Yesterday, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, accepted the Head Coach position for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2012, Seattle had arguably the best defense in the NFL. As coordinator of that defense since 2009 (hired by Jim Mora Jr.), Bradley gets much of the credit for their recent success.
Based on the above statistics, there is no doubt the Seahawks defense has improved. Yards allowed per game (YPG) and points allowed (PPG) are two of the most popular defensive statistics when evaluating a defense.
As a lifelong fan of the Seahawks, I tend to look deeper. For instance, I know that Seattle has struggled to get consistent pressure on the quarterback for years. They have also struggled to get off the field on 3rd downs. These two issues reared their ugly head again this season, and especially in the playoffs.
Here are the numbers:
Sack % = Total # of sacks / (Pass Attempts + Sacks)
During the fours years that Gus Bradley was the DC in Seattle, his defense was below average in 3rd down conversions allowed in three of those seasons (including 2012). Even worse, his defense was below the NFL average in sack percentage all four seasons.
Seattle attempted to improve the defensive pass rush this off-season by drafting defensive end Bruce Irvin (8.0 sacks, situational pass rusher in most cases) and signing defensive tackle Jason Jones (3.0 sacks, finished season on IR). Unfortunately, those moves didn't have the impact Seattle was looking for.
During the 2012 playoffs, Bradley's defense allowed their opponents to convert 50% of their 3rd down conversions (5 for 11 @ WAS and 6 for 11 @ ATL). His defense posted a pathetic playoff sack percentage of 3.03%, which included zero sacks against Atlanta's Matt Ryan and two sacks versus a hobbled Robert Griffin III.
It should be noted, Seattle runs a hybrid 4-3 defense that includes 3-4 type personnel/looks. The scheme is what Pete Carroll's has run for years (NFL and USC, click here for more on Seattle's scheme). The primary duty of Gus Bradley was to gameplan and call plays. Of course, Pete Carroll a defensive coach at heart, could be seen throughout games coaching up the defense (even while the offense was running plays).
The main take away here, is that Seattle has had these two issues for years and have yet to properly correct them. I believe both 3rd down percentage allowed and sack percentage are largely a result of gameplanning and play calling. After looking at these numbers and watching every game, I don't see a coordinator that is truly improving/growing in these areas. If you are going to give Bradley credit for the good defensive statistics, than he must also be held responsible for the poor statistics. I wish Bradley all the luck in the world as a HC, but I'm still very optimistic about the Seahawk defense moving forward.
On the same day Bradley left for Jacksonville, Seattle hired Florida Gator defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to take over as their DC. Seahawk fans will remember Quinn, who was the defensive line coach for Jim Mora in 2009 and Pete Carroll in 2010.
For the last two years at Florida, Quinn has been running a 3-4 defense. The head coach at Florida is defensive guru Will Muschamp. Muschamp like Carroll, is known for using hybrid defenses and likes an attacking style.
Here are Florida's defensive ranks with Quinn as defensive coordinator:
In 2012, his defense did slip some in 3rd down conversion and sack percentage. While college football is not the NFL, those ranks are out of 120 FBS teams and they are impressive (especially when you consider his conference).
There are a few other things I like about the Quinn hire:
- He is relatively young (42) and his career has been moving in a positive direction (leaving on his terms to continue career growth - from NFL DLine coach to College DC to NFL DC).
- He is familiar with Carroll's defensive scheme from his time in 2010.
- He is familiar with many of the Seahawk players as well as others in the organization.
- He has worked under some great defensive minds in his career (Muschamp 11'-12', Carroll 10', and Saban 05'-06').
- While Seattle's defensive line was not a dominate force during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the current talent on the roster is clearly an upgrade. Since Seattle still needs to address the inconsistency of their pass rush, this off-season should bring even more talent to an already good defense.
- He has two years of recent experience in the best conference in college football (SEC). Why is this so important? Well, he has seen first hand some of the best talent (on his team and his opponents) that will be entering the NFL draft over the next several years. I assume, he also helped recruit defensive players over those two seasons (scouting and evaluation). This paid dividends for Pete Carroll the last 3 seasons, and now Seattle has another uniquely qualified individual to assist them in preparing for future drafts. Don't underestimate how useful this was for Pete Carroll and John Schneider as they've rebuilt the Seattle roster.
Last but not least, I believe the presence of Pete Carroll can not be overlooked.
Coach Carroll will always be involved in this defense and much of their "new" identity is a direct result of his influence. This move could actually be a blessing in disguise for the Seahawks. They could be catching a rising star in Dan Quinn, while getting a new style of gameplanning and play calling that could correct some defensive issues they've had for years.