Pete Carroll is wracking up the wins. It would have been easy, almost expected for Carroll to clear house. Seattle's defense was bad, ranking 29th in DVOA, 25th in DRANK and 19th in the perennially under appreciated drive stats. What's worse, it was trending down. The Seahawks defense is talented, and so coaching is likely to blame for their failure.
But it wasn't the coaching of defensive coordinator Gud Bradley or defensive line coach Dan Quinn that undermined the Seahawks talent. Carroll recognized that and announced both will be retained.
Bradley is a linebacker guru that graduated from the Monte Kiffin college of kicking ass. Seattle suffered a run of linebacker injuries, but right down to the bitter end, Will Herring and David Hawthorne were flying around, fighting into plays and contributing. Bradley deserves recognition for that. He also deserves credit for better timed and better schemed blitzes. Seattle moved away from John Marshall's three stooges attack that led to little more than defenders blocking out defenders, and instead ran a more nuanced version where linebackers could read and react to backfield blockers and blitz or bubble into coverage.
Quinn has a background in the 3-4. As a defensive line coach, he deserves primary credit for Seattle's impressive 2009 class of late round picks and non-drafted free agents. Too bad only Nick Reed stuck around, because pre-season sack monsters Michael Bennett and Derek Walker looked like talented role players and potentially more. Quinn and Bradley coached a talented and often impressive front seven, and Carroll deserves huge credit for separating the wheat from the chaff.
The chaff is self evident I suppose. I try to avoid piling on the already fired, but in this ca se a rebuke of Mora is necessary. His beliefs about a well run secondary were embodied by Brian Russell. Russell served one purpose: Avoid touchdown scoring completions at all costs. That strategy assumes control over something that can not be controlled, or, as I put it May of last year:
Keeping a safety back that prevents touchdowns, but does not prevent long gains or first downs is conservative. It allows gradual damage, but avoids death. It's the gin and tonic to Jim Johnson's smash-and-grab drug cocktail. Theoretically, it could work. If a team could consistently allow few yards per play, but allow first downs, it could conceivably create short drives of many plays and, by force of volume, force turnovers.
Seattle didn't do that in 2008. It not only allowed many total yards, the third most total yards and the most passing yards in the NFL, it also allowed quite a few yards per attempt. Especially passing: Seattle's 6.9 net yards per attempt was 26th in the league.
If that's its strategy, it will be a wonder if Seattle is successful. Brian Russell won't contribute. He's neither a sure enough tackler nor fast enough to break on the pass to limit long completions. He can at best limit very long completions. He won't contribute stopping the run the way a Tampa 2 safety must. I don't see why, even with the built-in cushion, teams would not challenge him deep. He's not fast, he's not a hard hitter and he hasn't shown an ability to get the jump ball. He's the right profile but the wrong talent for a scheme that probably won't work.
Brian Russell is the speedy leadoff hitter that doesn't walk and gets caught stealing. He's the catcher that frames pitches and calls a great game, but can't hit. He's the power forward that drops defense to position himself for the board. He's a losing strategy embodied, and Seattle's coaches aren't blind or stupid, they're just mistaken.
That was Mora's strategy. It surfaced after Mora was signed in 2007, corresponded strongly with Russell's two seasons in Seattle and persisted after his handmaiden was banished to free agency and forced retirement. Seattle could stop the run. It could force third and long, but when it should have concentrated on stopping the conversion, it instead decided to "attack". Mora thought you could scheme interceptions. He couldn't and, attempting to do so, the Seahawks couldn't get off the field.
Mora compounded his flawed strategy with a predictable pattern of alternating three and four-man rushes with heavy blitzes.
A good coach should not be caught dead to rights by color commentator John Lynch.
. . .
Schaub last played under Jim Mora in 2006. Mora was then fired and hired by the Seattle Seahawks. Schaub, Lynch, millions of home viewers and Gary Kubiak perfectly anticipated Mora's tendencies. Tendencies, we can only assume, that have not changed since his time in Atlanta. Tendencies, described by Lynch by way of Schaub, that are fixed, motivated by frustration and easily exploitable.
I once worked in a warehouse finishing furniture. I would play chess with a coworker during breaks. Every time I won, he wanted a rematch, and would play worse, and become more frustrated and sloppy, and play worse, and become more frustrated and sloppy, and play worse...
Bradley and Quinn deserve a chance to prove themselves independent of Jim Mora. Both are respected around the league. Neither has has truly failed -- the Mora debacle notwithstanding. But however deserving, both should have been considered underdogs. Carroll has displayed an open mind and a keen recognition for coaching talent by retaining Quinn and Bradley. Kudos.