E is for Expectations.
If you were to ask me, I'd tell you that I expect the 2012 Seattle Seahawks to post a 9-7 record, and I believe most fans expect an improvement from back-to-back 7-9 seasons. Vegas has the 2012 Seahawks at seven wins, a line that is placed to entice betting. Sure, there is likely a reasonable segment of 12s that can foresee another 7-9 season with a tough opening schedule and a trifecta of Seahawks quarterbacks that all have a lot to prove. When I break it up, I can see the Seahawks go 6-2 in the second half of the season, but have a hard time seeing the Seahawks go 4-4 in the early part of the season against the likes of the Cowboys, Packers, Panthers, Niners, Lions, Rams and Cards. In full honesty, I feel good about the 9-7 prediction, but would lean more toward 8-8 than 10-6. In full-full honestly, I would prefer 5-11 versus back-to-back-to-back 7-9 seasons, because at 5-11, the Seahawks would be within closer striking distance in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Regardless, after watching the May 29th, 2012 "12th Man Town-Hall" event, I think Pete Carroll assumes and wants the fans to expect a winning season and a playoff berth in 2012. Why not? This is Year Three of the rebuild and I don't think Pete thinks 9-7 is too much to ask for. The 2011 season was hampered by the lockout, and that did have a big impact on young Seahawks. Personally, I buy the "lockout excuse" as legit factor in the slow start in 2011.
The team forged an identity in the second half of 2011, which has created a level of optimism for 2012. I think the 2012 offseason has gone well for Seattle. Did they have the number-one-best-draft in the NFL? - Probably not - but when you include their work in free agency, I would say their offseason as a whole ranks in the top third. The offseason includes retaining key players, rehabbing players, acquiring outside free agents, and, of course, the draft. When you combine a strong offseason and a good second half of 2011, I keep landing on this 9-7 perch. Before the 2010 and 2011 seasons I predicted 6-10 for both. Hopefully I am one win light again, and the Seahawks go 10-6.
F is for FIT
Do the Seahawks draft the best player available regardless of need? No. Do they draft strictly on need? No. John Schneider talks about "following our board" as the draft progresses. I always interpreted this as him telling others that "we draft the highest-rated player standing". In reality, I actually don't think they do that either. What do they do?
On May 24th, 2012, on Brock & Salk's radio show on ESPN 710, John Schneider said, "We don't grade for the league, we grade for our team." This was in response to the question of "Why didn't you draft a WR?" Schneider elaborates and said "we compare" the draft players to "our own players" and mentions "rating them versus your team."
The Seahawks "follow their board" - but the board is not a list of the "best player available" in a vacuum. The Seahawks board is constructed by first grading all of the existing Seahawks. Players of interest and where they land on the board, in this case - wide receivers, would likely have to grade out better than the existing grades on Kris Durham and Golden Tate and Ricardo Lockette, etc.
I don't know how the process all exactly works, but I suspect the Seahawks didn't entertain a WR until Round 4 - and at that point their existing WR group must have comparable grades to the WR remaining in late Round 4 til the end of the draft.
I don't know if I would call this "Drafting for Need" and I for sure would not call it "Drafting the Best Player Available". The word that comes to mind is "Fit". Does this player fit our unique scheme, fit our competition philosophy, and does this player "fit" in the sense that the player provides an upgrade over a player we currently control?
**Detour - blip thought -
I don't want to elaborate too much on scheme here, but I think most fans that read this blog know the type of safeties this regime is hunting for, the type of corners they are looking for, defensive end types, nickel package type players and the list is growing. In 2012 we were able to see what they were looking for in a MIKE linebacker - and I am not sure Mychal Kendricks was 'the guy' over Bobby Wagner (I did believe that initially). After hearing Gus Bradley talk recently, and thinking about how the Seahawks' 4-3 hybrid leaves the opponent's right guard uncovered - the MIKE has to be able to stack and shed the guard like a 3-4 ILB and the Seahawks' WILL is free to run and hit. Wagner might have been the guy all along.
** Back to our regularly scheduled program...