Last week on this website, a complete idiot wrote that the Seahawks could find themselves in trouble because many of their important parts are unknown assets at this time. He noted that the quarterback position is undecided and that the players competing for that spot were either unproven or unexciting: Matt Flynn, Tarvaris Jackson, and Russell Wilson.
The writer also noted that it wasn't only at the quarterback position, but that the linebackers were a ragtag bunch of unknowns and that players like Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin were going to have to get caught up quickly if the team was going to have any chance of stopping the likes of Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski. Additionally, while everybody could see the anticipation and excitement over a versatile DE/DT like Jason Jones, there was a reason that he signed on a relatively cheap one-year deal: Jones has not yet lived up to expectations. Regardless of being out of position, people had expected more out of Jones by now because of his physical attributes and athletic ability. These are the reasons that the bonehead writer thought that Seattle might be in a tougher position in 2012 than we'd like to believe. I have one piece of advice for that writer:
Shove it up your jackhole!
Let's take a look at the same situation but in a much different light. A reasonable comparison of talent-level and stage of development might not be too far away and it might be the team that you just hate the most: The San Francisco 49ers. The first thing we want to do is evaluate this "problem" at quarterback.
First off, let's just remind everyone of the obvious, that it's a lot easier to win in this league with a good quarterback than it is to win without one. Even moreso, that it's exponentially easier to win with an elite quarterback than it is to win with a mediocre one. Look no further than last years conference championship games where the winning teams had Eli Manning and Tom Brady and the losing teams had Joe Flacco and Alex Smith. Now, the games were really close but just think about that for a second...
The 49ers and Ravens might have had the two best defenses in the NFL last season, by almost all measures they did, but they couldn't get over the hump against Brady and Eli. Despite how much I dislike Eli, despite how bad he was for the majority of his career, he was much better last year. Significantly better than Smith, despite the fact that Smith played the best football of his career. So, back to the "no duh" argument, you should really try to find a great quarterback.
The Seahawks had two possible options to find that guy by either working to sign Peyton Manning or by finding a potential diamond in the rough. Flynn is a bit better than a diamond in the rough, but the market turned soft for his services and Seattle was able to get him on a much cheaper deal than many may have feared. Additionally, they used a third round pick in the draft, rather than a first or making a dramatic move to trade up, on Wilson. These were two relatively low-cost moves that gave Seattle not one, but two new options for finding that elusive quarterback of the future. As Greg Cosell pointed out (hat-tip to Danny "Donkey Kong" Kelly), the Hawks are one of only two teams in the NFL without a QB that was either a first round pick or signed to a contract with $20 million+ guaranteed, along with the Bengals. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Well, as of right now it's just a thing but aren't you kind of thankful that none of these guys have that much stock invested into them, considering how little they've proven? Aren't you happy we got Wilson with a third round pick, rather than a first or second? We got to take two shots at two players that were acquired on low-cost, high-reward moves and the worst case scenario actually isn't that bad. Worst-case, we move on and it didn't break the bank or become a first round bust.
Best case: Russell Wilson has to get fitted for an Extra Small "Championship" T-shirt.
The competition at quarterback and the fact that Seattle is unproven in that area might not actually be a negative thing because the team didn't put all of it's eggs into one basket. The team was more like, "Dude, you still carry eggs in baskets? Give me some of your eggs and get caught up to the 21st century." Okay, bad analogy.
Imagine how much worse things would look right now if the team was going with a competition between Jackson and Wilson. I couldn't even fathom tolerating Seahawks boards for awhile for fear of self-mutilation. Thankfully, that's not happening because they signed Flynn and it broadened up the competition for the present and gave additional hope to the future. That competition is going to make these three guys that need to prove something work that much harder towards proving it. It's not entirely unlike the situation in San Francisco, where after five years of sucking and struggling, Alex Smith became better than he ever had before after the team had said "Oh, now we got this guy Colin Kaepernick and everybody likes him and hates you."
While we were waiting for Smith to implode and lose his job sometime between the pre-season and the first few weeks of the season, it never happened. Despite the fact that Kaepernick has done nothing to win the job, Smith has also done nothing to lose it for the first time in his career. There's no concrete tangible evidence that one has to do with the other, but there's also no evidence that it played no part in his advancement. For the first time, it really looked like Smith was done with the team, and then all of a sudden for the first time it really looked like he had a future with them again. Interesting turn of events.
