Questions Abound on Mallett's Fit in the Seahawks' Offense

Mallett does have a pretty cool last name, and I think that's important.

There have been a few articles in the past day or two really questioning whether Mallett fits in the offense Seattle is fixing to run. I've been debating it with myself and you readers for the last week or two. Basically the idea is this: There is no consensus. Some people think he'd be great here, some people argue that he's a bad fit here.

Brock Huard from 710 ESPN's Brock and Salk show was the first in the last few days I saw shoot down the idea that he'd be effective in what Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell want to run. 

He said:

By the hiring of two guys, (offensive line coach Tom Cable and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell), they're going to be a run-first team. They're going to upgrade the offensive line and they will be run-first, play action second. You bring in Darrell Bevell, who comes from a complete West Coast system background. Short, intermediate movement, sprint right, sprint left, play action, play action off of that, bootlegs.  

You've got to have some level of athleticism, and when Mallett ran 5.47 handheld (in the 40-yard dash) and I watched that body jiggle as a 22-year-old in the best shape of his life, you've got to move at this level. ... You don't have to be a sprinter, you don't have to be Michael Vick, but 5.47 is a sitting duck target. With the West Coast system and the play action passing game, I don't think he's an ideal fit here in Seattle.

I have a lot of respect for Huard and think he has a really great perspective and knack for football analysis so it's interesting to hear him say that. His arguments do have merit - the Hawks will most likely be running a lot of play action and bootlegs and all that so it's something to think about. Teams will inevitably adapt to the players they have on the field though, so it definitely doesn't preclude the Hawks from taking Mallett. They could eliminate most of their sprint left/right options and stick mainly with pocket passing and half bootlegs to accommodate Mallett's true talent, his arm strength. Do they want to do that? Who knows. I don't. Do you? Will you tell me if you do know if they want to do that? Thanks.

Anyway, the second article that I saw thrown out there had the argument that the Hawks will ultimately pass on Mallett. Rob Staton of the Seahawks Draft Blog does a good job of addressing pretty much all the arguments for or against taking Mallett in one article and I can't really argue with his main point - which is that Mallett will be gone by the time the Hawks draft and the Seahawks won't trade up to go get him. In that article, Staton succinctly gives you all factors in the equation and offers his opinions on each of them - but the paragraph that stood out to me the most was this one:

Carroll has also stressed that the running game must become the focal point of the offense. This further links back to the quarterback position through the threat of a boot leg developing into a scramble and how that fits into the zone blocking scheme. Mallett is more than capable of running a boot leg but no team is ever going to concern themselves with a streaking Ryan Mallett galloping towards the original line of scrimmage.

Not only is it true most likely but it's also just plain hilarious to picture. It's true Mallett wouldn't be much of a concern on the ground. I'd counter with the fact that neither is Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, nor was Dan Marino, yet they've had some success in the NFL. There are arguments for pretty much every angle and I liked how Staton put them all into one article, so check it out.

Finally, Doug Farrar over at Northwest Sports Press offers why he doesn't think Mallett is a fit either. 

The 5.47 40-yard dash Mallett ran at his pro day is a concern to a degree, but it’s more about his extremely slow 10-yard splits – quarterbacks don’t generally run 40 yards in a straight line, but they are often asked to get outside the pocket and make shorter runs to stay alive and continue to make plays. Because of his height, Mallett takes too long to reset his body after moving in and out of the pocket, and quarterbacks have to have quicker reactions than ever before.

This makes him a very curious fit for the kind of West Coast Offense the Seahawks will ostensibly be running under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Above all, West Coast Offense quarterbacks are required to get in motion effectively and quickly – after all, the most famous play in the history of the WCO is the sprint right option Joe Montana used to hit Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone in the 1981 NFC Championship against the Dallas Cowboys. That play set the Bill Walsh offense on a dynastic path that is as valid today as it has been for the last 30 seasons, but any team running it must have the right type of quarterback. Even a cursory look at game tape will tell you that Mallett would be a very tough fit in such an offense.

Based on his interest in Mallett, and his third-round trade to the San Diego Chargers last year for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, it’s fairly clear that Seahawks general manager John Schneider has an affinity for big, tall quarterbacks who can make all the throws. However, the difference between Mallett and Whitehurst is that though Whitehurst still appears to be a very long way from NFL starting caliber, he can be used in certain option situations to be successful, and this was most evident in the regular-season finale against the St. Louis Rams. Whitehurst was given an abbreviated playbook and the directive to extend plays with his legs. He did that well enough to get the Seahawks in the playoffs, but Mallett would have been a sitting duck in similar circumstances.

You can argue all day over what offense the Hawks will be running in 2011 but we just won't know until the season is underway. You know by now my stance on that but Farrar's arguments can't be ignored. Mallett doesn't offer much in scrambling and as we have seen with Hasselbeck, when the pocket collapses, mistakes happen. WIth the Hawks' line in such disarray, I can see Mallett having to hurry passes and make bad decisions. Just another thing to keep in mind.

All in all, I still think Mallett is the best choice for the Hawks if they're going to take a QB at #25 (and he's still there). I think his arm strength and accuracy trump his mobility issues and will make defenses have to account for his big play potential. I think his arm strength and accuracy will help the run game because of his deep pass threat on play action - he'd have the ability to stretch the field and keep the safeties honest. That's just my opinion and as you can see there are many that disagree. Ultimately, we have but three short weeks until we get to find out what direction the Seahawks will be taking, and I can't wait.

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