Husky Basketball Salvages A Split On The Road Against The Mountain Schools

To me, I’m not seeing a whole lot of difference between Utah and Colorado from a talent perspective.  The Utes like the long ball a little more than the Buffaloes, and are a little less guard-heavy, but other than that, these two teams are pretty close.  Yet, against Utah, the Huskies lost by 8, and against Colorado, the Huskies won by 10.

The Huskies, with their zone, and their aggressive style of defense when it comes to steals and blocks, are able to mitigate a lot of talent disparities in Pac-12 play.  When they’re on, they can beat any team; when they’re off, they can lose to any team.  Now, obviously when you compare them to Gonzaga, or some of the other elite schools, the Huskies don’t have the talent to hang for very long.  But, against the Pac-12 so far, it’s fine.  The Huskies are probably in the upper half of the middle of the road.

But, offensively, the Huskies have a real problem.  As has been noted by anyone who has eyeballs, the Huskies tend to go silent on the offensive end for long stretches of game.  Against Utah, it was pretty much the entire first half, as the Utes ran out to a 35-24 halftime lead.  The Huskies were able to make a little bit of a run in the second half – getting as close as 64-60 with 2 minutes to go in the game – but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank to close it out.

The Huskies shot just under 40% for the game, which is pretty normal for them, but they were a truly abysmal 2 of 18 from the 3-point line.  David Crisp was a mind-boggling 0 for 7, and Thybulle & Nowell combined to go 0 for 5.  Personally, I’d love it if Crisp just stopped shooting threes altogether, because he’s fucking terrible at it.  I mean, you KNOW he practices it all the fucking time, because it’s what he loves to do more than anything else on Earth!  How he can do that and still be so awful is one of those unsolvable mysteries I’ll never understand.  You can’t even call him streaky anymore, because Crisp is just on one season-long bad streak of jump-shooting.

Then, a couple days later, it was more of the same in the early going against Colorado, as poor shooting allowed the Buffs to jump out to a 7-0 lead, and later an 18-9 lead before the Husky Timeout Heard ‘Round The World.  There was around 8 minutes left in the first half, and from that point the Huskies went on a 27-9 run to get to halftime with a 9-point lead.  The improved shooting continued in the second half, and the Huskies pulled out a crucial win.

It was huge to avoid a 3-game losing streak, it helped leapfrog us back into 4th place in the conference, and it was yet another road victory to throw onto the pile.  We’re among the last four out on ESPN’s Bracketology, which is very impressive for this team.

The Huskies shot a whopping 50% from 3-point against the Buffs (8 of 19) and killed ’em on the boards.  Crisp kept it to 1 for 3, which is fine, but Thybulle, Nowell, and Dominic Green all crushed it (3/5, 2/5 and 2/5 respectively).  The Huskies need those guys to keep up the quality shooting to be a Tourney team, so keep those fingers crossed.

14-6 overall, 4-3 in conference, with 11 more games to go.  That’s one game against the Cougs (this Sunday), two more against the Mountain schools at home, and a whopping 4 games against the pretty mediocre Oregon schools.  Ideally, the Huskies will find a way to win 6/7 of those games, but that’s me being greedy.  If we take down 4/7 conservatively, that puts us at 18-9 (8-6) with 4 important games left over (two at home against the Arizona schools; two on the road in the Bay Area).  Win 2/4 of those (with one of the two coming against the Cardinal or Wildcats, that puts us at 20-11 (10-8) with impressive wins over at least two Tourney schools (maybe 3 if USC makes it; maybe more if some of those non-conference mid-major schools play well).  20-11 would put the Huskies firmly on the bubble, with the Pac-12 Tournament to go.  They’d definitely have to win their first game, and probably have to win 2 games to assure themselves a seat at the Dance.

Can’t let up against the Cougs this weekend.  Maybe more important than anything else is winning the games you’re supposed to win.  Padding out that record and getting into the top 3 or 4 in the conference regular season would be my preferred option.

Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Seahawks As We Know Them

When you reach the top, it’s great.  You’re winning lots of games, you’re winning Super Bowls, teams are copying your scheme and signing away your players and hiring your assistant coaches and front office staff.  Between that and the salary cap, the league does everything it can to chip away at your success, until you’re a hollow husk of your former self.

Then, on the way down, you stop winning Super Bowls, you don’t win as many games as you used to, the league is not only littered with copycats, but teams who’ve figured out your scheme, and nobody really wants to sign away your rejects or hire your assistants anymore.  After a long run of success, at the first sign of stagnation, what do you do?  Deflect blame and start firing assistants.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as ugly as it sounds.  It’s not like Pete Carroll is out on a soapbox trashing guys like Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, or Kris Richard, but a message is sent without saying anything at all.  These guys were problems for us.  If we want to get good again, we need to replace THESE guys with THOSE guys.

