Warpath: How many players drafted by the Seahawks will either start or play prominent roles on Sunday? Since about 2000, how well have they drafted?
.NET: Players actually drafted by the Seahawks? On offense: RB Shaun Alexander, WR Darrell Jackson, T Walter Jones, T Sean Locklear, G Steve Hutchinson. On defense: DT Marcus Tubbs, LB Lofa Tatupu, LB Leroy Hill, CB Marcus Trufant, S Ken Hamlin, S Michael Boulware. Special Teams: K Josh Brown.
2000 and 2001 were great drafts for frontline talent – the former draft produced Alexander (1st round) and Jackson (3rd), two of the team’s top offensive weapons. 2001 was notable for the acquisitions of G Steve Hutchinson (1st round), CB Ken Lucas (2nd round) and Alex Bannister (5th round). Hutchinson and Bannister have been to the Pro Bowl, and Lucas led the Seahawks with six interceptions last year before heading off to Carolina as a free agent.
2002 was probably the weakest draft in the timeframe you’re asking about – the first two rounds produced TE Jerramy Stevens and RB Maurice Morris, two players who haven’t really reached the top end of their potential for various reasons.
2003 brought half of the team’s talented young secondary, with CB Marcus Trufant in the 1st round and S Ken Hamlin in the 2nd. 2004 provided three current starters in the first three rounds – DT Marcus Tubbs, S Michael Boulware and T Sean Locklear, in order.
Of course, the results of 2005’s draft are inconclusive at this early date, but MLB Lofa Tatupu (2nd round) is starting already, and OLB Leroy Hill is a potential impact player.
Warpath: Ray Rhodes was the Redskins' defensive coordinator in 2000 and, by some accounts, he was first in line for the team's head coach opening until some old guy named Gibbs jumped into the fray and got the job. How is he perceived as a DC? Could his schemes best be characterized as aggressive (blitzing) or conservative?
.NET: Many fans were hoping for a defensive turnaround when Rhodes was hired as Seattle’s defensive coordinator before the 2003 season, but that really hasn’t happened yet. Rhodes is known for putting a base defense on the field with little added in terms of schemes and stunts – he wants the defense to be defined by emotion and inspiration – getting guys flowing to the ball and a lot of talk about “kicking butt”. What that doesn’t really account for is offensive adjustments – quite possibly the reason that Rhodes’ defenses traditionally start out hot and implode down the stretch.
Two factors have been added to the mix in 2005 – first, new team president Tim Ruskell cut his teeth as a scout and player personnel man in Tampa Bay, so he’s very aware of what a championship defense does (and does not) look like, and how it is constructed. Second, Rhodes suffered a mild stroke in early September. He is slowly coming back to the job, but linebackers coach John Marshall, Carolina’s former defensive coordinator, has run the defense very ably in the interim. This season, the blitzes seem more creative and effective and the defense more integrated overall. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Warpath: Mike Holmgren is one of the few active coaches out there who has hoisted the Lombardi and that can be a great deodorant that lasts throughout one's career. What's your assessment of Holmgren the coach right now? How does he rate as a game manager, strategist, motivator, teacher, molder of talent? Is he a top-five coach or is he living off a couple of years with Favre in his prime?
.NET: When Holmgren came to Seattle in 1999, he was given the whole show to run – made head coach, general manager and executive vice-president – and that was too much for just about anyone. Holmgren’s impressive success in Green Bay was due to a number of factors beyond his reach – Ron Wolf running the team and putting the personnel together, one of the best coaching staffs of all time (his assistants included Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron and the late Fritz Shurmur), as well as the acquisitions of Brett Favre and Reggie White – and it was foolish to expect such results with a dysfunctional franchise and a depleted staff.
Holmgren rebuilt the team in his image, and the results from 1999 through 2002 were mediocre at best. Before the 2003 season, Holmgren’s GM title was taken away from him. With Ruskell’s hiring this year, Holmgren is most certainly being pointed in a coaching direction to the exclusion of most everything else. And after seven years, it’s time for him to provide more compelling results than a near-.500 regular-season record and three playoff losses.
Warpath: This just in: the Seattle receivers have a reputation for dropping a lot of catchable balls. Is this reputation overblown? If it's a real problem, is there any rational reason as to why it exists? And if not, if it really is an issue, has anything unorthodox been tried to fix the problem (I'm talking something equal to, say, having Tiki Barber carry a football with him wherever he went to cure his fumbling problem).
.NET: Over the last two seasons, the problem wasn’t overblown at all – Seattle’s wide receivers led the NFL in drops in both 2003 and 2004. In a precision-based offense like Holmgren’s, such bugaboos are deadly. Receivers coach Nolan Cromwell has taken a lot of the heat for the problem, as has Holmgren himself for his irrational patience with receiver Koren Robinson. Robinson, finally released by the team this June, was incapable of reliability, frequently missing practices and meetings. There seemed to be an atmosphere completely absent of accountability in the receiver corps because of this. Drops are caused primarily by a lack of concentration and proper technique, and these were critical issues for Seattle’s wideouts.
In 2005, the Seahawks did cut ties with Robinson, bringing in more reliable receivers like Joe Jurevicius and more recently, Peter Warrick. The drops have decreased significantly this season. Was the solution as simple as releasing one malcontent player? That’s probably a chicken/egg scenario, but Robinson was a real problem.
Warpath: What are the expectations that the Seattle media and fans, both in Seattle and around the nation, have for this team, both at the start of the season and now?
.NET: The expectations are not what they were last season, to be sure – in 2004, the Seahawks were a glamour pick for a lot of the national media. In retrospect, I’d say that had a lot to do with taking the team’s talent at face value without taking into account the weaknesses – a fatal lack of commitment and character. After a 9-7 record, a wild-card playoff exit and one of the emptier division championships in NFL history, Seattle went full-on into rebuilding mode. There’s a new front office and a new emphasis on character. There are seven new starters on defense. Such radical change doesn’t auger well for playoff perceptions, although some still see the Seahawks as the leaders of a very weak division.
The Seahawks are now on the right path – of that there is little doubt. The real question is how misguided the team was before, and how long it will take them to get out of the wilderness and on a championship course.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rich Tandler is the Managing Editor of Warpath Insiders, Scout.com's comprehensive Redskins website. You can e-mail Rich at email@example.com.