The Seahawks are better off winning

November 18th, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

Guest blog post written by Andy Heiting-Doane

Some Seahawks fans think the team is better off losing than winning this season. I understand the viewpoint. There are many examples of NFL teams going from average to perennial contenders by picking a quarterback in the top five.  It appears that Peyton Manning alone is the difference between the Colts being one of the best teams in the league and being easily the worst.  Colts fans probably say to themselves daily, “Thank goodness we lost all those games in 1997 and got to draft Manning.”

I am here to tell you that is not what you should hope for with this team. I asked Rob if I could post an “always hope the Seahawks win” guest post and he graciously agreed.
 
It is not fair for me to suggest this blog and Rob are “hoping” the Seahawks lose.  My intention is to be a counter-point to the viewpoint below, taken from Rob’s article ‘the win/lose debate – Pete Carroll joins in’.
 
“So what is really best for the Seahawks? Aim for another 7-9 record by finishing strongly, pick in the mid-teens and risk spending another year scraping around at the greatest position of need? … Or is it actually best that this team loses out, picks above Miami, Washington, Cleveland, Denver and any other potential rival?”
 
My point is that yes, we should aim for another 7-9 record, or even 8-8, by finishing strongly. My hope is to convince you that this team will be better, long-term, if this season ends with the Seahawks 8-8 than if the final record is 3-13.
 
I want to assume a few things before we get started, just to make sure we’re all having the same conversation.
 
Assumption #1: No one wants the team to actually try to lose. Players would never make bad plays intentionally, defying a head coach who is trying to win. At some level most or all of the players are playing for their contracts and surely no one wants the coach to intentionally lose games? He would lose the team permanently. No one, from owner of the team to the long snapper, would respect him. We would be looking at yet another new regime and another complete overhaul of the roster. If you agree that they should not try to loseand you still think the Seahawks are better off losing, what you’re saying is that you think the Seahawks are better off being a team that legitimately earns a 3-13 record. A team whose current talent level is enough to lose four games for every one game it wins.
 
Assumption 2: No one wants this team to pick in the top five every year.  One might argue that the only way to build a truly exceptional, dynasty-forming roster is to have top five draft picks at quarterback, defensive end, cornerback, left tackle, and wide receiver. But to get there you would have to endure losing season after losing season, free agents would walk away from the team, and you would once again probably be looking at a new regime and another complete overhaul. Also, as I will argue below, it would be impossible to have truly elite players and continue to lose enough games to pick in the top five year after year. If you agree with Assumption #2, you’re saying the Seahawks will hopefully take one more dip  into the top five picks and then start winning and become a contender, thereby picking in later rounds into the future.
 
If you agree with those assumptions then this comes down to a little football math. You want to take our current roster, add a quarterback, and end up with a contender.  Which of these two formulas do you think is more likely to result in a contender over the next five years?
 
Formula #1
[Elite prospect QB taken in the top 5] + [a current Seahawks roster that just earned a 3-13 record] = Super Bowl Contender
 
Formula #2
[Sub-elite prospect QB taken in top 20] + [a current Seahawks roster that just earned an 8-8 record] = Super Bowl Contender
 
I argue in this post that Formula #2 is the best and fastest way to become a Super Bowl contender.
 
Alternatively, if you really want one of those top five picks, I would rather have to trade up for it than stink badly enough to actually earn it. I think having players on the team this year that will earn you more wins is more valuable than whatever pick you have to give up to move up.  So the alternate math is:
 
Formula #3
[Elite prospect QB taken in the top 5] + [a current Seahawks roster that just earned an 8-8 record] – [next year's first-round draft pick] = Super Bowl Contender
 
It’s all about the rest of the team. It’s all about the eleven starters on defense and the ten starters on offense who are not named Tarvaris. I think this team has several very good young players on defense – Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and “young enough” Brandon Mebane, Brandon Browner, Red Bryant, and Chris Clemons. Very good young players on defense win more than three games in a year, even if the quarterback sucks.
 
