Thursday, March 31, 2011

Football Clip of the Week

Gone til Sunday, folks. Thanks for visiting; don't forget to browse through the Carroll resources and highlight videos pages above if you're bored.

Meanwhile, check out of this Jay Cutler tribute that I always get a kick out of, made a year ago by (most likely) a sarcastic Bears fan who's now quite happy with the QB.

The last 30 seconds are a hoot in particular; love the David Hawthorne shout-out!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Overrated Red Bryant...Position?

"Say that to my face, skinny white boy."
He was the mini-Hutchinson of 2010, the one who got away. Most eulogies of Seattle's 2010 season mark the injury loss of DE Red Bryant as the point of collapse for Seattle's run defense, which ranked a surprising #2 by Week 7. It was a frustrating end to one of the offseason's most exciting stories, as training camp reports gushed about Bryant's experimental shift from tackle to end and the immediate improvement that followed.

Bryant, a fourth-round afterthought before the experiment, left such an indelible impression in his six games healthy that the run-stopping RDE in Carroll's scheme is now popularly named after him. With Red's future clouded by injury, the "Red Bryant position" is now seen as one of the team's foremost needs, the key to unlocking smashmouth defensive play. This has a lot of mock drafts, including this week's version from Rob Staton, handing Seattle a similar hulking-but-quick hybrid like Phil Taylor or Muhammad Wilkerson, who is set to visit with the Seahawks.

Here's the thing: the numbers don't support the idea that Seattle's early-season defense was all that amazing in the first place. In fact, it looks downright overrated upon close examination. And an overrated defense calls into question the value of, perhaps not Red Bryant himself, but the position he plays in Carroll's scheme.

I investigate this because it affects Seattle's draft board: where does a hulking-but-quick 5-tech like Taylor or Wilkerson really belong in the hierarchy of the Seahawks' needs?

This is a long one.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Article: New Lawsuit Against NFL Could Force Return to Negotiations

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports is reporting a new lawsuit against the NFL, this one filed by retired players, that he thinks could be a game-changer in the ongoing legal battle between the league and the players.
Eller v. NFL, obtained by Yahoo! Sports, is similar to the current Brady, et al v. NFL. However, it is based on a potentially clever legal maneuver that could box the league into a corner and prove a significant development in ending pro football’s nearly month-long labor impasse.

The former players’ suit also covers draft-eligible prospects, who aren’t represented by the NFL Players Association under the previous collective bargaining agreement. As such, these plaintiffs could potentially avoid one of the league’s chief counterarguments against the Brady lawsuit – that the union illegally decertified.

The league is basing its legal strategy around the claim that the NFLPA's de-certification is a sham. If that claim is honored in court (a ruling that Adam Schefter doesn't expect until mid-April at the very earliest), the players could be ordered to reconstitute as a union, and the ruling would move from the courts to the National Labor Relations Board. Since the last CBA included stipulations that the NFL could not make the exact "sham" argument that it's making, some experts are calling the NFL's stance an artifice or a stall - basically a sham in itself - and a transparent attempt to shift leverage back to itself.

Eller v. NFL, however, could provide a workaround for the "sham" argument by bringing in a new group - draft-eligible college players - who have nothing to do with the NFLPA until they're drafted. If the court upholds the claim that the lockout is affecting their future as well, the league would have to deal with the ramifications without being able to fault the former union. That would remove one of the owners' main counter-arguments and make it much more profitable to simply work out a deal with the players themselves.

Some quotes from the case's lead attorney, Michael Hausfield:
“These players have an antitrust claim,” Hausfeld said. “They’ve essentially staked the pursuit of a career on being eligible for the NFL.

“The owners have shut down their potential employees through a concerted boycott,” Hausfeld continued. “[The suit is] going to avoid the main thrust of the owners’ defense and their argument that the matter should be settled by the [National Labor Relations Board] not in the courts.”

“How silly is it to have a draft in April and then say, congratulations, you’re locked out?” he asked.

Hausfield apparently has a strong legal reputation. With lawsuits now coming at the NFL from multiple directions, even if some of them are long shots, the league has rising pressure on it at the very least.

The plaintiffs in the case are Carl Eller, Priest Holmes, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, and Ryan Collins.

Decoding John Schneider: Beating the Late-Round Odds

Everybody wants something for nothing. Coupon shoppers clip, Internet ads beckon with "$5,000 a month from home", and every NFL general manager would love to find quality starters with cheap picks from the fourth to seventh rounds of the draft.

The common misconception is that there's always a huge reserve of hidden talent just sitting untouched in the late rounds, missed by dimwitted general managers or stubborn coaches clinging tightly to a different scheme. Every once in a while, a Tom Brady or T.J. Houshmandzadeh emerges and gets fixated upon, seeming to prove that theory but really just distracting from the 50 players drafted before and after him who neither see nor deserve an NFL start. Exceptions always get more attention than the rule.

