Monday, November 10, 2008

Evaluating Keary Colbert

by: Michael Steffes

Keary Colbert has taken a lot of heat in the last 24 hours, and rightfully so. He dropped two passes yesterday. In week 9, he also failed to corral a long TD pass which, to be fair, he had to dive for with a defender on him as he came to the ground. It is hard to fault Seahawks fans for being disappointed in Colbert's performance with the team so far; however, there is more to this story than is being told.

First off, Keary Colbert was not supposed to be catching passes for this team. If Tim Ruskell and Co. really liked Colbert, they could have at least brought him in for a visit while he was a free agent last offseason. They didn't. This was a trade of desperation. While I believe Tim Ruskell to be a very good general manager who has been a part of this team playing in multiple playoff games for three straight years, I would be the first to line up to criticize him for making a bad trade out of desperation. But, in this case, I can't. Jerry Jones acquiring Roy Williams, now that is bad desperation. This trade had a better motive.

To continue . . .

The trade for Keary Colbert was as much about Mike Holmgren as it was Tim Ruskell. Mike Holmgren made the decision to take on the role of the lame duck. He wanted one more shot at the Super Bowl. Once that decision was made, the front office supported him. They got him his TE, and they fixed the running game. However, more injuries than ever could have been anticipated hit the WRs. In Week 2, the team planned to start Logan Payne and Seneca Wallace while Billy McMullen and Michael Bumpus played small roles. 5 minutes into the game, Payne and Wallace were gone. The next week they were looking at names even further down the list of street free agents, leading Ruskell to rethink his stance on Koren Robinson and trade for Keary Colbert. The reason these moves were made was a last ditch effort to keep Mike Holmgren's final season a success. Unfortunately, Hasselbeck would be the next to go.

So now we are left evaluating a player based on how he has played with the backup QB on a team where no receiver, not even veteran Bobby Engram, has found much success. Bobby Engram has dropped balls this year too, but we know what he can do with Matt at the helm. Colbert is still a bit of a mystery. I believe more will be revealed in coming weeks, at which point a more accurate assessment can be made.

There are also two other things that bear mention in Keary's evaluation. To better illustrate this, I will use some of the arguments being made against keeping Colbert around. The first of these is that the young players like Bumpus and Kent should be getting reps. I believe that to be true, as I have made my stance on playing young players clear. However, Jordan Kent has been in this system a lot longer than Colbert. Not only that, but he has been getting reps--the reason many don't notice his reps is because he rarely gets a ball thrown his way. In order for a player to drop the pass, he has to first run an effective route and gain separation from the defender, thus making him an attractive target to the QB. This was one of the reasons the young players failed early, and as a result Kent continues to get noticed as a gunner and not as a receiver. Remember that TO led the league in drops last year, and Braylon Edwards is leading the league this year. They make their share of big plays to counterbalance their drops. Unfortunately for the Hawks, there doesn't seem to be enough big plays to go around.

The next argument would be the compensation. The Hawks traded a conditional 5th round pick for Colbert. While this may seem a steep price, consider that the 5th round is where teams stop guaranteeing that player a spot on the roster. Owen Schmitt was iffy to make the team this year. Usually, only about 50% of players drafted in the 5th or later make teams. Add in that the Hawks are likely to have several compensation picks this year, possibly as many as 3. There won't be roster spots for all of those late round picks, so instead they used one now on a 2nd round WR who had a good rookie year and has struggled since. All this in the name of giving Coach Holmgren one final shot. It was a fair deal, and it isn't going to prevent the Hawks from being competitive in years to come, no matter how badly Colbert performs. Taking a chance on a guy who played in college with several of his current team members is a good gamble. There was a lot of upside, and very little downside.

Now I understand that someone always has to be held accountable for the Seahawks' failures whether they be in mid-January or mid-October. Tim Ruskell takes the brunt of the blame, and players like Keary Colbert get it after a bad game. But in retrospect, this was a trade that could have paid big dividends, and still might. At worst, it costs a resource (a 5th round pick) we are likely to have excess of in the upcoming draft. But most importantly, it was done out of respect for the greatest coach this organization has ever known. It wasn't a move the team would have made any other year, but this is no ordinary year, and that is one thing on which we can all agree. ~END~