I think this team has several very good young players on offense – Doug Baldwin, Russell Okung, and “young enough” Mike Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, and Sidney Rice. Very good young players on offense win more than three games in a year, even if the quarterback sucks.
 
Drum-roll…
 
So, if we only win three games this year, those players aren’t good. We can’t choose to play the Packers, Steelers, and 49ers twice each. The remaining schedule includes two games against the Rams and one each against the Redskins and the Cardinals.  Losing all four of those games means that this team sucks. There is no other way around it.
 
This week, radio host Mike Salk has been repeating the question as whether we, the fans, would like the Seahawks to “play well, but lose.” You cannot play well but lose twice to the Rams. You cannot play well and lose to the Redskins and Cardinals.
 
Think about the Cleveland game. That’s a game that should have been won, but was lost. How did Kam Chancellor look in that game? Terrible. Do you want Kam Chancellor to look terrible in seven more games? If Kam Chancellor looks terrible in seven more games, are you still hopeful that he’ll develop into a Pro-Bowl level player? If our young defensive backs can’t stop the Rams’ pathetic receivers, in each of the two games, they are not good players. If our defense can’t stop the uniformly awful Redskins offense, it is not a good defense.
 
It’s not fair to look at only one player in one game (hey, Red Bryant looked great against Cleveland). This is a whole team.  It is not possible for Chancellor, Thomas, Sherman, Mebane, Browner, Bryant, Clemons, Baldwin, Okung, Williams, Lynch, Miller, and Rice to play well, or even half of them to play well, and lose those four games. In fact, if most of them have pretty good games, I submit to you they will win at least one of the three other games – Philly and San  Francisco at home and the Bears in Chicago. Good players win games. Good defensive backs can win games even with a crappy quarterback. Good offensive line play can win games even with a crappy quarterback. Run-stopping defensive linemen can win games even with a crappy quarterback. If we don’t win games, the other players on the team are not good.
 
So which would you rather have: a top five quarterback added to a roster that stinks, or a top twenty quarterback added to a roster that is mostly good? Matt Barkley plus the team that lost to the Rams twice in a year, or Robert Griffin III plus the team that beat the Rams twice in a year?
 
Take a look at the last several #1 overall picks (all quarterbacks).  Bradford, Stafford, and Cam Newton did not make their teams into contenders alone. The Rams and Panthers both suck this season. The Lions look pretty good, but I see a lot of players contributing to that, not just Stafford. Remember, nobody wants to be the Lions with losing season after losing season adding up to repeated top ten picks. It’s all about being one player away from a being a twelve win team. A 3-13 team is not one player away from winning 12 games. An 8-8 team might be one player away from winning twelve games.
 
Take a look at the 2008 Jets. They finished 9-7 and “missed out” on the opportunity to draft in the top 5 and pick Mark Sanchez with their own pick. They traded up to get the pick that they could have gotten for free by losing 12-13 games. With their #5 pick, they got a quarterback prospect who was inferior to the #1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford, yet the Jets went to the AFC championship the next two years. Why?  Because Mark Sanchez was good enough and because the rest of the roster was very good. The rest of the roster that helped them finish 9-7 and ruin their draft position. What if the Jets had picked in the teens and taken Josh Freeman? Anyone want to argue that they would have been worse?
 
Picking outside the top five this year is going to mean you can’t take Andrew Luck and it will probably mean you can’t take Matt Barkley without giving up some other draft picks. Yet picking outside the top five this year means you’ve got a good roster. You’ve got players who can earn wins even without a franchise quarterback. What is that roster going to look like when you do add a franchise quarterback? Even if it’s not Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley, that roster is going to look great.
 
