Above you’ll find the latest podcast from ESPN 710′s Brock and Salk show, where they discuss the conversation that has divided Seahawks fans over the last 24 hours. There’s no obvious answer to this situation. On the one hand, of course everyone wants their team to win on a given Sunday. However, if losing presents the best possible opportunity to solve the seemingly neverending need at quarterback – isn’t it worth taking the hit in the win column?
It’s a truly dividing subject and one of the many reasons the NFL is so unique. In one corner, you have the people who want to win every game and don’t even consider the draft until mid-to-late April. Others have a long term focus and believe one horrific season will pave the road to never enduring such misery again in the future. Get a franchise quarterback and you won’t have to worry about the draft anymore. A lot of people – including myself – fall someone in between the two arguments. This year I travelled thousands of miles to watch the Seahawks get beat by a rookie quarterback I graded in the late rounds. I hated watching that game against the Bengals, knowing it was completely winnable yet ultimately drifting towards a defeat. The one positive at the end? The draft position improved.
It was a reverse scenario yesterday against another NFC North opponent. Baltimore – one of the NFL’s elite teams – were roundly beaten by the Seahawks. Perhaps the best thing about the victory was that Seattle never really looked like losing the game, despite a late rally from the Ravens. The long term thinker may argue - this team still has virtually zero chance of making the playoffs and on current form the Seahawks would be picking 11th overall - behind rival teams like Miami, Washington and Cleveland who also need a quarterback badly. What actual benefit do you get from the victory in terms of building a consistent contender, which is ultimately what everyone wants? Even if you’re targetting the same player at #5 or #11 in the draft, wouldn’t you rather the insurance of making sure? Especially given the relative cost of rookies in the new salary cap?
So what really is best for the Seahawks? Aim for another 7-9 record by finishing strongly, pick in the mid-teens and risk spend another year scraping around at the greatest position of need? Could you imagine entering the 2013 draft – Pete Carroll’s forth in a five-year contract – still waiting for a quarterback to be drafted early? That would be 20 years since the Seahawks drafted a quarterback in round one, an astonishing statistic. At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for winning and building this team’s identity – setting the tone for the future.
Or is it actually best that this team loses out, picks above Miami, Washington, Cleveland, Denver and any other potential rival? After all, have we not seen sufficient promise from this team on the whole even when it’s lost games to be secure enough to lose a few more? Is there a danger of consistent mediocrity that comes with finishing 7-9 every year – stopping you getting a shot at the high pick for a quarterback? Or does winning become a healthy habit especially on a young team, and does this front office have enough talent in the scouting department to find a guy who can solve this problem without top-end investment?
Mike Salk wrote a blog post on this issue, I’d recommend checking it out by clicking here. He asks, “So, where are you? Are you an optimistic short-term thinker? A pessimistic long-term thinker? Or some other combination?” I suspect I’m closer to the pessimistic long-term thinker. After all, I write a blog about the NFL Draft and spend hours every week watching players – particularly quarterbacks – who would look good in Seahawks blue. This team does need a franchise quarterback for the long haul and without doubt the easiest way to find one is early in round one. That’s not to say every first round quarterback will be a success, but it’s pure common sense to expect the perceived elite players in each group having a better shot at success compared to whatever follows. You back your coaching staff and your front office to make the right choice and not be the ones to make the big bust.