Is it really sensible to look at a player who drops into the fifth round, and assume that the combined research and intelligence of thirty-one other NFL teams' scouting departments all got it wrong? Much less four times over? Teams don't struggle to find late talent because they're blind, mis-prioritizing, or risk-averse; they struggle to find late talent because it usually isn't there. The real talent gets snatched up in the first hundred picks, and the pool is left mostly dry. Even the Patriots' late-round performance has been controlled by this dynamic; it's kinda out of their hands. There just aren't a lot of diamonds to be found in the rough of the draft's third day, because everyone else is also looking for them. Any true diamonds often find themselves permanently benched behind incumbents by their teams. Traffic shortcuts and fishing spots are only lucrative as long as nobody else knows about them, right?

But I know this general manager who is trying very hard to beat these very odds. He comes from an NFL management lineage that's proven this draft prowess, and he might even be close to actually pulling it off in his new job. His name is John Schneider.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Carroll: Stacy Andrews Moving to Right Tackle

At the NFL owners' meeting, Pete Carroll said that Seahawks lineman Stacy Andrews will compete for the starting right tackle position in 2011:

"Stacy is a legitimate factor at right tackle. That is his natural position. We brought him in to play right tackle and when Max Unger got hurt, it necessitated the move right away and he didn't get a chance to play right tackle. ... That's a spot that Stacy will compete at. That to me is an exciting opportunity. His body type and his mentality and his background, even though he played guard at Philadelphia, he really is a natural tackle. Hard-working guy and all that kind of stuff. We'll see how that works out."

This is good news for me, and not just out of a desire to replace Sean Locklear. Andrews was a disappointment at right guard, but that's because his size and talents don't fit right guard. They fit right tackle, where he started - and prospered - for the team who drafted him in the fourth round (Cincinnati), earning a franchise designation in 2008. Once he was traded to the Eagles after a severe injury, the Eagles insisted on starting him at guard, where his height has negated his leverage against effective 3-4 defensive tackles ever since. Fred Robbins and Richard Seymour gave him particular trouble last year.

Carroll's quote indicates that Seattle, rather than also mis-judging Andrews, saw the proper fit for the guy and played him out of position for a reason other than "we're desperately experimenting". The best solution for right guard in 2010 ended up being Mike Gibson, who has fought his way up the depth chart but still remains good depth rather than a good starter.

Andrews, who was obtained from Philly for a seventh-round pick, could end up bouncing back and providing a good in-house solution for an aching problem on the offensive line. He has that potential; most people don't realize that he was solid in Cincy and traded because of injury. It would behoove Seattle to try and reduce Andrews' large salary, the factor that truly endangers his tenure with the Seahawks, but reducing bloated contracts was one of John Schneider's greatest successes in his first year with the team.

I suppose the move could also be Pete Carroll trying to jack up Andrews' value for a potential trade, but after Andrews' reputation the last couple years (whether unfair or not), I can't imagine Andrews being heavily sought after.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Sound Bites: Kolb, Cornerbacks, Mallett

Backtracking on Kolb

Peter King of Sports Illustrated is now denying that the Seahawks were the team to offer a first-rounder for Kevin Kolb. CSN Philly cites a source claiming that this fervent suitor of Kolb's is in fact the Arizona Cardinals. Since it's ridiculous to think that the Cards would sacrifice the #5 pick in 2011 for Kolb, the most likely offer was a 2012 first-rounder.

The Cornerback Chase

Adam Schefter names the Seahawks as a likely candidate to pursue former Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha. This looks like mere speculation, though we should make room for Schefter's reputation and the validity of his information flow.

On the other hand, Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider reports that Seattle could turn elsewhere in its CB hunt: Jimmy Smith of Colorado, a draft possibility at #25. Rob Staton has long rated Smith higher than most and remains convinced that his talent is worth the character risk revealed at the Combine, after which several teams supposedly scratched Smith from their draft boards.

I personally lean towards Asomugha. He'd be incredibly expensive, yes, but he plays a foundational position and plays it better than almost anyone in the league. He's getting up there in age, but like Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson, he has the physical/mental profile of a CB who ages well. Seattle has plenty of cap room and can afford to make waves in free agency. What we don't know is how such pricey, assured-to-start signings would fit into Pete Carroll's competition philosophy, which eschewed a big name like T.J. Houshmandzadeh in favor of the cheap Mike Williams and the unknown Ben Obomanu.

Smith, on the other hand, will reveal how Carroll and John Schneider weigh character risks. The team has signed questionable personalities like Williams, Lendale White, and Marshawn Lynch, but none of those were terribly costly to sign or to cut. Smith's status as a first-round pick, would skew that cost-benefit ratio quite a bit. Carroll looks for motivated players and complete embracing of the team philosophy, and the big knock on Smith is that he plays lazy and acts self-entitled. This accusation itself sounds a bit lazy, the kind of typically vague and intangible criticism that could be genuine or a plant. Even so, in my judgment, Asomugha is the more proven commodity.

