I Hate Everyone & Everything: The Huskies Lost To ASU

You know what I hate the most, aside from the fact that the Huskies lost 13-7?  I hate that all those smug national (east coast) pundits get to think they’re right.  They get to believe that the Pac-12 is a garbage fire, and they get to believe that the Huskies aren’t very good.

I hate that 1 loss means the Huskies are out of the running (barring about a million other things going right) of the College Football Playoff.

I hate that this ongoing “haven’t won at ASU” streak gets to continue for another two years.  It’s not even clever or interesting, it’s just random and stupid!

I hate that we’ve been ignoring how mediocre this offense has been all year, and now it’s all anyone’s ever going to talk about.

I hate this mediocre offense.

I hate that the offensive line is as mediocre as it is, when it should be one of this team’s top strengths.  We should be the Dallas Cowboys of offensive lines compared to the rest of the Pac-12!

I hate that we were THIS close to the BYE week, followed by 4 of the next 5 games at home.

I hate that we lost to THIS team, a terrible, pathetic ASU team.

I hate that Coach Pete opted to try that chipshot field goal instead of going for it on 4th down.  Worst case:  you back them up at the 1 yard line.  Instead, the worst case became missing the fucking field goal on the most pathetic kick I’ve ever seen in my fucking life!  I could tell by the kid’s body language alone that he wasn’t going to make ANYTHING after that first missed kick!

I hate our shitty fucking kickers.

I hate that our shitty veteran kicker put that Freshman in that position by sucking in all the games before this one.

I hate that our defense keeps coming out flat on the road in the first quarter.

I hate that our defense sucked at tackling throughout this game, particularly on that third down in that first drive, where we could’ve stopped them from ever scoring, except the guy broke about a million tackles to get the first down.

I hate that the rest of these games are effectively meaningless.  Oh sure, there’s still the conference and the Rose Bowl(?) or whatever major bowl is up for grabs, but it’s sure to be a collosal let down.

I hate that we really haven’t taken that next step.  We’re NOT in the realm of Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State.  We’re still a tier down.

I hate that I haven’t been to a tailgate yet, and the first one I go to (on the 28th) is going to feel like a wake, at least to me.

I hate that our shitty schedule means that 1 loss is all it takes to keep us from advancing to the playoffs.

I hate that there are 5 major conferences and only 4 playoff spots.  I think each major conference winner should get a spot, plus 3 at larges.

I hate that we lost.

I hate that everything feels different now.

I hate that this is how we have to spend our BYE week, instead of celebrating a potentially Top 3 or Top 4 team in the nation.

I hate everyone.

I hate everything.

The Huskies Didn’t Let Cal Do Anything

Quick post from my Hawaiian vacation:

The defense held the Bears to an absurdly low number of yards and they were only able to score on a fumble returned for a touchdown.  38-7, Huskies, where the story of the day was Coach Pete complaining about the late starts we’ve had to endure, ESPN taking it as a personal attack when he never once referenced them, then ESPN getting their panties in a wad because he wouldn’t meet personally with their announcing crew the day before the game (even though this is something he similarly avoids with every announcing crew).

I can sort of see both sides of the argument on this one.  It’s a hardship on the fans to have every game be a night game.  And no, the East Coasters are never going to watch our games with any regularity if they keep STARTING at 10:45pm Eastern.  But, the Huskies are still getting more exposure by having that national ESPN timeslot, regardless of how late it starts than they would if the game were on the Pac-12 Network, for instance.  Of course, Larry Scott doesn’t give a shit, because the Pac-12 Network isn’t on DirecTV for some mind-bogglingly stupid reason (the Pac-12 isn’t the SEC or even the Big 10, when it comes to fan fervor, so stop trying to demand equal pay and just GET the fucking network more exposure!), and so the cycle continues.

Anyway, now ESPN is butthurt, and Husky fans are equally butthurt because ESPN called the Huskies out on their easy non-conference schedule, and so now this is a thing we have to waste braincells on.

Did I mention I’m on vacation right now?  I’ve got to go.  God Awgs!

Huskies Continue To Roll In Easy First Half Schedule

Jake Browning threw for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns (and running for another), Dante Pettis caught 12 balls for 105 yards and 3 TDs, Myles Gaskin ran 15 times for 113 yards and a touchdown, and for good measure, Lavon Coleman returned from his concussion to run it 9 times for 70 yards, including an impressive 20-yard run on 4th and 10 early in the second half to set up a runaway touchdown.

Meanwhile, the defense held the Oregon State Beavers to 184 yards (only 74 through the air), 8 first downs, and a meaningless 4th quarter touchdown.  No sacks or INTs, but they did recover a couple fumbles.

