The Myth of Needing Dominant Wide Receivers

the soccer stadium with the bright lights
The two most common complaints about the Seahawks draft are that they drafted players about their value, and that they did not take a wide receiver. Some fans and many media folks are wringing their hands about the Seahawks offense holding the team back because of their lack of receiving talent. The reality is that there are very few elite wide receivers in the NFL, and the ones that do exist have a surprising lack of Super Bowl rings on their fingers.

Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, Steve Smith (CAR), Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall are the most dominant receivers of the last 5-10 years. These are guys that produce year in and year out no matter who the quarterback is. They also have a combined zero Super Bowl rings between them.

Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne and Greg Jennings belong in the conversation, and Wayne/Jennings have a championship to their names. I’m not convinced Jennings and Wayne would be the same player with a different quarterback throwing to them. Welker proved he would not miss a step even when Matt Cassell subbed for Tom Brady in 2008. Even so, he is a slot receiver, and nobody is worrying that the Seahawks lack a great slot receiver with Doug Baldwin on the roster.

There is no reason to think Sidney Rice cannot be a great receiver if he has a good quarterback throwing to him. It is popular to say that counting on him to stay healthy is a “big if.” The other “big ifs” include: expecting Baldwin to step up, hoping for Golden Tate to improve, seeing if Kris Durham can be valuable, finding out if Ricardo Lockette can be a game-breaker, and learning if Mike Williams can recover from a terrible year. The implication of pointing out all those questions while criticizing the lack of receivers drafted by the Seahawks this year is that adding a rookie receiver would address the problem. Really?

Receiver is a position that takes almost as long as quarterback to reach full speed in the NFL. It can regularly take 2-3 years. Tate, Baldwin, Durham, and Lockette haven’t even been on a roster for two seasons (Tate was injured much of 2010). The only way to get answers to the big questions above is to let these players play. If they don’t pan out, than Schneider should be criticized for picking the wrong guys. Criticizing him for not picking yet more receivers makes very little sense. If you plant some seeds and don’t see them sprout in two days, do you plant more? I’m not a gardener, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the way it works.

The best way for the offense to improve is to get better quarterback play, and the front office brought in not one, but two new players at that position this off-season, and the player who did an okay job last year is far healthier this one. That’s where you can get exponential offensive growth. If the quarterback play improves and the receivers still aren’t up to snuff, than you can buy one next season when a player like Jennings hits the free agent market.  As the great John Wooden said, “don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.” Adding a rookie receiver would have been nothing more than activity.