The People vs. John Marshall

Seahawks.NET
Posted Dec 14, 2006


To any of my four regular readers (hello mom, wifey, editor, and mistress), it’s not news that I’ve held Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall’s strategies in contempt all year. In Detroit, Marshall’s game plan reeked of fear. Fear stemming from the man wearing the offensive headset, on the opposite sideline.

Against the Bears, Marshall made the mistake of challenging Rex Grossman to throw the ball – over and over again. If only he had faced week twelve Grossman, and not week three.

In Kansas City, the Seahawks defense never challenged the injured, and already slow, Damon Huard. Allowing Huard and the Chiefs offense to move the ball at will.

I shouted expletives towards the television, as the Seahawks defense refused to force Alex Smith, and not Frank Gore, to beat them in the 49ers game. Even after Gore hung 130 yards on them by halftime.

Why would anyone in his right mind not blitz an opposing QB making his first start? Why or how were Jay Cutler and the Broncos safe against any blitzing, until the third quarter?

There are other, more immeasurable, complaints I have with Marshall.

For example, why has the Seahawks ability to reach the QB via the blitz declined from last season, even with the addition of Darryl Tapp and the further development of Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill?

Why has the defense, as a whole, seemingly regressed in all aspects of the game, including the most fundamental duty of any defense, tackling?

Bottom line, Marshall and the defense have slipped, in spite of personnel upgrades across the board in key positions.

But all of the aforementioned oddities pale in comparison to the most glaring and significant error Marshall has made this season; the benching of one Michael Boulware.

I wrote in a previous article that the timing and tone of the Boulware benching stunk of panic and blamescaping. It seemed that Marshall was ignoring the design and principle of the defense: get pressure on the QB to limit your secondary’s exposure.

Then there were the intangibles.

Boulware, more than any other player on the Seahawks, seems to have a flair for the dramatic. In his rookie season, Boulware secured four victories with clutch interceptions and/or a nose for a loose football. Boulware also, again more than any other Seahawk defender, has the ability to make plays. Playmaking from the defensive side of the ball is so rare and unique in today’s NFL, that it should be featured – not demoted.

Still, many apparently did, and still do, agree with the move Marshall made at Strong Safety; giving the job to utility man Jordan Babineaux over Boulware. All the casual fan can see is that the long receptions, given up during Boulware’s stint as a starter, were gone.

True, Boulware seemed prone to blowing a key coverage, missing a read, or failing on an assignment. But, all those instances were in attempts to make plays. Plays that which, up until this year, he made. Plays that he will continue to make throughout his career.

I could go on about how or why, fundamentally, Boulware’s the clear-cut choice. But, some still won’t hear of it. So, I decided to dust off my long since repressed corporate portion of my brain, to compile and analyze data before and after the Boulware benching (B.B. & A.B.).

Below is a breakdown of the Seahawks defensive statistical performance, covering the most basic and rudimentary of any defensive measurables. I know there are other, more meaningful, detailed, and insightful stats around the web – but these are the only ones I can wrap my drug-scarred mind around.

B.B.
Opponent
Rushing Yards
Passing Yards
Total Yards
Time o' Possession
Points Against
Lions
38
229
267
27.35
6
Cardinals
65
231
296
28.07
17
Bears
135
232
367
35.32
37
Giants
73
275
348
22.00
30
Rams
59
360
419
32.05
28
Vikings
175
186
361
32.19
31
Average
91
252
343
29.50
25
A.B.
Opponent
Rushing Yards
Passing Yards
Total Yards
Time o' Possession
Points Against
Chiefs
191
312
503
42.15
35
Rams
108
215
323
33.52
22
Raiders
64
166
230
24.21
-
49ers
262
163
425
36.12
20
Packers
51
266
317
23.53
24
Broncos
181
143
324
29.29
20
Cardinals
113
232
345
34.39
27
Average
139
214
352
31.89
21
Delta
48
(38)
9
2.39
(4)

So, what does it tell us?

It tells us exactly what conventional wisdom and even the most fair-weather of any fan could; Boulware’s better against the run and Babineaux’s better against the pass. In total, the Seahawks have given up 9 more yards per game with Babs in the line-up, but four less points. Not drastic by any means. Still, to me, the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story.