All in all, it was a nice 42-7 victory on the road to push Washington’s record to 5-0.  With USC’s loss to Wazzu, the Huskies climbed to #5 in the Coaches Poll.  The stupid fucking AP allowed Georgia to leapfrog the Dawgs, leaving us at #6 (cue immediate Georgia defeat this week).  I mean, why even allow the AP to have a poll when half of them are just going to suck the dick of every SEC team?

Like just about all of our games this year, there wasn’t much to learn about the Huskies.  They started off shockingly slow, able to take just a 7-0 halftime lead before turning on the jets in the 3rd quarter.  Even our win in Colorado starts to lose some of its luster as the Buffaloes were narrowly defeated on the road to UCLA.  I’m also hard-pressed to find anything in the way of talking points the next two weeks.  This Saturday, we host Cal, who is already 0-2 in conference (and were just blown out by the Ducks); the following week we go to Arizona State, who has one of the worst defenses in all of college football.  The Huskies should sleepwalk to a 7-0 record by the time we get to the end of the month to host UCLA.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love how this schedule shakes out.  Obviously, the huge, glaring drawback is having a creampuff non-conference slate.  But, let’s look at this thing here:  we start the season ranked in the Top 10.  That’s big.  We follow that up by steadily beating up on the first seven teams we face, while many teams ranked ahead of us, or right around us, lose at least a game.  Then, the meat of the schedule kicks in.  The final five games, we face UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, Utah, and Wazzu (all but Stanford at home); the class of the Pac-12 (minus USC).

And, yeah, I’m right there with you, I’m not too impressed with what I’ve seen out of the Bruins.  But, they’ve still got a Top 5 quarterback, they can put up points in bunches, and beating an L.A. school is always a good look.

And, sure, the Ducks are pretty far from where they once were.  But, not too long ago, they were the best team in the Pac-12 for a bunch of years.  They’ve still got a lot of talent, they too can score in bunches, and they were ranked in the Top 25 as recently as a week ago.  The AP is just ITCHING to put them back in the Top 25 if they can keep it to 2-3 losses this year.

Stanford has that dreadful defeat to San Diego State, but they’re still (somehow) tough to beat at home, in spite of their non-entity of a home crowd.  It wouldn’t take a lot for them to get back into the Top 25.

Utah is currently in the Top 20 in both polls, and they’ve been good ever since they joined the conference.  A win over Utah is never an easy venture, so this should be a quality game.

Finally, Wazzu appears to be the only team that stands in our way of a Pac-12 Championship.  They took down the mighty USC Trojans on Friday and looked GREAT on both sides of the ball.  The Cougs play a lot of road games going forward (they started out with 5 straight at home; they finish with 5 of 7 on the road), so it’s hard to believe that they won’t stumble at some point.  But, I don’t see more than 1 loss for them between now and the Apple Cup.  There’s a CHANCE they lose at Oregon this week (in which case, I’ll have concerns about how the nation sees the Pac-12, even more than I already do), but I think it’s more likely the Cougs lose at home to Stanford or on the road to Utah, both games in November.

Also, that’s a curious scheduling job there, with Washington State getting their BYE the week before the Apple Cup.  Very curious indeed.

Anyway, best case scenario has both Washington schools undefeated heading into the Apple Cup.  That would put both Washington schools in the Top 10 and give the Huskies a tremendous quality win heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game.

From there, the best case scenario is obviously facing a 1-loss USC team.  The 1-loss part shouldn’t be a problem, because the rest of the way the Trojans’ only difficult games are at home against Utah and on the road to Notre Dame (which isn’t even a conference game anyway, but is still one they will need to win to climb back into the Top 10).

The Trojans right now are only 14th in the AP and 15th in the Coaches; if they keep it to the lone defeat, on the road, against a Top 10 Cougars team, I see no reason why they couldn’t climb back into the Top 10.  That would put a whopping THREE Pac-12 teams in the Top 10, at which point you wouldn’t be able to deny an undefeated Huskies team a slot in the College Football Playoffs.

The only concern is if the Trojans drop another one, and a team like Utah wins the Pac-12 South, while at the same time Wazzu Cougs it up a couple times before the Apple Cup.  That’s why, I think, we had a lot of Husky fans who were rooting for USC last Friday in Pullman.  Not just because we hate the Cougars, but because beating an undefeated USC team in the Pac-12 Championship Game looks A LOT better than beating a 2-loss WSU followed by possibly a 1- or 2-loss Utah for a second time.

But, you know, that’s how it breaks sometimes.  It’s as much luck as it is talent, unless you’re Alabama, and then you don’t NEED luck because you HAVE so much talent.

God I love College Football!

The Huskies Kicked Off Conference Play With A Resounding Road Victory Over The Buffaloes

There’s a point in every football game where you start to wonder if the slow start your team is experiencing is more than just a slow start.  Panic sets in.  If this thing keeps dragging on the way it’s going, we could fucking lose this thing!

