Hey, Hass, what have you done for me lately? Nothin. Except whip the Colts fans into a frenzy behind the bench as Andrew Luck's back-up in our lone loss. Yeah, thanks for that, man.
Point being, we twelves have a tendency to live in the now, the Zen moment, one game, one drive, one HawkNation under DangeRuss. But in our fervent thirst to finally grasp that Lombardi, in our rush to hype the current formidable group of Hawks, are we under-selling the one Hawk team that came the closest to the throne?
In a word, yes.
Sure, the '13 defense (#2 DVOA) is superior to the '05 defense (#16 DVOA). But we can't say the same of the '13 offense (#7 DVOA) vs. the '05 offense (#1 DVOA).
I know what you're thinking "Yeah but 2005 had an O-Line!", "Yeah but Walter Jones! And Poison Pill Hutch!", "Yeah but with 2013 'protection' Hass would have been disemboweled!"
Yeah buts are for rabbits. Set your pre-conceived notions aside and hark to the story the stats tell. No, not the full-season 2005 stats. We're going to do this right, comparing the first 11 games of offense from the 2005 and 2013 Hawks.
One of these things is not like the other. Oh wait, yes it is.
Let's start with the old sportswriter game. Pick one offense to go chase the Owl. Which do you like, Team A or Team B?
Team A: 22 run TDs, 14 pass TDs
Team B: 11 run TDs, 20 pass TDs
Not so easy, is it? Do we go for the offense with the superior ground game and the most TDs overall? Or do we want the somewhat better passing offense? Well, at least we can agree that there is a clear choice. These are not the same offense. Except that they are. Look at third-down conversion rates:
Team A: 55-139
Team B: 55-139
You read that right (cue the Twilight Zone music). After 11 games, the 2005 and 2013 Seahawk offenses have faced exactly the same number of third downs and converted them at exactly the same rate. (That's less good for 2013 than it appears, as we'll see later). OK, so we can't say the 2013 offense is scoring more TDs or better on third downs, but it's definitely more explosive, right?
Team A: 1.35 JEDI
Team B: 1.38 JEDI
I hate you, stats. The two teams are equal too in the JEDI (Jacked! Explosivity Drive Index), my new metric that measures explosive plays (runs of 12+ yards and passes of 16+ yards) per scoring drive. Through 11 games, both the 2005 O (Team A) and 2013 O (Team B) averaged the same number of big-chunk explosive plays on drives that led to points. Bummer. So what is 2013 better at?
2005 Seahawks Offense: 6.27 DEPP
2013 Seahawks Offense: 6.91 DEPP
Finally, a little of RWil's favorite noun, separation! We're number 1! We're number 1! Wait, what's DEPP?
2013 Hawks balling like farmers: Out-standing in the field.
DEPP refers to the number of scoring-Drive Explosive Plays Per game (yeah that's right, I cheated with the acronym). Through Week 11, in an average game the 2013 Hawks feature 6.91 explosive plays occurring on scoring drives. You'd only find 6.27 such plays per game on the 2005 Hawks. How can that be, when both offenses have the same JEDI number -- the same rate of explosive plays per scoring drive?
Well, in 2013 we're simply creating more scoring drives (5 per game vs. 4.64 per game). Why didn't they think of that in 2005? What's our secret? To start with, we have had a much shorter distance to go to score:
2005 average scoring drive: started own 33.53 yard line, 7.43 plays for 60.84 yards
2013 average scoring drive: started own 38.56 yard line, 7.05 plays for 52.45 yards
The easiest way to produce more scoring drives per game is to guzzle that sweet, sweet field position down our 2013 osprey gullets.
Want a Scoring Drive? You know who to call.
Hello is this Mebane, Thomas and Friends? Yes, we'd like the ball back, please. Where? Hmmm, a nice table for 11 as close to the opponents' end zone as possible. In four downs, you say? Sure, we can do that!
The defense has granted us great field position, but not in the ways you'd automatically expect. The defensive third-down conversions allowed rate is only middling (37.8% vs. 38.5% in 2005). Thus it's not a surprise that our D hasn't forced more punts overall either (52 vs. 54 in 2005). But our much stingier 2013 defense has surrendered far less overall yardage, allowing far fewer opponent field goal attempts (19 vs. 34 in 2005), and forcing opponents to punt when backed up further in their own end.
And, of course, the 2013 D has produced many more turnovers (2.18 per game vs. 1.36 per game in 2005). I say I say is there a stat that can show how these field-position-shifting plays have produced more '13 offense?
Offensive points per game on possessions off turnovers: 6.72 in 2013, 3.9 in 2005.
It hasn't just been the defense. Stand up, special teams. While Seattle has forced the same number of punts as in 2005, it has returned them far better. In 2005, the Hawks were 30th in punt returns. In 2013, the Hawks are good as Golden at 7th. Not to be outdone, Mr. Jon Ryan and the Jeremy Lane brigade have taken the team from 18th in punt coverage (2005) to 1st in the NFL (2013).
Thus have the '13 Seahawks devised a multi-pronged attack to create short-field situations for the offense. They have, however, been lacking in one department that could help -- kickoff returns (22nd in 2013).
Enter Percy Harvin.
You're gonna need somebody to lean on.
In 2005, there was no elite defense or special teams to lean on. In the end, the Hawks had to put their trust on the left side of the OLine, the dancing feet of Shaun Alexander and the jittery slingin of Matt Hasselbeck to carry the day. In that magical year, the offense was not only the best in the NFL, it was almost good enough to win it all.
In 2013, the Hawks are multiple. They are flush with young, fast and hungry play-makers on both sides of the ball. Elite defense and special teams constantly set the table for excellent offense. But the great field position would have been wasted without our linchpin franchise QB and emerging NFL icon, our own scrambling gnome of genius. With our OL in tatters, Russ repeatedly extended drives with explosive plays on the run and in the air. Can you name one active NFL QB who could have done the same?
Two questions remain.
First, can our '13 offense improve? The OL and Harvin (holy crap, Percy Harvin!) must round into health. The less stress is put on Russ and Marshawn to bear beatings behind the line, the better. More Formula One, less Demolition Derby (Beast Mode in the open field aside, of course). More TDs and less field gulls (move that ratio from 3:2 closer to 3:1). As we improve, we need to do better at staying out of 3rd-down situations. Remember how 2013 tied the 2005 offense in 3rd-down conversions (55-139)? But 2005 had 40 more plays to get to 139 third downs. That's a whole 2013 Rams' game worth of offensive snaps. Stay out of third downs, fellas!
The last question is how great can Russell be? On Average Net Yards/Attempt, in each of his first two years Russ has been very slightly better than the best two years of Hass's entire career. Now, Hass clearly did not have Russell's arm, and even less his legs. But 2005 Hass did have that monstrous OL and a career year from Shaun Alexander. By 2006, those supports failed and the HasselHawks were never the same. 2013 Russ has a top-3 defense and an excellent Beast Mode. Russ's mettle will be tested when those supports wear away in coming years. In the meantime, we can just lean on the elite QB he is. And enjoy the 2013 ride.
*All 2005 stats in this post were THROUGH 11 GAMES and hand-calculated by me. They are not full-season stats.