And, unless you’re Mike Tomlin or Marvin Lewis (guys who never get fired, no matter what apparently), you pretty much only get to do that once.  Some coaches will take their time replacing coordinators.  One bad year, pick which unit was the worst and fire its coordinator.  Still didn’t work?  Fire the other one.  Dragging that out can sometimes help a head coach cling for dear life to his job.  But, cleaning house all at once?  That’s a bold move.

A bold move, I would argue, of a man who doesn’t figure to be here much longer.

The last ditch effort of a head coach trying to save his job is to bring in “his guys”.  Get back to basics.  And, if he has to go down with the ship, at least he went down his way.  I don’t think Pete Carroll was in any danger of getting fired this season.  I think this team could totally crater in 2018 as well and he’d probably still get a crack at turning it around in 2019.  So, I wouldn’t say this is a hot seat situation – like it usually is – so much as a guy either nearing retirement, or simply nearing the end of his run in Seattle.

Pete Carroll was with USC for 9 seasons.  He’ll be entering his 9th season with the Seahawks later this year.  I’m not trying to say there’s some significance with the number 9 or anything, but 9 years in any one spot is a long time in the coaching world.  Pete’s been in the business since the early 70’s, and his stint at USC (and now Seattle) was the longest BY FAR of any of his stops.  You have to wonder if he’s getting antsy.

You also have to wonder if he’s seeing the writing on the wall.  He saw it at USC, and left at the perfect time.  With the Seahawks, what do we have to look forward to if the players we bring in from the 2016-2018 NFL Drafts don’t develop into elite Pro Bowlers?  We’ve got a quarterback, a wide receiver, a few pieces on defense, and a lot of question marks.  That makes it sound worse than it actually is – there are plenty of fine players on the team right now – but obviously there wasn’t enough in 2017 to get this team into the playoffs!  When you’re susceptible to a kicker costing you your season, then you absolutely don’t have enough talent to be a championship contender.  And, if you’re not a championship contender, then what’s the point?

I think that’s what Pete has to be thinking.  He’s 66 years old, by far the oldest head coach in the league.  I know he’s young at heart and whatnot, but even if he coaches until he’s 72 or 73 years old (and that’s being pretty generous, I think), what does that leave him time for?  Is that enough time to turn this Seahawks franchise around?  Maybe, but again it’s going to be really hard to do if we’re coming at it as a 9-7 team.  If we string a bunch of these years together, that’s not going to help us rebuild!  It’s just enough to keep us spinning our tires in that 8-8 grind!  Better to bottom out for a year or two, then bounce back with a bunch of high draft picks (assuming, of course, that you hit on them).

Or, if we’re talking about the last 5-6 years of his head coaching career, maybe are we talking about Pete Carroll going to some OTHER downtrodden franchise and turning THEM around?  I feel like that task is much more likely to come to fruition (assuming, of course, they figure out the quarterback conundrum).

To put it another way, does Pete Carroll want to be known (from an NFL perspective) as the best head coach in Seahawks history?  Or, does he want to be known as a head coach who was able to turn around multiple franchises, and bring two different organizations to the Super Bowl?  And, what’s more likely to get him into the Hall of Fame one day?

Part of this is me questioning whether Pete Carroll wants to finish his career here, which I have serious doubts about.  But, the other part of it is me losing a little bit of confidence in these guys as talent evaluators and teachers of the game.  This team needs a serious infusion of talent to counter-balance this team’s aging core and terrible luck with injuries.  Because I don’t think the coaches they’ve brought in are capable enough of transforming the players we have now into superstars.  And if this team keeps trending downward, as it’s been since 2015, we could be looking at some fairly lean times ahead.

At which point, it wouldn’t shock me to see Pete Carroll bolt for another opportunity.  Nor would it shock me to see Paul Allen come in and blow everything up again.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m heading into the 2018 season without much confidence.

The Seahawks Also Fired Kris Richard, Hired 3 New Guys

I wanted to wait until things were a little more official before talking about the influx of new coaches on the Seattle Seahawks, as you never know when a deal is gonna go sideways at the last minute.

As we all know, the Seahawks fired Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable last week.  Now, we have their replacements, as well as the news that Kris Richard was also canned.

Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer, will take over for Bevell as the offensive coordinator.  He’s been coaching in the league since 1997, first becoming a coordinator back in 2006 with the Jets.  He was there for 6 years, then with Jeff Fisher’s Rams for 3 years, then he went to college and was the coordinator at Georgia for a season before returning to the NFL with the Colts as a quarterbacks coach the last two years.  In that time, he’s had some good seasons and some bad seasons, though by and large he’s been saddled with some pretty mediocre-to-terrible quarterbacks; suffice it to say, Russell Wilson will be the best one he’s ever coached.

