Posted by Kip Earlywine
Eighteen months ago, around the time when Tim Ruskell stepped down from his GM duties here, Rob repeatedly emphasized a certain talking point. That thought being, what undermined Tim Ruskell’s efforts here in Seattle was a lack of an overall plan. Ruskell had an “ok” system for evaluating college talent and was a major player in free agency every year. I’m not a Tim Ruskell apologist, in fact, I was calling for his head half a year before it became popular, but Tim Ruskell was hardly a “Bavasian” dumbass. Without Tim Ruskell, Seattle is probably still without a Superbowl berth. Generally, I thought Tim Ruskell accomplished his goals every offseason, and was mostly undermined by a draft strategy that while intelligent, had the downside of targeting the type of “safe, low upside” players who almost never become playmakers. (In five years of drafting, only one Ruskell draftee made the pro-bowl: Lofa Tatupu.)
But after seeing the last two drafts by John Schneider and company, I think I get what Rob was talking about. In a much thinner draft crop than last year with far worse draft ammunition, Seattle only had two picks that were in the area of the draft where finding a starter is considered likely, and they spent both of those picks on the offensive line. And lets not forget, in the last calendar year, this team has also spent a very high pick on a franchise left tackle, signed not one but two high profile O-line coaches, traded for a former 1st round running back with a pro-bowl appearance, traded for Leon Washington, and traded for Stacey Andrews, who was once a franchise tagged right tackle.
Its abundantly clear that Pete Carroll wants a power running game and he wants it as soon as possible. This reflects his (now uncommon) philosophy of building a run-first team.
I know that some people have voiced concerns, citing that the best teams build around an elite passing quarterback instead of the offensive line and running game. Those people are completely correct, but I’d urge them to be calm and patient. Remember that Chuck Knox was a smashmouth football guy who built a great running game here in Seattle, but he also found a good quarterback and acquired some very potent weapons on offense. Similarly, Mike Holmgren invested very heavily in the running game and made it no secret that he loved running the football. He didn’t get his quarterback until year 3, but that quarterback ended up being the best in franchise history.
Watching this roster come together, I can’t help but be reminded of the Baltimore Ravens just a few years ago. The Ravens found some inconsistent success in the middle of the last decade while clinging to a veteran quarterback (Steve McNair). In 2006, the Ravens passed on Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler to draft Haloti Ngata. They added offensive lineman Chris Chester with their next pick in the 2nd round. The next year they traded for a former 1st round running back from the Buffalo Bills, then spent a first round pick on guard Ben Grubbs, and then added tackle Marshall Yanda in round 3. Finally, in 2008, the team selected a quarterback in Joe Flacco (who by the way, was considered a big reach at the time), but only after investing very heavily in the running game and both lines. Baltimore added a young stud running back the next pick with Ray Rice and even added two more offensive lineman in the mid rounds.
You’d think by now, Raven’s fans would be sick of drafting so many lineman, but Baltimore didn’t stop. They drafted Michael Oher in the 1st round in 2009, then added a defensive end in the 2nd. In 2010, the Ravens spent a 2nd rounder on nose tackle Terrance “Mt” Cody.
And from these moves, in only 4 years Baltimore went from a cratering team in crisis to a franchise with very serious long term Superbowl ambitions. The Ravens GM is a guy by the name of Ozzie Newsome, who was a first round pick by the Browns way back in 1978 and has worked for the Browns/Ravens every single year since. Talk about job security. Maybe that plays a part in his strategy, but I get the sense that Carroll and Schneider have a similar sense of job security and are taking the long, safe road to building a great team, just like Newsome did. The Seahawks haven’t made the investments into the defensive line the way the Ravens have, but they haven’t had much to work with either. Expect Seattle to be very active in free agency and with trades to sort things out on the defensive line.
Long story short, the Seahawks are not taking a stupid or crazy approach to building a great football team. Building from the lines out has been done before and its been done with great success. Seattle is not drafting a random sampling of guys they like like Tim Ruskell did- they are out to build a championship team one piece at a time, one offseason at a time. Just like Baltimore did.
I know a lot of people were disappointed when Ravens front office guy Eric DeCosta pulled out of the running late in the hiring process. Ironically enough, it appears Pete Carroll and John Schneider will bring a very similar approach to the table, with Ted Thompson’s draft sensibilities thrown in for good measure. I don’t think it will be in 2011, 2012, or even 2013, but just over the horizon is a very exciting time to be a Seahawks fan. I’m really looking forward to it.