a few games, but he is not a full-time starter on a good defense. Linebacker must be an area of investment this off-season. Seattle needs more production from linebackers to pair with this vastly improved defensive line. Hawthorne and Curry are unlikely to be the guys you replace. Tatupu has become the fan favorite whose past production is masking current struggles. Great franchises find ways to replace those players before it is embarrassing for both the player and the team. Tatupu can still be a valuable part of the team, if willing, but as a situational player the way the Patriots used their aging linebackers for years.

John Carlson is beloved by many Seahawks fans, especially those of the female variety. He's tall, strong, reasonably fast, modest, hard-working, and smart. His rookie season was the best a Seahawks tight end ever had. He appeared to be on track to becoming the best tight end in franchise history and a perpetual Pro Bowler. His last two seasons, though, have been major disappointments. His receptions per game and yards per game have declined each year.



Add in that his blocking, especially for the running game, makes you want to stab your eyes out with knitting needles, and we have a little problem. Potential must transition to production at some point. That's not happening with Carlson. Cameron Morrah, Anthony McCoy and Chris Baker all block better than Carlson right now, and McCoy and Morrah could at least be his equal as receivers. The Seahawks are better off, right now, when Carlson is not on the field. Subbing out a TE for an extra WR is a plus in the passing game as any of our receivers outside of Golden Tate are better targets for Hasselbeck. Subbing him out for any of the TEs or FB Michael Robinson for running plays is an improvement. The Seahawks must move on from Carlson, and only go back to him if he rips the job away from these other players.

Some of you that read my blog regularly may wonder how I can appear so loyal to Hasselbeck while being so ruthless with these other players. The fact is that Hasselbeck still can play his position better than any half the players at his position in the NFL. The same can't be said about Tatupu or Carlson. Even so, I will continue to be vigilant in stating that our #1 need in the draft is a future franchise QB. Hasselbeck does need to be replaced, but that probably can happen in 2012. The Seahawks will be a better team if they can find a player to push Tatupu in 2011 and commit to one of these other TEs.