For me, that happened early in the second quarter.  Colorado got the ball first and pulled out a very methodical drive for a touchdown.  The Huskies took their opening possession to around midfield before Browning threw an ill-advised interception.  Then, once again, the Buffaloes were able to march down the field on an 11-play drive, which stalled at the Husky 40-yard line.  Washington took the next possession into the Colorado red zone, but whiffed on the field goal, and I felt like just enough bad shit was happening to make this One Of Those Games.

Colorado was obviously hungry for revenge after falling on their asses in the Pac-12 Championship Game last year, and with the game being on their home field, with the pounding rain, pre-game injury announcements, and everything else, it just felt like the game could get away from us if we weren’t careful.

But, then the defense clamped down, and the tide overwhelmingly shifted to the Huskies’ favor.  We forced a 3 & Out, blocked the punt, punched the ball in over the goalline to tie it up, picked off a couple passes, and were able to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.

The Huskies blew it open in the second half.  A Browning to Quinten Pounds 43-yard touchdown made the game 17-7 on the opening drive.  Colorado would hit a field goal to make it 17-10, and that’s as close as it ever got.  Myles Bryant brought an interception back to the house, Salvon Ahmed got his first in-conference touchdown, Myles Gaskin busted one 57 yards for his second score of the evening, and then it was time for the reserves.  An impressive 37-10 road victory over what I believe will be a very good Colorado team when all is said and done.

Gaskin was the man in this one.  Before the game, it was announced that Lavon Coleman had a concussion and would miss at least this week, so the entire rushing load was put on Gaskin’s shoulders and he rose to the challenge.  27 carries, 202 yards, 2 TDs.  Ahmed, as I noted, got some run with the first unit as well, and finished with 6 carries for 27 yards and a score.  I can see why everyone likes him; he’s got a burst.  It’s only a matter of time before he really makes a big impact.

The other big news of the pre-game was Byron Murphy breaking his foot and being out for six weeks.  He’s our best cornerback, which obviously hurts, but we’re still really deep there (punctuated by the 3 picks in this one, including two by Jordan Miller), so hopefully we can weather the storm.  It’ll be good to have him back for the stretch run, when the games get really tough at the end of the season.

Azeem Victor had a huge game, with 10 tackles, a sack, and a TFL.  The receivers had a relatively quiet game, given how much we pounded it on the ground, and given Browning’s non-descript outing (11/21 for 160 yards, 1 TD & 1 INT).

Things could hardly have gone better for the Huskies this weekend.  I think that will prove to be a big win for us.  Oklahoma State lost, so we reclaimed our #6 ranking in both polls.  We go to Oregon State this Saturday and they look like the worst team in the conference, so that should be another easy victory.  After THAT, five of our final seven games are at home, with a BYE week also tucked in there for good measure.

It’s all setting up as it should, now we just have to go out there and win the games.

The Huskies Completed A Perfect Non-Conference Schedule

The Huskies jumped out to a 48-7 lead over Fresno State early in the third quarter and cruised to an easy victory, 48-16.

We went 3-0 against a pillowy soft non-conference schedule, beating up on the likes of Rutgers, Montana, and Fresno State by a combined score of 141-37.

Jake Browning was once again ridiculously efficient, hitting 19 of 22 for 255 yards and 4 touchdowns.  The running game didn’t get going all that great, but Myles Gaskin looked good and elusive on his 8 carries for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Dante Pettis was the real star of the show, though.  Of the 5 balls he caught, 3 were for touchdowns (on 92 total yards).  On top of that, he had his third straight game with a punt return, taking over the lead for all-time punt returns in the Pac-12, and tying the overall NCAA record.  That guy is gonna KILL IT at the next level.

Defensively, the Huskies look like the real deal.  They look every bit as good as they did last year, and they also look like they could be even BETTER than they are now.  As the season goes along, this unit could morph into something really special.

But, as has been the case for the last three weeks, there’s nothing really to glean from a win over a crap team like Fresno State.  This Saturday, the first real test takes place, on the road, against a good Colorado team.  Not great, likely not as great as they were last season, but with a lot of the same pieces as last year, and they get the luxury of being at home.  They also have the luxury of being the most difficult team we will have faced this season, so it could be a real Punch To The Mouth situation.  The Huskies just need to withstand the initial storm, settle into a groove and they should be fine.

Make no mistake, this is a game the Huskies very much SHOULD win, and the line (-10) reflects that.  But, it’s no guarantee, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dawgs don’t cover that spread.  Ideally, you come away with a victory any way you can get it, don’t get anyone of import injured, and Colorado ends up being on the list of Quality Wins by season’s end.  They have a very reasonable schedule, with a tough road slate, so if they can steal some wins against the likes of UCLA, Wazzu, or USC at home, we could be talking about a ranked team come bowl time.

