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An unexpected name came up when Scott Enyeart and I were talking after completing our podcast today. Enyeart wondered aloud whether Jeremy Bates was to blame for the acquisition of Charlie Whitehurst. At first, it seemed like a reach. I respect Enyeart a lot on football matters, but he can sometimes be a little too quick to deflect blame away from Pete Carroll. Trading for Whitehurst was considered Carroll and GM John Schneider’s first big move. Carroll is ultimately responsible for all moves the team makes, plays his coaches call, and the performance of every player on the field. The question to ask here is whether the moderate swing and massive miss on Whitehurst is indicative of Carroll and Schneider’s ability to find the true franchise quarterback this team needs. There is some evidence to indicate it was Bates, not Schneider and Carroll, that campaigned for Whitehurst.
Start by looking at who Carroll is as a coach. Like almost all NFL coaches, he came up on one side of the ball. Carroll was a defensive coach, which meant he would need extra help on the offensive side when he ascended to a head coaching position. Mike Holmgren did this with Fritz Shurmur in the opposite direction since Holmgren was the offensive guru. The way a good head coach works in the NFL is not totally unlike a good corporate executive. It is important to set some high-level parameters without micro-managing. They may establish a style (e.g., run-oriented, ball control, etc.) and some points of emphasis (e.g., low turnovers), but the assistants get a lot of room to figure out how to meet the head coaches requests. Carroll showed more patience in that regard last season with Bates than most coaches ever would. There were multiple examples where Carroll clearly did not like the play-calling of Bates, but he never went so far as to take over play-calling or dictate a change in philosophy to Bates. Carroll wanted more emphasis on the run and less risk-taking, as evidenced by the desire to add Tom Cable as assistant head coach after the season. Bates did not want to relinquish that control, and was fired.
Carroll did not bring Cable in just so he could tell Cable how to build and coach an offensive line. In the business world, executives call it ’empowering.’ Employees tend to just roll their eyes because many execs talk a good game, but seize control and take critical decisions out of their employees hands whenever they feel like it. Carroll has shown some restraint. Look at the draft in 2012. Anyone that thinks James Carpenter and John Moffitt were Carroll and Schneider picks are not looking hard enough. Carroll brought in Cable to transform the offensive line and running game. A people manager like Carroll would then ask, “what do you need to succeed?” Cable surely pointed to a need for upgraded talent. When the Seahawks 1st and 3rd round picks came up, and the team was unable to trade down or find a different player they loved, Cable got his wish. This both gives Cable some key cogs to build his line, and leaves him with no excuses for failure. Building ownership like that is how good managers get the best out of their employees. It’s also evidence that Carroll gives his assistants a fair amount of sway in picking personnel.
More evidence came when Darrell Bevell was added to the staff. Does anyone really want to argue that it was Schneider or Carroll’s idea to bring in Tarvaris Jackson? Bevell had coached him in Minnesota, and certainly had to be the guy advocating for him in the off-season meetings. Is it possible that Schneider or Carroll were huge Jackson fans? Sure, but it is far from likely. The logical conclusion is that Carroll, again, deferred to his assistant to make the moves he needed to complete the task Carroll assigned him.
Look back now at Whitehurst. His performance against the Browns leaves no doubt this team will never get equal value back in the trade with the Chargers. He is not an NFL starting quarterback, and might not even be a serviceable back-up. Giving up too much to acquire him goes squarely on Schneider’s shoulders as the GM, but evaluating his talent smells more like Bates. Remember, Bates was a guy who wanted to institute a deep passing game. He wanted big chunks of yards. Whitehurst was rumored to be a strong-armed quarterback. And if Carroll has given this much power to his current offensive assistants in picking personnel, why wouldn’t he have done it with Bates last year?
It all starts to make sense when you replay training camp this year and the “no-competition” decision at quarterback. Whitehurst was never Bevell’s guy. He was never Carroll’s guy. He probably was never Schneider’s guy. One look at his hair, and you can be sure he was never going to be Cable’s guy. Whitehurst was never good enough to earn the support of any one of these guys. He had a chance to do that against the Browns today, and failed miserably.
What does this mean for the future? Jackson is looking like a smart move so far, certainly better than Whitehurst. That bodes well for Bevell’s ability to find a decent quarterback given the dregs the team had to choose from this off-season (Matt Hasselbeck notwithstanding). One could argue that passing on Andy Dalton was a mistake, but I have a hard time picturing Dalton as anything but a decent pro quarterback. The goal is to win a Super Bowl, and Dalton does not seem to be a player of that caliber even if he is enjoying a nice rookie season. Plus, you need to be damn sure a quarterback drafted in the first round is *the* guy because it is your job if you are wrong. Acquiring Whitehurst will go down as a bad move by this front office. Given his win in the division title game last season and the back-up performance against the Giants, it was not disastrous. Fans should take some solace in the likelihood that the guy who pined after Whitehurst is no longer making decisions that can impact the franchise.