My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

Marshawn Lynch Retired (and there was also a Super Bowl thingy)

One way or another, we all went into this offseason at least 98% certain that Marshawn Lynch had played his last game in a Seahawks uniform.  So, in that sense, what happened on Sunday isn’t really all that shocking.  Nevertheless, leave it to Beastmode to still manage to surprise us, both with his timing and execution.

✌

It really is more bittersweet than anything.  We all knew the day would come, and we all figured it would come sooner rather than later.  But, I wouldn’t have been upset at all to see him give it one more year.  Even though it probably would’ve done a number on our cap, and there’s a decent chance it would’ve smacked of a guy playing one year too long.  But, you know, sometimes it feels okay to just be a dumb fan who’d like to watch his favorite football player give it one more go.

I’m not upset, or even disappointed.  I totally get it.  The guy has done everything there is to do in the NFL.  He was selected in the first round of the draft.  He got to play in both conferences, on both ends of the country.  He had six 1,000-yard seasons.  He played for five playoff teams, two Super Bowl teams, and won it all once.  He racked up over 9,000 yards rushing, another almost-2,000 yards receiving, and a combined 83 touchdowns.  He even threw for a touchdown in his rookie season!  You trivia buffs will want to remember the name Robert Royal, tight end for the Bills for three years, as he was on the receiving end of Lynch’s only pass completion in the NFL.

Marshawn Lynch retires 36th all time in NFL history in total rushing yards (regular season), with 9,112.  The best comp is one we’ve heard a million times, Earl Campbell, who is a Hall of Famer and shows up 34th all time with 9,407 yards.  Except for a few old timers, the magic number to get as a running back is 12,000.  Everyone except Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, and LaDainian Tomlinson who has over 12,000 yards has made it; Gore, obviously, is still playing, LDT hasn’t been eligible until next year (I believe), and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before James makes it in (he’s nobody’s first-ballot guy, but he certainly belongs).  There are a whole mess of retired guys in that next tier – above Lynch, but below Edge – who have yet to make it in the Hall, and likely will NEVER make it in the hall (including guys like Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, Ricky Williams, Eddie George, Tiki Barber, Thomas Jones, Jamal Lewis, Ricky Watters, Warrick Dunn, Corey Dillon, and Fred Taylor).  But, early consensus appears to give Lynch a real shot.

Obviously, time will tell as to how this thing shakes out among Hall of Fame voters.  Lynch is a very polarizing figure among the media.  Some people hate him for his shenanigans the last few years (his not talking, then his bizarre Media Day appearances), while others couldn’t care less.  I would hope that voters would focus more on his on-field play, but even then, if you factor in the numbers, you have to ask why a guy like Lynch deserves to be in the Hall, while a media-favorite like Eddie George has repeatedly gotten the shaft.  There are ways to play the numbers in favor of both guys (total yardage vs. per-carry average, for starters), but if you strictly look at the numbers, there are a lot of overlooked guys Lynch would have to leapfrog over to make it into the Hall (good thing he’ll have Mike Sando in his corner).

I think Lynch belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I’m decidedly biased.  He actually reminds me A LOT of Edgar Martinez’s case to be a Hall of Famer.  Someone who, on the surface, doesn’t quite have the numbers compared to some of these other guys (Lynch and total yards; Martinez and total hits/homers/RBIs), but once you dig a little deeper, it seems so obvious why they should be honored.  For starters, just listen to how other players talk about them.  Go around the league and talk to guys who pitched from 1992-2003 and ask them who were the toughest batters to get out; just see how highly ranked Edgar falls among the people who know best.  Similarly, go around the league and talk to guys who played defense from 2007-2015 and ask them who the toughest running backs were to bring down; you won’t find many – if any – ranked ahead of Beastmode.  There are raw stats, and there’s The Way He Played The Game.  Edgar played a clean game in an era full of rampant cheating with steroids and whatnot.  Lynch played like a battering ram in an era where speed and elusiveness ruled the day.  They don’t make running backs like Lynch anymore.  I feel like that ultimately deserves more credit, compared to guys who are quick to go to the ground or run out of bounds.

There’s also the factor of shortened careers.  Edgar’s career was shortened in the sense that he should have been promoted to the Major Leagues WAY before the Mariners finally did so.  He could’ve had an extra 2-3 years added onto the beginning of his career, which likely would’ve given him the raw numbers to be in the Hall already.  With Lynch, you could argue he still has another 2-3 years left in his legs.  Even with the way he plays the game, he was only really seriously injured one time, in 2015, when that abdomen injury required surgery to expedite his return for the playoffs.  I don’t think anyone would’ve been shocked if the Seahawks released him from his contract this year, followed by him signing with the Raiders or 49ers or something, to play an extra couple years and get over that 10,000-yard hump.  But, you know, he would’ve been on the downside of his career, and by the end it probably wouldn’t have looked too pretty.  This way, Lynch goes out on his own terms, with his body still mostly intact.

We may never know the extent of what the game took away from Lynch, but I have a theory that the hits you take in your 30s do more long-lasting damage than the hits you take in your 20s.  I feel like if more of these guys who played too long gave it up the way Lynch and Barry Sanders and Jim Brown and others who went out while still in their primes did, we wouldn’t see nearly as many sad-sack cases of former players really struggling just to function.  Obviously, you can argue that the NFL shielded a lot of this from the players over the decades, but some of it has to be common sense.  You’re getting repeatedly hit, over and over again.  You suffer injuries and multiple surgeries, you’re probably going to have some issues later in life.  The warrior mentality is one thing, but playing through injury or overstaying your welcome isn’t doing anyone any good.  I have the utmost respect for guys who give it up in their primes, just as I have the utmost respect for players who take themselves out of the game when they’re too injured to actually help their teams.  Being a “warrior” is ultimately being a selfish asshole.  It’s why people soured on the legacy of Brett Favre – and to be perfectly honest, why I’ll sour hard on Peyton Manning if he tries to play even one more game.

The coolest thing about Beastmode’s “announcement” is that it happened during the Super Bowl.  Buttholes will try to spin it that Lynch was trying to outshine the Super Bowl, and make the day all about him, but those people are fucking dipshits.  For starters, literally nothing will ever overshadow the Super Bowl.  Isis could have literally descended onto the White House and jizzed all over it, and the Super Bowl would STILL be the number one story in America.  So, there was no way Lynch’s tweet would’ve gotten the attention it probably deserved, outside of the Seattle area.  He went out his way, which is 1) not talking about it to the media/not making a big to-do about a retirement tour or something; and 2) playing it so low key that most of the NFL fans outside of Seattle probably STILL don’t know that Lynch is retiring.

It’s a bummer that it’s all over.  To be perfectly honest, I like that he is retiring as a Seahawk, but he’s so fun to watch I wouldn’t even care if he played for another team (even the God damn 49ers).  I’d still cheer him on.  It’s going to be weird not having him back there next year, taking handoffs from Russell Wilson.  But, I’m glad he’s going out the way he wants to go out, relatively healthy and wealthy and wise and whatnot.  We may not get to watch him truck guys anymore, but there’s a seemingly endless number of clips online we can go back and watch until we’re blue in the face.