Now the REAL fun begins.  I’m gonna be in a lather come Saturday night.

The Huskies Beat The Shit Out Of Montana

The Huskies beat the Grizzlies 63-7.  It was the cotton candy of football games:  light, colorful, melts in your mouth – so easy to consume it doesn’t even require chewing – and after ingesting too much of it you get a tummyache.

I don’t think there’s even a point in getting into the numbers.  The Grizzlies are simply out of our league.  They may be bigger potatoes in the Big Sky Conference, but against one of the very best teams in the Pac-12, they’re dogfood.

Ahem:  DAWGFOOD.

Jake Browning looked good, very efficient, and even got to bring out his own rushing attack to the tune of 50 yards on 5 carries.  The rest of the rushing attack, however, was great as well.  No one person really broke out, but 5 different runners scored a touchdown on the ground, and the team racked up 213 yards on 37 carries.

But, again, this was like a scrimmage against children.  Even the 7 points they scored was on a Pick Six where their defender was mauling Dante Pettis, causing the ball to bounce off of his one free hand and into the waiting arms of a lucky Grizzly to take back to the house.

I’m not gonna dwell on this too much.  The Huskies got to play a lot of their backups and spread the love around.  Next week, Fresno State comes to town, and thus will end our cupcake non-conference schedule.

The Washington Huskies Looked Sloppy As All Get-Out In Their Win Over Rutgers

Gotta love a little Friday night college football season kickoff!

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know I had a lot of problems with how the Huskies looked yesterday.  I thought our offensive line got their asses WHUPPED, I thought Jake Browning – while brilliant at times – looked a little off, I thought the defense looked just sort of okay in the first half, and I thought no one outside of Dante Pettis, Myles Gaskin, and Drew Sample really stepped up and asserted themselves on offense.

The Huskies, more than anything, looked rusty and unprepared!  In the end, the 30-14 outcome might be the best thing to happen to them this season, as I definitely got the vibe that the Dawgs were maybe drinking a little too much of their own Kool Aid.  Like they could just show up and blow out Rutgers by 50 points or something.  Not so fast.

I thought Rutgers had a good offensive gameplan early.  Pound the ball and follow that up with quick, short passes.  Don’t hold the ball too long to let UW’s D-Line get home, and don’t throw the ball too deep to let UW’s athletic secondary make plays.  The problem for the Scarlet Knights was that while the Huskies made adjustments (and started to tackle better, though our tackling throughout the night was hit-or-miss … literally), they never changed their gameplan, when it was painfully obvious the Huskies were never too concerned about Rutgers stretching the field.  By that point, in the second half, it was a game of attrition and running out the clock.

Not for nothing, but as a huge underdog, Rutgers probably could’ve been a little more aggressive on 4th & short.  But, given the spread was somewhere around 27.5 in favor of Washington, losing by only 16 points was probably a victory for a good chunk of people (gamblers) in the world.

Pettis hauled in 3 passes for 85 yards, and tacked on a punt return for TD late in the first half to give the Huskies their first lead.  Without a second wide-out to take away some of the pressure, it might be tough sledding this season for Pettis, so I REALLY hope someone starts to step up soon.

Drew Sample had 3 catches for 63 yards, as he occasionally found himself wide open with lots of green in front of him.  I thought he looked too quickly to go out of bounds on his first reception, so it was nice to see him barrel through some people later in the game.

Myles Gaskin was the star of the show, though.  He caught 5 balls for 79 yards and a TD, making some brilliant diving/over-the-shoulder catches all over the field, really having the look of a true wide receiver.  He would also rush for 59 yards on only 7 carries (mostly in the second half, when we finally got some running lanes going).  If Gaskin can truly be this type of duel threat player for the Huskies, he’s going to REALLY help out this offense (and REALLY make himself a lot of money in the NFL as a LeVeon Bell-type player).

On defense, the Huskies could only muster the 1 sack (at the end of the game), because Rutgers was so focused on getting the ball out quickly.  That did translate into 2 interceptions for Byron Murphy, redshirt Freshman.  I thought our entire secondary showed up well in this one.  Taylor Rapp was all over the place, cleaning up the front seven’s missed tackles.  That Rutgers TD in the 4th quarter was almost another INT, our guy (don’t remember his name off-hand) just mis-timed his jump, but he had perfect position to make the play.

What’s most important about UW’s defensive play last night was, after a first, disasterous TD drive for Rutgers in the first quarter, they put the clamps down and nearly shut them out the rest of the way.  That’s the UW football I came here to see!

I guess, for my part, I’ll say that it was probably unreasonable to expect the Huskies to fly all the way across the country and put a pounding on a team that would surely look vastly different than they did last year in Husky Stadium.  Lots of transfer students, new coaching staff, new scheme.  Plus, being at home always helps.  I don’t know if Rutgers will be a bowl team like the dopey color guy was talking about, but I do agree that they look a lot better than they did last year.  I think they’ll have more than 2 wins, but I think they’ll fall just short of the necessary 6 wins.

