In an offseason loaded with transactions, it’s often easy to overlook the addition of coaches, coordinators, scouts, and people involved in team management. In the Seahawks’ case, the additions of new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and new offensive line coach Tom Cable played a far more important role in reshaping the team than most fans might realize.
Teams like the Patriots and Eagles stole most of the headlines during free agency with signings like top free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, receiver Chad Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson), defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, and defensive end Jason Babin. Fans in Philly and Boston have already begun talking about the Super Bowl this year, and rightly so. They have elite quarterbacks that lead explosive offenses, have the two longest tenured coaches in the league, and have rosters littered with current and former pro bowl players. Their time is now.
When Pete Carroll was named head coach of the Seahawks before last season, he inherited a team that had just finished with a 5-11 record. The team had aging or no-name skill position players, and had little physicality.
Last season, the Seahawks lead the NFL in transactions by a long shot. Carroll seemingly gave anyone who wanted a try-out a chance, and did find several players who fit his system. With an idea of what positions needed to be addressed, Carroll went into this offseason with clear intentions: invest in young talent. What would be a better thing for a coach to do than add a bunch talented guys that can contribute immediately, but will also could be able to contribute five or more years down the line?
Because of the NFL lockout this year, free agents were not available to be signed until right before training camp. Carroll and Seahawks General Manager John Schneider had time to become familiar with the new staff before making many personnel decisions. This was important because it appears that they based their offseason personnel strategy on the new staff’s familiarity with available free agents.
I believe the most important move the Seahawks made this offseason was hiring Tom Cable as the offensive line coach for the team. What?!? You might ask. I’ll explain.
Tom Cable was hired as the offensive line coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2007, but was appointed to head coach four games into the 2008 season. Taking over in the midst of an NFL record seven consecutive seasons of eleven or more losses, Cable did not have an easy task. The team went 5-11 in 2009, but went 8-8 last season, including going 6-0 against their three AFC West rivals. When Cable was not offered a new contract at the end of last year, All-Pro punter Shane Lechler spoke many in Raider Nation’s mind when announced that he was disappointed with the decision not to bring back their head coach. New head coach Hue Jackson is the team’s sixth coach in twelve seasons (In comparison, Carroll is the Seahawks’ third coach in the last twelve years, and one of those three, Jim Mora, was only in charge for one season), and the Raiders are a franchise that has long been in turmoil. After seeing the team improve under Cable, it is understandable that the players would be confused or upset by his firing. In an interview in January, 2011 with Kate Longworth of CSN Bay Area, Lechler was quoted as saying that he believed the Raiders were going “to lose some very key free agent guys” who were disgruntled because of the loss of Cable. He continued, saying “I think now you’ll probably see people like Robert Gallery go on to another team.” How prophetic.
After Cable was hired as the Seahawks offensive line coach, he recruited Gallery heavily. Gallery’s signing was important for the team not only because he is an elite run-blocker, but because Gallery spent the last four years in the run-blocking schemes that Cable is installing in the Seahawks’ offense.
The four other projected starting offensive linemen have a combined three years of experience in the NFL while Gallery has seven years himself. He will be expected to provide professionalism and veteran know-how to a young, but talented line.
Seahawks rookie John Moffit is expected to be the other starting guard on the line this season, and has been looking to Gallery for pointers. Moffit believes that being able to watch Gallery employ various tricks of the trade has already been crucial in his progression as a player. In an interview with Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com, Moffit said of Gallery “for me, watching the guy and his technique, I learn a lot more than just him explaining it because I can actually watch him do it.” He also added “I like to sit by him in meetings and bounce a lot of stuff off him.” This is good news, Seahawks fans. In Moffit and Gallery, we have a willing student and a capable teacher.
New signing Zach Miller also said Cable’s presence in Seattle played a “big part” in his decision to sign with the Seahawks. In his interview with Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com, Miller said “Cable being here was a big deal. I’m familiar with him. I know his run system. So the good part is kind of having that in my back pocket. I know how he is as a coach. I know I can trust him – I can trust what he says, trust what he tells me.”
Miller, a 6 foot 5, 255 pound tight end, made the Pro Bowl for the first time last year in what was his third season. A reliable pass-catcher with soft hands, Miller also will add strength to the running game because of his run-blocking capabilities.
Pete Carroll’s decision to bring in Tom Cable to try to help the league’s second worst running attack was a wise move. Not only did he get a coach who runs an NFL-proven system, but he got a coach who was influential in attracting two key free agent acquisitions.
With only one quarterback contracted to the team for the 2011 season, the Seahawks had the liberty of deciding what direction they wanted to go at that position. They could have tried to grab a future franchise quarterback in the draft – but generally, those guys take years to develop. The Seahawks won the division last year and have every reason to believe that they can win it again this year. The aches and pains of a rookie quarterback weren’t a logical direction for the team to go. The team ultimately decided to bring in quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who played for new Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bavell in Minnesota from 2006 through last season. Having spent years with Bevell’s offense, Jackson should be familiar with the majority of what the Seahawks will do on offense, and I expect him to have a better year passing this year than Hasselbeck did last year (because of Hasselbeck’s performance in the playoff run last year, it is easy to forget that he was 28th in the league in passer rating, had 17 interceptions, and only 12 touchdown passes).
Additionally, the team brought in one of Jackson’s targets from Minnesota, Sidney Rice. The two have worked together for several seasons, and should already have good chemistry. Rice’s four years of experience in Bevell’s system with Jackson should allow him to produce at a high level immediately, and he has a great chance this year be the first Seahawk to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season since Bobby Engram in 2007.
I like what the Seahawks did by bringing in big-name players that their coaches were familiar with. If a team trusts a coach enough to sign them, it makes sense to trust the coach enough to get players they want for their systems if it can fit in the team’s financial plan.
With the Seahawks set to kick off their preseason tonight against the San Diego Chargers, we’ll get to see our new guys in action in our new coaches’ systems. While it will be fun to see the team, I’m not going to be overly critical if the team doesn’t look great tonight. They’ve been practicing for less than two weeks, and have a ton of new people trying to learn to work together. I’m just going to be paying attention to play-calling. What are we looking to do on offense this year? What sort of throws are they looking for out of Tarvaris Jackson? How does the running game look?
My answers to those questions will be in my post-game blog.
About the Author
Written by Erik Olsoy
Erik was born in Columbus, Ohio during the only Ohio State football victory over Michigan in the 1980s, but moved to Washington state and grew up there. His loyalty to Ohio State remains strong, but his strongest allegiances developed toward Seattle sports. Though he recently graduated from Boston College, he has not yet been converted to the ways of New England Sportsdom, and only roots for the Red Sox against the Yankees because the Yankees are the root of all evil.