Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seahawks Sherman and Baldwin United By Adversity, Competitive Edge

There are not many father and son combinations playing in the NFL. In fact, there may only be one, and it is on your very own Seattle Seahawks. The father, Richard Sherman, is the feisty fifth-round draft choice from 2011.  He had his son out of wedlock. You could even say it was an immaculate conception. Doug Baldwin entered Stanford as freshman wide receiver, and became Sherman's "son," as is the tradition for Cardinal players. Sherman was still a receiver at the time, so the match made sense. The irony is that their position has become  one of the most defining differences between the two.

Both players faced tough times while at Stanford. Baldwin nearly gave up football after being assigned to the scout team his junior year. Sherman switched from receiver to cornerback after a similarly challenging situation with then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The shared experience brought the two players closer together.

Baldwin did not get drafted, and had his choice of 20+ teams to sign with as a free agent. Sherman's presence in Seattle was part of what made Seattle his eventual choice.

"I know [Sherman] had been heavily on my bandwagon talking to [John] Schneider and Pete Carroll," Baldwin said. "It definitely played a role in my decision."

The two roomed together last season as rookies before Baldwin moved out earlier this year, but not because of any strain in the friendship.

"We're two grown men," Baldwin said. "It was just time to live on our own."

The level of competitiveness under that roof had to be off the charts.

"We were like clones of each other [at Stanford]," Sherman said. "We played with anger and intensity."

When asked who he would compare Sherman to, Baldwin offered a surprising name.

"As far as confidence goes, I'd compare him to Muhammad Ali," Baldwin said. "They have similar mouth power, and both of them back it up out there."

Pressed to come up with a football comparable for Sherman, Baldwin came up empty.

"Richard Sherman is in a class of his own," Baldwin said. "He is one of the best corners I have ever faced. He has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. He is long, and sometimes looks goofy out there, but has phenomenal body control. There is nobody really in the league like him. He's a phenomenal press corner, but is smart enough to read routes."

The respect is mutual.

"I think [Baldwin] can be one of the best," Sherman said. "He is only limited by how the team uses him. You can only catch balls thrown your way. He can play outside even though people think he's just a slot receiver because he's short. Steve Smith plays outside at his height, and Doug has a similar skill set. They're both wearing #89 now, so people will really see the similarities."

So you have a great cornerback and a great receiver. Hmm, who would win a one-on-one battle if they went 10 rounds?

"Sherm would probably say 50/50, 5 out of 10 for each of us," Baldwin said. "The truth is I would win 8 or 9 out of 10."

"Nah. He would not win 8 or 9 out of 10. I would never let him do that," Sherman said. "I could win 10 out of 10, but on 7 out of the 10, he would throw his hands up and call [pass interference]."

Two kids, separated by 3000 miles, growing up in Florida and California, somehow found each other and became close friends. They have struggled together, and won together. Now, they are living out their NFL dreams together. It may not be a true father and son combination, but their shared traits seem almost genetic. Both players had almost impossibly impressive rookie seasons. They made an impact so quickly that it is hard to believe they will only be entering their second seasons. Wide receiver and cornerback are two positions that tend to struggle as rookies in the NFL before making a large jump in year two. If a large jump is in store for Sherman and Baldwin, they will go from surprising late-round or undrafted additions to two of the best players on a talented Seahawks roster.

Seahawks CB Sherman Always Doubted, Never Deterred

It was a Pop Warner practice. Richard Sherman was a 9-year-old running back who shied away from contact, and he had just received more contact than he asked for during a tackling drill. It was the second time he'd been told to try and run through this bigger player, and the outcome was not getting any less painful. He picked himself off the ground and took account of all his limbs to make sure they were still working when something odd happened.

"I felt all my weight leave me," Sherman said. "And I was like, 'Why am I flying?'"

Sherman was not flying...for long. His father--and coach--Kevin, was so livid that his son was not running tough enough that he had picked him off the ground and slammed him down.

"It felt worse than getting hit." Sherman said. "And he was like, 'Do it again,' so after that, I ran right through the dude's face and never [avoided contact] again on that football field."

