Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pete Carroll For Coach of the Year?

Week 15 of the 2012 NFL season is almost completed and the playoff picture has not became any clearer. In fact, things just became a whole lot more interesting. 

The chaos of the NFC East and the AFC Wild Card has overshadowed many major story lines over the past few weeks. For example, the Seattle Seahawks are on fire. Since starting 2-2, they have gone 7-3 since.

While Leslie Frazier, Chuck Pagano, and Mike Shanahan all make valid cases for the award, Pete Carroll should be considered at least a finalist for the honor.

Critics of Carroll will point to several flaws: The "Fail-Mary" Week 2 versus the Green Bay Packers when the replacement referees blew the final play of the game, resulting in a Seattle win. There is a also the case that the Seahawks already had a good team to begin with. Those are two valid points. However, there several horrendous calls throughout the Packers-Seahawks game helping and hurting each team even though the final call was still the worst of them. Secondly, the Seahawks were viewed as flawed by many analysts to start the season.

The number of reasons as to why Pete Carroll should be considered a finalist outweigh the number of reasons as to why he shouldn't. To begin, his unconventional methods in all aspect of the job have directly resulted in major improvements to the Seahawks over the past year. Last year, the Seahawks were among the worst in the league in quarterback pressure, recording one of the lowest sack totals in the league. By drafting Bruce Irvin fifteenth overall, the Seahawks came under fire. However, they have silenced the critics. Irvin, with 8.0 sacks, leads the rookie class, while opposite pass rusher Chris Clemons has 9.0 - already surpassing his total from last year. Bobby Wagner, drafted in the second round, has proved to be one of the best linebackers in football as he is top ten in combined tackles while his three interceptions is tied for the most out of the linebackers.

But perhaps Carroll's greatest case for coach of the year is his role in drafting then deciding to start rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Drafted in the third round, Wilson was described as a prospect who has the skill set to be a successful quarterback. However, many believed his height would hold him back. Not many people expected Wilson to start his first year nevertheless have a chance to start. After watching Wilson during rookie camp, Pete Carroll declared an open quarterback competition between Wilson, the new, prized free agent Matt Flynn, and the incumbent starter, Tarvaris Jackson. The easy decision would be to start Matt Flynn. However, Carroll, in his unconventional ways had an honest competition and Wilson beat out Flynn and Jackson.

 After a slow start, Wilson's play since Week 5 has been outstanding. With pretty much the same offensive line, running back, tight end, and wide receiving corps, Wilson is making the entire team play better. Marshawn Lynch is having his best season not only in yards but in yards per attempt. One of the Seahawks "flaws" heading into the season was the lack of quality receivers. Starting wide receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice along with tight end Zach Miller are having their best seasons in a Seahawks uniform. Wilson is now tied for second in league history for rookie quarterback passing touchdowns with 20. He only needs three more to pass Peyton Manning's 22 for the most in league history. Wilson is finishing games and demonstrating his poise with comeback wins over good teams such as the Bears and Patriots. I'll let you be the judge on whether or not to count the game against the Packers as a  comeback win.

Carroll also has other support for his case. While the Seahawks strength of schedule is not among the league best, they have played many talented quarterbacks including Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler. That being said, their defense is ranked fourth in the league in opposing pass yards per game while their twelve passing touchdowns allowed are tied for first in the league.

Wilson's numbers before the Week 5 win versus the Patriots? Five touchdowns and six interceptions and a 2-2 record versus two teams with losing record. In the Week 5 game and since? Fifteen touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Pretty good for a "flawed quarterback" who wasn't even supposed to be starting in the NFL?