Seahawks Death Week: Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

We were pretty spoiled the last few months, with the greatest local football season in recent memory.  When you factor in the Seahawks winning their division and getting into the second week of the playoffs, combined with the Huskies winning the Pac-12 for the first time in forever and making the College Football Playoffs for the first time PERIOD, it’s been pretty great talking about football the last few months.  And, the best part is we all get to look forward to next year, with the potential for both teams to be even BETTER!

But now, today, January 20, 2016, there’s no more football.  Alabama got nipped by Clemson (leaving us all to wonder what if, had Clemson been the 4-seed and the Huskies the 3-seed) and the conference championship games this weekend feature the nausea-inducing triad of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger.  Ultimately, when Atlanta gets beaten, I’ll have yet another Super Bowl with no one to root for, because I fucking hate Green Bay, New England, and Pittsburgh.  Boycott the Super Bowl you say?  Lady Gaga is the halftime performer anyway, so it’s not like I’ll be missing all that much?  I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s on the table.

Even worse, with no professional basketball in Seattle right now (and, for that matter, no professional hockey, but that’s neither here nor there), all I’m left with are the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team, embroiled in what’s looking like Romar’s worst season since he was hired, with the likelihood that he’ll be fired by season’s end, depriving us of what’s looking like a potentially world-beating 2017 recruiting class.  That’s a post for another day, but I’m looking at the rest of this regular season and I don’t see more than 2 wins for the Huskies!  What a collosal shitshow.

Just because it’s college basketball season, though, I wouldn’t expect an influx of posts on the Huskies.  There might be a disgruntled game recap here and there, but everything’s going to feel like beating a dead horse.  I’m sure there will be the occasional Seahawks post, as news would warrant, but what this really means for the ol’ blog is turning the page towards the 2017 Mariners season.

Sigh.

I mean, yeah, this MIGHT be the best Mariners team we’ve seen since the Pat Gillick years, but it also might be Year 2 of the pitching staff dragging this team down to mediocrity.  Sure, we MIGHT get some bounce-back years from our ace and our bullpen, but I can’t help but wonder where the other shoe is going to drop.  Is this the year we’re decimated by injuries?  Are we going to continue our terrible luck in 1-run games and in extra innings?

The worst part of any baseball season is that it’s such a God damned slog.  Six months’ worth of regular season, another month of Spring Training, another few weeks of training camp before that; then you’ve got another month and a half of yet another post-season we won’t get to experience.  It feels like baseball season JUST ENDED; and to those of you who are already longing for its slobbery, awkward embrace, you’re fucking sick!  You’re demented and you’re suffering from Stockholm syndrome at the hands of the MLB taking your brains hostage!

In football season, everything zooms by!  You know how easy it is to crank out 5 posts a week during football season?  Two Seahawks, 1 Huskies, and a couple of miscellaneous depending on how the news goes down in any given week.  There’s always SOMETHING to write about.  In August, it starts ramping up, and in January it’s over.  Bingo, bango, bongo.  Then, you’re left with most of a fucking calendar year focusing on baseball.  Yuk.

As usual, I’ll try my damnedest, but it’s gonna be pretty bleak around here until at least March.  I mean, how many fucking Opening Day roster projections can one man create before he goes insane and starts chopping off arms and legs?

This is what I’m like when the Seahawks’ season ends.  It’s like a reverse butterfly situation.  The beautiful Seahawks crawl into their cocoon, then they come out as an ugly baseball-playing caterpillar.  If you need me, I’ll be counting down the days until NFL Free Agency starts.

Seahawks Death Week: The Road Ahead

So, what do the Seahawks need to do to get back to playing in Super Bowls again?

The simple answer is:  bolster the O-Line, bring in a stud running back, pump up the secondary, sign an interior pass rusher, and fill out the roster with athletes.

But, it’s never that simple.  Pete Carroll made shockwaves among Seahawks fans by indicating – in his end-of-the-season press conference – that the plan right now is to bring back the same starting O-Line that we finished with.  On the one hand, you’re not going to get anywhere without continuity along the offensive line.  Those guys need to play together, get used to one another’s tendencies, and have that sort of mental telepathy to know where they’re supposed to be and who they’re supposed to be blocking.  But, on the other hand, you can get continuity by signing me and four of my friends to play on the line, and it doesn’t mean it’ll be worth a damn if you keep running us out there year-in and year-out.  At some point, you need some motherfuckin’ talent, and talent is always going to trump continuity.

Obviously, we’ve been going on and on about how great Britt has been, so that settles the center position.  You can argue that guys like Ifedi and Fant have a lot of room to grow.  They’ve gotten a ton of experience, they got through the season mostly unscathed, they can work this offseason to get stronger and learn the intricacies of their respective positions, and they can come back next year hopefully ready to take the next step in their progression.  You can sort of make that argument with Glowinski as well, but he always seemed a better fit for the right guard position; maybe with the full year under his belt, he’ll be ready to rock n’ roll in 2017.  I think Gilliam has had it though; he’s probably as good as he’s ever going to be.  Which would be passable if the other four guys were studs, but they’re not, so I think at a minimum you have to bring in some competition for right tackle.  If I had my druthers, I’d hit the free agent market hard and pick up a good one, but I don’t know what the market’s going to look like.  You’d think there’d be at least ONE right tackle worth a damn who’s up for grabs.  I say, spend some of that extra money and pick one up.  That would make two spots on the line you don’t have to worry about, and you can flip Gilliam over to left tackle and have him push Fant in a competition for that spot.

The deal with left tackle is, obviously, Fant is far from ideal.  But, he’s who we’ve got.  You’re not going to find a superstar left tackle on the free agent market, because those guys always get snapped up by the smarter teams who actually value the O-Line.  You’re also not going to find a superstar left tackle at the 26th spot in the draft, because this is a thin draft class for offensive linemen and all the good ones are going to be drafted WAY before it gets to Seattle’s turn.  And, you’re not going to trade for one, because the cost would be prohibitive, and again I don’t think there are a ton of teams clamoring to give away their franchise left tackles.  So, the best we can hope for is to bring in competition to fight it out with Fant and may the best man win.  For what it’s worth, Fant needs to come in bigger and stronger, so he’s not constantly beaten to death by the bull rush.  Also for what it’s worth, if the Seahawks sign someone off the scrap heap, it better be someone better than fucking Sowell and Webb.

At guard, Ifedi isn’t going anywhere.  For better or for worse, the two guaranteed spots on the O-Line right now that you can lock in are Britt at center and Ifedi at right guard (barring injuries, of course).  I think they’ve come to their senses about Ifedi ever being a tackle in this league, and there would be no point in flipping him to the left side of the line since that’s his weaker side.  Plus, he’s a first round draft pick; they’re not going to give up on that kind of a talent just because he had a tough rookie season.  Hell, they gave Britt three different chances at three different spots on the line over his first three years, and he was only a second rounder!  But, at the left guard spot, I think you’ll see Glowinski and Odhiambo duke it out, which again, I don’t know if that’s something Seahawks fans want to hear, but there you go.  Now, it’s POSSIBLE the team drafts the best guard available in the first round, in which case YAY, even more competition!  I mean, seriously, this team needs to bring in as much talent as it can get, and if that means overloading at guard to finally land on the right set, I’m all for it.  I’d probably prefer that they reach for a tackle at that spot in the draft, just because I think we’re so much worse off at that position long term, but I don’t know if that’s realistic.