A.J. Green and Danario Alexander got a first-hand look at Sherman's fiery demeanor and physical play during a stellar rookie season for the Seahawks cornerback. It began with a role on special teams and nearly ended with a spot in the Pro Bowl. Football is a team game, but it would be hard to argue Sherman's impact on opponents passing games last year. Seattle yielded a cumulative 91.4 passer rating in the five games before he became a starter. That number dropped to 65.9 in the eleven games that followed. Sports Illustrated writer Peter King called Sherman the best rookie corner in the NFL. Don't expect Sherman to spend any time reading that. He needs more fuel to keep that fire burning.

"Football is a game of pride," Sherman said. "There's a lot of things that challenge your pride. I carry a lot of the things I read off the field, onto the field. I read everything. The good stuff, I try to stay away from, but I read every knock on me. I still remember stuff from before the draft when people were saying I couldn't do this or that. I just couldn't wait to get on the field and prove everybody wrong. I'm trying to get all those people fired."

Sherman's past is littered with examples of people selling him short. Those Pop Warner years? Sherman turned in a couple great seasons, but failed to be selected for the all-star game. He was not a five star recruit while playing at Dominguez High School in Compton, CA. despite averaging 31.5 yards per reception as a senior. Only a select few people saw greatness in Sherman. He gives credit to his Dominguez track coach, Darryl Smith and football coaches Willie and Keith Donnerson for seeing more in him than he knew was there.

"I was kind of lanky and uncoordinated [as a freshmen]," Sherman said. "I didn't think I was going to win anything. [Coach Smith] just believed in me every year, and by the time I was a junior, I was an All-American in track."

There were no college recruiters coming around before Sherman had that success as a junior. He was considering University of Washington, USC and Stanford at the end. Tyrone Willingham's offer came late, and by then, he had made up his mind that he wanted to set an example for his home town by going to Stanford. Academics had always been a focal point in the Sherman household, where a "B" on a report card was treated like an "F." Walt Harris was the Stanford coach at the time Sherman signed on, but Jim Harbaugh took over by his sophomore year.

It was a great marriage at the beginning. Harbaugh stack-ranked all the players he had on the roster in terms of value, and put Sherman at the top of that list.

"When he first came in, he was great," Sherman said. "He's such a [hardass] when you're not on his good side, but it's great when you are."

Sherman would see both sides of Harbaugh before his Stanford career would wrap up. After a promising freshmen season, he was enjoying a breakout sophomore year and Harbaugh took notice.

"[Coach Harbaugh] came up to me at one point and told me, 'Hey, you're on pace to have an incredible season,'" Sherman said.

The passes stopped coming Sherman's way after that conversation. He caught a combined six passes in the last three games of the season, including three in the final two games that went for a total of 16 yards. This, for a receiver who averaged 16.7 yards per catch that season. It could have been a coincidence, or it may have been Harbaugh's way of keeping Sherman's feet on the ground heading into his junior year.

Everything changed as a junior. Sherman tore his patella tendon during camp. He wanted to get surgery, but the team's receiving corps was inexperienced behind him, with only sophomores Doug Baldwin and Ryan Whalen there to pick up the slack. He talked with the coaches and decided to play through the injury for a while, which ended up being four games, before having the surgery and missing the rest of the season. Four games was the maximum he could play while still preserving his medical redshirt eligibility.

Harbaugh had publicly said that Sherman's MRI did not show a tear. He was less than thrilled with Sherman's decision to go through with the surgery, and when camp re-opened the following year, he had Sherman at the bottom of the receivers depth chart, even below the walk-ons. Some people would have thought about transferring when faced with that type of environment, but not Sherman.

"You can't transfer from Stanford," Sherman said. "That would have killed everything I came for. It's one of the hardest schools to get into, and I came to get my degree from Stanford. I wasn't going to let anyone change the course of my life like that."