Mike Solari, former Seahawks offensive line coach from 2008-2009, will take over for Cable as the offensive line coach (there will be no assistant head coach or whatever on this staff, it would seem).  Solari has been coaching since the 70s, in the NFL starting in 1987, and has been coaching offensive lines practically the whole time.  He was most recently with the Giants the last two years (certainly not a running juggernaut), was with the Packers for a season in 2015, and spent 5 years with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh.  He too has had some good seasons and some bad seasons.  I remember being really jacked up the first time the Seahawks signed him, but he caught on just as all of our O-Line talent was falling apart, and we never really recovered in that 2-year span.  He’ll have his work cut out for him this time too.

Ken Norton Jr., former Seahawks linebackers coach from 2010-2014, will take over for Richard as the defensive coordinator.  He was most recently the coordinator for the Raiders the last 3 seasons.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it seemed like they underachieved pretty hard, particularly the last two years.  That’s a defense with a lot of talent, but maybe not as much as I think.  I dunno.  The Raiders, obviously, cleaned house this offseason, handing over the keys to the franchise to Jon Gruden, who’s brought in a pretty impressive staff under him.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can bounce back after a disappointing 2017.  Norton, meanwhile, was poised to be an assistant for the 49ers, until the Seahawks offered him the coordinator job.  I don’t know if he’s necessarily a step up from Kris Richard, but I also don’t know if he’s a step down either.

As a Seahawks fan, it’s hard to get too excited about any of these moves.  They’re all retreads, and they’re all pretty boilerplate.  When you look around the league, and you see what certain guys are doing with their creative schemes, you’d hope the Seahawks would want to be on that cutting edge.  At the very least, you’d like to see these coaches having some sustained success at what they do; but each one of these guys were spotty at best.

Which begs the question:  knowing what I know now, would I do it over again?  Would I still want to replace Bevell, Cable, and Richard?  And I have to say yes, because again, it was time for a new voice, a new set of eyes, and a new mindset.

I also have to say that the most important ingredient in all of this is Pete Carroll.  From what I’m reading – and I tend to agree – this is Pete taking over control of his team, and if the end is somewhere on the horizon (2 years, 3 years, 5 years?), he’s going to go out on his own terms, doing what he does best:  running the football and playing smashmouth defense.

It also means you know who to blame if all of this goes south, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m sure Ken Norton Jr. is a fine teacher and motivator, but he’s going to be running Carroll’s scheme to the letter.  Richard was more or less also doing that, but Richard would also probably benefit from coaching under someone besides Carroll for the first time in his career.  The point is, Carroll has always had his hands all over the defense, so nothing is going to change there.  I would expect things to look pretty much the same as they have since Dan Quinn left.

As for Solari, I honestly don’t know what he’ll be able to do that Tom Cable couldn’t do better.  It’s no surprise that Cable was on the market for all of a couple of days.  I’m pretty sure they both run essentially the same zone blocking scheme, only Solari has done it consistently worse, without any sort of knack for improving pass protection either.  He feels like a poor man’s Cable in every respect.  But, with the way the staff was organized, I doubt Cable would’ve accepted a reduced role here – to JUST coach the O-Line, and not be the “run game coordinator” or whatever – and I doubt we could’ve gotten a respectable offensive coordinator to come in, knowing that Cable had just as much, if not more power, in the offense.  This might be the one case where change for the sake of change backfires, but Solari probably isn’t the VERY worst, so let’s hope the drop-off isn’t too severe.

The most interesting hire – and the one under the largest microscope, among fans – is Brian Schottenheimer.  I know as far as head coaches are concerned, his dad is on my short list of the ones I respect the most (and I do believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, in spite of his lack of success in the playoffs), so the hope is there’s some of Marty’s magic in Brian.  I guess we’ll see.  He’s largely an unknown precisely because he hasn’t had as good of a quarterback as Wilson in his coordinating career.  He was a quarterbacks coach for Drew Brees in San Diego, and apparently did him a world of good, so there’s been a lot of talk about him bringing Wilson’s game to another level.  That’s less interesting to me, because I don’t know if there’s another level to Wilson’s game, necessarily.  He’s also considerably more experienced than Brees was at that point in his career, so it’s not like Schottenheimer would be bringing along some wide-eyed rookie.  Wilson is an established veteran and Pro Bowler, with 2 trips to the Super Bowl under his belt and 1 championship; what is Schottenheimer going to tell him that Bevell couldn’t?  Throw from the pocket more!  Throw on time!  Yeah, we get it, this has been harped upon since day 1.

