I hope Mike Holmgren signs with Cleveland. I have selfish interest, namely Seattle not re-signing Holmgren, but I have more noble interests as well. Cleveland has one of the youngest, most talented offensive lines in the NFL. It starts Joe Thomas at left tackle, Eric Steinbach at left guard and Alex Mack at center. Right guard Hank Fraley and right tackle John St. Clair are interchangeable organizational soldier types. It doesn't have great skill position talent, but that's where Holmgren shines. He finds scheme appropriate players that can excel behind a dominant offensive line. Holmgren is also an expert at developing young quarterbacks.
Why start with a tangent? In this scenario, Seattle ditches Matt Hasselbeck and signs free agent Jason Campbell. Tim Ruskell is out and his departure hints at a potential rebuild, but if Seattle can win some down the stretch, and especially if Seattle can win some down the stretch because of its Ruskell built defense, the Seahawks might adapt certain Ruskell ideals even without Ruskell.
Ruskell was risk adverse. He had a narrow definition of "his guy". His aversion to risk may have served him well, but his narrow definition did not. Consider Deon Butler. Ruskell traded into the third round to select Butler because Butler was "his guy". Butler dripped Ruskell: Four-year starter at a major conference powerhouse, undersized but fast, coachable, hard working and quietly productive. Ruskell conflated "his guy" with risk aversion and overpaid for a risky player. Despite his track record and accolades, Butler could bust because he is overmatched by NFL competition.
Ruskell spent big to get his guy, but his guy was never less risky than Juaquin Iglesias, Mike Thomas, Brian Hartline, Louis Murphy, Austin Collie or Johnny Knox - the six receivers selected after Butler. And only Iglesias has underperformed Butler. Ruskell projected his internal bias on the players he drafted. It rarely conflicted with his risk aversion, but when it did, it often spelled failure.
Campbell is a prime target for any risk adverse general manager. His connections to Auburn's unbeaten season might have spoken to Ruskell's personal bias, but his standing as a young, established NFL quarterback speaks to rational roster construction. Campbell has the tools of an NFL quarterback - arm strength, size, mobility - and those tools are NFL tested. He has adapted to multiple playbooks and played near league average football on some very poorly constructed offenses. As we've seen in Chicago and Denver, the quarterback may be the center and most essential part of any NFL offense, but it is not more important than the other ten men that take the field.
This Plan Might Be Enacted Thus:
Seattle trades or cuts Hasselbeck. It wishes him well, gives lip service to rebuilding and is satisfied to see him sign with Cleveland. Hasselbeck joins muscle milk buddy Brady Quinn and assumes the Trent Dilfer role.
Walter Jones retires.
Seattle cuts Patrick Kerney, Deion Branch and Seneca Wallace.
That gives the Seahawks money to burn. Seattle signs Campbell to a frontloaded contract with a third-year buyout clause. Campbell is playing through the last year of his rookie contract and though he's rich, he's not quarterback rich. Seattle buys maneuverability and Campbell's services by stacking his 2010 salary with zeroes.
Seattle could still be a player in free agency after signing Campbell. It will attempt to fill holes and free itself to draft best available talent throughout the draft.
Signing Campbell and cutting dead weight frees Seattle to make a big splash in the NFL draft. It has money to afford another early first round prospect and the picks to trade up. It could take a centerpiece player on defense like Ndamukong Suh. By releasing Hasselbeck and signing Campbell, the burden falls off the offense. Seattle buys itself time. If Campbell struggles in Seattle's still wrecked 2010 offense, he's young and can be released. Campbell has a bad reputation. He hasn't earned Seahawks fan loyalty and we are unlikely to experience the same kind of revulsion and outrage watching him battered to bones as we do watching Hasselbeck torn asunder.
Campbell is signed as a stopgap+. The Seahawks compliment the signing with a project quarterback selected sometime in 2010's epic quarterback draft. A looming correction to the onerous rookie pay scale is encouraging players to declare, and while the draft lacks a Matt Ryan or Peyton Manning, it might be the deepest quarterback draft in modern history. Colt McCoy, Zac Robinson, Sean Canfield, Ryan Mallett, Dan LeFevour, Pat Devlin and Tony Pike will all likely fall deep into the second day. Seattle will have an established starter for 2010 to test its system and offense, and a talented young quarterback developing behind the scenes.
How it works: Seattle successfully moves into the top of the draft and selects a once in a generation defensive talent. That helps push Seattle's cheap, young and talented, but by no means dominant, defense from potential to production. The team is not a contender again in 2010, but it's close.
Campbell outperforms Hasselbeck. He's younger and healthier and continues to play like a league average quarterback. Campbell could also breakout. Seattle is set for either possibility. It builds its offense towards the future by continuing Ruskell's habit of drafting late and mid-round offensive talent and seeing who shakes out. The major rebuild will wait until next offseason. 2010 is about seeing what they have and what they need, something a diminished Hasselbeck has made difficult to impossible this season.
The young defense provides excitement and gives the team a direction and identity. Campbell's arm opens the run game and Seattle executes the grind and smother attack Jim Mora and Greg Knapp seek. The team takes a flier on another young back (or two) and someone sticks, filling out a balanced and productive if unspectacular committee of backs. It's Ground Chuck all over again.
How it fails: Seattle cuts Hasselbeck but doesn't sign Campbell, or Seattle retains Hasselbeck and projects to have one of the worst offenses in football in 2010, or Seattle signs Campbell but Campbell performs no better than Hasselbeck and Seattle's young quarterback is prematurely forced into action. The meat of this is that Seattle does not spend enough on its offense and that offense again undermines the defense.
Contrarily, the defense never steps up. It continues to stifle the run but still cannot stop the pass. Seattle's defensive savior is a rookie and like Aaron Curry, more potential than player. The defense is average, but no better and as the offense putters towards the bottom of the league, the not-good-enough defense shoulders the consequences. Seattle changes the face of its failures but not its failures and what little can be salvaged from Ruskell's roster is older, more expensive and closer to free agency. Campbell is signed to stave off a full rebuild and does. He plays two seasons of league average football and is cleared when Seattle must clean house in 2012.