Locked in the doghouse, Sherman decided to bust out the back door. He told Harbaugh he wanted to switch to defense, and would be willing to start at the bottom of the depth chart because he knew he'd become a starter. It didn't hurt that Harbaugh spent almost no time with the defense, and had little to say about who played on that side of the ball. Harbaugh would later admit to doubting the move would succeed. It takes a special kind of arrogance to not only punish a player for an injury, but then willingly let one of your best players move to a position where you do not believe he will succeed.

Sherman was no stranger to being underestimated, and quickly moved up the depth chart once Harbaugh was not standing in his way. He started every game, and turned in a standout senior season with four interceptions and 13 passes defensed. NFL scouts had trouble imagining a 6'3" corner succeeding at the next level, which allowed him to slide all the way to the fifth round. Thirty-three cornerbacks were selected before Sherman went off the board with the 154th pick to the Seahawks. Players like Buster Skrine and Chris Prosinski had their names called before him. A certain new coach in San Francisco used a pick nearly 80 spots earlier to take CB Chris Culliver.

It was just more fuel for the fire that drives Sherman. He did not play a full game as a starter for Seattle until the seventh game of the season. That did not keep him from ending the season in the Top 12 in interceptions (4) and passes defensed (17). He paired with Brandon Browner (6'4") to form the tallest cornerback tandem in the NFL. Browner made the Pro Bowl, along with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. It is not hard to imagine how Sherman feels about being left off the roster.

He has big expectations for the coming year. The level of competition will leave little doubt where Sherman fits in the NFL cornerback rankings. Receivers like Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith and Greg Jennings will be waiting. Sherman will be ready.

"I prepare for every receiver the same way," Sherman explained. "All receivers have tendencies. It's not their fault that they have them. It's their offense, or their quarterback, or the formations that reveal those tendencies. The receiver can run the greatest route in the world, but I don't care about the route because I'm not guarding the route. I'm guarding the offense."

It is hard to believe a player would prepare for Steve Smith and Larry Fitzgerald in the same way.

"If you start preparing for the receiver, you start getting beat by the receiver, " Sherman said. "Receivers aren't calling the plays or choosing when to get the ball. They are running mostly [isolation] routes in the NFL. There aren't many option routes where they can run whatever they want."

Playing receiver has helped Sherman anticipate offensive play calls better and understand the route tree his opponent will be running. He relishes the moments when the offense needs to run a quick pattern. It could be a 3rd and 4, or a two minute drill. Those are the times when preparation and anticipation can allow a corner to jump a route and take it the other way.

Sherman is looking forward to more situations like that this season with the addition of players like Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner. He mentioned those as two players that have stood out to him during early organized team activities (OTAs).

"Bruce is going to force the opposing quarterbacks to get the ball out quicker," Sherman said. "And Wags already has a few picks of his own."

Seahawks fans are chomping at the bit to see this defense back on the field. National media and other teams continue to overlook or downright ignore what is happening in Seattle. Pete Carroll and John Schneider drafted Sherman last year with the hope that he could grow into a starting corner with strong press coverage skills. What they may not have known is that they added a guy that represents the Northwest sports fan perfectly. Respect has never been handed to Richard Sherman. He has had to earn it every step of the way. Where some may see arrogance, those that really know him see confidence bred from a lifetime of proving doubters wrong. He has come to expect those doubts, to even seek them out. He no longer needs his dad, or anyone else, to knock the motivation into him. Sherman has reached motivation fission, and NFL opponents would be wise to seek shelter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hawk Blogger Podcast: Updated Thinking On QB Competition

It was just a few days ago that I had boldly predicted Tarvaris Jackson's time on the Seahawks roster was winding down. Some new information has come to light that has me not only questioning that prediction, but whether Matt Flynn will be the starter.

I don't have time for a lengthy article today, so I recorded a podcast on the drive to work.

**Download the podcast**

Subscribe here:

Alternatively, here are instructions to subscribe manually in iTunes:

1. Copy this URL:
2. Launch iTunes
3. Click Advanced, Subscribe to Podcast
4. Paste in the URL from step 1
5. Click OK
6. Click on your Podcasts item under your Library section (you should see Hawk Blogger)

If you'd like to copy it to your iPod/iPhone, you'll need to access the click on your device in iTunes once you connect it to the computer, and access the Podcasts tab. The rest should be pretty clear.

