Polar opposites, ‘Thank You’ Bill Belichick & a note on Sherman

January 21st, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

PCJS have used a very different approach compared to John Elway

Long term development vs Short term investment in the Super Bowl

There’s a real contrast in how these two Super Bowl teams were created.

On the one hand you have a front office that has carefully rebuilt an entire franchise, given it an identity and used the draft to mould a winner over four years.

On the other, you’ve got a front office that essentially bought a contender in free agency.

There’s no right or wrong way to get to a Super Bowl.

But Seattle and Denver are polar opposites.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider get a lot of praise. Any coach and GM combo that builds a conference winner is going to get that, whether it’s deserved or not.

For years Bill Polian was lauded as a genius, as Indianapolis regularly contended for Championships.

In reality, he had the fortune to get the Colts GM job the year they drafted Peyton Manning with the first pick.

Not everything Polian did was lousy, but the way his team imploded minus an injured Peyton in 2011 put a lot of perspective on the situation. He was fired as a consequence.

His successor in Indianapolis — Ryan Grigson — was afforded the exact same luxury. He drafted Andrew Luck with the #1 pick to replace Manning and won executive of the year off the back of one of the easiest decisions he’ll ever make.

Carroll and Schneider weren’t gifted a top pick or a generational quarterback to build around.

And that’s why their praise is not only fully justified, it needs to be more specific.

What they’ve done is nothing short of outstanding.

A Hall of Fame, grand slam hitting rebuild if there ever was one.

They didn’t inherit an uber-talented roster needing a bit of organisation and a different voice (see: Kansas City and this years exec of the year — John Dorsey).

They inherited a shambles.

An ageing team with no cornerstone players to build around. There was no identity. Nothing.

Not even hope.

This wasn’t a case of putting a slumping team back on the right track. This was near enough an expansion franchise.

The countless roster moves created a lot of chatter about how the heck they’d keep any kind of consistency going.

And yet it was totally necessary. They had nothing.

And in four years they’ve built a team capable of making the Super Bowl.

In that time they’ve established an identity and philosophy which will no doubt be copied and borrowed by countless other rebuilding teams.

They’ve used the draft to maximum value — not relying on high draft picks, but finding players who fit their schemes and ideals in all rounds.

Crucially, the Seahawks have then worked to develop those players. Too often we look for finished articles in the draft, and I get the sense teams fall for that too. They’ll write guys off for a number of reasons, without imagining the potential.

The draft is nothing without development. You can’t expect to find franchise players just sitting their in rounds four or five. You’ve got to work damn hard to turn those prospects into established players.

How many other teams can boast a lockdown corner and #1 player at his position drafted in round five? How many teams have a franchise quarterback taken in round three? Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Byron Maxwell, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate.

The list goes on and on.

We’re talking about unprecedented success at turning water into wine.

And all because they know what they’re looking for and they’re willing to coach.

Add in the trade for Marshawn Lynch — an absolute steal from Buffalo — and the PFW should be ashamed that nobody in Seattle has won that Exec of the year award.

Now the team expertly built from scratch is one game away from a title.

And it took just four years to get there.

Denver went in a different direction entirely.

John Elway was appointed as some kind of ‘Czar’ in the front office after Josh McDaniels was fired.

(His official title is executive vice president of football operations)

No rebuilding was required.

Not after they got the cheque book out.

Denver won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes in 2012, fighting off Arizona and Tennessee as the main challengers for his signature. Elway was influential there, as a quarterback who could relate to a swansong and the experience of success at the end of a career.

It was ideal for both parties. Denver had enough parts left over from the Mike Shanahan/McDaniels eras to contend with Manning at quarterback.

He knew they were a better bet than the Titans or Cardinals — even if he took an age to finally commit to the Broncos.

The signing was also big enough to placate the growing army of ‘Team Tebow’ disciples.

Elway needed a way out after Tebow’s histrionics in getting Denver to the playoffs in 2011 and then beating Pittsburgh in the wildcard round.

He knew it wasn’t sustainable, but moving on from a popular winning quarterback is tough. Manning was probably the only option the Tebow fan boys would tolerate — and Elway knew it.

He had to get Peyton.

And now they’re in the Super Bowl.

That pretty much is Denver’s story.

Well, along with more spending.

They’ve barely needed two drafts to enhance what they have. A lot of the surrounding talent was brought in by old regimes. Derek Wolfe was a nice pick in round two (2012). Apart from that they’ve got precious little out of two classes under Elway.

Not much development has been required, other than perhaps the work defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has done with some of his players (eg Terrance Knighton).

Instead they’ve continued to use free agency to find quick fixes.

