The Elephant in the Locker Room: Have the 2016 Hawks Improved Enough to be Contenders?
By Greg Wright
I guarantee that there’s one thing that has not been talked about on any other news site this week.
A review of my 2016 analysis of Seahawk vulnerabilities.
So I guess I’ll do it!
The starting place, of course, is the recognition that Seattle is a serious franchise with which to contend. The benchmark, though, is the 2013 Super Bowl team.
And the question is: Are the 2016 Hawks good enough to measure up and make the drive back to the Super Bowl goal line?
So here were the areas of concern I raised during the season, and I rate their improvement not against early this season but against the Super Bowl teams:
Backup QB. Is Boykin a legitimate backup QB for a contender? Preseason games really aren’t any indicator, but what I saw of Boykin in regular-season action this year gives me a better feeling about him than I ever had about his predecessor, Tarvaris Jackson. Verdict: Better.
Turnovers. In preseason I noted that regular-season Seahawks teams tend to follow pre-season turnover trends. This season was no different. They had the worst preseason turnover margin ever under Pete Carroll, and have followed that up with the worst regular-season TOM ever under Carroll. This predictor alone disqualifies the Hawks from contention. Verdict: Worse. Much Worse.
Bobby Wagner’s Play. Bobby did not look good in preseason, and I noted that he would have to clean up his drops and quickness if the Hawks were going to contend. All Wagner did was have the best season of his career, maybe even the best season of any linebacker in the league. Verdict: Almost Unbelievably Better.
Garry Gilliam. As preseason came to a close, I questioned Pete Carroll’s tepid endorsement of the Hawks’ veteran right tackle. Tom Cable and Pete also continued to question that endorsement as the right side of Seattle’s line was the glaring offensive weak spot all season long. But Gilliam has landed himself back in the starting rotation, and does indeed look better than he did in preseason. But good enough to contend? I’m not convinced. Verdict: Worse. Gilliam is not the presence either Giacomini or Britt were at RT.
The Defense. Don’t need to say a lot here. The D itself knows it has not measured up to the last four seasons, either in performance or stats. It certainly hasn’t lived up to fan expectations. The LOB has rarely been on the field all at the same time, and even when it was they were giving up too many big completions. Verdict: Worse.
Special Teams. I really had no idea my early-season concerns about Special Teams would be so prescient. When Tyler Lockett started to get a late-season surge in his returns, I thought maybe some fire would come back to that unit. But with Lockett out now, this area of the Hawks’ performance has really been disastrous. Very few big returns, tons of miscues, a safety, missed PATs, and a concussion. Verdict: Worse.Richard Sherman. Is the 2016 Sherman version of petulance an advantage or a disadvantage? It’s definitely good for Sherman’s head and consequent Pro Bowl All-Pro performance, but I’m still not convinced it’s good for the team. Verdict: A Draw.
Seahawk Toughness. If at midseason we thought the Hawks had it rough, we had really seen nothing yet. Willson, Bennett, Thomas, and Lockett all had yet to go down. Even Chancellor spent some time on the bench. Has “Next Man Up” nonetheless worked? Yes. Yes, it has. Verdict: Still Strong, but a Wash. (Note: kudos to Sowell for coming back. Bummer he didn’t keep his job in the process.)
The Offensive Line. Are Fant, Glo, Britt, Ifedi, and Gilliam working out? Are they, like their predecessors, likely bound for future free-agent mega-contracts, as I predicted at mid-season? Well, Fant is simply a media and critical darling. Glowinski is proving pretty solid and reliable, as we all pretty much expected. Britt has had a Pro Bowl caliber season. Gilliam has confirmed he’s starter material after all. Ifedi? Well, he’s still a rookie, and playing like one. I think I was right. These guys are generally better than ya’ll give ’em credit for. But that’s not the only issue. Do they stack up with their predecessors? Um, no. And they are paid accordingly. Verdict: Worse.
Out-of-Character Coaching and Personnel Management. The mid-game benching of Gilliam. Yanking starters in the season finale against the Rams. Extending Bennett’s contract prior to the end of the season, more than a year before his contract expires. Sideline squabbles amongst players. Both Carroll and Richard taking smack from Sherm on the sidelines. Both Cable and Richard taking time out for coaching interviews during the playoff run. Whaaaa???? The Carroll regime is not playing by its own rules this year. Verdict: Dire.
It doesn’t take a genius to compare the 2016 Hawks with the 2013 or 2014 Hawks and understand that they suffer by almost every meaningful comparison. The only really clear advantages this team has are its passing game and the play of the defensive front seven.
The Seahawks do have it in them to step it up and perform in the manner which we have come to expect, of course. Will they?
If they don’t, this is what we can expect either this week or next: falling behind early once again, losing the turnover battle, critical Special Teams errors, several poorly-timed sacks, and an early exit from the playoffs.
I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see that happen today. The team’s eyes, Coaches included, do not seem to be entirely on the prize.
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.