Sunday, October 30, 2011

CenturyLink field cancels Seahawks game, hosts a circus instead

I didn't post a write-up last week, and it honestly had nothing to do with the fact that it was perhaps the most inept offensive showing of the Pete Carroll era.  I was sick and the idea of blogging a disaster like that while I could barely think straight didn't seem like a fun idea.

So anyway, sorry about that.

Regarding today's game, I normally watch a game looking for storylines, but the storyline of today's game was about as multi-faceted and incoherent as a David Lynch film.  It was a weird game that mixed depressing realities with exciting indications. A game like that doesn't make for a good single narrative, so I'll just jump straight to the bullet points this week.

  • If I had written about last weeks game, the headline would have been something like this: "Charlie Whitehurst sucks, is the ultimate teammate."  Nothing takes the heat off a starter faster than giving the fanbase a full, vivid knowledge that the alternative quarterback is a hot stinking pile of doo.  Whitehurst was terrible against Cleveland, and was much worse today than his line of 4/7 for 52 yards would indicate.  Seattle couldn't move the ball almost at all with Whitehurst under center today, and it was simply night and day when Tarvaris Jackson entered the game. 
  • Now that I've made a point to disclose the amazingly obvious, lets talk about the more subtle reasons for Whitehurst's failings.  I do not pretend to be an X's and O's guru, but even to a neophyte like myself, its pretty obvious that Seattle has not reverted or scaled back their offensive expectations to meet Whitehurst's abilities.  In the preseason, Whitehurst was moderately successful in a simple "snap, step, and throw" offense.  Its not uncommon for NFL teams to adopt similarly undemanding, highly structured schemes in real games too- if the quarterback in question is very young and not ready to have more on his plate.  Andy Dalton is a recent example of that, with most of his pass attempts this season being less than 10 yards in the air.  Whitehurst is not young, but he's limited in much the way a rookie quarterback would be.  Yet rather than switch up the offense to tailor Whitehurst, Seattle tried to force him into playing the same free flowing point guard role Tarvaris Jackson uses, and obviously, Charlie Whitehurst is not a natural point guard type.  In retrospect, the results have been completely obvious.  Almost to the point where you could legitimately wonder if Pete Carroll set him up to fail.
  • But then again, I can see the logic in doing so.  Whitehurst does not have a meaningful long term future with this team as a simple one read quarterback.  Pete has essentially thrown Whitehurst off a cliff to see how he'd handle it.  Regardless of the outcome, the last two games have been valuable data for this front office when deciding whether or not to continue to invest in Whitehurst as a future option for this team's relatively unique quarterback role.  If Whitehurst plays for the Seahawks again later this year, I don't expect anything to change.  They'll keep giving him looks in the point guard offense, just on the off chance that he could somehow be molded into that type of quarterback.  We can expect that Whitehurst will struggle, and we can expect that Whitehurst probably won't be a Seahawk next year.  But its a good gamble to take in a season that's more about the next five years than this year.
  • If I read in my morning paper tomorrow that Seattle set a record for dropped passes today, it wouldn't shock me.  I was too lazy to keep a tally during the game, but I would guess that 8-10 passes hit a Seahawk on the hands and fell incomplete today.  Seattle won the yardage battle today 411 to 252.  They were only penalized by 10 yards more than Cincy.  The turnover ratio was 0.  Even if you take away the pick six and the punt return TD, they still would have lost 20-12.  How is that even possible?  Some redzone shenanigans, and a lot of drops.  Drops were huge today.
  • Not that Tarvaris Jackson was perfect, but I came away impressed with him for the third game in a row.  Despite a deluge of drops, Jackson (21-40, 323, 0 TD, 1 INT) still managed a very impressive 8.1 yards per attempt. His lone interception came on a play where he was hit throwing the ball, although he was lucky not to have an interception on the drive prior, when he briefly thought a Bengals D-lineman was a teammate.  He was slightly off on a few throws today, but the results were there despite the drops, and in terms of things like pocket presence and scanning the field, Jackson has looked as comfortable as ever in the role.  It really does appear that Jackson turned a corner at halftime in the Falcon's game after all.  Do I think Seattle can do better?  Sure.  But that said, its hard to see any other quarterback starting for Seattle in 2012 right now.  Jackson has impressed me, and for a guy that still has a lot of improvements left to make, its heartening that he seems to continue making small improvements each game.
  • Upon further review, Rice did appear to catch that throwaway pass for a touchdown.  His left foot dragged, and his right foot, from the endzone angle, appeared to tap the ground a few millimeters before the white chalk.  Seattle didn't challenge, but they should have.  It could have changed the entire complexity of the game.
  • I think Cincinnati got away with one on the final play before halftime.  Sitting on the player with the ball to buy time is hardly anything new, but when a Cincy played appeared to bat the ball away, that clearly crossed the line, and should have warranted a no-doubter delay of game penalty.  Pete Carroll came screaming on the field afterwards mouthing "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!"  Pete was right, but the refs turned a deaf ear and Seattle still got hosed anyway.
  • I really liked Pete's decision to go for it on the aforementioned play.  Seattle was down by 14 and hadn't done almost anything in the first half, despite moving the ball decently well with Jackson under center.  In a game like that, you can't win with an attitude that kicks field goals from the 3 yard line.  It didn't work out, but it very nearly did, and it wasn't like it was the difference in the game.
  • I found it very heartening that both Chris Clemons and Tarvaris Jackson returned after being hurt.  A game isn't officially ugly until you have injuries to major contributors, and though Seattle is a deep football team in many areas, there are a handful of players they simply can't afford to lose, and Clemons/Jackson are two of them.
  • Doug Baldwin is a stud, but as I've said before, I just don't see how his undersized body and slight frame can continue taking the hits they've taken for much longer.  Baldwin seems to be taking more and more time to get up from them each week.  Part of me wants to hold out hope that Baldwin can tough it out for the next ten seasons of great football, but intellectually, I'll be happy if he lasts three.
  • For all the talk about "what happened to Mike Williams?", an equally valid question might be the same regarding Ben Obomanu.  He really seemed to turn a corner in the 2nd half of the 2010 season, looking like a legit #2 WR.  Until today, he had been pretty quiet in this new offense, so it felt great seeing him break 100 yards against the Bengals (as did Sidney Rice).
  • Red Bryant continued to look like a stud today, forcing penalties over and over again.
  • Anthony McCoy is the clear frontrunner for my imaginary "Courtney Taylor award:" which is the esteemed honor for being the most promising late round player to have his career destroyed by inexplicable drops.
    • My gameball has to go to Richard Sherman, who made one of the prettiest interceptions I've seen in a good long while, and later made a great pass defense that tipped in Kam Chancellor's hands for another interception.  I might have a post on this sometime in the future, but what Seattle has done with their shotgun strategy regarding the secondary has been nothing short of an impressive success.  Now they just need to adopt that philosophy to other areas of the team (Running Back *cough-cough*)

