The British columnist Rod Liddle once coined the phrase ‘we’ve reached peak w**k’.
While reflecting on the Seahawks’ current situation, the term felt somewhat appropriate.
This really is the nadir when it comes to the Pete Carroll Seahawks.
They’ve played nine games, meaning there are eight more to be endured in this truly horrible season.
You’ve also got to wait at least eight weeks to find out what on earth will happen with this franchise moving forward.
I suspect many will want to fast forward to January and get on with it.
With so much football to play, the message will remain very much a rallying call. A ‘we’re not giving up’ type of address.
The more frank, deeper, reflective comments won’t come for a while.
It also means fans have an enormous amount of time to stew on the future.
Is this Carroll’s final year? What’s going to happen with Russell Wilson? Is it time for John Schneider to move on?
These questions could easily create anxiety for a fan base suddenly staring at a crossroads. The direction to be taken will be determined by a mostly unknown and anonymous ownership group who’ve barely uttered a sentence in public since the passing of Paul Allen.
In the meantime, Allen’s other great sporting venture — the Portland Trailblazers — appear to be stuck in an eerily similar malaise with an equally uncertain future for their star player.
Is it a coincidence? Probably not. The Seahawks benefitted from a world class owner and reached three Super Bowls through his leadership. By all accounts the new ownership structure appears to be a holding pattern. I can’t recall the last time such an arrangement bred success.
Whatever happens though, the best decisions are not made in haste. And this is why ‘peak w**k’ may not yet have been reached. The term could re-emerge in the New Year.
The decision to fire Jim Mora and appoint Carroll felt calculated and planned. It wasn’t something that just happened.
I suspect Allen made a decision on Mora weeks before anyone found out officially. Carroll was likely sounded out long before he walked into the auditorium, jokingly pretended to put on the strategically placed Seahawks helmet and breathed life and hope into every fan watching his opening press conference.
A decision on the next coach should take time. If necessary, a top candidate should be sounded out through the back-channels. An attractive, mind-blowing offer needs to be made — just as it was to Carroll and Mike Holmgren previously.
The Seahawks benefitted from ambitious thinking under Allen’s leadership. That, if nothing else, should firmly be retained.
If Carroll is considering retirement — as I suspect he most certainly is — then I hope he’s given ownership the heads up. They need to know what he’s thinking.
We’ll never know what their thought process is, of course, if they’re equally thinking a change is needed.
If a new GM is required, this is also something that needs to be managed very carefully. The modern NFL requires a close working relationship between coach and GM otherwise they just end up at odds with each other constantly.
If Schneider is to remain, he probably needs to pick Carroll’s replacement. Whether he deserves that much power is a major question mark given the way he’s handled the draft and recruitment since the re-set.
It should also be noted that any prospective coach and GM is going to know what he’s walking into. Will top candidates want to tackle another Wilson trade saga? Will they want to trade him and rebuild? Will that be attractive to a GM or a reason to run away, arms flailing in the wind?
Listening to the right people for decisions like this is always important. If they are set to make changes, I’d hope they consult with Todd Leiweke — even if it’s just to get his recommendation on alternative advisors. I’d also arrange a meeting with former Baltimore GM (and current Executive VP) Ozzie Newsome to pick his brains.
If the decision is made to stick by a coach who earlier today stated his desire to beat the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers at Lambeau Field by a score of ‘about 9-3’ (only to lose 17-0) and a GM who set about Seattle’s re-set by drafting Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier before trading the house for Jamal Adams — they also need to be fully aware of what that means.
It means life without Russell Wilson.
I can already see some people have decided they’re OK with that. Forget that Aaron Rodgers similarly had a pretty ‘meh’ performance yesterday — the toil in the Tundra was enough for some to take the shackles off and say, with confidence, that they want to move on.
Unlike many of those fans who increasingly seem to fill my Twitter timeline — I have studied the 2022 quarterback class in depth.
It’s worse than I originally thought — and I thought it was pretty bad to begin with.
I’m going to provide some notes on each ‘top’ quarterback prospect in a moment. Let me be clear though — I suspect trading Wilson will only lead to the signing of a stop-gap quarterback, in the mould of Tarvaris Jackson in 2011.
Names that spring to mind are Mitchell Trubisky and Teddy Bridgewater.
I think this is probably likely to be what would happen and it would be a catastrophe. Collecting a bunch of picks, moving on from Wilson and starting afresh might appeal to some. Let’s see how they feel when Trubisky is running the offense. Or when those draft picks turn into players who actually have to be good.
They could try and trade for a veteran. Dealing for Aaron Rodgers to play Carroll-ball just seems highly unlikely. Why would he or Deshaun Watson want to come and play in the system Wilson is so eager to detach himself from?