At the same time, there’s something completely joyless to not appreciating a great win against one of the league’s toughest teams. The Seahawks pounded the Baltimore Ravens – they ran at them, they passed over them and they hit them harder than maybe they’ve been hit all year. Sure, this is also a Ravens team capable of such miserable performances as seen on Monday Night Football against Jacksonville. They’re also capable of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers (twice) something Seattle hasn’t had a lot of success with in recent years…
If you jump to the 32:28 mark in the audio above, Pete Carroll joins Brock and Salk for a live interview. He’s asked about this situation and discusses the idea of a portion of the fan base hoping for draft position at around the 47 minute mark:
“First of all I love that they (the fans) are thinking this way and competing. They want to get better and they want to win games and all of that and so that’s where that comes from. I know they don’t want us to point shave or something you know, of course not. I understand that they just want us to get everything we can possibly get, to get as good as we can get as soon as possible. I’m on board. There’s a lot of wins out there and we’re going to go for it, we don’t know any other way. This is so important for us to build on a mentality to build our style of play, to get better as individual players and as groups on this team. There’s just so much out there for us to gain. John (Schneider) is working real hard, he’s going to make great picks. We’re going to find these guys, we’re going to get guys that fit with us and they’re going to contribute and whatever we pick in the first round it’s going to be a guy that’s going to play. Look at what’s happened, look at our guys right now. I’m so proud. Look at the #1 picks we’ve had, they haven’t missed a step. They’re playing and they’re going to be contributing – they’re great players. We’ll find another one wherever we pick. There’s some exciting kids coming out of the draft, but there’s exciting ones that the people don’t know about too and they’ll be enough. I’m sure they’re not going to worry about where we finish right now. We’re going to try and win every game and get as good as we can be now. That will help us for the future and satisfy them as well so we’ll take care of business.”
This is exactly how you would expect the coach of the team to address this issue. Carroll is in the business of winning and that means every week not just in the future. He may see draft position as some form of consolation if the Seahawks do end up with a poor record, but you don’t expect a coaches attention to turn to the draft until the final game has been played.
Ultimately though, picking later will make it harder for the Seahawks to solve this issue in round one without a big trade up the board or a lot of luck (just not of the ‘Andrew’ variety). Would the Seahawks be aggressive for the right guy? I think they would. The Charlie Whitehurst trade was a calculated gamble which carried a degree of cost, but they were bold in that instance. Let’s not underestimate that move considering it cost the Seahawks a chance to draft three times in the top 40 picks in 2010 and also a valuable third round pick. I understand why they took the chance given the importance of finding a long term answer at quarterback, but the simple fact is they were willing to take the gamble. It was taking a chance then, so two years on why wouldn’t they make an even bigger move given the added pressures to get this situation sorted once and for all?
Of course, Whitehurst was Schneider’s project – his choice. We have to hope if he makes a second attempt next April, it’s a lot more successful than his first try.
Carroll also talked about players that maybe people ‘didn’t know about’. Clearly the team has taken some positives out of the decision to sign undrafted rookie Josh Portis, who showed some potential in pre-season. That’s all well and good, but you could argue the time has long passed for Seattle to be picking through the list of obscure projects to mould into a serviceable player. Tarvaris Jackson has one year remaining on his contract after 2012 and Whitehurst is a free agent at the end of this season. They may need a quarterback who can start games next year as a back-up or starter – they will almost certainly need that player to start in year two.
And let’s not mistake the seriousness of this situation – Carroll’s reputation and final shot in the NFL hinges upon his ability to find a winning quarterback. It’s not the only factor, but it’s the most important. They can’t afford to mess this up, but avoiding the situation all together and hoping to fill the problem with stop-gaps is just as bad.
In the worst case scenario that Seattle finds itself out of range and incapable of drafting a top college passer (and if Barkley and Griffin III don’t declare, that opportunity will be taken away), I keep coming back to Austin Davis. Could he be one of the players Carroll refers to as ‘unknown‘ to most people?
Regulars will know how highly I rate the Southern Miss quarterback. He’s an athletic and hard working player who runs a ball-control offense with a heavy dose of run and a determination to limit turnovers. The Golden Eagles are ranked at #20 in this week’s BCS rankings and will almost certainly play Houston for the Conference-USA title in a few weeks. That’s a major achievement for that school, an incredible achievement in fact. It wouldn’t be possible without Davis.
He doesn’t have elite size at 6-2 221lbs, but it’s good enough. Davis has worked hard to reach that weight, as discussed when I interviewed him during the pre-season. For the 2011 season he’s thrown 20 touchdowns to eight interceptions, passed for 2511 yards and rushed for two further scores and 227 yards. He’s completing 63% of his passes in the last two seasons. His success has coincided with that national ranking – the school’s first since 1994.
The Seahawks will be aware of his talents having sent a scout to watch one of his more impressive performances during a win at Virginia at the end of August. Davis may not be spectacular, he may not be the big name everyone is talking about. He does, however, fit the Seahawks criteria in terms of his attitude, the way he plays the game, his accuracy, mobility and intelligence. He’s one to monitor throughout this process.