Word on the street is, Schottenheimer (boy, am I going to get tired of writing that long-ass name out) likes to run the football.  So, again, this has Pete’s influence all over it.  Getting back to old school football.  Of course, it would help if we had a talented running back – who can also stay healthy for more than 6 games – to hand the rock off to, but that’s neither here nor there.  We’re not going to get anything flashy out of Schottenheimer; this isn’t Sean McVay.  This is the Seahawks trying to reclaim former glories.

On the one hand:  sad.  We kill the Mariners for constantly living in the past, but I’m supposed to get all lubed up over the Seahawks returning to their 2013 form?  Besides, can we even put that genie back in the lamp?

Which leads me to the other hand:  good.  My main concern is Russell Wilson in all of this.  He’s been in the league for 6 years now, and has done everything you could ask of a franchise quarterback.  You have to wonder:  is he going to accept a slightly reduced role, if it means this offense has greater success?  Ego is a powerful thing.  You obviously have to have a lot of ego to play quarterback in the NFL, but when you get to the level Wilson’s reached in his career, that ego tends to expand to galaxy-sized proportions.  The biggest question that I’ll have, as we head into the 2018 season, is:  will Russell Wilson put his money where his mouth is?  Is he REALLY all about winning?  Or, is it only about winning when he’s the lone star on the team?

Don’t get me wrong, I would have this same question for almost every single successful quarterback in the league.  There gets to be a point in a young quarterback’s career where he becomes bigger than the team, and it’s not until he’s logged a decade or so when he comes to realize that in the end, all that matters is winning.  What I want to know is, can we somehow accelerate that line of thinking for Wilson, get him to come back down to Earth a little bit, and run a more conservative-style offense that helps out our defense and gets this team back on track?

The other word on the street is, Schottenheimer is pretty salty.  So, here’s hoping he can infuse a little more discipline into this offense, again particularly with Wilson.  He needs a coach, not a buddy, and I don’t get the sense that Bevell was much of an authoritarian.  This should also help teammate relations when it comes to their quarterback resentment.  But, you know, we’ll see.

No one really knows how these coaches are going to be, or how the players are going to respond.  So, it’s hard to get too uptight about any of it.  Save that energy for when the games start.

Myles Gaskin Is Returning For His Senior Season

2018 was always going to be an interesting season for the Huskies.  Jake Browning’s senior year, lots of talent sticking around on defense, Pettis leaving for the draft (meaning the wide receiver group was totally up for grabs), and Lavon Coleman graduating.  When you were under the assumption – as I was – that Myles Gaskin was going to leave for the NFL after his Junior year, that meant the running back room was up for grabs too.  Salvon Ahmed, obviously, had the inside track after his solid Freshman year in 2017, but we were destined to see a lot of new faces back there, until we landed on a 2-man or 3-man regular rotation.

Instead, Gaskin is back!  He’s back as the team’s unquestioned starter, he’s set to break just about every single rushing record in Washington football history, and it gives us Husky fans one less thing to worry about when it comes to this offense in 2018.

Obviously, with Coleman gone, Ahmed’s role is set to increase, and you figure the next-best back will get some of those old Ahmed touches from 2017 (assuming Ahmed doesn’t convert to receiver or something).  The Huskies have been recruiting some highly ranked running backs under Coach Pete, so I’ll still be interested to see the new crop start to get their looks.

I would also think Gaskin’s usage doesn’t change much.  He’s not going to suddenly become a workhorse.  He’ll still lead the way, but I wouldn’t expect the team to ride him to death.

It’s interesting, though, because it looked like he did everything he could do in college.  Under normal circumstances, he would’ve been gone in a heartbeat.  But, this year, there’s a glut of running backs coming out of college, and apparently he was given a 4th round grade by people who study this stuff.  Which, if you’ve heard about pre-draft grades, you know how those can vary (just see Chris Polk’s fall).  4th round is probably a best-case scenario this year, with a very real possibility that it’s more like a 5th or 6th round reality.

There’s the risk though.  You risk coming out early and disappearing in the draft, or you risk playing another season, getting injured, regressing a little bit, but maybe coming out in a draft with fewer quality running backs.  I dunno.  If you love college and are committed to getting your degree, then I think that’s a real factor as well.  Hell, I LOVED college, I never would’ve left if it was monetarily feasible.

So, good news for Husky fans, though a little bit of a bummer for Gaskin.  Here’s hoping he just blows everyone away in 2018 and gets his draft stock to soar!

Husky Basketball Split A Weekend Home Series Against The Bay Area Schools

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see a second of the Thursday night game against the California Golden Bears, because 8pm starts are a thing for the Pac-12, and with my schedule being what it is, I’m in bed by that time.

