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If you know anything about me as a fan, it’s that I’m inherently (and sometimes unrealistically) optimistic. I understand that there’s many different ways to “fan” a team. Some fans have witnessed decades of perpetual failure, eventually making them bitter. But that’s not me.

I’m here to tell you the Seahawks are making the damn playoffs. I’m here to tell you fans have greatly overestimated the Seahawks’ demise. I’m here to tell you that national pundits are overlooking the talent on this team. And I’m here to tell you that this roster is absolutely capable of making the playoffs. And if you don’t believe me, fine. Let me show you why you should.

 

The first reason the Seahawks are making the damn playoffs is Mike Solari.

I understand that this Seahawks’ offseason has been wild: franchise legends have left the team, Seattle made some splashy draft moves, and the Earl rumors have made it difficult to focus on anything else. But we’ve quickly forgotten our national nightmare: Tom Cable had been terrorizing this team since 2011. Year after year. I would go as far to say that Cable is the number one reason why the Seahawks haven’t already won multiple Super Bowls. Despite the narrative, Cable was given a ton of resources to work with. Before Cable’s firing, Seattle had invested more valuable picks on the offensive line than Dallas (going back to 2010)!

And from 2014-2017, the Seahawks spent more draft picks on the offensive line than any other team in the NFL. The results weren’t pretty:

Cable put together a strong rushing attack from 2012-2015, but has always been an extremely poor teacher in pass protection. Per Football Outsiders, here’s how the Seahawks ranked in pass pro under Cable:

2012: 20

2013: 32

2014: 24

2015: 30

2016: 25

2017: 25

Russell Wilson’s multiple near death experiences and a lackluster rushing attack over the past couple seasons finally spelled the end for Cable’s tenure with the Seahawks. Every morning we wake up, we should be celebrating this. With Cable gone, Seattle turned their attention to Giants (and former Seahawks!) OL Coach Mike Solari.

I’m here to tell you that Solari is Seattle’s most important offseason acquisition of 2018. If the Seahawks can finally protect Wilson in even an adequate manner, we could potentially see the best offense since Russell’s arrival. We’ve seen what Wilson can do with even an average offensive line (*cough second half of 2015 cough*). Samuel Gold, now contributor to the Athletic, put together a really interesting chart detailing Solari’s track record:

His results have been fairly inconsistent. He seems to typically put together decent run blocking units, but hasn’t really had much success coaching pass protection until recently. However, with Duane Brown at left tackle and Justin Britt at center, Mike has two decent pieces to work with. And I wouldn’t count out some of the youngsters yet — let’s see what he can do with Ifedi, Pocic, and some of the others.. you might be surprised. 

As always, the offensive line will be the story of 2018. If even adequate, Wilson could very likely end up the league’s MVP. If he finds success, Mike Solari could be a gamechanger.

 

The second reason the Seahawks are making the damn playoffs is because talented veterans have left.

Yep, I understand this concept might initially make no sense. But let me explain: there’s a certain level of hunger that comes with youthful talent fighting to prove themselves. Players get paid. Older players get comfortable. They get used to the routine. You know how the story goes.  

I’m here to tell you the Seahawks needed a psychological shake-up. I hate to say it, but they never got over the interception. The shake-up probably came a year late, but better late than never. I have a strong hunch there’s been some significant talent hiding behind these former Hall of Famers. With Kam, Sherman, potentially Earl, Bennett, Cliff, and Jimmy gone — suddenly there’s a lot of open competition for some critical roster positions. I understand that this situation comes with uncertainty — but deep down in my heart I didn’t feel this 2017 roster was psychologically capable of winning a Super Bowl. The talent may have been there on paper, but winning a Super Bowl requires incredible psychological fortitude.

Before Richard Sherman was Richard Sherman, he was a faceless 5th round pick. Same with Kam and many other key contributors to this previous era. There’s serious risk involved, but I’m excited to see the type of talent that has been hiding behind former team leadership — and I trust Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to capitalize on it.

Several key players I’m hoping will seize the opportunity: Delano Hill, Naz Jones, Dion Jordan, Will Dissly, DJ Moore, and both Griffin brothers.

 

The third reason the Seahawks are making the damn playoffs is because no one expects them to.

The leader of this franchise, Russell Wilson, thrives on adversity. For the first time in a very long time, the Seahawks are underdogs. The league views Seattle as young, weak, and lacking in talent. The LOB era has passed, but a new one is coming. With new coaching faces and unknown roster names, it’s difficult to predict how this Seahawks season will end. They could end up 7-9 or deep in the playoffs, but I feel the latter is more likely.

