How to escape “Lower Mediocrity?” Seahawks need to find out.

Nov 29, 2009, 6:25 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

by Mike Salk

Added 9:07 PM. ProFootballTalk.com has posted a report saying that Tim Ruskell has been told he will not return as the team’s General Manager. Remember, PFT is a rumor site that does not play by the same journalistic rules as traditional news gathering organizations (i.e. newspapers, ESPN.com, SI.com etc.). Still, they are often ahead of the game so stay tuned…

What can you take out of a victory over the seriously rebuilding St. Louis Rams?

It’s a hard question to answer because every win in the NFL means something, and yet obviously some mean more than others. What we continue to see with the Hawks is that they are not a great team…but they aren’t a terrible one either. They are what I like to call “lower mediocre.”

Let’s put that term in context with some other labels.

–“Elite” teams challenge for championships and set records. They have a strong identity. They crush bad teams and find a way to beat the good ones. You see them on prime time TV almost every week and their players get sweet commercial endorsements.

–“Really good” teams win division titles and occasionally get hot in the playoffs (like the 2008 Cardinals). They usually take care of business against weaker opponents and probably have a strong sense of identity and purpose.

–“Transition” teams are probably heading in one direction or the other. Either they’re young and on the rise, or aging and finishing off a good run. These teams can be very dangerous, but they are usually done in by either their age or their inexperience.

–“Mediocre” teams beat most the bad teams (especially at home), and sometimes either beat (or scare) the teams above them.

–“Lower mediocre” teams (like the Seahawks) beat the teams below them and some of the mediocre ones too, but aren’t even close to handling the upper level squads.

–“Bad” teams are what they are. Bad. They find ways to lose. They don’t have enough talent. They are looking for the answer at quarterback. They fire their head coach. Their best player is the punter. They pick in the top 2-5 so hope springs eternal through the draft and/or their new coaching staff.

–”Hopeless” teams are bad AND they have a fatal flaw at the top that will prevent them from challenging again. Think about the Raiders under Al Davis or the Redskins under Daniel Snyder. They’re not good and not getting better.

So, the Hawks fit perfectly into the lower mediocre category. They are a clear step above the Lions, Rams and Bucs of the world. They challenge other teams in their grouping (49ers, Jaguars, Bears) but have been destroyed by the upper tier teams like the Cardinals, Cowboys and Colts.

The problem with being in this class is that it can be a long journey out of it. Say what you will about the bad teams, but they are forced to make major changes like firing their coach or GM. Their fans usually have a young player to get excited about and another one in college to lust over. They have the opportunity (if it’s done right) to rebuild and become one of those transition teams on the rise.

But the lower mediocre teams don’t necessarily have that sense of hope. Their coaches or GM’s can defend enough of their decisions to keep their jobs. They have a couple of franchise players that they have committed to (for better or worse) and too often those franchise guys aren’t making enough plays to justify the label.

The worst part of being lower mediocre is that in theory it tends to be static. That is to say, it’s tough to move out of it. You don’t get better because your talent is already playing to its peak. You don’t get worse because you have just enough hope (and win just enough games) to prevent a major shakeup/rebuilding effort.

It’ll be interesting to see what the final five weeks have in store for the Seahawks franchise. At 4-7, they could win as many as nine games, or lose as many as 12. Finishing the year 2-3 (a legitimate projection) would finish the year at 6-10 – exactly the record you would expect from a team in the lower mediocre category. But perhaps more important than the record would be what happens on the field along the way.

Do they lose to a team they really should beat (at home vs. Tampa Bay in Week 15)?

Do they beat a few teams they really shouldnt (@Houston in Week 14, @Green Bay in Week 16)?

Either of those scenarios might move them into a different category. Lose to Tampa and finish at 5-11? Maybe it’s time for a full-scale shake-up.

Beat Houston and Green Bay? Maybe this is a team coalescing and worthy of keeping together with reinforcements through the draft and free agency.

But I hope one of those two scenarios plays itself out so we can a firm grasp on how to handle the future. Because I’m not entirely sure how to handle lower medicrity.

Added 9:07 PM. If the PFT report turns out to be true, it means someone upstairs in the Seahawks organization believes that the current level of play is unacceptable – that beating the worst teams in the league isn’t a sign of significant improvement.

——————–

Real quick Three Up and Three Down from Sunday in St. Louis:

Offense

Good:

1. Justin Forsett. The 130 yards and the two touchdowns are nice. But the 22 caries stands out as impressive to me. That’s a heavy load for a guy who isn’t supposed to be big enough. You also have to love the short yardage ability for a smaller back.

2.Greg Knapp. I thought the Seahawks offense showed more creativity today than in the past. Maybe it’s because you can do more once you establish the run, but I especially liked Seneca Wallace in a running position and the bootleg that followed (although what is a “bootleg of life?”).

3.Ray Willis. And the rest of the offensive line. 170 rushing yards is nothing to sneeze at, even against the Rams. A whol bunch of those runs seemed to start behind Willis.

Bad:

1.TJ Houshmandzadeh. Did he suit up in the first half? Two catches for 14 yards is not what you’re looking for from one of those franshise-type guys.

2.Deion Branch. Nothing specific, I just want to see more. Especially on third downs – get to the sticks!

3.Kevin Lopina/Marshall Lobbestael. Oh wait, this is just for the Seahawks? Well, can I give them a nod anyway? Wow.

Defense

Good:

1.Jordan Babineaux. Been a long time since he’s cracked this list, but he played much better on Sunday. He led the team in tackles (12), defended a few balls in coverage (including a pick in the endzone), was effective in the blitz, and didn’t miss any easy tackles. Nice game!

2.Kelly Jennings/Josh Wilson. Love the Pick 6 and both guys get the credit. Nice work by Jennings to get his hand in there and Wilson did the rest. I’m sold on Wilson by the way. 100%.

3.Darryl Tapp. Nothing specific. The guy just stands out.

Bad:

1.Marcus Trufant. This is getting ridiculous with the pass interference/defensive holding/illegal contact penalties. It’s one thing against Larry Fitzgerald, Sidney Rice and Calvin Johnson, but against the Rams? Really?

2.Aaron Curry., Nothing specific, I just want to see more from him. Still seeing him struggle in space.

3.Gus Bradley. Nitpicking here, but the team had mixed results with the blitz. Yes, they got to Kyle Boller a few times, but there were way too many big plays that came off the blitz. Maybe they needed a primer on Ruvell Martin.

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How to escape “Lower Mediocrity?” Seahawks need to find out.