Before they ever put on an NFL helmet, it’s easy to say that the “elite” or top-tier quarterback prospects are superior to the second-tier prospects and that getting one of the top guys will be the difference between Super Bowl and bust. In history, the difference is not that clear. Stafford has been better than Freeman, but not far better. Matt Ryan has been better than Joe Flacco, but not far better. Brady Quinn was equal to or better than JaMarcus Russell. Jay Cutler has been far better than Matt Leinart. Aaron Rodgers has been far better than Alex Smith. I think an argument could be made that Roethlisberger is as good as Philip Rivers and I would take either of them over Eli Manning.
 
I know, going further back shows you some counter-examples like Carson Palmer/Byron Leftwich and Peyton Manning/Ryan Leaf, but in recent years examples of “first quarterback taken in the draft is far better than the others” is outnumbered by examples of “they’re about the same” and “the second or third guy is better.”
 
Looking back at those drafts, wouldn’t you be perfectly happy with Freeman, Flacco, or Cutler (I won’t even ask about Rodgers) if it means that your core of young talent on this team is ready to win? Ready to beat the Rams twice? Ready to beat San Francisco on our own turf? I’ll take my chances in that second tier of prospects in exchange for not becoming the Rams – a great young quarterback surrounded by giant holes at other key positions. I’d rather trade up and lose a draft pick than have Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner get smoked by John Beck or Rex Grossman.
 
I would love to have Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley lead this team for the next fifteen years but I would rather have a second-tier prospect, who might be as good or better than Matt Barkley, surrounded by a complete team with young stars at other positions.

12 Responses to “The Seahawks are better off winning”

  1. I think what many people are ignoring is that there aren’t just three possible formulas – there are as many formulas as there are QB prospects out there, and each requires a different blueprint for the team. Any QB – and we’re seeing some of this with Tarvaris Jackson – can be enhanced (to a certain degree) if coached and schemed well. Sam Bradford, for example, is being held back largely because he’s had a poorly fitting offense forced onto him. Alex Smith is being used as a game manager-plus instead of a franchise QB type. Matt Hasselbeck flourished in a strict timing offense and floundered in anything straying from that. Some QB’s are good enough to turn any receiving corps into producers, but name any QB and you could probably name at least one “partner” guy with whom that QB has always flourished.

    I believe that ultimately a QB’s talent decides his success, but there are varying degrees of success and the team needs to be tailored to the QB’s skill set and temperament. So draft position is not the only factor, and therefore PC/JS are probably confident that they might be able to make up for lack of talent with good scheme to some degree. Although it does necessitate FINDING that quarterback soon, because otherwise you’re building a house without a foundation.

    • Rob says:

      I think ultimately it comes down to this – to be an annual contender you need a franchise quarterback. You’re not settling for second best at QB to be up there consistently. How you find that guy is the difficult bit. Hoping to pick early is merely hoping to have the highest number of options available, rather than hoping the team sucks. Quarterback is the only position in the NFL anyone ever hopes their team picks early for – and once you find that guy you seldom hope to be back among the top ten. Losing doesn’t always make you a bad team – it can be as simple as bad QB-ing or rookie mistakes. After all, Atlanta went from #3 overall to regular post season contenders in a tough division after drafting Matt Ryan.

      Wherever Seattle picks they have to address this position one way or another. If it’s expensive because the team wins a few extra games, then it’s expensive. You do what it takes.

      • Jay says:

        I have to agree with Rob. Losing doesn’t necessarily mean our team is bad. The other team could have just did everything right. People like me hope the teams loses, but not because we suck. Don’t get me wrong, I want our team to do well. We just hope that when we lose its not because of the lack of talent or effort. You know like the 9er game. We were in position to make a comeback but some mistakes were made that cost us. You can’t say that we were a bad team. Even in the Atlanta game, we gave them a run for their money but we lost. This is a fairly young team that will make mistakes.

        Andy does make a good point regarding the different scenarios. Ideally it is better to have a good overall talent on the team and have someone like Griffin than a horrible team and have someone like Luck or Barkley. Keep in mind I said good and horrible team because I don’t necessarily believe a record defines the teams overall talent. But no I don’t want the Hawks to lose because they just suck.

