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.

It Was Absolutely Okay For Jarrod Dyson To Bunt To Break Up The Perfect Game

Don’t come in here with your macho headgames; this is baseball – ostensibly a kid’s game – there are no points for winning or losing with honor.  To put it another way, you’re no more or less of a man for bunting to get on base as you are clubbing a ball into the outfield.

The unwritten rules of baseball are among the stupidest things in all of sports.  Chief among them is this concept that you shouldn’t try to bunt to break up a perfect game or a no-hitter.  And I’m not buying this whole “grey area” that people are trying to amend to this thing.  What’s the difference between the first batter of a game bunting for a base hit, followed by the pitcher getting 27 consecutive outs, and the last batter of a game bunting for a base hit to break up a perfecto?

The job of a hitter in baseball is to help in the facilitation of scoring runs, by any means necessary.  Obviously, in a close game, people feel it’s perhaps more justified to bunt to break up the no-no than if it were, say, 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.  But, you know what?  This isn’t Brett Favre giving Michael Strahan a record-breaking sack; as the opposing hitter, you don’t have to lay down and die just so someone else can make history.  If speed is a big part of your game – the way you make your LIVING, by the way – then obviously the bunt is always going to be on the table.  And, if the opposing defense is going to give you this HUGE opening in front of first base – with Miguel Cabrera playing insanely deep against someone known to bunt from time to time – then it’s absolutely your right to do so.  First inning, sixth inning, or last inning.  Having someone throw a perfect game on you in your own stadium?  That’s embarrassing!  Way more embarrassing than the temporary “shame” of bunting to get a hit; even if it’s 10-0 in the bottom of the ninth.

Last night, Justin Verlander was rolling.  He’s usually been really good against the Mariners throughout his career, but this was another level.  16 guys put down to start off the game; 6 of the first 9 hitters struck out and 9 of the first 15.  Good life on his fastball, good movement on his breaking pitches, outstanding command.  It really did look like it was going to take a miracle just to get a guy on base.  I’ll admit, I almost went to bed after the fourth or fifth inning.  I turned the game off, I picked up a book to do some pre-bedtime reading, and right before I considered shuffling off to bed, I checked Twitter.

By this point, the Mariners were down 4-0.  James Paxton looked moderately better than he did last time, but by no means his usual dominant self from before the injury.  With the way Verlander was going, there was just no way this Mariners team could come back!

But, I checked Twitter maybe 30 seconds after the bunt, and immediately flipped over to the game.  I saw Zunino walk, I saw Segura bloop a single in no man’s land that the short stop somehow overran, I saw Gamel continue his torrid June with an RBI single to center, and I saw Robbie Cano strike out.

For what it’s worth, that was a great Cano at bat, but an even-better Verlander sequence.  That strike three was, as Aaron Goldsmith described, vicious.  Unhittable.  But, I also saw a Cano in that at bat who looked remarkably dialed in.  He was JUUUUST missing, but his timing was getting awfully close.  Close enough that it would only be a matter of time before he started making a huge impact offensively.

That put the M’s at two outs in the inning, though, with only 1 run to show for their rally.  Forget the bunt, forget the perfect game and all that, the Mariners had an opportunity here!  But, they couldn’t let having men on second and third – with the heart of their lineup at the plate – go by without scoring more than just the 1 run.  Thankfully, Nelson Cruz got ahold of a curveball and roped it into left field.  To my horror, it looked like Justin Upton might come up with the diving catch to rip our collective guts out, but he came up empty and the Mariners got to within 4-3, with three full innings left to play (and knocked Verlander out of the game in the process).

Mitch Haniger – dropped to 7th in the lineup, with the return of Jean Segura from the DL (the Mariners opted to keep Ben Gamel’s .350+ batting average in the 2-hole, at least against righties, and at least for the time being) – led off the seventh with solo blast to tie the game.  With the Tigers’ bullpen sucking all ass around town, this thing felt attainable!  They got a couple quick outs, but then the rally train started chugging down the tracks again.

Segura walked and Gamel singled to set the table for Cano.  Yep, that Cano.  The one who, quite frankly, hasn’t been all that good lately.  Coming into the game, he had all of 2 extra-base hits in the month of June, and I don’t know if he’s been all that right since he went on the DL back in May.  Obviously, he’s getting his hits, and he’s playing through some pain, and you commend him for that, but he hasn’t been that dynamic superstar we’ve seen him be, at least for the last few weeks.

But, he was due, and he made good on that by lining a double into the gap in right-center field to score Segura and Gamel and give the Mariners an improbable 2-run lead.  Cruz would subsequently single in Cano to give the M’s a 3-run cushion, and the damage was done.

Of course, I don’t know if the Mariners would’ve been able to salvage this game without some excellent bullpen work.  Tony Zych came into the game in relief of Paxton, with 1 out and 2 on.  They’d JUST scored two runs to give them their 4-run lead.  But, Zych not only shut them down, he went another inning on top of it without giving up a run.  Then, after finally getting a day off the night before, Nick Vincent kept the Tigers off the scoreboard in the eighth.  And, in a somewhat questionable move, Scott Servais opted to throw Edwin Diaz out there for a fourth consecutive day.  He looked a little wild, and grooved a solo homer to Ian Kinsler; things got really interesting when Cabrera walked to the plate with a runner on first in a 7-5 ballgame.  Cabrera is always an MVP-type threat – even if he’s not having that sort of season this year – but that’s not what really terrified me.  I was worried what would happen if Cabrera simply singled or walked or otherwise got on base for J.D. Martinez, because HE’S the real killer on that team right now.

Honestly, if Cabrera would’ve gotten on base, I would’ve chosen to walk Martinez.  If I’m being REALLY honest?  I might have intentionally walked both of those guys to load the bases for Justin Upton; but I guess that’s why they don’t pay me the big bucks to manage a Major League Baseball team (yes, THAT is the reason).

Instead, Diaz worked ahead in the count to Cabrera, and got him to roll over on one to short stop to end the game.

I’m not gonna lie to you, that game was one for the ages.  An Instant Classic, at least from a Mariners perspective.  I have no idea what it’ll all mean in the grand scheme of things, but isn’t it funny how it took all of that for the Mariners to get back to .500 again, this time at 37-37?

Isn’t it ALSO funny that in today’s slot in the rotation, we were due to start Yovani Gallardo?  Our WORST starting pitcher?

Well, it’s like Dipoto and Company knew I’d be freaking out today, because we’ve got moves!

The first, I’ve already alluded to:  Jean Segura returned, with Tyler Smith going back to Tacoma.  Thanks for the memories Smith, but your services will no longer be required.

The second was an absolute shocker:  hotshot prospect Andrew Moore was called up, with Christian Bergman being sent down (and Tyler Cloyd being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man).  I talked about it yesterday, and it looks like the Mariners and I were simpatico on the whole Bergman vs. Gaviglio argument, because Gaviglio keeps his spot in the rotation (set to start this Saturday) at least until Iwakuma returns from his rehab assignment.

