Seahawks Recent Regression Correlated with Investment in Offensive Skill Positions
By Joshua Smith
Despite having a talented core of young players, the misplaced priorities of Seattle’s front office in recent years have limited team potential.
Since winning the Super Bowl the Seattle Seahawks have been unable to rekindle the magic that brought Seattle its first championship, despite having a core of young talented players all entering their prime. While being ever so careful not to tread into Yankee fan territory, a place where any success short of a championship cannot be appreciated or enjoyed, I will acknowledge and explain the recent regression of the Seahawks during a time when they should be getting better.
In 2013 the Seahawks had their best season in franchise history, posting a 13 win regular season and crushing the mighty Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Watching your team win the Super Bowl is exciting enough, however Seahawks fans had additional reasons to be excited. One reason was because almost the entire team was under contract or was going to be able to be resigned.
For most Super Bowl winning teams, this is a luxury that cannot be afforded. In the end only three starters were lost to free agency: Malcolm Smith, Brandon Browner, and Golden Tate. The second and biggest reason why fans were excited was because the Seahawks had a talented core of young players who hadn’t even hit their respective primes yet. The future looked very bright.
Fast forward two years and the Seahawks have regressed. By no means does this mean that they haven’t been a very successful NFL team, they have, but the argument can be made that the Seahawks had the unique opportunity to become a dynasty for the reasons that I described earlier. During and following the 2013 campaign Seattle’s front office invested a lot of draft capital, team talent, and cap space into offensive skill position players all the while completely neglecting the offensive line.
In 2014 the Seahawks went 12- 4 in the regular season and infamously lost in the Super Bowl to the Patriots. A loss in the Super Bowl is a great result, deserving of high praise and appreciation from fans. However despite the 2014 season coming within one play of ending the same way as the 2013 season, it was clear from watching the games that the 2014 team wasn’t quite the same as the 2013 squad. Following that heart breaking loss to the Patriots, the Seahawks were again able to stave off any major losses in free agency apart from losing Byron Maxwell.
Then the Max Unger trade happened. Clueless talking heads that somehow make it on TV only to spew their ignorant nonsense and expose themselves as knowing something close to zero about football proclaimed this trade as a major win for the Seahawks and a loss for the Saints. I know I know hindsight is 20/20, however when I first learned of the trade I was moderately horrified due to my personal philosophy that offensive line play is much more important to an offense than
The Seahawks gave up their starting center and first round draft pick, and this showed in 2015. Drew Novak replaced Max Unger and the offensive line was horrible at best throughout most of the 2015 season. The result was a 10 and 6 season and a loss in the divisional round to the Panthers.
This article isn’t even about whether or not the trades and draft picks that Seattle has made over recent years have worked out or not. Some have, most haven’t. Its about the very heavy investment that Seattle has made in skill position players at the cost of the O-line, and the fact that this has coincided with less winning.
In the 2013 Super Bowl season the Seahawks had the 27th best offensive line in the NFL according to the Pro Football Focus’s rankings. 27th out of 30 teams. At this point the Seahawks were a team with minimal needs besides on the offensive line. However the only real step taken to upgrade one of the worst position groups in the NFL was to reach on Justin Britt with the 57th pick in the 2014 draft. In 2014 the Hawks invested their first pick in the draft on a wide receiver for the second year in a row, selecting Paul Richardson after having traded their 2013 first round pick for Percy Harvin.
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It’s worth noting that Seattle also spent their second pick in the 2013 draft on an offensive skill position player in Christine Michael. The Seahawks’ offensive line somehow jumped up to 19
in PFF’s 2014 rankings, despite only adding Justin Britt. The improvement probably had more to do with Breno Giacomini’s departure more than anything.
We all know what happened in the 2015 offseason. The offensive line was allowed to deteriorate as the glue that had held its talentless assemblage together was traded away for a tight end who couldn’t block. For the third year in a row, nothing was done in the draft or free agency to make the situation immediately better. Instead, even more draft capital was invested in receivers as the Seahawks traded up to draft Tyler Lockett.
Lockett is a very good player, however it doesn’t change the fact that he can’t play along the offensive line. Factor in losing the first round pick in the Jimmy Graham deal and Seattle spent the bulk of their draft capital on offensive skill position players for the third straight year. Another under the radar move (or non-move) by the Seahawks was the lack of interest they showed in signing La’el Collins as a free agent after the 2015 NFL draft. Collins was a first-round talent who slid out of the draft because he was wrongly linked to a murdering a woman.
For a while I thought it would be justified for GM John Schneider to charged with the attempted murder of Russell Wilson. The Seahawks had one of the worst offensive lines in 2015, despite being one of the healthiest offensive lines in football. Consider the fact that teams who lost virtually their entire starting five due to injuries still ranked higher in PFF’s rankings than Seattle’s solemn 30th, and that it was because of injuries that there were any teams at all ranked behind them.
Since winning the Super Bowl the Seahawks have done little to improve or maintain a major blight on the team, and have allowed the situation to fester and get worse. It’s a miracle the Russell Wilson hasn’t been injured or killed. The Seahawks have actually been extremely lucky that they have been able to have the success that they have had considering their level of offensive line play. Wilson has basically been superman, and has found a way to avoid injuries despite the brutal punishment that he has endured.
Up until this past offseason the Seahawks had been able to get through free agency mostly unscathed. The young team that won the Super Bowl has been kept together and the players have presumably been getting better as they enter their primes. Russell Wilson is never hurt and is one of the best in the business. However over the last two years the Seahawks as a whole have gradually declined. This directly correlates to their neglect of the O-line and their mostly futile pursuit of skill position players, having invested in the likes of Percy Harvin, Christine Michael, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, and Jimmy Graham.
Next: Is Christine Michael poised for a larger role?
The 2016 draft indicates to me that Seattle recognizes their mistake, however the damage has been done. The salary cap finally caught up to Seattle during the 2016 free agency period, and its unlikely that this year’s Seahawks team is going to be as talented as the 2014 or 2015 teams. The saving grace is that John Schneider has also done a lot of good things during his reign. He’s back on track as the 2016 draft class appears to be a good one.