For a while, the Seahawks' 2011 campaign was just one long draft discussion. Who are we getting at QB next year - that's all we cared about. Then the running game and defense suddenly emerged and started making a regular season out of it. That was fun, and hugely heartening. 2011 proved more informative and promising than we had expected.
But now, with the 49ers loss, we're swinging back into the holding pattern despite having a little football still left to play. And with that reversion, some shelved concerns are coming back with a vengeance.
A lot of us don't trust Pete Carroll to get our future quarterback right. I confess I don't.
And this despite Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider having done what most of us would have considered impossible: not only dump an entire roster whose financial footprint made it nigh undumpable, but replace most of that roster with talented high-ceiling starters - within two offseasons.
Wait...lockout...one and a half offseasons!
The rational sliver of my mind says, "What more do these guys need to prove to you?" They've validated themselves at virtually every position, spectacularly in some cases (Kam Chancellor! Doug Baldwin! ZOMG RICHARD SHERMAN!!!!!!!1!11). But when it comes to the cornerstone of quarterback, we're tetchy. Anxiously rehashing the debates. Wringing out the talking points without mercy. Flooding Rob Staton with page hits. All the signs of someone who needs a lot more reassurance.
Irrational. "They are really good at evaluation and fit for 235 players, but not good at the QB's?" asks intrepid Seahawks flogger* Davis Hsu. "Let's give them a little more credit."
Maybe it's just the importance of that all-consuming QB position that makes me nervous. It feels a little akin to choosing the right spouse - correcting a bad decision comes only at great, great cost (especially if, like me, one doesn't believe in divorce), so the decision gains that much more weight. A bad QB can be ejected, but as the Jets are about to find out, it ain't pretty.
That, and we're not used to trusting the judgment of a GM after years of Tim Ruskell. We've long since taken the responsibility for scouting into our own hands, without the training or knack for it, as fans of bad teams so often do. So, we worry.
Or...maybe it's just because of Charlie Whitehurst.
If the bust there was that severe (and it WAS severe), what does that say about this front office's QB evaluation skills?
Okay, let's turn this point into material rather than letting it push us around. The front office whiffed on Whitehurst. I called the whiff before it happened, and so did a lot of other folks, so it's easy to fume over why Pete Carroll couldn't see what we all saw (that fan arrogance coming into play here for me). And, of course, we fans never forget a wasted draft pick. Despite Carroll's Midas touch in seemingly every round, that lost third-rounder (who has accrued exactly four tackles for San Diego, by the way) still sticks in our minds like an unwashed doorknob in Adrian Monk's. Throw in the goodwill that hopeful fans invested in him, and the teases that Whitehurst showed along the way, and we're not very happy with Carroll over that particular trade.
But Davis eloquently points out of Carroll and Schneider, "No one bats 1000, these guys are batting like 750-800."
My brain replies, "But they liked Tarvaris Jackson, too." Tarvaris's small contract rolls its eyes and mutters, "Not that much."
The rumor mill chimes in, "They also liked Kevin Kolb and Trent Edwards"; Tarvaris' contract jumps back in, "Not enough to value them more than me, apparently."
I fret over the endless support Jackson has gotten from Carroll, as if it might mean a long future for him under Seattle's center; Matt Hasselbeck calls over from Tennessee, "I got that treatment at first, too." The Seahawks' 2011 draft board pipes up from a landfill somewhere, "They had Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, and Andy Dalton ranked as their top QB's"; James Carpenter interjects from his stationary cycle, "But they picked me instead." I'm tempted to pine over Ryan Mallett; the entire 12th Man plugs their ears in haste. My memory dredges up the vague "point guard" comments from Carroll; logic reminds that there's no reason to conclude that we're actively searching for the next Trent Dilfer.
And eventually, I remember that once the irrational thoughts start forming a parade, the definition of "worry" has been officially satisfied.
Kip Earlywine posted from Seahawks Draft Blog a while ago about "Having Faith" and gave us good reasons to do so. Neither financial concerns nor draft position have stopped the Seahawks from stacking on the talent thus far. Pete Carroll has produced a long line of strong quarterbacks at USC and has avoided several traps in the draft (Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow) already. They've done their due diligence on many different QB options, signaling their awareness of the position's importance, yet have refused to gamble on a prospect whose cost outweighed the likely benefits. Are not these great positives?
Perhaps even more encouraging is the learning that Pete Carroll has done since arriving in Renton. He's shown growth. When he re-signed Brandon Mebane and returned him to his natural nose tackle spot, I remember him remarking about how he had "more information" on Mebane to make decisions now. Some of us had liked Mebane more at the 1-tech for a while anyway, but that's irrelevant - I sincerely hope that Pete would not be surfing this blogosphere for tips anyway. His own eyes and his own people confirmed the idea, and Pete swallowed the mistake and corrected it.
That's huge. I hate ego. College coaches bust because of that more than any other reason, because they walk into the well-established NFL and think they know best. But the NFL is a petri dish of change, adaptation, innovation, and Carroll has shown himself flexible enough to ride that wave. It's huge to have a head coach whose eyes are fixed outward instead of inward.
Hsu put it eloquently and personally: "In the realm of having two kids, I feel like a more confident and better parent with my second than my first kid. First time, you make more mistakes." So say we all. If Pete was going to screw up at the QB position, it's better to do it early and cheap, as he did with Whitehurst, than with a high draft pick three or more years into the rebuild. Make no mistake - eventually, success will be required. "Failing for cheaper" won't keep him employed after five years. But his failures so far are not damning. They are recoverable, understandable, well-received teachable moments, and most importantly, now in the rear-view mirror.
As we trod once again into the long, dark draft season, with Seahawks Draft Blog as our flashlight, let's at least carry some faith with us. Pete Carroll and John Schneider appear pretty QB-smart to everyone except the worrywarts. They've brought us a long ways in a very short amount of time and put us back on the national radar. Time to shed our PTSD from the Ruskell era and start trusting. It'll do all our stomachs a lot of good.
Later: A similar, more analytical Carroll-and-QB's piece from Scott Williams, the next in a long line of excellent Scottwork that I keep forgetting to post.
*Note: "flogger" was intentional. It's my made-up word for someone who uses his Twitter stream, and occasionally Fieldgulls, for his blog home despite having the smarts and productivity to do well with one of his own. Chalk Adam Wright into this category too. (Better yet - both of you, start a blog already. They're all free and stuff.)