With the 2017 season feeling like the long forgotten past and heading into the wasteland of speculation and takes that is the pre-draft offseason, I wanted to go back and look over the rushing numbers for the Seattle Seahawks.
To my own detriment:
There have been 1145 teams since 1978 to play 16 games.— Sam HawkBadger (@hwkbgr) January 24, 2018
2017 Seahawks rank in non-QB rush yards: 1137 of 1145
Sam can be polarizing with his unabashed Russell Wilson-loving ways but undeniably here he points out something really critical. The Seahawks weren’t just bad at rushing in 2017, they were historically bad overall.
To visualize just how badly Seattle did at rushing the ball, I went through the same data Sam did after he emailed it my way. But instead of overall rankings, I looked at teams grouped by worst of their respective years. The results are startling, let’s start with yards.
When grouping by years worst, only five of the worst rushing teams in the NFL modern era were worse than the 2017 Seahawks at running the ball when measuring by total non-QB yards gained over the course of the season. The blue trend line shows the overall trend of amount of yards by worst rushing team by year with QB yards excluded. It’s interesting to me that yards are on a downward trend when measured in this way. Perhaps the league is moving away from rushing even among it’s teams who rush the least, or are the least effective in doing so. In fact, no team since 1978 who was the worst for non-QB rushing yards got as many rushing yards from their quarterback as the 2017 Seahawks did from Wilson.
Having a winning season is hard when an entire aspect of your offensive play calling is this unreliable. A small glimmer of light was just how many wins Seattle managed to accrue given how poorly their non-QB rushing performed. On average, the worst non-QB rushing team wins 5.3 games a season from 1978 to 2017. At nine wins the 2017 Seahawks join the 2016 Lions as the “best” worst rushing team since the 1996 Colts. In addition, Seattle is the only team since 1992 to have nine wins while accruing fewer than 1100 total non-QB rushing yards on the season. Only six teams have managed to have a record better than 8-8 while being the worst rushing team in the league over this same time frame. The best such team being the 11-5 1986 Patriots squad who were eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual AFC Champion Broncos.
Yards, like any statistic, never tell the whole story. But unfortunately when we look at touchdown totals it gets even worse.
No, your eyes aren’t tricking you. Seattle really is the worst non-QB rushing team in the modern era when measured by touchdowns. The 2017 Seahawks were a team that did just well enough to mask how poorly their rushing offense performed. In a year where every offensive touchdown, save one, was the result of Wilson’s arms or legs they managed to be in contention for a playoff spot until the final week of the season. If not for a field goal or two, perhaps they even make the Wild Card round. When analyzing this team postmortem, it’s important to not overlook the degree with which the offense failed to perform on the ground. Typically, the worst rushing team in the league is still good for three to five non-QB rushing touchdowns, but Seattle managed to make modern NFL history by only scoring one.
Most surprising is that it occurred outside the red zone, where a large portion of NFL rushing touchdowns are generated.
Whether that is the fault of playcalling, execution, coaching, or the offensive line is a matter of sometimes intense debate. This season could very easily be a prime argument for Wilson’s MVP candidacy, but if we’re honest with ourselves we know he will not be voted for such an honor as wins, right or wrong, heavily influence the selection of most season long awards.
We just know that even if “QB Wins” is a bad stat, “RB Wins” for the Seahawks was as low as a team could possibly go.