The Huskies did their thing, though, in beating Cal 66-56.  Cal was held to just under 36% shooting from beyond the arc, and missed more free throws than they hit to seal the deal.  The Huskies were pretty sloppy in their own right, but did just enough down the stretch, led by Jaylen Nowell’s 20 points and 5 boards.  Thybulle filled up the stat sheet as usual, Crisp hit a couple huge shots and didn’t force things offensively, and the Dawgs got double-digit scoring out of Dickerson and Nahziah Carter to round things out.

I was able to catch the Stanford game on Saturday night, which unfortunately never really went the Huskies’ way.  We found ourselves down 21-12 midway through the first half before a Husky run made it just a 2-point deficit at halftime.  Then, after trading some leads early in the second half, the Cardinal went on another run to go up 13 a little past the midway point.  The Huskies would go on another run to get to within 2 points at the under-4 time out, but we ultimately couldn’t sustain it and Stanford ended up winning by 9.

This was a tough one.  Stanford was 9-8 heading into this game, but only had 1 conference loss, and played a seriously difficult non-conference scheduled.  In other words, this team is MUCH better than their overall record, and I expect them to be a Tournament team (barring injury) come March.  The Huskies were able to keep them in check from the 3-point line, for the most part.  But, they just KILLED us on the boards, grabbing 48 to our 28 (and 14 on the offensive glass to our 3).  The Huskies did their damnedest, winning the turnover battle 18-10, out-blocking them by a whopping 12-3 margin, and beating them 10-4 in steals.  Ultimately, though, this game came down to poor Husky shooting.  5/22 from long distance, 37.5% overall, and only 17/26 from the charity stripe.  With foul trouble being pretty equal on both sides, the shooting thing was ultimately too big to overcome.

I think it’s encouraging that the Huskies can hang with a team like Stanford.  We play them again in late February, and it wouldn’t shock me if we somehow prevailed.

It’s unfortunate to drop a home game, but remember how far this team has come since last season.  It’s also important to note that the Huskies have been just as good on the road as they’ve been at home, and their style of play can work regardless of location.  This is fundamentally important, especially when you consider this team wants to get back to the NCAA Tournament, and ALL of those games are away from your home arena.

The Huskies look to limit this to a 1-game losing streak as they head to the Mountain schools this week.  Utah doesn’t appear to be particularly strong this year, and Colorado appears to be better than anyone expected.  I wouldn’t expect either of those things to matter, as it wouldn’t shock me if the Huskies won both games, lost both games, or split them either direction.

The Mariners Feel Their Rotation Is Set?

So, I guess there was this interview with Jerry Dipoto on 710am recently where he said the Mariners are more or less set with the starting pitchers they have.  Don’t expect any major moves – either via free agency, or trades – between now and Spring Training.  This, in spite of the fact that at the moment, there are a TON of starting pitchers on the free agent market.  The supply is high, the demand appears to be low for now, and so you know what that means:  good pitchers could be brought in for a song.

And the Mariners aren’t going to take advantage of this?  Are they fucking NUTS?

This feels like a Once in a Decade type of thing.  Usually, Major League Baseball’s free agency period is a feeding frenzy of 30 ravenous coyotes all going after one small, dying group of deer.  The biggest, toughest ones snatch the best players for themselves, leaving the rest of the league trying to squeeze blood from a stone (lots of weird metaphors here, I apologize).  Every once in a while, the Mariners go big game hunting, but more often than not, we’re among the lower-level teams picking off the scraps.

But, this year, there’s actual talent on the market!  That the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Angels have all passed over!

On the flipside, you’ve got the Mariners, whose plan apparently involves going into 2018 with the same set of rotation pitchers they had at the end of 2017.  I know I ranted my way down this rabbithole on Twitter earlier in the week, but let’s run down everyone:

  • James Paxton – has never stayed healthy in his entire career
  • Felix Hernandez – clearly on the downside of his career, also coming off of multiple seasons of injuries
  • Mike Leake – who was very good with the M’s late last year, but those were his first 5 games as a member of the American League, so he had the element of being an unknown on his side (he also out-pitched his career numbers to an amazing degree, so it’s safe to say 2018 Leake is in for some heavy regression)
  • Ariel Miranda – who is just a so-so fifth starter type as it is, who faltered GREATLY at the end of the season last year
  • Andrew Moore – who just got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Marco Gonzales – who also got POUNDED almost each and every appearance
  • Erasmo Ramirez – who probably had his best-ever sustained run of greatness last season after being traded back to the M’s, but you’re a fucking FOOL if you believe that’s going to continue on into 2018 and beyond
  • Hisashi Iwakuma – who is coming off of a lifetime of injuries, who is currently on a minor league deal, and who knows if he’s even recovered from last year’s debilitating arm issues?

And that’s not even getting into all the other AAA nobodies we have in this organization who are all surely just as bad as all the AAA nobodies we had to suffer through in 2017 thanks to all the injuries and nonsense.  At least we don’t have Yovani Gallardo wasting our fucking time with his bullshit.