Beastmode, there was no one like you, and there’s no way to replace you.  I’m sure this isn’t the last I’ll have to say on the matter.

Sounds Like The Huskies Won A Wild One Last Night Against ASU

I was at the David Cross show at The Moore last night.  It started at 8pm, which is the same time as the game.  Between the 90-minute show, and the walk home to my apartment in South Lake Union, I really had no business being able to catch any of the Husky basketball game last night.  When you top it off with the fact that instead of checking the score, I made some dinner and went right into watching an episode of “You’re The Worst” before THEN going on Twitter to find out the game was just going into overtime (at I want to say 10:30pm or so), it’s pretty safe to say that this was a game the Pac-12 refs decided to make all about themselves.

Hey, it happens.  I feel for the people who had to slog through the whole 3+ hours, when all was said and done.  I feel for the players, who just have no idea what they can and can’t do, as the rules appear to change at the whim of complete psychopaths.  I feel for the coaches, who have to try to keep their players calm while at the same time – I’m sure – wanting to explode themselves at the insanity they’re seeing from the guys in black & white.

In the end, though, the Huskies were able to overcome.  ASU hit a late three-pointer to tie the game, but they pretty much had no shot once the game went into overtime.  For starters, they’re not quite as talented as the Huskies, and for another they’re certainly not as athletic.  I gotta figure the Dawgs simply ran them off the court and fatigue got the better of the Sun Devils in the extra period.

Dejounte Murray was apparently a man on a mission last night, scoring a game-high 34 points, all on either free throws or drives in the paint.  THAT is something, I think, we’ve been waiting to see all year from the phenom.  Shooting the ball is nice, and it’s certainly something he can improve upon at the next level, but to see him as aggressive as he was, and capable enough to finish in traffic, was really a sight to behold.  If we can get that out of him (and I’m not saying 34 points per game, but I am saying that type of aggression and driving style of play), the sky is the limit for this team.  Of course, if he keeps it up, there’s a good chance he could be a One & Done guy.  Scouts tend to take notice when you put up a line of 34 points, 11 boards, and 6 assists.

When he fouled out early in the overtime period, you could probably forgive the people who’d watched the whole game for worrying about our chances.  He was far and away the best player on the floor last night, and our captain – Andrew Andrews – had yet to hit a single field goal all game.  But, to his tremendous credit, two possessions after Murray collected his fifth foul, Andrews nailed a three-pointer from the wing, then followed that up on our very next possession with a pull-up jumper in the lane.  It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch for Andrews – and was further ammunition for the haters, I’m sure – but that’s exactly why I have such high regard for Andrews.  He’s the type of player that’s not going to get discouraged in his abilities, even if he starts 0 for 11 from the field.  But, he’s also smart enough, and unselfish enough, to see a guy like Dejounte Murray was having the game of his life, and facilitated him getting the ball and going to work throughout the evening.  THEN, when the star of the show is unceremoniously knocked out of the game by the refs, in spite of his poor shooting to that point, Andrews is still able to take over the game, hit a couple of HUGE shots to keep the lead insurmountable, and then finish it off at the free throw line in the closing minutes.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget, Andrews led the team by playing 42 of 45 total minutes.  Simply incredible.

I dunno, maybe I’m just lucky and I tend to turn on the game when Andrews is playing well.  Or, maybe I’m just focusing on what I want to focus on.  I just think he gets a lot of grief from a lot of fans and it’s totally undeserved.

There’s some other interesting numbers in this one.  Marquese Chriss finished with 19 points on 7 for 7 shooting and another 5 free throws.  Thybulle was the fourth Husky to finish with double digit points with 10, including two made three pointers.

The Huskies out-rebounded ASU 41-33, including more than holding their own on the defensive glass (which can be a problem for the Dawgs at times).  The Huskies went to the line 45 times, which is GREAT, even though they only made 31, which is less great.  There were a combined 60 personal fouls called, which is pretty ridiculous, even for the Pac-12 refs.  Let’s clean it up, guys.

This was a very important game for the Huskies to not lose.  We’re running into a similar situation as last week – on the road, against the L.A. schools – where we won the front-end of the series against the inferior opponent.  Now, we have Arizona looming on Saturday at 1:30pm.  A win over the Wildcats would give us another win against a ranked opponent (and a very good RPI opponent), and would put us a full two games ahead of them in the Pac-12 standings.  The Ducks still lead the Dawgs by a half game (they host the Mountain schools this week), and USC, Utah, and Colorado all trail the Dawgs by a half game (tied in the loss column).  So, not only does a sweep of the Arizona schools look good for our overall Tournament resume, but it’ll help us fend off the wild pack of rabid animals on our heels.

The 1984 Seahawks: So Close And Yet So Far

In my oft-delayed and continuing series of recapping the seasons of failed Seattle playoff teams, I present the 1984 Seattle Seahawks.  You can find this link under the “Seattle Playoff Futility” tab up top, or you can just click HERE.  I swear, I’m going to get through all of these at some point before I die, but don’t quote me on that.

What I Learned At Mariners FanFest 2016

Me and a buddy went on Saturday.  Doors opened at 11am, we got there probably around 10:50am or so.  $10 to get in, I believe it went until 4pm, but I was out of there a little after 1pm.  This is what I learned at my little over two hours at FanFest this year.

So many activities ...

So many activities …

1.  It was WAY busier than I anticipated.  I’ve been to one other Mariners FanFest, but I can’t remember for the life of me when it was.  I want to say it was at some point between 2003 and 2006, as I remember I was still taking photos with a disposable camera, but that’s all I got.  Back then, it used to take place outside of Safeco Field (I think they might have offered guided tours of the stadium, but for the most part, all of the events and food and whatnot were out on that street next to what’s now CenturyLink).  All the autograph signings were inside the WaMu Theater.  Other than signings and concessions, I don’t really remember what else the old FanFest had to offer.  But, I know it wasn’t NEARLY as packed as this one ended up being.

2.  The line to get vouchers for autographs was insane.  Maybe we were foolish to get there 10 minutes before opening and expect to get one of the higher profile autographs, but it ended up being a non-starter once we saw the line.  It led into the Home Plate entrance on the southwest corner of the stadium, and the line went all the way down to Blazin’ Bagels, all the way back to the other end, and all the way BACK again.  I couldn’t tell you how many people that encapsulated, but it looked to be well over the 300 autographs per athlete threshold they’d set up.  If you’re looking to go there next year, and you’re dead set on getting an autograph from your favorite player, my recommendation is to get there at least an hour before it opens.

3.  Autograph hounds are fucking annoying as shit.  Are you kidding me???  Who has the patience to stand around for a fucking hour in the fucking January cold, just to get a fucking autograph you can probably BUY for $50 online or at any team store?  DON’T YOU PEOPLE HAVE LIVES???

