The MMQB team dives into one of the most elite divisions in the NFL. Do the Seahawks need a reboot? The stage is set for the McVay-Stafford show. Just how good is Budda Baker? And what do we expect from the 49ers?
The Division Preview Series moves on to the bluebloods of the NFC West, where all the most interesting QB-coach marriages live.
What do Jenny, Conor and Gary make of the upgrade from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford? Will this ramp up the pressure on Sean McVay? Will Les Snead catch some heat if a thin defense falls apart? And is anything less than a Super Bowl acceptable for the Rams?
A look at Trey Lance and all the many reasons this isn’t like the RG3–Kyle Shanahan setup in Washington. Examining the Seahawks’ search for answers with a Russell Wilson–centric offense, and finding a solution for Jamal Adams on defense. And does Kliff Kingsbury’s offense have anything beyond a cool name—and could Rondale Moore be the alcohol that spikes the red Kool-Aid?
Plus, our preseason poll for order of finish, a division preview Mad Libs–style, Conor’s anti-bucket list, lots of powdered beverages and so much more.
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Gary Gramling: I like Budda Baker too, and I want to use that as a transition into our most interesting coach here in the division. I’m going with Pete Carroll because I feel like if you’re the Seahawks and you just got Jamal Adams and now you face Budda Baker twice a year and you kind of look at Budda Baker and say like, oh, that’s what our guy was supposed to be doing. And this is not quite how it’s working out. Pete Carroll has a lot of really interesting things happening with his team right now. Number one, you could sort of do a 1A, with Shane Waldron here, the new offensive coordinator coming from the Rams, because we’ve seen sort of a series of offensive coordinators who you wouldn’t say like, oh, this offense failed, but everyone’s trying to build something Russell Wilson–centric. And it just hasn’t had fully sustained success for, you know, 19 games and gotten them to where they want to go ultimately. And you saw last year, it was very aggressive early in the season. And then they had a series of games with turnovers and it seemed like it really shook Pete Carroll up. And he drew back and it looked more like the Marshawn Lynch–centric offense, Chris Carson–centric offense, that they’ve run for years in Seattle by the end of the season. So is he just going to let Shane Waldron do his thing and find an answer here with Russell Wilson? And sort of have that elite offense for a full season that they just haven’t had over the years. And then of course, the other big question, you know, Carroll and Ken Norton Jr. Have to figure out exactly what they want to do with Jamal Adams, who is in a contract year and probably wants to get paid sooner rather than later. Lots of draft capital was spent to get him. Do they sort of fall into a sunk-cost fallacy type of thing? He just wasn’t—maybe it was injury, but you could tell by the way they used him—he wasn’t what they expected him to be last season. They expected a lot more out of coverage. Any time a team could get a receiver match up on Jamal Adams, they attacked him and they succeeded and he turned into a guy who is a blitzer. I think he can hold up in some limited coverage roles, but they have to figure out what they are going to do to maximize Jamal Adams here. And I don’t know if it’s necessarily using him in a linebacker capacity, because they’re already pretty heavily invested in linebackers here between Bobby Wagner and Jordan Brooks, a former first-round pick. So a lot of different ways you can go with the Seahawks here, and it’s going to be really interesting what Pete Carroll figures out, especially in the division where I think the Rams and 49ers are probably better teams. But every year the Seahawks just come up with 10 or 11 wins, no matter how it plays out.
Conor Orr: Yeah, I’m wondering when the wheels kind of just totally fall off on this and, you know, maybe to your point, you know, is some of Russell Wilson’s frustration justified to an end? You know, are they wasting draft capital or are they not getting him the things that he needs to be successful? I know they did get a wide receiver, and I think that Russell Wilson could help elevate him. He can work in the return game as well. But I think that there’s an agreement to that. Like, you know, if you’re looking from the outside in, Pete Carroll’s valuable contribution to the NFL was that defense, right? It was the Cover 3 that kind of changed everything, but all of the branches from his tree have taken it and done better things with it, right? Robert Saleh did interesting things with it, Dan Quinn did interesting things with it, Guss Bradley’s changing some things and doing some interesting things with it. And they just kind of remained stagnant. They don’t have the punishing athletes that they used to have to run the system the way that it was created. And so at some point, Pete Carroll is maybe arguably the best culture creator or maybe the second-best culture creator in the NFL. But at some point, when do you need him to sort of, you know, step aside so you can get that extra oomph in there? Because you’re right, they’re wasting time, they’re wasting draft capital on guys who aren’t performing as well as they should be.
Jenny Vrentas: Yeah, it seems like the same story every year in Seattle with a similar ending. But is that your pick then, Conor, or do you have someone else?
CO: So that is not my pick, Jenny. I wanted to sprinkle a little divisional potpourri in here. I wanted us to be able to hit all boxes here. But I would say my most interesting coach, and I’m gonna recycle a point I made 10 minutes ago, would be Kyle Shanahan, and just because I think that there’s a lot of pressure on Kyle Shanahan, right? I think that it’s interesting that we’ve just kind of assumed that he is the guru, that he knows what he’s doing, but I would think that you could argue that there’s been more high-profile losses or mistakes and big moments that are associated with him than these moments of, groundbreaking-ness or whatever you want to call it. And so I think that him trading up for and selecting a quarterback that he’s going to stamp his name on will be more ingrained with his legacy than 28–3 or the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs, this is going to cement his legacy, I think as an offensive play-caller and a guru. Can you now mold the quarterback? Can you change the quarterback? Can you make him into what we think he’s going to be? And so that’s why I’m really interested. Because I think Kyle is the best offensive mind in the NFL. I think I can say that probably comfortably. But, you know, there’s where you are now and there’s where you can take this. And I think that I’m interested to see where his legacy goes from here and how that shifts and changes throughout the season.
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