        We all just want to draft a QB that is capable of leading us to the super bowl and win it. If losing is the best way to get him, then I’m up for that. Some of us see losing to get a higher pick will allow us a higher chance to do so. Actually I’m all up for trading up to get one of top QB’s, but chances are, we either have to sell the house to do so or the teams up there are unwilling to trade to us. Getting the higher draft pick just gives us a little more security that we can grab one of them.

  2. Nate Dogg says:

    I think there are a lot of false assumptions made here. The biggest of which is this:

    [Sub-elite prospect QB taken in top 20] + [a current Seahawks roster that just earned an 8-8 record] = Super Bowl Contender

    This team is not an ok rookie quarterback away from Super Bowl contention. If they go 8-8 by beating the Ramsx2, Redskins, Cardinals and two others they’re not exactly a world beating team with an anchor at quarterback. They could still very well be a bottom 5 or 10 team.

    “So, if we only win three games this year, those players aren’t good. We can’t choose to play the Packers, Steelers, and 49ers twice each. The remaining schedule includes two games against the Rams and one each against the Redskins and the Cardinals. Losing all four of those games means that this team sucks. There is no other way around it.”

    I do not agree at all. First, as you said those are all young players. Young players can make mistakes and still be promising. Losing heartbreakers to bad teams wouldn’t necessarily mean the young core of our team is terrible. It could mean that the 20 or so other starters and rotational guys, people like Raheem Brock and Alan Branch and Roy Lewis and Paul McQuistan, suck. It could mean that Tarvaris submarines the season (something looking less and less likely but he’s still Tarvaris Jackson). There are lots of ways for this team to lose without it being

    There’s also the issue of injuries. I’m absolutely not rooting for anyone to get hurt, but some injuries have already happened. The right side of the offensive line is gone. John Carlson is on IR and Morrah has struggled to get healthy coming off the PUP list. Two of the top three corners on the depth chart are on IR. Bigby has been injured forcing Chris Maragos into action at times. Gallery and TJack both have injury concerns and extremely questionable back up situations. That adds up to a lot that injuries have taken away from the 2010 Seahawks but won’t necessarily take away from the 2011 Seahawks.

    And as far as the Jets and Sanchez go, that’s some shaky ground you’re on. Sanchez has looked more like a franchise crippler than a franchise quarterback. Those two AFC championship game teams were built on a lot of veteran star power. They’re the Boston Celtics of the NFL. I’m not sure that’s the best example of how to achieve long term success with a quarterback who is, at the moment very questionable, good enough.

    • Jay says:

      I just realize I said a lot of what you said. My bad for not reading your post before posting.

    • Kip Earlywine says:

      Great rebuttal.

      I do disagree (albeit slightly) with one point of contention though. I do think Seattle could be contenders with a sub-elite QB (think Eli Manning or Joe Flacco). The Seahawks appear to be following the Raven’s blueprint for success, and nobody would deny that Baltimore has been a legitimate contender in recent years. That blueprint included drafting a sub-elite QB with a mid-1st round pick.

      Granted, that’s not ALL they need. The Ravens have a better defense and an awesome running game with Ray Rice. However, Ray Rice himself was a 2nd round pick, and Seattle has steadily improved its defense with mid-to-late round draft picks (including home run picks like Chancellor and Sherman). If Seattle picked 17th and drafted Robert Griffin, then addressed a few other areas with lesser investments, its not hard seeing this team as a legit contender, IMO.

  3. Andy says:

    I think that despite the age of your team, there is a world of difference between a team that can finish its season with four wins over crappy teams and a team that loses 7 games in a row to end the season. I am fine with losing a heartbreaker or two, but seven of them? No thanks. Good, young players don’t lose seven in a row.

    You make a good point about injuries. Losing Carpenter could make a big difference in the running game and cost us a win or two that won’t affect the 2012 team much. Jackson in particular, since hopefully he won’t be starting next year, so taking him out of the equation shows the 2012 team in a more accurate light.

