The Elephant in the Locker Room: Let’s Rate Performance Based on Expectations, Shall We?
By Greg Wright
Through most of my years of primary and secondary education, I was accustomed to seeing report card comments like, “Greg could do better.” Aside from my stellar sixth-grade year, I coasted along with Bs and Cs and had a reputation as an underachiever. I didn’t really know why, though. I didn’t think I was exceptionally smart or anything.
Well, I found out why in 10th grade when the results of the PSAT came back. My numbers were off the charts, and I was a “National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist.” They had to tell me, I guess, because it was big deal. Foster High School had never had one of those before, apparently, and the school even recognized me for the “achievement” of testing well at a school assembly.
So here was the deal: I’d been testing like that all along… but there had never been a compelling reason to tell me.
My life changed after that, though. Suddenly my own head was filled with thoughts like, “Oh. I guess I could do better. I guess I should be doing better.”
I don’t tell you this to toot my own horn.
I tell you this because my own personal story is a powerful analogy for talking to you about who, exactly, is underperforming on the Seahawks right now. Who it is that rightfully should have their heads filled with, “Oh, I guess I should be doing better.”
And hear me: it ain’t the offensive line.
By design, a Pete Carroll offensive line “tests poorly,” so to speak. If football were a game of scholastic aptitude, you’d expect Pete Carroll’s O-line, as a unit, to show up late for the test. When they did get to the testing room, they’d still be trying to figure out who’d hold the booklet, who’d hold the pencil, and who’d actually provide the answers to the questions. For some of them, it might even be their first time taking a test, metaphorically speaking. You’d expect their scores, even with collaboration, to be at about the 38th percentile.
Meanwhile, the Pete Carroll Defense and the offensive skill positions would be testing off the charts. No time to sleep, you know. The separation is in the preparation. They’d have arrived early, and they’d have studied in advance. That’s what you get when you test us with sorry receivers! 99th percentile stuff. National Merit Scholarship Finalists, year after year.
So yes, that’s what we have for expectations.
What do we have for results?
Our two most valuable and productive skill position players are responsible for all four turnovers this year: Wilson, with two fumbles and an interception. Christine Michael with a fumble. And three of the four turnovers killing scoring opportunities in close contests.
And the defense, while once again leading the league in most stats, nonetheless continues to give up 4th-quarter points… and has yet to take the ball away.
Meanwhile, the offensive line, while facing two of the best defensive fronts in the league, has only given up five sacks, two of which Wilson blames entirely on himself. And the Hawks are still in the middle of the pack in rushing yardage, even with a gimp for a QB.
In actuality, the O line is outperforming their test scores, to return to the metaphor.
Now, I’m glad the rest of the press is finally paying attention to the lack of forced turnovers by the D, even if the warning signs were already on the stat sheets after week 2 of the preseason.
But “it’s just a matter of time” and “they’ll come in bunches” just don’t cut it for responses any more. This defense tests high, very high, but it is not playing up to its potential. It is playing like a group of seasoned professionals who know what their jobs are and do them well; but it’s no longer playing like “a pack of wild dogs and a lion” with chips on their shoulders. And this is no longer an aberration. It’s a pattern that has persisted for at least the past 24 games. They’re not taking the ball away, not nearly enough–even though Pete Carroll expects them to. Even though Pete made it a priority in training camp. Even though it’s part of their job description.
And Russell? Well, maybe he’d better start getting a little more sleep after all. He could spend some of that time dreaming about keeping the ball safe, since it’s not happening in reality. Until the D starts playing up to expectations, Russell has to be perfect.
Wait a minute, you say. I am being too harsh. My expectations are unrealistic. These are just the defensive knee-jerk reactions of a former, overly-cerebral left tackle.
But consider how the Rams ended a Seattle scoring threat at the close of the first half on Sunday:
No, I didn’t think so.
After four playoff appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.