By Danny O’Neil
The Seahawks’ front office has given out more chances than it has taken over the past three years.
That fact is one of the underappreciated realities of the Seahawks’ transaction record under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. For all the roster moves Seattle has made – and there were more than 200 of them in the first year alone – there haven’t been all that many risks.
Oh, Seattle will take a flier on someone, whether it’s trading draft position to acquire LenDale White in 2010, signing receiver Mike Williams after he’d been out of the league for two years or even bringing Terrell Owens in for a week’s worth of work.
There’s one thing each of those moves lacked: a downside. Seattle could simply cut bait and move on if and when those acquisitions didn’t produce.
Now, that’s not always true, and with training camp days away, it’s worth looking at the times that this front office chose to embrace risk instead of minimizing it, taking a chance or betting on a hunch. It’s a list that starts with a landmark in franchise history and continues on up to the signature acquisition of this offseason, which is nothing short of the biggest chance this team has taken since Schneider and Carroll arrived.
5. Naming Russell Wilson the 2013 starter.
Admit it: You expected this to be higher on the list of risks, didn’t you? After all, the decision to select Wilson in the third round was only the first step in his emergence as a franchise quarterback. But the decision to start the season with Wilson under center – as important as that was – wasn’t as risky as you might think for three reasons:
a) Matt Flynn was ailing, with tendinitis in his elbow preventing him from playing in the third exhibition game.
b) If Wilson hadn’t improved after the first four games, Seattle could have switched starters and put Flynn in.
c) Wilson performed the best in training camp.
So as important as that decision was for the direction of this team under Carroll, it wasn’t as risky as you think. It was a decision that was backed up by preseason results and aided by the circumstances of Flynn’s health.
The result: Wilson started the season 2-2, but by the end had played his way into Rookie of the Year consideration and was the only rookie quarterback to win a playoff game last season.
Marshawn Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo and served an NFL suspension when he was acquired in 2010. (AP)
4. Trading for Marshawn Lynch.
Seattle didn’t sacrifice all that much to acquire Lynch from Buffalo four games into the 2010 season, but it was a couple of draft picks for a 24-year-old running back whose rushing total had declined with every year he’d spent in the league.
The Bills were deciding to turn the page, and Seattle gave up a fourth-round pick and what turned out to be a fifth-round choice to acquire a former first-round pick whose punishing running style was seen as the right fit for the run game Carroll wanted in Seattle.
The only real risk: Lynch had less than two years left on his contract and had already been on the receiving end of a league suspension.
The result: He rushed for more than 1,200 yards in 2011 and made the Pro Bowl and his 1,590 yards last season were the highest single-season total for any Seahawks running back not named Shaun Alexander. Oh yeah, there’s also that one playoff run in which he broke tackles and dropped jaws during a 67-yard touchdown that got Seattle excited enough to move the earth. Lynch has missed only one game since coming to Seattle and that was due to back spasms, though he is still facing a DUI charge in California.
3. Selecting Bruce Irvin 15th overall.
The TV was muted in Seattle’s draft room in 2012 just after the team’s selection of Irvin was announced as Schneider wanted everyone to enjoy the moment before hearing the scrutiny and second-guessing he knew would follow. There was no doubt in Seattle’s draft room about the choice as the scouting department and coaches saw a perfect fit in the supremely fast pass rusher, and Schneider said later the team would have been very disappointed to come away from the draft without having picked Irvin.
The questions were about Irvin’s background. He played one game of high-school football and that was at wide receiver. He was a high-school dropout who had spent years out of school before going to junior college as a safety and becoming a pass rusher.
The result: Irvin led all rookies with eight sacks last year, but will be suspended the first four games of 2013 for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Seattle is experimenting with Irvin as a strongside linebacker this season.
Not re-signing Matt Hasselbeck before the 2011 season meant moving on from the best quarterback in franchise history. (AP)
2. Not re-signing Matt Hasselbeck.
The Seahawks’ offer to the best quarterback in its history came with an expiration date: March 12. That was when the NFL lockout of the league’s players began, and Seattle’s front office had told Hasselbeck’s agent that if a lockout did begin and the deal hadn’t been accepted, the offer to re-sign him would be off the table.
Sure enough, the lockout started in March and the two sides were never back at the bargaining table. Within hours of the league re-opening in August, Seattle reached an agreement to sign Tarvaris Jackson.
The significance of that moment cannot be overstated. The Seahawks opted to turn the page on a quarterback who won more playoff games (five) in his 10 years in Seattle than the franchise had in the 25 years before he arrived (three). He led the team to its first Super Bowl and set franchise records for passing yards in a single game, single season and a career.
The result: More sentimental than anything else. Hasselbeck was turning 36 that season, and even if he’d re-signed, Seattle would have kept searching for a successor at quarterback and wouldn’t have hesitated to draft Wilson a year later. Even if Hasselbeck had led Seattle back to the playoffs in 2011, it might have delayed Wilson’s ascension, but wouldn’t have halted it.
1. Acquiring Percy Harvin.
It was a move that Seattle didn’t need to make, which is just one reason it was so important. The Seahawks already had a Pro Bowl kickoff returner in Leon Washington and a sub-6-foot receiver known for his open-field creativity in Golden Tate. But Seattle evaluated Harvin as an elite offensive weapon, a unique talent in the league, which is why Schneider – who had never traded up in the draft order through his first three drafts – gave up three draft choices, including this year’s first-rounder, for the right to pay Harvin a top-shelf contract.
In terms of risk, Seattle is doubling down on a player in Harvin with undeniable talent but who was not seeing eye-to-eye with his former employer. Harvin could be the kind of player that puts Seattle over the top, but if he isn’t, it’s a financial commitment this team will feel for years to come.
The result: To be determined.