Off topic: Why I rate this front office highly

Chris Spencer and Olindo Mare, moonlighting as AP photographers

Written by Kip Earlywine

Fellow blogger compatriot Brandon Adams of Seahawks blog 17power, posting under the moniker MontanaHawk05, had a nice writeup earlier today in which he critiques the Seahawks current regime. After reading through it, I figured I’d give my own, since I see things through a bit of a different prism than Brandon does, even if I agree with most of his substance on the subject.

You might want to grab a cup of coffee, this will be a long post.  Since its going to be so long, I might as well talk about how I go into an evaluation. Knowing the reviewer is as important as knowing the review.  For example, a thumbs up from Simon Cowell always meant something different than a thumbs up from Paula Abdul, because they had different standards and criteria to go by.  I don’t believe that I can convince everyone to my point of view, but instead I only hope to reach out to like minded thinkers and become a useful source of information, or at the least, an entertaining, thought-provoking read.

Everyone thinks differently. Its biological- every brain is a little different and develops differently, so for you to understand how I rate something, I’ll try to explain my thought process first. First, the way my mind operates is a little different than most people. I had childhood seizures, which temporarily shut down parts of the right side of my body. Seizures are known to cause brain damage to specific brain nodes. This in turn can lead to altered brain development, especially when it happens to children. Perhaps because of those events, I’ve developed into a right brain dominant thinker. In extreme cases, this kind of unbalanced development can produce “idiot savants”, e.g. people like the Rain man: People who possess one incredible gift but are so lacking in everything else. I’m not an idiot savant, but I guess you could say I fall on that side of the spectrum.

Only 5% of people are right brain dominant. 95% of people are left brain dominant. Left brained people feel most natural with logical arguments and facts. They prefer compartmentalized thinking. They look at problems and break them down into smaller, more manageable pieces to solve them, kind of like that scene in Pulp Ficton where “the wolf” (Harvey Keitel) shows up to help Jules and Vincent clean up Marvin’s brains splattered all over the back of their car by breaking the overwhelming reality of the situation into smaller, easier to accomplish tasks.

By contrast, right brain dominant people (like me) struggle with compartmentalized thinking (I bombed out of engineering school, twice, because of issues solving complex multi-step processes), and strongly gravitate towards holistic thinking instead. Holistic thinking means to view something as a whole. Holistic thinkers simply look at something and just “know.” Idiot-Savants often don’t understand how they are producing their amazing results, and when asked how they calculate unfathomable math problems in their head, they simply say that the final answer just appears in their mind. This is why I hate when people bash things like the ” ‘it’ factor” because they are unwittingly bashing the usefulness of holistic thinking. Even left brained people still rely on their right brain functions a lot, and you don’t have to be the Rain Man to benefit from its powerful abilities. Sometimes the most potent observations are the ones we just know, even if we’re not exactly sure why.

Because most people are left brain dominant and therefore innately logical, grounded to facts, and compartmentalized in thinking, its common to see a review for something that breaks down the subject into parts and then gives a final score based on the sum of those scores. So for example, if you were reviewing a movie, you might give it an 8/10 for directing, a 7/10 for acting, a 5/10 for cinematography a 4/10 for music and a 10/10 for story, and therefore add those pieces up for a 34/50 overall score. But if you asked people who just walked out of the theater what they thought, they’d probably think that score was way too low because the story carried the movie. As the saying goes, some things are greater than the sum of their parts.

To me, I think its an over-reach to suggest that Seattle’s current regime deserves a 7/10 or an 8/10 based on a handful of petty flaws. I think for some people, they view a perfect score as something mythical that should be approached but never reached. Scouts are known to use an evaluation scale from 1 to 8. Because scouts are trying so hard to remain fully objective they often add up the scores of the parts when giving the evaluation. As a result, prospects that score an 8/8 are extremely rare because almost everyone is weak at something. A scout may go his whole life without giving a player an 8. Even 7s are pretty rare.

Giving this front office a lukewarm grade for stuff that really doesn’t matter is akin to giving The Shawshank Redemption 3 stars because the pacing was too slow, or downgrading The Dark Knight because it’s a comic book adaptation (name your own example). Sometimes you just know greatness when you see it. That’s not to say that I think people who grade that low are wrong, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But because of the way I think, I might agree with 99% of what someone says and still give this regime a 10/10 while they give a 7/10 or an 8/10.

I don’t see the need to be so stingy with a grading. Even the very best front offices (and I believe Seattle is easily one of them) have a few small mistakes here and there. Green Bay is considered to be one of the best, if not the best drafting teams over the last several years, but they have made plenty of iffy 1st round picks, including Jamal Reynolds and Justin Harrell, who were both epic busts. Rather than try to grade Seattle based on every move they’ve ever made, I take a much shorter route by simply looking at the direction of the team two years ago and looking at it now. Even to the untrained eye, the difference between those two trajectories is enormous.

What this regime walked into and how they performed despite it:

Pete Carroll and John Schneider inherited a 5-11 team, but that’s deceptive. The previous year’s team had lost its final four games by a combined score of 123-37. The combined record of those final four opponents was just 31-33. Only one of those four teams would make the playoffs. That stretch also included a 24-7 loss at home to a 1-11 team that prompted this heated yet appropriate headline. Football Outsiders formula for the 2009 Seahawks “estimated wins”, which is based on how well the team actually played, was only 3.7 wins. The Seahawks true talent level was a 3 or 4 win team that was sharply trending downward. That continued a trend that had been going on for years under Tim Ruskell:

Estimated Wins (football outsiders):
2005: 12.3
2006: 6.3
2007: 9.4
2008: 5.6
2009: 3.7
2010: ???

