Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts On Bradley, Bevell, & The Ripple Effect

Both Seattle coordinators are looking more and more likely to land somewhere other than Seattle next season. There seems to be a fair amount of hand-wringing going on among Seahawks fans on how that will impact the team next year. Much of that angst is misplaced. Gus Bradley and Darrell Bevell are important members of the staff and team, but neither of them are the key to either Seattle's offense or defense.

Bradley is possibly the best person I have met in the Seahawks organization. He is genuine, affable and dedicated. There is no doubt that he brings energy and positivity to the defensive players. He is also a respected defensive coach that has a good football lineage tracing back to Monte Kiffin. What some people overlook is that he was not the first or second largest reason the Seahawks defense became as good as it is. Bradley was the defensive coordinator under Jim Mora Jr. in 2009 when the Seahawks finished 24th in total defense and 25th in scoring defense. Two things changed the following year. Pete Carroll came in to be the head coach, and John Schneider started drafting young studs. It was Carroll who installed the Seahawks under defense. It was actually Dan Quinn--now the University of Florida defensive coordinator and potential candidate to replace Bradley--that suggested moving Red Bryant to the 5-technique defensive end. Bradley is the custodian of Carroll's defense, but not the architect. Even with Carroll's help, the defense did not become a force until there was enough talent on the field last season.

Losing Bradley would be a blow to the organization because it is never good to lose great people or disrupt something that is working. I would be surprised, however, if it negatively impacted the product on the field. The talent remains. Carroll remains. The scheme remains. There also are some obvious candidates to step up. The leading candidate might be Todd Wash, the defensive line coach. The networks covering Seahawks games already seem to think he is the coordinator since they always show him on the sideline, mistaking him for Bradley. He is a high energy guy, with a little more fire than Bradley. Quinn had Wash's job before leaving, and is highly regarded by Carroll. It is not clear whether he'd want to come back to the NFL for a position like this, but you can bet Bradley would be giving Quinn a call to join his staff. Kris Richard is another sleeper candidate that has done a nice job with the secondary. He is poised and pointed. He brings an intensity that is different than some of the other coaches. Richard appears smart and ambitious. Don't count him out. People want to talk about Ken Norton Jr as well, but that seems unlikely. Norton is the perfect position coach for linebackers, and a terrific part of this staff, but I'm not sure calling plays and dealing with the administrative aspects of being a coordinator are where he wants to spend his time, or are strengths. I would be surprised to see him move into the lead role.

Bevell would have a greater impact than losing Bradley, but not necessarily as big as some may think. Again, Bevell was the coordinator last season when the offense was mediocre. It was the addition of Russell Wilson, and the health of the offensive line that opened things up this year. Bevell was not responsible for calling, "scramble around for five seconds and then throw the ball a 30-yard gain." Nor was Bevell responsible for calling 20-yard scrambles. Wilson has some skills that are coordinator-agnostic. Bevell did show willingness to adapt to his personnel, and that was a huge part of how the offense caught fire at the end of the year. Carroll is a defensive coach, and needs someone to balance him on the offensive side. Truthfully, that guy is Tom Cable. One of the Seahawks most unintentionally clever moves may have been naming Cable the Assistant Head Coach instead of Offensive Coordinator. Cable is responsible for the team's running game, and sets the game plan with the offensive coordinator. Losing him would be a far bigger blow than Bevell. Where the Bevell loss would hurt is that it takes time for a head coach and quarterback to get on the same page with their offensive coordinator. Bevell owned the passing offense, and we have seen the impact a coordinator change can have on quarterbacks in the NFL, especially a young one.

That said, the Seahawks have something that is largely working. Carroll would be able to find someone who would come in and fit within what is already working. It would be foolish to bring in anyone that would install a new offense. That emphasis would have to be on a person who is a grinder that can match Wilson's work ethic, and a collaborator who will be looking to add and adjust instead of break down and rebuild.

The interest in Bradley is not a surprise, and once a team interview him, it is hard to imagine them wanting to hire anyone else. Bevell, on the other hand, is surprising. He is a fine coach, but I can't say there has been much genius in what he has done and he is not the most charismatic individual. I have not met him, but listening to him speak at press conferences and watching his demeanor makes it hard to picture him as a head coach. You would think that would show up in interviews. My best guess is that Bevell returns next year.

The most important thing for Seahawks fans to keep in mind is that Bevell and Bradley are not the parts that make this team go. The players, Tom Cable, Pete Carroll, John Schneider. Those are the keys to this team's success. Change is not always negative. Having a great offense and great defense attracts great coordinators who want their own chance to be a head coach, and maybe win a Super Bowl in the process. Maybe a new defensive mind will help the pass rush or the late-game meltdowns. Maybe a creative thinker on offense can make better use of Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin. In any event, this very well could become the norm around here as the team becomes more successful and more respected around the league. Next man up.

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