That having been said, I’m going to be rooting like crazy for Rutgers the rest of the way.  If there’s one thing this Husky schedule needs, it’s a quality non-conference victory.  So, if we can squeeze Rutgers into the Baha Men “Who Let The Dogs Out” Bowl come December, I’ll be one happy Dawg fan.

Next Saturday, we get Montana at home.  Let’s do to them what I wanted to do to Rutgers.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Women You Jerked Off To When You Were 14?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Christina Applegate, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Jennifer Aniston, and Madonna, but that’s neither here nor there.

Today, I’m going a little bit outside the box – maybe just right next to the box – and I’m gonna talk about some of the local sports announcers.

The Greats …

Maybe every major city with a bunch of bigtime sports teams feels this way, but I think Seattle has been particularly blessed to have some of the best play-by-play guys in the history of the business.  Obviously, because they worked in Seattle, they get overshadowed by more nationally renown guys like Vin Scully, Marv Albert, Harry Caray, Chick Hearn, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, and so on and so forth.  But, I would argue that some of the guys I’ve got on my Mount Rushmore are equally as talented as those hall of famers, and would’ve flourished on a national stage had they gotten the opportunity.

At the top of the heap, I don’t think there’s any question about it:  Dave Niehaus.

He worked for the California Angels from 1969-1976 with Dick Enberg, before the Seattle Mariners poached him for their inaugural season in 1977.  He headed up Mariners broadcasts through the 2010 season before his untimely death that offseason.

Dave was the absolute greatest.  Oftentimes, he was the main reason to even tune in to a Mariners broadcast!  The way he painted a picture over the radio enlightened as it entertained.  If you’re even a casual fan of the M’s, you’re aware of his iconic calls and catchphrases; he’s second to none.  And, deservedly, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.  Ultimately, he called over 5,000 Mariners games, and each one was a delight for his involvement if nothing else.

Next on the Mountain, we’ve got Kevin Calabro.

While Dave is the best, KC is probably my personal favorite.  He voiced the Supersonics broadcasts from 1987 through their demise in 2008.

I think KC’s greatest attribute is that he could always match the action on the court, which for many of those Sonics teams in the early-to-mid 90s, was as action-packed as you could get!  The games themselves were exciting, but KC’s calls brought them to another level.  You were nothing if not entertained every time you turned on the game.  When the Sonics were on a national station like TNT or NBC, I’d frequently listen to the radio broadcast because who was going to top the duo of Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson (who, not for nothing, make up the greatest play-by-play/color commentator team in the history of sports broadcasting)?

Third on my list is actually the whole reason for wanting to write this blog post:  Bob Rondeau.

We got some bittersweet news this year, that the Washington Huskies are going to lose Mr. Rondeau to retirement.  Obviously, he’s been with the school for 37 years, broadcasting both football and men’s basketball games as long as I’ve been a fan, so he deserves to go out on his terms and enjoy his life, but we’re all going to lose a true titan of the industry, and someone who could’ve EASILY gone another 10-15 years or more if he so desired.

As I’ve gotten older, and as I generally take things like this for granted, I haven’t had a chance to listen to games on the radio as much as I used to.  But, whenever I do, I find myself not really missing the fact that I’m not watching it on television.  As a fan, I don’t think there’s a higher compliment you can pay a play-by-play man than to say I feel a tremendous comfort level whenever I listen to Rondeau call a game.  For me, he’s probably my most trusted personality in sports journalism.  Yes, he’s employed by the Huskies, but he’s also going to tell you how it is, even if it’s not in the most flattering light for the program.  And it’s never in a way that makes you feel like he’s bashing the school or the players; it’s more like someone who expects better and wants better, but when something goes wrong, he’s just a disappointed parent or something.  I dunno, it’s hard to explain.  Obviously, there’s no greater phrase to the human ear than when Rondeau says deeply and richly into the microphone:  “Touchdown Washington!”

Finally, I know I’m going to catch some Hell for the final choice in my local sports announcer Mount Rushmore, but I should remind you that it’s MY mountain and not yours.  Anyway, I’m going with Steve Raible.

Here’s the deal, I’m no spring chicken, but I’m also too young to remember the likes of the Sonics’ Bob Blackburn or the Seahawks’ Pete Gross.  Obviously, if you ask someone who got to listen to those guys, I’m sure they’d put them in here over a couple of my choices, but what can you do?  I don’t have that attachment.