This is the situation Pete and John walked into. The Seahawks were already one of the worst teams in the NFL and the horizon was even bleaker. The roster was full of old veterans and devoid of difference making talent. The roster had very few good young players to build around. There is a reason, a damn good reason, why the Seahawks were a hot tip to “earn” the #1 pick before the 2010 and 2011 seasons. With such an incredibly crummy roster, fans braced for the worst. The first two years were a near certainty to be harrowing.  Instead, this happened:

Estimated Wins (football outsiders):
2010: 6.2
2011: 8.2

To say “not bad” would be a tremendous understatement. The shambolic 2009 team this regime inherited posted a horrific -42.4% weighted DVOA, a number that would be good enough for worst in the NFL some years. Weighted DVOA is a measurement of how well or poorly a team played relative to the rest of the league that year, measured literally play by play.  Only the 1-15 Rams and 2-14 Lions were (barely) worse that season.  In 2011, Seattle’s weighted DVOA was +8.7%. It was the 12th best such number in the league. This regime inherited a team that was among the very worst in the league and trending downward. In just two years, they not only avoided becoming the worst team in the league, they turned it into a fringe contender that is trending further upward.

So now that we know what happened, lets take a look at why:

What are this regimes strengths?

#1: A creative and thorough approach to free agency

The biggest strength of this regime is their combined effort to unearth talent in unlikely places. While the rest of the league is obsessed about signing the Mannings and Williamses of free agency and not missing on their 1st round pick, the Seahawks instead focused on attacking market inefficiencies and finding talent that could be had for almost nothing. Last year, the Seahawks had a historically strong haul in undrafted free agency that included Doug Baldwin and preseason standouts Josh Portis and Jeron Johnson. I can’t help but suspect that Seattle was aided by the fact that due to the strange nature of last offseason (lockout), undrafted free agency began at the same time as normal free agency. While most of the teams in the league were burning up the phone lines to bring in top free agents, the Seahawks were going full court press for UDFA’s like Doug Baldwin instead. Because the rest of the league’s attention was diverted, Seattle held a tremendous advantage in undrafted free agency that year.

Seattle also finds great value by breaking free agency into multiple phases. To most NFL teams, there is only one phase of meaningful free agency, and it lasts for about two or three days in March. To the Seahawks, meaningful free agency is a nearly year round endeavor. This approach is the main reason why Seattle turned the team around so quickly. Seattle added quite a few good players from the 2010 and 2011 drafts, but they added dozens of quality veterans in that span from their approach in free agency. They didn’t add very many star players from this approach, but they added multiple solid starters and enough depth to actually get better after suffering a wave of injuries in 2011.

During the main thrust of free agency, this regime is patient and shops for value instead of shopping for big names.

#2: An inclusive approach to the draft

I wrote an article about this subject a few months back, but to express the idea in a sentence or two, the Seahawks astounding success in their first two drafts (already as many pro-bowlers as Tim Ruskell drafted in five years, and should be more) is not purely luck nor an accident. The team doesn’t exclude any player, whether it be for character reasons, experience, injury, or school size. By doing so, the team works with a much larger pool of talent and with a larger pool of talent, and is able to make better picks in every round of the draft, particularly the late rounds.

It doesn’t hurt either that both Pete and John know their stuff when it comes to evaluating talent.

#3: Coach/GM/scouting cohesion

Usually a GM/Coach relationship will include a dictator and dictated to. In some cases, like Holmgren and Ruskell, both parties believe they are the dictator. Pete Carroll may wear the pants in the relationship, but he treats Schneider like an equal and trusts his evaluations and hard work. One of the insider info things I’ve heard in the past is that when the team reviews players, they sit down with everyone in attendance (including assistant coaches) and all watch multiple game tapes together, then go around the room to get opinions. Seattle acquires players based on what the coaches need to run their scheme, that’s why they made trades like dealing Tapp for Clemons and a 4th. Tapp was a better pass rusher than his stats, but Clemons fit the LEO role better and the regime smelled an opportunity.

#4: Due diligence

Does any team in the league kick as many tires as this one does? Similar to the draft, where Seattle is successful because they keep so many options open, the Seahawks’ secret to success in free agency and trade is also keeping as many options open as possible.

#5: A willingness to learn from mistakes and evolve instead of stubbornly sticking to dogma

This regime has made mistakes, almost all of them in 2010 when they thought they knew the roster they were inheriting but really didn’t (more on that later in the negatives section). If Pete Carroll was an egomaniac, Aaron Curry would still be here, and Pete Carroll would still be wasting his time trying to turn Curry into Julian Peterson. Instead, Carroll cut Curry loose as soon as it was clear things weren’t working out, and did it while Curry still had enough value to net two draft picks in return.

Carroll is a proud Monte Kiffin disciple, and you have to believe a big draw for him coming here was Seattle’s existing Tampa 2 defensive scheme complete with zone coverage. Unfortunately, Seattle’s zone coverage in 2009 was an abomination and it actually got worse in 2010. Rather than stubbornly stick with zone coverage, which he has used pretty much his entire career, Pete went with the polar opposite type of coverage the next season, press man coverage, to stunningly positive “not in your wildest dreams” results.

The team initially liked Colin Cole and used him through the 2010 season. They played Brandon Mebane at the 3 tech despite his being impotent at the position the year before. It was a mistake close observers of the team (including myself) were frustrated by. Thankfully, Carroll did not persist in his mistake. He released Cole the next offseason and moved Mebane back to 1 tech (after signing him to a nice 5 year contract). When asked by a reporter why he did this, Carroll replied by saying (paraphrasing) “We didn’t know back then, but now we do.”