Ryan Mallett Visits Seahawks

Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett has a visit scheduled with the Seahawks, amongst several other teams, next month.

Hard to read into these kinds of things. Tim Ruskell was notoriously coy when it came to revealing his draft choices, talking up most of the logical selections and then turning around and taking the one guy he hadn't paid any attention to. Schneider has not bothered with such games, having met with both Russell Okung and Earl Thomas before the draft.

Also, as a first-round quarterback, Mallett will be expected to schedule visits with more teams than players of other positions might. It's therefore difficult to read into these visits as indicators of potential interest, except to say that the Seahawks are not forgoing their due diligence on the top 4 QB's just because they're stuck at #25 and probably unable to get one.

I do find it interesting that Jake Locker has been invited to work out for only one team, as opposed to the multiple visits of Mallett, Cam Newton, and Blaine Gabbert. Of course, that could be because Locker's pro day isn't until the 30th.

The Little Guys

Seahawks Draft Blog lists some late-round prospects that Seattle has visited with. S Chris Conte, OT D.J. Young, QB Mike Coughlin (backup at Boise State), and LB Lawrence Wilson lead the list. LB Justin Houston will also work out for the Seahawks. There was also Montana tackle Michael Person, who has a fan in a knowledgeable high school coach I know; he says that tackles in Montana tend to project as guards in the NFL, but Person definitely has the attitude looked for by new Seattle O-line coach Tom Cable.

Hometown Discount

K Olindo Mare has expressed a desire to return to Seattle and is willing to take a smaller contract to do so. His primary concern is not uprooting his family.

What's in a Name

Qwest's purchasing by CenturyLink foretells an imminent (but not yet confirmed) renaming of Qwest Field to CenturyLink Field.

Dave Krieg's Strike Beard provides some welcome perspective in this tizzy. I will merely add that, much like the neon green uniforms, nobody's going to care that much if the Seahawks are winning.

Will Herring Keeps Busy

Backup LB Will Herring is using his lockout time productively by opening a local fitness center. Says he also has plans to compete for a starting spot. Sounds familiar.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ben Hamilton Falls on Ankle of Seahawks' Comp Picks

The Seahawks have been awarded only a 7th-round compensatory draft pick this year, per Brian McIntyre.

Whereas it was believed that the loss of WR Nate Burleson and DT Cory Redding might net Seattle a couple of higher picks, potentially as high as a fourth and sixth, fate found a way to bereave Seattle of both. Burleson's loss was cancelled out by the signing of G Ben Hamilton, while Redding was apparently removed from consideration entirely by a league rule that prevents the comp formula from being gamed by restructured contracts like Redding's - Seattle eliminated the last few years of his contract to make him a free agent after 2009.

And even then, the Seahawks' 7th-round pick appears to be a consolatory loophole.

My logical response is to heave a sigh and grudgingly admit that it makes sense. My self-indulgent emotional response is to grumble about Ben Hamilton, whose biggest contribution to Seattle's line was to fall on and injure Russell Okung's ankle. Hamilton was injury-prone and weakened to begin with, and only signed because of connections with an O-line coach who didn't even stick around until training camp. He didn't even play the whole season (although neither did his counter-balance in the equation, Burleson). Talk about adding insult to injury.

In the end, a fourth-round pick was unlikely to shake the Seahawks world anyway, and it was very possible that fourth would actually have been a fifth due to Burleson's contract being lower than reported and the time he lost to injury struggles. The greatest draft impact by far will still come from the first two picks. It was nice to have something to hope for during the offseason, though.

Back to the draft...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Dissenting Opinion on the New Kickoff Rule

The NFL has approved a new rule moving kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 and requiring coverage players to line up no more than five yards behind the tee, taking away the running start they usually have. The ostensible reason is player safety.

If the end result of the NFL's new kickoff rule is to reduce long kickoff returns, then yeah, I'll be pretty let down. As Bill Belichick said, kickoff returns are one of the most unpredictable, and therefore exciting, aspects of the game. Seattle's Week 3 win over San Diego was not "cheap" or "lucky" because it came through Leon Washington's return touchdowns; is not special teams a legitimate team unit unto itself?

Interestingly, the Seahawks were not one of the teams that voted against the new rule, despite how it might compromise Washington's value. Chicago was, but Devin Hester has not been returning kickoffs for years, only punts - and punts are unaffected by the rule change. (For the curious, the other five "nay" teams were Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.)

Many are rightfully saying that this development will result in a lot more touchbacks and fewer decisions to run the ball back, which is probably true. But Seattle fullback Michael Robinson has a different angle; he feels that the removal of a running start for the coverage team will reduce the speed and violence of front-line hits and allow for more return yardage on the returns that do occur. It will also turn kickoff returns into power plays instead of finesse plays, leading teams to compensate by using larger players. This in turn would make blocks easier, requiring kickers to work harder at keeping the ball away from even less stellar returners. If this bears out on the field, it might make kickoff returns more of a boom-or-bust event.

