After the Seattle Seahawks stunning victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, much has been made about the formula that got them there. To the relief of Jets fans everywhere, the Seahawks proved that a defense first team with a player-friendly coach can win a championship. The New York Jets, as they are currently constituted, resemble the Seahawks in numerous ways. However, from a talent perspective, the Jets have a good deal of catching up to do. They need an infusion of talent in anyway possible. Just look at the aforementioned Seahawks for the success story.
Heading into the 2010 season, the Seattle Seahawks were an absolute mess. After just one year of an unmitigated Jim Mora disaster, the Seahawks went into a total overhaul. Then GM Tim Ruskell resigned two weeks before the season’s end and left the ‘Hawks with major vacancies to fill. Only one day after firing Head Coach Jim Mora, the Seahawks inked their new head man, Pete Carroll. Ten days after Carroll joined the team, Seattle turned to John Schneider to fill their GM vacancy. Seahawks CEO Todd Leiweke announced that Carroll and Schneider would have a “collaborative relationship” over control of the team.
Sound familiar? It should. This situation very much resembles the situation John Idzik was saddled with last off season. Idzik was given the job by Owner Woody Johnson on the condition that he retain Head Coach Rex Ryan for the 2013 season. Idzik could have made up his mind, right then and there, and planned a full overhaul for the 2014 season. Instead, he took a strategy he saw succeed in the Pacific Northwest and developed a close working relationship with Ryan. Idzik, I’m sure, assessed Ryan throughout the season and I doubt the coach’s job was ever truly safe. Yet, in the end, cooperation and shared vision won the day.
The coaching and front office situation were not the only similarities shared between the two teams. After the departure of Nate Burleson and TJ Houshmandzadeh, the ‘Hawks skill position players featured such marquee names as: Justin Forsett, Ben Obamanu, Brandon Stokely, and John Carlson in starting roles. Outside of Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant, none of the Super Bowl winning defensive pieces were in place.
Prior to the 2010 draft, the team acquired Chris Clemons in a trade with the Eagles. What do Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor all have in common? Besides playing major-impact, starting snaps in Super Bowl XLVII, they were all members of the 2010 Seattle Seahawks draft class. Only three weeks into the season, the team acquired Marshawn Lynch from the Buffalo Bills. You could say 2010 was a productive year for Seattle.
Over the next three seasons the Seahawks acquired, at no major cost: Russell, Wilson, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Bruce Irvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, James Carpenter, Zach Miller, Byron Maxwell, and Malcom Smith. Kudos to the Seahawks scouting department. The Jets and Woody Johnson must have had similar admiration for the work being done in the Emerald City as they brought in Idzik, who after Schneider, had the most personnel clout in the organization.
Now that we’ve sufficiently kissed Seattle’s ring, we can talk about how the Jets can follow suit. First some good news: the Jets are far better off going into this offseason than the Seahawks were going into 2010. The defense already has some major pieces in place in: Wilkerson, Richardson, Harrison, Coples, Davis, and Milliner. The offense, while not world beaters, can move on with the current offensive line, Chris Ivory out of the backfield, and Geno Smith under center. Outside of those pieces however, there are major holes at: wide receiver, tight end, linebacker and safety.
How Seattle handled their dearth of talent, and how Idzik handled the Jets’ last off season, is a simple two step process.
Step 1: Fill holes with moderately-to-low priced free agents
Step 2: Draft BPA and fill the roster will talent
Step two finally brings us back to the title of this article, quality and quantity. The best way to handle the overall lack of talent currently facing the Jets is to patch holes with proven free agents and fill out the roster with high potential (yet unproven) players from the draft and free agency. By ensuring the team has no “true” holes going into the season, the team can then focus on bringing in talent regardless of need.
Another strategy employed by the Seahawks front office and mirrored by Idzik is to draft regardless of fit. The best example of this is Sheldon Richardson. Going into the season the Jets were expected to run a traditional 3-4 defense with line up of Wilkerson – Ellis – Coples. It then stands to reason that when the Jets took Richardson 13th overall, many were left stunned. However, having patched holes with Antwan Barnes, Dawan Landry, and, Willie Colon, Idzik could go with the highest ranked player on his board. Now, how did that pay off? Idzik knew that his coach could scheme any player on defense to success and relied on that fact.
Offense may be a different story but the aforementioned couch GMs can forget about their “true WR1 and WR2″ designations. Right now the Jets are looking at Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson as the only pass catchers worthy of return in 2014. Should the Jets turn down Golden Tate because he too is under 6′ ? David Nelson is 6’4″ and ran a 4.54 40 yard dash, he is certainly the answer at WR1 right? Well, Tate led his team in yards and receptions and Nelson won’t take the top off a defense but makes a killing in-between the hashes. Looks and measurables are not everything. The Jets are lacking in talent and there is much to be found in free agency and the draft. The team should not shun Marquise Lee or Golden Tate because they do not “fit” on offense. If a player is talented enough and Mornhinweg is creative enough, they will get open and get the ball in their hands.
If you still don’t believe in this strategy of adding talent regardless of need or fit, then turn (once again) to the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks broke away from their strategy and dumped a ton of cash at the feet of Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril, and Zach Miller. After accounting for their collective 2014 salary of $31,300,000, the ‘Hawks are staring at a staggering $3,354,037 in cap space next season. Take a look at their roster and tell me where you can find a smart cut. Now consider their impending free agents: Golden Tate, Michael Bennett, Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, and numerous other contributors. Seattle seems to be in a bit of a pickle.
When it comes down to it, the Jets are not the Seahawks and the Seahawks are not the Jets. However, the similarities are uncanny. Both were franchises suffering from a history of mediocrity. Both sport defense and player first coaches. Both coaches are in a forced relationship with their GMs. If nothing else, the Seattle Seahawks success story of eschewing need and fit for quality and quantity should give hope to thousands of beleaguered Jets fans.
Just some food for thought.