CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18: (L-R) Richard Sherman #25, Brandon Browner #39 and Doug Baldwin #15 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrate Browner's return of an interception for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 38-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Same record, different year, different end result, different team and the feeling about the Seahawks after their 7-9 2011 season is vastly different than what was felt after their 7-9 2010 season. The team may face a few familiar questions, but the optimism for the long term direction of the team, I think, is stronger than after the playoff loss in Chicago last season. This offseason will have a different objective; no longer hoping to re-create the mentality that was found for short time at the end of that season, but instead looking to enhance what was established in the second half of this recent season.
I'll admit my brain is wandering to places involving free agency and the draft more than it was a week ago and much more than it was a few months ago, but honestly I'm still thinking about what transpired this season. Not stuck on wishing we made the playoffs, but instead feeling like there's no way I can possibly remember what happened in 16 games over the course of four months. And that's not even thinking about the many things I'm sure I missed the first time around.
Sure, I have plenty of perceptions and thoughts based on what I remember from the season and know there are a multitude of decisions to make in the near future, but I'm interested in seeing it all over again and refining the jumble before the inevitable offseason armchair GM-ing that occurs in the world of fandom. Now, week-to-week emotions of being a fan and blogger during the season aren't involved and hindsight becomes a potentially effective tool.
Not really knowing where to start with this series, except for knowing that I wanted to watch the season again in order, eventually led to me back to my post the day before the season. This is a condensed version of my conclusion:
... Though Seattle has added depth all positions, I don't think the changes to the starting lineup guarantee a division title in 2011.The Seahawks may be a more talented team than they were in 2010, but there are simply too many new and uncertain parts. General Manager John Schneider has engineered two offseasons of vigorous roster changes and most of the core for the future is now in place.
This is a different team than in 2010. They are a younger, bigger, more athletic group that will compete and learn through the growing pains. Expect this team to play hard and continually attempt to defy expectations...They will have ups and downs; this is a program where a 6-10 type season should not be indicative of the future. Regardless of results, the Seahawks hope to remember 2011 as the year they took a major step forward, creating a team a few pieces away from being perennial contenders in the NFC.
My guess is I'm not the only one that felt along the lines of the sentiments above heading into the season, and I'm likely one of many who feel something similar to the above is what was accomplished this season. Now that it's all said and done and it appears the Seahawks "are who we thought they were" heading into the season, what's next?
Record is only relevant as we got relatively rewarded; given their in-it-until-the-end attitude, Seattle still holds the 11th or 12th pick pending a coin flip. It was an up and down year with a horrid 2-6 start and relatively hot 5-3 finish. Seattle has 18 unrestricted free agents (22 total); some core members could be replaced in pursuit of younger, bigger, more athletic. We're all expecting the central theme of competition will exist, especially with a normal offseason of OTA's and such.
The expectation is that John Schneider and co. will engineer another offseason effort that furthers this roster towards being championship capable; that Pete Carroll and Co. will gain continuity and make this football team more efficient in their communication, effective in their scheming, and ultimately productive on the field. Seattle didn't meet their expectations of winning the NFC West this season; they won't waver on the expectation that the team will get better this offseason. Carroll believes they are confident as a staff and locker room, that this team has found their style and is ready to move forward with their formula.
I'll be moving forward by re-watching the season. I won't be focusing on the result of each game as much, unless applicable due to things that occurred in a given game. I learned after last offseason that because of the Green Bay/John Schneider model of trying to keep guys and creating a foundation "in house," I wanted to learn as much as I could in understanding why we may or may not want to re-sign a certain player.
And given that it appears most or all of the major coaches will remain in place, learning more about schemes on both sides of the ball I feel becomes more important. Carroll spoke of the need for creating continuity and "multiplicity" on both sides of the ball as part of a winning formula in the league during his post season presser, and it looks like the Seahawks are sticking with their plan in pursuit of those traits (at least for now).
Some major themes I'm thinking about as I begin the re-view:
--At what point did major tenets of the program that signify progress- "it's all about the ball" would be an example - begin to manifest on the field?