    Overall, this was a brutally ugly game.  Turnovers, a ton of penalties, and a looming phantom of injuries.  But it also left us with a lot of hope, and reminder that this front office didn't go about last offseason with 2011 in mind, but building a core towards a long term future.  I've seen more than enough to conclude that they know what they are doing, and I'm excited about where this team will be two or three years from now.


    1. Good write-up Kip. Are you suggesting that we take some flyers and late round picks/udfa on a couple rb's next year? It does seem like we are due for a young stud rb to take us to the next level.

      Sherman had me worried in the beginning as he was giving too much cushion and getting beat on short routes. Then he emerged with, like you said, one of the more impressive interceptions we've seen in sometime.

      I can see how Tarvaris is the starter next year, but that is very hard to get excited about even considering his improvements.

      Thanks again, Keep em' coming!

    2. Wonderful analysis. Our offensive line needs to develop to help our entire offense. I am looking for Hawks to pickup a QB and a running back in next year's draft. Adding another defensive end and a linebacker would be nice. I love what Richard Sherman can do for us rest of the season as a corner back. Keep the rebuild going Pete and John.

    3. Yes,very good write-up. Thanks!

      I liked Pete's "hormonal call". This is football damn it.

      Agree about Baldwin getting all those hospital throws. Sure hope the Seahawks don't use him up.

      The offense ought to be well rested for the second half of the season.

    4. You guys are morons! Obviously you arent paying attention to what is actually going on. Pete Carrol and Schneider are the worst judges of QB talent around. They brought Whitehurst in to challenge Hasselbeck and then they let Hasselbeck just walk right out the door and thought they could throw Tjak in there and there would be no drop off. He also got rid of his old OC because we were only averaging 80 yds rushing a game. How we doing now??? Last year was a rebuilding year. This year they actually plugged decent players into key positions. Had they not gotten rid of Hasselbeck and actually coach better we would be right there with the niners. Poor coaching offensively, poor scheming offensively and poor QB judgement. It wont get better anytime soon, dont kid yourself. 1 TD in the last 2 games. Look at the first 3 1/2 games. We are right back to that level. Oh and if your waiting for the draft to make things right, your kiddin yourself. Look who they have drafted, Okung n Carpenter in the first? Golden Tate in the 2nd? They will probably wait until the 2nd to pick up a qb if they even do. They will probably go with Tjak next year. Probaly keep Bevel around too, what a waste!

    5. Anonymous posters talk pretty tough, don't they?

    6. Perusing the local Seahawks dead tree writers this AM, they are all over Pete. Predictable, boilerplate and uninspired writing as usual.

