Doug Farrar: Seahawks 2008 injuries were of historic proportions
Posted by Doug Farrar
With Danny's kind indulgence, I wanted to weigh in on one aspect of his excellent counterpoint to Colin Cowherd's assertion that Mike Holmgren was "mailing it in" last season. Danny brought up the Seahawks' astonishing injury rate last year, and asked how it was that the Patriots could survive the loss of Tom Brady while the Seahawks couldn't get past their own boo-boos.
The extent to which the Seahawks were affected by injury was actually historic. FO's Bill Barnwell came up with a stat known as Adjusted Games Lost, which measures how each team was affected by injury. As Vince Verhei pointed out in the Seattle chapter of the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Seahawks had the worst Offensive AGL going back to 1996. Losing Tom Brady -- well, maybe that should mean more than 15 starter games lost, given his overall value, but the Patriots had the benefit of Randy Moss and Wes Welker while Seattle's receiver corps resembled a CFL Futures All-Star game by Week 4.
The Pats had most of their starting offensive line through the season, while Seattle ended the season with every single starting offensive lineman on injured reserve. Only the Jaguars, who lost starting guards Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams in the season opener, had a higher AGL along their offensive line. Only three offensive players started 12 or more games for the Seahawks in 2008: Koren Robinson, Floyd Womack, and Walter Jones.
As I pointed out on the New England chapter of the FOA, losing Tom Brady didn't keep the Patriots out of the playoffs. In the second half of the season, New England had the highest-rated offense according to DVOA in the NFL. Once Matt Cassel got the hang of the system, and the staff adjusted to what he could do, that offense started humming. Why? Because they had a continuity that the Seahawks could only dream about. New England started the same left tackle, left guard, and center all season. They were never without defensive linemen Vince Wilfork or Richard Seymour. The primary injury clumps came at positions with problems under any circumstances -- a linebacker corps caught between veteran experience and new young blood, a surprisingly effective (but heavily system-dependent) running game, and a secondary that gave up far too many plays (the primary thing the Seahawks and Patriots had in common).
The Seahawks did not have one offensive position in which one player started all sixteen games. The closest was the starting tailback position, which seemed to be as much about a battle of wills between Tim Ruskell (in Julius Jones' corner) and Mike Holmgren representing the Maurice Morris party) than anything else. Every other offensive position was decimated, and the chances of putting together any sort of cohesive season under such circumstances are exceedingly low.
The good news is that injuries tend to regress to the mean, which indicates good things for teams like the Seahawks and Bengals, who were waylaid by missing players last season. It's one of the primary reasons FO projects the Seahawks to have a bounceback season of impressive proportions.
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