As we approach preseason football, I’m eager to once again witness the hunger that comes with an underrated and disrespected football team fighting to prove their dominance. They may not win the Super Bowl, but this year is about establishing an identity. Is this Russell Wilson’s team? Is this founding of a new Legion of Boom? Who knows.

What we do know is that this team is younger. They’re unknown. They’re underrated. And they’re being disrespected around the league.

Sounds like a perfect storm to make the playoffs.

7 Responses

  1. Kevin

    100% agree with this column.

    I wonder if we’ll ever hear from Sherm how the Seahawks were the best run organization he played for. I bet he says it when he returns to have his number retired. Grass is always greener.

    Reply
  2. Uncle Bob

    Usually you write things I find to rebut, but today you’re golden. All the dire predictions are gas-baggery until this group of players and coaches get on the field and show what they can, and perhaps cannot, do. I love the under dog role most.

    From a management point of view, the toughest thing to replace will be Kam’s leadership on defense. He has it in spades. Folks are gifting his position in that to Wagner. Perhaps Bobby is the man, but genuine leaders aren’t chosen by outsiders or higher ups……….they’re chosen, overtly or not, by their team members. Since Kam is still on the payroll perhaps there’s a “coaching” position from which he can lead, otherwise we’ll see who in this group has the chops.

    Reply
  3. Chris Hansen

    During the first part of this offseason, I was doom and gloom. Right after the draft, I became fairly convinced Seahawks were going to the playoffs for many of the reasons you stated, Evan.
    I won’t be surprised if they torture us fans again by starting out slowly this season and then pull it all together around November.
    I think this is going to be a very exciting season! So damn glad it’s almost here!

    Reply
  4. Doug

    Great column Evan! With this team, we will find out how important coaching and development is relative to talent. The 2011/2012 drafts produced some outstanding talent, and as time has passed there seems to be a narrative that Seattle lucked out with some of their picks. I believe in Carroll’s ability to coach up the DBs in particular, and I think the quality of the secondary this season is going to surprise a lot of people. The question marks are all in the line, both DL and OL. If the DL can generate a decent pass rush (I am looking at you Naz and Reed, along with Mindo/Griffen and Frank stepping up) they will be ok, maybe great overall. Can the OL become average plus? If they can, this Seattle team will not only make the playoffs, they will make some noise when they get there.

    Reply
  5. Herb

    This is interesting analysis to say the least. I think you’re right; the psychological “cloud” was hanging over them, and dare I say it, us as fans to some extent. I still see “the play” as the butt-end of jokes. Moreover, they’re going to play with hunger being a younger team (pardon the rhyme), but also a chip. They’ve been predicted to a losing season, thus giving them fuel.

    Reply
  6. Kip

    I think the draft investment in OL portion needs a bit of context. Only 1 of the 12 picks was taken in the first round pool of talent (the top ~16 to ~24 players, varies by year). Most were taken with late picks. And a lot of the guys they took were drafted a round or more higher than their projections. If you whipped out a draft value chart and redid this list based on draft pick value, especially if it factored where the players were projected (e.g. Britt projected 5th, taken 2nd) I’d expect Seattle to be in the bottom half of the draft investment list.

    And of course, draft is only one avenue of investment. At one point in 2015 Seattle had the cheapest OL in the NFL, IIRC it was slightly more than half the price of the 2nd cheapest.

    Basically the philosophy was that the team wanted to save money to pay their defensive stars by drafting a ton of projects with late picks and hoping Cable could work miracles. This was basically the worst predicament you could put any given OL coach in, and Cable’s failures only compounded it further.

    There’s one other OL resource the team skimped on as well- roster spots. Seattle routinely drafted “swing” OL so that they could get by with fewer OL players on the final roster (leaving more room for other positions). This meant drafting almost exclusively “tweeners” who are notoriously difficult to coach up into a defined role.

    In Cable’s early years with the team, he actually did have solid investment in the OL, a young Lynch who fit his system perfectly, and even a substantial cash investment in his line. But over the years the team leaned more and more on late picks for OL, spent dramatically less money on OL, generally letting their good OL veterans walk or get traded. And then the chop block rule happened in 2016 and it just killed any ability Cable had to game the system.

    Sure, they eventually traded for a 33 year old former pro-bowl LT, but Cable got like what, one game of that guy healthy?

    It’s all a tragic story, but maybe not as simple as a lot of the narratives floating out there. I’m very relieved Cable is gone but I think he’s maybe at most half of the reason for the OL’s struggles. Bad talent eval/philosophy, investment that isn’t as big as it seems, tight roster space, and a rule change missile with Cable’s name written on it were all factors.

    Reply

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