Although Robinson still feels that the changes are unnecessarily marshmallowing the game, the last part has another possible ramification. When we think of "coverage men" or "gunners", we usually think of the faster and smaller players, because getting downfield quickly is crucial in covering or defending kickoffs. Running backs, receivers, tight ends, corners, and linebackers get the most work here (but only the quicker linemen). It's often at these positions that you'll see teams bringing in spares for training camp, sifting for potential gunners. Such considerations have no doubt helped keep Ben Obomanu on Seattle's roster through two coaching changes. But with larger players becoming more important on kickoff returns now, and any potential speed advantage being nullified by lack of a running start, the value could shift towards larger and slower players. It could redefine "kickoff gunners" a little bit. (Or not. Who knows.)

Robinson's Twitter account is worth the occasional look. His blocking value on the field is also a bit underrated by Seattle fans, in my humble opinion, but that's for another day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Forecasting an Early Run on Draft Quarterbacks

I wanted Ndamukong Suh so badly last year. I kept toting the idea of trading our #6 and #14 picks to Detroit to move up to #2 for him. It seemed to make so much sense; wouldn't the Lions benefit more from two franchise players instead of just one?

My peers, meanwhile, manufactured cheaper scenarios that envisioned Suh or Gerald McCoy falling to #6 as Detroit took a left tackle instead. Incumbent Jeff Backus didn't seem to be cutting it, and the Lions had signed Corey Williams to bolster the D-line; perhaps they were patching the defense with free agency and targeting a left tackle with the pick! Once Suh fell past Detroit, the other teams' needs would make at least McCoy available to Seattle. It made so much sense.

This is the very definition of wishful thinking. Football movements have many interpretations; the Williams move was a support for Suh, not an alternative. You can create a scenario that's possible, but is it realistic and reasonable? Any theory that requires a long procession of things to go wrong for other teams to benefit us should automatically be re-examined. In the end, Suh and McCoy went at #2 and #3 respectively, leaving us to ask ourselves, "Why did we ever think that Detroit and Tampa Bay would pass those guys up?"

It's wishful thinking to assume that any of the top four quarterbacks - Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Jake Locker, or Ryan Mallett - will be available at #25. Sure, it could happen. Unlike most draft years, not even the #1 pick is locked in, and there are literally millions of possible draft simulations to wade through, including some that drop a top QB to the Seahawks. The problem is, each such scenario involves a number of very QB-hungry teams passing up a potential franchise QB, in favor of either an in-house solution that tanked in 2010 or an unremarkable/aging/unproven free agent (some of whom may not even be open to trade).

Monday, March 21, 2011

UPDATED: Late-Drafting Team Offers First-Rounder for Kevin Kolb

Peter King wrote the following in his Monday Morning Quarterback column this morning:
Andy Reid apparently is serious about trading Kevin Kolb. At the NFL meetings Sunday, a good source told me Reid already has one team willing to offer a first-round pick for Kolb, and now he's looking for a team with a higher choice in the round to make him a better deal. My take: I'd trade a very high draft pick to acquire Kolb instead of drafting one of the quarterbacks available this year.

Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft reads the part about a "higher choice in the round" and surmises that the team in question is probably the Seahawks. I'm with Kadar. The next highest QB-needy team drafting before Seattle is Jacksonville, and I doubt Reid could reasonably expect higher than a #16 pick for Kolb, despite what King says. It's well known by now that many teams are valuing this draft's crop of QB's much higher than the media are, meaning high-drafting teams are less likely to look to free agency. It's also well known that Seattle tried to trade for Kolb last year - when they were actually capable of meeting Philadelphia's demand of two first-rounders, high ones to boot - and were turned down at the time.

Eagles president Joe Banner said that the teams that pursued Kolb last year "remain interested" and that "they are the teams people are guessing", all but confirming that Seattle is in the hunt and most likely offered the first-rounder. The situation becomes more complex with a report that the Eagles might accept a 2012 pick for Kolb.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Report: Seahawks Pursued Trent Edwards Last Spring

"I know, I know, build through the draft!"
Somewhat buried in a piece on Kevin Kolb, FOX's Adam Caplan, quoting a source, mentioned yesterday that Seattle was interested in acquiring quarterback Trent Edwards from Buffalo last spring.

Specifically, the Seahawks made Edwards their #2 target after being turned down by the Philadelphia Eagles in a trade attempt for Kevin Kolb. Charlie Whitehurst, currently Seattle's backup QB, was the guy they courted after Edwards, who was also never traded.

It's not explained why the Edwards trade never went through. It's never really been explained clearly why the Kolb trade didn't go through, either. Philadelphia evidently never wanted to trade Kolb, but did they communicate that by slapping him with a price of two first-round picks, or did they communicate that by saying "No, thanks" and hanging up the phone? The answer could give us insight on just how much Seattle was willing to pony up for a franchise prospect.