Watson has a no-trade clause like Wilson. I’m not sure about Rodgers. All three individuals, though, have a big say in their next destination.
If Wilson goes — he’ll likely be replaced by a competition between a draft pick and a veteran desperate for a job.
I’m now going to offer brief thoughts on the 2022 quarterback class in what I hope will be a stark ‘careful what you wish for’ warning. I’ll also say, there isn’t a name or names to pine for in 2023. This is a difficult stretch at the quarterback position in college football. I can’t think of a worse time to trade a legit starting quarterback.
Kenny Pickett (QB, Pittsburgh)
He’s the best of the group but it’s dabbing with faint praise. Pickett is a plus athlete with greater agility and explosive lower body power than most realise. His SPARQ testing was impressive. He’s well sized at 6-3 and 220lbs and in the midst of a breakout season, having opted to return for a fifth year due to the Covid rules in college football. He’s extremely busy in the pocket. Too often when he feels outside pressure he does well initially to step up. However, he just keeps going — too often stepping into the focus of a linebacker and creating unnecessary pressure. He needs to be able to step up and then settle down, allowing plays to develop and taking what’s on offer. He’s also hesitant to throw — refusing to throw basic completions and take what the defense gives. I’ve seen him reject plays that are on (simple plays) and you end up screaming ‘just get rid of it’. He’s the opposite of Mac Jones in that regard and it concerns me what he’ll be like at the next level with a faster game and tighter windows. This is especially concerning because he’s in year five at Pitt. The game has clearly slowed down for him enough to elevate his performance this year significantly. But if there’s a seven yard reception open on a check down and you’re stood in the pocket, just get rid. If your receiver finds a window on a crosser and it’s open as a primary target, don’t hold the football because it’s not wide open. I’ve not seen a lot of evidence of amazing anticipation throws and throwing receivers open (again, Jones was adept here and it’s why he’s having a strong rookie campaign.) His arm strength is fine and he’s completed some pretty throws this year. His production is impressive and he’s in the Heisman picture. He’s also taken Pittsburgh up a level with his performances. Yet there’s a distinct lack of ‘wow’ factor with Pickett and it’s difficult to recommend him as much more than a second round prospect.
Malik Willis (QB, Liberty)
More of an athlete than quarterback at this stage. Willis has major technical flaws in terms of his footwork and throwing motion that lead to massive issues with consistency. In a given game you’ll see him throw a laser in one instance with impressive velocity and direction, then on the next throw he’ll one-hop an easy completion or just flat out miss because his body, shoulders and legs aren’t working together. His release point switches between low and slingy and javelin-like. He takes too many sacks. His eyes drop when he sets off as a runner or scrambler and he’s too eager to come off throws and set off. He’s thrown nine interceptions this season, his second with Liberty after two years with Auburn. As a runner he is strong and has a nice combination of speed and power that enables him to make gains (755 rushing yards and ten touchdowns so far this year). However, he lacks the gliding suddenness of Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray to be dynamic as a game-changing running threat. He’s more of a scramble-then-go type and at 6-1 and 215lbs I worry about the hits he’ll take because he attracts contact. I’m not sold on him as a pro-prospect and think he’s very much a mid-rounder or day three pick who can come in and compete, rather than someone I’d necessarily want to try and insert as a future franchise star. Frankly, I saw a lot of Tarvaris Jackson here.
Desmond Ridder (QB, Cincinnati)
Of all the quarterbacks in this class, Ridder is the one who has delivered passes that had me sit up in my chair and think, ‘wow’. He had one downfield against Notre Dame that was inch perfect and one straight down the seam to the tight end with velocity and placement that made me think this guy could be legit. Yet the more you watch, the more you realise he falls very much into the ‘like not love’ category. There are some throws that are just off. He needs to learn to align his hips and shoulders to face the target more consistently. There are also times where you wonder what he’s processing, what he’s seen. I was surprised to see he only had six picks on the year. He’s mobile and can scramble but you wouldn’t say he has major ability to break off gains or dodge a pass rush. Still, it’s a plus that he can extend and improvise. He’s only ranked 33rd in college football for QBR. Yet as I said — he has delivered those moments of magic and he’s clearly elevating Cincinnati into legit playoff contention. The thing is — Kellen Mond had many, many more ‘wow’ moments than Ridder and he only ended up being a round three pick. I don’t think Ridder is as good as Mond and currently I would say round three is his absolute ceiling with a placing in rounds four or five perhaps more likely. There’s something there — whether you’re able to bring it out enough for him to be a starting NFL quarterback is the question.
