I can write a lot more words on why the Seattle Seahawks are good and how smart Pete Carroll and John Schneider are than I can on their mistakes, but that does mean that we shouldn’t acknowledge the personnel errors that they do make. The decision to let Steven Hauschka walk in free agency just to replace him with the $1 million Blair Walsh, was en total a bad one.
It’s not necessarily true that letting Hauschka walk was the most egregious half of that error. Hauschka’s making $3 million a year, which at the end of 2016 did feel like “too much” for a guy who was just 29-of-35 on PATs and 1-of-1 on field goals of 50+ yards. (Little did we know that it could get as bad as 0-for-1 on such attempts in 2017.) However, Hauschka did rebound to go 7-of-9 from beyond 50 for the Buffalo Bills, much closer to the 6-of-6 he had for the Seahawks in 2015.
Even if parting ways with Hauschka was an understandable mistake, grabbing Walsh and not giving him some legit competition is much harder to come to terms with.
Walsh missed “the kick” against Seattle in 2015, then got released by the Minnesota Vikings nine games later. He had a propensity for big misses, especially in cold weather. The only reason for signing Walsh at all was that he went 10-of-10 beyond 50 yards as a rookie in 2012, potentially saying that there’s undeniable talent in there somewhere much like when the Seahawks originally picked up Hauschka. However, the only good reason for not giving him any competition was: None.
There is no good reason.
I agree with Seattle not drafting a kicker, because I don’t think that should ever happen, but seventh rounds pick Zane Gonzalez, Harrison Butker may have provided more value than David Moore. (The reason you don’t draft a kicker though: The Seahawks took Chris Carson 25 picks after Gonzalez.) Seattle also failed to grab any of the undrafted free agent kickers and didn’t hop on someone like Butker or Jake Elliott after an entire offseason and preseason to examine Walsh. Maybe they couldn’t afford it, maybe they don’t have enough intel on those other players to know if they’d be upgrades, and maybe this is all hindsight is 20/20 stuff — but at the end of the day the result was being stuck with Walsh midseason, knowing he was a constant liability, and having nowhere to turn.
The fact that Blair Walsh misses are potentially the difference between 9-7 and 12-4 should come as no surprise to Carroll, Schneider, or anyone else. This. Is. What. They. Signed. Blair Walsh isn’t a bust, he’s a Blair Walsh. He came as advertised.
Unfortunately, Seattle’s next plan at kicker can’t be that much different. The best free agent options — Graham Gano, Adam Vinatieri, Matt Bryant, Sebastian Janikowski, Ryan Succop, Kai Forbath — likely carry price tags at or above what they didn’t want to pay Hauschka, and they still all carry the huge risk of being a kicker. In many of these cases, being an old kicker. They could draft a kicker, but that’s still spending a draft pick on a player who almost always ends up being a disappointment, even when it’s as high as taking one in the second round.
Even Elliott and Butker ended up getting drafted by teams that they did not kick for in 2017.
Instead, the Seahawks will likely have to do the thing they should have done last year, which is sign a couple of interesting names, let them kick it out, then pick a winner and hope he has more upside than a veteran kicker who you know first-hand crumbles under pressure and bad weather. And even then, keep your eye on the waiver wire around Week 1, because you never know what you can predict.
Unless you were predicting an unhappy ending to the Walsh-Seahawks marriage. It’s not that any of us knew that this would happen, but we had a pretty good idea and it should not have been the only plan.