The Seahawks are a team that broke away from conventional wisdom. That’s well publicised by now. It’s almost a little tiresome to keep bringing it up.
But it’s true. And if I were an owner looking to move in a new direction, I’d be looking at Pete Carroll’s work in Seattle with envy.
There’s nothing overly scientific here. They look for rare athletic qualities and guys with the attitude to compete. Of course it’s much more sophisticated than just that, but it’s nothing a competent and experienced NFL staff can’t at least attempt to emulate.
It doesn’t even have to be a carbon copy. It’s just about knowing what you want to do and getting after it. What constitutes one of ‘your’ guys? You can open up the competition in camp and let them go for it. Let the best man win. Always compete.
But it’s also knowing when to make specific moves. Taking calculated risks and not forcing the issue. Seattle turned over every stone to find a winning formula. They invested in players they could believe in — they didn’t invest heavily in specific positions because, well, that’s how you build a team.
The Seahawks went from lifeless also-rans to Champions in four years. You’d think teams would be scrambling to try and replicate it.
And then you look at why some franchises just can’t get out of their own way.
Buffalo — forever in the shadow of New England (at least in my lifetime) — pick the worst draft for QB’s in years to go after their guy in E.J. Manuel. He struggled, he got injured. The Bills panicked. Now they’ve blown two first round picks on Sammy Watkins in an attempt to make life easier for their young quarterback.
I like Watkins. But here’s the thing — Atlanta moved up 20 slots to get Julio Jones in 2011 and gave up two first round picks to do it. Buffalo pulled the same move (with the same trade partner coincidentally) to move up five slots.
It’s a kings ransom. And now they’re not only banking on Watkins proving he was worth the outlay — their banking on their first round quarterback being competent (and healthy) enough to supply the ammunition.
Buffalo’s key draft stock from 2013-2015 is tied into two players. The future of the coaching staff and front office will be forever connected to the performance of Manuel and Watkins.
Even if the plan succeeds it should be seen as reckless and impatient.
It’s almost the exact opposite of Seattle’s approach.
Perhaps there are other things at play here? The eventual sale of the team could lead to jobs being lost. This could be an aggressive attempt to prove a point before major changes occur at the top. Who knows.
But they couldn’t have done things any more different than Seattle. And I just find that very confusing.
I also find it interesting personally to critique Buffalo because to be honest a few years ago I probably would’ve given their pro-active approach a huge thumbs up.
I, like most people, felt this was the way you had to build a team:
1. Find a quarterback
2. Give them some weapons
3. Develop a dynamic passing offense
Teams like Indianapolis, Green Bay and New Orleans placed their trust in being able to put up huge numbers behind a prolific passer. If Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees got injured — it was over. But while ever they were healthy and active their teams had a shot.
I passionately thought the Seahawks needed that at the start of the Carroll era.
I was wrong.
In 2010 we spent great time discussing the minimal pro’s and significant con’s of Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. My final 2011 mock draft had Colin Kaepernick posted at #25 to Seattle. We also debated and dissected Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jake Locker.
Who could be Seattle’s 40 TD machine?
They didn’t draft any of those players. They waited. And waited. And then found a player they could believe in. The man who would quarterback this team to a first ever Championship.
And they did it their way. Running the ball, playing great defense. Not relying solely on the man under center being healthy, working in a flawless pocket.
When you see teams trying to build around one vital player and position, you almost have to smirk.
Yet you do it — or at least I do — with the knowledge I would’ve made exactly the same mistakes before Carroll and co. arrived in Seattle.
Following the growth and development of Carroll’s Seahawks has been a great lesson in team building. We are better educated fans because of the experience. We are more aware. And yet there are still teams in the NFL making the same old mistakes.