"Winning" the Off Season- What Does It Mean?

seahawks-team-ota-photoWe touched on it this week on our radio show, but how much does “winning” the off season really mean? As we look back through recent history, we find that many teams who make the high profile acquisitions don’t always end up at the top of the heap in the coming season, but lets examine what we do know-

A) Creating a buzz in the off season sells tickets and merchandise. This is undervalued from the fans perspective, but especially during these trying economic times, every dollar that flows through our team (and the league) ensures the survival of said entities. More money in Paul Allen’s pockets? While it may not sound like it matters to you, it can help lure free agents to the Pacific Northwest, which can help our product on the field.

B) It helps us to forget the season that was. The 2008 season was a forgettable campaign for the Seahawks, but we know we would be lying if we weren’t optimistic about 2009. Part of this optimism is due to the seemingly high quality moves made by Tim Ruskell this off season.

C) It keeps the Seahawks in the national media spotlight. I know Seattle fans, heck, I am one. If there is one thing we know, it is that Seattle fans often feel jilted. We feel like the proverbial Rodney Dangerfields of the NFL- We get no respect. Attention paid to our fair city and one of the NFL’s finest franchises over the last decade only serves to help our level of respect from both the media and opposing fan bases.

But realistically, how much does this really mean? For the 2009 season, pretty much nothing. We have seen what “winning” the off season has done for teams like San Francisco and Washington in the past- nothing at all. So what do we need to return to prominence in 2009? There are certainly some key elements to our 2009 success-

1. How quickly does our personnel adjust to the new coaching staff?

The idea behind locking up Jim Mora as our new head coach was to create continuity, but Mora reconstructed almost the entire staff, so apparently continuity went out the window. Is that bad? Only time will tell. Either way, we know it will be imperative that the Hawks don’t start slow under this regime or they risk falling deeper into the downward spiral that was the 2008 season.

2. Matt Hasselbeck’s back.

It is clear that as Matt Hasselbeck goes, the Seahawks go. His rougher seasons have been rougher for the Hawks as well and his quality seasons have seen some of the best seasons in Hawks history. All indications are that his back is fine, however anyone with a back problem can tell you how tenuous back problems can be. We need to see how well he can take a hit before we truly judge his health. It is also imperative that the offensive line keep him clean.

3. Who will take the reigns as the top runner?

Julius Jones was less than stellar last year, T.J. Duckett is very 1-dimensional and Justin Forsett still isn’t a very proven commodity. I was screaming and throwing things at my TV set when the Hawks let Beanie Wells fall right into the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. It was a monumental mistake, in my opinion, not to make the move up to nab him. Now it is time to find out if we pay dearly for that mistake or someone would like to step up and play the role of hero (Earth to Julius Jones- stop being a selfish punk).

4. How well does Patrick Kerney bounce back?

We cannot count on the likes of Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp to create a pass rush again. Tapp is an okay complimentary guy, but Jackson belongs on the interior (as does veteran acquisition DL Cory Redding). If Kerney can come back and contribute at or near double digit sacks, than this defense is going to be one of the best in the league. If he can’t, then our defensive production is no better than a crapshoot.

5. What will the coaching staff do about Brian Russell?

Let’s face it- Russell has played like absolute trash for a while now. Personally, I like the guy in terms of the type of guy he is, but he isn’t getting it done anymore. We have not invested much into backups at the S position, instead choosing to try to cultivate talent from undrafted free agents and late picks. It is time for one of them to step up- C.J. Wallace, Jamar Adams or Courtney Greene, I hope you’re listening. Before any of you bite my head off, Jordan “Big Play” Babineaux is better suited to playing CB, especially on the interior. He looks lost at S. If that’s what you want, we might as well just play Russell, he gets paid more.

If these questions are all answered in our favor, then I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect Super Bowl for this Hawks team. There, I said it. You heard it here first. However, if just one of those issues does not land in our favor, then the product we get on the field might be very unpredictable. Here’s hoping the glass is half full.