For me, this final spot came down to Steve Raible and Rick Rizzs, and indeed it was a tough call.  Unlike a lot of Mariners fans/haters out there, I very much enjoy what Rizzs brings to the table.  Is he a Mariners homer?  You betcha!  But, you know what?  He’s also, like, the world’s nicest guy, so it’s not like he’s some phony over there shilling for a paycheck.  He’s just a genuine, happy individual, and I can’t think of a better match for him than to work for the Mariners, a team so frustrating and loathesome at times it’s too much to stomach.  Rizzs helps the medicine go down, and I’ll be honest, he’s been remarkable in the wake of Dave’s passing in 2010.  If we didn’t have Rizzs to soften that transition – aka, if we went straight from Niehaus to Sims with no buffer or alternative – I don’t know where I’d be as a fan right now.

Anyway, getting back to Raible, he was an original Seahawks player, drafted in the 2nd round in 1976, and played 6 seasons for the team.  He joined the broadcast team with the aforementioned Pete Gross in 1982 and has been a local institution ever since (also as a news anchor for KIRO 7).  Raible’s stock has obviously risen heavily since he took over play-by-play duties, as the fortunes of the Seahawks themselves have skyrocketed.  It’s always a joy to go back and listen to his highlight calls after a game, as he brings tons of energy and enthusiasm to the game.  His pairing with Warren Moon is the best broadcast pairing we’ve got going in the Seattle market right now.

So, that’s it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Throw out your Mount Rushmores and your rankings in the comments.

Looking Ahead To The Washington Huskies’ 2017 Football Schedule

The 2014 Huskies were largely a Sark-based team in Coach Pete’s first season; we enjoyed a Sark-esque record when all was said and done.  The 2015 Huskies were a real transition team, as more of Coach Pete’s players got on the field and the team as a whole became further acclimated to his way of doing things.  In a lot of ways, 2015 looked like a bit of a step back, but it was entirely necessary to get the program to where it was in 2016, which was a huge step forward.

I can’t say enough good things about the 2016 Huskies, it was the most fun I’ve had following this team since 2000, and was almost certainly the best Husky team I’ve ever seen (keeping in mind that I was never a fan of the university during the Don James glory years).  The 2016 Huskies were truly one of the best four football teams of the year and were rewarded as such with an invite to the College Football Playoff.  Sadly, we were turned away by the buzzsaw that was the Alabama Crimson Tide, which only goes to reinforce the fact that we need to build up this program to become that type of buzzsaw.

So, what do we have to look forward to in 2017?  Will the Huskies become that buzzsaw?  Probably a little early in the process to say yes, but I think more than anything you just want to see them continue to take steps forward.

You can look at what we lost and have sort of a Glass Half Empty outlook.  John Ross was drafted 9th overall.  Sure, we’ve still got Dante Pettis, who looks ready to ascend to the #1 receiver spot on this team, but he’s no John Ross.  That’s no knock against him, necessarily, because NOBODY is John Ross.  That kind of speed is once in a generation.  When you tack on Ross’ route running, versatility, and ability to make a catch in traffic, he was really the total package and may be the best receiver we’ve ever had in the program.  So, you can look at the wide receiver position and say, “Yeah, there’s a decline there compared to last year.”

Then, obviously, you’ve got Kevin King, Budda Baker, and Sidney Jones all snapped up before the end of the second round.  Our two starting cornerbacks and our starting safety, gone.  I know the Huskies recruited the secondary pretty well, with lots of highly-rated guys set to step into starting roles, but we just won’t know how good those players are until we see them in game action.

Go on and on down the list of guys we graduated.  Just a ton of talent walking out the door.  In many ways, 2017 will be yet another transitional season.  But, obviously different from how 2015 was a transitional year.  This isn’t going from one head coach to another; this is essentially an evaluation of Coach Pete’s ability to constantly refurbish the depth of this team on the fly.  Guys are going to graduate, guys are going to leave for the NFL after their Junior years; the mark of a truly great head coach is how he’s able to recruit guys who can jump in there and replace those former starters.  I’m talking about recruiting Freshmen who are good enough to play right away, as well as guys who grow into starting-calibre players within a year or two at the most.  It’s about always having the next wave of superstars champing at the bit.  It’s about allowing the linemen and other undersized guys to grow and mature in the program so eventually they can be impact players.  And so on and so forth.

Coach Sark and his team of recruiters were able to land some real whales for this school, but I don’t know if they were on the same level as Coach Pete and Co.  Sark seemed to be more interested in recruiting the glamour positions; Coach Pete seems to be more interested in building up all positions, eliminating as many weaknesses as possible.

In that respect, yes, the 2017 Huskies might have fewer studs than they did in 2016, but it’s entirely possible that the overall quality of the team is improved, from 1 to 90, or however many players you’re allowed to have in college.

All of this comes with the caveat that injury luck is always the most important factor with any sports team.

