While I think the Seahawks deserve praise for their work during free agency, there is one issue that could linger in the background. Are they going to become one of those teams that has everything but the quarterback?
We’ve seen several cases of this in the NFL… a talented team filled with potential yet lacking at the most vital position in football. Even an above average starting quarterback would’ve been enough, they didn’t need Manning or Brady. So close, yet still so far away.
I’m not intending this to be a negative piece on Tavaris Jackson. I actually think the Seahawks have done a great job making life easy for their quarterback and while I’m not getting carried away, I don’t think there’s any need to be so over-the-top dramatic about the quarterback situation. Jackson can help the Seahawks back to the playoffs via the NFC West title. He couldn’t wish for much more in terms of the supporting cast delivered in free agency.
Yet until we’ve seen several performances, it’s hard to invest anywhere near the kind of faith that the unthinkable happens and Seahawks fans actually start to consider other positions in next April’s draft. Right now it’s QB, QB, QB and rightly so. People still see Jackson as a bridge option only – which is perfectly understandable. Even if the Seahawks went 13-3 next season I’d still suggest serious investment in a young quarterback. After all, Derek Anderson made a Pro Bowl.
But everyone assumes that Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley will be within reach, either because the Seahawks are bad enough to draft them or because they’ll trade up. In both cases it will be really difficult. All of the positives moves this off season have created an offense that’s on the brink of being excellent but for remaining question marks at quarterback. There are teams not even close to owning the level of talent Seattle has brought in recently - and they don’t play six games in the NFC West either.
Andlet’s not forget that even with a pretty mediocre season, a losing record andpoor play both offensively and defensively – last year the Seahawks earned themselves the #25 overall pick. They have improved from last year, in some areas significantly so. And while we sit hear and rightly applaud, you do just hope that this won’t become a team that is so good in every way but the quarterback. Minnesota fans experienced a bit of that with Jackson previously.
I had a look at the top ranked quarterbacks from last year based on passing yards. It’s not a perfect science for judging quarterbacks, but it’ll do for now. Philip Rivers was ranked #1 for yards, he is a former 4th overall pick. After that came Peyton Manning (1st overall), Drew Brees (32nd overall), Matt Schaub (3rd rounder), Eli Manning (1st overall), Carson Palmer (1st overall), Aaron Rodgers (24th overall), Tom Brady (6th rounder), Matt Ryan (3rd overall) and Kyle Orton (4th rounder).
Of the ten most statistically productive quarterbacks last year, half were former top five picks. All but three were first rounders. Good luck finding another Tom Brady in this lifetime.
As I said not an exact science because there are other mitigating factors to production (talent on team, schedule, coming from behind a lot etc) and of that group only half made the post season. Picking early is never going to guarantee anything, especially at quarterback. However, having your pick of the top talent does give you a great chance of finding a productive player. An obvious statement perhaps, but crucial nonetheless.
If the Seahawks are perennially too good to avoid picking early enough to tap into the top quarterbacks, they’ll have to be creative. Being better everywhere else potentially creates a vicious cycle of frustration where you’re not good enough to win a title, but equally not bad enough to solve the equation. Talent gets wasted, so does time.
I would much rather build a foundation, as the Seahawks are doing, and then be pro-active to find a quarterback. Believing your team at least has a shot at being competitive on a Sunday is a much better feeling than simply biding time until the combine. Yet some of the best franchises and contenders at the moment had to hit rock bottom before they grew. When Seattle hit rock bottom, they spent $140m on linebackers.
For the purpose of fairness, let’s say Jackson does have an incredible year and makes a big statement. The Seahawks march into the playoffs, shocking the league with Jackson running the show. Can you really justify a big splash at quarterback then? What message does that send to what would be your starting QB in 2012? Do you pass up the chance to perhaps improve another area of the roster (DL? DB?)? That in itself is as much a dilemma as any. Is one year’s production enough to go ‘all-in’ on Tavaris Jackson and pass up the chance to make that ambitious move for one of two quarterbacks with such incredible potential coming out of college?
It’s going to be really fascinating to see how this plays out. Jackson will have to perform beyond even the most advanced expectations (perhaps unfairly) to make this an avoidable subject in the new year. If the Seahawks are too good to be natural candidates in the Luck/Barkley sweepstakes, do they get aggressive? Would you spend multiple first round picks to move up? Or do you move on to a Kirk Cousins, Austin Davis or Landry Jones? Each have their qualities, yet each may not offer the kind of mid-round value that Tampa Bay discovered with Josh Freeman. I’ve compared Cousins strongly to Kevin Kolb, Davis is a dark horse with real potential and Jones carries a round one grade at the moment but needs to shine through his system at Oklahoma this year and be more consistent.