Andrew Moore was a second round pick in 2015, and one of the top prospects in the Mariners’ farm system.  He apparently throws in the low-90s, but has great command of the strike zone, doesn’t walk many guys, and has excelled at every level.  In his first professional season, he dominated in Everett.  In 2016, he split time between high-A ball and AA.  Then, this year, he appeared in 6 games in AA before being promoted to AAA.  He appeared in 8 games in Tacoma and now he’s here.  Not only is he here, but his Major League career is getting STARTED.  He’s not up for a spot start, or to help out in the bullpen in long relief like most of these jokers we’ve brought up from Tacoma; Andrew Moore is getting the start TONIGHT, in place of one Yovani Gallardo.

SQUEE!!!

Sorry, not sorry, but once I realized he last started for Tacoma last Thursday, I was able to put 2+2 together and come to the hypothesis that he was going to take Gallardo’s job.  Bergman goes to Tacoma, because apparently he was always going to go to Tacoma regardless, but if my hypothesis holds true, the Mariners will hold onto Gallardo through tonight’s game – in case Moore’s jitters get the better of him and he’s overwhelmed by the Tigers – and then they’ll DFA him when they officially bring Felix back onto the roster.

In other words, unless something crazy happens, we officially have one more day with Yovani Gallardo in our lives.

And I know what you’re thinking, sour grapes and all.  Normally, I don’t root for people to lose their jobs, but he’ll be fine.  He’s a fucking multi-millionaire who will DEFINITELY get another shot with some other team.  So, don’t cry for Gallardo; it’s what’s best for everyone.

I mean, this has to be what’s happening, right?  They’ve already officially named Gaviglio the starter for Saturday; I don’t think they’re just going to change their minds and send him down when Felix returns on Friday.  The only other move is to keep Gallardo in the bullpen and send someone like Altavilla down to continue to work on his game.  At this point, I’d say it’s 50/50 between those two things, but I’ll say this:  if Gallardo’s main problem has been giving up too many runs early in games (18 of the 54 runs he’s given up this year – or a full 33% – have been in the first innings of his starts; he’s got a first inning ERA of nearly 11!), what makes you think we can trust him in a relief role?  As a reliever, you have to be able to shut guys down RIGHT AWAY!  There isn’t time to have one big inning, settle into a game, and make it up by throwing 4-5 shutout innings after that.

So, I dunno.  All I know is I’m going to the game tonight with my brochachos and I have the good fortune of witnessing Andrew Moore’s Major League debut and NOT Yovani Gallardo’s final start in a Mariners uniform.  Yep, I’m pretty pumped.

The Long Shadow of the Randy Johnson Trade

I moved this to my Seattle’s Worst Trades, Draft Picks & Free Agent Signings heading HERE.

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

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

✌

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Are One Of The Best Franchises In Football

When you think of the best teams – and the best-run organizations – in the NFL, you think of New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay; but Seattle doesn’t immediately come to mind.  If you’re in my age range (mid-30s), you probably still have the moniker of “America’s Team” seared into your consciousness when you think of the Dallas Cowboys.  You’d also probably liken the 49ers, Giants, and various others among the greats.  But the Seahawks?  Nah.  Tucked all the way up here?  Out of the limelight, what with East Coast Bias and whatnot, the Seahawks are middle-of-the-road at best.

Living with this team in the 1990s, “middle-of-the-road” was something to aspire to!  An 8-8 season was considered a success!  But, I think it’s time to come around a little bit.  I did some research (i.e. wasted a bunch of time working on a spreadsheet), and it turns out the Seahawks have been pretty damn great; not just recently, but dating back the last 13 seasons.

I know, it’s a VERY arbitrary starting point.  But, this is a Seattle-centric blog, and the 2003 season is quite significant for this franchise.

Mike Holmgren’s first season with the Seahawks was 1999; he’s generally credited (and rightfully so) with turning around this moribund franchise.  All the old-timers can cling to the mid-80s glory of the Seahawks, but let’s face it, by the time Holmgren was brought on, this team was a laughingstock, or at the very least a non-entity.  This little slice of nothingness up in the Pacific Northwest you didn’t really have an opinion about if you didn’t have to play us regularly (and even then, even teams within our own division had MUCH bigger rivalries with teams other than the Seahawks).  Even though Holmgren led the Seahawks to a division title and a playoff appearance in his first year, I’m reluctant to include that year, or the subsequent three seasons, as he was still mired with a lot of the previous regime’s players.

In 2003, though, everything started to come together.  Matt Hasselbeck was a proven, quality quarterback.  And, the rest of the team was talented enough to push us into perennial division-winner status, as we ripped off five straight NFC West titles.  The Holmgren era, by and large, gets short shrift when compared to the Pete Carroll era, for good reason.  These Seahawks teams, since 2012, have been VASTLY superior, and have had much more success than those Holmgren teams (especially in the playoffs, where it counts more).  But, if you lump these two eras together, you get a good look at what a quality franchise really looks like.

You’ll notice a theme when you look at the great franchises:  they tend to be defined by the head coaches.  The Holmgren Era, the Carroll Era, and so on.  But, really, what we’re talking about is quarterback eras.  The Hasselbeck Era, the Wilson Era.  As you can see from a lot of the crappy teams, quarterbacking is everything in the NFL.  Teams are lucky if they get ONE franchise quarterback in a generation; the Seahawks have had two, and that’s the biggest reason why the Seahawks have been among the greatest teams over the last 13 years.  It’s also why the Seahawks will continue to be great, as long as Russell Wilson sticks around.

From 2003 through 2015, the Seahawks have been the sixth-most successful franchise in the NFL, behind New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Denver.  In that Google Spreadsheet I linked to, the left side divides the teams by division; the right side is listed by way of regular season record.  This is some PHENOMENAL company the Seahawks are keeping!  And, when you go down the list, you can see why these teams have had the success they’ve had.  Tom Brady & Bill Belichick; Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck (Indy hitting the lottery twice with those #1 overall picks); Ben Roethlisberger; a seamless transition from Favre to Rodgers.  The only semi-outlier is Denver, who has been blessed in recent seasons by the signing of Manning, and had some other playoff years with Jake Plummer of all people; but, the one thing I would point to is organizational stability.  They had Mike Shanahan for a bunch of those years, and John Elway has been a force as an executive since he took over.

I don’t really have a point beyond touting that the Seahawks are pretty great.  I often come across as a bit of a Debbie Downer, as a result of my sports upbringing and having all success ripped away from me as a fan.  I just think it’s time to appreciate how good this team has been for the majority of my adult life.  When you take it in across the big picture, the Seahawks are fucking awesome, and it’s about time the rest of the nation recognized.

With news of Ken Griffey Jr. being inducted into the Hall of Fame (with a record-setting percentage of votes), it’s given Mariners fans yet another opportunity to reflect on our mid-90s success.  You look at those teams and smile, especially given how bereft we’ve been of baseball prowess in recent years.  You can also look at those teams – with two hall of famers (Griffey and Randy), a should-be hall of famer in Edgar, and another should-be hall of famer in Sweet Lou – and smack yourself as hard as you can on the forehead:  HOW DID WE NOT WIN A WORLD SERIES WITH THOSE GUYS???

