Even when the Seahawks fail, they succeed
The Seahawks gave up on guard John Moffitt, trading him to Cleveland, then Denver after the first trade was voided. But they had a backup plan, J.R. Sweezy, the former defensive lineman they’ve turned into an offensive starter.
Times staff columnist
RENTON — The Seahawks just tempered one of their greatest recent failures with one of their greatest recent successes. In their resourceful world, they can elevate even their low moments.
Goodbye, John Moffitt, who now stands as the biggest draft bust of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. But before you become fixated on the mistake, remember J.R. Sweezy, whose extreme makeover converting from defense to offense is yielding extremely good results?
It isn’t laudable when an NFL team gives up on a high draft pick after only two seasons, but the way the Seahawks do business, it isn’t crippling, either. Schneider, the general manager, always has another option.
In this case, it’s Sweezy, the athletic former defensive lineman taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line guru Tom Cable has helped transform Sweezy into a legitimate NFL starter. And that made the explanation for trading Moffitt much easier.
“There’s no doubt that J.R. had really taken the lead,” Cable said.
“J.R. beat him out and did a nice job,” Carroll said.
So, on Monday, the Seahawks traded Moffitt, once considered a key acquisition in their offensive-line overhaul, to Cleveland. And true to Moffitt’s adventurous, fun-loving and sometimes headache-inducing two seasons in Seattle, the trade was voided Tuesday because Cleveland had concerns about his health. So the Seahawks rerouted him to Denver for defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.
Moffitt, a third-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the highest drafted player that Carroll and Schneider have jettisoned in their four-draft tenure. They admitted a mistake by dealing him. But they did so because Sweezy provides the softest possible landing. He’s faster, more agile and more athletic. Simply, he’s a better fit for Cable’s zone-blocking scheme.
Sweezy blew up. Moffitt blew it. And the Seahawks have another example of why their competition-based philosophy works.
It doesn’t work if Schneider and the entire front office aren’t so diligent about maximizing every draft option available to them. It also doesn’t work if anyone in the organization is stubborn about justifying draft picks that are failing or performing at a lower level than lesser-known guys. The Seahawks’ approach works because of brutal honesty.
Moffitt might go on to be a solid pro. In Denver’s system, perhaps he can ascend to a starting job again. But that doesn’t mean the Seahawks were wrong to cut bait so quickly, not if Sweezy pans out.
“It’s all coming together,” Sweezy said. “I finally feel like an offensive lineman.”
When Sweezy came out of North Carolina State, Cable saw some raw O-line skills. So the Seahawks used a late draft pick on him in 2012, anticipating a long-term project similar to their ongoing attempt to convert Allen Bradford from running back to linebacker. But Sweezy started the season opener against Arizona a year ago. He struggled, lost the starting job to Moffitt, and then the Seahawks went to a platoon situation with the two players. But during the offseason and throughout training camp, Sweezy has emerged as the team’s best option at right guard, Cable said.
“You’re starting from the ground when you make this transition,” Cable said. “Fundamentally, he had to learn everything. I think that, this time last year, I was more amazed about his progress than I am now. Everything was foreign to him a year ago, but now it’s just about picking up where we left off last season and continuing to progress. He picks up things so fast.”
Sweezy said his knowledge of the position is “night and day” from a year ago. “It’s unbelievable how much I didn’t know last year,” he said.
The Seahawks shouldn’t make a habit of misfiring on high draft picks. Moffitt is Schneider’s first true miss, however, and if not for Sweezy’s play, the Seahawks probably could’ve given Moffitt another year to develop. James Carpenter, their 2011 first-round pick, has endured an injury-prone career and must establish himself this season to avoid the bust label. But overall, the Seahawks have few blemishes on their draft record. And even when they mess up, they can move on quickly because Schneider finds talent in unexpected places.
It isn’t worth lamenting Moffitt’s disappointment with Sweezy balancing him out. Even when the Seahawks fail, they figure out a way to succeed.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JerryBrewer