How many times in the last twenty-four hours have you head the old cliche, "defenses win championships?"
It probably got annoying, but it's hard to argue with after what we saw tonight. Russell Wilson is now 28-9 as a starter, which is historically good. But, of course, that has more to do with the Seahawks defense than the Seahawks offense. This has resulted in him being labeled a "game manager."
Personally, I agree with that. Russell Wilson is a game manager. If he hadn't thrown a touchdown pass, his team still would have won the superbowl by three touchdowns. He kept his offense going by making good, safe throws on third down and not putting his defense in a bad position. He's a game manager.
You know who else has been called a game manager? Tom Brady.
You know, the guy with the three superbowl rings?
Even in college football, you have game managers like AJ somanytrophiesI'velostcount McCarron.
Basically, it's the game managers that win championships.
Because, fundamentally, it is a terrible strategy to make your team's success completely dependent on the play of one person. Because individuals inevitably screw up.
As Peyton Manning did tonight. As Andrew Luck did against the Patriots.
Therefore, the smart thing to do, even in today's pass-happy NFL, is to create a better defense than your opponent's.
Of course, you need to win games to get to championships, and to win games, you need an offense. You need a good quarterback, you need weapons for your quarterback, and you need a good o-line to protect your quarterback. We have the quarterback, we have the weapons, and we are two decent players away from a solid o-line.
Now it's time to turn our attention to the defense.
It's not a terrible defense, but it's pretty bad. If you allow almost ninety points in two playoff games, your defense needs work. We can't expect to suddenly turn into San Francisco, but maybe we can move from a below average defense to a sort of average defense this offseason. We do have players to build around, both in the front seven and in the secondary. In the front seven, obviously we have Mathis, but he is old, and even if he wasn't, this front seven would still need another pass rusher. The venerable redllama suggested pursuing Lamarr Houston this offseason. Although we are all experienced in arguing with llama, it's hard to disagree with a guy like Houston. Perhaps the only downside would be that he would need to transition to the Colts 3-4 defense, although he has been praised for his ability to play in both schemes.
In the linebacking corps, we have a good starter in Jerrell Freeman, but one good linebacker does not a defense make. I believe that we should spend our second round pick (hell, maybe even our third round pick too) on a linebacker. I've been hearing the name Christian Jones a lot, and while I haven't followed his career, I have heard good things.
In the secondary, I think we have a good situation at cornerback. We don't know what will become of Toler. If I somehow knew that he would have a completely healthy season next year, I would suggest keeping him (although he still gets caught on P.I. far too often) but even if he is sent away, I am fairly comfortable with the hopefully healthy pair of Vontae Davis and Darius Butler. Butler is more of a role player and would ideally be a slot-corner or nickel-back or something, but he's a good option opposite Davis.
The problem, surprisingly, is at safety. Coming into this season I was very excited to watch what I expected to be one of the better safety combinations in the league. After all, both Bethea and Landry have been to pro-bowls. For the first few games, Landry was looking something like the "game-wrecker" he was advertised as. I mean, the guy was leading the league in tackles for a while (which says bad things about our run defense) but then he got hurt and after that, he played like crap. Frankly, I think Delano Howell should get a fair chance at beating Landry for the starting job next season. But unfortunately, Howell might be needed elsewhere on the field, for Antoine Bethea could soon be leaving us. If that happens, we might need to draft a safety or grab someone in free agency. If Landry can somehow return to form, it would be a huge boost. But I'm not counting on it.
The ultimate goal of the next several offseasons is to make Andrew Luck a game manager. Game managers have it good. They have good linemen to protect them from pass-rushers, they have running games to set them up with nice and easy third and short situations, and they have defenses to take the pressure off them and get them good field-position.
Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, but there's a reason he is 11-12 in the postseason, and it goes beyond some imaginary clutch-factor. The mistake we made when he was in Indy was focusing purely on giving him as many weapons as humanly possible. But even with two hall of fame receivers, running backs like Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai, and a tight end like Dallas Clark, Peyton Manning lost more playoff games than he won. And he especially struggled against the New England Patriots, which was, frankly, a vastly superior and more complete team throughout that decade.
Not many teams are lucky enough to land a guy like Andrew Luck immediately after leaving a player like Manning.
We can't waste this second chance. We can't make the same mistake again. Let Luck be great. Let him be a game manager.
NOTE: I just want to clarify what I mean by "game manager" because some of you seem to think that a quarterback's reputation is more important than his team's win/loss record. When I say someone is a game manager, I don't mean they aren't talented. Tom Brady (who wasn't much of a game manager this season) and Russell Wilson are obviously very talented and are completely capable of carrying their teams if they have to. But they often don't. Obviously it is good to have a quarterback like Luck, who can bail out the team if they put themselves in a bad situation. But if you depend on your quarterback too much, you will lose when he inevitably screws up.
Let your quarterback help you, but don't make him save you.