So, what I’m looking for out of the O-Line:  sign a right tackle, draft a guard/tackle high, and maybe sign another swing tackle off the scrap heap.

***

As for the rest of the offense, let’s start with the running game.  I like the Seahawks to draft another one.  Maybe a couple, like they did last year, but at least one.  My hunch is they’ll look to get one in Day 3 of the draft, but I wouldn’t hate it if they found a real dynamic talent in the first or second rounds.  Pit Game Changing Talent with Rawls and Prosise and I think you’ve got something you can work with.  Given Rawls’ injury history, you’re all but guaranteed that Game Changing Talent will get significant playing time.  Give me a 3-headed hydra at running back any day of the week.

At wide receiver, I don’t think you have to do much of anything.  Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, and Richardson are your top four.  We’ve still got McEvoy in the mix, as well as a bunch of practice squad and IR guys from 2016.  Maybe you draft one on Day 3 to throw onto the developmental pile, but I think you could be best served going after a couple undrafted guys instead.

At tight end, I think you keep Jimmy Graham and I think you extend him another 2-3 years to loosen up our 2017 cap burden, while at the same time still giving us some outs in case he has another devastating injury.  For the life of me, I don’t understand the hate on this guy, considering how awesome he was in 2016.  You can piss and moan all you want about 2015, but he was still getting acclimated to our system after a career in New Orleans.  I think he’ll only continue to get better the more time he gets with Wilson.  Beyond that, I’d like to see Luke Willson back on a reasonable deal.  But, if some other team blows him away, it’s not going to kill me.  We drafted Nick Vannett to be our backup, all-around tight end, so my hope is he takes a step forward in his second year.  Also, not for nothing, but don’t be shocked if we spend a 4th or 5th rounder on another tight end in the draft, as I hear this is a good year for that position.

At quarterback, I think we bring Boykin back, but I think we look to push him by drafting another QB.  I have no insider knowledge on this, but my gut says we could even go as high as a 3rd rounder on a backup quarterback, which sounds crazy, but not as crazy as having to start Boykin if Wilson gets injured.

So, what I’m looking for out of the rest of the offense:  select another running back in the first couple days of the draft, get another backup tight end in the middle of our draft, find a diamond in the rough at quarterback (possibly as high as round 3), and hold off until Round 8 to get any more receivers.

***

Let’s go with the secondary next, because I think this unit needs the most work on defense.  I have some REAL big plans with the first two or three picks the Seahawks make in this year’s draft, and I think one of them would be best used on another safety.  Get someone big and talented, who can learn from the best.  I suppose you COULD hold off to the middle rounds for this player, but my concern is that the safety position has seen an increase in value over the years, since the Seahawks drafted the blueprint in Kam & Earl.  It’s why someone like Keanu Neal goes in the first round of the draft last year, when he might have fallen to the 4th or 5th just a few years earlier.  Also, I think this team needs someone who can play right away, because at this point I don’t know if it’s wise to trust either of our starters to play a full 16-game slate.  If they do, then that’s a bonus, and maybe you fiddle around with your defense to let the new guy get his feet wet in some special packages.

Ideally, this safety would also have excellent coverage skills, and could be used in a pinch in some nickel or dime sets, if guys get injured or whatnot.  Someone who can play both positions is exactly what this team needs right now, considering Shead is likely to start the season on the PUP list.  I think this team needs to hit the cornerback position pretty hard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw three DBs drafted.  The Seahawks have Sherman, Lane, and a whole lotta young guys right now, so bringing in a guy who can play right away in the first day or two of the draft seems to be the smartest way to go.  If Budda Baker somehow fell to us at 26, I’d lose my shit.

Beyond that, I like the idea of the Seahawks hitting the free agent market for a dominant interior pass rusher.  I know Calais Campbell’s name has been bandied about on Seahawks Fan Twitter, and believe me, I’m right there with ’em.  I just don’t think you’re going to find any sort of game changing talent in the draft, picking where we are.  Maybe they grab another experimental player late in the draft, but I think if we’re ever going to get this sort of guy, we need to throw money at a veteran.

The rest of the D-Line is solid, I think.  I’m also a big fan of the linebacking group as well, and I hope we get a shot at re-signing Mike Morgan to be our SAM, as I don’t think this team really needs to break the bank at that position.

So, what I’m looking for out of the defense:  hit the secondary in the draft early and often, re-sign Mike Morgan, sign a superstud interior pass rusher, and maybe some experimental players at the D-Line and linebacker spots if there’s room.

***

What I like most about our chances going into 2017 is that there’s not a ton of dead weight to lop off.  I think you let Sowell sign elsewhere.  Don’t break the bank on Luke Willson.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Marcel Reece back, as I thought he did some of the best lead blocking in a Seahawks uniform since Mack Strong retired.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Tony McDaniel back at the right price.  Maybe we look to shore up linebacker, find someone in the draft a little more promising than KPL.  And, don’t really kill yourselves trying to bring back McCray.

I think the Seahawks need to look awful hard at long snapper again this year, because that was never NOT an issue with this team in 2016.  And, I think the Seahawks need to look at the kicker spot.  Was this year just an anomaly for Hauschka?  Or, is this the beginning of the end?  Kicking is such a mental game, and if these longer extra points are going to be an issue for him, then maybe the Seahawks have to look at selecting a kicker in the 6th round.  I mean, a drafted kicker couldn’t be MUCH worse than what we got out of Hauschka last year, right?  Sure, dude only missed 4 field goals all year, but two of them were inside of 30 yards.  Plus, he missed 6 extra points and another one in the playoffs.  So, you know, that shit’s gotta stop.  Plus, his last deal with us averaged nearly $3 million a year, so it’s not like he’s going to accept a significant pay decrease just to re-sign with us.  Maybe 2017 is the year we draft a kicker of the future and take our chances?  It wouldn’t crush me, I’ll put it that way.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.

Seahawks Death Week: The “2016 The Year” Of Football Seasons

There’s just nothing to like about that season by the Seattle Seahawks.  Not a damn bit of good came from it.  That’s two years in a row of spinning our tires in the mud, with not a lot to show for it.  All we got was another year older.  Instead of being the next great dynasty, we’re just another good team.  One Super Bowl win, with the hope that we’re able to squeeze another one out of Russell Wilson before he moves on.  More and more, it’s looking like instead of a Brady/Manning/Roethlisberger situation, we’ve got a Drew Brees situation.  Maybe one title is all this group gets.  Maybe we spend the rest of our time with this core just slowly getting worse, until it’s just Wilson and Carroll, and a bunch of stiffs, regularly finishing in 3rd and 4th place in the NFC West.

