Sometimes in life we see something so good that we ignore all else. Take for instance the Oscar race for 1994's Best Picture.
That was the year we got Pulp Fiction, one of the best films ever made perhaps, but also a film that was as innovative as we've seen in the modern era of film and influenced a whole slew of copycats.
That was also the year that we got The Shawshank Redemption, a film that is constantly in the top five of the Imdb top 250 and considered by millions of people to be one of the most enjoyable movies they've ever seen. It's hard to turn the channel away from TNT when it's on, no matter where in the movie you start watching. (I don't think I've seen the beginning of Shawshank in 15 years.)
Then there's the lesser recognized, but excellent-in-their-own-right films Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral. While neither would probably win a Best Picture Oscar in most years, they're typical Academy Award fodder and instant classics for those that cherish them.
Still, none of those movies won Best Picture that year. Instead, it went to Forrest Gump, a movie that pretty much had everything going for it. Forrest Gump was a movie epic, but fun for the whole family. Tom Hanks was going to win his 2nd straight Oscar for Best Actor. Director Robert Zemeckis had his masterpiece after directing the Back to the Future trilogy. The movie featured a "slow person" overcoming his disabilities in order to pretty much do anything he wanted and live the most amazing life anyone could imagine, whether you were disabled or not. Delivering Forrest Gump to the Academy is like delivering a Playboy hottub party to Matt Leinart: "Yes please!"
But what it did was overshadow two of the greatest movies to come out of the 90's and while never forgotten, they were of course going to be overlooked that year.
Now that I've established my metaphor, let me get to the point and explain why Andrew Luck is like Forrest Gump and not just for being a college football star. (It pains me that Andrew Luck goes to Stanford and seems like a really smart guy, because the opportunity to call him dumb is just so easy right now.)
Forrest finds out the Seahawks beat the Giants
I'm going to make the assumption that Luck and USC quarterback Matt Barkley are both going to be in the 2012 draft, because that's what makes this article possible. It's pretty much as simple as that, and I am aware that they might not necessarily both be there. Though, I think if history has taught us anything, it's that they probably will. USC doesn't pay what it used to.
Because of the hype surrounding Luck and the talk that has been building since his redshirt freshman year in 2009, no other quarterback in the nation will ever be able to outshine him. You can see that even with players like Robert Griffin III turning heads and prompting notions of being a first-rounder, or even with the hype, glory and fame that is being the starting QB at USC, nothing will come close to matching what Luck has already done for two-plus seasons:
As a redshirt freshman, Luck led Stanford to wins over Oregon and USC (scoring over 50 points in both of those games, with help from Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart) and turned Stanford around from a 5-7 record the previous year to an 8-5 record with an appearance in the Sun Bowl against Oklahoma.
Luck's numbers were good, not great, that season when he completed 56.3% of his passes for 13 TD, but he also threw only 4 picks and had a QB rating of 143.5, first in the Pac-10.
At this point he was making a name for himself a special player who could win big games, but what would he do without Toby Gerhart? Would he become a winner and put up huge numbers?
Luck answered those questions pretty emphatically in his sophomore season by completing 263 of 372 passes for 3,338 yards, 32 TDs and 8 INTs. Stanford also went 12-1, and the only thing that kept them from making the national championship game against Auburn was a loss to eventual runner-up Oregon.
It's safe to say that with his size, ability, record, and numbers, that Andrew Luck is the best natural quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.
The other interesting comparison to Manning though, and the one that I suppose I am finally getting to, is the man behind the Manning. In 1998, there was a considerable amount of hype around Peyton, but a very serious buzz around Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf. While there was question as to who would become the better NFL QB, Manning edged Leaf slightly and we know the rest of the story.
Still, the comparisons between Ryan Leaf and Matt Barkley probably end at the fact that they are second-fiddle to a slightly better college quarterback and NFL draft prospect. That's not to say that I am personally an expert on either player or a scout of any kind, it's only to say that I wouldn't propose that just because one guy was drafted here and another guy was also drafted there, that it makes them comparable in skill in any way. That notion just doesn't make any sense, because every year the talent pool is different.
But it does make it interesting that while the Seahawks are probably not going to have a chance to draft Luck, there's a Pulp Fiction and possibly a Shawshank Redemption available to be the Hawks quarterback of the future. The most interesting of which is Barkley.
