How do you spell "compete"?
Apparently, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider spell it R-E-B-U-I-L-D, because there is simply no other way to explain the series of curious moves made by the new Seahawks regime in the last week.
I'll readily admit that I bought into Carroll's "win now" rhetoric to a certain degree. While I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at his boundless optimism, it seemed to make at least a modicum of sense; with some better coaching (it was clear the players had tuned out Jim Mora) and a few tweaks to the roster (most notably a pair of top-15 draft picks), this team could have a real shot at winning a weak NFC West.
The roster rebuild started in earnest with the departure of Nate Burleson and continued with the trades of Seneca Wallace, Darryl Tapp and Rob Sims. The trade of Tapp seemed the most eyebrow-raising, but it was sold as a scheme decision with the guy coming back (Chris Clemons) being a much better fit for what Carroll wanted to do. Fair enough. Heck, they even went out and got a quarterback. One could argue the merits of giving up what the Seahawks did to acquire Charlie Whitehurst, but hey -- at least they were trying to add talent to the roster. Can't argue too much with that.
Of course, the roster churn didn't stop there, but it was mostly a series of seemingly insignificant moves as Carroll and Schneider went searching for a diamond in the rough. (Reggie Williams? Nope still sucks! Mike Williams? How cute! He's not 260 pounds anymore!)
Training camp opened with all the hype you would expect from a new coach, complete with a VMAC makeover that included music at practice. (That Pete Carroll is so hip!) Veterans lauded the rest the staff was giving them. And while preseason results weren't inspiring confidence ... hey, it's the preseason. Those results don't matter. If Pete said we could compete, then what choice did I have but to go along? Like I said, it still seemed at least plausible.
But then, a week before the season, he and Schneider traded one of their starting cornerbacks for what in all probability will end up being a future backup.
After that, they cut a starting receiver, despite it earning the team zero salary relief, and after that they jettisoned what seemed like half the team's backups to bring in other teams' castaways.
In the shuffle, a backup running back was gone ... except he wasn't, because he agreed to a paycut. A backup safety really was gone ... and then he wasn't, when he agreed to the same terms and was brought back.
Add into the mix the sudden "retirement" of offensive line savant Alex Gibbs, and it left our collective head spinning, wondering what the heck was going on out there in Renton. Is there really a plan? Are these guys really making the team better?
Carroll and Schneider are trying to convince fans that it's actually both.
"Do we have a philosophy? Absolutely," Schneider told Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times.
"I think we've really helped our football team," Carroll told John Boyle of the Everett Herald.
"We're bigger, we're faster. ... How those guys come together in terms of timeframe, I can't answer that, but we're clearly a more talented football team," Schneider told Boyle.
And I'm telling all of you it's a bunch of baloney.
It's become abundantly clear that this Seahawks front office does have both a philosophy and a plan; it's just that it's completely at odds with the statements they've made publicly since their hiring in January.
These are not moves made by teams who believe they can win this season. Both the trade of Josh Wilson and the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, no matter what Carroll and Schneider say about depth or young guys being ready to step up, make this team immediately worse. There is only one reason why a team gives away a pair of starters for only a mid-round draft pick.
Because the leadership is convinced it can't win now.
Do I think Carroll and Schneider were lying all that time? I don't. I think they believed they could make this team into a winner quickly. But I think that as they spent more and more time with these players, they began to see the same things we've all seen for the past two years.
"You can't just go cutting down the forest like you've got all the answers," Schneider told O'Neil. "We need to see the whole movie before we try to figure out the answers."
And this is how the Tim Ruskell movie ends: With the talent eroding under his watch to such a degree that the Seahawks are really, really far away from being an elite NFL team again.
Make no mistake, that's Pete Carroll's ultimate goal. This guy is used to winning championships, if "only" at the college level, and anything less than that will be considered a disappointment. If he has to sacrifice a season in order to get the franchise on the correct track, we now know he's willing to do that.
Don't take my word for it. Take his.
"We needed to do this," Carroll told Boyle. "We could have sat back on it, but I think John and I both would have regretted if the opportunity passed. So we had our sights set on this time, this has not surprised us at all."
You don't look at a roster purge as an "opportunity" if the foundation for a championship is there. But you do have to figure out what you truly have on hand, especially with regards to young talent.
And if that means forgoing immediate mediocrity by sending away veterans who don't figure into your long-range plans?
"This is not something we're trying to patch," Schneider told O'Neil. "But something we're trying to build."
To which I say: FANTASTIC. Just quit trying to sell this as something it's not. This team is not better today than it was two weeks ago, and trying to convince fans -- especially those sinking a grand or two into season tickets -- that it is better is nothing less than insulting.
We're not stupid. We can see what's happening. So tell it to us straight.
Seahawks fans might not be the most loyal fan base, but we're pretty darn close. We had a decade-long waiting list for season tickets in the mid-80s, which only extreme owner ineptitude destroyed. It took 15 years, but the 12th Man is back in full effect, and after getting a glimpse of what elite-level football can look like, we want more. And if a complete tear down is what it takes to get there, then so be it. We're tired of hearing how this team was a rash of injuries away from being really good. We know now that it wasn't.
So tell me you have some young players I can get excited about. Tell me you're committed to bringing a Super Bowl champion to Seattle, and that there might be some growing pains on the way there. Some of us can actually appreciate the courage it takes to do this, because for goodness sakes, there's not a one of us around that doesn't wish the Mariners would have had the guts to do the same thing in 2003.
But don't tell me this team is "better" while I'm shelling out $1,000 for what clearly have become open tryouts for future seasons.
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