The worst part is, I don’t even know how to define this season.  Yeah, the O-Line stunk, but they didn’t stink in every single game.  Yeah, we lost Earl Thomas, but there were plenty of times where this defense looked inept with Thomas in there.  If you go game by game, it’s a pretty frustrating exercise.

***

The Seahawks barely beat the Dolphins at home in week 1; the offensive line was definitely our primary fault in that one.  Wilson’s ankle got rolled up on, and that was the genesis of Hobbled Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks lost on the road to the Rams in week 2; again, the O-Line was crushed.  We lost three field goals to one, in the second game where the offense was totally out of sorts.

The 49ers were some home cooking in week 3; but, then Wilson got rolled up on again, this time injuring his knee, sending him to work with a brace for the rest of the regular season.  No fun there.

The Jets on the road were supposed to be a big test in week 4; they ended up being 5-11 on the year and one of the worst teams in the NFL.  The Seahawks, with Hobbled Russell Wilson, won by 10 points and settled into a much-needed BYE week.

The Seahawks were able to squeak by the Falcons in week 6; I think we all know enough of that game.  One bright spot was that, even in spite of a disastrous third quarter, we were able to fend off a last-minute drive, like we weren’t able to do in 2015.  The defense, when most everyone was healthy, was certainly better in 2016 than 2015; but the defense was rarely healthy.

Just when we were hoping to build on some momentum of a 3-game winning streak, we went and tied the Cardinals in week 7.  The third game out of six for the Seahawks where the offense was absolutely manhandled.  Of course, had Hauschka not been a ninny, this would’ve been a win.

The Seahawks followed that up with a road trip to New Orleans, and a baffling defeat in week 8; but, a defeat very similar to ones we have every year.  Not a good look for our defense, but the fact that our offense was held to 13 points (the other 7 attributed to an Earl Thomas fumble return for TD) against that defense is unconscionable.  Four games out of seven where the offense was a fucking trainwreck.

The Seahawks played the Bills on Monday Night Football in week 9; turns out Rex & Rob Ryan are the cures for what ails this offense.  It was less encouraging for our defense to give up 25, but they were able to foil a 2-minute drive at the end of the game to lock it up (again, shades of this not being the 2015 season).

In a game everyone expected the Seahawks to lose, they went into New England on Sunday night and upset the Pats 31-24.  Even with Michael Bennett on the shelf, this was a watershed game for our defense, as Kam returned and locked down Gronk in New England’s final series.  This was also a coming out party for C.J. Prosise, showing what this offense can do when it has a healthy, dynamic running back.

The Seahawks followed this up with a dominating performance over a then-contending Eagles team at home in week 11.  Prosise had another big impact in this game, with a 72-yard touchdown run, before leaving injured and not returning for the rest of the season.  Not a ton of people talking about the loss of Prosise as the 2016 Seahawks’ downfall, but let’s just say if we’d had him healthy for the full season, things might’ve gone a lot differently for this offense.

On the heels of another 3-game winning streak – and probably the best 3-game stretch for this team in the 2016 season – the Seahawks went to Tampa in week 12 and had their fifth terrible offensive game of the season.  This one is all on the O-Line, but one could argue things might have gone differently had Britt been healthy.  Either way, after going down 14-0 in the first quarter, and giving up no points the rest of the way, that was a real missed opportunity for the Seahawks, allowing the Bucs to hang around in contention for a while longer.

Injured guys started trickling back for the next game, at home, against the Panthers in week 13.  Britt was back, Bennett was back, Rawls had worked his way back to being a workhorse, Wilson was on the mend.  For the first time in a long time, things were FINALLY looking up for the Seahawks.  We crushed the Panthers, 40-7, and this was around the same time where we always go on our late-season runs of dominance.  But, because 2016 is the fucking worst, this was the same game where Earl Thomas broke his leg and was lost for the season.  Hashtag WeCantHaveNiceThings.

It was hard not to be deflated over the Thomas injury, but I refused to believe things would fall apart just because he was out.  We still had Kam after all!  Well, week 14’s game in Green Bay should’ve been our first clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things and the Seahawks were blown out for the first time since 2011.  Also, this was the sixth terrible offensive game, but mostly due to Russell Wilson’s interceptions.

In week 15, we handled the Rams on Thursday Night Football, in the game where Richard Sherman put Darrell Bevell on blast.  He would go on to put most everyone else on blast the rest of the year, in what should’ve been our second clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality.  The Seahawks don’t lose their cool.  Even when they lose their cool, it’s for a reason.  There wasn’t much of a reason for this.

In spite of the Seahawks being an up-and-down team, they held their fate in their hands.  All they needed to do was beat an underwhelming Cardinals team at home, then finish off the 49ers on the road.  Simple, right?  Win those two games, lock down the 2-seed.  Lock down the 2-seed, get the first round BYE.  Get the first round BYE, then host the Falcons in the Divisional Round instead of the other way around, and maybe our crowd does enough damage to their offense to allow the Seahawks to win and host the NFC Championship Game for the third time in four seasons.  But, the defense gave up 34 points to the Cardinals in week 16, and all of that was washed away.  The third and final clue that the rest of this year would just be a formality:  now we’d be a 3-seed, be forced to play in the Wild Card round, and have to go on the road to the Falcons, where we would go on to lose.

The Seahawks were able to take down the 49ers in week 17, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been.  Was it us taking it easy, knowing the Falcons would lock up the 2-seed in a matter of hours?  Was it the defense continuing to struggle without Earl Thomas?

Then, the big Wild Card win at home.  The last hurrah, over a pretty inept and banged up Lions team.  Not a lot to learn from that, and ultimately the next game would look nothing like this one.

***

I mean, how do you wrap your head around a season like that?

To start, you can’t say a damn thing about it without getting into the offensive line issues.  This was the second year in a row that the Seahawks went with a bullshit, makeshift O-Line, instead of ponying up the money for proper blockers.  Justin Britt had his position moved for the third time in three seasons, and that was the ONLY move that worked.  He’ll go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 as our starting center; that makes me happy.  You can take the other four guys and throw them in a fucking volcano for all I care.

The Seahawks, in their prime, 2012-2014, always got by with Just Okay offensive lines.  Adequate, middle-of-the-road, doing just enough to let Marshawn Lynch run by them, and to let Russell Wilson run around them.  Then, slowly but surely, all the good parts were stripped away:  Unger traded away; Giacomini, Carpenter, and Sweezy allowed to hit free agency; Russell Okung – probably the most talented of the bunch – also allowed to hit free agency and sign a terrible deal in Denver.  Ending up with two rookies, a second-year player getting his first starting action, a third-year player switching positions for the third time, and Garry Gilliam, the only guy starting in the same spot from the year before.  Oh, and don’t forget the two free agents – Sowell and Webb – who were terrible, lost their starting jobs, and won’t be around beyond this season.