A little birdie told me that Pete Carroll used to coach at USC and that he recruited Matt Barkley and started him in his freshman year. That birdie also told me that USC stands for University of Southern California. I fired that little birdie and said "Damn it, I could have Googled this, you don't have any inside info, do you?"
Its true that I don't have inside information and that should be obvious by now, but sometimes my brain likes to start putting puzzle pieces together, so long as that puzzle is less than 350 pieces.
The first place my brain starts is: "How could Barkley be possibly available for us?"
Look at the bottom of the NFL currently and start to decide who would draft Andrew Luck and who would draft Matt Barkley. I am only looking at Barkley for the simple fact that from what I read about him from pundits like Rob Staton and others is that Barkley and Luck are the two best quarterbacks in the draft and that it is a significant dropoff after that. Not significant like falling off of a cliff into a bed of jagged rocks, but significant enough that you would feel a lot more comfortable with one of those guys than with Landry Jones. I was once walking into a building and Landry Jones was 15 steps behind me and I held the door open for him and he did a little jog to get to the door and that wasn't very comfortable for either of us. (This story may not be true. I'll have to fact check. He looked like how I picture Landry Jones.)
It seems likely to me that teams like the Cardinals, Chiefs, and Eagles would consider moving away from their current veteran starters and move forward with Luck. Teams like the Jaguars and Vikings would definitely consider taking Luck over their own young prospects as well.
If the Rams or Panthers get the top pick, the trade rumors will be more wild and more crazy than those kids on Nickelodeon.
The Seahawks could potentially (or more like definitely) be a part of those rumors. However, if any other team gets the top pick, it seems likely that they'll hold onto it and thankfully move forward with one of the best quarterback guarantees the draft has ever had to offer. But there's a worst case scenario in my mind:
The reason that I see that is a worst case scenario is because any time that Andrew Luck appears to be gone at 1 and we are picking behind the Dolphins, then Matt Barkley becomes a non-option. The Dolphins are the most QB-desperate team in the NFL and I can't see how they'd come out of the 2012 draft without the best one they can land. I am of the opinion that the Seahawks not only need to draft a quarterback in the upcoming draft, but that it's what they've been building up to since John Schneider and Pete Carroll got here.
Here comes another puzzle piece: Why now?
The Seahawks have made over 300 transactions since the new era began under this regime, but none of those moves seemed like one that included a franchise quarterback. We should know by now that you can't build a team that sustains success without having a franchise quarterback. The trade for Charlie Whitehurst, while it seems costly to us, was not a move for a the quarterback of the future, it was simply a move as Matt Hasselbeck insurance and a shot in the dark that he'd develop his physical ability into on-field success.
That hasn't happened. It's probably not going to happen.
The move for Tarvaris Jackson was made because he was familiar with the offense and the Seahawks had less time to prepare for the season because of the lockout. It made perfect sense, especially because we still weren't sure if we had developed an offensive line that was going to protect the quarterback. If Tarvaris got hurt (and of course, he did. By no fault of the line in this case, I know.) then at least we weren't hurting our franchise. And we haven't.
So what have the Seahawks done in the draft and free agency instead of getting a quarterback?
Well they have drafted two offensive lineman in the first round in two years. That's a pretty significant move to imply that you want to build a strong offensive line, and one that protects the quarterback. In addition to that they drafted a guard in the third round this season and signed respected left guard Robert Gallery. This team has spent three draft picks and a lot of money just to put five guys on the line that keep the quarterback from being touched in the pocket.
Also, the Seahawks drafted a wide receiver in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft and the 4th round of the 2011 draft. They signed Sidney Rice and Zach Miller in free agency as a weapons upgrade for a QB as if he was moving up levels in (fill in your favorite first person shooter game here.) They made a hard play for Doug Baldwin in undrafted free agency that also paid off, and re-signed Mike Williams.
As the offense stands now, the most glaring hole clearly remains at quarterback.
It's not as if this is standard norm in the NFL either. Many people believe that the first move you make when trying to turn around a franchise is getting your franchise quarterback but Pete and John have made no attempt to do so. In 2010, the draft moves seemed obvious, but at least there was no panic-button-make-a-big-move play on Tim Tebow.
