There's the plan that you should follow and the plan that fails miserably that you should learn from. If Christopher Nolan is hired to do his own Batman trilogy, a well-established franchise that has seen both success and failure, he can use the original Batman as a guide to what works and use George Clooney's nipples as a guide to what does not.
The Packers, Patriots, and Saints are examples of how to build a dynasty that works year in and year out. (I use the term dynasty loosely, based on how hard it is to win multiple Super Bowls.) The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are an example of how a house of cards can fall with the slightest misstep.
In part one, I talked about re-signing Marshawn Lynch and adding critical depth to an important position. Nobody would claim that running back was a problem for Seattle in 2011, but just because it's not a problem now doesn't mean you ignore it and assume all is good. Remember when we had an amazing linebacker core that would be the most solid part of our defense for a decade?
Don't assume that what you are today will be what you are tomorrow.
After the 2010 season had ended, the Bucs made it a priority to re-sign one of their greatest defensive players of all-time, Ronde Barber. It was only a one year deal and the Bucs were already one of the youngest teams in the league, so what harm could it do to bring back one of your greatest players of all time?
Don't assume that what you are today will be what you are tomorrow.
I'm not really going to get into the performance of Ronde Barber in 2010 and 2011 for several reasons: one, because I'm not enough of an expert to really give a great opinion on the matter. And two, because that's not the point I'm really trying to make.
We all know by now that Barber isn't close to being the player that he once was. In 2001, he intercepted 10 passes and deflected 24. That's ridiculous. Today, he's more like the third-best corner on the team, and his job isn't to stop the opposing number one wide receiver anymore.
What's the lesson then? What is wrong with bringing back a fan-favorite and team legend? Well, nothing is inherently wrong with it, but at the same time, why bring him back at all if he's just a situational corner and you're not relying on him to be the number one? What are the reasons?
These are the only reasons I can think of to have brought back Ronde Barber for the 2011 season:
- He's a team legend. Barber has been with the Bucs since 1997 and he carried himself from being a third round pick out of Virginia to being a 5-time Pro Bowler and 3-time All-Pro and potential Hall of Famer. The last time he missed a start was 1999.
- Raheem Morris loved him and they have been described as "best friends."
- Setting records. By starting all 16 games this year, Barber passed Derrick Brooks for most starts in team history.
- Veteran leadership. Going into the 2011 season, the Bucs were the youngest team on offense, defense, and special teams. Barber, Earnest Graham, Albert Haynesworth, and Jeff Faine were the only players on the team this year that had turned 30. Barber was the only player over 31.
- Fan favorite.
What do all of those reasons have in common? None of them are enough to warrant bringing a player back, even if it's in a smaller role, even if it's on a one-year contract.
The only one that might even hold a little bit of water is the veteran leadership, but then one has to wonder, "If it mattered so much, then why did they lose 10 straight games?" As good of a guy as Ronde may be, as excellent an example as he may set, as much as he may have to teach, it wasn't enough to keep Tampa Bay from being one of the worst teams in the league.
The fact that the Bucs were the youngest team in the league wasn't affected positively or negatively by the presence of Barber. Without Barber, they would have just been slightly younger, but would it have harmed them to give his roster spot to a player that was younger and cheaper? And if it would have harmed them, how much worse could it have gotten?
Don't take this as an indictment of Barber or that he was in any way, shape, or form, the reason that the Bucs had a terrible 2011 season. Instead, think of it as an example of "why do that?"
The Bucs may have thought that their 10-6 record in 2010 was a sign that they were only a couple of pieces away from taking the next step and that keeping Barber around would have helped lead the young team to the playoffs, but that ignores the fact that they were flirting with a losing record last season.
Of their first five wins, they beat the Browns, Bengals, Rams, and Cardinals by a combined 10 points. The other win was a 13 point victory over the Panthers, the worst team in the NFL. Those five wins were interspersed by blowout losses to the Steelers and Saints. Another sign that the Bucs weren't only one or two pieces away from being a playoff team, but that they were very far away from being an elite team.
So you're on a Seahawks website right? Let me check...
Field Gulls... like "field goals"... which is football... right sport... oh but "gulls" like seagulls... sea-birds... oh its a pun... got it....
Yep, it's a Seahawks website, so what does this have to do with Seattle?