When Seattle badly missed on the Whitehurst trade, they didn’t stubbornly insist that he was our figurative if not literal messiah. If anything, they did just about anything they could to keep Whitehurst from ever playing, including several games where Hasselbeck or Tarvaris Jackson played very hurt. Whitehurst’s two years are up, and this regime made no misguided attempt to redeem the move by keeping him any longer and hoping things change. Instead, they upgraded to Matt Flynn.

Every mistake this regime has made, they have taken intelligent and timely efforts to rectify those mistakes.

#6: General creativity

How else can you explain the team starting a 330 pound failed defensive tackle at strong side end and getting good results? Or turning 37 year old Lawyer Milloy into an effective player again by using him more like a linebacker? Or rewriting the epitaph on Brandon Browner’s NFL career? Or getting what was by far the best season of Raheem Brock’s life when he had already been cut by not one but two teams previously that year due to his age?

#7: Developing players through coaching and proper scheme adjustments

The last few years I’ve studied the draft in much greater detail as part of writing for Rob’s website. One of the things I’m slowly becoming convinced of is that talent evaluation is only half the battle. Drafting a “can’t miss” player is one thing, but guys like Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were 5th rounders for a reason. Pete Carroll and his assistant coaches not only trained those players well, but they intimately understood those players strengths and weaknesses and built roles in the defense which would maximize the strengths and hide the weaknesses as much as possible.

#8: Outstanding halftime adjustments

Seattle’s performance improves more after halftime than just about any other team in the NFL.

#9: Eye for coaching and front office supporting talent

Ever notice that every time the academy awards roll around, almost all of the best acting performances are in the supporting actor category? Likewise, in the NFL having a strong supporting cast is not paid much attention, but its quietly a very important aspect of almost every successful team. Pete and John have shown a strong appreciation for this and have put a lot of effort in making their supporting cast as strong as possible.

When Ted Thompson became the GM in Green Bay back in 2005, he wanted to bring Scot McLoughan with him, but the 49ers snatched him up first. When McLoughan resigned in 2010, John Schneider, whom he had connections with, brought him in as a senior personnel executive a short while later. McLoughan had a checkered past as a GM, but he was still once a prized talent evaluator for both the early Holmgren era Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers before that. This regime is always looking to get better, and because of that, they added an ace personnel guy that even Schneider’s mentor couldn’t get five years prior.

Likewise, Pete Carroll has put plenty of effort into his supporting coaching staff. Alex Gibbs was a superstar get, and Jeremy Bates was a young creative offensive coordinator with future head coach potential. Both didn’t last long for reasons that are still unclear (although there are some rumors out there), but regardless, both were excellent hires. The team retained Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn from the previous regime, acknowledging that while the regime that proceeded them was a royal mess, there was some talent worth salvaging on its coaching staff (Quinn has since taken a job promotion to be the defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators). He brought in former all-pro LB Ken Norton Jr. to be his linebacker coach at USC, where he helped coach up multiple future pro-bowl linebackers before leaving USC to follow Carroll to Seattle. And when Tom Cable was fired and down on his luck, Pete made a hard sell to get him here, remembering what it was that made Tom Cable a headcoach in the first place- his outstanding ability to coach the offensive line.

Overall, this front office has worked its ass off and left no stone unturned, emphasizing performance in many areas that are afterthoughts to most other teams.

#10: Creating an awesome, championship level environment

Our free agents want to stay here. Other team’s free agents want to come here. Even the free agents who don’t come here talk about the “energy” in the building when they visited and how it impressed them.

What are this regimes weaknesses?

None, really. This front office has made a few small mistakes here and there, but there are no glaring weaknesses or repeated failures. But for the sake of being as fair as possible, I’ll mention some mistakes they’ve made.

#1: The mistakes cited above that were later rectified. Colin Cole, Whitehurst trade, etc.

#2: The Wilson and Sims trades. Josh Wilson was arguably the Seahawks best player in 2009 and was trending upward. Rob Sims was in the discussion too, having improved every season and had become unquestionably the best player on Seattle’s offensive line. Both were still young. Seattle traded Sims and a 7th for Robert Henderson and a 2010 5th. They traded Wilson for a 2011 5th. No matter what anyone tells me, there is no way I’ll ever believe Seattle got even respectable value in those trades. Wilson was a 2nd round pick and Sims was a 4th round pick, and both played above their draft expectations. I wouldn’t have traded either one at all, much less for that kind of return.

But here’s the funny thing. That 5th round pick we got for Sims? That pick turned into pro-bowl safety Kam Chancellor. The 5th round pick we got for Josh Wilson? That pick turned into should-have-been-a-pro-bowler Richard Sherman. Lets not forget either that Seattle got Clemons in the Tapp trade. Those were the three moves this regime made that infuriated me the most, and all three of them somehow made the team much more talented as a result.

#3: Drafting James Carpenter over Mark Ingram in 2011. According to our source, Darrell Bevell, bless his heart, pounded the table for Mark Ingram in war room meetings before the 2011 draft, but Seattle opted to draft Carpenter with the #25 pick instead. Ingram has had a slow start with the Saints, but he’s (IMO) one of the five best running backs in terms of game tape to come out of the draft in the last decade. Seattle did need a running back too, and in fact, is going to draft one fairly high in the upcoming draft anyway. They could have addressed running back last year instead when terrific value was staring them in the face, and they’d be none the worse for it, as Carpenter didn’t make a positive contribution last year. Even still, this serves as a very weak critique as its still way too early to judge either player. Still, Ingram’s situation falling in the draft was highly reminiscent of Steven Jackson falling into the late 1st round many years ago. The Rams jumped on their chance. This regime didn’t, and when its all said and done, they might regret it.

