The following is a copy-paste from my Seaside Joe daily Seahawks newsletter. It’s the longest Seaside Joe I’ve ever written because I feel like it’s pretty easy to wax on about how the Tom Cable years were misunderstood and misrepresented by many fans. Not because the offensive line or Cable were great in their own right, but that any issues with the line stem not just from development or being draft ‘busts’ — the issues started and ended with how much the team decided to invest in the line while bulking up other positions to wind up in back-to-back Super Bowls.
I am re-printing here because this concept simply won’t go away and definitely won’t after this post because it is far from being the first time I or others have written about it on Field Gulls. If you’d like to join the newsletter, which I plan to do every day for a year, sign up here!
Good morning Seasiders,
I knew mentioning the offensive line would bring questions about the offensive line, which is fine. It’s always been a hot button issue. People incorrectly (in my opinion) attribute the offensive line to being perhaps the only reason Seattle didn’t win multiple Super Bowls from 2012-2016. Not only were there other reasons for it but if the Seahawks had spent more draft picks, higher draft picks, and more cash on the offensive line unit, they would have spent fewer draft picks, lower draft picks, and less money on other positions. Simply put, you can’t have more of one thing without having a little less than the other in a salary capped league. That being said, people still expect every offensive line draft pick to become a premier starter, I think, regardless of draft position and the history of players -- specifically offensive linemen -- at that position. With that, I’ll address one email from yesterday.
”Just curious... what has JS done to improve the selection process for OL prospects? It seems to be the worst position as far as prospect development goes. Is it all on the previous OL coach? We seem to be able to pick guys in later rounds for other positions and develop contributors but seemingly not so much on the o line. Nature of the position that later round OL prospects are all duds?”
This is not to call out the reader or question -- it’s a common misconception! -- but I do believe that it is a misconception and one that I’m afraid I’m a little tired of answering. I don’t know what has to be done to get over this gigantic hill because I’ve written countless articles, tweets, etc., debunking the myth (so has John Gilbert), and it never goes away. I assume it never will. Even after this newsletter, many won’t believe me. And that’s okay! I am not the one with all the right answers. Nobody is. There are also no right answers. There are many opinions with varying levels of provability and evidence, I just believe that my stance has the most evidence. Like with the Russell Wilson-Andrew Luck debate, or the run-vs-pass debate, I’ve always been very open and hopeful for empirical evidence to the contrary and predictably, it never comes. It is anecdotal every time.
It’ll be the same with this offensive line debate until someone presents me with EMPIRICAL, MEASURABLE evidence that says that the offensive linemen that the Seahawks have drafted since 2010 have by-in-large under-performed given their expectations based on where they were selected. In fact, the Seahawks have most likely out-performed more than half the league in expectation value for their offensive line picks.
Here’s some evidence that is constantly ignored and un-addressed when people disparage John Schneider, Tom Cable, Pete Carroll, and the offensive linemen drafted from 2010 on:
- Russell Okung is going into his 10th NFL season, a rare accomplishment for any player, especially at a position that many consider top-3 on offense, if not top-3 on an entire roster. He’s a consistent talent and has far outlasted Anthony Davis, the next offensive lineman off the board in 2010. He was the only lineman that Seattle even drafted in Carroll and Schneider’s first year.
- Though he was drafted in 2009, Max Unger was moved to center and really developed under Carroll and Cable. Announced his retirement in March after playing ten seasons, and he was an All-Pro under Cable.
- James Carpenter, the 25th overall pick, is going into his ninth NFL season. There was an interesting period from 2004 to 2009 when a bunch of good offensive linemen were drafted in the 21-35 range (Duane Brown, Joe Staley, Nick Mangold, Logan Mankins, Alex Mack, etc) but this seems to be quite the anomaly. In Carpenter’s class, he was surrounded by Danny Watkins, Gabe Carimi, and Derek Sherrod. Carpenter was drafted over Carimi and Sherrod, a fact that is never mentioned. Those three linemen, including Watkins, started a combined two seasons in their careers. But most ignore it. The last lineman drafted in this range to make a Pro Bowl was Joel Bitonio in 2014.
- In 2012, Seattle drafted a defensive lineman in the seventh round and he’s started 78 games on the offensive line in his career. A seventh rounder. People ignore it.
- Let’s quickly recap already: There were four offensive linemen drafted from 2010-2012 -- which is always considered John Schneider’s GOLDEN YEARS of drafting -- and they were Russell Okung, James Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy, and John Moffitt. The only player who didn’t work out was Moffitt and he still started 15 games. I mean holy shit everybody, that’s three-fifths of the starting offensive line for the Super Bowl champions. And they did it with one top-10 pick, one pick at 25, and a seventh rounder who didn’t play offensive line. Add in the fourth for Unger, a player who crushed his second round draft position under the tutelage of Carroll and Cable. Like damn, how can this be misconcepted so MISlly?!
- But Moffitt stunk and is a stinky person, right? Offensive linemen drafted in his range (65-85, Moffitt went 75) rarely turn a dime. You’ve got Larry Warford, Terron Armstead, Brandon Brooks, Joe Thuney, and a handful of players. But the odds are probably 50-50 that you’ve got someone who can start 3+ years in the league and I think we can excuse a GM for not hitting 1.000, especially when his 2010-2012 drafts are considered in the elite echelon for any GM in history. I can’t imagine looking at the run of players they selected from 2010-2012 and thinking, “Wow, really missed on John Moffitt!!!”