And, I get it.  I understand what the Seahawks were doing.  There’s only so much money to go around, and they preferred to give that money to their star players at the skill positions.  Wilson, Baldwin, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wagner, Wright, Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor.  Those guys take up a lot of money.  Where can we save?  The O-Line!  Hell, we’ve got Tom Cable, surely he can build them up to be respectable by season’s end!

They damn near did it in 2015.  It looked like, once Patrick Lewis took over at center, things settled down for that unit.  Then, we got into the Divisional Round, against the Panthers and their ferocious interior linemen, and that unit was reduced to rubble.

But, without much of a choice, they did the same thing again in 2016.  As I mentioned, Britt was moved to center and that worked.  Glowinski was drafted in 2015 to be a guard of the future for this team, so why not let him work on his craft in actual games?  Germain Ifedi came at the price of a first round draft pick in 2016, so there was no way he wasn’t starting.  They made it through the season mostly unscathed, and you can ALMOST see a future with those guys in those spots, but they’ve got a lot of work to do.

And, while the guards made PLENTY of mistakes, and were often the worst parts of this unit, in my book they’re taking a back seat to the tackles, who were God-fucking-awful.  George Fant was a tight end in college, and here he was as our starting left tackle.  He was almost constantly over-matched, when we weren’t chipping defensive ends with our tight ends and running backs to give him a little help.  Gilliam was a little better – particularly later in the season, when he essentially had his manhood questioned by the coaching staff – but he too was often overmatched.  Together, neither of them are starting talents in the NFL.  Gilliam is a guy who might be a swing tackle for a good team, a 6th guy on the line who can start for you in a pinch.  But, he has no business being in there everyday.  Fant should’ve had this year to just develop in the background, but since this organization did absolutely nothing to replace Okung – aside from signing Sowell, who is a known commodity as one of the worst tackles in football – Fant was put in a position he had no business being in.  And, in that sense, he did all right.  He could be another guy who is a quality swing tackle, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter either.

This team needs, at a minimum, two new offensive tackles.  Ideally, one high in the draft and one as a free agent.  Luckily, we’ve weathered the storm of our salary cap being up against it, and should have enough extra money to make some moves, as 2017’s cap looks to be up to $170 million or more.  Not so luckily, we draft 26th again, and no quality offensive tackles will be there waiting for us.  I don’t know what the free agent market is going to be like, but things are going to get REALLY salty in Seattle if this team sits back and does nothing.

***

Aside from that, it’s a lot to do with what I was talking about yesterday:  our shoddy depth.  Starting with the 2013 draft, let’s look at who panned out:

  • Luke Willson – backup tight end
  • Spencer Ware – quality running back who we waived; he’s playing well for the Chiefs
  • Paul Richardson – 4th receiver, started coming on in this year’s playoffs with Lockett injured
  • Justin Britt – starting center, with 2016 being his first good year
  • Cassius Marsh – backup pass rusher & special teamer, 3 career sacks
  • Frank Clark – quality defensive lineman
  • Tyler Lockett – quality receiver & returner
  • Mark Glowinski – guard, started in 2016
  • Germain Ifedi – guard, started in 2016
  • Jarran Reed – quality run-stuffing defensive tackle
  • C.J. Prosise – quality running back who can’t stay healthy

That’s it, and I’m really stretching the definition of “panned out” with some of these guys.  The quality guys who we still have on this team include:  Britt, Clark, Lockett, Reed, and Prosise.  Beyond that, when you talk about this team’s depth, it’s a lot of young guys who haven’t really gotten a chance to start – because they’ve been boxed out by all the studs we’ve got starting on this team – but these same guys also aren’t making the most of their opportunities when they do find themselves on the field.  That means the coaches are failing them, or that they’re just not working very hard, but I don’t think this coaching staff or this team would sit by and let a bunch of slackers fuck around in practice.

Also, not for nothing, but when I talk about depth, I’m mostly looking at the secondary.  The depth on the O-Line is, I’m sure, a real problem, but so are the starters, so why beat that dead horse?  There’s solid depth at receiver – as shown by how P-Rich stepped his game up in the playoffs this year like a fucking CHAMP!  PROUD of you, boy! – and at tight end.  There’s also good-enough depth at D-Line and in the linebackers’ room to get by.  Where this team – and particularly this defense – struggles is when we get into the depth in the secondary.  When Kam Chancellor goes down (as he seems to do every year now), and when Earl Thomas goes down.  When, inevitably, Richard Sherman goes down (because he’s such a monster tackler; I can’t imagine those shoulders will hold up forever).  Or, like in this last game, where Shead went down with what looks like an ACL.  We thought Jeremy Lane would be enough – and I think he did okay, I’m not in this big hurry to run him off the team – but this team needs more back there.  It’s a shame too, because that’s supposed to be Pete Carroll’s specialty.  He should be ashamed of the depth we had back there in the secondary – particularly at safety – and he should be looking to shore that up in a major way in the upcoming draft.

No team stays healthy for a full year, but you’ve got to have guys to come in there and pick up the slack.  We weren’t able to do that this year.  That, and our O-Line troubles, doomed us for two years in a row.

It sounds insane to be this disgruntled about a team that hasn’t been to a Super Bowl in the last two years, but that’s what comes with success.  We’re not very far from those teams, in terms of talent and in terms of years, but we’re also trending in the absolute opposite direction.

I Really Wish I Could’ve Seen The Version Of That Game Where Kevin Pierre-Louis Didn’t Have That Dumb Holding Penalty

Believe me when I say that I would never blame a single play or event as to why the Seahawks lost to Atlanta.  There are SO MANY factors, and not even factors in that game, but across the entire season, and possibly across many seasons.  Having the worst offensive line in the league.  Losing Earl Thomas.  Losing out on the 2-seed by getting beaten by Arizona on Christmas Eve (or, shit, how about losing out on the 2-seed by settling for a fucking tie in Arizona earlier in the year when Hauschka had an opportunity to give us the improbable victory).  An inability of this coaching staff to coach up its depth players for when they’re pressed into duty thanks to in-game injuries.  Those very in-game injuries themselves, like DeShawn Shead and Germain Ifedi.  Russell Wilson being alarmingly inaccurate this season (and in particular on that pass in the third quarter, down by 16, when he had Doug Baldwin wide open in the endzone and overthrew him).  The pass rush not getting home.  Our zone defense being completely and totally ineffective, thereby not giving the pass rush more time to get home.  Our entire blitz package being a complete failure.  Marshawn Lynch retiring before the season.  Trading Unger for Graham.  Signing Percy Harvin.  Letting Golden Tate go.  Losing Dan Quinn as a defensive coordinator.  I could go on and on and on.  There’s never any one thing that decides a football game, even a game decided by one score, but ESPECIALLY a game you lose 36-20.