I mean, this is a joke, right?  That the Mariners are “set” with their starting rotation?  You do realize we’re in the FUCKING American League West, with the best team in all of baseball (the Astros) who have done nothing but get BETTER this offseason (especially if they figure out a way to bring in Gerrit Cole).  Then, there’s the Angels who finished 2 games ahead of the Mariners in 2017, who still have the best player alive (Mike Trout), and who brought in the consensus best free agent pitcher/hitter in the world (Shohei Ohtani).  Then, there’s the Texas Rangers, who had the same record as the Mariners last year, and had injury issues of their own to contend with.  Oh, and you can’t dismiss Oakland out of hand, because they always deal in up-and-coming prospects and you never know when it’s all going to come together for them out of nowhere.

What have the Mariners done?  They traded for a second baseman that they’re converting to a centerfielder, they signed a reliever, and they traded for a first baseman who might not be any good (and who might not even be any better than the first basemen we had last year).  That’s it.

This is a team, mind you, with a majority stake in their own fucking regional sports network!  They’re practically printing money!  And this is all we can muster?

Don’t forget, this is also the team that refuses to tear it all down and start a rebuild.  Which, fine (they probably couldn’t anyway, because no one in their right minds would give legitimate prospects for the likes of aging veterans like Cano, Cruz, or Felix, no matter how much the fans are clamoring for it).  We’ve got these veterans, we’ve got a solid offense, let’s play to win now.

Well, then LET’S GO!  Let’s sign one of these stud starting pitchers still out there on the free agent market!  What, we had all this money to pursue Ohtani, but we don’t have a few sheckles for Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn or any of the numerous starting pitchers out there who are BETTER and MORE RELIABLE than the ones we have under contract?

You know what really gets me?  Every time the Mariners decide to bite the bullet and hit the free agent market in earnest, they have to over-pay to bring in the guys they sign.  Sometimes it works out (Cano and Cruz have been great signings, for instance), but a lot of times they’re busts (Carlos Silva anyone?  Jarrod Washburn?  ET FUCKING AL).  Now, we have a chance to get some really GOOD players on the cheap (what are they going to do, retire in protest?  GTFO), and what do we do?  Clutch our purse strings and claim poverty.

Bullshit.  Fucking BULLSHIT!

God damn these fucking Mariners!  WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING HERE YOU GUYS???  You do realize the M’s are WAY WORSE than both the Astros and Angels!  You do realize we have to play everyone in our division 19 times apiece!  That’s 76 games – almost HALF YOUR FUCKING SCHEDULE – and you’re not even fucking trying.

Well, if you’re not going to try, then blow the fucking thing up.  But, these half measures are fucking killing me.  Normally, when I write a season off before it starts, it’s because the Mariners are fucking miserable failures.  But, this year, if you planted the Mariners in any other mediocre division, they’d probably net at least 10 more victories than they will in the A.L. West.  Fucking unbelievable.

Except, no.  VERY believable.  Welcome to YOUR Seattle Mariners, everyone!  Just shoot me in the fucking head right now and get it over with.

The Seahawks Fired Tom Cable & Darrell Bevell

Yesterday was a big ol’ important day in Seahawks Land, as news came down in the wee hours that Darrell Bevell was fired.  Then, for like half a day, there was all sorts of speculation about who might be his replacement.  Steve Sarkisian’s name was bandied about – which would be a good job for him, but not a good fit for the Seahawks – as well as Tom Cable just taking over all offensive coordinating duties (he was already the run game coordinator, as you’ll recall), which probably would’ve caused a revolt among the fans.  As it turns out, we never had to worry about that, because Tom Cable was let go yesterday as well.  There are rumors of others – like Kris Richard – also getting the boot, but until I get some firm reporting on that, I’ll save that topic for another day.

It was just time.  I know these are good men, and good coaches, and by and large they did a much better job than most fans want to give them credit for, but it’s time.  Time for a new set of eyes.  Time for a new voice.  Time for an injection of new ideas.

The problem, from my perspective, is it’s impossible to know Cable and Bevell’s exact roles with this team, and how Pete Carroll as the head coach fits into everything.  There are so many differing opinions on this thing, but from the sound of it, Bevell was the play-caller, but Cable still out-ranked him (I guess due to the Assistant Head Coach label).  And, as we know, Pete out-ranks everyone and can always muscle his way into the situation by saying, “Call a run here.”

Like, we know in Super Bowl XLIX, that Bevell WANTED to run the ball on that fateful play, but Pete chimed in and told him to throw it.  Which makes sense; that’s totally up to the head coach to decide.  He’s gotta think five moves ahead in that situation:  what down it is, yards to go, how much time is on the clock, how many time outs we had remaining, the odds of the Patriots going right back down the field and scoring before regulation ended.