Pete Carroll and Yogi Roth Target World Maximization

Isaac is 11-years-old. He has been up playing the XBox for a few hours before I wake up. I walk by his room and notice he hasn't made his bed.

"Good morning, bud," I say in a thin attempt to start off nicely. "Good morning, Dad," he answers. Then, it begins.

"Hey, can you come upstairs and make your bed," I ask.

"Right now?" he says.

"Yes," I respond. Then I notice he peed all over the toilet seat, "And please clean up the toilet seat. How many times do I need to ask you to lift up the seat? Come on, man."

Isaac lets out an exasperated sigh. I clench my teeth, frustrated that I'm the bad guy for reminding him to do things we have agreed to multiple times. I just want him to be a good person when he grows up. I was convinced a long time ago that the greatest contribution any person can make to the world is a well-raised child. Yet, I spend most of the time wondering if anything I'm saying is getting through to him. Am I impacting him at all, or is he just on his preset genetic course? Judging by the amount of times I have to correct him, I might as well be attempting inception.

The truth is, Isaac is making his bed more often now than he used to. He lifts the toilet seat most of the time. I am stuck in a rut of catching him in error instead of catching him in success. Any good behavioral psychologist will tell you that positive reinforcement is considerably more effective than negative correction. In fact, the recommended ratio is five positive interactions for every correction. Hit the instant replay button on the morning.

I walk by Isaac's room and notice the unmade bed, but I also notice that he has put his laundry away. I also realize he made his own breakfast quietly without waking anyone up, and did not leave a mess in the kitchen.

"Good morning, Isaac," I say. "Good morning, Dad," he answers.

"Nice job putting your laundry away this morning," I say. "You are getting better about that."

He murmurs a "thanks." I let a little time go by, and then offer, "I noticed you made breakfast quietly this morning without making a mess. Nice work!" He is clearly pleased. I spend some time focused on finding a few other things to reinforce, and then pick my correction when he is upstairs.

"Hey bud, you have a little clean-up to do in the bathroom," I say. "Nobody likes a sticky, smelly, dirty toilet. Try to remember to lift the seat, and you won't have any cleaning to do next time."

This is parenting. It is a continuous chance to shape the life of a person. Every parent has a vision for what their child can become. Great parents find a way to coax the best out of their children, to make them more than they believe they can be. Great parents instill confidence in their children so that when that boy becomes a man, he can operate independently. A child that maximizes their potential is something any parent would be proud of.

Pete Carroll and Yogi Roth did not spend much time speaking about parenting at their Win Forever event at the VMAC in Renton Thursday night. They were focused on helping football coaches lead their teams. Their message about self-discovery, discipline and maximizing the talent around you applies far more broadly than the football field. It is about parenting, leadership, organizational development, mentoring, change management, and performance management.

Carroll, Roth, and the rest of their Win Forever team spent the better part of two hours breaking down how coaches can get the most out of themselves and the people around them. Roughly 150 local coaches were in attendance in what was an interactive session. It is rare to have that many coaches in one place without a single discussion about how to play the game.

Attendees were encouraged to participate in mental drills to start them down the path to figuring out what their personal core philosophy is. Carroll spoke about the importance of having a vision for what every player can be, and how it can more than what the player even sees for himself.  He sees his main job as a coach to be putting that player in a position to become that vision. He builds his practices around it. He shapes his communication around it. He relentlessly looks for ways to maximize the talent of his players.

One of the mental drills they asked participants to do was to draw a line and put three names above the line that have had a positive impact on their life, and three names below the line that have had a negative impact. Take a second to do it. Now, ask yourself what your relationship was with the people on either side of that line. What kind of expectations did those people have for you? How did they communicate with you? Many people below the line tend to have either had limited expectations or a critical communication style. Your expectations of people affects what they give you.

