SEATTLE, Wash. -- The 2-3 Seattle Seahawks went into their bye week knowing full well that with the trade deadline approaching on October 18, there would be more than enough time to investigate any possible roster additions. And with starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson nursing a shoulder injury, and backup Charlie Whitehurst displaying limited returns to date, there was a lot of external talk about the Seahawks possibly going all out and making the trade for Carson Palmer that the Oakland Raiders eventually did.
On Wednesday morning, just hours after the Raiders made the deal that brought them Palmer and took away at least one first-round pick, ESPN's Adam Schefter said that while other teams may have inquired, he knows that the Seahawks made their interest clear … to a point. "The Seahawks did call Cincinnati over the summer and were rebuffed in their advanced to try and get Carson Palmer," Schefter said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike" show. "What I thought at that point, speaking to some people around the league, was that a fair price was what was paid for Donovan McNabb, which turned out to be a two and a four."
After indifferent stints as a head coach with the New York Jets and New England Patriots in the 1990s, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll started his road back to the NFL with Palmer at USC in 2001, inheriting a fourth-year player who had already fully developed under Paul Hackett, Carroll's processor. Carroll came to understand — and partially through Palmer — that he wanted an offense that wouldn't fall apart if the quarterback did fall apart. A risky thought process in a league where that quarterback is more important than ever, but a philosophy that no doubt kept the Seahawks from matching any outlandish offers.
"Let me say this -- I'll go back," he said in early September. "This is 10 or 11 years of orchestrating the quarterback position. In all of those years…the cool thing is to tell you that it started with Carson Palmer and it went through [Matt] Leinart, and [Matt] Cassel never got to play, and [Mark] Sanchez and [Matt] Barkley...John David Booty and all those guys. Then here with Matt [Hasselbeck] last year and all the way to now. It's been the same. We don't want this position to be one where he has to carry us all the time. It's such a hard position to play and it's a team game and we need everybody to fit in. I would much rather position our guy in an offense where he has to move the ball around to the right guy and not have to drop back and throw the ball all day long."
And that's what Jackson and Whitehurst each are, by default and by dint of limited shown talent to date and experience. From that perspective, it's a big gamble not to have the established starter, but Carroll is comfortable above all placing those risks on youth, athleticism and the ability to play above one's own head over veteran acumen. Thus, and more than it was just about Bengals owner Mike Brown digging his heels in, the Seahawks went in a different direction after asking the Carson Palmer question.
"We investigated it thoroughly when it started, but Mike Brown was very clear," Carroll said of the process on Wednesday. "[Seahawks general manager] John [Schneider] was very adamant about whatever Mike says, this is what he's doing and he's going to do it. And Mike held to his guns about not making the move there. So there was no availability really, ever. There might have been wishful thinking that there was. The fact that it's come about now obviously was an incredible deal for the Bengals, or they wouldn't have done it. That's a monstrous deal. And it's a great deal for the Raiders too, if they feel they can give up that much to do it. But I'm happy for Carson. I'm glad he's getting a chance to do it. He had to pay the price for his decision. He missed a tremendous amount and took a big hit to get to this point, but I know he won't look over his shoulder and he'll do everything he can to be as successful as possible there."
In that same fashion, the Seahawks "failed" to shore up their defensive backfield when veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant was placed on injured reserve Monday with a back injury. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel -- one of the best pure cover corners in the NFL -- was being dangled as a possible trade target, but Carroll and Schneider never thought of taking the bait. Having developed a young and talented group in Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, and Walter Thurmond, Carroll said on Wednesday that it was worth the risk to watch the kids come together — and that was just as much about backups Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, and Roy Lewis.
"We wanted our guys to step up," Carroll said. "That's what we brought them here for. Walter was brought in here to be a player and other guys are going to battle for it too. It's just his first turn up and he's got to compete to hold it, too. Sherman wants that job and from this week on Maxwell should be fully back — he showed some really good stuff in preseason. These guys are going to be part of the competition as we're moving forward…Roy is coming back to play for us and help us. So we feel good about the young guys and we didn't even think to go look for somebody. We wanted to go with our guys."
Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur, an offensive-minded coach who will be gameplanning against that young secondary this Sunday when the Seahawks come calling, said that Seattle's secondary is a bit of a wild card precisely because of the 'unknown quantity factor. "You always factor in matchups when you're playing offense. You have decisions to make, and you look at personnel — how our receivers matchup against their corners. He does a nice job — he's got size, and he's very physical. Most of the time, he is in bump and run, so it will be a challenge for our guys.
"We know enough just watching the tape, and he's a fine player as well," Shurmur said of Thurmond. "But they're two different styles of player. When we put this thing together, we have to be aware of what we feel that we can do best against either one."
To a man, the young defenders talked Wednesday about how much that faith in their abilities meant to them. They've grown up together in this system, and as Carroll concluded, sometimes it's more about system and player development than making the splash move.
"Knowing who these kids are and watching them grow up, you just have more information than a kid that you bring in and work out and you start there, or we work off the film only. It's just the familiarity. All three of these guys are terrific competitors. I trust where they're coming from and who they are — we don't have to learn that part of their background. I guess it's really a deeper appreciation for them and there's an easier trust because of that.
"We're not in that process of learning who they are so much, so it does help."