Steve Wyche, a senior writer at NFL.com, did a piece recently about several teams that he feels are just a QB away from contending. The Seahawks made the list and I have mixed feelings about this - and I'll argue with myself throughout this article so bear with me.
At first, I would agree that with a solid QB, the Hawks would likely be the 'favorites' in the NFC West. This quarterback question would also apply to the 49'ers, who would be a team to fear if they were to figure out their QB situation. My first reaction is to think that the Hawks have holes in so many parts of their lineup that so much blame surely cannot be heaped onto bad QB play. Yes, it was ugly, but Hasselbeck and Whitehurst didn't get a lot of help from the supporting cast. Their offensive line was ineffective, their defensive secondary was picked apart. The talent at the skill positions is average at best. A QB would help a lot, but it couldn't possibly be enough. .
On the other hand, in this league quarterback is the most important position and getting 'set' there can change the whole landscape of a team for the next five years or more. We've seen this with many teams - the Saints, the Colts, and down the line. Perennially bad teams have had franchise resurrections in a large part due to the arrival of an excellent QB. Once that position is solved, the other pieces seem to fall into place. So I'm torn as to where the Seahawks fit into this article. Here's how Wyche sees it:
There's always a chance the Seahawks re-sign Hasselbeck, who will be a free agent. However, Charlie Whitehurst will seemingly be given every opportunity to take over as the starter. Seattle invested a lot to get him last season and now is the time to see if he can become The Guy.
Pete Carroll doesn't award anyone anything, though. One of the reasons the Seahawks made it to the playoffs last season was that Carroll made everyone compete for everything upon his arrival in 2010 and the infectious approach carried a certain energy through the roster. That won't change this season, especially since the Seahawks are still quite a ways from being where Carroll wants them.
Seattle, which holds the 25th overall pick, could use the selection on Locker, who played at nearby University of Washington. This also is where Arkansas' Mallett could be in play. Though Mallett's off-field issues frighten some people, his potential could override character concerns. Mallett is going to get drafted at some point and taking a chance on a player at No. 25 isn't quite the risk -- financial or personnel-wise -- as it is in the top 10.
Though the article doesn't really point out anything I didn't already know, it does get me thinking. The Hawks wound up 7-9 in 2010 with extremely shaky to downright terrible quarterback play, with Hasselbeck and Whitehurst throwing 14 TDs to 20 Interceptions with a less than 60% completion rate. With solid to good quarterback play what does that record look like?
The Hawks defense didn't help, that's for sure. But with better QB play you get longer drives, better time of possession, and better starting field position for the defense when the offense fails to score. WIth all these things, how much does that defense improve statistically?
People will say without a good offensive line, the Hawks will never be good. I'd answer that yes, their offensive line was ineffective in the run game, but they weren't the worst in pass protection. The Hawks gave up 35 sacks - 16th in the league, so you can't heap all the blame on the line for the ineffective pass game. Our QB's had enough time - they just didn't take advantage of it.
All these ideas are pie in the sky of course, but it really makes you wonder. With a solid QB in there running the offense and executing plays - making players around him better, extending drives, scoring more points, grabbing the momentum, demoralizing the opponents, etc etc etc, are the Hawks really in 're-building' mode like some of us believe or are they legitimate contenders?
I am on the fence about it. I think a great QB makes a team exponentially better - but I'm not sure if the Hawks are at a point, talent-wise, where a good to great QB could put them in 'contention.'
We 'won' the West and made it to the playoffs last year, so by definition we were contenders for the title. However, we cannot hope to be gifted the NFC West again in 2011. There is no way we finish 7-9 and make the playoffs again. But with good QB play in a few more games - creating the opportunities that I talked about above, maybe we get two or three more wins than that in 2011 and have a shot at the NFC West title again? Being in 'contention' is a pretty vague statement as well, especially being in the NFC West, where four teams basically battled over who could be the worst. "Contending" in 2011 may not be as easy as it was in 2010, but in 2011 it may not be difficult as in other divisions. And, you win your division and you get a home playoff game. We all saw what can happen there.
Brandon Adams over at 17Power actually did a piece on Wyche's article as well, and he doesn't share the optimism that I do concerning a QB putting us over the top, so to speak. Check out his piece as a sort of counterpoint to my hopeful reasoning - he does a position by position 'need' rating that helps to illustrate that I may looking through a rose-colored lens at this point.