P.S.  Look who guessed Atlanta would score 36 points this game

And I get that momentum isn’t a thing, so I’ll try to avoid talk of that mumbo jumbo.  But, what IS a thing is being sent backwards from the Atlanta 7 yard line to the Seattle 7 yard line thanks to one stupid fucking holding call on Kevin Pierre-Louis – who was pancaked by the blocker, then proceeded to compound his ineptitude by pulling the blocker down with him like a fucking moron – which led to the Seahawks losing 3 yards on first down before losing the other 4 yards on a safety because our backup rookie right guard stepped on our quarterback’s foot, leading to this fucking Three Stooges scenario where Wilson falls on his ass and gets landed on for 2 points going the other way.

What was a 10-7 lead, with the Falcons forced to punt on a 3 & Out, with Devin Hester – in what I’m hearing will be his final game ever – returning a booming punt 80 yards, with the Seahawks facing first and goal and at a MINIMUM poised to add another 3 points to our total, with a better than average chance of taking a 17-7 lead and changing the entire complexion of the game; instead became a 10-9 lead, with the Seahawks free-kicking it away to the Falcons, who promptly drove it down and went up 12-10, then holding the Seahawks to a 3 & Out, followed by the Falcons going up 19-10, and the rest is history.

All because Kevin Pierre-Louis made one idiotic mistake, which was compounded by a baffling series of mistakes.

Still, I’d like to see what that game would’ve looked like with the Seahawks up 17-7.  Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference.  Maybe we still would’ve lost.  But, I’ll tell you this, we wouldn’t have been trailing 19-10 at halftime in this scenario, with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  Worst case, we probably would’ve been tied at 17 at halftime with the Falcons set to get the ball after half.  And, even if things would’ve shaken out like they did for most of the second half, we at least would’ve been within 7 points with the ball late in the fourth quarter.  We at least would’ve had a SHOT!

And, who knows?  Maybe if the Falcons are down double-digits, maybe they start making the mistakes.  Maybe they press, trying to get back in the game.  Maybe Matt Ryan – who was one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the entire NFL just one season ago, when he had a mind-boggling 21:16 TD to INT ratio and led to my keeper league fantasy team dropping his ass in the final week, to avoid even the TEMPTATION of keeping him for another mediocre season – would’ve made some of those Matt Ryan poor decisions that led to so many turnovers in the red zone.  He may end up with the MVP award this year, but he is NOT a good quarterback, and he’s certainly not the most valuable player in the NFL I’m (not) sorry to say.

That game, the one where Kevin Pierre-Louis doesn’t exist, would’ve been SO MUCH more enjoyable.

But, no, I’m not blaming one guy for one massively stupid penalty.  He can go fuck himself for being an overall disappointment though!  One of many duds we’ve drafted and failed to develop since 2013.  Does John Schneider deserve a little slice of blame?  You betcha.  They all do.  Every last man, woman, and child on this team.

So begins Seahawks Death Week for another year.  Where I complain about the season that was, try to keep things a bit in perspective, and look forward to what this team needs to do in the coming offseason to get back on track and start winning their way into the top seed of the NFC again.  Because, apparently, this team is only able to nut up and play with heart when it’s got homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.  Without that, it’s one road loss in the Divisional Round after another.

Mariners Made A Couple More Trades, Ended Up With Drew Smyly

Last week, there were two trades in a matter of hours?  Minutes?  Usually, I just lump these deals together because I’m constantly a week behind – a byproduct of this being the playoffs and my football posts taking precedence – but these deals actually go together:

  1. Mariners trade Luiz Gohara & Thomas Burrows to Atlanta for Shae Simmons & Mallex Smith
  2. Mariners trade Mallex Smith, Carlos Vargas, & Ryan Yarbrough to Tampa for Drew Smyly

Gohara and Burrows are a couple of low-level minor league pitchers with not a lot of experience, but some real potential.  Mallex Smith is another speedy, Quad-A outfielder type (of which this team already has a hundred billion).  Yarbrough was our AA pitcher of the year, but projects to be maybe a 5th starter in a Major League rotation if everything breaks right.  Vargas is a 17 year old infielder.  At worst, this is a deal that will come to bite us in the ass in 3-5 years, if some of these prospects actually pan out.  Obviously, the Mariners don’t have time to wait around for a bunch of low-level prospects to MAYBE turn into actual players, so the rationale behind these moves – if nothing else – is sound.

Shae Simmons is a right handed reliever to throw onto the pile.  Just like toilet paper and Bud Lights, you can never have too much!  Eventually, we’re going to work our way through all these relievers until the job gets done!  Simmons doesn’t have a ton of Major League experience, but he does have some, so you could say he’s ready to compete right now.  And, he also has options, so we can stash him in Tacoma until the time is right.  His boggle sounds like he can’t stay healthy, so that kind of stinks, as it seems like we have a lot of those types of guys in our bullpen pile right now.

Obviously, the big “get” out of these moves is starter Drew Smyly.  He looked like he’d be an absolute stud coming out of Detroit, but then they traded him to Tampa, he’s suffered some shoulder issues, and last year wasn’t totally amazing even though he lasted the full season.  Nevertheless, a good outfield defense should help him, as well as playing half his games at Safeco (although, oddly enough, Safeco was a home run paradise last year, so who knows?).

We didn’t bring him in to compete, though.  This sets our rotation, in some way shape or form:

  1. Felix
  2. Kuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Gallardo
  5. Smyly

That’s … not the worst.  I only put Smyly in the 5-hole because I think the team will look to separate Paxton and Smyly so as to not have two lefties pitch on back to back days.  Really, after Felix, you can shuffle that rotation anyway you want – as long as you split the lefties – and you should be fine.

I like it!  I could be wrong, but I like it.  Obviously, the first thing that stands out is that it’s VERY veteran.  That’s a good thing, in the sense that we won’t have to worry about young pitchers and their emotions (I’m looking at you, Taijuan Walker).  But, between injury concerns for every one of those guys, not to mention recent bouts of ineffectiveness for every one of those guys, and you’ve got a volatile mix that could lead the Mariners to upwards of 90-100 wins, or that could fall apart and drag this team down to the 70-80 win range.

How does that work for you?  If I told you right now that the Mariners will win somewhere between 70-100 games, what would you say?

I’m sorry, but the correct response you were looking for was, “No doi.”

Still, it feels better with these five guys than it would have with Walker and Karns.  I just don’t trust Walker to save my life, and I think Smyly is definitely a steadier, more sensible option.  And, I think Gallardo – warts and all – is a better option than Karns.  Then, we’ve got Ariel Miranda in reserve for the inevitable rotation injury.  We just have to hope there aren’t too many injuries at once.  There isn’t much depth left behind Miranda, and Yarbrough theoretically would’ve been one of those guys, as he was slated to start the season in Tacoma after doing so well in AA.  Cody Martin was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man as a result of these deals, so he’s likely out unless no one picks him up.  The only other AAA guy I’m even remotely aware of is that Rob Whalen guy we got in the Alex Jackson deal with the Braves.  Not for nothing, but considering the sorry state of the Braves these last few years, it’s not encouraging to be getting all these guys from them in trades.