Friday, March 18, 2011

So who the heck are ya?

I've been at this blogging thing for seven weeks now, and it seems I've picked up a small, but loyal and smart, community. For that I'm grateful, and a bit humbled. I always hoped this place would involve lots of discussion and commenting, and not just me blathering in a vacuum.

So, if you're one of the folks who likes to visit here regularly...leave a comment and tell me about yourself! What's your name? What do you do for a living? Or most importantly, how did you become a fan of the Seahawks and what is your favorite Seahawks memory? That's information we can all share and enjoy, even if you don't want to identify yourself. ;)

I'm a high school teacher in Montana. I have a lot of thrilling Seahawks memories to choose from, but most of them were watched on TV as I've only been able to attend two games at Qwest. My favorite is one of the games I did attend: the 2008 Jets game at Qwest that resembled your typical blizzard in Foxborough, the last game of Brett Favre as a Jet. I got to the stadium late and walked up the north steps onto the concourse just in time to glimpse Josh Wilson's first interception. John Carlson's touchdown happened almost right in front of my seats. And Mike Holmgren's final walkaround to "Time of Your Life" was just awesome.

What about you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Giants Fans

In celebration of the NFL's decision to not consider revamping the playoff re-seeding system, I figured I'd post a piece I penned to grumbling fans of the 10-6 New York Giants who felt 7-9 Seattle nicked their playoff spot, written during the week before the playoff game against New Orleans.

This letter is all the more satisfying now, after the Seahawks won that game.

Enjoy. (And don't get all wound up - it's only an opinion piece. I can do that.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

UPDATED: Mock Drafts Placing Ryan Mallett with Seattle

Mock drafts change about as often as the weather, but this week a handful of high-profile mocks seem to have converged on one prospect for the Seahawks at #25: Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett.

Rob Staton at Seahawks Draft Blog was the first I noticed. Most of you probably follow him (and should be) and have seen his protests of the raging criticism and groupthink that have dogged Mallett for months. Yet in all that time he hasn't actually pegged Mallett as a good candidate for the Seahawks, which should tell you something about his objectivity. The fact that Staton looks for positives on the guy says less about his opinion of Mallett and more about his desire to balance out the hype machine.

Well, this week Staton took the plunge, mocking Mallett to Seattle at #25. It got interesting when he was joined by Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Don Banks of, writer Steve Wyche, and even NFP's Wes Bunting, who helped contribute to the negative publicity on the Arkansas QB. All are currently projecting Ryan Mallett at #25.

The convergence is probably coincidence. Nobody quoted any sources or illuminating new scraps of information on why Mallett might be destined for Qwest Field. Sometimes hunches just come together...although it's not uncommon for such "collective hunches" to be noticed, expanded upon, and turned into a hype wave of its own. That's how Mallett's stock started to drop in the first place.

Here's what they said:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Luck-Barkley Syndrome: Should Seattle Trade Up?

Football fans don't want the next Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Tony Romo, or Carson Palmer. Franchise QB's they may be, but they've never seen a Super Bowl.

They don't want the next Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb. Franchise QB's they may be, and they've been to the big dance, but they've never won - and they fall apart without support from their team.

Some don't want the next Eli Manning, Drew Brees, or Kurt Warner. Franchise QB's they may be, and they may have won a Lombardi, but they haven't repeated. And they still rely on scheme or surrounding talent to keep winning.

You might even hear a few reject the next Peyton Manning or the next Brett Favre: "All he does is choke in the playoffs."

When faced with a choice, some fans aren't content with a franchise leader or playoff QB - they want a legend. They want a dynasty. They want a winner of multiple Super Bowls - a Tom Brady or a Ben Roethlisberger. They want a guy who provides that ironclad aura of winning regardless of circumstance, a player who makes the team around him better, the threat of the storm on the horizon that others must either go around or get blown away by. Fans don't want a QB who relies on the system - they want a QB who is the system.

And so it is that fans of every team are willing to mortgage an entire draft to trade up the following year, if it means nabbing that once-in-a-decade QB prospect that will light up their team in the glow of multiple Lombardi trophies.

Is that really such an unreasonable thing? And is it a dream that Seattle can follow by trading up in 2012's draft?

Monday, March 14, 2011

NFL Antitrust Case Handed to District Judge Susan Nelson

In what could change the entire face of the NFLPA's antitrust suit against the NFL, the case has been handed to federal judge Susan Nelson - not David Doty, as most originally assumed would happen.

Nelson has scheduled the first hearing on the lockout injunction for April 6. This is actually fairly rapid, in terms of the usual judicial pace.

Nelson is a district judge for the District of Minnesota and was appointed a federal district judge last December, having served as a magistrate (the next level down) since 2000. She was nominated for the district seat by President Barack Obama.

Details of her legal history are hard to find (which may be a good thing), but she apparently litigated against big tobacco in a major case between the industry and the state of Minnesota. She's been known to make political contributions to members of the Democratic party.

