Why I like where this franchise is going

Three years from now, the Seahawks could be the Ravens of the NFC

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.


  1. Scott

    The lack of a DT in this crop of rookies is my biggest gripe.

  2. Brandon Adams

    Aye, it’s worth pointing out that Seattle only built upon ONE line this week.

    • Kip Earlywine

      True, but we know they badly wanted to address defensive line and the picks just didn’t fall that way. If Cameron Jordan is there at #25, we’re looking at a VERY different draft.

      • Brandon Adams

        Well, we don’t know that. There was an impetus to draft Carpenter other than “Well he’s kinda the best player left.” Carroll and Cable wanted him for the run game. Jordan might have been passed up on anyway.

        Schneider says he’s just dying to address the interior pass rush, yet it’s funny how he’s gone 17 picks now without doing so.

        • Kip Earlywine

          I would be completely stunned if they had passed on Jordan. Remember that they emphasized both OL and DL in their conference, and we also knew that they were “hunting for value” at #25. If Jordan was there at #25, he’d be one of the best value picks in the 1st round and at an area of massive need for Seattle at an area they were clearly targeting.

          We know that at #75, they took Moffitt because they rated him highly, but they were certainly looking at DTs there, otherwise. That’s what I’ve heard.

          I can’t say for sure, but I would be completely stunned if Seattle had passed on Cameron Jordan there.

      • Ryan

        Don’t you think they could have traded up a few spots to grab Jordan in the first?

        • Chavac

          I really doubt they would have taken him. From what Cable and the other guys have said Carpenter was their guy. I think they let Cable target two guys early to fix the line, and were hell bent on trading back because they knew each was going to be on the board a ways after our picks. That makes the 2nd round trade a little more sensible, considering the guy they really liked with that pick had a third round grade. It also makes me think the trade offers for the first round pick were all either too little or putting them too far back in the second to still get Carpenter. We saw the Saints trade A LOT to move up two spots after our pick to take Ingram. I have to assume they were on the line with us as well, but that we passed because Carpenter wouldn’t be there at the 56th pick.

          In the end I think you can only “grade” this draft after we see what PC and Co have cooking for FA. Either way as little value in the first two picks as there was, you build from the lines out and that’s what they did. Cable + Okung/Moffitt/ Carpenter/ Gallery?/ _____ has the ability to restore a good ground attack from day 1, which completely changes the offense. We’ve seen what Beastmode can do when he gets any semblance of blocking… a lot. It also helps Carlson shed the OL#6 tag. The rest depends on FA. If they bring in Palmer, I think the offense has the potential to be drastically better.

          On the other hand they sort of ignored the dline, but I think that’s a good sign. Our linemen were very good last year before the injuries hit the fan. That they didn’t address the position makes me think a. Red Bryant is healthy enough to rely on this year, and b. Mebane is all but resigned.

  3. Snoot

    A very exciting vanilla draft. By this rationale, if the right QB isn’t there next year, then we spend our first two picks on the DL. I like it too that we might not need a QB better than Joe Flacco caliber. In which case, we may already have our QB in training.

  4. PatrickH

    It also looks like Pete is trying to convert a secondary designed for cover-2 zone coverage into one designed for press-man coverage. The CB picked this year (and Thurman last year) are all supposedly good at press-man coverage.

  5. Kurt

    Kip, I agree. Watch what happens in FA. We will once agin surprise while improving.

  6. ivotuk

    I just posted something very similar. I see a running game and short passing game that will eat up the clock and wear down defenses. Our defense last year was actually very good considering the ineptitude on the other side of the ball. We are headed in the right direction and there is still plenty of pre season to go.

    • Mike in OC

      I was thinking the same thing; that the defense was actually doing quite well in the beginning of the year, until injuries and spending too much time on the field sapped a good thing. Having a ball-control offense will allow the defense to rest and possibly help to avoid injury (more time on field, more chance of injury).

      • Brandon Adams

        The defense wasn’t doing well. They tanked against the only respectable QB they faced (Orton) and then imploded for good down the stretch. They were bottom-5 in every significant stat. You can’t afford to rush when you’re down 28-7 by halftime.

        • Kip Earlywine

          I think what really hurt the defense last year was some very poorly concieved coverage schemes and the loss of Bryant/Mebane/Cole for stretches which caused the run defense to tank.

          I’m not saying this because I’m optimistic about the defense. I predicted before the season that the defense would be a joke and if anything it was actually better than I anticipated, which isn’t saying much.

          However, I don’t think “wholesale” changes are really needed. If Seattle successfully adopts a “press” cover scheme, that is going to really help move things along. Its a shame that Seattle couldn’t add to the defensive line (yet), but its not like you could fix this team in one offseason- especially not THIS offseason. So Seattle is fixing what they can, hoping for the best in 2011 and will get back to work in 2012 with seasons like 2013 and 2014 in mind.

        • Glen

          Top 3 rush defense and top 10 overall defense in the 1st 6 weeks….then injuries rolled in and the offense stepped back big time…4-2 in that stretch

          • Louis

            Very true.

            When Red Byrant and Mebane were both healthy, the run defense was our biggest strength.

            Add in some of our CB competition we have, and the abundance of DBs we have for our Bandit formation, and our overall defense should be at LEAST decent if everyone stays healthy. Of course, that’s a big if.

            Im really liking where our offensive line is moving towards. If we get Gallery, then the transformation will be complete. Compare this year’s Oline (with Gallery, if Gallery is not signed, then replace with someone like Polumbus) to last years Oline:

            Okung – Gallery – Unger – Motiff – Carpenter

            Okung – RevolvingDoor – Spencer – RevolvingDoor2 – Locklear

          • Brandon Adams

            I’m aware of the stats. You have to look at the competition they faced. It wasn’t impressive at all.

