The Rex Ryan Era: Scouting, Development & Learning From The Seahawks

Hindsight is crucial to accurately evaluating a draft class. Most consider 3 to 5 years to be a reasonable vantage point, but even then it's a fickle business. There are countless permutations and what ifs: Was a trade worth it? Would another player have been more successful on a different team? Grades, like most pundits, are full of crap. But when evaluating coach's worth, properly assessing his ability to find and develop talent is hugely important.

Take Pete Carroll for instance. While arguably an average coach in the XO's (personally I think he's a bit underrated), he has an uncanny ability to find talent, overhauling and creating potentially the youngest and most deadly NFL roster in just two years. Check a great post on his development of the SPARQ Rating System here.

The Rex Ryan era is approaching it's fifth year. Has he found the right players to build a championship caliber team?Has he developed them? Maybe. Maybe not. They are important questions and ones we will explore:

2009 Draft:

  • Mark Sanchez: For a while there it looked like Rex Ryan's fate might, unfortunately, be intrinsically linked to that of Mark Sanchez's. We all endured the countless excuses and offseason "leadership" rhetoric, and excused a general lack of proficiency because of two rookie post season runs. The undeniable truth is, however, that last year Sanchez was 34th worst QB in a league of 32 teams. Blame has been tossed around more than Ros from Game of Thrones, but I'm gonna take a different route and say the brunt of it has to lie in Rex & Tanny's evaluation of Sanchez as a player. After only one year in college, in a padded USC offense, they traded up from 17 to get their guy. Clearly that's a gamble that they lost. I understand the sentiment, we needed a QB, Rex wanted to make a splash, and Sanchez had the physical toolset and GQ decorum that screamed success in the NY market. But the trade was costly (first and second round picks) and a look back at his college game play and scouting supports suggest that he wasn't nearly as polished as a top QB prospect should be. Would Josh Freeman been that much worse of an option? At the moment it doesn't look like it.

  • Shonne Greene: The Jet's snagged Shonne Greene early in the third. I'm going to call this a mediocre scouting job. He was a great back up, and a below average starter. A tough runner, Greene lacks the necessary vision/agility to be a home run threat, but definitely can ground them out when necessary. But you can't ask much more from a 3rd round target.

  • Matt Slauson: Sixth round Guard who developed into an adequate starter on a top five line. Great find & development in my opinion.

2010 Draft:

  • Kyle Wilson: A polarizing player to be certain. Wilson has gotten flack for being a bit of a showboat, making a big deal out every pass that sails incomplete. According to PFF Wilson was rated around 25 out of all league corners in pass defense efficiency. When Revis went down, not only did Cromartie step up, but Wilson as well. Kyle has proven himself to decent #2 CB and an excellent #3. But is that you want out of a first round pick? Was Wilson really the BPA at 29? Remember: Gronkowski, Daryl Washington, T.J. Ward were all available. At least we didn't pick Tebow.

  • Vladimir Ducasse: Big Vlad has yet to crack the starting roster. Labeled as "raw", Ducasse was one of Rex's project players. He has failed to amount to pretty much anything and considering we just drafted 3 guards and signed two more, I'd have to guess the FO isn't too high on him either.

  • Joe McKnight: Although he never managed to convince the coaches he deserved significant snaps, McKnight is, nevertheless, a lethal weapon in space. His special teams use (KR) is enough to warrant a roster spot, but this really seems to be the make or break year in determining if he has any further use. From a scouting perspective, I think Rex was right to think there's something special about McKnight. From a development standpoint, I don't Rex gave Joe the snaps he needed to prove himself.

2011 Draft:

  • Muhammed Wilkerson: A bonafide superstar in the making, Wilkerson was rated 14th of all NFL players by PFF. Wilk has been both severely underrated and quietly productive. Credit goes to Rex and Dunbar for snagging and developing him.

  • Kenrick Ellis: Another project player, Kenrick Ellis has monster potential. He is huge, disruptive, and so far accomplishment-less. Refer to Crackback's post for a better analysis on his make or break year.

  • Bilal Powell: A fourth round pick that can do everything decently and nothing excellently. His use lies in short yardage carries and pass protection.

  • Jeremy Kerley: One of my favorite players on the Jet's roster, Kerley was a 5th round steal, a trend of the slot receiver position.


So what can we conclude from this information? First of all from a draft perspective: you win some you lose some. It's not much use crying over spilled milk. Many of these decisions were made by Tannenbaum. His aggressive trades and absymal contracts bloated our cap and shredded our depth. But Rex certainly played a role.

I think the true take away from all this concerns Rex's past philosophy as a coach. Always regarded as a "player's coach", I think Rex's biggest flaw has been Idzik's priority for the 2013 season: competition. Rex strikes me as the type of guy that has favorites. Guys that play with the kind of attitude that Rex likes (Physical Play & Swagger). He likes these characteristics because are the attributes that he sees as a reflection of himself, his defense, and his team. It's why he played Bart Scott when it was clear he was over the hill (and D Davis needed snaps), it's why he never benched Sanchez to teach him a lesson, and it's why he's never implemented strategies that put the ball in the hands of our most electrifying players.

With Idzik's arrival I can only hope comes the instillation of a new vibe of competition regardless of experience and the search for specific types of players. As taken from Fieldgull's Article, the Seahawks operate their football team based off two major statistic: The Turnover Battle & Explosive Plays.

GM John Schneider has hinted that based on their studies, a team that wins BOTH the explosive play AND turnover battle (hits a "daily double" as it's called at the VMAC) in a single game wins almost every time. How much? I don't know for sure, but I suspect a team that hits a "daily double" wins 85-90% of the time on Sunday, if not more.

To find the right players the Seahawks employ the Nike SPARQ Rating. As defined by Nike:

The SPARQ score is calculated using five inputs. There is no height or arm length component involved. The five components are:

(1) A Player's Weight (this "normalizes" the score, giving credit to a bigger player who displays similar movement skills to a smaller, quicker player)

(2) Forty Time

(3) 5-10-5 agility drill (some call this the 20 yard shuttle or short shuttle)

(4) Kneeling Powerball Toss (more on this later, but this replaces the bench press)

(5) Vertical Jump

Now I am unsure if the Jet's employ a similar rating system, but I think what's important to focus on is that Seahawks might be on to something here. Rex has always been defensive minded and obviously prizes turnover perhaps above all else. But the Jet's have noticably lacked home run, explosive players, for the past decade. If we can find ways to draft & develop home run threats, probably why we went after Tavon Austin, we will likely optimize our chance for success.

We've got a long way to go, but perhaps the answer to our problems lies in learning from our past mistakes, finding new explosive players, and giving them the chance to make an impact.

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