4.  Probably a good idea to bring your own baseballs or other merch for the players to sign.  I don’t know if the FanFest people provided things for the players to sign if you forgot – as, again, I didn’t get an autograph, so I’m not 100% sure on the process and the execution – but my guess is if you didn’t bring something for them to sign, then they’re probably signing your entrance ticket or your FanFest program or whatever’s in your pocket/purse.

5.  There were two entrances opened – the autograph entrance, and the main, left field entrance.  We saw the autograph line and opted for the other one, which ended up being probably just as long.  That line went all the way down towards the freeway, then curled around back towards the entrance again.  I didn’t time it or anything, but I think we had a 10-15 minute wait just to get inside.

6.  While the wait is annoying, getting there before it opens is still probably your best bet.  I think it was busiest around noon or 1pm, so getting there when it opens affords you shorter lines on the activities inside.

7.  The main on-field attractions were:  pitching in the bullpen, to real, live catchers (and radar guns); hitting a “home run”; the zipline; rounding the bases; and having a catch in the outfield.  I was there for two hours and somehow only managed to do two of those things.

8.  The first thing we did was pitch in the bullpen.  Both the visitor’s and home bullpens were open, with two catchers apiece.  You get three pitches, so make ’em count.  My first pitch was actually a strike, low and away (I threw nothing but sinkers in this bullpen sesh); but I couldn’t tell you how fast it went.  30?  35 mph?  The old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.  My last two pitches were both low and in the dirt.  I didn’t give the imaginary batter anything to hit!  But … I left with the count 2-1; can’t be falling behind the hitter, that’s no way to run a railroad.

9.  Probably the smarter thing to do would be to FIRST do the Have A Catch In The Outfield thing.  Apparently, they provide you with a glove and a ball if you didn’t bring any, so that’s cool.  They had a little section of left field roped off like you’re in a petting zoo or something – so you couldn’t just run all around the outfield willy nilly – and you were allowed three minutes of tossing the ball back and forth with your friend or parent or whoever (I doubt the Mariners provided people who went to this thing by themselves with a complimentary companion to throw to, so best to go with someone).  We ended up walking all around the stadium before we got back around to doing this.  Instead of a line, they sat people down in the lower level seats in front of the outfield section.  And, every 3 minutes, they’d call another row to go down onto the field.  From the looks of all the people in our section, it appeared we were at least 15 rows deep, but I could be exaggerating and it could’ve been more like 10 rows.  Either way, we were probably looking at a 30-45 minute wait, just for three minutes of throwing the baseball around.  So, like I said, probably better to do that one FIRST, get it out of the way, get your arm warmed up, and THEN do the bullpen session.

10.  The next thing we did was the Hit A Home Run thing.  They set up these quasi-batting cages, with batting tees at each one.  You stood, I dunno, maybe 20-30 feet away from the home run fence in left-center field, and with a long plastic bat, you were to hit a wiffle ball over the fence.  I’m not totally sure how many tries you were supposed to get – maybe three or so – and then you walk your ass back.  My buddy hit a homer on his second or third try.

11.  I learned that I SUCK at hitting a ball off of a tee.  We were cracking jokes about the people ahead of us who were attempting this amazing feat, and as soon as I laughed at some old guy for repeatedly hitting the tee instead of the ball, I knew.  Sure as shit, I took four swings at the wiffle ball, and EVERY FUCKING TIME I hit the tee, causing the ball to fly backwards, and denting the tee in the process.  It was the most demoralizing, depressing experience of my life, and I’ve been to a Hooters before!

12.  The team store in the stadium was a madhouse.  I wanted to buy a new hat for a new Mariners season, and I had my eye on the one with the red/plaid bill and matching S, but I didn’t like the way it fit on my gigantic head, so I ended up purchasing nothing, because I didn’t want to wait for-fucking-ever to get it bought and paid for.  Also, do they not have a hat size bigger than 8?  Because, if I’m being honest, I could probably go 8 and a quarter.

13.  I don’t think they make fitted Sonics hats; they’re all snap-back.  As a guy with a gigantic head, snap-backs don’t really work for me.  I hit up both of the Seattle team stores outside of the stadium on my way home, but no dice.  Gonna have to go online, I think; fingers crossed!

14.  Bagel dogs from Blazin’ Bagels are just as good when you’re sober in January as they are when you’re drunk in April!  I never let an opportunity go by when I’m at Safeco Field without getting at least one bagel dog to chow on.

15.  Oh, speaking of which, they were serving beer, for those of you adults who like drinking beer at the stadium.  I didn’t feel like getting drunk on massively-expensive beverages – especially when I was planning on going out later that night – but it’s nice to know they’re there.  Of course, by the same token, you probably gotta watch your P’s & Q’s, what with the massive influx of children all around you.  I’m not normally one to fall all over myself with the “Won’t Someone Please Think Of The Children?” routine, as I feel like kids are generally coddled too much anyway.  But, I’d rather avoid their annoying parents, who are sure to give you dirty looks and/or passive aggressively ask you to “tone it down”.  People are the worst.

16.  Speaking of people being the worst, I can’t stand Q&A sessions.  I technically didn’t just learn this for the first time over the weekend; I’ve always hated Q&A sessions, for any reason.  The general public, by and large, ask THE DUMBEST questions; I find myself cringing WAY more than I find myself wanting to know the answer.  But, if that’s something you’re interested in, and you fancy yourself a wannabe beat writer or something, that was happening over the home team dugout throughout the day.

17.  There were lots of other smaller things going on around the concourse.  You could vote on this year’s King’s Court shirt, you could meet the Moose (probably better if you have a child with you), you could spin various wheels to win fabulous prizes.  I think I even saw the KOMO 4 News Team signing autographs, if that’s your thing.  I’m more of a Dan Lewis guy, and I don’t think I saw Steve Pool there, so I decided to hard pass.  There was a bunch of other stuff to do too, I just can’t remember it all.

18.  So, was it worth it?  For ten bucks, I’d say so.  It’s definitely something that’s primarily geared towards kids, so if you’ve got kids and they like baseball (or if you WANT them to like baseball), this is probably a great way to get them invested in the Mariners.  I’d certainly go back next year, knowing what I know now, and maybe be one of those idiots who gets there an hour early for autographs (if there’s a player I’m interested in meeting, of course).

19.  Now that I think about it, getting back to the autographs thing, there were up to four guys autographing at a time, for 90-minutes at a time.  And, remember that line I told you about, before the FanFest started?  That’s the line to get VOUCHERS for autographs.  My thinking all along was that those people standing in that long line before the gates opened were JUST looking to get something signed from one of the players from the first session of the day.  But, those people waiting could have just as easily asked to get a voucher for one of the afternoon sessions as well.  So, if someone really wanted an autograph from a player who didn’t start signing until 2pm, they would most likely still have to wait in that early-ass line before FanFest even opened.  Huh.

20.  If Taijuan Walker blows up this year, like many national writers are predicting, I might be kicking myself for not trying harder to get his autograph at this thing.  Who knows if he’ll ever be back???