  7. akki

    While I’d have liked to address both lines, if you chose one to go first, I’d choose the offensive line. During the draft I had wished we had taken a DT in the 2nd or 3rd round. Now thinking about it, going into the 2012 season, I’d rather have Unger-Moffitt-Carpenter having played a season together rather than say having Unger-new draftee-Carpenter because we took a DT instead of Moffitt and played Mike Gibson at RG in 2011. A DT is easier to plug and play. So I think it’s a good team construction, I just wish it could happen faster somehow without knowing how to do that.

  8. johnny b

    i just put seahawks draft grades in google. came up with rang giving us the overall A and best draft grade for 2009 says curry was the best pickup in the draft my point, drafts take at least 3 years to grade, if not 5 years and yeah our draft looks bad right now alot of reaches and alot of off the map dudes, but lets see in 3 years

  9. Glen

    I’d take it further a step by adding the Jets to this equation. Sure they have a “franchise” QB in Sanchez by definition but make no bones he is not why they’ve been to 2 AFC Championships the last 2 years.

    I said it a few times this weekend, Pete and John have a plan and are going to execute it whether fans & media agree with it or not. Nobody saw last years Labor Day roster flip coming, and I think most of would say it worked out…Pete and John were both very open that had been planned from the beginning. Marshawn Lynch was a target before last years draft and they waited it out to get him on there terms and price.

    Maybe we were spoiled last year that things fell perfectly via the draft for them, but I can say I’m very stoked with the direction and can’t wait to see the next piece of the plan come together.

  10. Darnell

    Nice article.

    Last years draft was “sexy” or “exciting” but I don’t think that was what PC and JS set to achieve it just so happened that the guys that they liked and were available to them are the kind of players that fans get excitd about (Franchise LT, playmaking Safety, superstar college WR)

    I’m a big fan of Eric Berry, but I’m just scared to think where we would be at @ LT if the Chiefs had grabbed Okung and we had taken Berry as the BPA.

    Berry/Bulaga? decent. Don’t like it as much as Okung/Thomas though.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Me neither.

    • woofu

      Every time the word “sexy” and “draft” are combined, antlers in mancaves everywhere sag.

  11. SammyD

    The big difference between us and the Ravens is that they have had a dominate defense for the best decade. Made sense for them to build their O line and stress ball control. The hawks secondary is a mess outside of Earl Thomas and I feel like we’re going to give up a whole lot of points next year. Running the ball is not going to even matter when your down big early in games and need to throw the ball. I’m a bet upset that we passed on Jimmy Smith and the potential to get a shut down corner. I went to CU and its a party school. Jimmy Smith partied like every other kid that went to school there. Doesn’t mean he can’t bring it on Sundays.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Sort of. The Ravens defense had some real issues before they went out and got Ngata. That was just huge for them and changed everything. Pre-Ngata, they were a flawed defense with some very nice pieces. I kind of see our defense as the same thing. Clemons, Bryant, and Earl Thomas are big time players. Trufant and Tatupu were once very good players and who knows, maybe they could be rejuvenated in a better situation? Could Aaron Curry actually be a good player some day?

      As a whole, this defense is TERRIBLE, but there are definitely some bright spots scattered about. They just need to coalesce, and that could happen sooner than people think once the defensive line is solidified and Seattle successfully implements press coverage.

      So obviously the Ravens defense was better, but I think the situations are somewhat similar because sometime over the next few years we’ll see a tipping point where the defense all comes together finally like it did for Baltimore when they added Ngata.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Sort of. The Ravens defense had some real issues before they went out and got Ngata. That was just huge for them and changed everything. Pre-Ngata, they were a flawed defense with some very nice pieces. I kind of see our defense as the same thing. Clemons, Bryant, and Earl Thomas are big time players. Trufant and Tatupu were once very good players and who knows, maybe they could be rejuvenated in a better situation? Could Aaron Curry actually be a good player some day?

  12. D

    Good post Kip and I agree. It all boils down to what Suggar Ray said. “Plan your work and work your plan”. Success is unatainable without following that principle IMHO.

    Now I for one am one of the doubters that a power run O will get the Hawks a trophy but at the very east I am loking forward to a lot of wins and NFC West championships…

  13. Austin

    After letting the draft settle and reigning in some emotions I’m willing to give this draft a chance. Rotoworld just gave Seattle a good grade and likes the guys we got. Still think we desperately need some speed on offense and someone you have to gameplan for but that probably wasn’t available in this draft where we picked. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction.

  14. Billy Showbiz

    I really liked hearing how high Cable was on these guys. Of course a coach is not likely to say that they wanted someone else but he nearly gushing over Moffit. They picked two guys who they expect to start right away which I don’t think would have happened if they were drafting for other positions. Certainly not at QB, maybe at corner with Smith but he really does sound like a headache. I can see a guy like that responding to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed but maybe not so much to Milloy and Lofa.

    I also noticed Cable saying that they were looking for “real people” when evaluating Carpenter and Moffit. That stuck out to me. More than any other position the O Line depends on the guys next to them and they have to work as a unit. It sounds like they felt these guys had that same mentality and that was a big part of the evaluation. Honestly, I have no idea how to grade an O lineman but that sounds like an important aspect. I’m keeping the faith.

    • ManBearPig

      Listening to interviews Moffit sounded excited to be playing w/ Carpenter and Okung, and happy no more Gabe. lol. I am excited to see how they gel

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