But, that’s baseball.  Really, that’s just sports.  Success is fleeting, championships are fucking hard, and the world is a meaningless flat circle.

With the thought of those Mariners teams in your mind, now think of these Seahawks.  From the Holmgren Era, we had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, who anchored one of the best O-Lines in recorded history.  From the Carroll Era, we’re looking at how many possible/probable hall of famers?  Let’s list them off:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Richard Sherman
  • Russell Wilson
  • Marshawn Lynch?
  • Bobby Wagner?
  • Kam Chancellor?
  • Doug Baldwin???

It’s getting a little lean down there at the bottom; I don’t know if any of those last three guys have a legitimate shot at the HOF (they’d probably have to have REALLY extended careers, which I don’t think is necessarily in the cards with the way big hitters like Wagner and Kam play the game; and I just don’t think Baldwin will have the raw receptions/yards numbers compared to other receivers – it’s just hard as a receiver in general in this pass-wacky day and age to crack the hall), but just having three Hall of Famers on your squad is remarkable in its own right (for what it’s worth, I do think all three of Earl, Richard, and Russell will end up making it, assuming their careers aren’t cut short in a hail of concussions).

We’re really fortunate, is what I’m getting at, to be fans of the Seahawks right now.  That’s not to say I’m satisfied, or ready to settle for what we’ve got.  As a fan, you always want more; it’s the nature of the beast.  But, as we head into Wild Card weekend, it’s cool to look back and reflect upon all the greatness we’ve seen.  Here’s to another 13 remarkable years!

Is Dustin Ackley The Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History?

Right off the bat, don’t talk to me about the Sounders, the Storm, or any other lesser sport I don’t care as much about.  This is a Seahawks/Sonics/Mariners discussion, so LAY OFF!

Also, we’re talking straight draft picks.  Believe me, I’m well aware of all the bad trades and free agent signings, as well as the draft picks we’ve traded away, but this is a look at the most disappointing players we’ve seen drafted in this city for those three professional franchises.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Dustin Ackley was taken with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  In 2008, the Seattle Mariners finished 61-101 for the right to pick #2 overall.  You may recall that, going into the final three games of the 2008 season, the Mariners were 58-101 and in line for the #1 overall pick.  The Washington Nationals, with three games to go, were 59-99.  So, what happened?  The Mariners swept the A’s and the Nationals got swept by the Phillies.  As such, the Nationals were graced with the #1 overall pick and the right to draft the hottest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens:  Stephen Strasburg.

You can say what you want about the injury-plagued start to Strasburg’s career, but you can’t deny he has elite stuff and you can’t deny he’s had three very good seasons from 2012-2014.  We don’t know where his career will take him – and obviously, with Mike Trout being selected by the Angels with the 25th overall pick, it’s not like he’s the best player in that draft – but one thing we do know is that he’s a HELLUVA lot better than Dustin Ackley will ever be.

We got screwed.  Dustin Ackley was supposed to be the clear best hitter and most Major League-ready player in that draft.  We were going to get an athletic guy who could play the outfield or various infield spots, and a mainstay in our lineup.  Your prototypical 2-hole hitter.  He was supposed to have a good eye, get on base at a fantastic clip, and even hit for a bit of power (mostly doubles, but the occasional homer), with just enough speed on the basepaths to keep everyone honest.

What we GOT was a guy with a poor eye at the plate, poor pitch selection, a noodle-arm, who rolls over on balls to the second or first baseman 80% of the time.  At a time (coming off of our attrocious 2008 season, continuing through our 2010 season where we were one of the worst offenses of all time), Ackley was supposed to breeze through the minors and give our lineup a boost.  Instead, he’s been spoken in the same breath as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero WAY too often for comfort.

He sucks us in because he’s a #2-overall pick, and because he sometimes has these wonderful second halves to seasons that trick us into thinking he’s finally gotten everything figured out.  Then, he turns right back around the following spring and hits:

  • .200/.222/.341/.563, with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 RBI, and about 50,000 runners left on base in 30 games

This is his fifth year in the Major Leagues.  Here are his career numbers:  .243/.305/.365.  You have to wonder, if he doesn’t turn it around and I mean SOON, if this is his last chance with the Mariners.  I can’t imagine we go into 2016 with him as a starter, but I have to wonder if we go into 2016 with him even on the roster at all!

Does this make him the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?  Well, let’s take a little look back.  Too soon to talk about Alex Jackson (2014) or D.J. Peterson (2013).  Mike Zunino was the 3rd overall pick in 2012; he’s been less than ideal at the plate.  But, he’s still probably too young (and at least hits for SOME power) to make a judgment.  Danny Hultzen was the 2nd overall pick in 2011 and has been severely injured for much of his career of late, so he has to be in the running, right?  Except, the thing is, he’s a pitcher, and the Mariners have been fairly flush with pitching in recent years since he was selected.  Hard to call him as much of a disappointment when we haven’t really needed to rely on him for anything.

Maybe we should take a look at what it means to be disappointing in a sports setting.  For starters, I feel like you have to be a first round pick.  These are the guys who – in theory – should be the closest to helping your team right away.  In baseball, you expect these guys to be on the fast track, to hit the Major Leagues in 2-4 years, depending on their development.  In football and basketball, depending on how deep your roster is, you expect these guys to contribute immediately, and in some instances even start for you immediately.  So, when they fail to live up to those reasonable expectations, they’re disappointments.  Obviously, the higher you draft them, the bigger the disappointments.

Going back, here are the rest of the Mariners’ top-10 draft picks through the years:

  • 2006 – Brandon Morrow (5)
  • 2005 – Jeff Clement (3)
  • 1995 – Jose Cruz Jr (3)
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez (1)
  • 1990 – Marc Newfield (6)
  • 1989 – Roger Salkeld (3)
  • 1987 – Ken Griffey Jr (1)
  • 1986 – Patrick Lennon (8)
  • 1985 – Mike Campbell (7)
  • 1984 – Bill Swift (2)
  • 1983 – Darrel Akerfelds (7)
  • 1981 – Mike Moore (1)
  • 1980 – Darnell Coles (6)
  • 1979 – Al Chambers (1)
  • 1978 – Tito Nanni (6)

Sure, Brandon Morrow was disappointing, but for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, we should’ve taken UW’s Tim Lincecum instead.  Second, we kept dicking around with Morrow by starting off his career in the bullpen.  Third, we probably gave up on him and traded him away too soon (for Brandon League, who was an all-around disaster).  Ackley still has Morrow beat in the disappointment department.

Clement was disappointing, but I think we were all more disappointed in our front office moreso than the player.  That 2005 draft was FUCKING STACKED; 6 of the first 7 players selected have been All Stars (with Clement being the only dud), and 8 of the first 12 have played in an All Star Game.  Bill Bavasi at his finest!