The offensive line should be a real strength for the Huskies, more than any other year I can remember.  The Huskies return the most experienced line in the conference, which should help our stud running backs – Coleman and Gaskin, among many of the younger guys looking to make names for themselves – as well as, obviously, our quarterback.

If there’s a questionmark, it’s Jake Browning.  Is he healthy?  Will he BE healthy when the season starts?  I’ll never question his ability to study and work on his craft, but given his relative lack of size, can he STAY healthy for the long haul?  He’s obviously a tough kid, playing on a shoulder that required surgery, but I don’t know if he’ll grow into a Heisman contender if he can’t stay on the field and at close to 100%.

If Browning isn’t healthy, how good are the guys behind him?  The Huskies have recruited some pretty highly-rated quarterbacks recently, but are they too raw to step in this early into their careers?  Will our season be totally derailed if Browning is limited?

Wide receiver is the position I’m most excited about.  Obviously, I love Pettis and Chico McClatcher.  But, I’ve also been hearing rumblings about some of these receivers who haven’t had a lot of playing time thus far.  Recent recruits ready to make their marks.  Should be interesting; hope they’ll get a lot of time to work with Browning on their timing and whatnot.

Along the D-Line, in spite of the loss of Elijah Qualls, there is still a significant amount of returning talent.  Indeed, this unit should prove to be the strongest of the entire defense, and will likely have to get home with even more regularity than they did in 2016 (which they did at a pretty high clip) to help compensate for potential challenges in the back end.

Taylor Rapp, at safety, figures to be a force, and maybe the defensive MVP in 2017.  We’ll need him to make that next step to superstar status if we want to maintain our defensive dominance in the Pac-12.  He looked every bit as good as anyone I’ve seen towards the end of last season, so I’m pretty confident he’ll get the job done.

Bottom line is, the 2017 Huskies will be very good.  Where they end up will largely depend on the schedule they play.

Last year, the Huskies were continuously killed for their weak schedule.  It was the primary reason why people felt they had legitimate arguments against them making the College Football Playoff.  I never bought into that, and if you’re like me – and wanted to throw your remote through the television every time some national pundit knocked the Huskies for this – GET READY FOR MORE OF THE SAME.  Because, holy Jesus, does the 2017 schedule look like the creamiest cream puff wrapped in a cloud of cotton candy.

For the second year in a row, we kick off our season against Rutgers.  It was a Home & Home series that was scheduled way back when Rutgers had a good football team, and you can’t very well just chop them off the schedule without facing a huge penalty.  So, here we are.  This time, on the road, which I suppose makes the game marginally more difficult, but my guess is Rutgers is once again going to be one of the worst teams in the Big 10.

The Huskies round out their non-conference schedule with home games against Montana (an FBS school) and Fresno State (who had all of 1 win in 2016).  The Huskies could sit Browning for all three of those games and still easily walk away 3-0.

Every year, every Pac-12 school plays 9 conference games.  I don’t know if this still sets us apart or not (I believe the SEC only plays 8 conference games, but they might be moving up to 9 or at least talking about it), but I think it’s a great argument when it comes to comparing our schools to those conferences who play 8 or less.  I mean, let’s face it, every conference has their duds.  And you can talk about Washington’s weak non-conference schedule all you want, but every power school schedules their share of powderpuffs.  Regardless of how good or bad your in-conference opponent is, it’s still an in-conference opponent, and those games are more difficult and ultimately mean more.

Anyway, this year, the Huskies catch 5 home conference games and 4 road conference games (it alternates every year).  Their conference schedule kicks off with 2 road games, though – at Colorado and at Oregon State – which means we get 5 of our final 7 games at home.  Colorado should be a lot worse than they were last year, as the 2016 Buffaloes were very senior-heavy, and I highly doubt they recruit nearly as well as we do, so I can’t imagine the guys they’ve got coming up through the ranks are going to be as good as the guys they had last year.  Oregon State is still in rebuilding mode (as they are seemingly every year), so I can’t imagine it’ll take much of an effort to get to 5-0 with this schedule.

Then, there’s a home game against Cal, who is working in a new head coach and ostensibly a new offensive system, so I can’t imagine that’s going to be a very close game.  We follow that up with a road game against ASU, who I’m pretty sure we haven’t beaten on their home turf in over a decade.  They were pretty sorry last year, and figure to be better this year; this could be a sneaky-tough game for the Huskies (who will have played 3 of 4 on the road when they’re finished with this one).  I could see the Huskies winning this one in ugly fashion to get to 7-0.

That leads us to the real heart of the 2017 schedule.  This year, we avoid USC and Arizona.  By all accounts, USC is poised to be the top ranked Pac-12 team, at least going into the season.  They might have the next #1 overall draft pick at the quarterback position in Sam Darnold, which is moderately terrifying.  Obviously, that means even our conference schedule sees a huge downgrade in the eyes of the national pundits, by virtue of not playing the so-called best team in the Pac-12.  And, say what you want about Arizona, but they’ve notoriously been a tricky team for us to play most years, and they return one of the more experienced offensive lines to boot.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see them as a “surprise” team in the conference.