They pinched Wes Welker from the Patriots last off-season and made a big splash on San Diego guard Louis Vasquez.

Whenever you can improve your team and weaken two close rivals, it’s a chance worth taking.

It’s the ultimate short term approach and could pay major dividends if they win Super Bowl XLVIII.

But they will need to strike while the iron is hot — Manning and Welker won’t last forever. They may not last beyond the next couple of years.

This is a window ready to slam shut.

That’s the downside of a quick fix, but if you can hoist a trophy during a 2-3 year window nobody’s going to complain.

I’d argue the job Elway’s done is no less praiseworthy. Had he failed to land Manning, where would Denver be right now? Another also-ran?

The guy was tasked with winning football games, not winning column inches and awards.

And while his job as a glorified salesman has taken a different kind of skill set compared to the work undertaken by Carroll and Schneider, it still deserves a ton of respect.

It’ll be fascinating to see which of these two very different approaches provides a Champion this year.

Seahawks should thank Belichick

During the AFC Championship game on Sunday, Wes Welker took Aqib Talib out of the game with a very dubious looking pick play.

As Talib went to make a tackle, Welker — who almost certainly knew what he was doing — flattened the corner and took away another key defensive playmaker for the Patriots.

Bill Belichick was less than enthused.

“It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. That’s all I’ll say about that.”

Belichick’s received a fair amount of criticism for those remarks. Some believe it’s sour grapes after a losing effort.

Welker left the Patriots under a cloud last year after Tom Brady had renegotiated his contract in order to create enough cap room to keep his favourite weapon.

Somehow communication broke down between the parties, almost certainly provoked by Belichick, and Welker ended up in Denver.

And now we get this.

I actually sympathise with Belichick here. It looked like a pick at the time, and it still looks like a deliberate pick today.

Don’t take my word for it — make your own mind up:

I doubt Welker meant to ‘take out’ Talib, but he certainly wanted to make sure he couldn’t make a tackle on that play. And he got away scot free. No flag was thrown.

By kicking up such a fuss on this issue to the media, Belichick has made it a big story. The league will no doubt have to respond.

And as a consequence it wouldn’t be a big shock if the Super Bowl ref’s were asked to keep an eye out for anything similar.

Denver has used a few of these moves during the season to try and create open situations for their receivers, exploiting the short passing game. Most of the time it just involves a defensive back being sent to the turf, not a game-ending injury as we saw with Talib.

It’s an effective move, especially with Manning relying on shorter passes these days and plenty of crossing routes.

It’s also the kind of move they’ll have to consider if they’re going to have success against Seattle’s terrific secondary.

After Belichick’s rant, the ref’s won’t need any excuse to throw a flag a week on Sunday.

So it might be time to send some flowers and a note to Foxborough.

“Thanks, Bill!”

Move on from the madness

Want to see an interesting picture?

That’s Richard Sherman hugging Erin Andrews, right after that interview.

Why are people still talking about this like it’s even barely relevant?

Sherman didn’t swear. He called out Michael Crabtree. Big deal.

Let’s all play a tiny violin.

Journalists everywhere complain when players do boring interviews.

This was a rare moment when actually, we got to hear what a player really thinks.

Sherman shouldn’t have to apologise through ESPN for taking attention away from his teammates.

ESPN, the NFL Network and the rest should apologise to the fans for not focusing on a brilliant NFC Championship game, a deserving NFC Champion and a play so good that no amount of loud words and bravado can diminish it.

And the suggestion that Sherman is some kind of ‘thug’ because of this is frankly offensive beyond belief.

Do some homework on the man, and then move on.

Senior Bowl update

I’m working on trying to get access to some of the drills. Right now it’s hard for me to pass comment without relying on second hand info.

Again, I would recommend Tony Pauline’s Draft Insider website for some of the best analysis.

I will say this though. The number of withdrawals this year have hammered the week.

The Senior Bowl is supposed to be a reward for the players who last the distance and graduate.

Yet it seems every year more and more are opting not to show in Mobile.

A.J. McCarron, Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett, C.J. Mosley and Lamarcus Joyner all decided not to compete this week.

And yet Eric Ebron and Jadeveon Clowney are there simply watching the action and enjoying the atmosphere.

How damaging can a week of working out with pro-coaches be?

It didn’t do Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson any harm in 2012.

38 Responses to “Polar opposites, ‘Thank You’ Bill Belichick & a note on Sherman”

  1. kigenzun says:

    Excellent job in writing this article Rob. I am hoping the completely new, top to bottom, franchise rebuilding job by PA, JS & PC is victorious Feb2. Elway writing a check, like Polian, does not genius make. I will say JE has done well to get that done, but his oversight during the draft reveals a certain weakness of understanding the game IMO.