But in this years draft they could have taken Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick and they held steady. They could have taken Ryan Mallet, and they moved down instead. Even as it seemed pressure was mounting on the front office to find the quarterback of the future, they have not, and they don't seem to care.
Move ahead to this season, as the Seahawks find themselves in a situation where they could be a middle-of-the-pack team again. If they finish 6-10, the Seahawks could be drafting somewhere in the 7-12 range and potentially in a position to take Matt Barkley. If they find themselves in a position where they have to move up in order to draft Barkley, well they did just acquire two extra picks for Aaron Curry.
If the Dolphins finish last, which I think is the best case scenario, how far could Barkley fall?
I see a lot of teams turning over their current QB for Andrew Luck, but I don't see that with Barkley. Not because he isn't good, but because he's not as flashy, not as perfect, not as "right for the part" as Forrest Gump is. He's Pulp Fiction.
The following teams could finish with a terrible record and move out their QB (or in the case of the Colts, prepare for their next franchise QB under their current) for Andrew Luck: All of them except the Panthers and Rams.
The following teams could finish with a terrible record and move out their QB for Matt Barkley: Miami, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle. If Oakland had some unexpected freefall, they could be in competition too. I suspect they still may want to draft a QB in the first round.
But honestly, that's it.
I don't think that the Chiefs are that confident in Cassel anymore and they'd probably move on. I don't see scenario in which Tebow is the QB of the Future in the same year in which they would finish 3-13, so they'd move on as well.
That means that as long if Miami picks first, Barkley could fall. At worst, we might have to move up a few picks. Would we?
Pete Carroll put his last season at USC in the hands of a true freshman named Matt Barkley. Even if Barkley beat out Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, names that don't inspire much confidence, he still became the first true freshman to start at QB to start the season for USC... ever.
Not Carson Palmer, not Matt Leinart, not Mark Sanchez, not Rodney Peete. That's just to say that Pete Carroll really likes this kid, it couldn't have just been that he hated Corp and Mustain. Though Mustain always seemed to be a hateable guy.
What it all amounts to is this:
Pete and John are in year two of taking over the Seahawks. They absolutely can't be bad in year three, and the worst case scenario is that they have a strong, young team in year three with a future franchise quarterback waiting in the wings. The Seahawks of 2012 want to look like the Lions of 2010.
They've built the team up in all areas of the game, from the offensive line to the wide receivers to the defensive line and secondary, but done very little of note in the quarterback position, even though Pete and John both came to Seattle from teams that relied heavily on having the very best at quarterback.
The Seahawks are playing their way out of the first pick in the draft and Andrew Luck is becoming more and more of a pipe dream. But because of how brightly Luck shines, Barkley's immense talent is getting lost in the wind and sure enough he's still seen as a franchise quarterback. One that was heavily recruited in and invested in by our own Pete Carroll.
They'll still be in good position to draft in the top 10 and could very well have leverage necessary in order to move up to take Barkley if they have to move up. If the right teams fall in the right places, they may not even have to move up at all. If a team like Jacksonville is picking 2nd, they may be very interested in moving down and grabbing extra draft picks because nobody views Barkley like they view Luck, with the one possible exception being Carroll.
For me the puzzle pieces fit quite nicely. I don't think that the Seahawks will enter next season without a franchise QB and I don't think Tarvaris or Charlie will ever be viewed in that light. I do think that Matt Barkley is a franchise-level QB prospect of the highest regard, and that he is being overlooked, but the most interested party might be our own head coach. It seems possible, if not likely to me, that Barkley could very well be a Seahawk after the next draft. I know we've been fooled before by Pete and his USC connections with Taylor Mays and Matt Leinart, but this one just makes a lot more sense at the moment.
Remember my analogy with the 1994 Oscar race: Forrest Gump was the perfect movie for the Academy and a very good movie, but it beat out the fan favorites. Shawshank currently sits at #1 in the Imdb top 250 and Pulp Fiction sits at #5. Being the best today doesn't foretell where you'll stand tomorrow.
I have spent hours and hours developing a picture that will show what the Seahawks will look like if they draft Matt Barkley. Its a perfect representation of how we might look in 2012 and I think after you see it, you'll see why we need to draft Barkley and it's eerily realistic in how the Hawks could look in 2012. I hope it excites you as much as it excited me:
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