The Seahawks gave a much better effort than we saw in the last couple of weeks, but the result was predictable, and a horribly disappointing season now morphs into what figures to be a tumultuous offseason.
Who will be the new general manager? Will coach Jim Mora be back? If he is, will his coordinators be? Which players will stay and which will go? And who will arrive to help turn this team back into a winner?
Before we start looking forward, let’s take a look at what we learned over the course of this 5-11 season and from the season-ending, 17-13 loss to Tennessee.
The things we learned Sunday: where the Seahawks will draft and whom they will play in 2010.
The Seahawks turned out to be the worst 5-11 team, so they pick ahead of Cleveland and Oakland (how bad is that?) at No. 6. They also have Denver’s spot at 14.
They will rotate after the first round, so the Hawks, who have no third-rounder at this point, will pick eighth in the second round, sixth in the fourth, eighth in the fifth, seventh in the sixth, and sixth in the seventh.
This year, the draft will begin on Thursday, April 22, at 4:30 p.m. The second and third rounds will be Friday, April 23, beginning at 3:30 p.m. and rounds four through seven will be on Saturday, starting at 7 a.m.
The NFC West will play the NFC South and AFC West next season. The Seahawks also will play the corresponding third-place finishers in the NFC East and NFC North. That means the Seahawks’ home and away slates look like this:
Home: Atlanta (9-7), Carolina (8-8), Kansas City (4-12), San Diego (13-3), New York Giants (8-8), Arizona (10-6), San Francisco (8-8), St. Louis (1-15).
Away: New Orleans (13-3), Tampa Bay (3-13), Denver (8-8), Oakland (5-11), Chicago (7-9), Arizona (10-6), San Francisco (8-8), St. Louis (1-15).
If they don’t fix their offensive line and find a pass rusher, the Hawks are probably looking at another 5-11 season against that slate.
As for this 5-11 season, Mora couldn’t explain how his first season went so askew and why the Seahawks finished with only one more win than they recorded in Mike Holmgren’s injury-excused 2008 season.
After the loss to Tennessee, Mora sounded like a coach who had been beaten down and had no more fight left in him. He sounded like a coach who had run afoul of a tougher bird (a Cardinal) and a guy who had been mauled by a Bear, stampeded by a Colt, hogtied by a Cowboy, pillaged by a Viking, plundered by a Buccaneer, messed with by a Texan, flattened by a Packer, and, finally, stomped on by a Titan.
Mora was at a loss to explain his team’s futility, which resulted in the fifth-worst winning percentage in the Seahawks’ 34 seasons.
Mora seemed like he wanted to peg it on the injuries that hindered the team early in the season. And while there is some merit to the fact that ailments to key players—Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Marcus Trufant, Sean Locklear, Leroy Hill, et al.—might have set the team back on both sides of the ball, there are bigger issues.
Hasselbeck hinted that the offensive players were never on the same page in 2009 and might not have bought into coordinator Greg Knapp’s scheme. That mimics what receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said on the radio last week, and it is a major indictment of Knapp’s inability to lead an offense.
We already have called for Knapp to be fired, and nothing Sunday changed our mind. Knapp’s game plan against Tennessee was the same as it has been all season. He continued to rely on outside plays, especially screen passes to the backs and receivers. He failed to utilize the entire field, his offense was horrible on third down, and the line didn’t protect Hasselbeck well enough.
Yeah, the Hawks need some new linemen, but they have what they need everywhere else on offense—except the right scheme. If Mora is smart, he will replace Knapp.
Some people also want defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to be dismissed. While he certainly seemed ill-prepared for his first season as an NFL coordinator, the former Tampa Bay linebackers coach deserves a mulligan for this season. After all, he was missing his best cornerback (Trufant) and top two linebackers (Tatupu and Hill) for big chunks of the season. And he does not have a decent pass rusher or a playmaking safety.
Bradley’s major fault was not finding ways to pressure opposing quarterbacks with his linebackers and safeties when it was obvious the four linemen usually could not beat the five offensive linemen opposite them. The Seahawks must find a pass rusher in the offseason, and a safety would be nice.
Whether that happens or not, Bradley needs to figure out the best way to use his talented linebackers. Aaron Curry was a major disappointment as a rookie, especially considering that lower-drafted linebackers like Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga played so well. This team is not nearly as bad as some people think it is.
It really comes down to the coaching. Does Mora have what it takes to return the Seahawks to the postseason in 2010? He should get the opportunity to do it, if he’s willing to replace Knapp.
Here are some other things the Seahawks should do:
1. Ignore panicky fans and columnists who moronically want to ditch Hasselbeck. Instead give the 34-year-old quarterback a four-year contract extension, figuring he’ll start for at least the next three years. If you give him a strong line, he will remain protected and run the offense like he did from 2003 to 2007, when he went to three Pro Bowls.
2. Get rid of Patrick Kerney, Deion Branch, Chris Spencer, and Julius Jones. Kerney is done, Branch and Spencer were Tim Ruskell busts, and Jones is not the future at running back. Try to re-sign Nate Burleson. Retain Olindo Mare, Jon Ryan, and Rob Sims. Perhaps re-sign cheaply Darryl Tapp, Ken Lucas, Justin Griffith, and Ben Obomanu.
3. Put the following players on notice that they have to stay healthy and perform in 2010 or risk being released in 2011: Tatupu, Trufant, Hill, and Locklear. All of these former Seattle draft picks have signed new contracts in the last two years, but none of them have been healthy enough to earn the massive money they are being paid. Consider 2010 another contract year for all of them.
4. Draft a left tackle in the first round and start him immediately. Then move Locklear back to right tackle and move Ray Willis inside to right guard. Sign or draft a guard to push Sims and Willis. The line has to be rebuilt immediately. It is the No. 1 priority.
5. In free agency, beyond an offensive lineman, look for a good, young safety and a potential upgrade at backup quarterback since Seneca Wallace cannot be counted on to win a game when Hasselbeck is injured. Perhaps try to swing a trade with Mike Holmgren to get Cleveland’s Brady Quinn. And see what Arizona would want for Matt Leinart.
6. In the draft, if Oklahoma LT Russell Okung or Tennessee safety Eric Berry is not there, try to trade out of the top 10 to acquire an extra second-round pick. On top of the tackle and guard, look carefully at pass rushers, safeties, and running backs. Perhaps consider a project quarterback in the fourth round. Teams should almost never draft a quarterback in the first round, and the Hawks certainly should not do it with this shaky group of rookies when the Seahawks have so many more pressing needs.
7. In addition to Hasselbeck, extend the 2011-ending contracts of Brandon Mebane and Josh Wilson.
8. Knowing the offensive line will require a full year to start to jell, an 8-8 record would be acceptable if the right progress is made; but if Mora keeps Knapp and the offense stinks again, it will be time to fire Mora for his blind loyalty to a subpar assistant.