21.  FYI, you’ll really want to gather info directly from the Mariners themselves if you plan on going next year.  I’ve probably glossed over a tenth of all the possible things you can do at the Mariners FanFest.  They give you a program as you walk in, which I want to say listed upwards of 40 things or more that you could do, including media room tours, clubhouse tours, and so on and so forth.  I half-assed it this year, but with careful planning, you can probably get WAY more bang for your buck.  Nevertheless, I’m perfectly secure with the amount of bang I got for mine.

Why Aren’t The Seahawks In The Super Bowl?

If you read that title like I’m four years old, it makes the bulk of this post very different.  For some kids around that age, you seriously got to wonder:  why aren’t they letting my team play this weekend?  I DON’T GET IT!!!  *throws tantrum, runs away screaming and slamming doors*

It does kinda suck, though.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I really got used to spending these weeks leading up to the Super Bowl reading all about how great my team is.  And writing about how great my team is.  And just generally basking in the glow that is being a participant in the biggest annual spectacle in the entire world (even if it’s just from a fan’s perspective).  You get to look back at the season that was, while at the same time knowing there’s still one game left to play that will determine whether or not your team is the best.  You get to look forward to the game itself, breaking it down piece by piece, trying to get a handle on whether or not your team will come out victorious.

Two years of that.  Two straight years of being one of the last teams to play a meaningful game of football.  But, this year, we’re heading into Super Bowl week on the outside looking in.

And, not for nothing, but it absolutely sickens me to my core.  I try not to think about this, because it WILL drive me absolutely bonkers, but come on:  the Seahawks would KILL this Broncos team, almost as badly as we killed them two years ago!  Fucking A, is the AFC a weak-ass bullshit conference!  You think Peyton Manning’s noodle arm is going to pick us apart?  If he couldn’t do it at his peak two years ago, what makes you think he could do it now when he’s about a week away from announcing his retirement?  And their defense?  Pardon me if I don’t crap myself with terror!  No doubt, over two weeks of prep, we’d find a way to get the job done.

ARGH!  ARGH I SAY!  If the Seahawks could have only showed up in the first half of that Carolina game, we would have gone on to Arizona – who we would’ve handled easily, especially considering Carson Palmer’s messed-up thumb – and we’d be looking at a third straight Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened since those early-70s Dolphins teams those early-90s Bills teams!

Gotta stop.  Gotta put that agony away and focus on the reality of the world we’re living in.  One where Cam Newton is less than a week away from having as many Super Bowl victories as Russell Wilson (and, odds are, infinitely more Super Bowl MVP awards).  Get ready for the Panthers to be our foil for the next decade, because it’s looking like them and the Seahawks will be the teams to beat in the NFC for this generation.

A question hit me over the weekend, that I thought I’d workshop here:  why didn’t we make the Super Bowl?  Answer:  because we lost in the playoffs.  But, why did we lose?

As has been the case since the Seahawks went on this run, and managed to win a world championship, I like to look at our place in history (as it’s happening).  The hope of hopes being that this team would be a dynasty, like so many great teams throughout NFL history.  The talent is there on the field, the talent is there in the coaching staff, the climate is right for a team to pick up where the Patriots are inevitably going to leave off.  Could THIS Seahawks team be ranked among the all time great dynasties?

Well, you’re going to need multiple Super Bowl titles for starters, something we’re still working on.  The worry, of course, is that we’ve somehow missed the boat.  Plenty of dynasties have had an off-year in the midst of their dynastic run; it’s entirely possible that the Seahawks return to form, seal up the NFC in 2016, and go on to take down a second Super Bowl victory against whatever bullshit gets squeezed out of the AFC’s butthole.

I guess, the question I’m looking to answer is:  was 2015 a temporary dip?  Some flaw that can be easily rectified before returning this team to its dominant glory days?  OR, has a team like the Panthers officially done enough to surpass us?  Are the Seahawks still on the cutting edge of the NFL?  Or, are we just another member of The Pack, looking up at the greatness that is whatever the hell they’re doing in Carolina?

That’s probably a little drastic, but it’s something my insecure brain lands on when confronted with two weeks of pre-Super Bowl build up and no Seahawks talk whatsoever.  We like to sit here in our Pacific Northwest bubble and celebrate the huge leap forward in Russell Wilson’s development, but it should be pretty scary to look over there and see the huge leap forward in Cam Newton’s development.  It’s hard to see in the numbers themselves; his year-to-year progression is a little wacky, and you could argue that Cam Newton is what he is and is what he has been all along.  He’s going to hover around 60% completions, around 4,000 passing yards, but he had a monster jump in passing TDs, as well as a career-low in interceptions.  Top that off with his usual bananas production in the running game, and you’ve got someone who will be a force for the rest of his career.  Even as his legs start to wear down (whenever that may be), he’s proven to be adept-enough in the pocket to lead his team to victories.  Oh, and let’s not forget, this year he probably had the fewest weapons in the passing game of any year in his career!  He lost his #1 receiver before the season even started, then went on to have probably the best year he’ll ever have!  Think about THAT!  Think about what that team would look like if they ever managed to draft an elite receiver like DeAndre Hopkins.  Or signed a receiver like Alshon Jeffery in free agency this offseason.  I may not like Cam Newton, but I respect the shit out of his game.

Is it Carolina, and not Seattle, who is the real dynasty of this decade?

God, perish the thought, but now it’s out there.  And, once they dismantle the Broncos just like we did a couple years ago, it’s going to be all anyone talks about this offseason.  So, have fun with that.

Ups & downs, strikes and gutters, these things happen.  I still believe the Seahawks are right there.  My biggest lament, and probably the main reason why we might not be the next New England Patriots, is that we don’t play in an insufferably weak division like the AFC East.  The Pats have had their run of things, in large part, because they don’t have to worry about being a Wild Card team, or going out on the road in the first round of the playoffs.  The Pats, with Brady and Belichick, will never know the struggle of going into the playoffs as a 6-seed and having to win out on the road against three caged tigers.  Usually, their schedule is easy-enough that they get to walk blindfolded into a top 2 seed, then they play some upstart, then they grapple with whatever team Peyton Manning is on (and, starting next year, I doubt they’ll even have Manning’s carcass to kick around anymore).  The Seahawks, on the other hand, have always had a Top 2-calibre team within their own division, a bevy of stout defenses to tangle with, and at least one other Top-2 calibre team somewhere else in the NFC to get past.  Next year looks to be no different, as long as Carson Palmer can remain upright.

So, the question is:  will Carolina continue to have the pathetically easy road a la New England?  Or, will their division mates finally start pulling their own weight?

You gotta like what Jameis Winston did in his rookie year.  Tampa could be frisky, if they ever get their shit together.  New Orleans probably has seen its best days; with Drew Brees aging out of the league any year now, they probably won’t be able to rebuild the roster around him before he retires (with the probability that they, in fact, end up trading Brees and go Full Rebuild from scratch).  Atlanta is the real enigma.  We all think that Dan Quinn is the real deal, but it’s just as likely that he’s not, especially if they don’t figure out how to make that defense better (and if they don’t provide Matt Ryan with the weapons on offense he so clearly needs).