Matt Corral (QB, Ole Miss)
There are certain offensive schemes you just can’t trust. Lane Kiffin’s is right up there. The extreme spread nature of it and the way he draws up plays is impressive purely in terms of how he challenges opponents at the college level. He manufactures points, production and winning teams and what he’s doing at Ole Miss deserves more credit than he’s getting, given the state of the team when he took over. However, it’s not much of a scheme for judging quarterback prospects. Everything is easy. Corral will be replaced next season and the production will likely remain. It reminds me of the Oklahoma State offense — which churned out QB’s year after year, none of which went on to amount to anything in the pro’s. Corral lacks defining qualities in terms of arm strength, size, the ability to throw with anticipation, to read progressions. He executes the offense as he’s instructed to and that’s great. But I can’t sit here and say this 6-0, 200lbs quarterback is destined to be anything at the next level. He simply isn’t throwing difficult passes, he’s not showing us anything we need to see to judge him as a pro prospect. He doesn’t stand out physically in any way to compensate for the fact he isn’t really being challenged mentally. There’s just nothing really to get excited about.
Carson Strong (QB, Nevada)
I keep seeing people post videos on twitter of Strong completing passes with accompanying text declaring he’s done something outstanding. And most of the time I just think, ‘heh?’. Strong looks decidedly average to me. People wax lyrical about his arm strength but it doesn’t seem particularly amazing. I think his accuracy is very inconsistent, shown up by the fact he’s only 55th in college football for QBR. He’s not elusive or able to extend plays and is no threat as a scrambler. He’s a pocket passer who looks very much like a mid-round type at best. Against California — hardly a testing opponent in 2021 — he was way off in the red zone and frequently forced dangerous passes into tight windows. When he senses pressure all he can do is toss it up because he’s a statue in the backfield. If you give him a clean pocket and time he’ll launch into nice windows and make plays. How often do you get that luxury in the NFL? Throwing on the move is laboured and challenging. I can’t even imagine him running play action and boot legs with ease. He suffered a serious knee injury in High School and still wears a chunky brace.
Spencer Rattler (QB, Oklahoma)
It’s increasingly likely he won’t declare after his benching at Oklahoma. Rattler appears destined to transfer and have another go in 2022. Why was he benched? Too many reckless, careless throws where he trusted his arm and made bonehead decisions. There isn’t a double or triple coverage look he hasn’t thrown at. Rattler has some of the qualities NFL teams admire these days. He’s a skilled thrower on the run and can launch the football from different throwing angles. He’s creative and has ample arm strength. Yet at the next level he’ll be a liability — a turnover machine — unless he can vastly improve his decision making and ability to read coverages to make proper decisions so that his talent can be harnessed correctly.
Sam Howell (QB, North Carolina)
Have you ever thought what it’d be like to watch Carson Palmer run 17 quarterback draws in a game? Then throw on a North Carolina game and watch Howell show you how it’s done. There is simply nothing remarkable about Howell’s game. He’s stocky and tries to do too much with his legs. His arm strength is fine but his accuracy just doesn’t cut the mustard. His downfield throws are hit and miss and without UNC’s brilliant running duo from a year ago, he’s been left a bit exposed as his completion percentage has dipped and his turnovers have increased. He has not elevated his team enough. He just looks average, really. A player who has been promoted beyond his capabilities simply because he started as a true freshman and gained a degree of early-career hype.
I’d actually be more prepared to build a case for Tanner McKee than the names above, despite Stanford’s awful season. McKee, like Davis Mills before him, has shown technical qualities within a struggling team. Also like Davis, I think with more playing experience he could become a useful player.
As noted recently, 30 quarterbacks were drafted between 2013-2020. Of that group, you can argue eight truly justified the picks used on them.
That’s a 26% success rate. Or in other words, history says you’ve got a 74% chance of making a bad investment at quarterback in the first two rounds.
I can’t say any of this group appear to be on a trajectory to join the list of success stories. This entire class reminds me of the 2013 group. Weak at the top and the first quarterback taken was Geno Smith #39 overall.
Sadly, I could see whichever quarterback is taken first among this group having a very similar career to Smith.
If given the choice between this bunch and calling Minnesota to see whether they’d be willing to do business for Kellen Mond — I’d probably pick Mond.
Alas — I fear I’ll be spending most of the next three months trying to write pro’s and con’s for the 2022 quarterback group — while contemplating a potential camp battle with Trubisky or someone else.
I sense this is heading one way with Wilson — regardless of the future of Carroll in Seattle. If the franchise wishes to build around him for the next 8-10 years, they’ll need to make that very clear and recruit him into the project. It’s starting to feel very much like Wilson will believe a fresh start is required and I imagine he will have his eyes fixed firmly in the direction of Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.
I just hope that the powers that be within Seahawks ownership are ready and have a plan to avoid this franchise turning into a shambles.
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