Today Eric Williams confirmed what may have been inevitable. Linebacker Aaron Curry was demoted to the second string unit, essentially confirming that the #4 pick Seattle spent on his services in 2009 was a mistake.
I was never a fan of the pick. This was a player that had shown no pass rushing qualities at Wake Forest – in fact he was never even asked to rush the passer in college. He frequently played 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage and was used as a heat-seeking missile type linebacker. He made a few memorable plays on tipped-pass interceptions, but ultimately recorded only nine sacks in four years. He was suitably athletic enough to impress at the combine and played college ball with an edge that helped him boost a third round grade from the draft committee as a junior into a top five grade come draft day.
Curry was the classic over achiever and a heck of a lot of people fell for it. I remember debating with some Lions fans who were adament he should’ve been the #1 overall pick that year for an 0-16 team with no quarterback. Really?
Kansas City – who were crying out for an impact player on defense – didn’t see Curry as an ideal fit in their 3-4 scheme and instead went for LSU five-technique Tyson Jackson. I posted a mock draft that proposed a situation where Curry wasn’t taken by the Chiefs or the Seahawks and wondered if he could actually fall out of the top ten. In hindsight, he probably should’ve done.
But of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Every team would have great drafts if they could only go back and do things differently. Curry isn’t an awful linebacker by any stretch of the imagination – he’s just not ‘special’. If you’re going to spend $60m on a linebacker, he better be special. The main issue I have isn’t with Curry or his level of play, it’s the decision to draft him at all.
The AP reported shortly before the draft that Seattle had no intention of drafting a quarterback in 2009. According to the report, Tim Ruskell believed that a soon to be 34-year-old Matt Hasselbeck was ‘in his prime’ and the position didn’t need to be addressed. Hasselbeck had enjoyed a Pro-Bowl season in 2007 where he almost single handed dragged the team to a 10-6 record and a playoff victory against Washington. But a year on the injuries started to become a regular feature and even if he could manage to go on for a few years longer, surely the team had to be thinking this was the perfect time to take the plunge on a quarterback? Why did they get that situation so wrong?
Apparently the Seahawks had no interest in Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman – the three quarterbacks that went in round one that year. This was all about an ‘impact’ signing. The 2008 season was a freak one off, let’s take advantage by drafting a pick for today, not tomorrow. Never mind that Hasselbeck is 34, Walter Jones is getting old too, Patrick Kerney is close to the end of his career and we won’t be able to rely on the Holmgren offense for productive receivers anymore. Let’s think short term.
So what do you do? Of course you franchise tag one linebacker, trade another veteran to make room for the #4 pick and suddenly you’ve got a $140m trio of linebackers. A $140m trio of 4-3 linebackers who aren’t expected to be the sole source of pressure. Three positions most other 4-3 teams put such little investment into.
The rest is history – Hasselbeck never returns to full health and doesn’t return to the highs of 2007. The Seahawks have no developmental investment at the QB position, meaning we now watch Tarvaris Jackson on Sunday’s. A fourth successive losing season in 2011 looks like a distinct possibility for a team that had ambitions of a deep playoff run just prior to the collapse.
Say what you want about Mark Sanchez – and people love to give credit to everyone but Sanchez in New York – but he’s had to learn on the run with a Jets team that was no great shake before Rex Ryan arrived on the scene. They’ve since made consecutive post seasons and it could easily be three out of three this year. He was probably never a consideration in Seattle because he didn’t match Ruskell’s strict criteria – he wasn’t a senior and he wasn’t a choir boy with year’s of production. Would he be a possible saviour in Seattle today? Who knows. What we do know is he would’ve had two years sitting behind Matt Hasselbeck in preparation to start. It would’ve created a smooth transition and would’ve avoided most of the drama surrounding Hasselbeck’s future during the lockout.
Not a Sanchez fan? Well what about Josh Freeman. Sure, the Seahawks weren’t the only ones to pass on a player who has since become quite a force for Tampa Bay. They had him in for a visit though, they did all of the homework. He doesn’t appear to ever have been a serious consideration at #4, but haven’t we got a right to ask why? When the Seahawks were crying out for a long term investment at QB, why didn’t they take Freeman seriously?
The fact Curry never really worked out just creates a high profile stick to beat Tim Ruskell with. In reality, he missed so many times in his drafts and this wasn’t a one off error. These are Ruskell’s first round picks: Chris Spencer, Kelly Jennings, Deion Branch (trade), Lawrence Jackson and Aaron Curry. Only Curry is still with the team, but given his contract re-work and today’s demotion that looks like a temporary thing. Let’s dip into round two: Lofa Tatupu, Darryl Tapp, Josh Wilson, John Carlson and Max Unger. Tatupu had three Pro-Bowls and for a time was a great leader and good player for the Seahawks. Yet his old college coach just cut him and nobody has picked up the tab. Tapp and Wilson are gone – Carlson will probably follow as a free agent next year. Unger currently starts, but is still a big question mark for the long haul.
That’s not good enough and that’s how you turn a Super Bowl team into a shambles in just a few years. If you consistently miss on first round picks you will be judged badly and you will lose your job, as Ruskell did. The new regime will have to hit on high picks for a different fate as they rebuild this team. If the 2011 season goes the way many expect, next year’s first round pick could be the most important this team has had since they took Curry in 2009. Let’s hope for a more positive outcome.