    As far as Belichek, he is a master chess player, but the one injury he could not overcome was losing Talib. I am not saying it was a dirty play, as they were careening towards each other at high speed i.e. One zigged while the other zagged and they collided…

    But… Denver’s entire scheme is built around blurring the fine grey line on multiple picks on every play and they need to be called out for it. The never get a flag because it would put ‘ol Peyton in to many 3rd & long situations= its complete, oops short, now punt all day long; thus sitting ‘The Legend’ on the bench waiting and waiting rather than throwing TDs and running up the scorebooks.

    Lastly, thank you for including the pic of Sherman & Erin Andrews hugging after the fact. The look on her face is not fear of any kind, but that she’s absolutely THRILLED to be in on the glorious celebration following ‘The Tip'; Sherman’s game saving play. It was likely the best interview of her career in context… and what she got was RAW SHERMAN AFTER HE HAD JUST MADE THE PLAY OF HIS LIFE. If they wanted the “Russell Wilson” interview, I’m ppretty sure they would have put the microphone in his face instead.

    As is…The media crucifixion of RS is ridiculous, and this photo proves it.
    Frankly, she looks ‘turned on’ more than upset. And now that would be a story.
    Go Hawks!

    • glor says:

      Lets not forget that Carol and JS were on a plane, on the tarmac in Denver with the hope of talking to Peyton. Just sayin.
      That being said, they have done an amazing job for sure, if nothing else in creating an ultra competitive culture* (asterisk because of the lack of playing time our 2nd round pick is getting this year.. what the hell? Is he really that bad, or are we suddenly not adhering to our best man plays philosophy.)

      Anyway, with the way free agency works these days, and the propensity to overpay guys, just because we have largely built through the draft, we have also squandered away any slush fund with which to keep all this home grown talent in town, and maybe the right answer is to let that talent walk and just be confident we can continue to have a next man up attitude.. I surely think this is the case with our DB’s, carol and JS have shown nothing but brilliance in drafting for that backfield. On the offensive side of the ball, and on the D-line however, they just can’t seem to get it done reliably. It will be an interesting off season for sure, but right now, who cares! SB!

  2. dave crockett says:

    Well, the CB from OU, Colvin, blew out his knee. That pretty much confirms the cautionary tale.

    I’ve always said that these post-season events that present athletes with injury risk are a business decision pure and simple. If the athlete competes, even in workouts, they assume all the risk of injury. If they don’t compete they assume the risk of teams passing.

    Well, that’s a math problem. It’s about probabilities. If I have an agent I sit down and try to figure out MY risk-reward. The hell with what the scouts think.

  3. williambryan says:

    LMAO- “tiny violins”

  4. Matt says:

    Albeit biased we may be, I feel like Seahawk fans are the only ones who actually understand Sherman. Nobody who watches ESPN sees his charity work, and very few know of his upbringing. I recommend that all of you read this article on Deadspin. It makes some very interesting points on why most of America seems to be up in arms with the Sherman “fiasco”.

    http://deadspin.com/richard-sherman-and-the-plight-of-the-conquering-negro-1505060117

  5. Michael M. says:

    I would love to see tiny little Wes Welker try and pick someone from the LOB. He’ll think twice about that after Kam gives him the Vernon Davis treatment. Remember the last time Welker played against our secondary?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kk7BL3V5KhA

    Neither does he…

  6. PatrickH says:

    I don’t understand the vote for John Dorsey as exec of the year. Except for Alex Smith, most of the good KC players have been drafted/signed by Scott Pioli, the previous GM, and the trade for Alex Smith was probably Andy Reid’s decision anyway.

    I suspect John Schneider will never be voted as exec of the year. His method has been so unorthodox and his success so unexpected, that the PFW voters are just incapable of appreciating it.

    • Rob Staton says:

      And no doubt next year the Houston GM will get the vote when they make the post season. Another team that should’ve never been picking #1 in the first place.

      • Michael M. says:

        I hate when teams that clearly aren’t bad enough to deserve picking so high end up doing so. I used to mildly dislike the Colts because Manning is the most tedious QB of all time, and I just find the game less entertaining when the entirety of each and every play-clock is used up yelling random crap at the line of scrimmage. There was a very large part of me that was relieved when the ‘Hawks failed to sign Peyton. Then 2011 happened and they ended up with Andrew Luck, and I really started to hate that team. Why the hell should they get a “once in a generation talent” like Luck just for suffering through one crap season? So many other fan bases have gone without for years or even decades. For them to go from a 1st ballot HOFer to the most lauded prospect in 20+ years in one year just pisses me off.

