On the Clock: Pete Carroll holds key to the Draft

BY Peter Schrager • March 18, 2010

Though he’s certainly the most decorated and celebrated of the bunch, Pete Carroll is not the only big name joining the Seattle Seahawks coaching staff in 2010. Along with him comes a traveling band of All-Star coaching young guns and masterminds. A mix of young and old, Seattle’s revamped coaching staff is the NFL’s version of Ocean’s 11.

In Carroll, you have your Clooney character — a suave Hollywood type who, after a few years away from the league, is ready to jump back in and lead his gang into battle.

In offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, you’ve got your Brad Pitt. Just 33 years old, Bates has been coaching in some capacity for eight years and, while working under Mike Shanahan in Denver from 2006-08, was considered one of the main reasons Jay Cutler developed into a starting QB ahead of schedule.

Then there’s Jedd Fisch, the Matt Damon of this crew. Also just 33, Fisch worked under Shanahan in Denver and was the offensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota in ’09. With the Gophers, Fisch revitalized a once-anemic offense and got the most out of an offense based around Eric Decker, one of the finest receivers in the college game. Fisch will be coaching the quarterbacks in Seattle.

The rest of the crew? There’s the godfather of the zone-blocking scheme, 69-year-old Alex Gibbs, as the offensive line coach. (Yes, he’s your Carl Reiner.) There’s up-and-comer Casey Bradley serving as defensive coordinator; longtime NFL assistant Kippy Brown, working with the receivers; three-time Super Bowl champion Ken Norton, Jr. working with the linebackers; and Jerry Gray, one of the more highly regarded defensive assistants in the league, guiding the much maligned secondary.

"Team Ocean’s 11" also has a billionaire owner willing to spend big bucks on his team, one of the best facilities in all of professional sports, a patient, passionate and loyal fan base, and Walter Jones’ mega-contract coming off the books in the near future.

Seattle owns not one, but two of the first 15 picks in the 2010 NFL Draft. Add in their second rounder (previously San Diego’s), and they have three of the first 60 selections.

Make no mistake, the Rams are not the ones steering the wheel in the 2010 NFL Draft; the Seattle Seahawks are. Seattle’s first- and second-round picks — Nos. 6, 14 and 60 — will end up shaping just about every team’s draft board for the rest of the 3-day bonanza.

So what direction will Pete Ocean, er, Carroll, new GM John Schneider, and their traveling band of All-Star assistants go in the first and second rounds?

With the ‘Hawks trading for former Chargers third-string QB Charlie Whitehurst and promptly signing him to a two-year deal, it appears as though QB might not be as high a priority as it once was with the No. 6 overall pick come April 22. With Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen likely now out of the equation (and probably off the board) at No. 6, look for Seattle to draft a premier offensive tackle or Clemson running C.J. Spiller with their first pick.

"We need to bring in some firepower. We need to get some players who will score touchdowns for us and help us get the football in the end zone. But our overall approach is to play great defense and run the football,” Carroll told reporters earlier this week.

Seattle needs to find a successor to Walter Jones at left tackle. For a decade, the Seahawks had the luxury of not worrying about the position. But with Jones on his last legs and replacement Sean Locklear in and out of the lineup all season long, Seattle quarterbacks were sacked 44 times in 2009. As a result, the running game was all but non-existent.

Depending on how the top five shakes out, Oklahoma State OT Russell Okung could be available. If so, they’ll be doing cartwheels in the Pacific Northwest. Okung’s the top OT on my draft board, and quite frankly, a better NFL prospect — in my eyes, at least — than all of last year’s first-round tackles, including No. 2 pick Jason Smith. If Okung’s gone, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga, Rutgers’ Anthony Davis, and Oklahoma’s Trent Williams are all worthy of consideration at No. 6.

At No. 14, Spiller’s the guy. If he’s still on the board, it’s a no-brainer. If Okung’s gone at No. 6, there’s a chance the Seahawks even grab him at 6. He’s that good.

In Spiller, Carroll would get a Reggie Bush clone, but perhaps even better suited for the NFL game. Spiller can be an every-down back, is a receiving threat out of the backfield, and can return kicks and punts. Of his 50+ touchdowns in college, 23 of them were for 50 yards or more. He’s a game-breaker. When Carroll talks about a need for “firepower,” it’s hard not to imagine C.J. Spiller’s face on a bulletin board with a heart around it.

Defensive end is a need as well. Patrick Kerney led Seattle in sacks in ’09. He had just five. If a Derrick Morgan or Jason Pierre-Paul slips to 14, the ‘Hawks may pounce.

The wildcard in this whole discussion? Mr. Tebow.