It’s entirely possible that Carolina will dominate that division next season just as they did this one.  But, like the Seahawks, they’ll have to tangle with the NFC West next year (on the road to face the Rams and Seahawks, hosting the 49ers and Cards).  And, cherry on top, they play the most difficult division in the AFC next year in the AFC West (on the road in Denver & Oakland; hosting San Diego & Kansas City).  Odds are, even if they do as well in their own division as they did in 2015, they won’t come close to 15 regular season wins.

God, I seriously can’t wait for the 2016 NFL season to start.  August can’t come soon enough.

The Huskies Were Unable To Sweep The L.A. Schools

The Huskies aren’t a finished product, which is really a good thing.  They’re not going to win out, they’re not a world champion team.  But, they still have room to improve, so there’s hope.  It would be insane to have your thinking so warped that only a national championship could bring you joy from this team.  Better to keep your expectations more in the rational range.  A regular season conference title would be fantastic.  A Pac-12 Tournament title would be amazing.  An NCAA Tournament appearance, quite honestly, would be the best possible scenario for this team, regardless of whether or not it goes on to win a single game (although, if you’ll permit me to be greedy, I’d REALLY like to see the Huskies get past the play-in round, so I can cheer them on when I’m gambling in Tahoe during the first weekend of the tournament).

There’s a limit to how well this team can play, so sometimes you’re going to see the Huskies get run out of the gym like they did in Arizona a few weeks ago.  Or, just spin their wheels for 40 minutes like they did on Saturday down in USC, ultimately losing by 10 points.  In this game, it was just your garden variety defensive breakdown, as the Trojans got to the basket at will, with either their guards finishing, or dishing to nearby big men who’d finish for them.  We got beat pretty soundly on the boards, we got KILLED at the free throw line (where USC scored 32 of their 98 points), and offensively, we shot pretty terribly, particularly from long range.

The Huskies can hang with the better teams – and sometimes even beat them – but there are going to be times where the better teams just overwhelm.  One would hope that, by season’s end, getting overwhelmed won’t be a regular occurrence.

It’s unfortunate that the defense was so non-existent on Saturday, because offensively – even with how poorly the Huskies shot the ball from three (8 of 32) – they did enough to win that game by putting up 88 points.  On the road, the Huskies went to the line 28 times, hitting a crazy 24 of them.  They also managed 18 offensive rebounds and 18 assists.  And, while USC shot a high number of free throws, none of our bigs were in foul trouble (the only Huskies who fouled out were Dorsey and Andrews, but that was after Andrews had already played 38 of 40 minutes).

That one hurts a little bit in the long run, but it can be made up for this weekend when the Huskies host Arizona.  While it’ll be important to not overlook the Sun Devils on Wednesday, it’s pretty vital for the Huskies to find a way to win on Saturday against the 18th 23rd ranked Wildcats.  Primarily to atone for the 32-point drubbing last month, but also simply to improve our stock in RPI and give us another significant win.

The Huskies Ran The Gamut Of Their Huskiness In Narrow Victory At UCLA

You saw the Huskies at their best last night, and you saw the Huskies at their worst.  The two extremes were JUST enough to lock down a 2-point victory, 86-84.

It was a pretty far fucking cry from what happened in the first half.  Total domination from head to toe, as the Huskies raced out to a 51-33 halftime lead.  The Huskies hit over 50% of their shots and were getting contributions from all over the lineup.  Dominic Green – who is maybe the 8th or 9th guy in the rotation – played a season-high 23 minutes, having easily his best game.  Part of that was probably due to all the foul trouble (really, happening with both teams, but hit pretty hard on the Husky big men), but Green still contributed with 10 points, including 2 of 5 from behind the arc.

Six Huskies in total scored in double figures, with Dejounte Murray very nearly the 7th with his 9 points, on an uncharacteristic off-night.  Indeed, it was a pretty off-night for all of the guards, as Murray, Andrews, and Crisp shot a combined 8 for 31 (26%) from the floor.  But, they did make up for it at the line, scoring 13 of their combined 31 points at the stripe.  And, they also had a combined 7 steals and 10 assists to keep things moving in what was a sloppy game in general, with the Huskies having 19 turnovers.

The big men really led the charge, with Noah Dickerson playing just a monster game with a bum ankle.  He almost single-handedly kept us in the game when guys like Chriss, Thybulle, Dime, and Andrews were all in serious foul trouble.  It’s not the most remarkable line in the world, but Dickerson’s 15 points and 8 boards were essential in keeping us in this thing when the shit started to hit the fan.

With that huge 18-point lead, you knew it was going to go one of two ways:  either the Huskies would keep the throttle down and blow them out by 30, or the Bruins would go on a second-half run and eventually overtake us.  Obviously, you can tell what happened.  My friends and I were cheering harder for UCLA misses (with the Huskies only leading by 10 points) than we were for any of the high-flying action in the first half.

I thought a few other things stood out.  David Crisp hit a pretty important 3-pointer with a little under 9 minutes to go in the game.  UCLA had just pulled the deficit to single-digits for the first time since the first half, and it appeared the Huskies were playing in a thick fog, with no one really wanting to put up the shot to stop the bleeding.  But, Crisp will take that shot all day, and he nailed it.

Next up, with a little over 4 minutes to go in the game, UCLA had pulled to within one point, and Murray – having his aforementioned off-night – drained a three to slow the onslaught.

But, most importantly of all, and maybe the underrated star of this game, was Donaven Dorsey.  He was inserted into the game late, thanks to Dime, Chriss, and Thybulle all fouling out.  With 2:31 left in the game, almost immediately after he stepped onto the court, with the game TIED, Dorsey jacked up a three that rattled off.  Sure, he was probably a little cold – he’d only played 8 minutes the whole game, most of that in the first half – but you can just imagine Husky fans everywhere asking what in the hell he thought he was doing.  Then, sure enough, with a little over a minute to go, after UCLA had completed their comeback by taking a 3-point lead, Dorsey found himself in the corner, in front of the Husky bench, when a quick pass from Murray hit him in the hands.  Without a care in the world, Dorsey launched and hit the game-tying three.

Outstanding!  Play of the game right there!  Sure, with the game still tied, with the clock winding down, Andrew Andrews had the ball, dribbling to his left, and upfaked a big man with three seconds left in the game, causing him to fall on Andrews as he threw up a prayer of a shot, forcing the refs to call a foul.  And, sure, Andrews hit both free throws, even though UCLA tried to ice him by calling a time out between the two.  And, yeah, someone (I don’t remember who), forced Bruce Alford – who led the game with 28 points, most of those in the second half as he led UCLA’s massive comeback – to pass off the final shot to some other guy on the team who wasn’t NEARLY as fireball-hot as Alford was in those final 20 minutes, leading to the brick as the clock struck all-zeroes to officially decide the game.  But, I’m telling you, without Dorsey’s three right there, I don’t know if the Huskies even get to a point to put the game away with free throws.