Nobody is expecting the same from Tarvaris Jackson, but why not? I fully expect for Flynn to win the starters job, but maybe Tarvaris will be a better backup than we think. Maybe Flynn will be a better version of himself than the version that would only have to compete with Tarvaris or only compete with Wilson, two situations where he wouldn't have to compete as much and just expect to win the job. In a three-way competition, there's perhaps more of a motivation to improve and "Com-Pete" and be better, as Pete Carroll preaches.
And perhaps Wilson will do the same.
Sure, there's a lot of unknowns on this team between the two career starts of Flynn and the rookie season of Wilson, but the competition itself could breed something better than what we would have had if this much competition hadn't existed in the first place.
So what about the linebackers and the speed-rush rookie situation that Seattle finds itself in with Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner? Isn't it interesting that we can point back to... San Francisco.
In 2010, the 49ers were 6-10 and had a mediocre-bad offense, but their defense was improving. They were a top 10 rushing defense in most every category and second in the NFL in yards per carry allowed. The signs already pointed towards the 49ers, with perhaps the best defensive player in the game in Patrick Willis, could be on their way to being elite and they added Aldon Smith with their first pick in the draft. A raw speed-rusher that many people thought was an over-draft and hadn't pegged on their boards nearly that high.
What we saw happen was that the 49ers went from being a top 10 rushing defense, and 13th overall in total defense, to being the number one rushing defense in the NFL and fourth overall. Though Aldon did little else other than pass-rush, he was excellent at getting to the quarterback, registering 14 sacks. In previous eras of statistical evaluation, we would have probably assumed that he was one of the great rookies in NFL history, but we know better now that he couldn't play as many snaps and was mostly just good at that one thing. However, that doesn't mean he wasn't an immense help to the defense and a reason that they took that next step forward. What we do know is that in 2010 they didn't have Aldon Smith and Justin Smith led the team in sacks with 8.5.
In 2011, Aldon had 14 sacks and Justin had 7.5, so just like magic, the team improved overall at rushing the quarterback, stopping drives, keeping teams deep in their territory, and stopping third downs. It wasn't only Aldon though that came out of relative obscurity to help the defense, there was an inside linebacker that stepped up his game too.
Navorro Bowman was a 3rd round pick in 2010 that had played very sparingly as a rookie, but saw his role increase significantly this past season. He registered 113 solo tackles, 37 assists, 8 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries, and two sacks on his way to the Pro Bowl in his second season. Bowman and Wagner are of very similar size and speed, and even Bowman was described by some as an expected long-term backup and special teams player that turned into a gem of an inside linebacker in Vic Fangio's defense.
I don't expect Bobby Wagner to step in and blow it up so quickly in his first season, but going back to the "unknown" aspect of these players, we really just don't know. Nobody knew what to expect of Bowman last season and even today, people still question if he was deserving of a Pro Bowl spot. Of everything I've looked at in regards to Bowman... oh hell yeah he deserved it. We didn't know what to expect of Lofa Tatupu once upon a time. There's reason to believe that with K.J. Wright in his second year, LeRoy Hill, Barrett Ruud, Bobby Wagner, and Korey Toomer just for starters, the linebacking corps could be a strength and not a weakness. I already have high expectations for Wagner and the rest are growing on me.
And what about Jones? There is actually some precedent with the 49ers in this aspect as well.
Last season, the 49ers had Ray McDonald, a fifth-year, 6'4", 275 lb defensive tackle moved over to defensive end on the defensive line after he had made nine career starts in four years with San Francisco, mostly as a defensive tackle. He had done very, very little during his time there after being a third round pick in 2007. In 15 starts, McDonald registered 5.5 sacks, 32 solo tackles, and Pro-Football-Reference gave him an "Approximate Value" of 7 after he had a total "Approximate Value" of 10 in his entire career. The fans at Niners Nation like him too, and I do put a little value into what the fans of a certain team have to say, and they agree that he "broke out" in his new role. (/checks my status with FieldGulls readers. /loses any supporters I still had left after linking to Niners Nation.)
Which brings us back to Jason Jones. A 6'5", 272 lb, fifth-year starter who has struggled to live up to his second round expectations from 2008. The comparisons between Jones and McDonald are actually kind of staggering, and once again you have a case of a guy that could just be out-of-position and will thrive in a new (for him) defense. An unknown, but not completely unexpected to see him thrive this season.
There you have it.
Certainly, this team is full of unknowns at positions like QB, LB, and bringing in a new guy on the defensive line that has not performed up to his capabilities maybe, but might just have needed a new home. None of this necessarily means that it's a bad thing.
As we saw last year with San Francisco, it might actually get you to within a heartbeat of the Super Bowl.