Jose Cruz Jr was solid when he was a Mariner, then we traded him away for two shitty relievers, then he got really bad, and then he was gone.  Again, more disappointed in our front office for giving up on a quality prospect too soon.

A-Rod was disappointing because he was a greedy scumbag & soon-to-be cheater.  But, his level of play on the field was unmatched, so there’s no way I’m calling him a bigger disappointment than Ackley (also, yes, I would have taken the money and played for the Rangers, so eat me, he’s still a greedy fuck).

Anyone before A-Rod is out of my wheelhouse (aside from Griffey, of course, who was the single greatest draft pick in franchise history).  You can post your reasons in the comments as to why you think some of those old timers might be more disappointing than Dustin Ackley, but for now, I’m saying this with full confidence:  Dustin Ackley is the most disappointing draft pick in Mariners history.

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Let’s jump right into the Seattle Seahawks.  Who is their most disappointing first round draft pick?  Again, I’ll run through all the top 10 picks (even though I think we all have a pretty good idea who this is going to end up being):

  • 2010 – Russell Okung (6)
  • 2009 – Aaron Curry (4)
  • 2001 – Koren Robinson (9)
  • 1997 – Shawn Springs (3)
  • 1997 – Walter Jones (6)
  • 1995 – Joey Galloway (8)
  • 1994 – Sam Adams (8)
  • 1993 – Rick Mirer (2)
  • 1992 – Ray Roberts (10)
  • 1990 – Cortez Kennedy (3)
  • 1983 – Curt Warner (3)
  • 1982 – Jeff Bryant (6)
  • 1981 – Kenny Easley (4)
  • 1980 – Jacob Green (10)
  • 1978 – Keith Simpson (9)
  • 1976 – Steve Niehaus (2)

Not gonna lie to you, I’m not up on my Steve Niehaus or Keith Simpson knowledge, but let’s just assume they’re not the most disappointing draft picks in Seahawks history.  Green, Easley, and Bryant were mainstays of a dominant defense in the 1980s, so count them out.  Curt Warner was only disappointing because we didn’t use that pick to try to trade up for John Elway (or trade back to take one of the other amazing quarterbacks in that class).  Curt Warner the player was dynamic when he was healthy.

Cortez and Walter Jones are probably tied for the very best draft picks in Seahawks history, as both are Hall of Famers.  Ray Roberts was a solid offensive lineman in his career (if not specifically his Seahawks career).  Sam Adams was a fringe Hall of Famer for the Ravens, but had a nice and long career elsewhere (including Seattle for a few productive seasons).  Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs were studs who had their best years away from the northwest (but, again, were no slouches in a Seahawks uniform).  Okung has been a steady starter at left tackle (and a fine Walter Jones replacement when healthy) since he was a rookie.

For me, the disappointments come down to Aaron Curry, Koren Robinson, and Rick Mirer.  But, before I talk about this trio of Top 10 turds, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions from a little lower in the first round.

Lawrence Jackson was taken 28th overall.  He was supposed to come in and breathe life into our tepid pass rush.  Instead, he joined our team in 2008 as the franchise bottomed out, let Mike Holmgren walk, and eventually ushered in the Era of Good Feelings that has been Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  Oh yeah, and Jackson stunk the whole while and it wasn’t long before Carroll traded him away for scraps.

In 2006, the Seahawks selected Kelly Jennings with the 31st overall pick.  Coming off of our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, we were in desperate need of shoring up our secondary.  Kelly Jennings was no help in this regard.  While it’s hard to expect super-greatness out of your 31st overall draft pick, he was still a member of this team – and a starter at that – for far too long, leading us to suffer a barrage of long bombs over his outstretched midget arms.

In 2002, the Seahawks selected Jerramy Stevens 28th overall.  That’s all I need to say about this wretch.

In the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft, the Seahawks took Brian Bosworth with what amounts to a first round draft pick.  He was subsequently given the largest contract in franchise history, and rewarded us with lackluster and often embarrassing play.  He was a better action movie star than a football player, and that’s REALLY not saying much.

But, let’s get back to our Top 3 disappointments from before.  I’m scratching off Koren Robinson, for starters.  Yes, he had the talent to be elite – and pissed it all away with addiction – but one has to wonder if he was even the right fit for this type of offense to begin with.  And, while he wasn’t spectacular, he was far from dreadful.  I’m giving him a pass.

This boils down to Aaron Curry and Rick Mirer.  You may recall with Aaron Curry, we were coming off of our dreadful 2008 season.  With the 4th overall pick, people were screaming for the Seahawks to take a quarterback.  With Matthew Stafford already off the board, and Mark Sanchez sitting there, the Seahawks opted to do the prudent thing:  take the “safest pick in the draft”.  Aaron Curry was an outside linebacker and – depending on who you talked to – was some mix of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.  We were going to pair him with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to have the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Instead, he was slow to pick up the game mentally, slow to pick up the intricacies of his position, and just all-around slow on the field.  He did practically nothing for us, wound up being traded for a low-round draft pick, and was replaced on the field by a mid-round draft pick.  But, considering the Seahawks were bottoming out all over the roster, it’s hard to peg all of our troubles on Curry.  Even if he’d panned out as we’d hoped, he still would have been just a good player on a crappy team.

Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was supposed to save us.  In 1992, the Seahawks shared the worst record in the NFL with the New England Patriots at 2-14.  Thanks to our victory over those very same Patriots, they held the tie-breaker for the #1 overall pick.  As a result, they got to select the best quarterback of that class – Wazzu’s Drew Bledsoe – while we had to settle for Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame.

Mirer came out of the gate on fire, breaking many rookie quarterback records that would eventually be broken by Peyton Manning (the only time Rick Mirer should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton Manning, by the way).  He quickly either regressed or simply failed to develop, but either way, he SUUUUUUCKED thereafter.  Adding fuel to the fire of his disappointment, I recently was referred to this article (hat tip to Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard) that revealed there was an outside shot of the Seahawks getting Steve Young from the 49ers for the rights to allow the 49ers to draft Mirer to be Joe Montana’s heir apparent.  Isn’t THAT just the ultimate kick to the groin?  Doesn’t that make Rick Mirer the ultimate slam dunk most disappointing draft pick in Seahawks history?

I want to say yes, but RACING PAST THE PACK ON THE OUTSIDE, OUR DARK-HORSE CONTENDER:  1991’s 16th overall draft pick, Dan McGwire!

What’s the meaning of THIS?  Well, I’ll tell you:  the Seahawks brass was very high on the 6’8 towering suckferno, while Chuck Knox – easily our greatest head coach in franchise history to that point – wanted to select a little guy out of Southern Mississippi, the 6’2 Brett Favre.

Dan McGwire started all of five games with the Seahawks in four seasons.  Chuck Knox left the franchise after 1991, right before everything bottomed out in 1992.  As stated above, the Seahawks would use the #2 overall pick on yet another quarterback two years later, and the franchise overall would founder in mediocrity for a decade until Mike Holmgren turned things around.  All of this MAY have been avoided, if Chuck Knox had his way and we’d drafted a certain hall of famer who owns or owned just about every passing record in NFL history.

