Sometime back, in a postgame post, can't remember which, I apologized for criticizing Jon Ryan. The Seahawks punter was a on a hot streak. Think it was after the Seahawks beat the Bears. Good times. I am always at my most optimistic, forgiving and homer-ish after a big win. Well it's the offseason now, and we can look back at the season with some kind of clarity.
Seattle's special teams were a critical component of Seattle making the playoffs. The Seahawks had the second best kick return unit in the NFL, the fifth best kickoff unit and an above average punt return unit. Thank you very much, Leon Washington. Thank you double, Brian Schneider. But Seattle was again below average at defending punts. Seattle finished at -0.3 in 2010 after finishing -0.8 in 2009.
Excluding Josh Bidwell, who only had 15 punts, Ryan finished 19 in the NFL in net average distance of punt. He had a substantial decrease in average and net average, without a substantial increase in rate of punts downed inside the opponent's 20. Ryan only punted one touchback all year, which is good for a punter, very good, but without knowing the context, hard to qualify. Maybe Ryan was punting from field positions that do not regularly lead to touchbacks. He hasn't displayed the skill in any other season. Maybe he's developed. Maybe not.
The truth is, I don't know if Ryan is a good punter or not. He's had some stinkers. He's had some beauties. Evaluating a punter is very hard and imprecise. Maybe with better information, like hang time, we could do a better job.
So, I'll just throw it out to you: Should Seattle explore upgrading itself at punter? Is Ryan a good punter? How can we know? And if the rest of Seattle's special teams play improved (excluding field goals and extra point attempts), why do you think punt coverage lagged behind? Punt coverage is how Brian Schneider made his name.