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The NFL Is A Copycat League: The Seattle Seahawks and the New York Jets

This is just a loose theory and is probably the byproduct of way too much time during the lockout to think about this stuff, but when you look a little bit at the main characteristics of the New York Jets, you might start to see similarities to the Seattle Seahawks. When you try and predict the long-term strategy that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have in mind, I would venture a guess that it pretty closely resembles that of the Jets. I'll explain:

First, and this is probably more of a coincidence than a purposeful strategy, but both teams have a boisterous, big-personality, defensive-minded players' coaches in Rex Ryan and Pete Carroll. These guys are both known for getting the most out of their players and for being media darlings. Both are popular with their players, albeit different in their choice of language. Both have a lot of control and both work in relative harmony with their GMs. Both love the spotlight and both are jokesters. 

Ok, past that: strategically thinking if you look at how New York has built their team in the last few years it could closely resemble the way that the Hawks are going about their business. Go back to 2006; New York possessed two first round picks and spent them on T D'Brickashaw Ferguson and C Nick Mangold in an attempt to re-build their offensive line. Using your first two picks to shore up the line...sound familiar?

In '07, they built up the defense by selecting Darrelle Revis and ILB David Harris. In 2008, they signed Alan Faneca and Damien Woody to further bolster their line. In 2009 they fired Eric Mangini and brought in Rex Ryan. Ryan inherited a very good offensive line and went about drafting a 'franchise' QB in USC's Mark Sanchez and a feature back in Shonn Green. The next draft, they chose another running back in Joe McKnight, and a fullback in John Connor. Think they wanted to run the ball?

Guess who was watching the 2009 Jets season? Pete Carroll- that's who. After publicly chastising Sanchez for leaving school early to go to the NFL, Pete wanted to see if he would be proven correct in his assessment. And what did he see? He saw a rookie QB with mediocre to terrible numbers 'lead' his team to the AFC Championship game behind the NFL's best offensive line and rushing attack and league-best defense. The Jets averaged 172.2 yards per game on the ground and featured a very good defense directed by Rex Ryan. 

I'm not saying that Pete Carroll had an epiphany watching the 2009 Jets, but it couldn't have hurt his previous notion that a strong defensive team, armed with a potent rushing offense and game-managing quarterback could have great success at the NFL level (the Jets got to the AFC Championship game again in 2010). Carroll is a defensive minded coach and I have no doubt that he believes he can mold a top-tier defense for the Seahawks. Apart from that, he's going about building his offensive line so the run game will be the main identity of the offense. Once that is intact, you go about drafting your QBOTF. This is all a theory of course (with a tip of the cap to Davis Hsu for pointing out similarities), but it seems to hold some water anyway. 

Carroll, apart from fostering a culture change in Seattle, has made the run game a top priority - he originally brought in Zone Blocking Scheme guru Alex Gibbs to run this part of the offense but Gibbs resigned after bumping heads with other coaches. This season, in part because the run game got absolutely no traction, Carroll fired his Offensive Coordinator and hired on Tom Cable, a Gibbs protege and ZBS savant, as Assistant Head Coach (a title that shouldn't be overlooked) and Offensive Line Coach. No doubt this was done with revitalization of the run game as priority number one. Well, they wasted no time in the fix by using their first two draft picks on offensive linemen. Most of the rest of the draft was defensive minded as they picked up a linebacker, KJ Wright, in the 4th round, a safety, Mark LeGree in the 5th, and two corners in the 5th and 6th rounds, in Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell, respectively. 

There's a theory out there that QBOTF will be next year. We'll see.

In Carroll's 4-3 Under defense, arguably the most important cogs in the wheel are the middle linebacker, the safeties, and the 3-tech defensive lineman. Carroll wasted no time in selecting Earl Thomas last season. He still has belief that Lofa Tatupu can get the job done at MLB, and the 3-tech spot has yet to be addressed. I'm not sure if they view Brandon Mebane as the answer there.

(As a sidenote), one of the most successful 4-3 Under Tampa-2 defenses ever run in the NFL - from approximately 1999 till 2002, had Hall of Famer Warren Sapp at the 3-tech, 4-time All-Pro Hardy Nickerson at MLB (left in 1999; replaced by Jamie Duncan and later Shelton Quarles in 2002, when he made the pro-bowl), and 9-time Pro-Bowler John Lynch at safety. Though the Seahawks run a different defense than Tampa Bay's dominant teams of the 1990's and 2000's, it would behoove them to make it a priority to draft/trade for/sign very good players at these three positions. UPDATE: It's also been pointed out to me that I was remiss (criminal, really) in leaving probable future Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks off this list. It's true that the weakside linebacker in a Tampa-2 system is as integral a position as any so that's another spot that should not be forgotten while the Seahawks build. I think I should have just said that it's important to have elite players in key positions in order to compete year in and year out. Which positions are the most key is something that can be argued.

I'm starting to ramble a little bit, but the main point is to reassure and remind that a roster rebuild takes a lot of time. It's not going to happen in one or two drafts. It will take four to five years in most cases and until Carroll and Schneider have had a chance to put some of their players on the field, I find it hard to make a judgement on them one way or another. What I am sensing though is that the ultimate goal is to build something of a proxy of what the Jets have assembled now. A team built on an elite run game and defense. Get a game-managing and effective quarterback to distribute the ball. Win on time-of-possession and getting turnovers.