#4: In-game coaching gaffes by Carroll. Some of them are overblown, like Carroll’s decision to go for it on 4th down near halftime in the Bengals game. There was also that decision to attempt a 61 field goal with enough time remaining to attempt 1 more quick play for yardage. Carroll makes a sub-optimal decision maybe 3 or 4 times in a season, which may or may not have actually cost the team anything. Its overblown. That said, its easy for casual observers to latch onto and make a really big deal out of.

And that’s pretty much it for criticisms. I don’t think this front office is fair game for how their QB situation has turned out. All things considered, I think the way Seattle has handled quarterback is a strength not a weakness. Both in 2012 and 2010, there was exactly one quarterback worth drafting who could be traded for and in both cases the Seahawks would have to swing a trade with the one team who hates them more than anything in the world to make it happen. In other words, it was an impossibility. The closest I can come to criticizing their strategy at QB was their “failure” to not somehow trade up from #25 to #1 for Cam Newton, but that’s ridiculous.

Seattle hasn’t used these excuses to do nothing at quarterback. They signed Tarvaris Jackson cheap and got better than expected performance from him. They brought in Josh Portis and are excited about his potential (as am I). Now they’ve signed Matt Flynn. Seattle might not have a great starter, but I’d take their #2 and #3 quarterbacks over any in the league.

In conclusion

Seattle has a brilliant front office and coaching staff that has already accomplished much more than was expected and has a very bright future ahead of them. Seattle isn’t just one of the NFL’s more talented teams entering the 2012 season- they are the 2nd youngest team too. The degree to which Pete Carroll and John Schneider will go to find talent has in many ways been completely revolutionary. Not only did they exceed my expectations, but they fundamentally changed the way I look at front offices in general. A few years from now, when the Seahawks are unquestionably one of the elite franchises in the league, other teams will be copying Seattle’s blueprint and copying John Schneider’s tricks. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but I think Seattle might just have the very best combination of coaching, scouting, and general managing in the league right now. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give them a 10 without a second thought. Not because they are literally perfect, but because you couldn’t realistically ask for much more.


  1. Hawkspur

    Fantastic write up again, Kip.

    I agree 100% On Montana’s poll that you say inspired this poll I voted to grade PC/JS as a 9-10. The Seahawks are now an exciting team to follow. I still have my fingers firmly crossed that the boys will be able to work their magic to find us a QB to be excited about if Flynn doesn’t meet the lofty expectations that so many fans have of him. And if Flynn does indeed work out then they have shown great judgment in their delayed and financially prudent pursuit of him.

    Exciting times.

  2. kevin mullen

    Great write up Kip, I can’t say I don’t agree with most of your points. But I would only reserve the perfect score argument only for this: both years so far have produced 7-9 teams. And you are what your record is.

    The first year, that team over-achieved. Brought us some memorable moments and gave some excitement throughout the year. The second year team, in my opinion, was a bit of a disappointment only for the fact that the accomplishments of the year prior. Yes, that 2nd year squad kept games close and losses weren’t blow-outs (which were progression in itself) but there were some very winnable games, ie Browns, Redskins, & Cards, that I would expect Carroll’s sophomore season should have won.

    It basically comes down to this: what are the expectations for this year? Playoffs? 8-8? With San Fran finally realizing their talent level and performing like a squad with a bunch of 1st round talent, it’ll be tough to displace them this year. And the NFCWest is not gonna produce a wild-card team. Its division crown or bust.

    This year is an important year for JS/PC. Hope can only take you so far…

  3. Marcus

    Excelent article. 10/10 analysis.

  4. Christon

    Great Read. Great Analyses. I really like how this front office works. Hey, yesterday Trent Dilfer even pick Seattle as his surprise team for 2012.

  5. Bryan

    Kevin – Maybe I have had too much kool aid, but personally, I think the Seahawks make a huge jump this year and win the NFC West with at least a 10-6 record and win at least one playoff game. I think the 49ers take 2nd in the division and win a wild card berth.

    My reasons for this is the strength of:
    a. the secondary
    b. the run game
    c. QB change to Flynn

    I wouldn’t anoint Flynn as the QBoTF, but I do think he is capable of winning games in the 4th quarter as well as possessing the accuracy to throw WR open. These two factors alone show he is an upgrade over TJax. I am excited for this season to start and especially for the draft. Our future Superbowl run starts in the draft with the excellent ability shown by the front office in getting talent out of the draft.

  6. Colin

    I second Kevin. What is the expectation this year? Certainly not 7-9. I think they’ve got the goods to win 10 games, although it’s been noted several times they had 11 for the taking in 2011.

  7. Michael Kelly

    Great write up. Did not need any coffee at all. I agree with most of the points made and think that Pete Carroll will be as successful here as he was at USC (most do not remember how insane everybody thought it was that USC hired him..) With John Schnieder, we have a young GM who should be here for a long time. Very exciting times to be a Seahawk fan.

  8. SHawn

    I see 11-12 wins this year. Given we draft like I hope. But definitely 9+ wins regardless.

  9. Jazz

    Ha. The pic of Mora is classic. Thanks for this Kip. We have very similar ways of looking at the Hawks.. actually maybe identical perceptions of the team as it is at this moment.

  10. Pacificsands

    Great write-up. I agree with all of it, except for just one thing.


    You can’t write off this front office’s starting quarterback failures. Who is the starting quarterback matters more than the other 21 starters combined, and we don’t have one yet (that we know of). After two years, that’s unacceptable. Hopefully Flynn is the answer, but we won’t know until we know.

  11. adam

    good article…7-9 was a disappointment last year…especially losing the last game of the year to the cards. They go 7-9 this year and Carroll’s ass is out the front door. Sometimes i wonder about coaches who become so overworked with gm like duties that they by the time they get to game day, they lack the “it” factor…that is they cannot access the right hemisphere of their brain. So instead of emotion and motivation…the practice week and game plan ends on the dry cereal of x’s and o’s.