--Did this young team appear to waver at any point before the turnaround?
--What stands out about the progression of the offense from being young and stymied, to the no huddle experiment, and then to the big shift back to the beastmode mentality; the Tom Cable Effect?
--In particular, what stands out about the differences in how the offensive line played? What about skill position players and their blocking?
--How did the Seahawks handle the broken play, both on offense and defense? Carroll acknowledged the necessity for more "creativity" at the quarterback spot; how well did the defense contain the creativity of the opposing offense when the play broke down?
--How did this team handle sudden change situations over the course of the season?
--How was execution out of both timeouts and forced time stoppages?
--Those blasted penalties.
--The number 50; as in how did the Seahawks 55.73:44.27 pass-run "balance" manifest before and after the second half philosophical shift; was it noticeable? Also, how closely does Carroll's formula of 50 runs and complete passes to equal a win (as mentioned in his post season presser) correlate to the results of this team?
--Offensive play calling: Looking more closely at things such as back-to-back play calls or using similar play-calling concepts in consecutive possessions; how were certain plays disguised with personnel or formation changes; the positive and negatives surrounding their use of the no huddle or hurry up; which wrinkles were effective and which weren't? Were there situations that simply seemed mishandled? How did this team function when using their entire playbook (such as going from three tight ends to five receivers on the next play (if that even happened))? How often and effectively did they manufacture explosive plays?
--I just realized this means watching about two games of a Charlie Whitehurst led Seahawks offense.
--Were there any noticeable shifts in play or mentality before the second half surge?
--Can the end of season "decline" against the run be traced back to any given point? Are there any noticeable reasons for why teams ran the ball better in the second half of the season?
--Why couldn't the Seahawks generate a more consistent pass rush? Which positions contributed to this? Carroll was open during his post season presser about the need for more speed and athleticism in the front seven (particularly at linebacker) and they need to generate more interior pressure.
--Did we see the continuity and defensive scheme grow, or prove it needs tweaking, over the course of the season?
--When did this team make mistakes; were they often at times that magnified the margins of a given game? (An example would be Sidney Rice's false start at the end of the Atlanta game.)
--How aggressive was "Big Balls Pete" in BBP type situations? Were there BBP situations that he chose to treat conventionally?
--How differently does this offense function when staying on schedule and ahead of the sticks, opposed to struggling on first/second down and having to make up the difference?
--How much did time of possession, number of possessions, and length of drives effect the end result of games? What about fourth quarter possession?
--Red zone and third down for both defense and offense.
--Seattle had a chance to win in 14 (15 if you believe the Cowboys game was still competitive into the 4th) of 16 fourth quarters this season, and eight of those games were losses. My guess is this aspect will not be pleasant to watch again.
--More on the no huddle and hurry up: it died in the middle of the year and the team struggled in these situations later in the year. Carroll acknowledged in his end of season presser situational/end of game football will be a major focus for this team during the offseason activities, and he regrets not better preparing this team during the year. What themes emerge about these inconsistencies?
--Was special teams a positive or negative, perhaps a wash? Who stood out consistently over the course of the season?
--The things that happen away from the ball, such as Brownersaurus Mode in Week 17.
--Carroll singled out Earl Thomas in his end of season presser as a player that made a significant year one to year two jump; how did that jump look for other players, and did any rookies make noticeable strides in their game?
--How did last years free agent crop perform?
--What did certain players do a lot of, in which situations or formations, and did they do it well? Would new or different personnel make a difference here? Did the wrinkles fit the personnel? (Examples: Earl Thomas and the A-gap blitz or defensive lineman in coverage.)
--How did injuries and trades affect the play of the team? In particular; in the secondary, at receiver, along the offensive line, tight end and of course, the half a season long saga of Tarvaris Jackon's pec; to a smaller degree, along the front seven.
--Which of the 22 free agents are clearly more valuable to the Seahawks than another team; which can be easily replaced?
--Thoughts, themes, concerns you're thinking about heading into this offseason? Pile on below!