But, let’s worry about depth when it comes time to actually see it pitching in a Mariners uniform.  For now, the roster is mostly set, although the last time I wrote that, the Mariners almost immediately went out and made two more trades, so what do I know?

My Prediction For Seahawks @ Falcons

I think the Seahawks will lose.

Sorry, but I’m having a hard time seeing us go all the way to Atlanta, playing a well-rested, talented Falcons team, and coming away victorious.  I think the Seahawks are clear underdogs, meaning that if you played this game 100 times, the Seahawks would lose well over 50% of the time.  I think it’ll take nearly a perfect game to come away victorious.  There’s probably a 2% chance of the Seahawks blowing them out, maybe a 30% chance of the Seahawks squeaking out a victory, a 50% chance of the Falcons winning by one score, and the rest devoted to a Falcons blowout.

We’ve seen this game from these Seahawks before.  Just last year in the Divisional Round, the underdog Seahawks went into Carolina, saw themselves losing 31-0 at halftime, and scrambled their way to a 31-24 defeat.  But, it took the Seahawks scoring on nearly every second half possession to get it that close, and quite frankly, it took the Panthers taking their foot off the gas and coasting to victory.

We saw something relatively similar two years ago against the Packers.  We might not have been underdogs in that game, but we were nevertheless facing a hungry team with a fantastic offense, and we found ourselves down 16-0 at halftime and 19-7 with under 4 minutes to go in the game, before a miracle of all miracles saw us win 28-22 in overtime.

Or, HEY, I know!  What about the 2012 season’s playoffs?  Underdog Seahawks, Divisional Round, in Atlanta … 20-0 Falcons at halftime!  Miracle comeback, blah blah blah, lost on a last minute field goal 30-28.

The Seahawks, in the playoffs, have an incredible knack for not showing up whatsoever in the first halves of ballgames, before turning it on in the second halves, making furious comebacks, and sometimes sticking the landing, but more often than not falling flat on our faces.

Not for nothing, but you tend to see this happen in a lot of our regular season losses too.   The maddening thing is:  the Seahawks have the talent to beat anyone.  It’s not like we’re talking about the Browns, or even the Lions for that matter.  There are still healthy Pro Bowlers and All Pros up and down this lineup.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Jon Ryan.  Studs, one and all!  I’m not a connoisseur of the Atlanta Falcons’ roster, but I’d wager we have more great players than they do, at more key positions.

But, for some reason, we come out flat in games EXACTLY like this one.  Wilson comes out misfiring.  The O-Line gets overwhelmed.  The running game can’t get going.  Jermaine Kearse gets called for pass interference.  Steven Hauschka misses a field goal.  The D-Line fails to get home.  The middle of the field get shredded.  The linebackers who seemingly show up each and every game are conspicuously absent.  We go down double-digits, try to recover, go down even further, and go into halftime trying to talk ourselves into a comeback while actively despising this team and wishing it didn’t ALWAYS have to be the Cardiac Kids in the 4th quarter.

Just because the Seahawks CAN beat everyone gives us a false sense of security that they WILL beat everyone.  And when they don’t, it’s always the fucking same.  Yet, for some reason, it catches us off guard and it feels like the first time all over again.

Well, not THIS time!  You’re not suckering me into believing.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be watching, and I’ll still be rooting like crazy.  But, if being a “real fan” means you have to blindly believe they’re going to win every single game, then I’m sorry, but you’ve come to the wrong guy.

Best case scenario, I hope the Seahawks can get the ball back, down one score, with two minutes left.  I suppose you can’t ask for much more than that.  I just hope we succeed in getting that score, and I hope we don’t leave too much time on the clock.

Who Would You Rather Have The Seahawks Face?

Since I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to play this game, I thought I’d get this post out now before it’s too late.

It’s no secret that this is the worst Seahawks team we’ve seen since the run of greatness started in 2012.  We’re currently the “Nobody Believes In Us” poster children of the NFC, and would likely be the highest in the entire NFL if it weren’t for the Houston Texans catching the Raiders without Derek Carr last week.  The combination of No Earl Thomas and this offensive line – even coming off their greatest game rushing the ball last week – will almost certainly spell our doom.

Even having said that though, the Seahawks aren’t necessarily in the worst position.  Obviously, having the 2-seed would’ve been much better.  If we hadn’t blown that game to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve, we’d be hosting the Falcons right now instead of flying all the way to Atlanta, but I’m not so sure there’s a ton of difference.  The Falcons being on the road earlier this season didn’t stop them from taking over in the second half and almost winning that game.  Having the game in Atlanta just means that it’s going to be noisier for our offense.  Here’s to hoping the increased level of communication – by having it quiet for our defense – will be enough to combat the loss of Earl Thomas in this one.

The Falcons are the Falcons.  They’re good.  But, truth be told, they’re probably only the 3rd best team remaining in the NFC.  And, if you compare them to all the NFC playoff teams this year, I’d probably rank them fourth behind the Giants as well.  Even though we’re mired in the 3-seed, the Seahawks are getting the best draw possible.  The Lions were the worst playoff team the NFC had to offer (almost certainly worse than a few of the other NFC teams who didn’t make it as well; much love to the Giants for preventing the Redskins from sneaking in there).  The Falcons are the worst remaining opponent – when you compare them to the Packers and Cowboys.  And, if we find a way to get past the Falcons – which will certainly be the shootout I was expecting in the Lions game – we’ll either go on the road to play the Cowboys, or come back home to play the Packers.

So, who would I rather see the Seahawks face in a hypothetical NFC Championship Game where we got past the Falcons to get in there?

I was grappling with that decision all morning last Sunday, before the Giants/Packers matchup.  Not for nothing, but all of the teams I really fear in the NFC have been on the other side of the bracket.  It’s very fortunate for us to avoid the Giants, and it’ll be very fortunate for us to avoid either the Packers or the Cowboys.  Having to beat just one of the top three teams in the NFC, instead of all three, is as good as it gets.

But, I digress.  I ultimately came to the conclusion that I wanted the Giants to beat the Packers last week.  I think either one of those teams could take down the Cowboys if things break right.  While the Giants have the superior defense, with a solid secondary and a really good pass rush, I feel like our own defense would’ve had a better time containing Eli and their receivers than we would A-Rod and his.

Now that it’s the Packers at the Cowboys though, I’m having a tougher time.  If we just, from here on out, assume a Seahawks win (which, again, I’m not necessarily predicting), then a Packers win would mean the Seahawks host the NFC Championship Game; a Cowboys win would obviously mean we go to Dallas.  In a vacuum, I think I fear the Packers more, as they’ve seriously had our number the last two times we’ve played them (and it would’ve been the last three times, had we not engineered that crazy comeback the last time we played them in the NFC Championship Game).  I just don’t know how much more magic we have.  I think A-Rod has figured out how to throw on our defense, I think their defense has no problem getting to our quarterback, and I think our quarterback has some kind of mental block when it comes to facing their secondary, as he’s thrown (approximately) a billion interceptions in the last three games he’s played against them.  I would hope – in any scenario where we play the Packers – that our defensive coordinator has figured out a way to adjust our scheme to make A-Rod less comfortable, because as it stands right now it’s like he’s going up against a defense full of Special Olympians.