  12. Rugby Lock

    Great write-up Kip! I agree with your points and evaluation. It is very impressive to see how quickly PC & JS have turned this team around. They inherited a complete crap team and now they have the potential to be a powerhouse! If Flynn can perform well, not great just don’t beat us sometimes like Tjax did or just manage a come form behind victory, this year then double digit wins is not unrealistic. SF is still the class of the division and will most likely win it but we will be right on their heels I think.

  13. AlaskaHawk

    Seems like SF started their rebuild at the same time we did and have gotten a solid playoff team sooner. The big difference being what??? Maybe it is Alex Smith and Vernon Davis. An average QB, an exceptional receiver, and a great defense.

    We will have the great defense. Hopefully FLynn will be even better than Alex Smith. So that leaves the rest of the offense to straighten out.

    As far as coaching decisions, I thought PC did a good job. I would question his staying with Washington on kick returns in the last half of the season. I also think he should have played Portis and given him a chance after Whitehurst stunk up the Cleveland game. Other than that – I support his long field goal attempt.

  14. AlaskaHawk

    I also question his policy of picking linemen in the first. I think that should be reserved for game changers. We all hear that it is a passing league, but what does that mean? Perhaps that we should place our greatest value in safety or cornerback with interception skills, QB, running back, and receivers. PC has shown skills in finding people in the later rounds. But how many Baldwins do you really expect to get – compared to a Blackmon or FLoyd in the first round?

    Linemen are very important, but how many first round picks do they really deserve? The top linemen this year are OT, and we aren’t even considering picking one of them. So we will start the season with an offensive line composed mainly of backups, and they played okay at the end of last season. No first rounder among them unless Okung and Carpenter get off the injury list.

    We start the season with a solid but unspectacular defensive line, and they played okay last year. No first rounder among them either.

    Unless we are picking a truly elite linemen – I would rather have the game changer. So among our last three first round picks – what name stands out? Earl Thomas our safety.

  15. AgentJ


    There are two quarterbacks in the entire league that you could honestly say are more important than their 21 teammates. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. You’re really going to fault the front office for not being able to snag one of the two players that would be an upgrade for any NFL team that doesn’t already have them? It’s one thing to find a QB you like, and quite another to win a bidding war when as many as 30 other teams are bidding.

  16. John

    Pacificsands- I have to disagree on you real quick on the QB thing. It took Bill Cowher a long time to find Big Ben, the Saint took a huge risk on Brees who had something like a 25% chance of playing again. The Pats got SOOOOO lucky to get Brady, and we haven’t drafted at #1 to get a Peyton Manning. And GB getting Rodgers wasn’t them trading the farm to get him, but letting him fall and picking him where they wanted.

    It’s easy to get impatient about the QB, and we’re a 10-11 win team last season with better QB play, but going all in on a guy you don’t believe in just because you haven’t filled that need is a bad move, and one I wouldn’t support.

    We get kinda side tracked by Cam’s and Dalton’s success last year, but Ponder and Gabbert showed extremely poor play. In other words, there were as many poor 1st rd. rookie performances as there were good ones. And lets not forget, Cinny rode its D to the playoffs.

    If Seattle creates a great team, then when we bring in that rookie QB, he won’t be ruined by insurmountable pressure but have a high probability to succeed. This isn’t only about finding our guy, but making it so our guy can succeed.

  17. Hawksince77

    Very nicely done. Thanks.

    Just two comments. One, on Josh Wilson, while I agree with his talent level, he was never going to fit the prototype for the position, no matter how fast or talented. Right or wrong, PC wasn’t going to play him in the secondary. Thus, the trade.

    Just one major aspect of PC that you didn’t call out: his ‘always compete’ mantra seems to be real (and the TJax thing last year was due strictly to circumstances, and who he would have been competing with). I think this makes a huge difference, in that every player knows that if they work hard and excel, they will play. It doesn’t matter where they were drafted (not not drafted at all) or how much they are getting paid, if they play well, they get to play (and ultimately, get paid).

    We’ve seen that many times, players going both directions. UDFA’s starting; former pro-bowlers cut. Guys that don’t fit the prototype, or don’t have the right attitude, traded or cut.

    As a player, that’s all you can ask for, I would think, and I would think that makes the team better on the field, and it makes it better in the locker room.

  18. AgentJ


    San Francisco had all sorts of talent already when Carroll took the job here. Players like Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Issac Sopoaga, Frank Gore, and to a lesser extent Alex Smith, Dashawn Goldson, Adam Snyder, Joe Staley, Ray McDonald, Ahmad Brooks were already installed and familiar with their system and with eachother. What players from 2009’s Seahawks roster would you put on the same level?

    Harbaugh has also brought on some terrific role players through free agency and the draft like the Hawks (Justin Smith, Ted Ginn, Carlos Rogers, Aldon Smith, Donte Whitner) but they had so much talent already that they only needed to add a few pieces and a competent coach to become competitive. Seattle didn’t have those set pieces, so they’ve had to add them on the fly.

  19. Joe The Jarhead

    Okay just as a cold dose of reality, if we are going to keep saying that we were a handful of plays away from winning 11 games, we have to admit that we were a handful of plays away from losing some games too. That first Cardinals game, the Giants game, and the Baltimore game were all games we could’ve easily lost. And then we’d be 4-12. So instead of saying we are more like an 11 win team, maybe we just admit that we are truly an 8 win team at this point. I’m happy to see more people bot honking for flynn and being realistic, that he may very well flop. I don’t see this as a 10 win team even with a strong draft. Not yet. We’re still weak at QB and the 49er’s improved this offseason. I feel next year will be our year after we finally get our QB and we have a solid team all around. Flynn is not going to be better than Alex Smith, that’s too lofty an expectation. I feel that aside from getting flynn and drafting Carpenter this FO is spot on. We’ll get there but we’re not there ywt

  20. Joe The Jarhead

    *NOT honking, that is

  21. peter

    I’m not sure it would be all that hard to be at the same level as Alex Smith….honestly….