        Same thing with the Chiefs this season. Everyone knew that they weren’t truly the worst team in the league. I was very pleased that the top of that draft was so mediocre, and rooted against them all year. It didn’t help that their defense was easily the most overrated unit in the NFL, who piled up stats against terrible QBs while getting beat by Luck, Manning, and Rivers twice each.

        Now we have the Texans. Up until now I have liked the Texans. Their fan base has suffered an amount I deem to be appropriate for such a windfall, and I love watching J.J. Watt play the game (who doesn’t? The guy is unreal…) However, I fear that a quick turnaround will turn me against them as well. If they get Clowney their defense will be downright frightening, and with a decent game manager at QB they could easily be back in the playoffs next year (especially considering that their in the AFC). Then all the praise will be heaped upon their new GM and head coach for “turning around the franchise” while a once-in-a-lifetime work of absolute GENIUS like the job PC/JS have done goes unappreciated again.

        Such is life I suppose, but hey at least we’re in the SUPERBOWL!!!!

    • CC says:

      I think Petey and Johnny’s lack of recognition is another example of what Seattle deals with generally. They will not get the credit they deserve regardless. RW only wins because he has a good defense, Petey and Johnny have been lucky to hit on the guys they picked in the low rounds – because look at their first round choices – Carp is a bust.,.. never remembering that the key first round choices that have turned out rather well are Okung and Thomas. It is just the way it is. Petey and Johnny have chips on their shoulders just like the team does, and I’m sure a SB win will make it feel sweeter.

  7. Jon says:

    On JS being an exec of the year. I doubt it will happen ever now that they are going to the playoffs every year. He does not have to do anything more, and besides sustaining what he has created cant really get the team much better from this point.

    To Bad, but I’m pretty sure he understands that it does not matter.

    • FC says:

      I think the reason that JS will never get exec of the year is because he took a 5-11 team to two years of 7-9, then 11-5, then 13-3 and SB. Grigson and Dorsey took 2-14 teams to 11-5 in one year. That looks better, even though they were dealing with 10 win teams that fluked their way into a first overall pick. Building from nothing over several years isn’t as flashy on paper as taking over a talented team that severely underperformed and watching them regress to the mean.

      • CD says:

        Also to add, it turns out the Hawks didn’t need Harvin to get to the SB.. We gave up 3 picks and a lot of money and so far this team proved we didn’t need him. That can’t look too good of a move now. Would be a different story if Harvin played all year and was the MVP, helping the Hawks to a perfect record or something like that.

      • Michael M. says:

        You nailed it. It isn’t as “flashy”. But why the hell are the voters for this award (whoever they are) so stupid? Why can’t they actually dig a little deeper than simply selecting whoever improved their win total the most from the previous year?

        • Coug1990 says:

          It is like everything else. The writers and public usually know only a caricature of the real situation and people involved. I still read people that have no idea of who Pete Carroll really is. They all have an image of him that is 180 degrees from who and what he is. Most people do not even know the real story of USC and what occurred there.

    • Bird says:

      I think his job gets much harder from here on out. He must continue to replenish the team with youth by finding gems in the late rounds as he lets very good players go to stay under the cap. Now instead of these late round gems being pleasant surprises when they succeed, it is almost a necessity that they succeed to fill the cap-induced vacancies.

      • glor says:

        totally agree, now we really get to see what he and carol are made of.. can they still prosper without cap room? They dumped a crap load of cap space in 2010 (one of the reasons for all those trades and the gutting of the roaster) but they used it all up, you look at the 9rs and they have a much more evenly managed cap than we do.. however that being said, our cap space is only tied up in a few players.. so worst case scenario is you cut them. and you are down 4 starters.. where as with the 9rs, they would have to loose more guys to free up the same amount of space.. It will be really interesting to see what Kaep gets in the off season

        • My Chest Is Beast Mode says:

          Or whereas with the Seahawks you get to go to the Superbowl and the “well managed salary cap” of the 9ers get to watch at home. Seahawks are graced with the good problem of having a handful of players who are either the best or arguably top 5 at their position. If we can’t pay them all then so be, but PC/JS had the wherewithal to get them here in the first place assembling the best team in football.

          I don’t think those two NEED to do anything, but I have faith they will more often than not do the right thing. Some smart cookies over there. Go Hawks!

          • AlaskaHawk says:

            Dump Harvin after next year and we will have 12 million a year in cap space. Dump Sherman and we save 11-16 million and get a few draft picks (I know that’s heresy but I’m just saying). That would be a balanced approach.