First off, how far are the Hawks from being a playoff contender? Let's set our expectation phasers to "realistic" and find that Seattle wasn't even a 10-6 team like Tampa was, but a 7-9 team with a losing record. I feel good about the direction of the team, but the Hawks have work to do.
The "strong finish" to the season was marred by losses to San Francisco and Arizona that can't be forgotten. A loss is a loss. Though, at this point I'm kind of happy that we lost those games and got a higher draft pick. It's not like a 7-9 team can't go 11-5 next year.
But Seattle can't pretend that the "good feeling" is a strong indication of a team that's on the edge of greatness. The best run in the season had wins over the Ravens (good!), two wins over the Rams (ehhh), and wins over Vince Young and Caleb Hanie (ohhh..)
The early season win over the Giants was stunning and felt like a monkey off of our backs, but while New York is a good team, they also got swept by the Redskins. They can beat anyone and they also seem like a team that can lose to anyone. The Giants were almost the first team to lose to the Dolphins and that was also at home.
Like Tampa Bay in 2010, the Seahawks should see that their 2011 season was a step in the right direction but the team isn't yet knocking on the door of being a dominant team. They need help in several areas, not just quarterback. (Though I concede that getting a top QB can solve a LOT of problems.)
Also like the Bucs, Seattle is young. The only players to play significant time this season that have turned 30 are Robert Gallery, Chris Clemons, Jon Ryan, and Raheem Brock. Marcus Trufant turned 31 on Christmas.
Which brings me to the player I've been building up to for most of this article. Trufant is a fan favorite. He's a Seahawks-lifer and a local legend in terms of his entire football career in the state of Washington. It felt great when the Hawks drafted him in the first round in 2003, and I've enjoyed watching his career in Seattle.
I don't know what Trufant's plans are exactly when his rehab is complete, though it sounds like he wants to return to Seattle and play again, which isn't surprising. I don't know what the front offices ideas are in bringing him back on any kind of deal. The only thing about that is, like Barber, I can't think of a single good reason to do it.
That probably won't sit well with a lot of Seattle fans, but it's the truth. I love Marcus Trufant, but the Hawks aren't trying to win the Love Bowl. (Note to self: Love Bowl, starring Renee Zelwegger and Jack Black as a pair of opposing league bowlers that fall in love.)
The Hawks are trying to win the Super Bowl, and I'm not entirely sure how this version of Trufant fits into that. Apply all of those rules to Barber above to Trufant:
- He's a team legend. Though Trufant doesn't have nearly the historical record that Barber does, and he's not the same caliber of player that Barber once was, we have a lot of great memories with him in Seattle. Memories won't get us anywhere in 2012.
- The coaches may love him and he may love the coaches, but never bring anyone onto your team as a personal favor. Emotions have no place in business transactions.
- Setting records? Well, I'm not sure that Trufant is on pace to set any records if he returns, but he's been the best corner Seattle has had in the last 15 years.
- Fan favorite. Again, it doesn't matter what the fans think, honestly. Who cares what we want? John Schneider and Pete Carroll should never do anything to appease us, they should only do what's going to help the team win.
- Veteran leadership. Being the oldest player on the team doesn't mean a whole lot. The front office pays the coaches hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions) each in order to be the leaders and put the guys in the right place. Ray Lewis may be a great leader of men, but he wouldn't have the same place on the Ravens if he couldn't also still play at a high level. If you want Trufant to teach the young corners, then offer him a coaching contract. Seattle needs players that can play at a high level. It's not about getting older, it's about getting better. Green Bay has proven that.
Trufant has had a very similar career to that of Shawn Springs. The Hawks moved on from Springs after the 2003 season and two years later they were in the Super Bowl. Not that getting rid of Springs had anything to do with their success after they separated, but only a point that it didn't hurt Seattle to say goodbye to their top corner and instead rely on young players like Trufant and Ken Lucas.
The Hawks have a long list personnel decisions to make, including with their own free agents. There's a few guys I really don't want to see leave. There's a few guys that I really don't want to see return. None of those decisions are made on emotion or history though.
This isn't anything against Trufant. This isn't a plea to not re-sign him. It's only a question of bringing him back for one reason and one reason only: because he makes the 2012 team better on the field. I have my doubts that he can do that, but I put my trust into the front office to make the right decision and to not appease me anyway.