  22. splintrdmind

    @AlaskaHawk I’d argue San Fran has been “rebuilding” for awhile now. The team hasn’t posted a winning record since 2004, and has had a number of top 10 picks in the last 8 years. That makes it much easier to build the kind of team they want. If anything, they underachieved until Harbaugh showed up.

    I would also say that the Okung pick was a necessary one. His injury last season was a bit of a freak occurrence given that it came from another player judo-throwing him after the play had stopped. I don’t know if the injury-prone tag that he’s been hit with should necessarily apply.

    I think that overall, the team’s drafts and talent evaluation have gone remarkably well. There’s definitely a different feel to the team than in Holmgren’s last year/Mora’s one year.

  23. Stuart

    Sensational write up Kip!!!

  24. fsnhawk

    Great article Kip

    Your example with average rating of a movie, and the opinion of people walking out of the cinema, is just a case of weighted average. The story of a movie just means more than the music, and therefore has a greater weight to the total average.
    So I agree with you on people only giving 10/10 for 100% doesn’t make much sense when rating. If little stuff means a rather large downgrade, you should have a larger scale.

  25. Kip Earlywine



  26. Dave

    Great read. On the point about correcting their mistakes EJ Wilson and Mark Legree are worth mentioning. It takes guts to admit you’re wrong and cut your losses as soon as you’ve made a bad decision. You don’t see many FO’s cutting mid-round picks so early

  27. Tom T.

    Kip, I like seeing the right brain at work with that artistic thumbs-up. Great article, buddy!

  28. Madmark

    The new front office attitude; you want win superbowl as a team come join us. If you want the limelight go to New York or Miami HeHe. Want proof of what i ‘m talking about, I just paid T.J. houz 6 million dollars and traded him to baltimore not even sure if he’s still playing. It s not just players, Getting Tom Cable was a godsend, how he got that offensive line to do what they did last year is nothing short of a miracle. The year before he’d taken Al Davis’s Oakland Raiders to 8-8 and was fired. That was a nice snatch. No rock left unturned, no tire not kicked.

  29. Stuart

    Dave, regarding Mark Legree, he was drafted and cut last year in what the 5th round? Something I did not no about until yesterday is that Mark Legree was signed by the 49’ers and was on their roster all of last season. When you look back at last years draft, this only adds to how productive that draft really was. It makes me all the more excited about the upcoming draft. This FO can really find talent!

    Since we know that our FO covets draft choices, and we know that we dont have a 5th round this years, and we know that this FO seems to uncover gold in the 5th round, what round do you think they will trade down in to get extra picks?

    It would be big sacrafice but we could potentialy turn our #1.12 into a later 1st rounder, 3rd rounder and 5th rounder. Maybe more than that? It’s pure speculation on my part but I think JS could consider that type of possibility. Cleveland has 13 picks and Cincy has 9 picks. With that knowledge, Cleveland could be a target for a potential deal.

    These are ideed incredibly exciting times to be a long time Seahawk fan! With the 2nd youngest roster in the league, the unshakeable faith we hold today for PC/JS, it may never have been a more exciting to be a 12th man than today.

  30. Madmark

    Dear Rob,
    I putting together my next draft mock. I need more input on the FA signing and have a few questions.
    Jason Johnson came to Seattle and after next year will be looking for Red Bryant contract. Where do you see him playing?
    Krump Lumpking stats says he can catch the ball but can he run the ball when lynch is getting his breath?
    Deuse Lutui i heard showed up in excellent shape. Can he fill the starting left guard spot?
    Barret Ruud If he’s stays healthy do you think he could push for a starting position?
    I’d take any comments about these players from anyone. Some i watched like lutui but a different view sometimes help. Thanks

  31. Rob

    Jason Jones will play some three technique for certain downs, some outside rush. He’ll be a bit of a specialist. The Seahawks will be looking for another RB in the draft. The left guard position will be an open competition with several players in for the ride. Ruud could compete for a starting role but again, expect competition there.

  32. Nate Dogg

    This is a good piece, and I only have minor qualms with some of your points (No weaknesses? That’s a bit silly). After being a major doubter of Carroll and Schneider I’m as excited for Seattle’s future as anyone. I would still urge a bit of caution however. The sample size, while very promising, is still small and we don’t have to go far to find examples of front offices that start with a bang only to fizzle out later.

    Mike Holmgren came to Seattle with huge fanfare, only to be given an ultimatum to give up his GM position or be fired outright. No one likes to admit it, but Ruskell was widely popular after turning a good but flawed team into a super bowl contender in his first year. Jack Zduriencik turned garbage into gold his first season in Seattle and earned a “In Z we trust” banner hanging over the right field wall. I don’t know if hopes had ever been higher for a Mariners team than after he pulled off the trade for Cliff Lee. Now his job is in the balance and there is a very real chance he does not return next season if the club under performs again.

    It’s hard to see right now, but there are a lot of ways for this to go wrong. It definitely seems like a long shot at this point, but stranger things have happened. Their inability so far to find a legitimate option at QB could easily be their downfall. Their defensive experiment could also prove to be inherently flawed. Add in any combination of injuries and regression and who knows where this team might be in a year or two.