The website for a Democratic senator who helped recommend Nelson says Nelson has "a reputation for being thorough, prepared and possesses a unique ability to bring parties together to resolve legal disputes."

Nelson's experience with the NFL includes the case "Dryer vs. NFL", involving the rights of former players to be represented in the league's video footage. She was still presiding when she was promoted to the District level and removed from the case.

This has the potential to re-shape the suit, as Doty was considered by some to be a shill for the NFLPA whom the league owners were desperate to edge out of the case. Doty will continue to hear the television revenue case until its resolution, as well as any damages claims proceeding from it.

Possibly unconnected is an Adam Schefter report that the NFLPA is now telling its players to boycott the draft. This would be very counterproductive. For further details involving the players' stance on Nelson and the negotiations in general, you might want to follow Doug Farrar's Twitter stream - he's getting some strong info from their conference call today, though very possibly with bias - expect a lot of he-said she-said this spring.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there's actually a site called "Judgepedia".


Sunday, March 13, 2011

New Features on 17 Power

So I had a couple of semi-brilliant ideas for new blog features in the top links. Check 'em out, and keep checking back for updates.

Transaction Tracker: Formerly the Player Tracker, now updated. I'll be complicating this soon enough.

Draft Value Chart: For the draft trade junkies amongst us, here's a tool for how much draft picks are worth.

Carroll Resources: Growing collection of links to articles that break down Pete Carroll's schemes and tendencies. Feel free to contribute if you know of one!

Highlight Videos: Need a pick-me-up or a distraction from the offseason blues and CBA drama? Here's the place!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hasselbeck, Harper, and the Overblown Playoff Win

"Pro Bowl votes are already in! WOOHOO!"
Matt Hasselbeck did not redeem himself for 2010 with the New Orleans playoff game. Or 2009, or 2008, or any combination thereof. He didn't have the best game of his career, he didn't prove his doubters wrong, and he didn't demonstrate that his occasional good games in 2010 weren't flukes. He may have made others forget about his 12 TD, 17 INT performance in the regular season, but he didn't make me forget.

The injury absence of Saints FS Malcolm Jenkins and the horrific performance of SS Roman Harper were just as much the story of that game as Hasselbeck. Anyone who thinks Hasselbeck's four TD throws were impressive hasn't broken the plays down closely enough. Harper has been solid for the Saints for years, but on January 8, he undermined the playoff game for New Orleans worse than Kelly Jennings has ever undermined a game for the Seahawks. It was that bad.

I know this is harsh. I know I'm putting the Saints game in the most pessimistic light possible. But that's a valid way to look at things, and I have no qualms about it, because it involves the most important position on any NFL roster. This matter needs to be addressed, because it's a key argument in the ongoing debate over how the Seahawks should handle their QB roster this offseason. If Hass still has serious potential as a future QB, then he gains significance in the team's plans and Charlie Whitehurst looks more and more superfluous. If not, it's time to be proactive with the position, probably in the draft. Hasselbeck could have a role with Seattle either way, but context is needed.

Breaking it down:

Friday, March 11, 2011

NFLPA Officially Dissolved, Sends Labor Battle to Court

The inevitable has come. The NFL Players Association has decertified as of 2PM Pacific time today and no longer exists as a union, renouncing its authority to bargain on behalf of NFL players.

Despite a dizzying and rather funny series of 11th-hour Twitter skirmishes, the NFLPA and the league owners were unable to find common ground. With ten minutes until the 5pm ET deadline for decertification, the union gave the owners the ultimatum to release 10 years of audited financial information - heavily guarded information and the pivot point for all the negotiations thus far - or decertification would occur. The owners failed to agree in time, the deadline passed, and the union made good on its threat.

The greatest significance of the union ceasing to exist is that it removes the league's protection against antitrust lawsuits brought on by the players, who can now seek a legal injunction that would prevent the lockout threatened by the owners. This is serious power on the part of the players, especially in light of the fact that the overseeing judge, David Doty, has a history of decisions favoring the players.

In other words, this does not rule out a 2011 NFL season. It also does not affect the draft, which will occur as normal. It does, however, forebode a long and ugly courtroom fight, an unpredictable and labor-dominated offseason, hazy and false information typical to high-profile courtroom cases, and leftover animosity that could sow the seeds for another labor dispute years down the road - as the last dispute did for this one.

We here at 17 Power will provide any pertinent headlines and opinions on the labor dispute that come forth, but our main goal is to strive to remain focused on the draft and the Seahawks during this time. Someone has to keep the Internet sane.

I Guess I'll Talk About the Safety Position Too

Right on the football.
The usual offseason flurry of "personnel review" articles is underway on various blogs, and this week a few of them seem to have converged on Seattle's needs at strong safety.

