It's a rough transition from introducing a team to vetting it, but 1-3, having been beat down in two of its losses, behind a competent-looking 3-1 Niners team and with no quarterback to rely on, Seattle's realistic chances of contending are over. What do I mean by vetting? It doesn't mean slagging Seneca Wallace for five days. Wallace is done and defined. It means Tim Ruskell*. It means, does he and does he deserve to lead Seattle into the next decade?
His team took the field on Sunday. It was his defense, personnel, coaching and scheme that Peyton Manning effortlessly scored 28 points on in three quarters. It was his bloated contract at right defensive end. His first round pick at starting right cornerback. It has his hand picked defensive coordinator chewing out Lofa Tatupu on the sideline. His Seahawk for life being chewed out. Who stays? Who goes? Has Ruskell built a foundation? With a franchise defining draft approaching this spring, is Ruskell the man to lead Seattle into 2010?
Wallace only matters, because Ruskell made him matter. Seattle is overdue for quarterback talent. Yesterday, the Sunday before, could have been the start of the sometimes nauseating but always thrilling discovery of a young franchise quarterback. Wallace only matters because instead of the trick-play specialist and extreme depth he should be, Seneca Wallace has been as much the starting quarterback these past two seasons as Matt Hasselbeck. More so, Wallace has almost a hundred more passing attempts.
Instead of microanalyzing formations or describing the interwoven performance of a unit, this week is dedicated to player specific essays. We start with Ray Willis. Willis had a nightmare matchup on Sunday, one I wanted to dedicate some time to before the game. Robert Mathis is not an elite defensive end, but he is an excellent speed rusher. Could Willis, a player I've knocked for being in the blocks watching his assignment rush by him, do enough to survive Mathis? Enough to prove he should start ahead of Brandon Frye?
*That doesn't mean Mike Holmgren. If Seattle moves on without Ruskell this offseason, Paul Allen has better options that the man he replaced with Trader Bob.