I think it’s important to trim some of the “fat”.

The first statistical nuisance I’d like to remove is the Giants game. The Giants game was a combination of New York’s ineptitude, the Seahawks precise execution, and honestly…a little luck sprinkled in.

The next game that needs to be removed from this equation based on my selfish criteria would be the Raiders game. For the reason that realistically the Raiders should no longer be considered a NFL team. Oakland seems better fit for the WAC.

And lastly, I’m going to remove the Packers Monday Night contest due to the improbable conditions that undoubtedly lead to skewed statistics.

Now lets see what we have.

B.B.
Opponent
Rushing Yards
Passing Yards
Total Yards
Time o' Possession
Points Against
Lions
38
229
267
27.35
6
Cardinals
65
231
296
28.07
17
Bears
135
232
367
35.32
37
Rams
59
360
419
32.05
28
Vikings
175
186
361
32.19
31
Average
94
248
342
31.00
24
A.B.
Opponent
Rushing Yards
Passing Yards
Total Yards
Time o' Possession
Points Against
Chiefs
191
312
503
42.15
35
Rams
108
215
323
33.52
22
49ers
262
163
425
36.12
20
Broncos
181
143
324
29.29
20
Cardinals
113
232
345
34.39
27
Average
171
213
384
35.09
25
Delta
77
(35)
42
4.10
1

The second of the charts is more useful and telling, in my view.

So again, it proves that Boulware’s clearly better against the run, and Babs the pass. Clearly the defensive staff has chosen to forsake run defense in pursuit of less passing yards, and receptions for big plays. But is that the right choice?

No one will ever mistake the Seahawks defensive unit for being “large”. The Seahawks defense is clearly predicated on quick, agile defenders that aren’t going to overpower anyone.

With that, is it the wisest decision to leave that undersized defense on the field in longer, more physically trying, rushing oriented drives? How smart is it to leave a player on the field that is obviously weakening your rush defense? Which in doing so leaves your already undersized, easily out-physicaled defense on the field, for an overwhelming additional four minutes a game?

The answer is, it’s not smart.

Quick Hits

  • The team that scares me the most in the NFC, besides the usual suspects, are the Atlanta Falcons. Only god and Michael himself, no what could happen if Vick enters the playoffs with an unimpeded license to run? Who knows…maybe Mora can finally figure out that you can’t fit a square peg into a West Coast Offensive hole.
  • As much as I admire and respect Bryant Gumbel the journalist – he’s an absolute bore in the play-by-play booth. Paging Nessler, Vermiel, and Jaworski…. please pick-up.
  • It was refreshing to see that the man the Houston Texans should’ve drafted, since they apparently don’t need Reggie “once-in-a-lifetime” Bush, Vince Young, torched said franchise on their home-field this past weekend. It’s still baffling why anyone, especially a man as savvy as Bob McNair, would ever trust some with a haircut like Charley Casserly.
  • If last year’s American “Sign of the Apocolypse” Idol winner Taylor Hicks' new album reaches number one…I’m going to renounce my US citizenship.
  • A scary thing occurred in the Pac-10 this week, when the Arizona State University Sundevils hired one Dennis Erickson. If he could recruit in such places as Pullman and Corvallis – you better believe he can Tempe.
  • Is there a better hour of television that ESPN’s Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption?
  • The most underrated, under appreciated, and most misunderstood NBA player of our time is about to get traded. I for one hope Allen Iverson lands some place where a championship is obtainable.

Mule Sniff

I wasn’t going to submit a Mule Sniff or a Throat Punch this week, because nothing really struck my fancy or drew my ire. But this morning I heard the news that a very talented actor and comedic performer passed away.

While today he maybe known for his brilliant portrayal of a bitter, unhappily married father and grandfather on Everybody Loves Raymond – his body of work is far greater than just a sitcom.

Taxi Driver, Hardcore, Monsters Ball, Crazy Joe, Where the Buffalo Roam, Young Frankenstein, and on and on. The man was brilliant in comedies, dramas, theater, and television whatever he touched he shined.

This week’s sniff goes out to Peter Boyle, truly a great loss to the acting profession.

While there are many clips displaying his brilliance – here’s a short clip that still makes me laugh. So long, Peter.



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