Oh, you didn't know? Every storyline of the 2010 Draft leads back to him.

Hear me out. It was reported this week that Seattle was one of just five teams to request a private workout with the Florida gunslinger following his much-ballyhooed Wednesday Pro Day in Gainesville. With 34-year-old Matt Hasselbeck the solidified starter in Seattle for at least another year, there’d be a veteran mentor to work with Tebow. Whitehurst, signed to a two-year-deal, could serve as the immediate backup and a 27-year-old shoulder to lean on while Tebow gets accustomed to the pro game.

In Fisch, a fellow University of Florida graduate, Tebow would have a quarterbacks coach committed to getting his technique where it had to be. No. 60 could be a bit late in the draft for the Florida star, but Seattle’s certainly a possibility if Tebow’s still hanging around. Carroll would find a way to get the 2007 Heisman winner on the field in Year One.

So, how’s it all break down? Here are three potential scenarios.

Scenario 1: Russell Okung at No. 6; C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson at No. 14; Tim Tebow, QB, Florida at No. 60.

Scenario 2: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson at No. 6; Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers at No. 14; Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech at No. 60.

Scenario 3: Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa at No. 6, Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech at No. 14; Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss at No. 60

If Seattle could pull off any of those three scenarios, they’d come out of the first and second rounds with A-grades from pundits far and wide.

The NFL’s version of the Ocean’s 11 gang would be off to quite the start.

It’d be their first major draft heist. And if Carroll had his way, would lead to many sequels in future years.

A Guy You’ve Never Heard of That You Should Probably Get to Know, Volume 2

Previous Subjects:
Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale College

This week’s unknown draft gem is cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. A Division II prospect out of IUP -- The Indiana University (Pennsylvania) -- is coming off an Ohio State Pro Day performance where he stole the show from several big name D-1 prospects. The 6-foot, 207-pound Owusu-Ansah ran the fastest 40-yard dash time among those participating at the workout. Clocked at a 4.34 40 and a 4.05 20-yard shuttle time, Owusu-Ansah then went over to the bench press and banged out an astounding 21 reps of 225 pounds.

Um, and he did that with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The left shoulder will undergo surgery on March 17 and he’s expected to be at full strength by training camp.

The Ghana-born Owusu-Ansah, whose first name means “Born on Sunday”, is going to make some fan base very happy on Sundays for years to come. Heralded not just for his DB skills, the D-II prospect is also a game-breaker in the return game. An AP Little All-America selection in ’09, look for him to raise big eyebrows at the next level.

I've got him going as early as the second round.

Reader E-Mail of the Week


Now four years after the fact, who would you say got the better of the Mario Williams/Reggie Bush draft shakeout in ’06? First, everyone killed the Texans for passing on Bush and taking Williams. Then everyone labeled Bush a “bust” and Williams as the next great thing. Now, four years later, who do you think got the better pick?

Dane, Lafayette, Louisiana


“Williams/Bush ‘06” (sounds like a political campaign) is one of the rare situations where I think both teams benefited in the long run. In Williams, Houston got an All-Pro caliber defensive end and one of the better young defensive players in the league, something that organization had been desperately seeking since it joined the league in 2002. In Bush, the Saints have paid big money for a guy who doesn’t play every down. That said, he was a crucial part of the NFC semifinalists in ’07 and the Super Bowl champions in ’10.

Are the Texans any better with Reggie Bush instead of Mario Williams? Probably not.

Are the Saints, who are likely still celebrating on Bourbon Street six weeks after their Super Bowl win, kicking themselves today over their pick of Bush in ‘06? Absolutely not.

They’ve got the Lombardi Trophy. And in the end, that’s all that matters. Four years after the fact, I don't think either team has any qualms with how the 2006 NFL Draft turned out.

The more intriguing draft shakeout of the past few years is what Miami did with the ninth overall pick in 2007. With a gaping hole at QB, the Dolphins passed on Brady Quinn and selected wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn, Jr. At the time, this was viewed as a national disaster; a calamity.

The Dolphins' front office and coaching staff were booed at the team’s official draft party, ESPN’s talking heads went bonkers over them passing on Quinn for a receiver, and Cam Cameron lost the faith of his fan base before he even had a chance to win it over.

Less than two years later, Ginn’s a serviceable offensive player and a special teams threat for Miami. Meanwhile, Chad Henne (Miami's second-round pick that April) is entrenched as the starting QB after a solid debut in 13-plus games in 2009.

Brady Quinn? Well, he was just recently traded for a fullback and what will likely end up being a future sixth-round pick.

Somewhere in his home in suburban Baltimore, Cam Cameron’s nodding his head. Thirty-five months after the fact, it looks like Ginn may have been the better pick.