The Cincinnati Bengals come to town Sunday with a quarterback, Andy Dalton, that the Seahawks could — and maybe should — have taken in the April draft. The debate:
ART: The arrival in town of the Cincinnati Bengals (4-2) Sunday couldn’t be more awkward for the Seahawks, and not just because the former Bungles have one of the NFL’s best defenses. They are starting a rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, the Seahawks could have had in the April draft. Instead, they chose tackle James Carpenter of Alabama with the 25th pick. The Seahawks at the moment don’t even know who will start at QB for the game, but no one on the roster has Dalton’s upside. Nevertheless, I think the Seahawks were right in making the offensive line the first priority.
STEVE: I would agree that fixing the offensive line should be a priority, maybe even the main one. But if it’s a priority, then why select a tackle rated on most draft boards as a third rounder? Seems to me that taking a quarterback rated by many as a low first rounder would have made more sense, especially given the Seahawks need.
ART: The problem is that until the O-line mess is fixed, the Seahawks QB in 2011 was fated to suffer the same fate as a penny placed on a railroad track. The Seahawks guessed that Carpenter was the best available fix for right tackle. A year earlier, they sought to fill the void at left tackle by drafting Russell Okung. In April, they put more resources into the O-line fix with guard John Moffitt in the third round. All three are starters, albeit temporarily overmatched. There is no instant gratification with O-line choices, but coach Pete Carroll’s ground-oriented game plan goes nowhere without a heavy investment up front.
STEVE: This reminds me of a situation from the Seahawks’ early years. In 1977, the Seahawks had the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and had the opportunity to select Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh. Also figuring that Dorsett (as Dalton) would become a penny on a railroad track, the Seahawks swapped the rights to Dorsett for a passel of draft picks, which they used to build an offensive line (Steve August, Tom Lynch). But neither August nor Lynch proved to be very good and didn’t last long. Meanwhile, Dorsett became a Hall of Famer with the Dallas Cowboys. If you are going to pass on a quarterback like Dalton, you’ve got to make sure that the trade-off is worth it. Not sure Carpenter was worth it. Meantime, Dalton has the best rookie numbers of any quarterback from the 2011 draft except forCarolina’s Cam Newton.
ART: Here’s what Carroll said Wednesday about the draft rationale: “(We were thinking) long-haul plan and about having to restructure our entire front . . . It’s going to make a big difference over the next 10 years, which a quarterback could as well. But we felt like we were so far off, and we would be able to compensate with moves (to get a QB), but without the guys up front, we wouldn’t have a chance. I’m pleased about the way that went. We’ll see more so in the future than we have to this point, but there was no question that (Dalton) would have been a great pick. He’s proven that already.”
STEVE: I don’t necessarily disagree with Carroll, but it seems to be that franchise quarterbacks are much more difficult to obtain than guys like Carpenter. If Dalton is that animal, and many draft experts predicted that he at least had the potential to become a franchise player, you’ve got to take him. Right now, the Seahawks don’t when, or even if, they will be in a position to get a quarterback like Dalton. They probably will win just enough to play themselves out of the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes for Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who will probably wind up in Indianapolis. And, by the way, how come the Colts get to follow up the Peyton Manning era with the Andrew Luck era? Life is plain not fair.
ART: The Colts may be to the NFL what San Antonio was in the NBA — beneficiaries of well-timed crappiness that allowed them to draft Tim Duncan after already having David Robinson. Regarding Dalton, Carroll said, “We thought he was a great pick . . . they’ve got to be really happy as the transition took place.” But the key phrase in Carroll’s rhetoric is “so far off.” The Seahawks had so many holes, thanks to the work of former GM Tim Ruskell.
The Seahawks created a false positive last season by winning the division and then freakishly beating the Saints in the first round. But they had so many changes in the OL that they were lucky to a) have six wins entering the final regular season week and b) have decaying St. Louis as the final opponent, which lost 16-6. There was zero future for linemen Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer. As to whether Carpenter is the answer at RT, he desperately needed mini-camps and a full training camp to get in shape. The lockout killed him, and he showed up 25 pounds overweight. But he dropped the sandbags and has improved incrementally each week. Is he Walter Jones? No. Is anyone else? No.
STEVE: Doesn’t it tell you something about Carpenter that he took no personal responsibility for bloating up? He knew he would have a training camp ahead of him at some point and ignored the reality. This is why most everybody had him as a third rounder.
ART: I recall that Jones had a learning curve in his rookie season too, about what it takes to be a pro. The better comparison is to watch what happens to the OL taken behind Carpenter. At No. 29 in the first round, the Chicago Bears took Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi. He was the Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s best lineman, and looked like a more NFL-ready player than Carpenter. But in week 3 he aggravated a knee injury from his college days and has been out. The Seahawks play in Chicago Dec. 18, so if he ‘s healthy and you’re still caring about the Seahawks by then instead of “Dancing with the Simpsons,” check this guy out. If Carimi is another Anthony Munoz, then mark down “K” in the scorebook for another Seahawks draft whiff.