The Seahawks’ struggling offensive line could have kept them out of the Super Bowl for a third consecutive year despite a franchise quarterback and elite defense. Kudos to GM John Schneider for making a bold move.
Duane Brown, the Seahawks’ new left tackle and their latest would-be offensive-line savior, resembles a big door with his 6-foot-4, 305-pound girth, as general manager John Schneider recently noted.
But the access device most relevant to the trade that has brought Brown to Seattle from the Houston Texans is not a door, but a metaphorical window.
No question, the Seahawks’ championship window remains open, wide enough to see the possibility of a third trip to the Super Bowl under this regime as a legitimate destination point this season, not a mere mirage.
And yet it’s just as easy to see what would make that window slam shut, keeping the Seahawks locked out of the title game for a third consecutive year despite a franchise quarterback and still-elite defense. If you’re a fan, you’re all too aware of the constant impediment to their grandest dreams: A shaky and vulnerable line that has become an annual albatross to Seattle’s offense.
So kudos to Schneider for making a bold and necessary move to prop that window open. Kudos to the organization for not being too stubborn to acknowledge that their working plan of trying (and trying, and trying) to fashion a credible line out of draft picks and middling free agents wasn’t working. And kudos for potentially sacrificing just a little bit of the future to seize the moment now.
Don’t think it has gone unnoticed in the locker room. Brown has a stature in the game that brings instant credibility and respect, just like last week’s acquisition, Dwight Freeney (following the loss of Cliff Avril), and Sheldon Richardson, who was acquired on the cusp of the season after Malik McDowell’s injury.
This has been a season of nimble readjustment on the fly by Schneider, who has not been afraid to use some of his beloved draft picks to fill holes both unexpected and lingering. But this particular hole has been gaping, and present for so long it’s like the unsightly construction site in your neighborhood you finally stop noticing after you’ve walked by so many times.
But now the Seahawks believe they’ve drastically spruced up the place, a virtual necessity after a week in which their running game was virtually nonexistent against Brown’s Texans. Though coach Pete Carroll says the Seahawks’ pass blocking has improved markedly, we’ve all seen quarterback Russell Wilson running for his life far too often.
“I think it’s really cool,” cornerback Richard Sherman said Wednesday of Brown’s acquisition. “I think it says a lot about what our front office thinks of our team right now and what they think about us moving forward. I think they think this is our window, this is our chance to take it by the reins, and they’re doing everything they can to put us in position to be successful and make us a championship team. Any perceived weaknesses, they’re doing their best to shore up. They’re doing a phenomenal job.”
In Brown, a three-time All-Pro, the Seahawks feel they’ve enhanced themselves in multiple ways, both obvious and subtle. Most important, of course, Brown mans the key position on the line, the prime protector of Wilson’s blind side, which as Carroll noted is not just football cliché but a vital necessity.
“That’s no joke,” Carroll said. “It’s a real deal. That is what he has been great at doing, and it’s great for Russ and Russ’ confidence, and knowing that he’s got a guy back there that has been through it all will help. It will help us coming off the football in the running game as well.”
It’s a role Brown embraces. At the least, he should be fresh after holding out all season until debuting Sunday against the Seahawks.
“I’ve played a lot of football in this league,” Brown said Wednesday. “I think I’ve played a pretty good level throughout my career, so I’m just trying to come in and hold the left side down and help the run game and keep Russell clean.”
Beyond Brown’s ability, Carroll hopes to reap some benefit from his experience and leadership. Brown takes the place of second-year player Rees Odhiambo, who was learning on the fly this year as he started for the first time in his career and had understandable struggles.
The hope, further, is that the rest of the Seattle line will fall into place more smoothly around Brown, dubbed an “alpha male” by Schneider and comfortable with asserting prominence among the lineman.
“I’m counting on immediate impact,” Carroll said. “He is a really smart player. He is mature and savvy and all that. You put that all together, and he is going to be able to play right away and I think he is going to play effectively.
“The experience, you can’t replace that. You can’t do anything about that if you don’t have it. All you can do is be patient, and so that is what we have been doing for the last couple of years as our guys are growing. I think he will help our guys grow. He will be a great example in time.”
The Seahawks and Brown have expressed interest in making their association a longterm one, but this deal wasn’t about “in time,” at its heart. It was about the here and now, and hoping a door-sized man can help keep the Seahawks’ championship window open.