That’s a huge moment in the young career of Donaven Dorsey.  I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to lead to bigger and better things for him; I just know that the whispers about him have been that he’s too tentative.  You don’t want to say a player is afraid or playing scared, but maybe he was lacking in confidence, not fully trusting his shot?  I mean, for a guy who doesn’t necessarily play the most stingy defense in the world, who is predominantly known for his outside shooting, and in his Freshman year last year, he only hits a shade under 34% of his threes, that could possibly get in one’s head.  But, not last night.  Last night, he was laser-focused, and he came through when it mattered most.

I started off this post talking a little bit about Dominic Green, and I ended this post talking a lot about Donaven Dorsey.  These are – flip-flop them however you see fit – the 8th & 9th guys in the rotation.  For the vast majority of the conference season, the Huskies have been running a strict 7-man rotation, and may now be realizing that was something of a mistake.  Probably a necessary one – as I don’t know if those 8th & 9th guys were ready for bigtime minutes – but with a team this young, and this prone to foul trouble, you’re going to run a lot of guys down playing extra minutes to compensate.  It’s VERY important to be able to run out a bigger rotation of guys to keep everyone fresh in these final weeks leading up to the Tournament.  This team isn’t going to solve its fouling issues overnight.

I know yesterday was kind of a kooky example, where certain players were in immediate foul trouble early, combined with the Huskies playing out of their minds in creating that 18-point lead.  But, it really looked like Romar made a concerted effort to get more guys involved, and early.  Even little-used 7th Freshman Devenir Duruisseau got some time in there when the game mattered.  Again, it could just be the circumstances of the evening, but I’ll say this, I don’t remember the Huskies making much of an effort to get all these guys involved in that Arizona game, especially early in the second half, when guys were still in foul trouble and the Wildcats had yet to start really pulling away.

A game like this can go a long way in boosting Romar’s confidence in some of these guys who seemed to have gotten short shrift this season.  Either way, just a HUGE win, on the road, in a “hostile” environment, against a team that might not be Tournament-good, but is still a prominent name in the college basketball world.  Now, it’s on to USC on Saturday, and another huge game.  Coming away from this L.A. trip with a split would be nice.  Coming away with a sweep would be season-altering.

Are We Entering A Golden Age Of Husky Basketball?

I did the bare minimum amount of research yesterday, which is pretty rare for me, I know.  Mostly, this is just a forum for my random bitching and hare-brained theories.  But, seeing as this is Husky Basketball Week, Monday brought us a broad recap of events in the season so far, Tuesday brought us my case for Andrew Andrews to be Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Wednesday brought us my overview on the rest of the 7-man rotation.  What else is there really to talk about?

I’m not normally one who gets his jollies by keeping informed on college recruitment.  Especially in football, but even in basketball, there’s a lot of downside to this practice.  You’ve got highly-rated players who decommit, you’ve got highly-rated players who flame out, you’ve got guys who get injured, you’ve got guys who red shirt and you don’t hear about for a full year, and on and on and on.  I couldn’t possibly imagine how one could keep his head straight with all the names and all the rankings and all the comings and all the goings.

The way I usually go about my Husky fandom is:  I glean whatever I can from Twitter and sports radio and the like – not REALLY paying attention, but sometimes certain names and such seep in – and then I wait until the games are actually played, and wait for people to stand out.  THEN, I’ll dig into them a little deeper to find out the story.  That way, there’s no surprises.  I’m not reading about an incoming recruit for six months, and then all of a sudden he decides to go play for Kentucky or something.

Did Terrence Jones ruin me on the recruitment side of college sports?  Ehh, maybe it’s for the best.

Anyway, I wanted to take a look at who the Huskies might be bringing in for future classes.  With the promise of this 2015/2016 season, and with the possibility that we can bring most of these guys back for at least a second season, I wondered if this would be a minor blip in an otherwise flatlining program, or if this could be the start of something major.

As a cool little quick reference, pull up this link and scroll down to the Basketball Recruiting Scholarship Chart.  It’s got all the guys currently on the roster, what class they’re in, and some essential facts about them when you scroll over their names.  It’s also got all the players who WOULD have been here, but transferred, or otherwise are no longer in the program.  I mean, Jesus, just look at the rest of that senior class under Andrews; what a crap sandwich!

Then, over there, to the right of the Freshmen, you get our future commits, either verbally or the regular kind, as well as the players we have offers out to (you’ll notice them in the royal blue, or also known as: “medium interest prospects”).

You’ll notice for 2016, not a lot of names.  That’s because, let’s be honest, Lorenzo Romar went hog-wild for this 2015 incoming class, so there just isn’t that much room.  We’ll lose Andrews for sure, and beyond that, you just never know who’s going to transfer (maybe guys who didn’t get the playing time they thought they were going to get; or guys looking at their futures and wondering where the minutes are going to come from with more exciting prospects on the way).

The 2016 guys with offers don’t look to be all that amazing.  But, the two guys who appear to be on their way to Washington certainly raise some eyebrows.

Sam Timmins is a 6’10, 250 pound center out of New Zealand, who looks like he could be the real deal.  He’s in for sure.  Only a 3-star prospect, but I feel like if he’s able to play right away – even off the bench at first – he’s going to REALLY help our depth among our bigs, while also help us tangle with the beefy center types on other teams (I know Arizona and Utah come immediately to mind as two teams who dominated us with their bigs, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting).  Pair Timmins with Dime, and you’ve got some shot-blocking maniacs.  And, if he comes in with the type of skills on the block that they’re saying he has, it shouldn’t take him long to move up the ranks of quality centers in the Pac-12.

The real find is Markelle Fultz, a 6’5, 5-star guard from the D.C. area, with no ties whatsoever to the Pacific Northwest.  I highly encourage you to read this post on what his committment means to the Husky program.  I know it’s only a verbal committment, and like Terrence Jones, he could just as easily be swayed by a last-ditch effort from a bigger program.  But, I’d like to think with the way we’ve been playing of late, and the renewed excitement for the Husky basketball program, he knows he’s coming into a good thing.

Obviously, there are downsides, like we know without a shadow of a doubt, barring injury, Fultz is a 1 & Done player, no question.  It would be a waste of breath or finger strength to try to argue otherwise.  But, the big upside here is that the Huskies are FINALLY starting to become a national player for big-name prospects.

THIS is where our patience with Lorenzo Romar has paid off, my friends.  And THIS is where our patience with all the down seasons of late has paid off.  Even though the Huskies have been struggling, Romar has still been able to mold college athletes into NBA players.  The official list can be found here, ten players in a decade – most recently C.J. Wilcox – have been drafted, with a few others here and there cracking rosters.  So, Romar has that pedigree.  Also, not for nothing, but the stability has to be pretty nice.  Romar’s in his 14th year, and to be honest, his recruiting skills are better than ever!

