The value of a 4-3 outside linebacker...
Not all positions are created equal. All people have the same intrinsic value. But in the game of life and the game of football, you get assigned an economic value and some sort of positional rank value in your company / career / industry.
It's a passing league. The modern (current) NFL is about passing. This aint the day of Shaun Alexander and Ladanian Tomlinson. Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson are overshadowed by quarterbacks. The run game is just a step on the ladder for a bad team trying to become a Super Bowl Team. Being a really good running team gets you to 8-8 or 9-7. 2010 Raiders. Jacksonville with Maurice Jones-Drew. Titans in 2009. 2009 Jets got a freebie game to get them into the playoffs. It's a passing league, no matter what Pete Carroll says. Pete Carroll knows it. He just wants to get a running game up and going as a necessary step toward getting toward a Super Bowl.
At least I am pretty sure and hope he knows that. The best two running games in the NFL last year were the Chiefs and Raiders. When you run into Pittsburgh or Baltimore in the playoffs, you aint gonna run on them, you better be able to throw.
It's about throwing the ball. The risk-reward ratio of passing makes it worth it. The rules favor it. The league glorifies it. All the big money positions revolve around it. It's about throwing the ball and it's all about the QB. It's about protecting the man throwing the ball: the LEFT TACKLE.
It's about destroying the QB trying to destroy you: the DEFENSIVE END in a 4-3 or the OLB in a 3-4. Its about WIDE RECEIVERS who catch the pass- and CORNERS who defend the pass. Now, its about SAFETIES who can defend the PASS.
The SAM or WILL linebacker does not consistently rush the passer. They are there to contain and/or tackle the running back. They are there to defend short passes in the short zones or follow TE and RB in the flat. How could we expect Aaron Curry to get 10 sacks? Outside LBs in a 4-3 don't get 10 sacks. Usually, anyway.
I don't know if Curry can play OLB in the fourteen to fifteen or so 3-4 defenses in the NFL. Maybe he can play inside in a 3-4. I have no idea. I know that he can contain on run plays. I know that from the naked eye he does not look super impressive in coverage. He does not get a ton of sacks.
I don't even know if the scheme is set up for him to get a lot of tackles as much as redirect toward the Mike and Will. He is a starter level SAM 4-3 Linebacker. That is what he is. Despite the amazing measurables and college tape, that's what he is. I hope I am wrong. I hope that a lightbulb goes on, but I think he is giving it everything he has, and this is what he is.
His supporters in the front office have all left. Ruskell is gone. Mora is gone. Ken Norton has given him his best stuff but PCJS keep on churning the roster relentlessly. Lofa is gone. His best friend on the team is Deon Butler, and his future is in doubt.
Leroy Hill is back, but the expectations on that one-time franchise player took him on a two year detour, he is back on a one year deal. Next to Curry is David Hawthorne, an undrafted player who came to Seattle with ZERO expectations. David Vobora and K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith and the ghost of Ben Leber are nipping at Aaron's heels. PCJS are leveraging the roster to cover themselves for his exit.
I really hope he plays lights out in 2011. Something tells me he will play about the same as in 2009 and 2010, or maybe a bit better. I hope he makes the Pro Bowl and his biggest supporters tell me to eat a CROW-FEAST. I would bring a bib.
But I think in 2011 he is gonna blow some coverage assignments. He is gonna get some pressure in pass rush but not a ton of sacks. He is not gonna wrap up sometimes. He is gonna over-pursue sometimes. He may jump offsides a few times. He is gonna do some good things and make some plays. Get a pick or two. Get a forced fumble or two. Get a sack or two. Make some nice tackles. And the Seattle media and fans will get on his back on Monday.
I think Aaron needs a fresh start. Maybe this new restructured contract is a mini-fresh start. That would be great. I think Aaron will play in the NFL for a while. I don't think it is in Seattle. I don't think his next contract is going to be big. But that could be a good thing for Aaron. The only way I see Seattle working is a meeting in the middle. Aaron has to step his game up a bit and we have to bring our #4 pick expectations down. I am not saying we do not demand excellence. We have to demand excellence but also realize what his true ceiling is, and not demand something that was maybe never there.
I think Pete Carroll will take it as a personal challenge to demand excellence and instill confidence even though the clock is ticking with Aaron. He has a year. He is not going to inflate expectations. He is going to deflect and deflate expectations and behind the scenes make it easy for Aaron to succeed and build his confidence. It may or may not work. Pete has resurrected careers before. Mike Williams was a high pick. Expectations were high in Detroit but ZERO in Seattle. Dominique Byrd looks like he will make the 53. Red Bryant got his career boosted. Maybe Pete can do it one more time?
I wrote this article a few days ago. Since writing the article it has been suggested by various reputable Seattle beat writers that 2011 will be Aaron Curry's last year in Seattle. It has even been so far as said that if he has a Pro-Bowl year in 2011 that he would not receive an extension. The best Seattle fans could hope for is that he would be retained under club control through 2012.
Many Seattle radio personalities have wondered aloud why Aaron would walk away from guaranteed money. Basically, the $5.9M or so he is owed in 2012 is no longer guaranteed. And he agreed to that. I think he agreed because he (1) has already banked significant money (2) he is confident he will get paid as a starter somewhere in the league (3) he wants out of Seattle. I think he knows that the expectations will be different (lower) in the next city he plays in. Perhaps he also thinks that he is not being used correctly in Seattle's scheme- which has been suggested by some very reputable beat writers. Perhaps he wants to live closer to home on the East Coast.
With that in mind, Pete Carroll does not need to turn his career around and create a long-standing Seattle feel good story. He just needs to get the most out of Aaron for 2011, and perhaps 2012. That's it. Just maximize 2011. Don't try to get $25M of value in one year. Just get Aaron to play the best football he can play in 2011. Deflect the expectations. Create an environment for him to be successful. And most likely, after 2011- everyone moves on. For Pete's sake. For Seattle's sake. For Aaron's sake.