- In 2013, they didn’t even draft an offensive lineman until the seventh round again. The fact that Ryan Seymour and Michael Bowie played in any NFL games is somewhat impressive.
- In 2014, they drafted Justin Britt at the end of round two. After two forgettable seasons at other positions, Britt moved to center and became one of the highest-paid centers in the league. He’s good. He’s not my favorite player or guy but he’s solid. Looking at every offensive lineman drafted in the 55-75 range, Britt qualifies as above-average to good. He’s not a tackle, which would have been better than a center, but he’s not Ty Sambrailo either. Or Hroniss Grossu. Or newly-signed Seattle backup center/guard Marcus Martin, who went after him in 2014.
- They then drafted Garrett Scott in the sixth round. Turned out he had a heart condition. What are ya gonna do?
- In 2015, the Seahawks selected two in the fourth round: Terry Poole and Mark Glowinski. Fourth round offensive linemen to make a Pro Bowl in the last ten years: T.J. Lang (x2) and David Bakhtiari. Think the fact that they both played for the same team and quarterback has anything to do with that? This is out of more than 50 players. And if you had to pick any one of those guys to be most likely to make a Pro Bowl in 2019, it might be Glowinski, now well-paid and starting for the Colts. Even in Seattle he was fine, he just obviously didn’t click with what Cable wanted and that’s an entirely new discussion. If we’re talking about development, Glow’s time with the Seahawks is only ignored by the ignorant. If we’re talking about “John Schneider’s change in offensive line philosophy” when it comes to drafting, then I don’t think Glow being bad in Seattle and good in Indianapolis would fall on him. It was Carroll’s philosophy that he passed down to Cable. As far as Schneider goes, you clearly see by now how little the team actually invested in the o-line -- and this still got them to two Super Bowls, one championship, and a playoff appearance/win in all but one season from 2010 to 2016.
- For posterity, Kristjan Sokoli went in the sixth round in 2015. Maybe Carroll listening far too much to the people who write and care about SPARQ.
- Germain Ifedi, the 31st overall pick in 2016, is going into his fourth year as a starter. He didn’t get the fifth-year option, as the majority of players drafted outside of the top 20 don’t tend to get. That’s just a fact, folks. Another fact is that he’s likely to start 60 games in four years, something that linemen rarely tend to do right out of college. By trading down in 2016, the only lineman that they missed out on was the bad Josh Garnett, and the only lineman that went even close to after Ifedi was the bad Jason Spriggs. It was a regular starter at right tackle, a bad player, or nothing. Which would have rather had?
- They picked up Rees Odhiambo in round three. Refer back to Moffitt. Also refer back to what I said about fourth rounders because Odhiambo was the second-to-last pick of the third round. He was a compensatory pick. He still started more games in his career than any lineman taken in the next 25 picks after him. You don’t find a decent player until Alex Lewis 32 picks later. It’s a crapshoot at that point.
- Joey Hunt in round six that year is still on the team, started a game last year and looked good at center.
- Then you’ve got Ethan Pocic in the second round in 2017. Refer to what I said about Justin Britt somewhat because they were in the same draft range. Pocic may be a victim of the change-over from Cable to Mike Solari and on another team, like Glowinski, he may be fine. Is that Schneider’s “fault”? Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this is one of the rare cases where a player was selected ahead of some very good ones: Dion Dawkins, Taylor Moton, Pat Elflein, Dan Feeney. It has also only been two years. Then Justin Senior in round six. Whatever. I’m not gonna use too much brain energy after the third round, and especially not after the fifth.
And that’s where I’ll end things on reminders of what Seattle’s drafting history and development of offensive linemen actually looks like when you ignore the narrative instead of the facts. Again, not to come down hard on anyone -- not without the singular intention of being direct and to the point that the Seahawks history of offensive linemen development is so highly misrepresented and misunderstood. John Schneider and Pete Carroll’s issues on the offensive line over those years had virtually nothing to do with who they drafted and everything to do with when they drafted them and how much they were willing to spend on the position compared to others.
This was a team that opted not to re-sign Okung. To trade Unger. To let Carpenter, Breno Giacomini (another unknown player who Tom Cable developed into a rich starter), and Sweezy walk via free agency as well. To never sign a lineman to a big free agent contract until toying with Lang a couple years ago and then trading-extending Duane Brown once they had gotten sick of watching Bradley Sowell, Garry Gilliam, and every other $500k floppy disk at left tackle. This was a unit that as a whole made something like $9 million a couple seasons ago before Brown arrived and Britt was extended -- the least amount of any line in the league. Carroll’s philosophy then: cheap offensive line, mobile quarterback, break-a-tackle running back. This is the philosophy now: protect the quarterback, let him toss it, and still hope that Rashaad Penny is the break-a-tackle running back that Marshawn Lynch was, to a degree. (Another philosophy that was maybe broken in half in 2017 with the arrival of Eddie Lacy.)
This is probably the longest Seaside Joe yet and I hope/believe/pray it is the last time I’ll have to address this exact issue. Until some empirical evidence is provided that says that the Seahawks got less out of these players than the average team would have.