Jon Gruden on the Seahawks: "They can hand it to you"
Related column: Jon Gruden's Russell Wilson prophecy comes to pass
Jon Gruden, the Super Bowl-winning coach turned "Monday Night Football" analyst, doesn't just believe in Russell Wilson. He also thinks the Seahawks are a legitimate playoff contender.
Gruden has plenty of concerns about the offense, but he bases the Seahawks' legitimacy on three things: Marshawn Lynch and the run game, the special teams and, of course, the defense.
"I really like their defense," Gruden said. "Their personnel is good, and almost all of their starters from last season returned. They play a unique system that's really exclusive to the Seahawks. They can dominate you on defense if you're not ready. They can hand it to you."
Gruden led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 48-21 victory in Super Bowl XXXVII, and the Bucs followed a similar defense-first blueprint to win their championship. Of course, there are several differences that even go beyond the dissimilar schemes of each defense. Tampa Bay was a veteran team with plenty of playoff history, and it already had established itself as one of the greatest defenses of all time. The Seahawks are young and emerging. Gruden was in his first-year in Tampa, and the offensive guru was charged with providing just enough offense to get the team over the top. Pete Carroll has been able to build the roster to his specifications.
Still, Gruden knows how a dominant defense can carry a team. He says the Seahawks have a defense capable of doing that, and they have some nice complementary components.
"With Leon Washington and their solid kicking game, they're really solid in two of the three phases," Gruden said. "If they're solid on offense, if they don't turn it over and score just enough, they're definitely a playoff contender. This is Year 3 for Pete Carroll, and he has the right kind of guys.
"They should be competitive. They should be right there. They should be competing for a playoff spot."