    What I’m saying is, what does it say about Sherman and Thomas and Lynch and Okung if they can win give more games despite those handicaps? I would be thrilled to go into the 2012 season with those guys having already proven themselves.

  4. TJ says:

    Your 1st assumption is a no-brainer. Players and coaches only want to win and do not care one little bit about the draft. This question is only among fans.

    With all of the questions and discussions among us fans about how “we” should draft a QB in April, it will really be something if the Seahawks front office, wherever they end up picking, pass on an available QB and go a different direction entirely. As inconceivable as it might seem to us as outsiders, the real decision makers don’t always do what seems so obvious to the rest of us. How many times have we seen that over the years?

    There are 4 ways to get a potential franchise QB in the draft. 1) pick high enough to ensure that one is available. 2) trade up to get one. 3) hope that one falls to us if we end up with a later pick. 4) Hope for a late round guy to become the next Tom Brady. While option 3 is easily the most desirable, options 2 and 3 put the drafting of a QB at the mercy of other teams and option 4 is simply foolish.

  5. Kip Earlywine says:

    I don’t agree 100% with this article, but I commend you for taking an outside the box approach in your thought process. While your statement about record reflecting the quality of the team can be disproved with plenty of examples, I do generally agree with the spirit of the argument: having a high pick comes at the hidden cost of a team being (probably) much worse.

    I guess an “ideal” draft situation would be to have a team that ranks high in DVOA but finds ways to lose games and secure draft position somehow, like the 2008 Packers did. We all know what the Packers have done since then.

    In the past, I’ve been an unapologetic advocate for losing to win, particularly in instances when it was crystal clear that the team needed to be blown up and started over.

    But not this time. Close observation of this team reveals a very deep base of talent, and we’ve finally begun to see that talent translate into wins the last two weeks. However, a lot of fans don’t see this stuff and only judge a team by their record. A 4-12 record might be great for getting a QB, but it would also legitimately put Pete Carroll and John Schneider on the hotseat for 2012, and when people go on the hotseat, they sometimes panic and make career killing shortsighted moves. I’d much rather surrender an extra first rounder to get my quarterback then expose our front office and coaching staff to that.

  6. Jim Kelly says:

    Wow. Not only do I agree with most of this article, but I loved the responses. I disagreed with many (Sorry, Kip, I never want to see the Hawks lose, even if that would be better for them.), but everyone made their point without resorting to internet arguing: Shouting down or insulting the opposition. Everyone used lucid, succinct arguments to not only make their point, but to lend that point more power with their presentation. Seeing commenter’s point and counter-point in this fashion was not only refreshing, but showed how great Seahawk fans are.
    Good job, Andy. Thanks for inspiring the debate.
    Rob, thanks for having him.

  7. Jake Schantz says:

    Great Article! I agree wholeheartedly. Also, Rob’s article a few days later was very nice and I agree about the talent pool for next draft. To Nate Dogg and Kip: While I have never openly rooted for the Hawks to lose a game, I will admit to being a little upbeat following every loss in ’09, once Jim Mora lost the team. For this team though, losing is not an option. I think this team grows and respects Pete’s coaching a little more with every win, it’s a very emotional bunch – coached by a very emotional guy. I really believe in Pete, but he really needs to win because he is an unorthodox coach with an unorthodox approach. To respect that approach, players need to see results. To win down the road, I think the team needs to believe in his mantra and have a positive outlook on the future. But generally, I feel that losing kills players – it shows up with things like effort and focus. The mental aspect of the game is nearly as important as the physical one. So, for me winning now helps us win later, because a future 1st round pick is cheap compared to the feeling I get when I think about maybe taking down the “mighty” 9ers in a couple of weeks – we beat them now and they worry about us next year… Further, if we close with 6 or 7 wins out of the final 8 and then draft ANY QB (not named Landry – I trust JC to do this well), how positive do we all feel going into next season? I’m jacked just thinking about it…