This article from Dan Kelly of the Seehock Blog ought to make you a fan of sophomore strong safety Kam Chancellor. It goes over some of Kam's early scouting reports and breaks down a few highlight plays, noting his developing instincts and the power and intensity of his tackles. I'd like to see some lowlights to balance this out, but it's good stuff nonetheless.

Fieldgulls chimes in with concerns about the durability of Lawyer Milloy. The veteran safety really seemed to hit his "age wall" in the midst of 2010, losing a huge chunk of his speed and thus his impact. His most notorious failing was the Greg Olsen TD in the playoffs, which I still maintain is less Milloy's fault that the overall defense's, but still Milloy's lost burst remains a problem waiting to be exploited.

A thread at tosses around some worthwhile bits, including the comparison of Chancellor's size (6'4" and 240 pounds) to that of a linebacker. It's a fair comparison, considering Pete Carroll appears to favor linebacker hybrids (see: Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis) for his "Bandit" defense that relies on masked intentions.

The general impression is that Kam Chancellor improved as the season went on. There's a wrinkle in that impression, revealed by the snaps breakdowns in Brian McIntyre's personnel review (amazing the mileage one can get out of that simple tool): not only did Kam Chancellor play only 12% of the Seahawks' defensive snaps in 2010, but almost all of them were in the "Bandit" defense. He got virtually no time in base defense prior to Week 14 except in relief of Earl Thomas against the Giants. This means that Chancellor has hardly been tested as a starting strong safety at all.

Projected to go in the third round (and as high as the second by some) in the 2010 draft, and selected by a GM who has voiced an intention to start his mid-round picks, Kam Chancellor should be viewed as the future starter at the strong safety position. His limited starting experience seems a factor of an overall policy of easing new picks into the lineup (CB Walter Thurmond was deployed in similar fashion), not necessarily concern about his abilities. Playoff contention is no time to test your rookies; you put your best guys on the field, especially when your defense is already struggling.

Make no mistake, Chancellor isn't a burner or a perfect cover safety. He'll struggle at times with the deep play, though his instincts may develop enough to offset this. Fortunately, neither Carroll's defensive history nor Seattle's current Tampa 2 configuration require Kam to be anything but exactly what he is: an in-the-box run stopper and strong tackler, with decent zone ability, potential as a blitzer, and special-teams prowess tossed in. We can argue about the value of this role until the cows come home (and continue while they chew their cud), but Chancellor does fit Seattle's scheme like a glove.

I'm happy to start Chancellor in 2010 and see what he's made of. He's gotten almost no chance to strut his stuff as it is. It would be nice to see Chancellor evolve into a solid value pick who actually grows into the game and peaks in the midst of a long career, rather than in his rookie season like many of Ruskell's greatest hits. We need football players whose best games are ahead of them, not behind, and although Kam is untested, he has enticing potential. Start him; Lawyer Milloy's tired tendons will be grateful, and they've earned their retirement.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Patriots' True Draft Strategy

I'm not trying to deny that the New England Patriots have an effective draft model. I'm just trying to figure out exactly what it is.

My last article on New England's draft record hopefully cleared up one misconception: that the Pats are better than average in the 3rd round and below. They're actually rather bad. Most of their mid- to late-round picks in the last few years haven't even stuck around as depth or role players. They've just...been cut. The Seahawks have gotten more depth players out of their fourth- and fifth-rounders than that. (Of course, you could argue that a backup with the Seahawks would be camp fodder on most playoff teams, but I digress.)

So...what are the Patriots doing then, exactly? I noticed one interesting item: in the last two years, they've had seven second-round draft picks - far more than any other team. I'm sure there's more to their draft strategy than just that, but I can at least talk about the results.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Myth of the Patriots Trade-Down

We football fans love to talk about the draft and about our team's options during the offseason, and one of the most popular options is "trade down". Whenever somebody mentions the possibility of their team trading down to grab extra draft picks, people get excited. If you asked the typical fan whether he'd approve of dropping down a few spots in the first round to nab an extra fourth- or fifth-rounder, most would go, "Sign me up! That's what the Patriots do, isn't it?"

Somewhere in the ether, this belief has popped up that the New England Patriots are a successful franchise because of a draft strategy of quantity over quality - or perhaps more fairly, quality via quantity. They trade down repeatedly to pick up as many picks as possible, including mid- to late-round picks, then turn them into starters, then trade those starters after a few years for more picks. Thus New England ends up with better players just by virtue of selling high and having more players to develop.

In other words, the media's gushing about "the rich getting richer" has folks thinking that the Patriots are running around winning with a bunch of 4th-round Pro Bowlers and overachieving 7th-round depth - the ultimate poster boys for "build through the draft".

But consider this recent tweet from NFL Draft Bible:
Between 2005-2008 the Patriots had 26 draft picks & failed on every selection except 3 (Meriweather/Mayo/D.Thomas) Terrible. Check 4urself.
And it sent me on yet another weekend-consuming research project. Check 4urself...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Looking Back on 2010, Part 6: Ominous October

Continuing a series of posts re-capturing the moods, debates, and plot twists of Pete Carroll's first year in Seattle. Links to previous installments available at the end of the page.