  33. Madmark

    I like the fact that the front office goes to great lengths to fill the needs of the team. When they brought in White to run , i thought alright that bruising running back we need. Atlast was not to be and in less than a week he was gone. Next trade for Marshyn Lynch, SCORE. The atmosphere in seattle is working , other than Hawthorne and Bigsby the entire defense resigned . If they was buying into the program they wouldnt be staying!

  34. Bug Juice

    Fantastic article, Kip. One of the players you failed to mention was Ricardo Lockette who was also an UDFA. Just as the coaches are excited about Portis, they have raved about what Lockette has done in practice. After seeing a glimpse of him in the final game at Arizona I am geeked up to see what this guy will become in the next few years. These guys have an unbelieveable ability to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Part of the excitement about this team is the unknown…what do the coaches know that we can only speculate about. While I was not crazy about the hire of Pete when it first went down (and still feel that Mora got a bit of a raw deal) it is apparent to me that it was the right move. Pete then followed that up by hiring John which put me into a snooze; again, in hindsight, the right decision. Two years later, I really am excited for this team. It’s a great time to be a ‘Hawk.

  35. Madmark

    Funny Bug juice, I logged on and saw picture of Jim Mora and i thought we was lost when he took over and using expensive banaids to fill holes was not the answer. 1 year latter we was on an express elevator going down.

  36. Madmark

    Funny Bug juice, I logged on and saw picture of Jim Mora and i thought we was lost when he took over and using expensive banaids to fill holes was not the answer. 1 year latter we was on an express elevator going down.

  37. Mike

    Excellent write up Kip. I couldn’t agree with your evaluation more. What a turnaround from the feeling three years ago. We’ve gone from despair to feeling there is every hope of winning the division this year.

    In terms of acquiring talent, Carroll has the vision, particularly with defense, and Schnieder has got to to be the hardest working GM in the league. I am confident that if there is a player of worth who can fit into the blueprint of Carroll’s vision, they are penciled in on John’s flow chart. I like the fact that they don’t panic and take a highly rated (by others) QB just for the sake of doing it. Having been a fan of the Hawks since ’76, I really feel this is the best front office in the team’s history. Yes, better even than the Mike McCormack era.

    @ AlaskaHawk – Carroll was handed the keys to a beat up ’54 Chevy coupe and Harbaugh the keys to a mismanaged Ferrari needing some adjustments. The former is a rebuild, the latter is not.

    Nice thumb Kip.

  38. Ben2

    If we’re 7-9 again this year Caroll won’t be gone (whoever said that is wrong). I agree that one of the biggest strengths of this FO is cutting its losses sooner rather than later. The trajectory,vibe and talent level of this team is all on the rise. We need an above average QB out of next years draft. Period.

  39. AlaskaHawk

    Oh I agree that the team used to be like a beat up Chevy. I love the way our defense is shaping up. I’m just hoping that we will have the receivers and offensive line to support Flynn. Lockette may be our next great WR – here is hoping so since we don’t intend to draft one during the first 3 rounds.

  40. brazilianhawk

    I wouldn’t mind if we drafted another receiver, but I don’t think we need one.

    Rice is pretty good, although not at all a sure bet to play the whole year.

    Tate is ready to be our new WR#2. It’s year 3, a breakout year for wide receivers and he showed lots of promise last year.

    Baldwin is great at the slot.

    Lockette and Durhan are nice depht with potential to start.

    And BMW, Obo and Butler are old faces who could still have a place in the team.

    That’s a solid group of receivers, IMO. Way better than the days of Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne.

  41. Brian

    GREAT article. Like you, I don’t agree with every single move this FO has made, but they have made several I would never have foreseen that have worked out. Love PC’s focus on competition. Many don’t understand how real it is, and that last year (with lockout) was unique in giving TJack a headstart. Look forward to a real battle between TJack and Flynn this summer.

  42. Kip Earlywine


    I wrote “no weaknesses” because I honestly couldn’t think of anything other than a few small mistakes. A mistake and a weakness are different things. A mistake is isolated and happens to even the best. A weakness is a sustained flaw. If you have some ideas for sustained flaws that are holding the regime back, please, share your thoughts. I’m convincible on this point.

    And while I agree with the spirit of the “lets wait and see argument”, both Ruskell and Jack Z had experienced major failures by their second seasons. 2010 was a disaster season for Jack Z. Tim Ruskell had the Hutch Fiasco at the start of year two which pretty much marked the beginning of the end for Holmgren’s Superbowl chances.

    By contrast, this front office had a flawed but overall good first year, and a fantastic second year in which they basically remedied most if not all the flaws they had in year one.

    Also, I’ve only been a Seahawks fan 21 years, but I can not recall two back to back drafts as good as these two in franchise history, and there is still further potential for those drafts to look even better depending on what guys like Malcolm Smith or Dexter Davis end up doing.

    So far, this regime is off to a much better start than either Jack Z or Tim Ruskell, and that’s just from a surface level observation. When you dig deep at all the little things this regime is doing, its pretty amazing.

    The last time the Seahawks were as bad a team as they were in 2009, it took them almost a decade to recover. The Seahawks appear to be climbing out of that massive hole in only two years, and not by dumb luck or accident, but by following a brilliant roster strategy and working very hard at it.

  43. A. Simmons

    Only nitpick is that Pete Carroll wasn’t mainly a zone guy. Zone defense wasn’t near as popular during his first run in the NFL. Pete is more accustomed to man to man coverage at the NFL level, which is why he switched. I read up on some of Pete’s defensive norms and man to man coverage with his corners was one of things he mentioned as a priority change because that is how he felt corner should be played. If the CBs can’t match up in man to man, Pete didn’t feel his defense would be as effective if his corners couldn’t play man to man. I almost got the feel when reading what Pete had to say that zone coverage was used to disguise weak corners. You only used zone when your corners weren’t good enough to play man to disguise an overall secondary weakness. Pete’s specialty as far as positions go is safety and secondary play.