Most disappointing draft pick?  For all those reasons, I’m going with Dan McGwire by a nose over Rick Mirer (bottom line:  at least Mirer had ONE good season).

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In an effort to prevent this post from going beyond the 5,000 word mark, I’m going to give the abbreviated version of the Sonics’ most disappointing draft pick:  it doesn’t compare to what the Seahawks and Mariners have stacked against them.  Purely for disappointment’s sake, it’s disappointing to see Scottie Pippen’s name as our #5 overall draft pick in 1987 (he would be traded to the Bulls and replaced by Olden Polynice, but again, this isn’t a post about trades), but at least Pippen’s departure eventually led to Shawn Kemp’s rise.

The fact of the matter is, the Sonics – for the most part, until the last decade or so – were a well-run and successful organization (crazy, I know).  Our first round draft picks were generally low in the round, if we had them at all.  The high ones tended to pan out (Payton, #2 overall; McKey, #9 overall; McDaniel, #4 overall).  And, since once again I’m not all that familiar with all the old-timers, I’m not even going to go there and you can hash it out in the comments.

In an effort to save time, let’s just say the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle Sonics history is Robert Swift (#12 overall in 2004, when we were in DESPERATE need of a big man; he would be the first of three consecutive first round draft pick duds – Petro & Sene to follow – that would ultimately cost this franchise dearly).  Now, let’s call it a day and everyone agree that Robert Swift is nowhere NEAR as disappointing as Dan McGwire or Dustin Ackley.

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So, where do we land on all of this?  Is Dustin Ackley the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history?

Welp, I’ve already discussed the cases for both he and Dan McGwire.  With Ackley, we’re still talking about an Incomplete.  We don’t know how his career is going to pan out, even if we have a pretty solid idea that he’s going to continue to be terrible.  With McGwire, we know how it panned out, and we know what we could’ve had with Favre.  McGwire FEELS like the more disappointing of the two, but before we give him the crown, we have to speculate on the ol’ butterfly effect.

Dan McGwire kept us from drafting Brett Favre (or, rather, the organization choosing to go with him over Knox’s preferred choice).  That’s the case, right in a nutshell.  So, we have to wonder:  how good could the Seahawks have been with Brett Favre at the helm?

Would Chuck Knox have stayed on past 1991?  Would the team have drafted appropriately around him?  It’s pretty safe to say that Brett Favre would’ve been great wherever he went, but how much of his career was molded by Mike Holmgren?  I wouldn’t call the Packers a bastion of a franchise when they traded for him, so it’s not like the team was great and then Favre appeared as the last piece of the puzzle.  He grew with that franchise to be one of the best in football.  Could that have rubbed off on the Seahawks?  Or, would our franchise bumbling have prevented Favre from being his very best?

I would argue that the Seahawks would’ve been rock solid throughout the 90s.  Much better than the string of .500 (or near-.500) records we were saddled with.  There was always talent on those 90s Seahawks teams, but we were ALWAYS missing out on the quarterback position.  Warren Moon had a couple good years, but that was at the tail end of his career, and he kept getting injured when we needed him most.  Every other quarterback we had in the 90s was terrible.

With Favre in Seattle, does Mike Holmgren become MIKE HOLMGREN in Green Bay?  Does he find another quarterback to mold and turn that franchise around?  I think it’s safe to say, Favre in Seattle means we never hire Holmgren later.  And, you have to wonder if we have the group in place that we have now.

Does Favre turn this franchise around before Ken Behring sells the team to Paul Allen?  Does he have a change of heart and decide to keep the Seahawks and keep them in Seattle?  Do we have what is now CenturyLink Field?  If Paul Allen isn’t the owner, we certainly don’t have our stadium in its current form; I’m sure it would look much different now.  And, I have to wonder if we have the Sounders either, for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, does Brett Favre lead the Seahawks to be world champions?  THAT, I’m not totally sure about.  It’s nice to think so, but you have to wonder how it happens.  How long does Chuck Knox stick around if we give him the quarterback he wants?  He was already getting up there in age by 1991; how many years does he stick around after that?  And, who becomes his replacement?  I would argue Tom Flores was the worst head coach we’ve ever had in Seahawks history; I don’t think he wins even with the mid-90s Cowboys.  Does he still replace Knox?  Do we grab someone else?

The point is:  there are SO MANY “what if’s” that go into the Brett Favre as a Seahawk scenario.  And, what I would argue is most important in all of this is:  if Brett Favre never leads us to a world championship (whether or not it’s his fault, or the fault of ownership, or just the players we saddled him with), then he is 100% not worth the trouble.  The way things actually happened – with the Seahawks winning it all in the 2013 season – made a lot of the previous suffering worth it.  That’s all that matters.

Now, if Brett Favre coming here means the Seahawks would’ve been a dynasty much earlier, then I think he is worth it and I think Dan McGwire wins the title of most disappointing draft pick.  Even if it means the team we have now (in this hypothetical universe) looks nothing like the team we have in our real, actual universe.

Ultimately, my gut tells me that even if the Seahawks had taken Brett Favre, and he’d turned into the franchise quarterback we waited SO LONG to get, I kinda doubt we ever would’ve won it all with him.  Too many variables.  We likely wouldn’t have had the type of hall of fame coaching staff that Holmgren assembled in Green Bay, and we likely wouldn’t have gotten the type of championship talent to put around Favre like they were able to do under Ron Wolf.  Let’s face it, for a lot of reasons, the Seahawks were just plain broken as a franchise in the 1990s.  It took all the tumult, the disaster of an owner, the mis-management of the general manager, the bumbling of the coaching staff, and the underperforming of the players to lead to Paul Allen, Mike Holmgren 2.0, Matt Hasselbeck and our success in the 2000s, the bottoming out in 2008 & 2009, and the foresight to bring in Pete Carroll and pairing him with John Schneider to finally turn this organization into a world-class sports franchise.

You COULD say that Dan McGwire was a big part in giving us all of this!  And, I must say, as a fan in my 30s, I’m certainly appreciating all of our good fortune MUCH more than I would have been as a fan in my teens in the 1990s.

Yes, Dustin Ackley is a disappointment.  Yes, there were truly great players taken after him (including the aforementioned Mike Trout).  And yes, he’s been a big part of all the sucking the Mariners have been a part of in his time in the Major Leagues.  He’s been given MANY more chances to start and play a huge part on this team, and he’s done JUST enough to keep earning those chances even though he’s never broken through to make good on all of his promise.  Dan McGwire, for as enraging as his selection was, was never much more than a longshot prospect.  His college career wasn’t some amazing slam dunk; we were picking him based on his size, his strong arm, and the fact that he “looked” like a starting quarterback.  These types of quarterbacks are selected in the first round every single year, and these types of quarterbacks end up falling well short of their potential every single year.

