Jeremy Bates inherited a rickety old shell of an offense. A core of talent that neither Greg Knapp nor Mike Holmgren had success with. He took that team and, well, didn't have much success with it either. The Seahawks finished a little bit better in 2010 than they did in 2009. That doesn't tell us the whole story. Seattle was improving down the stretch, and played two of their best games of the season in the playoffs. Matt Hasselbeck had his best season since 2007. The Seahawks offense, though wildly inconsistent, showed actual flashes of ability.
Would Bates and Seattle have built upon that? We will never know. Today Jeremy Bates was fired by the Seattle Seahawks. There are about a thousand different links available, you can pick which one you think most accurately tells the story.
It's very, very difficult to accurately assess how good a coach is. Coaches tend to receive full blame or credit for a team's or unit's performance, but that's a foolish standard. Many now recognized "geniuses" struggled at some point. Bill Walsh oversaw the 19th ranked (of 28) scoring offense in his first season as an offensive coordinator. He spent one season with San Diego before leaving to coach Stanford. The rest is history. In Dick Lebeau's first season as a coordinator, the Bengals dropped from the best scoring defense in the NFL to the 13th ranked scoring defense. They would drop to 22nd the next season. Lebeau was eventually fired. No one could know how successful Lebeau would eventually be, but one thing that was obvious even then was that Lebeau was creative, hard working and young. He had ideas, years to improve and the will to become better.
Performance is a standard though. It's just not a very reliable standard. If we could somehow separate performance from personnel, then we would have some kind of standard, but we can't. We know, for instance, that the Seahawks were not a good offense, but we do not know the range of performance this offense was capable of.
Some stuff we do know:
Bates is young.
In pretty much all fields, success at a young age is a sign of tremendous ability. In his first season calling plays for the Denver Broncos, a then 32 year old Bates helped orchestrate the second ranked offense in the NFL. Even that though is not a slam dunk. He was the Broncos quarterback coach. He served under an offensive maestro that surely still had input and veto power: Mike Shanahan. So, some kind of achievement, but hard to piece out exactly what. Success at a young age is a sign of tremendous ability, but knowing in what ways Bates succeeded and in what ways he was led to success is all but impossible.
Bates was essential to the Seahawks beating the Saints.
I don't think this can be ignored. From the "snoozy" to a host of double moves, to the decision to call the power run that sprung Marshawn Lynch for 67 yards and the game clinching touchdown, Bates fingerprints were all over the game plan Seattle used to beat New Orleans. It was one of a few instances in which Bates's game plans seemed to lead directly to success: week one against San Francisco; week 11 when Seattle first broke out against the Saints; week 17, when Bates built a totally different style of offense around Charlie Whitehurst.
The Seahawks offense was not very successful overall under Bates.
Hard to know what to make of this. No one has succeeded with this collection of talent. It nevertheless is not a good thing, and at least narrows the chances that Bates was a good coordinator in 2010, with this team and this collection of talent.
Bates is gone now.
That's the final word. If Bates, a creative, hard working and young coach, does eventually succeed with another team, he will be but the latest in a long line of coaches that didn't break through right away but kept working, working, working, competing and believing in themselves. I wish him the best. I loved what he did in Seattle, loved the range of his play calling, how he seemed to marry the creativity of Knapp with the execution of Holmgren, the way his play calling was daring, and how passionate and committed he seemed. But I also recognize how little I actually know about him. His public support of Hasselbeck didn't encourage me. The way he insisted that Hasselbeck could run his system, though it was obvious he couldn't, and how long it took Bates to adjust, worried me. Sometimes his play calling ranged towards the indefensible: pounding the rock with Lynch, fades to Butler, rolling out Hasselbeck in his own end zone, etc. Overall though, I thought he was promising, and I thought his potential was immense, and I am very sad to see him go.