Seattle had gotten off to just good enough of a start in September to energize Seahawks fans, but there were still red flags.

Yes, Seattle was 2-1, but the opponents weren't all that impressive and the winning didn't look all that sustainable. San Diego had performed well against us and had lost due to a freak special-teams meltdown. The 49ers were, well, the 49ers. And the Denver Broncos, who would go on to finish the season 3-13, had whalloped us.

Part of judging a team is judging its opponents. I respected Seattle's 2-1 start more than I did its 2009 start, which featured a blowout against the bottom-dwelling Rams and Jaguars and then nothing else. The 49ers and Chargers were talented, the latter notorious for starting the season slow. So I wasn't about to dismiss the winning entirely, but I was nervous as October began as the Rams coming up. One of my colleagues at work was positive that St. Louis would beat us: "You can't keep a streak like that going forever".

She was right.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

UPDATED Thursday Links

I'll have some original (and controversial, and possibly unpopular) content up on Monday. Another installment of the "Looking Back" series will arrive on Saturday, I think.

Meanwhile, on this final day of the CBA that we've enjoyed for 18 years, a few Seahawks happenings. Check back for updates!

  • UPDATE: The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to a 24-hour extension of labor talks. This move is being popularly seen as a stepping stone to a longer extension, and at the very least as increasing goodwill between the two sides. Brian McIntyre also optimistically notes that the last such extension during a labor dispute (in 2006) eventually led to a new agreement.
  • UPDATE: TE Chris Baker was cut by the Seahawks. Baker's disappointment as a receiving threat and the emergence of Cameron Morrah made this a non-surprise.
  • QB Matt Hasselbeck has rejected Seattle's latest contract offer, and ESPN's John Clayton has reported that the two sides aren't anywhere close to an agreement. It appears that Seattle is trying to keep Hass's contract lean and incentive-laden to give them the ability to opt out easily if Matt can't produce, which has to be a consideration given his dropoff in the last three years. Hass, on the other hand, seems to think he can keep playing.
  • The Seahawks have waived QB Nate Davis, reports Brian McIntyre. Davis' brief acquisition from the 49ers seemed to indicate the importance of the QB position to the team, but apparently Davis hasn't shown what he needed to. It could also mean that Seattle is confident in its ability to either re-sign Matt Hasselbeck or replace him through the draft.
  • Anyone looking to understand the CBA chess game between the league and the players absolutely must give this ESPN article a read. It does a great job of taking the obtuse legal wording and various scenarios in the CBA drama and reducing them to layman's terms.
  • Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog has another piece up on Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett. Rob has carefully modulated his words to show neutrality on the guy and avoid becoming a Mallett shill; what he's really addressing are the lazy journalism and raging groupthink that have dogged Mallett for months.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Seahawks Re-Sign RB Washington, Tender DT Mebane

    In what ranks amongst the best possible news of the Seahawks offseason, the Seahawks have re-signed RB Leon Washington to a four-year contract.

    The deal comes across as quite cheap next to the large contracts being paid to other champion returners:

    PlayerContractPer year
    Josh Cribbs3 yrs, $20M$6.7M/yr
    Devin Hester4 yrs, $41M$10M/yr
    Leon Washington 20114 yrs, $12.5M$3.1M/yr
    Leon Washington 2010*$5M/yr

    *The cost to the Seahawks also pales in comparison to what the New York Jets offered Leon before the trade to Seattle. Leon's contract with the Seahawks is fair to Leon and appropriate for what Leon is - a special-teams stud with huge potential to outplay 2nd-string status, but a 2nd-stringer nonetheless.

    Second Opinions: Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton

    Hmmm...this place is quickly turning into a Ryan Mallett blog. I need to write about Red Bryant or something, quick.

    My opinions aren't perfect, and in this day and age of information overload and relative anonymity, I think it's important for a writer to have accountability. Therefore, you'll often see "Second Opinions" pieces here on 17 Power. Read them as me going "I might have been wrong". This week's lesson is not to take too much stock in what the media says. Yep, pretty basic. I might be a bit of a project as a writer.

    I stand by my slight disappointment on Ryan Mallett's Combine interview. I don't think the video shows the "meltdown" that Doug Farrar refers to, but he did flash the petulance that's rapidly becoming his trademark. I think he could have helped himself by avoiding that. It compared poorly to the well-rehearsed, easygoing-on-the-surface interview of media darling Cam Newton and left a lot of people saying that Mallett would have to ace his private team interviews and the throwing drills on Sunday in order to make up for the lost ground.

    Well, by many accounts, Mallett did just that. His throwing on Sunday was the best at the Combine, showing great power, accuracy, and ease of throwing. It was enough to remind the league that Cam Newton is still a project as a passer, albeit with stratospheric upside.