But, Bevell still called THAT play.  He could’ve called a fade in the corner to Chris Matthews – who had been dominating that game, and likely would’ve had 1 on 1 coverage.  He could’ve called a swing pass to Beastmode.  He could’ve rolled Wilson out to either side and told him to throw it out of the endzone if nothing was there.  But, Bevell called a slant off a pick play that was destined to fail based on the personnel on the field (for both teams).

Right or wrong, that’s Bevell’s legacy.  He helped lead us to the Seahawks’ first-ever Super Bowl title, but he’s always going to be remembered for calling that play.

And, really, drawing that play in the first place!  I mean, that close to the endzone, why are you trying to design a slant in the middle of the field?  Even though a fade route fails more often than not, at least it doesn’t turn into a fucking disaster!  It’s just incomplete.  Okay.  Live to fight another down.

There’s also any number of times where this offense will be doing something well:  maybe it’s running the ball, maybe it’s going up-tempo.  And, for whatever reason, instead of sticking with what works, we opt to switch it up, and it immediately ends in a punt.

I’ll bring both Bevell and Cable in as a combo package here, because I think they’re both crippled by their blind spots.  I don’t think either one of them were good enough to fully grasp the type of players they had on this team.  Instead of crafting an offensive scheme that plays into the talents of their players, they seemed to try to shoe-horn our guys into their scheme.  Hence all the mistakes.  The holding penalties, the pre-snap penalties, the missed blocks.

Carolina likes to run the ball!  Carolina has an athletic quarterback who likes to run around and make plays!  And yet, Carolina is always one of the least penalized teams in the league.  We talk about how Wilson’s running around leads to more holding penalites for the O-Line, because they never know where he’s gonna be.  Well, who is that on?  I’d argue that’s on a coaching staff that didn’t really know what it was doing.

I’ll also say this:  having Beastmode in his prime solves a lot of your offense’s ills.  God damn, my opinion of that man only goes up and up and up with every passing year this team sputters with retreads and nobodies.

I also think there’s the constant push/pull with a guy like Bevell, who wants to do a good job for Pete, but also wants to showcase his talents to other teams who need a head coach.  While just about every coordinator is in a similar boat, I don’t think the Seahawks present you with a good opportunity for that.  The best offensive coordinators traditionally feature elite passing attacks.  As you know, the Seahawks shifted pretty hard towards a passing offense in the last couple years, and that’s just not how this team was constructed to succeed.  I think Russell Wilson CAN make all the throws and run an effective spread offense and all of that, but I don’t think he’s best suited to do that and also have this team win lots of games and win championships.  You need to be balanced for that, and the imbalance this team had in recent years – due to play-calling, and due to the offensive line’s incompetence – ultimately was the cause for both of these men to be fired.

I’ll be interested to see who they bring in, as it sounds like Sark is staying in Atlanta.  I hope it’s a good one.

Should The Seahawks Consider Trading Russell Wilson?

Short answer:  no.

Slightly longer answer:  absolutely not.

Slightly longer answer with profanity:  go fuck yourself.

Just so you know where I stand.  But, seeing as we’re knee-deep in a Seahawks-less playoffs, we’re weeks and weeks away from Spring Training nonsense, and the college football season is officially in the rearview mirror, it’s an interesting thought exercise to play around with.

We all know the reason why you would NOT trade Russell Wilson:  he’s a franchise quarterback, in his prime; he’s a proven winner with one title under his belt and almost a second one; you know if you put proper talent around him, he can take you to where you want to go.  He’s young, healthy (aside from that one season), still mobile, has a strong arm, is usually pretty safe with the rock, usually makes good decisions, and is generally lights out in the fourth quarter and overtime.  Also, it’s abundantly clear how difficult it is in the NFL to find a franchise quarterback and nuture his talents so that he reaches his full potential, so when you have one still in his prime, you don’t give him away!  You pay whatever it takes to keep him around, and deal with the roster fallout accordingly!

This is all simple, basic, NFL 101 stuff here.  So, again, would I trade Russell Wilson?  Not unless I’m guaranteed to get another franchise quarterback in return.

But, you know, he’s not perfect.  There’s always been flaws or weaknesses in his game, and those came to the forefront in 2017, particularly in December when the team completely fell apart.  He doesn’t do well with pressure up the middle.  With teams frequently gameplanning around keeping him in the pocket, all they have to do is bully our overmatched interior linemen and Wilson just crumbles.  Why is that?  Well, because he’s not 6’3 and can’t see over these guys!  It also takes him WAY too long to get going.  If the Seahawks could just jump out to regular 2-score leads and let the defense sit on opposing offenses, we’d be a MUCH better team!  All too often, it’s the other way around, and the Seahawks’ offense doesn’t start getting going until the second half, or the 4th quarter in particularly brutal cases.  Part of that is Wilson not being as accurate early in games.  Part of that is Wilson saving his legs until the team absolutely needs him to tuck the ball and run.  There may be other reasons on top of it, but it almost exclusively falls on the quarterback play (with nods to a crappy offensive line, and suspect play-calling).  For the Seahawks to succeed, the team needs (a running game) to gameplan early to get Wilson going.  The new offensive coordinator needs to bring in quick, easy throws, to get him converting short third downs and keep the chains moving.