Getting back to the heart of the schedule, we follow up all those road games (and a BYE week tacked onto the end of it) with back-to-back home contests against UCLA and Oregon.  UCLA is up there with Utah among the second tier teams in the Pac-12 South.  They strike me as very much of an unknown, as they seem to recruit well every year, but ultimately produce poor results on the field.  I’m sure they’ll give the Huskies everything they can, and I’d be seriously disappointed if we lost this one.  Ditto Oregon, although they’re in something of a rebuild mode as well (albeit, starting with a much stronger base than OSU).  I just think Washington has more talent than Oregon, period.  As such, I see no reason why we won’t be 9-0 heading into what will likely be the most important game of the regular season.

At Stanford, Friday, November 10th, at 7:30pm on Fox Sports 1.  The Cardinal fell from their perch as one of the top teams in the conference last year, and they obviously lost a lot of talent to graduation/the NFL Draft, so they’ll be breaking in a lot of key positions heading into 2017.  They have a real bugger of a schedule through their own first 9 games of the season, with road games against USC, Utah, and Washington State, as well as home games against UCLA and Oregon.  So, when I call this game on November 10th the “most important”, I really mean it’s the most important to the Washington Huskies, as it’s the one true landmine in an otherwise reasonable slate of football games.

I fully anticipate Stanford to have anywhere from 1-3 losses by the time they host the Huskies, but this is also a well-coached football team, who recruits like gangbusters.  What does that mean?  Well, even if they’re not competing for a Rose Bowl berth (which, for the record, I’m not necessarily taking off the table, as it’s entirely possible they are up there fighting for the Pac-12 North yet again), this is still a team that notoriously gets better as the season goes along.  When you play Stanford, I think you’d much rather face them early in the season.  Facing them in mid-November is sort of my worst nightmare, particularly with a schedule like this, where there doesn’t appear to be many tough games leading into this one.  On paper, I think the Huskies are better than the Cardinal, but with this game being on the road, against a quality team, anything can happen.  Let’s face it, I never would’ve thought the Huskies could’ve lost at home to USC last year, and look at what happened.

There’s a very reasonable chance that the game against Stanford is our last chance to make a big positive impression on the College Football Playoff Committee.  Hell, it might be our ONLY chance, but that’s neither here nor there.  After that, we wrap up the season with home games against Utah and Washington State.  I think everyone is really sleeping on these two teams.  Utah is always tough and really makes you earn every win against them.  They could easily upset a team like USC and find themselves in the thick of things by the time they come to Seattle.  And, as for the Cougs, they’ve definitely been written off after last year, losing two bullshit games early in the season, followed by their final three games (including the Holiday Bowl).  While I agree that the Huskies very much SHOULD beat the Cougars, it’s still the Apple Cup, and weird things can always crop up.  The Cougs obviously have Falk back, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll always give them a chance to win.  And, their defense has always been underrated while over-producing under Mike Leach.  So, you know, while these last two games aren’t necessarily as flashy as the road game against Stanford, we could still be talking about a couple of ranked teams when all is said and done.

The bottom line is, this is a 12-game schedule in which the Huskies could very easily run the table.  There will obviously be challenges along the way, but I’ll just say that it wouldn’t necessarily be a shock to the system like it was last year.  Odds are, the Huskies will likely lose 1 game.  I’d say the odds are equal that they’d lose 2 games as they are to the Huskies winning them all, if that makes any sense.  1 loss SHOULD mean that the Huskies play in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  And, assuming the Huskies face the Trojans in that game, we’re looking at a game that would not only get us into the Rose Bowl, but would get us back to the College Football Playoff.

I’ll say this, just to get it out of the way:  any combination of scenarios where the Huskies finish with 1 loss, and that 1 loss is in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Huskies absolutely will not make the College Football Playoff – even if the Pac-12 South champion has more losses, and ultimately gets passed over as well.  I’m a firm believer that the only way the Huskies are able to compensate for that schedule is if they beat an awesome team in the conference title game, a la last year.  And even then, who knows?

A lot of this depends on what happens in the other conferences.  What happens if there are two 1-loss teams in the SEC?  Or an undefeated team and a 1-loss Alabama team?  On top of whatever the Big 10 throws in there, Clemson, and the Oklahoma schools.

One thing the Huskies really have going for them is that they should start the season highly ranked.  Top 10 or Top 15 at the worst.  Now, imagine that team running the table through the regular season, then beating USC in the conference championship game!  We might get to pick where we play in the College Football Playoff!

All of that is a long way off, of course.  But, it’s still fun to think about as this baseball season drags on.  I very much need football back in my life.