BY Art Thiel 07:52PM 01/14/2015

Seahawks keep finding players off the street

Packers are better than they were in 36-16 loss. But despite numerous injury losses, so are Seahawks. The secret is scouting and developing guys off the football street.

Eddie Lacy didn’t have a good time against Seattle ‘s defense in the Sept. 4 matchup, gaining 34 yards in 12 carries. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

A major story line for the NFC Championship Sunday is how much the Green Bay Packers have improved since the 36-16 loss to the Seahawks at the Clink in the season opener Sept. 4. Better offensive line. Blossoming rookie receiver. Tougher defense against the run. Etc.

All seem plausible. What about the Seahawks?

Coincidentally, I was reviewing Sportspress Northwest’s photo files from that game and discovered the most photographed Seahawks were WR Percy Harvin (later traded), TE Zach Miller (later injured and out for the season) and FB Derrick Coleman (later injured and out for the season).

With such starters gone, how is it possible that Seahawks still made it to 13-4 and are seven-point favorites to win Sunday and return to the Super Bowl?

“We’re better too, you know,” said Tom Cable, dryly. The Seahawks assistant coach and the man in charge of the offensive line takes considerable pride in his ability to coach up the valet parking attendants, bus drivers and construction workers provided by general manager John Schneider to fill holes in the roster.

At times this season, the offense was down to fourth-stringers at center (Patrick Lewis) and tight end (Tony Moeaki), neither of whom was with the Seahawks at the start of the season — or any team — when their phones lit up with a 425 area code.

“It’s our program about developing players,” Cable said. “Something happens, they go in. It’s a philosophy of (the franchise), not just on the O-line. It’s very satisfying when they have success and the team succeeds.”

As Cable said, the defense has its unsung stories too. Before the season, two drafted D-linemen, Cassius Marsh and Jesse Williams, went down. During the season, two more D-linemen, Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill, were lost to season-ending injuries. Up stepped low-profilers such as O’Brien Schofield and newcomer Demarcus Dobbs, claimed off waivers from the 49ers Nov. 5.

And for the third season in a row, the Seahawks defense is No. 1 in the NFL.

The ability to get league-average play from so many replacement players is an unheralded feat but essential in getting better instead of worse as the season progresses.

“They do a great job at looking at a guy’s true ability,” said DE Michael Bennett of the Seahawks’ talent evaluators. “Some teams just look at a guy’s numbers. But there’s so many measures of a good football player. No matter how fast he runs or how big he is, it’s the intestinal fortitude, and whether he will do what they ask him to do. That’s all the guys they have here.

“All the guys who come here are just like us. Mirror images. Like (DT) Kevin Williams (signed in free agency from Minnesota). He has a wide head, but he has the same heart as us.”

As he should, coach Pete Carroll gave major props to Schneider, the talent guru.

“John does a real deep study — it’s not by luck and it’s not by the seat of your pants,” he said. “It’s on-going throughout the season — we’re looking for guys the whole time. We know the qualities that we’re looking for in order for guys to fit into this team.

“You have a pool of guys available, we rank them, and then we go with the guy we think is best suited to play with our team in filling needs. You don’t always get everything that you want, but we have a very strict process in figuring out the style of the player.”

The result of the scouting and the development is an injury-tolerant roster (at least in terms of replacement value) that in several respects is better than the 2013 champions’ roster.

“We are deeper — I totally believe that,” Cable said. “From a year ago, we’re deeper in more guys knowing the system.”

There are, of course, a handful of players for whom no equivalent is available. The Seahawks have caught a break there — especially at the key position. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, as you may have heard, has The Limp Seen ‘Round the World.

A calf muscle torn three weeks ago didn’t keep the hobbled Rodgers from throwing dramatically for 316 yards in the 26-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday for the right to advance to Seattle.

He’s still hurting, and will still play Sunday, which is zero surprise to Bennett.

“He’s not going to miss a championship game,” he said. “It’s the last game of the season. Pull out all the stops. You got all off-season to be injured.

“You have to strain that calf a little more.”

So the Seahawks are better, just as the Packers are better. But Rodgers isn’t.