But … we’d be at home!  I dunno, it’s tough.

Ultimately, I don’t think that’s enough for me to sway my opinion.  No one is intimidated by playing in CenturyLink Field anymore, especially the likes of A-Rod.  It would be fun for the fans, and for the city I suppose, but it would cease being fun when Green Bay takes another double-digit lead on us and we have to play catch-up.

With Dallas, obviously you have the rookie quarterback, even though he’s looked nothing like a rookie this year.  They’ve got the best O-Line in the league, so there’s that to contend with.  You’re probably not going to sack Dak Prescott very much.  But, let’s face it, you’re not going to sack Aaron Rodgers very much either!  He’s obviously got excellent pocket awareness, even if he isn’t the most nimble runner.  Plus, I feel like everyone sleeps on the Green Bay O-Line, but it’s pretty fucking good in its own right!  So, I’m not calling that as some huge advantage for the Cowboys over the Packers.  I think it’s much closer to even, all things considered.

What’s not even is the Cowboys’ running back, Ezekiel Elliott.  The Seahawks are among the best in all of football at stopping the run, but I don’t imagine we’d have much success in holding him in check like we have most other teams.  But, you know, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.  If we can do an okay job – and force them to pound it on the majority of their plays – they might have good-looking total yardage numbers, but their yards per carry average should be mediocre.  Plus, I think we can limit the big plays downfield in their passing game much better than we would against the Packers.

On the defensive side of the ball, there’s nothing about the Cowboys that impresses me all that much.  At least with Green Bay, they have Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews.  They’ve got studs!  They may have holes, but I think the Cowboys have more holes, plus I think we’d be able to run on the Cowboys better than we would against the Packers (even though the Cowboys led the league in fewest rushing yards allowed, I have to think most of that is them being in the lead in most of their ballgames).

There’s also, not for nothing, the fact that the Packers know us so well.  We’ve played them five times in the last five seasons dating back to 2012’s Fail Mary game.  The Seahawks tend to fare better against teams who aren’t used to seeing us so often.  Hence why we keep losing these bullshit divisional games to the likes of mediocre Cardinals and Rams teams.  We’ve only played Dallas 3 times since 2012 (not counting pre-season), and never since Prescott became their full time starter.

So, you know, as much as I’d love to see A-Rod come to Seattle and be sent away heartbroken and out of the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons, the odds are he’ll probably beat us and I’ll be stuck looking at his stupid smug face for 3+ hours.

Then again, Dallas has been the clear best team in the NFC all year, and it’s probably just “Their Year”.  They’ll host Atlanta and all of this will have been written for nothing.  Such is playoff mania in the NFL.

Let’s Not Start Sucking Each Other’s Dicks Quite Yet: The Falcons Aren’t The Lions

Well, that was a sight for sore eyes.  Thomas Rawls looked as good as he ever has, the O-Line had their best run blocking game of the year, the offense dominated time of possession, Russell Wilson mixed in some nice throws, Paul Richardson stepped up big to pick up the slack of losing Tyler Lockett, the defense stuffed the run without Tony McDaniel while getting good pressure on the quarterback, and a game that was 0-0 after the first quarter turned into a comfortable Seahawks victory by the midpoint in the fourth quarter.  It was everything we’ve come to expect from the Seahawks the last few years.

It was everything the Seahawks haven’t been THIS year.

So, that’s it huh?  Bygones are bygones and we can forget this whole inconsistent regular season ever happened?  They flipped the switch and we can all book our tickets for the Super Bowl?

Yeah, I dunno.

It’s one thing to do it at home on Saturday night.  It’s one thing to do it against arguably the worst defense in football.  It’s one thing to do it against a quarterback with a broken finger on his throwing hand.  It’s one thing to do it while getting the majority of the calls from an over-matched referee crew.  It’s one thing to do it when you’re heavily favored and clearly the superior team.  But, it’s quite another to do it on the road next Saturday afternoon, against arguably the best offense in football, against the likely MVP of the league, while contending with a certain over-correction from next week’s referee crew, when we’re sure to be heavy underdogs and clearly the inferior team.

Or, maybe you don’t think that’s totally accurate.  Maybe this performance has swayed you.  I’m trying to avoid the over-reaction to one fine performance, at home, in the Wild Card round, against a team dealing with a lot of injuries.  Sure, the Seahawks are dealing with injuries too, but you know who’s not?  Atlanta.  They’re pretty much as healthy as can be, and they’ve had a week off to get ready for this game.  And maybe you don’t necessarily think the Falcons are clearly superior to the Seahawks.  But, you know who they ARE clearly superior to?  Detroit.

Atlanta’s not going to drop the (approximately) billion passes that the Lions receivers dropped.  Passes that would’ve extended drives, converted third downs, and put them into scoring situations more frequently.

Atlanta’s not going to be gashed for six yards per carry to Thomas Rawls.

Atlanta doesn’t employ hotheads who lose their cool like Anquan Boldin, who cost his team 30 yards of field position.

Atlanta’s not going to consistently over-throw their receivers because of a finger splint.

Atlanta’s not going to abandon the run, because unlike the Lions, they have a solid O-Line and two elite running backs.

And you sure as shit better recognize that Atlanta’s not going to be held to 6 points.  36 maybe.

The same problems with the Seahawks that we’ve been pulling our hair out over all season – and particularly over the last few weeks – are still here, waiting to be exposed by a hungry, talented Falcons team who’d like nothing better than stick it to an over-confident Seahawks team.

Yes, we have revenge on our minds, from 2012, but as someone noted on Twitter last week, I think there’s less than 10 people still playing on this team right now that played in that game.  The Falcons have revenge on their minds too, from earlier this season, on a play they thought they got jobbed on at the end of the game.  Would’ve cost them the 2-seed had it not been for our own incompetence in losing to the Cardinals on Christmas Eve (or any of the other winnable games we lost this year).

I don’t want it to sound like I’m mad that we beat the Lions or anything.  Indeed, another week we get to sit around talking about the Seahawks ALWAYS beats the alternative (which, I suppose, is looking forward to the Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there).  I’m not saying I give the Seahawks absolutely no chance of beating the Falcons.  Honestly, the last time I was so convinced the Seahawks would lose a game was back when we had to go into New England in November.  So, you know, that’s a good sign, right?

I just don’t want to get carried away or go off the deep end, based on one impressive Seahawks victory.  Yes, it would be HUGE if we could run the ball like this the rest of the way.  Yes, it’ll be ENORMOUS if C.J. Prosise returns this week and hits the ground running like he was in that very New England game where he racked up 153 total yards on offense.  And of course, if Paul Richardson can pick up the slack and be the deep threat this team needs to open things up underneath, all of our offensive woes could very well be behind us.

