Random train of thought...
Russell Wilson is a pretty phenomenal athlete who can pull victory from just about any bodily orifice. He also has shiny teeth. In the Rams game, they didn't let him be Glorioussell Wilson. Man that just rolls off the tongue if you say it like Will Ferrell.
Russell Okung is better than Paul McQuistan, and he makes the guard next to him better; i.e.:
Carp with Okung at LT >>> Carp with McQuistan at LT >>> McQuistan with Crap LT (Bailey or Bowie).
Breno is probably not the nightmare at RT that you all thought, and he's likely to be more in the 5-10 range than in the bottom 10 range (let's be honest, if you are a brilliant RT, you will be moved to LT - thus, there are very few brilliant RTs).
With backups playing the last four games at LT, LG, and RT, all hell seems to break loose too often.
Forcing Wilson to stay in the pocket when all hell is breaking loose is hard to watch. Really hard. Brutal even.
No Super Bowl has been won in the last 15 years by a QB who scrambles out of the pocket as a response to pressure.
Even the shittier QBs like Trent Dilfer, Ben Roethlisberger #1, Eli Manning #1, tended to make their hay from the pocket. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Russell is dreamy, and he looks to pass when he scrambles, and he IS the best in the league on the run... but hold on.
No less revered an analyst than Greg Cosell states that to have long term success in this league, a QB must be able to play from within the pocket, and have success "in the design of the play". Cosell is not arguing that QBs who scramble can't be successful, but he is saying that for a QB, and an offense, to have long-term success, each part of the offense much be able to execute that design.
The offensive line must be able to make their blocks, the running back must be able to run in the right hole at the right time, the quarterback must make a reliable drop, adequate progression and accurate throw in the correct rhythm of the play, and the receivers must run their routes precisely, with enough power and/or elusiveness not to be thrown off the same rhythm as the QB, and must catch the ball consistently. Those are the parts of a well oiled offense. But, the summary of all that, as Cosell likes to reiterate, is that a QB must be able to play from the pocket "in the design of the play".
For the last 8 weeks, we've seen mounting evidence that this team, even with its starters on OL, does not have an exceptional, or even adequate "in the design of the play" success. In fact, the only consistent "design of the play" success is in the run game, and relies on Marshawn consistently being that baddest MF on the planet. Even then, on a quarter (?) of his running plays, Marshawn has to evade, or truck, someone in the backfield.
When it comes to traditional West Coast style offense, our team sucks. The Rams game made that more than abundantly clear. Thank god for the Rams game. The really intriguing thing is our coaches were smart enough to figure this out a week ago, before the Rams taught us all a lesson. Thank god for our coaches, each and every one (shout out to TMQ).
The easy first glance solution to the Rams debacle/win is more "rolls outs, read options, play action, intermediate throws, unpredictability". "YES" the gallery shouts. But the problem is... Philadelphia *cough* *cough*
The Seahawks are already excellent at all that shit. That's why we went on a 9 game tear at the end of last season.
Wilson can reach into his bag of tricks and do a little "woop woop" on Ahmad Brooks, wedgie JJ Watt, and hit Tate for a 50 yard bomb in quadruple coverage when we need it.
Problem is, improvisation is not consistent. It gives brilliant results, but only some of the time. Wilson might be the best we see in our generation... we owe wins over New England, Green Bay, Chicago, and the team from Washington last season, and the win over Houston this season, to the wonderful gift for "winning" that Wilson has.
Problem is, we owe just about every loss in the last 2 seasons to the fact that sometimes, improvisation just isn't enough. Worst loss in that time? Atlanta? You'll argue that was a defensive breakdown like Detroit and Miami and Indianapolis. The reality is that our offense wasn't good enough in those games - it either didn't score enough in the early game, or control the clock enough in the late game, or both.
It's all semantics, right? Wrong. Maybe a bit of both. Honestly, if our team was even remotely successful at the "design of the play" we would have had far more than 3 points at halftime in Atlanta, and a late game defensive "failure" would not have even been an issue. If, if, if...
Our coaches saw this. They saw that Russell's propensity to pull victory from the jaws of defeat was preventing the necessity of progress in other areas. Against the Rams, the coaches said "Russell, you WILL stay in the pocket" and "OL, you will pass block with no help" and "don't ask any questions, just do what we say" and "shut the fuck up and just do it" and "yes, I know we might lose" and "oh boy, we are gonna lose" and "hot diggity dog, that's a damn fine defense"
This FO clearly likes to avoid the injury bug. Part of the slow brand of football our team plays means that there are about 10% less plays for our team than a team like the Patriots. Overall injury risk is proportional to number of plays, but obscured by randomness when considering individual players and position groups and probably even teams. But it does mean, over the course of a million seasons, we will see 10% fewer injuries than a fast paced team. That means that on average, over all those seasons, we will enter the playoffs less injured than our competition.
