Sunday, May 1, 2011

17 Power and the Right to Discuss

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.

But...



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.

17 comments:

  1. Brandon, You are right about much of what you say, but is it possible that if the honchos had drafted Ryan Mallett, while ignoring the O-line completely you would like the draft more, not because it was the right thing to do, but because you like Ryan Mallett? Kiper is busting the Hawks right now for passing on Andy Dalton, and I fail to see how passing on him is a mistake. But Kiper LOVES Dalton, so it is an egregious error in his eyes.

    Trade Moffitt for Mallett, then how do you feel about this draft?

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  2. Relevant: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
    I'm seeing a lot of them all over the forums. I'm not criticizing people for being optimistic, but a lot of it is wishful thinking. I myself am definitely guilty of appeal to authority. All weekend I found myself shaking my head at the picks and telling myself that Pete/John know what they're doing

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  3. Good, I'm glad there's someone that isn't in the business of convincing himself these picks were good.

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  4. Trade Moffitt for Mallett and I'm ecstatic...maybe.

    I simply want the QB situation resolved, Scott, and Mallett just appeared to be the best solution by far. It wasn't merely some personal preference (and you know that) but my belief that arm strength can give QB's some automatic protection.

    BUT...it's hard to ignore Mallett's fall. I was wrong about teams being willing to take him. The league must know something that I don't, and so my disappointment on Mallett carries an asterisk as of right now.

    And yeah, "at least it wasn't Dalton" does make the whole draft a shade better. :P

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  5. @scott: I would like that more, because Galley should be there, Spencer *can* be resigned, and there are SOLID free agent RTs and RGs. We could have improved our line on a similar level in free agency, and have 2 potentially dominant players at crucial positions where right now we have nothing and capable players are in very high demand.

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  6. I'm not gonna lie i was as shocked as everyone else while watching the draft. As much as i would have loved to take Mallet, i still think that, regardless if we had taken him or anyone else, Hasselbeck should be resigned: a) as the starter and b) as a mentor. I will be really disappointed if we trade for Palmer instead of re-signing Hasselbeck. I know this might be a bit of an unpopular idea but i am still a die hard Hass fan and to see him playing at any other team is gonna be heart breaking for me. Anyway apologies for going off topic. I think we should have addressed the secondary and D-Line more in the draft (i.e. Jimmy Smith at 25) and i'm not sold on PC and JS 100% but, until they do something totally drastic, i'll support them.

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  7. I say bravo to almost anything that is said in regards to our draft picks, draft picks for other teams and whatnot. The only thing I can not stand is when anyone who isn't actually part of a team calls someone a reach. That is when the information the professionals have trump absolutely anything that I'd say 98% of those who do mock drafts have. I understand that there are quite a few people who watch film and evaluate, but unless you actually have access to the teams draft boards, there is no way you can proclaim someone a reach. An example is Carpenter from our first round pick. It didn't take more than 12 posts before someone was saying that it was a round too early to draft him. Then comes the reports that the Steelers and Ravens both wanted him. As much as anyone wants to throw their conjecture out there (usually regurgitating things that they read from someone else who has no access to the teams draft boards), it is completely guess work as to where the professionals actually have the player rated.

    I like the picks for the most part, however, I believe wholeheartedly that our defense could have used those early picks far more than the offense, as I repeat something that I posted on this blog before: we have finished seventh worst in points allowed for three straight years.

    The thing I am telling myself that makes this a little easier to swallow is with less time to implement our offensive and defensive game plans thanks to the lockout the running game is the easiest thing to put together quickly and effectively.

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  8. Well said. I wholeheartedly agree, though I think I'm quite a bit less dejected about this draft... or at least Carpenter.

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  9. I agree that reach-calling has to be done carefully, BASF, but I've got something to say about that in the next post too.

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  10. Oh boo hoo. So the Seahawks bigwigs forgot to check with you to make sure they picked all the guys you wanted for this team, so of course, you have the 'right' to bemoan everything they do, and now your panties are in a bunch.