Carroll and Roth have added a performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, to their team in an effort to better guide people down this path. Gervais spent time talking about optimizing on-field performance by reaching a state of calm intensity. Peak performance, he said, comes when a player properly balances intensity with preparation. A player who is too hyped before a game will try too hard and their performance will suffer. A player that is not intense enough will rarely give the effort necessary to be their best. Carroll talked about the mistake coaches make when they ask their players to "play better than they ever have before," or emphasize one game over another (e.g., your rivals). Carroll asks his players to play to their capabilities, not be more or less than who they have prepared to be.

Roth and Carroll spoke privately later in the evening about where Win Forever goes from here. They both recognize the program has applicability beyond coaches.

"Anyone in transition is really who we are going after," Roth said. He mentioned athletes transitioning to life after sport as a place they would likely go next.

The Win Forever program is a business, but with a philanthropic goal. Roth and Carroll worked together on the A Better L.A.--and now A Better Seattle--non-profits that help at-risk youths, especially as it relates to violence. Writing their Win Forever book, and now building the business around it is aimed at providing a continuous stream of funding for those charities.

"Instead of Pete and I going around to corporations asking for money, we generate it," Roth said. "We were able to fund A Better L.A. and A Better Seattle."

It is easy to play the cynic with Carroll. He is every bit that Marin County dreamer who takes self-help philosophies seriously. He will talk about Maslow's hierarchy. He will stay relentlessly optimistic. The difference between Carroll and the stereotypical flaky Californian is that he backs up his flowery talk with sincerity, commitment and results. He is not unaware of the pain he had to go through to reach this point of clarity.

"There were times in New England where I thought I had [my philosophy]," Carroll said. "You know I have been beaten down pretty good, and I was pretty pissed off about it. But it took me until nine or ten months later to find it. I needed to be kicked around a little bit. There's nothing wrong with getting your butt kicked, it's just how you respond to it that counts."

Carroll and Roth may not realize how close they are to organizational and management philosophies for business. Carol Dweck is a psychologist who has promoted concepts around fixed and growth mindsets that separate people who think achievement is based on natural talent versus those that believe achievement can be acquired through effort and repetition. Daniel Pink has written a book called Drive that studies the flawed societal beliefs around what motivates people. His TED talk is a must-see. Marrying the Win Forever philosophy around competition with motivational philosophies like those of Pink and Dweck would make a potent combination.

In the meantime, the tools and lessons being put forth by the Win Forever program show promise in being able to help people from all walks of life find confidence in themselves and ways to instill that confidence in those around them. They would be wise to be more open about where the money generated by Win Forever goes. Most self-help programs end up being schemes to make someone rich off of other people's insecurities. Like Carroll, this program is sincere in not only trying to help participants, but use the money generated to help others. That's worth being loud and proud about.

Future Win Forever events will be coming soon. Many will be accessible through the web. Take the time to watch one. The message is worth hearing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pete Carroll Win Forever Workshop Tonight @ 7PM

We talk a lot around here about the fantastic transformation the Seahawks have gone through in the past few years. They have gone from one of the least talented, least inspiring, least intimidating teams to one of the most. Pete Carroll's philosophies on competition have a lot to do with that. One of the best ways to fill the time between games is anticipating what might happen next. Which free agent might the team sign? Who will they draft? Who will make the roster?

Carroll foreshadows a lot of this if you pay close enough attention. If you haven't already read his book, I highly recommend it. He does the narration if you buy an audio copy.

I'll be at the VMAC to cover his Win Forever Event tonight, and I'd encourage all of you to watch at home via the live webcast. Seeing the coach talk in this setting should be enlightening. Applying what he says to open questions around the team will be fun, but there is also a worthwhile story in there about a guy who was kicked to the curb and pulled himself back to the top of his profession.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Seahawks Transformation Easily Worth A Couple Of Practices

News broke today that the Seahawks violated new rules in the NFL collective bargaining agreement regarding player contact during organized team activities (OTAs), and will have to forfeit two upcoming practices as a result. My first concern was less about the loss of practice, and more that there was a subtle implication that a player reported the excessive contact to the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). A player on the team was so concerned about this perception that he reached out to me to make sure people knew the NFLPA review happened automatically as a result of player injuries (Golden Tate and Allen Bradford both broke hands) and a publicized report of a fight between Doug Baldwin and Earl Thomas, not due to a player complaining. Step back, and break all that down.

