Monday, February 13, 2012

Peyton isn't right for the Seahawks, Brock and Salk

Brock, Salk, I know the two of you need something to talk about for three hours each day (frankly, I haven’t tired of the different SoDo arena angles yet, and you could always spend a few minutes on *GASP* the Sounders) but I’m confident that neither of you are truly surprised that Seattle isn’t winning this round of “musical chairs”. In fact, I’d wager you both know that Vulcan isn’t even interested in the game.

Frankly, adding Manning isn’t something that a lot of teams would jump at on February 13th, 2012. Brock alluded to this last week, but forgot one important factor, one that plays heavily in the current situation in Indiana; Manning, whether he wants to be or not, is a distraction in a QB controversy.

You put him somewhere like, say, Houston, and QB immediately becomes an unnecessary question mark when before there wasn’t one. Houston already has a Pro Bowl quarterback, one of the best in the game when healthy. Behind him, the Texans have TJ Yates, perhaps the most tested backup in the league. In Yates, they have a guy that can come in and win a playoff game, who doesn’t have any injury history. Between the two, Houston has perhaps the most enviable quarterback situation across the NFL today.

Why would Houston want to throw a Manning-sized wrench into an enviable situation? If you add Peyton to that team, fans immediately pick sides. “Do I want Schaub or Manning”? If you thought Tebow-Orton was bad, try pitting two of the best quarterbacks of the last five years against each other, and watch the city of Houston rip itself apart, signaling the fulfillment of the Mayan prophecy.

Salk suggested Houston trade Schaub to Washington as part of signing Manning. WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? Why would they move a proven, elite starter for a moderate upgrade at best and a complete disaster at worst? Which Peyton will they get? The Felix Hernandez of the last 15 years, or the Jamie Moyer that may result from his apparent loss of muscle mass? Please explain to me why ANY front office would take that sort of risk. Ditto for every other team in the league save maybe for Washington, Arizona, and Jacksonville.

None of the above reasons are all that relevant to Seattle’s case. In an ideal situation, Pete Carroll would probably love to have the Peyton Manning that finished the 2010 season, as one of the elite football minds in the game. But even Pete would probably tell you that his situation and that of the Seahawks do not mesh well.

In fact, a lot of the same roadblocks that had Matt Hasselbeck packing his backs and shipping off to Tennessee are in play here. Manning has played his entire career barely getting hit, playing behind great linemen like Jeff Saturday. He has no such assurance here, playing behind one of the least-experienced lines in football. The five starters on Seattle’s O-line have only a handful of games played together, and may be a few years away from developing the chemistry needed to be an elite blocking unit. Tavaris Jackson, despite running into a few sacks of his own accord, was sacked as many times as anyone in the league. How many games does Manning figure to start before he’s on the IR again, taking one too many Aldon Smith face-masks to the torso?

The best case scenario for Manning would be to heal perfectly with no lasting side effects. And if he were to return to his former self, he’d be a boon for the Seahawks for the few years he has left in him. He’s got the potential to take this team to the big game on his own. If he could make that husk of a roster that was the Indianapolis Colts competitive for so many years, he could do wonders for a team that’s starting to find some talent.

But the worst case scenario would be a 2010 Mariners-level of disappointment. If Pete and John take a chance on Manning, get everyone’s hopes up, and he doesn’t play or falls flat on his face… One or both of them would likely be fired. As has been mentioned many times before, Pete Carroll’s time in Seattle will be judged, for better or worse, by the long term quarterback they bring in. And all indications at this juncture are that Peyton Manning is not “Peyton Manning”.

I could have told you this is how it would be before the season even ended. T-Jack will be the Seahawk’s starting QB in 2012. He may continue to be in 2013. That is a fact almost regardless of Peyton Manning’s health. I don’t believe for a second that Pete Carroll will spend another penny on a starting QB until he has his guy. Until then, he’s going to use Jackson as an Alex Smith; a guy that does nothing more than spread the ball around. And you know what? That might not be the worst thing in the world.

Am I defending Jackson? A little bit. Believe me, I’d much rather see Matt Flynn or a healthy Manning taking the snaps under center in 2012. But Jackson has been running for his life behind a young offensive line with a totally new group of offensive weapons. Give him Alex Smith’s level of familiarity, and a few more elite offensive tools, and this team can put up 40 points a game without taking a risk on a Manning or sinking 10% of the salary cap on Flynn.

Remember that Smith was pretty much EXACTLY Tavaris Jackson in terms of accomplishments until last year’s playoff game at home, where he made two big plays to a wide-open Vernon Davis. That team had immense talents like Davis before Harbaugh ever arrived, and Smith had been throwing to a freak of nature like that for several years. They knew each other. Carroll has been building essentially from scratch, and like Harbaugh, he’s simply making due at the position for now. Because as soon as you ink that QB, you’ve either saved or killed your franchise (See Kolb). You don’t get a second chance at it.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider seem to know what they’re doing. I really, really believe that. You can’t tell me that they just hit perfectly on guys like Richard Sherman, Michael Robinson, Brandon Browner, Kam Chancellor, Doug Baldwin, Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant, and the like, but don’t know how to get a good QB. You can’t tell me that Pete Carroll, after years of elite quarterback grooming at USC, is incapable of bringing “THAT GUY” in.

This team was devoid of talent two years ago. Now, this regime has elite competitions for spots. It’s going to keep improving, but like the Mariners, they aren’t ready to add that big piece yet. So if Schneider decides not to trade up for RGIII, or reach for Tannehill, or give Flynn the big bucks, I’m going to be okay with that. They’re going to get their guy, and when they do, he’s going to be really, really good.

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