Tom Cable, the Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the past seven seasons, was fired on Wednesday afternoon. His firing has either been seen as completely unbelievable, or long overdue. Regardless of his success - or lack there of - Cable is a well respected line coach in league circles, and had a strong voice inside the team’s facility when it came to offensive line evaluation and acquisition.
Cable’s idea of an offensive lineman, and his ideal testing scores for the position, are public knowledge. Outlined in a Seattle City Hall event in 2015, Cable said he wants his lineman jumping 9-feet in the broad jump, 31-inches in the vertical jump and reaching 27 reps of 225-pounds on the bench press. Generally, those numbers would reflect an offensive lineman who is an explosive athlete, while still possessing functional strength for the position. That being said, just one offensive lineman drafted during Cable’s time with the Seahawks hit on all three ideals: The freakishly athletic Kristjan Sokoli.
Based off of a formula to determine explosion and athleticism from Pat Kirwin’s Take Your Eye Off the Ball, Seahawks Draft Blog’s Rob Staton came up with the Trench Explosion Formula as a way of accurately assessing a player’s athletic profile within Seattle’s ideals for the position. The Trench Explosion Formula is as follows:
1. Vertical ÷ 31
2. Broad ÷ 9, then cube the result
3. Bench ÷ 27
4. Add the results together (The ideal score being 3.)
TEF opens up the field to players such as J.R. Sweezy, who jumped 36” in the vertical, 9’05” in the broad, but came up short with 21 reps on the bench press. His TEF score of 3.13 represents the explosive athlete he was coming out of N.C. State, and proves he fit the mold the Seahawks and Cable targeted. So while just Sokoli (out of lineman drafted by Seattle) hit on all three ideals, nine of twelve drafted players (pre-2017) scored three or above in the TEF. The five players who didn’t were: James Carpenter and John Moffitt (drafted three months after Cable’s hiring), Michael Bowie, Rees Odhiambo (whose pre-draft workouts were affected by injury) and Germain Ifedi, who scored a 2.97, three reps of 225 away from clearing all three ideals.
Here is the offensive lineman drafted by Seattle between 2011 and 2016, as well as noteworthy rookie free agents signed by the team:
This past season, however, represented a slight departure from their well established philosophy. First, there was spending at the position — extending Justin Britt and signing Luke Joeckel on an above average deal (and the eventual trade for Duane Brown). Then the drafting of Ethan Pocic and Justin Senior, two of the three lowest TEF scores of drafted lineman during Cable’s time with the Seahawks (excluding Odhiambo). The spending can be attributed to necessity; as Russell Wilson was suffering behind terrible pass protection, the team began allocating more funds toward the offense. And the drafting of less explosive lineman can be attributed to the pure lack of explosive lineman in the 2017 draft: Just three lineman had a TEF score of three or above. Even beyond the draft, athleticism and Cable’s ideals were less prevalent along the offensive line in 2017 than any year prior.
Here’s all noteworthy offensive lineman brought in by Seattle in 2017, either by trade, draft, or free agency:
As you can see, only Jordan Roos scored three or above in the Trench Explosion Formula. This would suggest a departure from a philosophy they’ve previously held steadfast on. However, using Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s entire time with the Seahawks as a larger sample size, 2017 can be written off as an anomaly along the offensive line. Duane Brown is an exception for obvious reasons, while players like Tyrus Thompson, Robert Myers, Matt Tobin and Darrell Brown were little more than camp bodies or injury replacements.
The 2016 season served as a wake-up call after the offensive line became less experienced and less competent as years passed following the team’s Super Bowl victory, leading to the signing of Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi. After Russell Wilson faced an all-too similar beating to begin the 2017 season, Seattle was once again forced into action, trading a high draft pick for Duane Brown.
And so Tom Cable is out as offensive line coach after seven seasons, but don’t expect the Seahawks’ philosophy up front to change drastically. There’s a strong possibility the spending increases as the team transitions to a more offensive minded team, yes. But over the past seven years, it wasn’t Cable choosing to allocate funds elsewhere, instead targeting explosive athletes and projects. It wasn’t (all) Cable falling in love with a prospect’s testing numbers; John Schneider gushed over Roos’s bench press (41 reps!) following his signing as a rookie free agent and will continue to target impressive testers. The figurehead and coach of a largely terrible unit is out, one of the decade’s most dominant teams is in transition, but the acquisition of explosive athletes will continue as long as Pete Carroll and John Schneider are in place.