Teams only get 15 padded practices per season (Clayton said this the other day on radio, I didn't source it, I'm not sure of Clayton's reliability on this specific fact, but the number is certainly very limited in the new CBA). With only 15 padded practices per season, players have a hard time getting ready for the speed and physicality of the regular season. Our FO readily avoids game day calibre contact at those padded practices to avoid practice injuries, meaning the players are even more reliant on in game adjustments.
So I ask: in this day and age, where you have to protect you players from injury and you have a very strictly limited amount of contact in practice, how do you teach your OL to form a good pocket against a ferocious DL when you can't commit to full effort in practice? You force them to learn it in game. You make their failures count (by telling Russell not to save the day). You even risk losing a game to impress upon them what you are teaching them in practice. A complete failure to block a pass rusher is devastating to the OL if Russell is sacked for a near safety and limps back to the huddle, but is completely forgotten if Russell peels away and hits Baldwin for a 35 yard gain.
So I ask: in this day and age, how do you teach your QB to stick in the pocket despite unrelenting pressure and slide to the side or step up and make a stick throw in the timing and rhythm of the play design, when you can't send your own DL to knock the snot out of him? You tell the uber-competitor that he's not allowed to run, that to be a great QB, a Super Bowl winner, an MVP, and a HOFer, he has to be able to sit in that frying pan and hit the quick slant on 3rd and 6. That's how Brees won his ring, and Brady, Peyton, and Rodgers. That's what Ben and Eli and Flacco did when they won.
Every single one of them won their Super Bowl from the pocket. Even Dilfer won from the pocket. "Russell, this is some tough love you getting', but I don't care how shitty the line is, you're gonna have to learn to play from the pocket someday, and this 4 game stretch of patsies is as good a time as any"
So I ask: in this day and age, how do you teach you WRs to man up, run a slant into 3 LBs, get the hot throw on your hands, take a bone crushing hit, and hold onto the ball for the 1st down? You can't do it in practice - absolutely no way is Pete letting Kam line up Tate to see if Tate can concentrate and hold on through Vernon Davis' nightmare. No way. You got to put Tate in the high leverage situation - 3rd and 7, deep in own territory, close game, packed box - and teach him he can catch the ball. Tate's got to be able to not drop a slant. Kearse too. Miller too. Seriously, who's gonna catch the "must catch" slant pass in the playoffs if they can't catch one against the Rams? I mean, game over on downs.
So I ask: in this day and age, how do you teach your defense "we need you to hold?" When your D gives up game winning drives to Detroit and Miami that make you lose home field advantage, gives up 20 point leads in your first 2 playoff games, gives up the playoffs ending game winning drive to Atlanta, you need to teach them some "man up/stand up" mantra. You say to your defense "haha motherfuckers, I ain't calling a timeout because there ain't gonna be no Miracle Russell to save you today. It's all on you."
Sidenote: the bestest thing in the world this season for me as a Seahawks fan: Earl Thomas, just after his 3rd down tackle on the final goal line stand against the Rams, and he's kinda in a lazy-boy of bodies, and I can see in his facial expression that he flat out gives up on even trying to climb out of the pile because he's just so damn exhausted, and then he just spasms maniacally thinking how great he has it - to have just made a(nother) game saving tackle and to be beaten and battered and so exhausted he can't even get out of his chair on his own and still have another play to play in 30 seconds, all with a coach who won't call a timeout to give him a breather or let him gather his thoughts, because in the playoffs, they just might be in this position. Hallelujah! "Man up/stand up"? eff that, I want my defense to "Earl up."
Pete Carroll challenged his players to do it the hard way. And they did. Ugly? Yes. Beautiful? I can't even describe it in words.
So I expect the same approach to the next three games. It's gonna have some rough stretches, but the reality is, with the CBA, you can really only learn this stuff in games. There are two silver linings:
Silver lining 1: We get to watch the process of the OL, Wilson, and the wide-outs take it to the next level. The one where we have an offense that wins games "in the design of the play", and learns to be the nearly unstoppable offensive machine we have seen from Brees and Brady and Peyton, the one where Russell can truly embrace his inner Robot. The beauty is, when we run into the kinds of teams that give those other QBs problems, we have Russell and his already established improvisational skills to completely shatter the will of opposing defenses.
Silver lining 2: We have the writers here at FieldGulls.com to guide us through the process.