With the first two picks of the 2011 NFL Draft the Seattle Seahawks have chosen offensive linemen. This in itself isn't much of a story, but taken from a wider view it says quite a lot. The Hawks have decided, as Brandon Adams at 17Power so eloquently put it in his reaction article tonight, to take a road less traveled in today's NFL - one occupied by a run-first offense. The major trend in NFL Champion teams is one characterized by pass-happy, gun slinging quarterbacks putting their respective teams on their backs and leading them to victory. If you looked at it in a statistical fashion you'd conclude that passing a lot is the best way to win a championship. Teams that pass more, win more.
Now let's look at it from a different angle. The NFL has a lot of parity so you see a lot of turnover in the playoffs, but the teams that stay in the playoffs year in and year out have elite talent at QB. What do you do if you have an elite talent at QB? You put the ball in his hands and tell him to win the game. So what happens if you don't have an elite quarterback, like probably 90% of the NFL? You certainly don't try and just pass more despite your obvious disadvantage in the realm of passing, you'd lose the turnover battle badly and get blown out in many games. This may or may not have happened with the Seahawks in 2010.
Here's my point: it's very difficult to find an elite, top tier quarterback. Teams struggle for decades to find that elite talent and putting that piece in place can change the entire landscape of a franchise. Instead, the Seahawks are building a team predicated on running the ball. I pointed out Kansas City's scheme and strategy and it got them to the playoffs last year where they lost to a very, very good team called the Ravens. They got there behind the QB play of Matt Cassel, the most boring Pro-Bowl QB ever. KC isn't done either, they'll be back next year after having a very decent draft so far these last two days. On the other hand, look at Denver. They had an extremely effective and exciting passing game centered around Kyle Orton but lacked anything resembling a rushing attack, and they just so happened to pick 2nd in the draft yesterday.
The Hawks have decided to commit to using the rushing attack to build the passing game and so far they've stood firm in that commitment by bringing in offensive line guru Tom Cable as their Assistant Head Coach. They have just used two very valuable draft picks to shore up the offensive line and they used two valuable draft picks last season to acquire Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington to run behind that line.
People will say that the Hawks don't have a Jamaal Charles to plug into the offense but I would counter that if Julius Jones' brother can rush for nearly 1000 yards while averaging a paltry 3.7 yards per carry behind a nasty, hardnosed and tough line, a far superior running back like Marshawn Lynch will have no problem finding some space to gain significant yardage.
James Carpenter and John Moffitt will give the Hawks' an excellent start in building a dominant offensive line. With this, they should be able to run the ball more effectively and the reverberations from that will be felt throughout the team. More first downs, more time off the clock, wearing down of opponents and keeping the defense off the field, thus improving their effectiveness and cutting down on injuries. This is all theoretical of course, but it's the philosophy the Hawks have adopted and they have made their statement of that with the first two days of the 2011 NFL Draft.
The natural question to ask is whether the Hawks even want an elite QB. They've said many times that they see their quarterback as more of a point guard, used to distribute the ball rather than carry the team. I'm sure thats their stance and they're sticking to their talking points on it, but they're also not morons. If they get the chance to trade for or draft an elite talent at QB, they will. They tried to get Kevin Kolb last season and fell short. They are rumored to have interest in Carson Palmer but the lockout stands in their way. In the meantime, they'll put the pieces in place to build that running game and hope to strike gold with the QB of the future, whether its through the late part of this year's draft or free agency, or through the draft next year.
John Schneider has seen first hand what a franchise QB can do for a team after being part of the organization that drafted Aaron Rodgers to supplant future Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Pete Carroll won for all those years at USC on the backs of excellent passing college quarterbacks. They're just not going to rush to take a guy they don't believe can be that franchise QB, and I believe that's what we're seeing here.