It's the day after the conclusion of the draft, and naturally the post-draft optimism is already in full swing. We're all excited and hoping to see these draft picks pan out. Few people want to be down on the efforts of Seattle's front office. Few people want to think of any of these picks as busts in waiting, or of the draft strategy as futile.
So I understand why people may be down on me for being negative. It often looks intentional. But it's not - I'm simply a skeptic by nature. That's my default position, my approach to analysis. In my eyes, the Pete Carroll regime has been guilty until proven innocent, right from the moment it moved into the VMAC. They needed to prove themselves to me, and despite an improbable playoff run, they still do.
But how far can I pursue my right to judge? Am I a scout with the Seahawks? Have I been in their war room? Do I have anywhere near the amount of information or football knowledge that Pete Carroll and John Schneider do? Nope. I do not. Anyone who criticizes the Seahawks' actions with its players is criticizing from a place of having less information than the Seahawks. I fully acknowledge that. The VMAC interns who make Pete Carroll's coffee probably know more than I do.
Therefore, on the surface, it sounds ridiculous for anyone to criticize the team. It seems far more reasonable to give them the benefit of a doubt and trust their judgment.
If having more information automatically led to good decisions, we wouldn't have losing franchises. We wouldn't have the Rams and Lions drafting in the Top 16 each and every year. We wouldn't have the Redskins repeatedly bankrupting themselves for lazy, ill-fitting veterans. We wouldn't have Tim Ruskell repeatedly ignoring the quarterback and left tackle positions season after season. We wouldn't have Ken Behring selecting Dan McGwire instead of Brett Favre.
Every team has information, but something needs to be done with that information. It needs to be synthesized, prioritized, put into context. This is where things tend to fall apart - the decision-making, the proper use of the information. That's what critics are looking at. Sure, it's easy to dismiss bad decisions as unavoidable except in hindsight. Luck and circumstance play a role in the fate of every decision. But it's funny how Ted Thompson and Bill Belichick never need those excuses. Part of good management is having foresight.
We've all been part of organizations where human flaws or simple error gets in the way. Some leaders lead out of their ego - whether that looks like a dominant/stubborn/mistrustful personality or the more panicky variety where early criticism makes them feel backed up against the wall. Losing philosophies and bad scouting processes abound in the NFL - look no further than Tim Ruskell. Sports scouts are known for "pack mentality" and peer pressure. One bad decision can beget more bad decisions, the "fatal slide" where you're scrambling so hard to correct one mistake that you start making more. Bias, superstition, politics, misinterpretation of data - they all happen. It's not a stretch to think that NFL teams are prone to these phenomena. After all, they're run by humans.
To assume that a front office must know what it's doing, simply because it has access to more data, is a logical fallacy known as an appeal to authority. And I do not ascribe to it. It's contradicted by the myriad of poorly run teams out there.
True, I don't have all the information or context for Seattle's decisions, but what am I supposed to do as a result? Sit here and blindly accept everything they do? Never say a negative word? How did that work for Matt Millen's supporters? I do not wish to do that. I wish to evaluate. I wish to dive in and get my hands dirty. I wish to make my opinions known. That's my personality; that's my intention. And the lack of good decisions by many NFL teams makes room for my criticism. All across the league, in every sport, some fans manage to be more correct than their team's general managers on a yearly basis.
Besides, it's no fun to NOT talk about it.
And it's interesting that the "you don't have the information" line only gets fed to the critics. Nobody ever says it to the optimistic ones, even though it applies to them just as well.
Truth is, we Seattle fans just don't want to face even the possibility that our front office isn't going to succeed. Not yet. We don't want to think that Pete Carroll might not get invited back when his contract runs out in 2015, or might get fired before then. It's too soon to think about that.
And why shouldn't it be? Isn't it perfectly acceptable to hope for the best? The experience of the NFL fan is couched in hope. We don't want to invest ourselves emotionally in a team that's going nowhere, much less pay it. That's like getting married already knowing you'll be divorced in three years. Kinda takes away from the current excitement, drains some of the enjoyment from everything in between. It's a total killjoy. I'd much rather hope.
So lest I come across as condescending, I want to say that I totally understand. Not everyone wants to hear the negative right now, especially before the 2011 Seahawks take the field. And there is a limit on how far critics can take their opinions. Responsible criticism does need a certain "wait and see" restraint to it. I intend to include that. I already demonstrated that in my last post, which I think gave the front office a fair shake despite my reservations.
However, once my optimism starts leading me to contradictions of what I know about football, I no longer feel comfortable. There's a difference between a restraint and a gag.
So, let me make it clear: I'm going to criticize. I'm going to purvey negative opinions when I find it called for. It's my right as a fan. We are the consumers of the team; we make the Seahawks. We have a stake in this. Therefore, we have a right to judge, though it does need to be exercised responsibly and in an informed manner.
All this to say: if you don't want to read anything negative about the draft right now, I completely understand and don't hold that against you at all. But don't expect me to keep my blog empty for your preferences. That's not why I'm here. If you plan to appeal to authority and dismiss me for criticizing, I'm simply not going to respond to you. I'll respond to those of us who actually want to debate - that's why the blog is here. We fans don't know everything, but we do know some things. And as a community, we collectively know quite a bit. So let's debate.
I'm not trying to be a killjoy; I'm just explaining my justification for offering the opinions I'm about to. They won't be all negative by a long shot. I'm actually getting excited about a few of our picks as I read more. But I do have reservations, and I'm going to offer them to anyone who is curious. If you don't want to hear them, don't read me. If you do, buckle up. We're going for a ride.