There’s nothing more dynamic than a great quarterback throwing to a playmaking receiver. It’s not the only way to win in the NFL, but it is a way. Yet there remains some suspicion among the two positions, with fans and pundits almost demanding perfection. While upside is justification enough to draft an unrefined defensive end or offensive tackle prospect, the same cannot be said for the two positions that help electrify an offense.
Part of the reason is the importance of a good quarterback and the passing offense in general. A coach or GM will be forgiven if they misfire on a defensive end or offensive lineman because the long term damage is minimal. There’s a stigma around quarterbacks that feels more long term. The day you side with a quarterback is the day your reputation is on the line. It’s like taking a chance on the most vital position in the game is the ultimate review of your ability to identify talent. This thinking is a little bit backward because a.) the quarterback problem is the hardest to solve and b.) it’s the one position you should keep trying to improve until you land that perceived ‘franchise’ player.
Improving the environment around a quarterback is just as important. A lot of people think it’s just about the offensive line. It isn’t. A quarterback needs great receivers too. They don’t have to be Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green. They don’t even have to be production machines. They just have to be good enough to make a team honest and difficult to game plan. You have to surround a young quarterback with as much talent as possible to max out his potential.
The Seahawks face this situation now. They’ve made their bed with Russell Wilson and we’re seeing evidence of everything written above. People are associating Wilson’s success with Pete Carroll and John Schneider, when in reality all they’ve done is identify someone who ‘could’ be the guy. So far it looks like they might be right. Kudos to them. But if it doesn’t work out, they should be allowed the freedom to make another investment at the position. They’ve built up the line (two first round picks) and have signed receivers (Rice, Miller) and a dominant running back (Lynch). It’s coming together.
Yet they have to keep building around their guy if they want to avoid having to find the next guy. Wilson will never have enough weapons. He cannot be allowed to fail due to dropped passes or a lack of talent around him. Right now this is a growing offense, learning what they can and can’t do. Things are getting better, but they can’t settle. They were shrewd enough to find a quarterback who was available outside of the first round. They may need to be willing to spend higher picks to make him a ‘franchise’ quarterback, though.
Since 1976, the Seahawks have used 39 first round picks. Out of those 39, only two have been spent on wide receivers (Joey Galloway 1995, Koren Robinson 2001). They’ve only drafted two quarterbacks too (Dan McGwire 1991, Rick Mirer 1993). Think about that for a moment. Two of the most important positions in the NFL and only four first round picks in 36 years? Compare that to the ten defensive lineman they’ve drafted, nine offensive lineman or six defensive backs. In the history of the Seattle Seahawks they haven’t spent anywhere near enough on the offensive skill positions.
Carroll has created a good defense. As witnessed in Detroit, it’s maybe not at elite status yet. There’s room for another defensive tackle, or a linebacker. This is actually an incredibly strong draft for interior defensive lineman and Alec Ogeltree looks like he was made to play in Seattle’s scheme at weakside linebacker. Other players like Arthur Brown at Kansas State also make a lot of sense. But hasn’t this franchise been here before? You could take a defensive tackle, but what about the passing game? You could go linebacker and try to push the defense closer to elite status, but can the offense take advantage?
We’re going to spend a lot of time arguing the case for defensive prospects that might fit the teams scheme over the next few months, but there’s always going to be an argument which comes back to the receivers. That’s not to say the Seahawks should draft one for the sake of it, but we need to dedicate a fair amount of time looking at the options. If they do go receiver for the third time in what’ll be 37 years by April, it might not be the guy everyone expects. Just like James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin.
In fact, it’s almost certainly not going to be the guy we expect. I sense Carroll and Schneider almost enjoy being different, avoiding the consensus opinion. They took Carpenter amid a host of question marks (anyone who really watched him at Alabama understood the first round grade) and added Irvin and Wilson a year later – with hysteria reaching new levels in the media. All we can do as interested observers is to watch the games and try to understand fit. This is why I gave the Seahawks Cordarrelle Patterson in my latest mock draft. They’re focusing on the running game and trying to use big strikes in the passing game. They use play action and try to get big chunks with Wilson’s arm. They aren’t chipping away with little 4-5 yard completions. This isn’t the Pats offense.
Unless they shift scheme in the off season, it’s not unreasonable to consider they might continue to try and pump up that game plan with big, tall downfield receivers who can win jump balls. They have a slot guy they believe in (Doug Baldwin) and a receiver in Golden Tate who they’re happy moving around. Do they have that true home run hitter to go with a passing game that swings for the fences? Perhaps not. Which is why I think Patterson’s style of play could be suitable.
I also went back last night and watched the Wisconsin vs Ohio State game from last year. The Russell Wilson we’re seeing in Seattle right now is the one we saw in college. I don’t see why the Seahawks would shift their game plan so significantly because this is the type of game Wilson is comfortable with. And while he remains the starting quarterback, they need to put weapons around him that can make his life easy as possible.
On the schedule this week: Ole Miss vs Georgia, Alabama vs LSU, Oklahoma State vs Kansas State. I’d like to express my feelings on the decision of my broadcast provider to not show the Oregon vs USC game, but I want to keep this blog clean. I’ll create an open thread again tomorrow so feel free to offer your take if you’re watching a game or a prospect this weekend.