    Whoop de frikken do.

    Did I like all the picks as they came down the pick? No. But I'm just a hack that watches a few games and think I know what he hell makes a good player - pretty much like everyone else. (Kyle excepted).

    I know this, Pete & John have a very distinct vision for the team, and they drafted based on that vision. Their only sin is that vision doesn't match yours.

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  11. You comments and efforts on this blog are greatly appreciated.

    Seahawks football is entertainment for me and I don't take it too seriously.

    If I had the opportunity, my question for Coach Cable would be:

    After getting pushed around at the Senior Bowl, putting up a weak bench press and a glacial 40 at the combine, what did you see in Moffitt that convinced you he was the right guard for your zone blocking offensive line.

    Can a 320 lb, not so athletic, relatively weak
    ,not so nimble lineman play right guard in a zone offense?

    Why would Moffitt be a better fit than Unger?

    Yada yada.

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  12. I'm the exact opposite of you, Brandon. I try to stay positive. To me this FO is competent 'til proven otherwise.

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  13. Well, Carroll certainly inspired a poor team to greater achievements last year. Can't ignore that. I will try hard to give this front office every credit they deserve.

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  14. @seattl

    attempting to fix the offensive line in free agency has got us absolutely nowhere since hutch left.

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  15. I initially took a competent until proven otherwise approach with Pete/John and then they proceeded to trade Sims, Wilson, Jackson and Tapp for peanuts,and then over pay for Charlie Whitehurst. The balance has been somewhat restored with the excellent 2010 draft class, Chris Clemons and BMW panning out, making a player out of Red Bryant,the Branch trade, the Lynch trade and the unexpected playoff run, so I pretty much don't know what to think of them at this point. Having a kickass free agency and coming up with Carson Palmer will tip the balance in their favor for me.

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  16. I'm hardly the type to hold back criticism, but there are really only 2 possible angles for me to criticize this draft:

    (1) Passing on Ryan Mallett twice.
    (2) Failing to move up a few spots for Jordan, then Hudson, then a DT in the late 3rd.

    And both are totally unfair.

    I think Mallett is going to be an amazing steal for the Patriots. He's a top 15 talent. That said, I didn't feel the slightest tinge of pain when Seattle twice passed on him, because he just doesn't fit the kind of offense Pete Carroll wants to run, so he was never an option in the first place. If Seattle had drafted Mallett and ran the same offense as 2010, he'd probably be a disaster. He's that bad on rollouts and is poor outside the pocket in general. Plus, Mallett needs to go somewhere with an excellent o-line, because NFL blitzing is a worry for me. Kurt Warner belongs in the Hall of fame, but he was a terrible QB for stretches of his career when his team didn't have a counter for the blitz. So Seattle was a poor fit for this reason as well. Bottom line- passing on Mallett is a non-issue for me.

    As far as not trading up, it stung, but its to be expected for a team that takes a patient approach. Like a patient hitter in baseball, sometimes you take a called 3rd strike on the fringe of the strike zone, but generally you will walk more than strike out if you have a good eye and use the right approach at the plate. Seattle got some "called 3rd strikes" in this draft, which sucks, but to complain about not "swinging away" is just Monday morning quarterbacking. The patient approach really helped Seattle last year, and it even helped them a little this year with the move they made to get Moffitt/Durham.

    I'm ecstatic that Seattle passed on Dalton, and I'm not particularly sad that they chose not to make a huge reach for Kaepernick. If I could do this draft all over again, the only thing I'd change is trading up a few times, but if every team had a crystal ball like that then even trading up would be pointless.

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  17. Had we picked up Mallet in the 3rd and then use the first 4th round pick on OG Clint Boling, I'd be more estatic too. But honestly, these QB's were probably the most scrutinized draft picks in recent memory, only due to the lockout. What's more interesting was that Mallet was the last pick of the top tier QB's, shows that not only do you need the talent to play the position but use a little salesmanship to advertise it. Great read Brandon.

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