#2 overall Major League Baseball draft picks are supposed to be different.  At #2, you know you have the opportunity to draft that year’s very best pitcher or hitter.  In our case, we took the “best hitter”.  That guy isn’t supposed to continuously be as mediocre as Ackley has been.  Either he’s great, or he gets injured and we all sit around wondering “what if”.  Ackley has been nothing if not healthy, and he’s been sometimes intriguing, but most of all he’s been a complete failure.

The Mariners missed and missed big when they selected Dustin Ackley.  He not only prevented us from taking a better hitter, but he’s actively hurting us now with his sucking.  If he panned out – as the so-called best hitter in his class should have – we’d be looking at a monster lineup with him paired with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Instead, he’s one of our ever-growing cadre of black holes.  We can’t sit him, because we don’t have anyone better (depending on your opinion of Justin Ruggiano), we can’t trade him because we’ll get nothing in return, and we can’t cut him because – as I said before – we don’t have anyone better.  The bottom line in all of this is, while the Mariners are improving as a franchise, there are too many holes on this team for it to be a championship contender.  Dustin Ackley is a huge reason why there are as many holes as there are.  And, for that reason, I’m calling him our most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.

A Brief History Of The Seahawks & Packers In The Playoffs

In 2002, the Seahawks were banished to the NFC, as the league realigned.  The less remembered about this year, the better, but it was an important transition year in the franchise’s history.

We opened Seahawks Stadium that year.  While we finished 7-9 and in third place behind the 49ers and Rams, 2002 was the year Matt Hasselbeck ascended to the starting quarterback position full time.  This would be the last good year for the 49ers in a while (they lost in the Divisional Round to the eventual champions in Tampa), then they fired Steve Mariucci and promptly went in the tank.

This leads us into the 2003 season, where the Rams finished 12-4 and had the 2-seed in the NFC.  The Seahawks returned to the playoffs for the first time since Holmgren’s first year coaching the team, in 1999.  Unlike that 1999 squad (led by Jon Kitna, and still in need of some retooling), the 2003 Seahawks really felt like the start of something big.  We weren’t THERE yet, but we were getting there.

Our 10-6 record granted us the 5-seed and a chance to go into Green Bay to play Brett Favre and the Packers.  No one gave us much of a chance, and quite frankly, I couldn’t blame them.  Who’s going to go into Lambeau in the playoffs and dethrone the Packers?  Certainly not the youngish Seahawks!

Then, something weird happened.  The Seahawks hung tough.  We came out of halftime down 13-6 and ripped off two touchdown drives to take a 20-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.  The Packers would subsequently match us again with two long touchdown drives to take a 27-20 lead with a little over two minutes left in the game.  All appeared to be lost, but Matt Hasselbeck promptly led us back down to tie the game at 27.  We left a little too much time on the clock, but Green Bay missed a field goal at the buzzer to put the game into overtime.

If you’re even remotely aware of the Seahawks and their 21st century shenanigans, you know this game as the “We Want The Ball And We’re Going To Score” game.  If you’re not aware, after the Seahawks won the coin flip in overtime, this is what Matt Hasselbeck said to the referee, which was caught on his microphone and broadcast to the world.  For the record, I don’t hold that against Hasselbeck one iota.  In fact, it’s probably the most bad-ass thing he’s ever done and would have gone down with Joe Namath’s Super Bowl guarantee as one of the greatest boastful moments in NFL history.

Everyone remembers how the game ends, but I bet not many remember that the interception returned for a touchdown to seal Green Bay’s victory was NOT on the very first possession of overtime.  Indeed, the Seahawks and the Packers both went 3 & Out to kick things off.  Then, on the third drive, the Seahawks moved the ball near midfield and saw themselves trapped in a 3rd & 11.  For SOME reason, Mike Holmgren opted to go with five wide receivers, even though that was never our game.  For SOME reason, Matt Hasselbeck opted to target our #5 receiver, Alex Bannister, who was the guy nearest the sideline, all the way across the field.

And, with the combination of those two decisions, our fate was sealed by Al Harris, who jumped the route and went 52 yards for the touchdown.  It was the first time a playoff game had been decided by a defensive touchdown in overtime.

What do we take away from this game?  For starters, if you were ever a believer in “momentum” in football, this game should knock some sense into you.  Going into overtime, the Seahawks had all the momentum, and yet somehow they ended up losing 33-27.

Second, the Seahawks SHOULD have won that game.  We were the better team on that day, but for a couple plays that didn’t go our way.  Still, when you get two possessions in overtime, how hard is it to score points against that Packers defense?

I’ll always wonder how things might have been different for this franchise.  For all intents and purposes, 2003 was the beginning of our championship window under Mike Holmgren.  From 2003 thru 2007, we had five playoff appearances, but could only muster one shot at the Super Bowl.  That’s what we call a damn shame.

***

In the following season, the Seahawks would break over the hump and win their very first NFC West title at 9-7.  As you can probably assume, with that record, the Seahawks were the 4-seed in the NFC.  What you might forget is that the Rams had the 5-seed with an 8-8 record!  Which, yeah, means that there were two teams in the NFC that year in the playoffs with .500 records, but that’s neither here nor there.  The Seahawks lost both regular season games against the Rams, then promptly got stomped again at home.  The Rams drove for a late score, and when the Seahawks tried to tie it before the end of regulation, a fourth down pass in the endzone went through Bobby Engram’s hands.

Also, not for nothing, but both 8-8 teams (the Vikings being the other one) won their Wild Card matchups before getting killed in the Divisional Round.

Anyway, in 2005, the Seahawks had their Super Bowl run.  In 2006, we won our division again at 9-7, beat the Cowboys in the Tony Romo field goal bobble game, then lost another heartbreaker in overtime against the Chicago Bears.

Which, conveniently enough, leads us to our 2007 run.  Our final run in the Holmgren Championship Window.  This team finished 10-6 and once again first in the NFC West.  This granted us a 3-seed and a home game against the Washington Redskins.  This was a close one into the fourth quarter – and indeed the Redskins took a 14-13 lead about midway through the final period before the Seahawks took control to win 35-14, with 22 unanswered points.

That brought us to Green Bay, that year’s #2 seed.  For the life of me, I can’t remember where I was watching this game, but I can tell you once again I didn’t have high hopes.  The Packers were rock solid that year and the Seahawks were old and on borrowed time.  Then, the Packers coughed the ball up twice early in the game and the Seahawks charged out to a 14-0 lead.

COULD THIS REALLY BE HAPPENING?

As it turns out, no.  No, it could not be really happening.  Before the first quarter came to a close, the Packers had tied the score en route to scoring six touchdowns on six consecutive drives.  The Seahawks sprinkled in a couple of field goals, but ended up losing 42-20.  It was, without question, the most demoralizing defeat I’ve ever been witness to.  Mind you, this is a different sort of demoralizing than Super Bowl XL, or some of the other heartbreakers I wrote about above.  This was knowing, without question, that there was no stopping the other team from doing exactly what it wanted to do, whenever it wanted to do it.