    Otherwise, good write up. I mostly agree, though the end grade for our FO/HC will always be decided by results meaning wins, losses, and championships.

    I also wouldn’t have minded it incuded that his “competition” mantra is all about roster building. People chuckle about Pete’s love of the word competition, but it has a meaning to Pete and this team. And that meaning is “I want to build the best roster in the NFL, so I’m going to push the talent as hard as possible year in and year out until I have a better roster than any other team”. Pete is competing to have a better roster than his competitors. He did the same thing at USC. Though the draft is a slower process, Pete is pushing for the same result: the best team in the NFL.

    Pete is well aware that the most important elements a head coach brings to the table is his ability to evalute and develop talent a.k.a. roster building. If it works out as planned, Seattle should have one of the best teams in the NFL within a few years. Big thing holding Pete back right now is the QB position. I believe John and Pete will push this position until they find a highly productive guy to take this team to championship contention.

  44. D

    Great article Kip, just great.

    I got me thinking, not easily done, so kudos to you. As a fan of the Hawks I can see what values the FO have, what football they want to play and what they look for in a player. It is communicated to me clearer than any FO has done so far. If this also applies to the players then the FO will get better performance from the team.

    PCJS has me “jacked up” all the way over here on the other side of the atlantic. I can only imagine how it must be in the locker room.

  45. AlaskaHawk

    Kip, I would take exception to the last two drafts being great. They were great in the later rounds, PC has a real eye for talent. The first two rounds have produced one great player Earl Thomas, two injury prone players who may never make a full season, and one receiver who maybe will be a good player. That’s not a real great ratio for what should be instant starters with the highest chance of success.

    As you pointed out, we passed on what could have been a solid second running back to take another linemen. That linemen never came close to filling his position and by mid season it was known that he would be moved to an easier spot. Surely the scouting would have shown that.

    Anyway – back to a positive – PC is really good at spotting later round talent and developing them. He is also willing to cut people who don’t contribute and add new players.

  46. NickW

    AlaskaHawk, you can’t label Okung as injury prone because of his freak injury last season where he was thrown to the ground AFTER the play was over. You could say he has weak ankles and needs to work on strengthening them (which I could agree with), but to say he is injury prone is a bit of an exaggeration.

    As far as the front office I would grade them at a B+ to A- (basically 9/10). I agree that they have done a fantastic job, but I do think the few mistakes they’ve made should ding them a little bit, but nothing major. I honestly believe PC and JS are building an excellent dynasty that is going to last and continue playing hard. People already know they are in for a fight when they play the Hawks.

    Anyone who complains about the QB position and says that this FO has done nothing or only made bad choices there, who do you suggest this FO magically conjure up to play this position? Hasselbeck, while beloved by many here would have won games that TJ didn’t, but then he would probably have only lasted a couple games because of how porous the line was at the beginning of the season and how easy he seemed to be injured. For all we know he would have tripped on a blade of grass and broke his leg. I will always have fond memories of Matt, but people need to let go. PC and JS have been trying to solve the QB problem. They have acquired new QB’s every year that they have been here on short term contracts. They know these QB’s may not be the greatest, but they are trying to make lemonade with lemons like they have at other positions. They are going to hit on one of these questionable QB’s one of these times. When they do they will lock him up.

  47. JROCK419


    This is genius. Now I know I’m not taking crazy pills. Spot on, man.

  48. AlaskaHawk

    Thanks for the writeup Kip.

    I think PC has done well with his QB search. He has been upfront about TJ’s role as a fillin QB. He is taking a flier on Flynn, and he has as good a chance of making it as anyone else. He has Portis in his back pocket for a rainy day. And he said he will be looking in 2013. Lets hope either Flynn turns out to be great or PC drafts a great one next year.

    PC has managed the situation as good as he could. The only miscue was giving up a draft pick for Whitehurst.

  49. Soggyblogger

    Well done. Very left brained write up. I agree almost 100%. I need more convincing regarding the game day coaching. I am not saying this is a flaw, but only that I still have doubts.

    QB is the only big question and that might be taken care of with either Flynn or Portis. I wish I knew how highly this FO feels about Portis. Will they take Tannehill at 1.12 if available, and would that tell us they don’t have much hope for Portis as a possible franchise QB?

    If I had to nitpick and find a flaw in this FO I would say injuries. No one can predict injuries, but keeping in mind injury prone issues and avoiding them is important. This team has had more than its share of injuries, and we need to work on that.

  50. Kip Earlywine

    @A. Simmons,

    Thanks for the insightful tidbit on Carroll and coverage preferences.

  51. Nate Dogg

    “Also, I’ve only been a Seahawks fan 21 years, but I can not recall two back to back drafts as good as these two in franchise history, and there is still further potential for those drafts to look even better depending on what guys like Malcolm Smith or Dexter Davis end up doing. ”

    There’s also the chance for them to end up looking much worse. One or two years is way too short a time to judge a class.

  52. Smeghead

    Really, really enjoyed this Kip. Great points all around! Thanks for your hard work.

  53. AlaskaHawk

    Nate – Agree that 1-2 years is too short, as I judge the first two rounds as being average to below average with only one healthy starter that is elite, and one healthy starter that is okay, and two that have been injured each year they have played.

    My grade would be C- for early rounds, with my giving the benefit of doubt to PC because he can’t predict injuries. I would give PC an A for picks in later rounds. This is somewhat inflated by the fact that we needed warm bodies to fill holes in our team.

    If Okung and Carpenter (and Moffit) can stay healthy and play on the team. If Tate can show up in our passing game, then I will give PC a big A+ for overall drafting.

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