If you’re searching for the seven points of difference between the clubs, look no farther.



  • jafabian

    I compare John Schneider to the top GMs in sports today who have made impact on their games. GMs like Theo Epstein, Ozzie Newsome and (gasp) Sam Presti. When all is said and done he could very well be mentioned in the same breath as Gil Brandt and Art Rooney if the team continues to go in the direction they seem to be going in. The road to dynasty. (Didn’t Vernon Davis once say that’s where the Hawks were headed?)

    I agree with Coach Cable that the team is deeper in players knowing the system. You can see how they live and breathe it and how that translates onto the field. Their trust in one another knowing their roles is evident in their play. Look no further than the Immaculate Deflection. Sherman knew Smith would be there to get the ball. Players cannot take the field for the Hawks based on talent alone. I haven’t seen any club with such a philosophy for their team.

    • art thiel

      The 1994 CBA made dynasties virtually impossible. A hard cap and liberal free agency. Post 94 is so different it may as well be a separate historical accounting. That said, being good for a long while is possible — and fun.

  • notaboomer

    big shout out to the 425 area code. eastside seahawks represent!

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Until Holmgren we simply couldn’t get enough talent to come out here. Geography…travel time…losing atmosphere…small market for endorsements… excuses abounded.

    Once Paul Allen had a taste of that super bowl thing he eventually became adamant that he get the best and brightest out to Seattle.He got the right people in place to build an acceptable product and here we are knocking on the super bowl door a second time in as many years.Seattle has won the division 7x since realigning to the NFC at the turn of the century(2002?). That’s production.A lot of things have gone right since we wrapped up that dismal 5 win season Mora had.

    I love this Sundays match up. What a storied franchise. Marquee QB to face. a #1 and #2 pairing. Hats off to our guys in not reading what some scribes were writing after the KC game(Can Seattle MAKE the play offs was one I read).They just went out…showed some pride, hunkered down and have now gone 10~1 since that game. Go Hawks!

    • jafabian

      Mora took over an aging Super Bowl finalist. The organization did not have the same philosophy as it does now in building the roster and it didn’t help that the drafts were unproductive.

      • John M

        Well, yes, those quite important items would seem to be the difference. Now if Mora and Co. would have waded in and turned over around 300 players to find the right group, etc. . . .

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        I’m with you on all 3 of those points , Jaf.

      • art thiel

        True, but Mora couldn’t have managed the assets as well as Carroll. I sill think he’s a good coach, but he’s on the Harbaugh end of the scale in the absence of self-awareness.

    • art thiel

      The question was legit at 3-3. They had to change. They did.

      Regarding Allen there is no cap on coaching salaries or facilities. So it’s good to be the wealthiest owner in sports.

      You’re right, the matchup is superb.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Great team composition. A terrific attitude. Wonderfully coached and motivated team. Spectacular defense. Elite QB. All-time great running back. They should win Sunday. But the NFL in post season is a strange place. Ask Romo.

    I remember the Denver free safety laughing before the ball was snapped in the playoff game against the Ravens two years ago. The ball goes over his head and the game is lost.

    As a young military lad the Raiders were my favorite team. I still vividly remember the title game against Pittsburgh, 6-0 with the Raiders in front, I believe, and then the Steelers down to their last play. Man, did Jack Tatum light up Frenchy Fuqua on that pass…but the ball went into the air, Franco caught it off his toe tops and the season was over for da Raiders.

    The Hawks are a wonderful team. But it’s also true they’ve had a holy angel of fortune on their shoulders this year. If she doesn’t leave her perch they cannot lose. If she does, it’s a coin flip. NFL playoffs. Stranger than life.

    • art thiel

      Carroll’s approach is to leave as little to luck as possible. It’s impossible to think of everything, and randomness will always play a part, but he’s done as well as any coach in recovering from random acts.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Couldn’t agree more. Hall of Fame coach. Spectacular recruiter at USC. He’s the glue. The single most important guy in the bunch.

  • John M

    On an unrelated note, I’d like everyone to know I finished Standing Tall a couple weeks ago and it’s very well done. Buy it . . .

    • art thiel

      Good man, John. Thanks!