Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Detailed Comparison Of Seahawks Player Performance Year/Year

Gut feelings and subjectivity is a part of what makes sports great. My favorite moments, though, are when you take those beliefs and hold them up against statistics to see what the reality is. That moment when you get to see the numbers is like unwrapping a birthday present. You may not like the gift, but you are going to be excited just to find out what it is. Lots of talk will continue throughout the off-season about how Pete Carroll did in his first year as Seahawks coach. There will be additional conversations about which players should stay and which should go. The numbers I've compiled for you in this post do not hold the definitive answer to those questions, but they will help you form a more educated opinion.

I took a few minutes to create a spreadsheet of the major offensive and defensive stats for each Seahawks player in 2010, and then added comparisons to their 2009 stats. In a few cases, like Mike Williams, I compared to the player's last season in action (2007 for Williams). There are then team and opponent totals for each section: passing, rushing, receiving, defense. Those are also compared against 2009 Seahawks totals. Each cell is colored GREEN when the stat has improved and RED when the stat has regressed. If the stat is no different, it remains uncolored. I did my best to alter the coloring where an increase is bad (INTs thrown), or a decrease is good (yards allowed). Rookies are mostly pulled from the list since they can only have improved stats. In the case of Earl Thomas, I compared his stats to Deon Grant's 2009 numbers because it felt worthwhile. Comparing Golden Tate to last year's #6 receiver didn't seem quite as useful. Random stats like Mike Gibson's catch, or all the player's with just 1-5 tackles got pulled, so don't expect the Total row to match the sum of the numbers you see. All stats were gathered from the Web, so I can't vouch for complete accuracy, but they seemed on target.

Click <<HERE>> to download the full spreadsheet.

KEY FINDINGS
Pete Carroll was, not surprisingly, more effective at getting the most from his defense. Twelve of the 18 players I compared had markedly better seasons in 2010. Many players enjoyed career highs. Lawyer Milloy tied his career high in sacks (4.0). Chris Clemons set career highs for tackles and sacks. Colin Cole set a career high for tackles/game (4). Kentwan Balmer had a career high in tackles. Kelly Jennings had a career high 13 passes defensed. Raheem Brock had a career high 9.0 sacks. The list goes on and on. Brock, Balmer, Milloy, Clemons, Red Bryant, Roy Lewis, and Junior Siavii were all guys that were on other coaches scrap heaps.


Of the numbers I tracked that went up or down for defensive players, 73% were improvements. Team totals were much more of a mixed bag, as the team allowed more yards passing and rushing, as well as more points and fewer interceptions. But, they also had more sacks, more forced fumbles, a far lower opponent completion % and opponent QB rating.

Offense was not quite as strong from an individual player comparison. A number of receivers had career years. Player like Mike Williams, Ben Obamanu, Cameron Morrah, Deon Butler, Ruvell Martin, and Michael Robinson all had career highs in various categories. And again, many/all of those players were castoffs from other coaches. Brandon Stokley was not someone getting record numbers, but did improve on his previous season in most ways well into his 30s. That continues to speak highly of the team's ability to get the most from what talent they have. John Carlson, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington were well off their earlier numbers. The running game was ineffective for the most part, although the team doubled its rushing TDs.


There is not a lot of great offensive line statistics, so it is impossible to demonstrate the impact of the problems there on the rest of the rushing numbers. Matt Hasselbeck was down in almost every category. Whitehurst had career highs because he'd never taken a snap.

MY CONCLUSIONS
Pete Carroll and John Schneider did well to get the most out of the talent they had. Few of the players on the roster could be pointed to with confusion about why they were not better. There are far more players where you look and wonder how they got *anything* out of these guys. The phrase "blood from a turnip" comes to mind. The largest criticism centers around the running game and quarterback play. I attribute much of that to the talent level, the offensive line, and Jeremy Bates play-calling. There have been rushing yards to get throughout the season that Bates thumbed his nose at. It took three-quarters of the season for Bates to run Lynch on a 3rd and 1. The lack of a fullback for multiple weeks and the offensive line coach abandoning the team in Week 1 did not help either. And, of course, injuries to players like Russell Okung, Ben Hamilton, Chester Pitts, Mike Gibson, Mike Williams, and Ben Obamanu didn't help much either.

It is remarkable that the Seahawks were able to win seven games, even with this schedule, given the roster they had in 2009. Carroll almost made it harder on himself by getting so many guys to play well because it raised expectations beyond reasonable levels. A normal team maybe has one or two of those "scrap heap" story lines play out during any given season. Carroll found more than a dozen. That's nuts! Many of these guys are not people you can build a future champion around either because they are too old, or because they are too unlikely to repeat this season's performance. It's hard to imagine Carroll and Schneider could find this many guys to plug holes each year. They need more Earl Thomas/Russell Okung and less Ruvell Martin/Junior Siavii.

There are many ways to evaluate a coach, and maximizing your personnel is only one of them. Carroll struggled in game management at times, and that won't show up here. However, you can do a lot worse than a guy who gets the most out of his players, and Carroll has started off quite well in that area.

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