But, without Earl Thomas, and quite frankly with how this defense has been called by Kris Richard the last couple years, I could easily see Matt Ryan and Co. carving up our zone like a turkey made out of warm butter.

I noticed more man-to-man in this Lions game though, so maybe there’s a shifting of philosophy.  Or, maybe that was just a one-game game-plan and we’ll go back to getting eaten alive later this week.  Either way, it’ll be fun to debate it in my head the next few days!

The Mariners Made Two More Trades Last Week

  • Seth Smith (OF) to Baltimore for Yovani Gallardo (SP)
  • Nathan Karns (SP) to Kansas City for Jarrod Dyson (OF)

When I look at that, I see one good trade and one bad one.  Let’s start with the bad.

Seth Smith has real value as a platoon outfielder, mostly for his bat, and if dealt to the right team, could be a nice little addition to a championship roster.  In that sense, considering how good Baltimore already was, this feels right for them.  He doesn’t need to play every day, he doesn’t even need to start!  He’ll come in and pinch hit for them down the stretch or in the playoffs and make a big impact, I’m sure of it.

Gallardo, meanwhile, is a guy whose best years are CLEARLY behind him.  He peaked between 2009-2012 with Milwaukee and has seen his strikeout numbers plummet ever since.  Considering he’s ostensibly supposed to be a right-handed power arm, that’s certainly cause for concern.  He was still more or less effective through the 2015 season, but that saw him hover around the 180 innings range.  For a guy who’s also supposed to be an “innings eater”, I mean, I guess averaging 6 innings per start is okay, but I dunno.

Then, last year, he played in Baltimore, and he didn’t play well.  He had a shoulder injury that kept him out of the rotation for 8 weeks, and upon his return he could never get it going.  The Orioles sent over $2 million to offset the $11 million he’s making this year.  And, if he totally flames out, all it will take is $2 million more to take care of his buyout next year (he’s set to earn $13 million otherwise).  Like a lot of other guys Jerry Dipoto has brought in during his tenure here, we’re hoping for a bounce-back year.  And, considering it looks like he’s more or less locked into the #4 starter role – with the loss of Taijuan Walker – we’re REALLY hoping he bounces back.

My ultimate takeaway is that I knew all along the Mariners were going to do something to bring in another veteran starter.  It’s just a shame this is the best we could do.  I feel like any number of free agents on the market would be a better gamble.  Considering the starting pitching on this team was already a weakness coming into this offseason, and then we traded away Taijuan, I was just hoping we had something more impressive up our sleeves than a guy who might be done as soon as this year.

As for the good trade, SO LONG KARNS!  I can’t say that I’m going to miss him.  I really don’t give a shit that he has a ton of team control (while Dyson has just one year left on his deal), because we’ve already played that game.  Team control is meaningless if the player is terrible.  Karns had a full year in 2015 with the Rays and showed some promise, but it was also clear that he couldn’t go deep into games and they were really protecting him with his innings count.  He had every opportunity in 2016 with the Mariners to cement his status as a starting pitcher in this league, but in 15 starts I’d say he really only had about 2 good ones.  Most games, he struggled just to get through 5 innings.  Eventually, the team had to demote him to reliever, before he was demoted to Tacoma, and then put on the DL.  At that point, he fell off the face of the Earth, so I don’t even know if he’s healthy again, or if he’s spending this winter rehabbing.  For all I know, he might not ever start again!  Considering he didn’t throw all that hard, and his stuff wasn’t all that good (he had an okay curve ball, when he could control it, which was almost never), I’m hard pressed to peg him as even turning into a quality reliever.  He feels like a guy who’s going to be out of baseball in the next year or two.  Better to cut bait now and get what you can.

Which, in this case, is a guy I really like!  Dyson isn’t an impressive hitter by any stretch.  He’s got no power whatsoever, so go ahead and put that out of your mind.  I’m not even sure he’s destined to be an everyday starter with this team.  He’ll probably hit for around .250-.260, he’s improving with his on-base percentage, and across the last five years he’s averaged over 30 stolen bases per season.  When you top him off as a quality defender, and pair him with Leonys Martin in center, you’re talking about a ton of speed at the bottom of our lineup (unless he starts to hit out of his mind, in which case you could see him move up in the lineup) and a ton of outfield defense.  Which, for this pitching staff, it’s pretty easy to see how this will be a good thing.

So, in taking these two trades as a whole, did the Mariners improve?  Well, if you look at it this way:

  • Gallardo for Karns
  • Dyson for Smith

I think you could say we did.  Say what you will about Gallardo, but he’s sure as shit better than Karns!  And, I know we all like Seth Smith’s bat, but he’s been prone to cold streaks (particularly late in seasons) and has batted around .250 both years he’s been in Seattle.  You figure his on-base percentage will be better than Dyson’s, but the difference in baserunning and defense puts Dyson WAY ahead in this thing.

It’s still not an ideal team, but it’s rounding into something respectable.  The lineup in particular is something you’ve gotta like.  I’ve got it like this:

  1. Segura (SS)
  2. Valencia (1B)
  3. Cano (2B)
  4. Cruz (DH)
  5. Seager (3B)
  6. Ruiz (C)
  7. Martin (CF)
  8. Haniger (RF)
  9. Dyson (LF)

Or, depending on the opposing pitcher, and how well guys are playing, you could sub in Vogelbach at first base, pushing Valencia to one of the corner outfield spots.  Also, put Haniger in the same outfield pile as Gamel, Heredia, Powell, and O’Malley; not all of those guys will crack the Opening Day roster, but they’re just a phone call away if they start out in Tacoma.  Still, I like the first seven guys in that lineup an awful lot, and there are many reasons for optimism about Haniger and Dyson as well.

The tricky thing is the pitching staff, particularly the rotation:

  1. Felix
  2. Kuma
  3. Paxton
  4. Gallardo
  5. Miranda

Word from Dipoto is that the Mariners are still looking to bolster their depth in the rotation, which I would say is a MUST.  Nevertheless, it sounds like we shouldn’t expect a big splash.  If we get a free agent, expect it to be a low-level guy.  If it’s a trade, expect it to be for another fringe prospect.  It doesn’t sound like, at this time, the Mariners will be selling the farm (what little farm we’ve got left) to bring in a stud.  We’ll see where they’re at by the end of June though.

The bullpen actually looks like it’s rounding into shape.  There are plenty of guys to choose from, and I’m sure a few more moves will be made here, but these are the guys I like:

  • Closer – Diaz
  • RHP – Cishek
  • RHP – Scribner
  • RHP – Zych
  • RHP – Vincent
  • LHP – Scrabble

There’s room for one more reliever on there, I would expect a second lefty, but we’ll see.  On paper, those six guys look pretty good, but they don’t play the games on paper.

Next month, pitchers and catchers report, and we get this thing going.  I’m sure we’ll have a better idea of what to expect regarding the Opening Day roster by then.