Any discussion about trading Russell Wilson has to include what we’d get in return.  And, honestly, there aren’t a lot of comparable trades to reference here, because again, teams don’t trade franchise quarterbacks in their prime!  You generally see guys either past their prime (Brett Favre to the Jets, Joe Montana to the Chiefs, Drew Bledsoe to the Bills), on their way up (Trent Green to the Chiefs, Brad Johnson to the Redskins, Rob Johnson to the Bills, Jeff George to the Falcons) or with injury concerns (Sam Bradford to the Vikings, Carson Palmer to the Raiders).  One interesting comp is the Jeff George deal, where the Colts netted a 1st and 3rd, as well as a 2nd rounder that converted to a 1st rounder based on performance.  Carson Palmer’s trade to the Raiders was another interesting case, because he ostensibly WAS in the prime of his career.  It wasn’t a great career, but he put up a lot of numbers and was essentially the face of the Bengals’ franchise.  The Bengals got a 1st and a 2nd round pick, but their hands were tied.  Palmer was threatening retirement if he didn’t get traded, and it doesn’t sound like the market was willing to over-pay for someone whose heart might not be in it.

I guess the closest comp I could find was the Jay Cutler trade from Denver to Chicago.  Cutler and a 5th round pick went to the Bears for two 1st rounders, a 3rd rounder, and Kyle Orton.  Right here, I think you’re in the ballpark.  I think any trade for Wilson has to start with two 1st rounders, and one of them better be in the Top 10.  There’s any number of ways you can add on from here.  Would you take three 1st rounders?  Let’s say the Jets – currently drafting 6th – offered three 1st rounders (this year’s 6th and the next two first rounders), would you take it?  I’m not sure I would, but you’d have to think about it, right?  For what it’s worth, I don’t know if I’m totally in love with this draft class of NFL quarterbacks, so this thought exercise might be pointless; but maybe you love the top three guys, and you work your magic to move up from 6th to 3 (trading with Indy, who won’t need to draft a QB) and take whoever’s left over.

If it’s me, I think if you’re in the market to trade Wilson, you let it be known (quietly), but that you’re not in a hurry to cut and run.  Listen to offers, but be secure at the end of the day with keeping Wilson and having a long and fruitful career with him.  In that sense, I think you wait until some team over-pays.  One of these Top 10 drafting teams who need a quarterback, I think you squeeze a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2018, and another 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in 2019.  Something like that.  You sign a Josh McCown for a year or two and you use those picks to draft a QB of the future you can mold, as well as fill in the roster around him with extremely talented young players.  Get a stud running back, get a stud offensive tackle, get a badass defensive back, get another solid pass rusher.

Also, if it’s me, I’m only dealing with AFC teams.  Fortunately, the AFC stinks, and is full of idiot owners and general managers, so this shouldn’t be a problem.  Why the Browns aren’t offering the Seahawks the moon and the stars is beyond me.  If they offered the Seahawks all their first and second round picks this year (1st overall, 4th overall, and three 2nd rounders – including two at the very top of the 2nd) straight up for Russell Wilson, I think the Seahawks do that in a heartbeat and I think I’d do that too.  It’s crazy, of course, because that trade would never happen …

Or would it?

Jim Plunkett is best known as a 2-time Super Bowl champion of the early-80s Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.  However, he was a #1 overall draft pick of the New England Patriots back in 1971.  After five pretty mediocre seasons as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for three 1st rounders, a 2nd rounder, and a player.  That was after a season full of injuries and being benched in favor of a rookie!  So, it’s not like Plunkett was in Russell Wilson’s league when this deal went down.  And yet, the 49ers paid and paid handsomely, because they were a struggling franchise with a moron owner/general manager.  And, that’s just it.  Bad teams make terrible decisions all the time.  Would the Browns over-pay for someone like Russell Wilson, to have him come in and be the savior of the franchise?  It wouldn’t shock me one bit.

But, again, as I’ve said repeatedly, unless the deal was crazy insane bonkers in our favor, I’m not trading a franchise quarterback in his prime.  There’s a way to turn this thing around without going to such extremes.

History Of The Kicker Position For The Seattle Seahawks

I bumped this up to the Featured Articles spot.  Click HERE.