The Seahawks were penalized for practicing too hard, and for too much contact. Nobody on the team reported this to the NFLPA. The thought of a player breaching team trust and reporting a mild violation was so troubling to players that they took the time to make sure fans knew this did not come from them. Some will take this as an opportunity to poke at Pete Carroll for running another program that violates the rules. Others may wring their hands about the disadvantage the Seahawks face due to the lost practice time. Two practices is a small price to pay for the Seahawks continuing to reshape their brand.

People have historically described the Seahawks as "soft," "small," or a "finesse" team. Fans around the country will read tomorrow about one team in the NFL that violated rules by allowing too much contact in practice. That's something you would expect to read about the Patriots, the Steelers, the Bears. Those organizations would puff out their chests while saying their mea culpas. Seattle victories are more often attributed to luck than to toughness. I can almost guarantee you Jim Harbaugh was pissed when he saw the story break. Don't be surprised if you see a story next week that the 49ers have been docked three practices due to violating contact rules, just so Harbaugh can claim toughness superiority.

Carroll is a player's coach, right? He's easy on players, right? He is building anything but a soft team. Both the defense and the offense will hit opponents in the mouth, and then do it again. The fact that they struggle to hold back in practice is a great sign. These guys are torqued, and it's June. Note that none of the players involved had to apologize to the team, or were cited for off-field problems. This was about intensity, not about selfishness.

That said, it would not have been surprising the hear that a player on the team felt compelled to report violations to the NFLPA. They have affiliations to the league, to themselves, to the union and to the team. They all chose the team. Nobody is advocating team cover-ups here. Whistle blowers play a critical role in any open society. The coaches were not putting anyone at risk. The players weren't doing anything they don't do in other practices that have different CBA rules. It's not like they were doing Mike Singletary's infamous nutcracker drills. It was more akin to that one extra shove during an in-game scuffle that results in a 15-yard penalty. They need to know better, but you love to see the fight in them. This was about good players trying to become great.

All this means the players are banned from the Seahawks facilities for the next few days. Who knows what they will do with more time on their hands. Maybe they will treat it like a vacation. Maybe they'll explore rainy Seattle. More likely, they will be finding other fields they can practice on without coaches, pouring over their playbooks, and studying film. That's who this team is becoming. It's a transformation fans can be proud of.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Bold Predictions, From Tarvaris to Irvin

It used to be that the best part of taking a jog was getting to load up my iPod with a bunch of Seahawks podcasts and listen to about 30-40 minutes of Seahawks coverage. The only thing better has been biking more often, which has upped the listen time to around 1-2 hours. This morning's ride included a good dose of John Clayton, Mike Sando and my stand-bys, Dave "Softy" Mahler and Brock & Salk. A few things came to mind that are worth discussion. I believe these things to be true, and will explain why.

Tarvaris Jackson will be released before July
Most analysts have now accepted that there is truly a three-way competition for the starting position in Seattle. Many scoffed at the notion, saying Pete Carroll was not serious about it. That talk has all but disappeared now that each player is splitting even reps and rotating with the #1 unit. Tennessee recently announced they would pick their started by the third pre-season game. Many folks are saying they expect the same with Seattle. They are wrong.

The key missing aspect of that analysis is Josh Portis. Anybody that thinks Carroll and John Schneider are okay with losing Portis without compensation are not listening carefully. Portis has reportedly made major strides during the off-season, and was a promising, albeit raw, prospect when last season ended. At 6'3", he does not have Russell Wilson's height questions, his arm strength is in Jackson's realm, and his athleticism is elite. Can he read a defense and throw with accuracy? Probably not well enough to be a starter for another year or two. This three-way competition is stealing reps from Portis. Schneider is not naive enough to think he can hide Portis on the practice squad. Remember, it was once Schneider's job to scour other team's practice squads for prospects. He knows there are no secrets in this league.

