The narrative has long been that the offensive line of the Seattle Seahawks has held the team back from greater successes in the years subsequent to the team’s victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. The calls for firing Tom Cable and replacing him with a “competent” offensive line coach were common and loud, and now ESPN has developed a new metric to look at how offensive lines across the NFL perform.
In short, using the player tracking data the league makes available, ESPN has developed a proprietary system that tracks offensive line success rates at a level which, to my knowledge, has not been done before. While there are metrics that have helped understand offensive line play for years, such as sack rate, quarterback hits and pressure rates, along with Time to throw and scramble rates, nothing has come close to what ESPN developed. That is not to say that what they developed was perfect, just that it is better than anything else that is currently available at the moment.
Basically, what ESPN has done is used the league’s player tracking data to evaluate whether or not an offensive line keeps a quarterback clean for the first 2.5 seconds after the snap. Yes, that’s still rudimentary and doesn’t take into account several other factors, including deep shots, but it does all for an objective measurement of whether or not an offensive line is allowing pressure on a quarterback in a manner that allows for consistent comparisons of all 32 offensive lines across the NFL. The full details of what ESPN did may be read here for those who are interested.
Specifically, for those wanting to know how bad the Seahawks offensive line has been, well, I’m not at all sorry to disappoint you in reporting that the Seattle offensive line ranks as the fourth best league wide in 2018. In addition, I’d also like to point out that right tackle Germain Ifedi measures out as above average compared to the other 31 starting right tackles. So, for everyone who has repeated how he is the worst right tackle in the league, take that.
Now, obviously the 2018 data and rankings don’t provide much of a glimpse into the past, so where did the Hawks rank in prior seasons? The only prior season for which ESPN has provided this data so far is 2017, during which time the Hawks offensive line ranked 11th best. So, for everyone who has been stating that the Hawks simply need league average line play for Russell Wilson to blossom and explode, well, in 2017 he was provided above average line play.
So, if the team had an above average offensive line in 2017, and the issue wasn’t Cable, what was the issue? Well, as I’ve long maintained, the answer to that is one that a lot of fans don’t want to hear, but ESPN actually put together an entire piece specifically discussing what the largest factor in the struggles of the Seahawks offensive line has been. For those who are interested, here’s a link to that article.