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The Drive: Paxton Lynch and the cost of worthless tape

NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Paxton Lynch made it very hard to evaluate his peers.

(Godspeed Lynch. This isn’t personal.)

Lynch was out of the league last year. He was healthy and capable of playing football, but after two seasons, and despite being a first round pick, the Denver Broncos and every team in the league decided not to roster Lynch.

One way to understand this is to compare how Lynch performed to his teammates.

In 2017:

Brock Osweiler: -16.2% DVOA

Trevor Siemian: -24.6% DVOA

Paxton Lynch: -76.3% DVOA

That’s a lot worse than two very bad quarterbacks. Osweiler is a free agent. Siemian is battling it out with Luke Falk to be the Jets’ backup.

Lynch is highly inaccurate. Like most who struggle with wildness, he’s streaky too. His inaccuracy was masked by a screen-heavy system at Memphis, but when pressed to throw down field, Lynch came undone. (Bonus schadenfreude: According to those calling this broadcast, Lynch was Todd McShay’s top ranked quarterback of the 2016 class.)

This is relevant because Lynch was trusted to produce viable passes which would allow the Seahawks to evaluate its deep and talented group of young wide outs, but he didn’t. Of his 15 pass attempts, and not counting the play in which Minnesota was charged with defensive pass interference, Lynch threw four accurate passes, four passes that were either inaccurate or poorly timed, and seven passes which were uncatchable.

For the sake of transparency, here’s every single one of `em.

Counting JD McKissic as a running back, Seattle has retained five wide outs on their 53-man roster in each of the past three seasons. In terms of locks, and assuming DK Metcalf is healthy, those five would project to be:

Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, David Moore, DK Metcalf, and one of John Ursua, Gary Jennings Jr, Jazz Ferguson, Keenan Reynolds, Malik Turner, Terry Wright and Amara Darboh.

That’s a mess, the kind of abundance which does not create a good problem to have, and which likely ensures many recent draft picks will be cut. Seattle’s best hope to navigate that thicket of thorny decisions is through the guidance of quality game tape.

Few positions in the NFL are as difficult to evaluate as wide receiver. Combine performance does not strongly correlate to on-field success. Practice performance can be very deceptive. Steve Largent, notably, was set to be cut by the Houston Oilers before he was traded to Seattle in 1976. Good receivers, however big or fast or small or slow or agile or lethargic, figure out a way to catch passes when it counts and when facing hostile competition. There’s no substitute for that trial. Preseason football may be imperfect, and it may produce irregular results which require a lot of interpretation, but it’s the closest a team will get to game tape prior to the regular season.

Seattle did not need a developmental quarterback. It needed a competent backup quarterback. By average annual salary, Russell Wilson is the highest paid player in the NFL. He is neither personally insecure nor insecure in his position with the team. But in signing Lynch and Geno Smith, the Seahawks crossed their wires: sabotaging their best chance to evaluate wide outs in pursuit of upside. When Smith went down to injury, Seattle doubled down on their mistake, signing of all people JT Barrett!

Pete Carroll was hired prior to John Schneider in hopes of ensuring harmony between coaching and management. But the past few seasons have been marked by discord. Jimmy Graham was a bad fit. Sheldon Richardson was a bad fit. Few in Seattle’s secondary show any kind of ball skills. I never knew where Nazair Jones was supposed to fit. Few of the lines assembled for Tom Cable were made up of players fit for a zone blocking scheme. And now, for a scheme predicated on rushing and deep passes out of play action looks, Seattle is fielding three backup quarterbacks who spent their college careers throwing sideways.

I do not want to spin too much from a preseason game. It is certainly not easy to find a good deep-ball quarterback, and the Seahawks may not have had many chances to sign a better fit. But in a few weeks Seattle may be forced to expose a very talented wide receiver to waivers, and I genuinely do not think any one of Jennings, Ursua or Ferguson will make it to Seattle’s practice squad. One is a fourth round pick. The latter two look ready to contribute this season.

I looked forward to last Sunday. And what I got, what we all got, what the Seahawks coaching staff got, was an irrelevant half of tape played by vets, and a half of tape of such poor quality it was not worth risking the players’ health to acquire it. Hopefully the Seahawks compete to do better in week three. To mix it up—break the stolidity of tradition. Find snaps for the kids to receive from Wilson. Brown and Lockett have nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing in the third preseason game. Sit `em, and run a fair competition for everyone battling for their futures. There’s nothing at all “Always Compete” or “Win Forever” about complacently sitting them until the second half because that’s the way it’s always been done.