Also, this might be an underrated aspect that doesn’t get enough press, but I have to think that his being not only one of the few African American head coaches of a major college program, but also one of the longest-tenured African American head coaches, plays a pretty sizable role in developing relationships with some of the African American players he’s able to bring in.  That combined with the fact that, by all accounts, Lorenzo Romar is just a fantastic human being, and I think Washington offers a unique advantage over most other schools in the country.  Romar’s going to work you hard, but he’s going to reward those who buy in.  He’s not going to stand there and berate you in front of thousands.  And, probably most importantly, he’s not out there looking for the next bigger, more high-profile job.  With guys like Calipari, or some of these younger coaches who recently flipped to a bigger school, you never know when the other shoe is going to drop.  They have no loyalty to a program, and quite frankly, the programs don’t really have a loyalty to them.  If a hot young coach goes to a bigger school and struggles, how long of a leash will he have before they cut ties and move on to the next hot young coach?

With Romar, like I said, you’ve got stability.  He is Washington, and Washington is Romar.  The fact that he’s doing some of his best work, 14 years into his time here, just goes to show he still has that fire, still has that desire to be great, and to see Washington be great.  High school kids are going to pick up on that for sure.  Once that’s ingrained, then it’s just a matter of Winning Begetting Winning.  The iron is hot right now, so it’s time for the Huskies to strike.  Enter:  Markelle Fultz.

He’s an immediate replacement for the outgoing Andrew Andrews next year.  Given his pedigree, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to match the type of production Andrews has given us this season.  If Dejounte Murray sticks around for another season, with all the other players from this year carrying over, we are looking at an absolute MONSTER of a team for the 2016/2017 season.  I’m talking about the Huskies picked to be 1st in the Pac-12, with a very good chance of the Huskies being ranked in the Top 25, even as high as the Top 10!  I mean, shit, look at this lineup for next year:

  • Fultz – G
  • Murray – G
  • Thybulle – G/F
  • Chriss – F
  • Dickerson – F
  • Dime – F/C
  • Crisp – G
  • Green – G/F
  • Timmins – C
  • Dorsey – G/F

That’s a roster 10-deep, with equal measure defense and scoring.  Guys who can shoot, guys who can dribble-drive, big men who can post up, big men who can hit the mid-range jumper.  Granted, nothing is set in stone, but the hope is, if we can keep it all together, that’s the type of talent that can carry this program to the Final Four.

Where does that leave us for 2017 and beyond?  Well, we’re a way out on that, but you figure the Huskies will lose Fultz and Murray, as well as Dime (who will have exhausted his eligibility).  With the usual rash of transfers and whatnot, you might consider 2017 something of a rebuild.

But, looking back at that Verbal Commits chart, you can see we have a verbal from a 4-star recruit at guard, Daejon Davis, with a number of other offers out to various 4-star and 5-star recruits.  Given a successful couple of years, you’d have to think we’d be able to lock more and more of those types down.

Then, WAAAAY out into the 2018 incoming class, there’s an early verbal commit from Jontay Porter, a 4-star power forward, whose older brother is a 5-star small forward who has yet to commit.  Mmm hmm.  Things could get really interesting around Montlake in the coming years.

Time will tell if this is the start of something big, or if it’s another instance of getting jerked around by high hopes.  The influx of Wroten, Ross, and the like were supposed to jumpstart this thing too, and look at what happened.  But, I dunno.  This time, it feels different.  Instead of coming OH SO CLOSE to landing some of these whales, Romar is actually getting them to sign on the line which is dotted.  This could be real.  This could be spectacular.

Of course, talk to me if these verbal commits start to renege.  I’ll be the guy lowering the noose around his neck.

New Huskies Starting To Make Big Impact

You couldn’t help but take a Wait & See approach to this Husky basketball season, with all the turnover compared to recent years.  With Andrew Andrews being The Guy, and everyone else being complete unknowns, I don’t know if I’d blame you for feeling like, “Oh, here we go again!”  I mean, there we were, coming off of arguably Lorenzo Romar’s worst season as the head coach of this team, which itself came off of three other seasons where we failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and now our only experienced player is a guard who arguably shoots too much?

But, here we are, a little more than halfway through the season, and this team has a real shot at contending for an At Large bid, if not an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 Tourney.  Andrew Andrews was and is the glue that holds this whole thing together, and without him, I don’t think this team has a shot, but if this team is going to make the leap and BE a Tournament team, it’s going to need the kids to mature in a hurry.

If you watch enough Husky basketball, you’ll notice a few things.  Here’s what I’ve noticed so far.

Dejounte Murray is probably the biggest star, and most NBA-ready player, in his class.  Without really knowing the college basketball landscape, I have no idea about what this year’s draft is going to look like.  I think, if the season ended today, Murray could probably find himself selected somewhere in there (I would argue more likely in the second round).  He’s flashing brilliance, and what he’s got going for him are the next 11 regular season games, along with the Pac-12 Tourney and whatever other post-season tournament we land ourselves in.  These are Murray’s showcase games, for all intents and purposes.  These games will go a long way towards showing NBA scouts whether Murray is a first round talent, or a guy who could use another year of seasoning.

I’m of the opinion that college guys could ALWAYS use another year of seasoning, but I can certainly see the risk involved.  Tony Wroten, for example, probably maximized his value in his 1 & Done season.  Unless he was going to remarkably improve as an outside shooter in his second year in college, I don’t think he could have done much better than where he was selected (with all the risk in the world of him stagnating and falling in the draft as a result of him staying a second season).  Isaiah Thomas left with a year of eligibility at his disposal, but again, I think he had proven everything he needed to, especially in his final year here.  He risked seeing himself overshadowed by Tony Wroten of all people.  So, one might argue that Murray could see himself overshadowed by an incoming Freshman next season, but don’t forget this:  Andrew Andrews won’t be here.  So, if Murray decides to come back, this will be HIS team in 2016/2017.  If he lights the stat sheets on fire the rest of this season, he’ll certainly feel the pull to be a 1 & Done player.  But, if his game log up to this point is any indication, he still tends to have his good days and his bad days, and all those bad days aren’t doing him any favors.

What’s working for Murray is that he’s got an outside shot.  It’s not great, he’s hovering around 31% from beyond the arc, but he’s not a total liability.  His height is NBA-calibre (6’5), so no issues there.  He’s leading the team in rebounds, assists, and steals (6.4, 4.7, 1.7 respectively) but he’s also leading the team in turnovers (3.4), and that’s where, I think, he can make the most progress in his game.  If he stays one more year, cleans up his ball-handling and decision-making, he’ll see those turnover numbers go down and those assist numbers skyrocket.

The other guard in our 3-guard rotation is a guy I like A LOT.  It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a huge man-crush on Andrew Andrews, but David Crisp reminds me a lot of Andrews.  His quicks, his fearlessness in taking the big shot, his ability to make shots from anywhere on the court.  Crisp nailed a dagger from the corner to force that Utah game into overtime, and I don’t think that’s the last we’ve seen of his clutchness.  My favorite thing about Crisp:  I don’t think he’ll be leaving us anytime soon.  Not to say he isn’t good, but he’s not the prototypical NBA guard the way Murray is.  That doesn’t mean he can’t take his game to the next level, but it likely means he’s going to need to stay for 3-4 years, watch his game flourish, and continue to shine when the lights are on him.