Ryan Grant ran for over 200 yards and 3 TDs, Brett Favre threw for another 3 TDs, and we couldn’t do a God damn thing on either side of the ball.  Shaun Alexander had 20 yards on 9 carries; Matt Hasselbeck was held to 194 yards on 19/33 passing.  It was miserable.  From the moment the Packers tied it at 14, the game was one long, painful blood-letting.

And that was that.  The Seahawks would go 4-12 the following year, and the course was set in motion for what this team has become.  Two of our five best Holmgren years were submarined by the Green Bay Packers.  And here we are, meeting again.

Except, this time, WE’RE at home.  WE’RE the higher-seeded team.  WE’RE, quite frankly, the better team.

I’ve learned a lot about myself as a sports fan over the years.  One thing I’ve learned is that I MUCH prefer rooting for a dominating defense over a dominating offense.  A big part of that comes from that last defeat to the Packers at the close of the 2007 season.  One thing’s for certain:  this year, the Packers won’t get anywhere CLOSE to scoring on six consecutive drives.

Thinking About Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch & Pete Carroll

Maybe it’s the time of year, time to reflect.  Maybe it’s because I’m off work and listening to a lot of sports radio.  While the Pro Bowl in and of itself isn’t interesting, the idea of rewarding players and the idea of seasonal awards sort of catches me from time to time.

It’s the end of the football season, pretty much, and you’re going to hear people talking about Who Should Be The MVP?  Who Should Be The Coach Of The Year?  And so on and so forth.  Within those discussions, you’re going to hear a lot of names.  But, outside of Seattle, you’re not going to hear the names Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, or Pete Carroll.  I’m not saying they should or should not necessarily be the front-runners of those particular awards, but shouldn’t they be in the discussion?  You’re talking about a team coming off of a Super Bowl victory, that’s also a team favored right now to repeat as champs.  And yet, its two best players, and its head coach will be nowhere to be seen when it comes to the most important regular season awards in the NFL this year.

Isn’t that kind of sick and wrong and gross?  Homer or not, I mean come on!

And the arguments are pretty simple.  For Russell and Marshawn, they get discounted because the defense is so good.  Yeah, these are good players, but where would this team be if the defense was only half as good?  The same knock goes against Pete Carroll.  Except this time, it’s the TEAM that’s too good.  While other coaches are doing more with less, Pete Carroll is doing more with more.  It’s not Pete Carroll’s fault that the team is so good (except, it sort of is, since he works hand in hand with John Schneider, but that’s neither here nor there), but what exactly is he having to overcome?

And before you come at me with the laundry list of injured Seahawks we’ve had throughout the year, yeah, I know.  I’m just telling you what they’re likely thinking on a national perspective.  They see Arizona making the playoffs, currently with 11 wins, with an outside shot at the #1 seed; and they see this team having lost their top two quarterbacks and a bunch of amazing defenders, having to leap hurdle after hurdle to get where they’ve gotten.  Or, they see the Dallas Cowboys getting the monkey off their backs, finally winning a division and getting ready to host a playoff game; they see a team they ranked near the bottom of the NFC East rankings before the season started, writing them off before a single game had been played.  Defying expectations.

Except, the problem with that is, it’s the media’s fault those expectations were so low to begin with.  Not only that, but it’s kinda Jason Garrett’s fault as well.  If he didn’t suck so much dick as a head coach for all these years, underachieving with supposedly-good teams, the Cowboys wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now:  being pretty great when everyone thought they were junk.

Pete Carroll just wins games.  He wins games with a roster he helped build.  And, he had to do it under the biggest microscope the city of Seattle had ever seen.

Think about it:  think about all the stories written about this team in the first couple months of the season.  All the negative stories.  Think about the tumult with Percy Harvin.  Think about how the media worked to drive a wedge between Lynch and the organization.  Every other article about him was about how he was unhappy.  About how he wanted to leave after the season.  About how the team was sick of his antics.  And, if they weren’t writing all of these negative articles, then they were tattling to the league about how Lynch wouldn’t do interviews.  Again, I’m talking about national media guys, but that’s the type of stuff you get when you win a Super Bowl and you’ve got a lot of interesting personalities on one team.

And Pete Carroll had to wade through ALL of that shit; not to mention all the noise about how it’s hard to come back and play well after winning the Super Bowl!  The talk, the rumors, the negative stories (whether true or manufactured), combined with the fact that the Seahawks lost 4 of their first 10 games.  Yeah, team chemistry is pretty fucking easy to manage when you’re winning games hand over fist.  But, when you’ve lost nearly as many games as you’ve won just past the halfway point of the season, you’ve REALLY got to work to keep the team on the same page and to keep them believing that this season isn’t totally lost.

What has Pete Carroll done?  All of that and then some.  He’s kept this team on track through a litany of injuries and alleged in-fighting, then righted the ship and shot this season into overdrive as the Seahawks look to make it six straight wins to steal the top seed in the NFC.

In a year where the target has been on our backs, and as big as a planet, Pete Carroll molded a champion into an even more formidable champion.  Yet, where’s the recognition?

***

Marshawn Lynch is a different animal.  I’m not so sure he really deserves to be in that discussion of the NFL’s MVP award.  But, you could certainly argue he’s the most important player on the Seattle Seahawks.  Making him the most important player on the best team in the National Football League.

Lynch has 1,577 total yards from scrimmage, with 16 total touchdowns.  He accounts for nearly 27% of our total yards this year, which is pretty fucking impressive.  The offense runs through him, and many would argue the offense doesn’t run WITHOUT him.  I wonder, but thankfully, I’ll never have to know (at least, for this season).

There was an interesting discussion on the radio today, about whether or not Russell Wilson is the same quarterback without Marshawn Lynch.  Is he still as effective?  There were a couple of good points, the first being that Lynch is an elite running back.  He’s in the top two or three in the NFL right now, which is saying something, even in this day and age of the devalued running back position.  Teams have to gameplan around Lynch.  They don’t necessarily have to gameplan as much if we’re talking about Turbin or Michael.  For as good as we think they might be, they’ve never had to carry the load full time.  It’s quite possible that two players who are awesome in short spurts become less effective the more times they touch the football.

The second point they made is even better:  Marshawn Lynch never goes down on first contact.  Think about THAT.  You can’t just assign one defender to roam around worrying about Lynch.  You have to run multiple guys at him to get him down.  It’s truly a team effort when you face the Seahawks, and if you’re not disciplined as a team (or, if you go about making too many Business Decisions), then Lynch is going to make you pay (mostly by running THROUGH you).

Knowing that you really have to key in on Lynch when he’s on the field, it opens up so much more for Russell Wilson.  Yes, part of the problem is the fact that other teams don’t really respect our passing attack, so they’re more likely to load the box or otherwise leave their corners on islands.  But, with Lynch still drawing the lion’s share of the attention, Wilson is able to run off of zone reads as well as simply scramble around until he’s able to find an open receiver.  And that’s saying nothing of all the pressure Lynch takes off of his shoulders simply by running the ball or being a quality outlet when Wilson needs to check down in the passing game.

