Rost: Key missteps that have the Seahawks in unfamiliar territory

Dec 2, 2021, 10:13 AM
Seahawks John Schneider, Pete Carroll...
General manager John Schneider talks with head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

If the Seahawks’ season keeps trending down, Seattle will be looking at the highest draft pick it has had in a decade.

Seahawks sign 4-time All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson to practice squad

The problem? That pick currently belongs to the New York Jets thanks to a 2020 deal that brought Jamal Adams to Seattle.

It’s fair if that thought still stings for Seahawks fans. More than fair, actually. And it’s probably what drives some bristling at any mention of this first-round pick, the Jets, or worse, any misstep or missed play by Adams. But it would be a mistake to pin this season on that deal. Because while acquiring Adams for a pair of first-round picks might not have been the best move for Seattle in hindsight, that trade alone – and certainly Adams – isn’t the reason the Seahawks are 3-8.

(It is related, though. More on that in a moment.)

First, let’s start with what Adams has done this year, which is this: he’s not getting to the quarterback as much as he did in 2020 when he set a new single-season record for sacks by a defensive back, but he’s been steadily improving as the season has gone on.

“He’s taking advantage of his opportunities well,” Carroll said of Adams this week. “We’re moving him around quite a bit… he’s drawn a lot of attention. We continue to see that. (Opponents) continue to find him in protection; we need to take advantage of that more. But he’s playing really hard, he’s playing tough, his confidence is up, and he’s really bringing a lot for us.”

Adams picked off Aaron Rodgers to record his first interception as a Seahawk in Week 10 and followed it up with an interception of Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke on Monday. He’s a young, talented player with plenty of energy who makes this defense better. But through no fault of his, it was always going to be hard to justify giving up that much draft capital for a player who isn’t a quarterback.

The Chicago Bears made a similar move to acquire edge rusher Khalil Mack from the then-Oakland Raiders in 2018. Mack is also a gifted player who finished as a First-Team All-Pro in 2018 and a Second-Team All-Pro in 2020 and has been named to a Pro Bowl in every season since, but all of that still hasn’t turned Chicago – a team that’s been trying to find the right quarterback-head coach combination – into a Super Bowl team. (As luck would have it for Chicago, at one point they did give up two first-round picks for a quarterback, but that marriage didn’t end with a championship.)

The acquisition of Adams, or any player who isn’t a top-tier passer, was always going to fall short of expectations. But it is related to an ongoing issue: draft and free agency missteps.

Draft misses aren’t fully responsible for a 3-8 start; after all, Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier aren’t struggling to complete 40% of their pass attempts on third down, which is why I wrote about Russell Wilson’s struggles Monday. There were injuries to Russell Wilson and Chris Carson, and the harsh reality of a league built for parity, where even the most successful franchises experience losing seasons.

But the truth is also that this franchise, which oversaw two of the most successful drafts of the last decade, has struggled to capitalize on top picks for the last several years. Attribute that to bad luck (who saw a freak accident for Malik McDowell or back-to-back season-ending injuries for Marquise Blair?) or poor fits, but either way, Seattle is facing the reality of a roster that can’t stack up to its previous championship iteration.

It hasn’t been for a lack of opportunity, which makes the missteps all the more confounding. They took Paul Richardson ahead of Davante Adams and Allen Robinson; Rashaad Penny – who has 77 rushing yards over the last two seasons – ahead of Nick Chubb; Germain Ifedi – who wasn’t retained for a second contract – ahead of Derrick Henry and Chris Jones; and Malik McDowell – who never played a snap for the Seahawks – ahead of Budda Baker, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara.

Granted, several other teams also overlooked those future superstars. Plus, not all front office moves have been missteps. Carroll, John Schneider & Co. have done well with midseason trades (acquiring Duane Brown, Quandre Diggs and Carlos Dunlap) and have drafted two recent Pro Bowlers in DK Metcalf and Michael Dickson. But some of those more regrettable decisions have proven costly over time.

And while talking about talent acquisition is interesting, it’s hard to point a finger at a series of draft missteps when a ball gets overthrown on third down or an opponent races in for a game-clinching touchdown.

But while you’re out there trying to find a reason for Seattle’s stunning season, remember that it’s a lot more complicated than a single player in a single jersey. (Even if that jersey, for the record, still looks better in navy than in Gotham Green.)

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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