If Jackson was tearing it up in the OTAs, or even in the upcoming mini-camp, this story might be different. There has not been a single report of Jackson performing at a level higher than last season so far. He is due over $4M this season, and will not win the starting job by simply matching his play from last year. That means he probably enters training camp as the #2 or #3 guy on the depth chart. Sure, they could re-negotiate his deal, but it makes more sense to cut ties as soon as it is clear he will not be the starter. Doing so will give Matt Flynn, Wilson and Portis reps, while also avoiding any cost or messiness of having Jackson on the roster. Many players have roster bonuses in June or July, which is why veterans end up released around this time every year. It also gives that veteran the maximum amount of time to find a new home.

Jackson's time in Seattle has come to end. He knows it. The team knows it. Carroll and Schneider are not the types to prolong roster decisions they know need to be made. Keep an eye out on this one.

Bruce Irvin will be the first Seahawk to ever win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
There have been 46 NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year (DROY) since the league started handing out the award in 1967. Seattle has had a football team for 37 of those years. They have drafted hundreds of players in that time. None of them have even won the DROY honors. Bruce Irvin will snap that streak.

Irvin's idol, Von Miller, won the award last season while posting 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Irvin is not likely to match those tackle numbers, but could very well eclipse the sack total, and be one of the flashiest rookie defensive additions in Seattle since Shawn Springs.

Breno Giocomini is a solid starting tackle in the NFL who held up well against good pass rushers last season. He already has found a seat on the grass as Irvin crossed him up with an inside move that had Giocomini tripping over himself. He comes into the league with one job, and one focus: sack the quarterback. Very few rookies drafted this year will have a focus that clear that matches their natural talents so well.

Morris Claiborne is a great player. Luke Keuchly and Mark Barron may be as well. Melvin Ingram was a favorite of mine. All of them will have far more than one thing to learn and be great at. Each of them will be left looking up at the podium when Irvin stars on a Top 5 NFL defense this season with 12+ sacks. Mark it down.

Chris Clemons will get a raise for this season
Osi Umenyiora just renegotiated his deal with the Giants. He did not get an extension, but appears satisfied and eager to play out this year. That had been a pretty acrimonious and public contract dispute, so why the sudden satisfaction? Umenyiora probably got a little bump in pay for this one season, and was given a guarantee that he won't be franchised next season so he can hit the open market.

Seattle won't be franchising Clemons, so there is little to gain from that. Giving Clemons a bump in pay for his final season would be just what the doctor ordered. Take the money saved from releasing Jackson, or at least part of it, and give it to Clemons. The team can afford it. It does no harm to future cap considerations, and would smooth over the biggest potential distraction for what should be the best defense Seattle has ever put on the field.

It makes too much sense for this smart front office not to do.

Friday, June 1, 2012

49ers Fighting History

San Francisco has a historic season in 2011. They tied the NFL record for fewest giveaways, and piled up the 4th highest turnover differential (+28) since 1940. Few statistics have a higher correlation to wins than turnover differential, so it is worth looking into the chances that the 49ers could repeat the feat.

Here are the five teams that have posted at least a +28 turnover differential since 1940:

1983 Redskins +43
1958 Colts +30
1963 Bears +29
1960 Browns +28
2010 Patriots +28
2011 49ers +28

Each of the previous five teams to post a differential that high saw a drop the following season.

1983 Redskins -65%
1958 Colts -13%
1963 Bears -110%
1960 Browns -82%
2010 Patriots -39%

Three of the five teams saw their win total drop, the other two stayed steady:

1983 Redskins -3 wins
1958 Colts EVEN
1963 Bears -6 wins
1960 Browns EVEN
2010 Patriots -1 win

San Francisco will either become the first team in NFL history to repeat their level of turnover success, or will need to find other ways to win.