Coming into this year, I was all set in my thinking:  we’d have Marshawn Lynch one more year, but we’d consistently work in Christine Michael, and after this year we’d let Lynch go and move on to our next franchise running back.  Now, through no fault of Michael’s, my thinking is seriously twisted up.  Like many other Seahawks fans, I can’t imagine this team doing anything without Beastmode.  More importantly, I don’t WANT to imagine it!

We’ve got Lynch signed through next year and I couldn’t be happier.  At the same time, I wouldn’t even be mad if they brought him back for an extra two years AFTER that!  Get the extension done in the offseason.  Give Lynch a nice little bonus for his so-far-under-the-radar-it’s-off-the-radar MVP performance, and ride this thing out until the bitter end.  If we get through Turbin’s and Michael’s rookie contracts without either of them being named the team’s starting running back, it’ll be a huge success.  I never would’ve thought that coming into the 2014 season.  I would’ve considered it an abject failure.  I mean, after all, why draft a running back in the second round (who may still have first round talent) if you’re not going to take advantage of him while his cost is still reasonable?

But, if you’re going to get this type of play out of Marshawn Lynch, you’ve got to keep him around for as long as it lasts.  It would probably be irresponsible to give him a 4-year deal like Wright or Avril, but a 2-year deal with modest base salaries and a nice chunk bonus (and not back-loaded, so both of those years are achievable) would certainly be in order.

Let’s prove the world wrong.  Let’s show everyone that Lynch CAN be happy here for the duration of his NFL career.

***

Getting back to Russell Wilson, do you ever wonder what he’s going to be like when Lynch leaves?  Or, shit, when Pete Carroll leaves for that matter!  The next running back isn’t likely to be an MVP type of back, just because those guys are so rare as it is.  What happens to Wilson when the offense is TRULY on his shoulders?  Like all of these other great quarterbacks he’s trying to be compared to?

For starters, CAN Russell Wilson carry a team by himself?  I’m inclined to think he can.  Now, we all know the arguments against Wilson being elite, and they all boil down to some variation on the Game Manager theme.  He doesn’t make mistakes, he scrambles around for extra yards, and he comes up with just enough big plays down field to keep defenses honest.  If you had a Game Manager Spectrum, he’d be at the absolute top-end of all quarterbacks.

There are LOTS of guys out there who are or were game managers.  But, how many of them take care of the ball the way he does?  Wilson has been in the league three years.  In all three years, he will have thrown for over 3,000 yards, over 20 TDs, and 10 or fewer INTs.  He’s also averaging over 600 yards rushing with nearly 4 TDs rushing, with only 3 fumbles per year.  No matter how much you like Kyle Orton, or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Carson Palmer, or Jay Cutler, or Alex Smith, or Eli Manning, they’re not doing for you what Russell Wilson does.

What does Russell Wilson need to do to get into that MVP discussion?  Well, he probably has to throw for 4,000 and 30 TDs or more.  That seems to be a baseline for a quarterback to start getting recognized.  If he simply does what he’s been doing these first three seasons, the Seahawks would have to probably run the table in the regular season and even THEN, there better not be an overwhelming statistical season out of the likes of Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

Can Wilson be that guy?  Can he throw for 4,000 and 30?  I suppose anything’s possible, but even then, you’re talking about a severely weakened Seahawks team.  See, he doesn’t have those numbers right now because the Seahawks don’t NEED him to throw that much.  But, if he’s doing that, then that means our defense is probably lacking, and we’re having to throw our way back into football games.  A 4,000/30 season out of Wilson probably equates to a 9-7 or 10-6 regular season record.  And, it probably means more turnovers in the process.

There’s always that give and take.  As a fan, of course I want to see the Seahawks be dominating, so I don’t care if Russell Wilson EVER reaches those MVP type numbers.  But, then again, maybe the national consensus should rethink what it means to be an MVP.

The Baltimore Ravens had one of the greatest defenses of all time in the year 2000.  But, that wasn’t just a 1-year blip.  They had LOTS of good defenses in the 2000s.  But, you didn’t see them win lots of Super Bowls; why is that?  Because, it’s pretty fucking hard to be as dominating as they were in 2000 for multiple seasons.  But, beyond that, it’s because they never really had an elite quarterback.

The 2013 Seahawks also had one of the greatest defenses of all time.  Consistently, throughout the year (as opposed to 2012 & 2014, when there have been significant breakdowns that have seen our record suffer as a result).  If we’d only had Tarvaris Jackson last year, I can envision a scenario where the 2013 Seahawks still win a Super Bowl a la the 2000 Ravens with Trent Dilfer.  BUT, I don’t see any subsequent championships in our future if we (in this hypothetical scenario) have to stick with Tarvaris Jackson (or some reasonable facsimile) for the duration of our defense being at this still very high level.  You get what I’m saying?

I’m saying if the Ravens of the 2000s had Russell Wilson at the helm, THEY might have been the dynasty instead of the Patriots.  Did I just blow your mind?

It goes hand in hand.  Yes, the Seahawks have an elite defense.  Yes, we’re on a run of defensive football (starting in 2012, going forward as long as I can see) where the Seahawks are going to be great for a while.  But, they wouldn’t be anything without Russell Wilson.  Just like the Ravens, for the most part, weren’t much until they got Joe Flacco (who isn’t any great shakes, but he’s more than just a game manager; just like Wilson is more than just a game manager).

The main problem with most quarterbacks is something I’ve said time and time again:  they THINK they can do everything, so they try to DO everything.  They think they can thread the needle on every throw when they don’t necessarily have to.  They think they’ve got the arm strength to slam a football into a tiny opening that isn’t really there once they’ve let the ball go.  As a result, a lot of these so-called great quarterbacks find themselves hurting their teams as much – if not more – than they’re helping.  Yeah, Jay Cutler has one of the strongest arms in football.  But, he’s got the brain of a child who’s always gotten his way since he emerged from his mother with that silver spoon en tow.

Drew Brees, there’s another one.  He’s a great quarterback, don’t get me wrong.  Hall of Famer and all of that.  But, like Brett Favre and a lot of other guys, Brees makes some baffling decisions when you wonder just what in the Hell he was thinking.  Maybe it’s because of the defense.  Maybe these quarterbacks think they have to be super-perfect because they know they’ve got to compensate for a struggling defense (and Wilson doesn’t have that problem, so he can be a little more cautious).  Maybe for those teams, a punt is a defeat and not a chance to live another day like it is with the Seahawks.  I dunno.

What I do know is you’re not that awesome just because you throw for 4 TDs a game if you’re also throwing 3 interceptions while doing it.

I’m just thankful that for at least these last few years, as a Seahawks fan, I’ve had it all.  Superstars come and go, but rarely do so many converge in the same place at the same time.  Unlike prior Seattle sports teams, this one is taking full advantage.  Here’s to another Super Bowl run; let’s get the job done on Sunday.

The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.