  8. Ryan M says:

    Maybe John Schneider can also thank the Denver Broncos in person for their 2010 draft pick that became Earl Thomas. Because they wanted Alphonso Smith. In the second round. (What a great trade!)

  9. Stuart says:

    Based on your logic, JS will never receive “Exec of the Year.” He will however win multiple Super Bowls with the dynasty he is (and has) created. We know the job he has done here. We know the disaster that was once the Seattle Seahawks.

    The media may not recognize him but I guarantee you every GM/Owner in the NFL know of all his exploits. It’s a copy cat league remember, and who will they be copying, the Exec of the year in Indy? Exec of the year in KC? Or how about John Elway? Nope, nope, nope. I don’t have any idea of his contract status but I predict he will be getting an enormous long term raise from Paul Allen.

    Another good write up Rob, keep them coming, we love them!

    Go Hawks!

    • Michael M. says:

      John Schneider is already signed through the 2016 season. Pete is signed through the end of 2014. I say ink ‘em both to new deals that will give them the job security of a supreme court justice.

  10. John says:

    I’m so sick of the Sherman thing. When my sister says she’s sick of hearing him it pisses me off. She didn’t even know his name before the Erin Andrews comment and suddenly she feels like she has a right to judge. And I love my sister, but that’s that attitude everyone is taking. ONE interview with no context and using it to judge him and judge the team. The media is using that to fuel the “Manning vs the Dark Side of the Force” story line and it’s annoying. I don’t mind when a Seattle fan doesn’t like Sherm’s voice, or even my brother who hated it but has followed Seattle all year because we’re family. What irritates me is people who have seen one game and act like they have the right to judge the situation.

    What I hate is the media’s pandering to the “casual viewer” and fueling pointless drama. It’s irritated me since Monday morning because Seattle should be celebrated for the product they put on the field and the job that they have done. It really feels like ESPN has turned into the freaking View with all this sportsmanship crap. Almost every player talks on the field and not all of them need to boy scouts to play this game. And no one ever mentions Sherm going to inner city schools and talking to kids. Or the fact that Lynch, the epitome of keeping quiet gets fined for not talking to the media. The hypocrisy is ridiculous and it is taking away from the respect this team and organization deserve.

    All that said, I have no doubt it will fuel this team. And I can choose to turn off the TV and limit my visits to NFL.com and ESPN.com. I just wish people would talk football instead of drama.

    And Rob, a big thank you for keeping this blog focused on the Super Bowl instead of drama and nonsense.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Don’t worry, ESPN will spin a tale of Shermans accomplishments on and off the field sometime in the next two weeks.

      Note to Sherman – thanks for being honest!!! If the fans don’t like it – don’t interview him.

  11. OakHarborHawk says:

    I just realized we’re essentially what Pete Carrol would’ve done with the Patriots until he got fired and Belichick started his dynasty and lucked into Brady. Big difference between the two is PC and JS had to go and build this team from the ground up. If we wind it’s even going to be the same way. Nowadays you think of Brady and the Patriot’s passing game. Used to be built like us on running the football and using your defense to grind out the game.

    Going to be amazing after we win our first Superbowl, but getting way ahead of myself we really have a chance to become this decades Patriots.

  12. CC says:

    I love that Belichick called out the pick plays – maybe that gives those plays some attention during the game. Great stuff. I agree with the post above – I think our guys love the physical play and if they run those pick plays, our guys will lower the BOOM! Bring it!

  13. Clayton says:

    Just wanted to comment that I was interested in the players that are doing well in the Senior Bowl practices, so I started doing some research and the name that kept popping up along with the word “dominated” is Aaron Donald, DT from Pitt. So I looked up his film on youtube and the dude IS a dominant three-tech! He is a smaller and quicker guy, much like Michael Bennett, and he just knifes his way into backfield consistently. Please take a look… even though he’s won a whole bunch of defensive awards, he’s still an under-the-radar type prospect that I think will be the gem of the draft.

    • hawkmeat says:

      Yeah he is getting rave reviews and a good season. He is getting comparisons to Geno Atkins. In November against Georgia Tech this was his stat line read 11 tackles (all solo), six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a sack. The six TFLs are the most by an FBS player this season.

  14. Emperor_MA says:

    Rob – Would love an update on the Senior Bowl after three days of practice. We should be able to get a good read on who is rising and falling. Would appreciate it if you get a chance.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve had no access to the work outs unfortunately this year so hard for me to pass comment without relying on second hand information. I will do something later in the week but it more than likely won’t be hard analysis, merely a review of what other people are saying.