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Darrell Bevell and the Return of Smash Mouth Football

Fantasy sleeper.
Fantasy sleeper.

As much as I love writing polemics about Matt Hasselbeck, and I don't, I don't have time nor the inclination for that today. Let's see what we can dig up about new Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

  • Bevell worked as the Packers quarterbacks coach from 2003-2005. He "coached" Brett Favre to his worst season as a professional in 2005. I doubt many would blame Bevel for Favre finishing with a career worst 29 interceptions, 4.8 interception percentage and 4.4 ANY/A. But if we can't blame him, we can not really credit him for Favre's accomplishments either. That is, a decade into his professional career, I assume quarterback coaches that worked with Favre were probably more like a confidant and less like a mentor.
  • Bevell played quarterback with Wisconsin in the early nineties. His offensive coordinator at the time was Brad Childress. Head coach: Barry Alvarez. Bevell was among Childress's first hires when Childress took over as head coach of the Vikings in 2006.
  • Before joining Childress, Bevell tutored rookie Aaron Rodgers. You can read about that here. It's never clear how much the quarterbacks coach develops a talent and how much a talent is simply destined to develop, but if Seattle is looking for a young quarterback to groom over multiple seasons while it rides the moldering corpse of nostalgia, Bevell has experience.
  • If we're going to credit Bevell for developing Rodgers, we should probably know exactly how Rodgers performed in the short time the two were together. Here is a look at Rodger's preseason performance as a rookie:
  • First start (against the Chargers): 2 of 6, 7 yards, two sacks.
  • Second start (against the Bills): 4 of 9, 21 yards, interception.
  • Third start (against the Patriots): 5 of 9, 52 yards, interception.
  • Fourth start (against the Titans): 9 of 13, 92 yards, touchdown.
  • So that started kind of crappy but developed nicely. Gold star, Darrell Bevell. And everyone knows how Rodgers has since developed. Good to see he showed some progress under the Seahawks new offensive coordinator.
  • Bevell took over play calling duties from Childress in 2007. In Childress's first season, the Vikings were pretty woefully bad on offense, finishing second to last in overall offensive DVOA and second to last in passing DVOA. By traditional stats, Minnesota finished 26th in points scored and 23rd in offensive yards. Minnesota shot up to 16th in DVOA in 2007, with rushing DVOA propping up the overall ranking. The team finished third in rushing DVOA and 23rd in passing DVOA; and 15th in scoring offense and 13th in yards.
  • That also happened to be Adrian Peterson's rookie season. Peterson averaged 5.6 yards per carry. Chester Taylor, then 28, averaged 5.4. A nice kind of luxury to have.
  • Under Chilly in 2006, Minnesota rushed on only 43% of all attempts. Under Bevell, Minnesota rushed on 51% of all attempts in 2007, 51% in 2008, 44% in 2009 (with Favre and the play action game working to perfection), and then 45% in 2010. I would guess, independent of Favre, Bevell likes to establish the run and build the passing game off of play action. Once defenses sell out to stop the run, Bevell cranks up the passing game. But whatever the ratio, the offense is always built through the run.
  • Which makes the marriage of Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable make a lot of sense. Both want to run the ball, running the ball will be the foundation of the offense, and the pass will work from that. Maybe we should call Bevell a passing game coordinator. Whatever you want to call it, expect Seattle to invest resources into improving the run game and judge its offensive success in 2011 by the performance of that run game.
  • The Vikings offensive DVOA sagged to 25th in 2008, 9th in 2009 and then 27th in 2010.

I have never really thought of Matt Hasselbeck as a play action quarterback. If you're so inclined, you can try and make sense of his 2010 splits. He was at his best when Seattle lined up with two tight ends, which is a common run formation especially for a zone blocking scheme. If Seattle doesn't re-sign Hasselbeck, the beauty of a run-first offense is that it lessens the responsibility of the quarterback. Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson, young Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Chad Henne, Eli Manning among a host of others have had varying degrees of success executing run-first systems. The down side is that teams that lead with the pass, like New England, New Orleans, Green Bay, Indianapolis and Philadelphia have had greater and more sustained success. It's a passing league, and as the Patriots exhibited this last season, a team can have a ton of success running the football without a great collection of talent if they "establish" the pass. But, from everything Pete Carroll has said with his words and through his hires, Seattle is attempting smash mouth football. Adjust your off-season checklists and mock drafts accordingly.