Rost: Seahawks have division’s best QB, so why aren’t they NFC West favorites?
The NFC West welcomed two new quarterbacks this offseason, with the Rams acquiring Matthew Stafford via trade and the 49ers drafting Trey Lance third overall. The two add new threats for an already-tough division, but when it comes to stability at the position, no other team in the NFC West has seen the consistency (and availability) the Seahawks have seen from Russell Wilson.
The 10-year vet found himself ranked No. 4 earlier this week in Pro Football Focus’ quarterback rankings, trailing on Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. So, if Wilson is the best quarterback in the NFC West, why does it seem like the Rams and 49ers are favored over the Seahawks?
Both the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams are favorites over Seattle for a Super Bowl appearance this season. One recent list had Seattle trailing not just the Rams and 49ers, but also the Broncos and Cowboys, neither of which appeared in the postseason last year.
These odds are popular bets, not the most likely scenario. That said, it’s hard to blame fans for finding both the 49ers and Rams particularly intriguing in 2021.
The Rams boast not just the best defense in the division, but also the best defenses league-wide from last season. There could be some regression there, particularly with a switch at defensive coordinator, but I would expect them to be as deadly as ever when the Seahawks face them for a pair of games this year. The team made its biggest offseason acquisition on offense, though, and it was before free agency even started.
You don’t have to be sold on quarterback Matthew Stafford as the short- or long-term solution in L.A.to agree that he can be an upgrade over Jared Goff’s inconsistencies. Those inconsistencies on offense were the biggest struggle for L.A. last year; with that seemingly addressed, the Rams have obviously drawn interest both from fans in Vegas and from sports critics alike.
In San Francisco, the 49ers aren’t just bringing in guy they’re hoping can be their quarterback of the future, but also bringing back a healthier roster. Even as a banged-up squad, the 49ers defense allowed the fifth-fewest yards of any team. They’ll be without Robert Saleh, but they’ll get a healthy Nick Bosa to add to an All-Pro season from middle linebacker Fred Warner.
The Seahawks aren’t a weak team – rather, they’re a talented team in a really, really strong division. They’re also coming off of a second half to the season that saw a collapse not just of the offense as a whole, but of Russell Wilson in particular, who until then had been the most consistent force in Seattle. Given Wilson’s otherwise strong track record, it seems unlikely he’ll repeat a stretch of performance anything like the one fans saw at times last season. But he’s fighting some recency bias and growing excitement around young talent in his own division.
There could be other factors here at play, particularly when it comes to the perception of Seattle’s squad from outside forces. Take this quote from former NFL lineman and Super Bowl champ Shaun O’Hara, who described his feelings about the Seahawks during an interview with NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football”:
“You go back to the Legion of Boom days, and how was that team built? It was all built through the draft. It was fifth round picks and fourth round picks and guys that were hungry and trying to prove their worth. I don’t feel like Seattle has ever reloaded. And offensively, they just feel like the puppy that’s lost their way. Their identity has completely changed. When Marshawn Lynch stepped out and removed himself from Seattle, they never seemed to get their groove back.”
On its face, it’s easy to pick this quote apart. The Seahawks had some famous late-rounders, but they also had a first-round safety, first-round tackle, and first-round linebacker. And even then, finding a Hall of Fame-caliber talent like Richard Sherman in the fifth-round or Russell Wilson in the third round is difficult. But outside of the draft nitpicking, another point stands out: fans outside of Seattle aren’t always sure who Seattle is going to be on offense.
Is this a powerful, run-heavy team like they were with Marshawn Lynch and were again with Chris Carson in 2018? Is this an explosive passing offense like fans saw in early 2020? Pete Carroll, who deeply values the concept of knowing who you are as a team, would likely tell you he wants an offense capable of beating opponents in either fashion. But at times last season this unit felt lost, taking neither approach especially effectively, despite having the talent to do so.
The good news for Seahawks fans is that talent is still there: Wilson, along with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and running back Chris Carson, are all back in 2021. Seattle acquired more talent at guard to bolster the offensive line, signed a tight end in free agency, and most notably, hired a new offensive coordinator who’s plenty familiar with the Rams.