      If the old bromide "good teams respond to bad calls by officials by playing better and overcoming temporary setbacks" applies; then why not "Good teams overcome bad calls by their coaches."

      This is not a good team, starting with Coach Cable and his hand picked merry band of "can't run block" linemen. They are the ones who need to be strung-up this week. The clanky hands receiving corpse (Happy Halloween) runs a close second.

    7. Great write-up as usual. I agree with the call at the end of the first half. Historically there's a 52% chance of converting 4th and 3, which might be a little less from the field position we were at. So just on expected points it makes sense. Throw in that we are down by 14 and you need to start taking some chances. Also, we got the first and chances are we should have been able to spike it.

      I also liked Tavaris this game which may have been the contrast to Whitehurst. I thought he looked fairly poised and made some nice throws.

      But man have these games been frustrating to watch: barely giving up third down conversions, drops, crushing bad calls, lost opportunities, inability to run the ball; it takes some deep breathing to make it through.

    8. STB, thanks for pointing that out about 4th down percentages. Today was an ugly painful game to be sure, but it probably will not be the norm.

      Smashmouth, yes about RBs. Seattle has 3 spots on this roster for RB and Seattle should be using them as "tryout" slots. Its no accident that so many top RBs in this league were diamond in the rough types. As much as I may obsess about guys like Chris Polk and Knile Davis who will likely be drafted in the first two rounds when they declare, the fact is that just about half the teams in the Pac12 have a good looking RB, and I can only imagine its the same for many other BCS conferences. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to take a "quantity" approach to addressing RB vs. a "quality" approach taken at other positions like QB.

      Anon1, I agree about targeting a QB/RB next year. Particularly RB.

      Anon2, agree about Whitehurst and I was quite upset by the trade at the time. Disagree about everything else. The way they improved Red Bryant, Raheem Brock, Tarvaris Jackson and Lawyer Milloy suggests some know-how. Stokely and Hargrove were good street acquisitions. Their 2010 draft: Okung, Thomas, Thurmond, Chancellor, McCoy, Davis, is looking like arguably the best Seahawks draft of all time. It has already produced four good/great players and could still potentially produce two more. This year they added Josh Portis, Doug Baldwin and Jeron Johnson in UDFA: probably the best UDFA haul in team history. These guys definitely know talent. And PC/JS know QBs based on their prior history. I wouldn't sweat that.

    9. Where were the Seahawks before PC. We had no talent on the offense, defense and nor special teams. The loss of Matt McCoy has hurt our special teams play this year and why we played like crap against the Bengals. PC and John are not going to pickup a QB for the sake of picking of a QB from the draft unless there is talent. Last year's draft did not have much talent. This year's upcoming draft could have at least 6 decent quarterbacks. Whitehurst was a decent college QB at South Carolina with a nice arm. He just has not been able to read multiple reads. TJack is a worthy QB and is doing what the line is giving him. If Hassleback was around, he would be injured by now. Next year will be a telling tale of what PC brings to the table. He will have 3 drafts under him and should pick up a QB, another running back, a linebacker and defensive end. If we are 2-5 this time next year then we can start raising the PC flag, but right now we have a blossoming young defense and we are on the way of developing our offense. Thought, Gallery and Zach Miller have not shown crap, which just says, we have to build through the draft and not high prized free agents who don't do squat. Zach Miller had some costly drops in the Bengals game and has not shown crap as well as Gallery. Sidney Rice has been a nice pickup but we need to get him and Mike Williams the ball!

    10. I still think Gallery was a great signing. He was relatively cheap (3/15) and he's been a slightly above average LG, only a little below what I expected of him. When he missed some time from injury, the drop-off from him to McQuistan was enormous.

      Zach Miller didn't have his best game against Cincy, and he's missed time with injury, but through his first few games I thought he was a real difference maker. Did Seattle overpay for him? Yeah. But lets not kid ourselves. He's conservatively a top 10 TE in this league, and a pretty big upgrade over John Carlson. I think the targets and catches will be there for him eventually, but with Rice/Baldwin/Obo/Williams, that's a lot of competition for targets, so I'm expecting his numbers to be down a bit this year, since the point guard QB offense Seattle runs is so keen on spreading the football.

    11. Anonymous #4- "you guys are morons"--

      'Straw man' sarcasm? Are you saying that anyone critical of Pete must be thinking along these lines?

      There should always be room for a fan to judge for himself. There have been some questionable personel moves (Carpenter) that can be criticised with rationality. There have been some moves (TJack) that worked out. The coaching appears to be good, even though we're losing the close games, and this could be seen as an ideal situation: the talent is there to be in every game, and since we've lost the close ones we will have good draft position. We really need a good left guard.