I don’t think I’ve seen a Freshman this ballsy since IT.  He absolutely wants the basketball in his hands in crunch time, and isn’t afraid to take the last shot, even knowing it’s more likely to be missed than made.  He’s hitting a decent 34% of his outside shots, but for now, that’s pretty much all he’s shooting.  Of his 175 attempts taken, 111 are behind the arc.  So, you know, he’s going to have to develop a dribble drive, and an ability to finish at the rim.  But, let’s not forget that he’s probably this team’s third or fourth option (behind Andrews, Murray, and whatever big man gets position in the post).  As Crisp develops, and as this roster changes in the coming years, look for him to take on an increased role, and I would wager he’ll be up to the task.

Of the Freshman forwards we have on the roster, Marquese Chriss might be the most dynamic.  He’s also, unfortunately, the most prone to get into foul trouble.  It’s the main reason why he’s only averaging 23 minutes per game.  The Huskies have played 19 games this season, and Chriss has fouled out in TEN of those games (Good God, Lemon!), with five more games where he finished with 4 fouls.  He’s fouled out in all but one of our seven Pac-12 games to date, so obviously that’s something that needs to change.

When he’s on the court, though, he might be the most naturally talented basketball player we have.  He’s hitting 53% of his shots, grabbing 5 boards, and hits a decent (for a big man) 70% of his free throws.  Mostly due to the foul trouble, he’s had an up & down season kinda like Murray, and at 6’9, 225 lbs, he’s not the ideal size for an NBA power forward.  So, in that sense, I think he’s more of a lock to be back next year.  Likewise, he has no outside shot whatsoever, so he’s not going to be your typical small forward in the NBA.  He probably needs to bulk up a little more (in muscle, obviously), develop a mid-range jumper, and cool it on the bone-headed fouls.  Once he takes care of that, his natural abilities around the rim will ensure he’s got a future in the NBA, probably as a bench player, good for defense and those tough points in the paint.  I can’t wait to see what he can do in a Husky uniform in the next year or two; I think he could be really special for us.

Noah Dickerson is the other Freshman big man who’s making an impact.  He also tends to get into foul trouble – not quite as much as Chriss – but he’s taken great steps to improve his game since conference play started.  Dickerson has scored in double digits in four of the last five games, with a lot of hard-fought buckets in the paint.  He’s not quite the natural scorer that Chriss has proven to be so far, but he’s a better rebounder, and he doesn’t even try to have an outside game.  His mid-range jumper is coming along nicely, as he tends to be the guy standing at the free throw line when other teams put their 2-3 zone on us.  He can hit that jumper from the stripe, which is odd because he still needs work on his actual free throw attempts.  At 6’8, he too is undersized for a power forward at the NBA level, so I wouldn’t expect him to go anywhere anytime soon.  But, if he’s already this good now, as a Freshman, how awesome is he going to be three years from now?

In keeping with the Freshman theme, Matisse Thybulle is absolutely going to be a fan favorite.  He’s a 6’5 small forward with rock solid defense, and he fills up the stat sheet.  5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, and only 1.6 turnovers over 24 minutes per game.  He’s somewhat of an anomaly, as he has a better 3-point percentage than his overall field goal percentage (39.6% vs. 37.4%), but it’s not like he’s out there just jacking threes.  He spots up, and teams are going to leave him open because they’ve got so many other players to worry about.  But, to his credit, Thybulle is knocking down an impressive number of those attempts.  He’s a role player, and he’s likely always going to be a role player for this team, but as the years go by, he’ll find himself playing starter’s minutes and making a huge impact for the Huskies, much like Justin Holliday and Bobby Jones before him.

Finally, if you watch Husky games, you’ll note that there’s a 7-man base rotation, of players all averaging over 20 minutes per game.  Anyone below that threshold (Donaven Dorsey, Dominic Green) tends to play on a situational basis (depending on foul issues, and the like).  The big man I’ve been most impressed with so far has been Malik Dime.  He’s a Junior College transfer, coming to Washington with two years of eligibility remaining.  He’s 6’9, and listed as a forward, but he’s essentially what passes for this team’s center.  His wingspan is out of control, which is a big part of why he leads this team in blocks (at nearly 3 per game).  He’s shown a knack for avoiding foul trouble (for the most part), so even though he’s technically this team’s 6th man, he tends to be in the game early, and playing a good chunk of minutes (while also finding himself usually on the floor at the end of games).  From Senegal, like former Husky Aziz N’Diaye, Dime doesn’t quite have the stone hands of his countryman ex-Dawg.  He’s also got the athleticism to run up and down the court with these guards, who frequently reward him with alley-oop jams.  I don’t know what Dime’s future holds, as far as his NBA prospects are concerned.  He’s a little under-sized, and a little under-weight to bang around with the big boys in the pros.  And, he could probably develop more of a post game, if he wants to be a role player at the next level.  But, his defense, rebounding, leaping ability, and overall athleticism make him an interesting prospect.  Maybe someone who could benefit from some further development at the D-League level, if he doesn’t feel the need to seek out professional employment overseas right away.  My only quibble with his game so far, if you can even call it that, is he tends to have a heavy hand with his blocks, with the balls flying out of bounds rather than into the waiting hands of a teammate ready to push the ball the other way.  That’s where someone like Robert Upshaw really had a knack.  Of course, I highly doubt we’ll ever face the type of off-court troubles with Dime that followed Upshaw around, so in that sense I guess you take the good, you take the bad, and so on and so forth.

The overall consensus with this Husky team is that right now, it’s good, it’s exciting, and we all can’t wait to see what’s to come next in the remainder of this season.  But, even more thrilling is the possibility of what this team might look like NEXT year.  I know, as fans, we tend to over-value the future at the expense of the present, but think about this for a second.  The Huskies are off to a 5-2 start, and have as good a chance as anyone to win the Pac-12 regular season title.  Going into the 2016/2017 season, the only person we’re guaranteed to lose is Andrew Andrews.  If Murray and the rest of our Freshmen stay on board, even with whoever is slated to join us, we’re DEFINITELY going to be one of the top teams in the entire conference, with a high likelihood of going into the season ranked nationally.

I honestly don’t think we’ve seen a Husky basketball team this talented since the heyday of Nate Rob, Brandon Roy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones, Will Conroy and the like.  We all wondered if we’d ever get back to that level, and if we did, would Lorenzo Romar still be the guy calling the shots?  For the last few years, I’ve been on a one-man crusade calling for the Huskies to keep Romar and let him turn this thing around.  Well, I believe he’s done just that.  AND, if he can keep it all together, we could be looking at some real Tournament darlings for years to come.

Get excited, Dawg fans.  We’ve put up with a lot of crappiness in recent seasons.  THIS is the payoff.  Husky basketball is back, in a big way.