A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Brandon Browner Is Back, The Legion Of Boom Is Whole Again

One of the more interesting moves of the offseason has seen the Seahawks return to some familiar faces, in signing Chris Clemons and now Brandon Browner to 1-year prove-it deals.  As this post posits, perhaps this is a reaction to a perceived void in veteran leadership on this team.  You could argue that this team has a lot of leaders already, in Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse on offense; and Earl, Sherm, Wagner, Wright, Bennett and Avril on defense.  Nevertheless, I would say – to borrow from Jim Mora Jr. a little bit – that the team doesn’t necessarily have very many dirtbags on the team.  Enforcers who bring one primary trait to the table:  pain.  Clemons, by all accounts, is a nasty customer, whose focus on taking out the quarterback is legendary on this team.  And, of course, we all know how lethal Brandon Browner can be.  I would also note that with Kris Richard as a first-time defensive coordinator, and a young one at that, it’s nice to have an abundance of veterans on this defense to show the younger players how it’s supposed to be done.

In the ol’ Gods & Clods way of team-building, you’ve got a lot of expensive players, and a lot of very VERY cheap players (usually rookies/guys on rookie deals).  When you can bring in players on cheap, 1-year deals, who know the system and are able to bring something of a teaching element to Training Camp (even if it’s simply leading by example), I believe there’s really no downside to these types of moves.  There’s no guarantee either Clemons or Browner make the team in 2016, but if they push younger guys to be great in the pre-season, they will have been well worth the modest cost of their signing bonuses.

With both of these guys, you’re looking at 50/50 deals as far as whether they make the team or not.  I think with Clemons, it’ll be a matter of him proving he’s still got it.  You don’t bring in a guy like Clemons to be a starter; you bring him in to add a little extra to your pass rush in obvious passing situations (to help lessen the blow of losing a guy like Irvin).  If he comes in during Training Camp and pre-season and he looks a step slower than everyone, then hey, at least he’ll impart some lessons to the younger guys, and it doesn’t cost you much to cut him.

With Browner, I’ll give the same odds of him making the team, even though his position has much more competition.  Browner’s reputation has taken quite a hit the last couple years.  He was a big part of costing the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but at the same time, he was super prone to penalties and was cut by the Patriots after the season ended.  Then, he cashed in with New Orleans, but his defensive coordinator was a boob and didn’t use him properly, so he continued making many boneheaded penalties and getting beat frequently.  The Seahawks know what Browner brings to the table, limitations and all.  In this system, Browner made a name for himself, and was able to cash in on that.  Returning to this system, we should see something of a bounce-back year out of him (assuming he makes the team, of course).

I’m not as negative as a lot of Seahawks fans are with this move, mostly because I agree the guy wasn’t in the right scheme last year.  If you bring in a veteran on a free agent deal, you sure as shit better adapt your defense to him and not the other way around.  With a rookie, you can mold him; with a veteran, you’re not teaching an old dog new tricks (unless he’s a superstar like Revis, but even then, he struggled a bit in Tampa when they had him play more zone coverage than his customary lockdown man coverage).

I’m also tempering my expectations a little bit.  Browner’s best years with the Seahawks were in 2011 and 2012 (mostly 2011, if we’re being honest; his Pro Bowl season).  He wasn’t exactly all that dominant in 2013, when he played only 8 games, and wasn’t even around during the stretch run or the playoff run; that’s where Byron Maxwell stepped into the starter’s role and ran with it.  Even Browner at his best has his limitations.  He’s not as great against smaller, shifty receivers.  Against a guy like Kearse – who he was able to shut down in the Super Bowl – Browner is all kinds of effective.  In that sense, you wonder if he’s a guy who will see a lot of time in certain games, against certain teams, and then next to nothing against others.

What we should all be looking forward to is the fact that – barring injury – Browner isn’t coming in to be a starter.  Jeremy Lane is the one who got the big contract, and he’s going to see the majority of the snaps on the field after Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Browner is here for depth – so the team is able to push Lane inside on nickel situations – and he’s here to push Tharold Simon, who is solid when healthy, but who’s never healthy for a full season.  In that sense, as a depth piece, he further cements the secondary as the best unit on the team, and nearly brings us back to the greatness that was the secondary of 2013.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the pre-season, but my initial impressions are nothing but favorable.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 17

Man, what a ride!  Here we are, it’s the end of the regular season, and the bottom 20 teams have been chopped off, not to play another meaningful down until next September.  20 different fanbases at various points of unrest, mourning a season’s premature end.  And that number is going to increase by the week.  Two by two by two.  Until finally, when the clock stops ticking at the end of the Super Bowl, when there’s but one team standing.  One fanbase remaining, left to celebrate while everyone else looks on with equal parts jealousy and resentment.

We’ve been there.  Every year of our existence, we as Seahawks fans have done just that.  Watched.  Watched as others celebrated.  The Seahawks have been among the very worst and the very best, but we haven’t been THE best.  At one point or another, every season has ended; there are 32 teams in the league and 31 losers.  For 37 years, we’ve been losers.  It’s time to end that streak.  Now is the time.  Not “someday”, not “in the future”, now.

It’s a little obscene the way it all goes down.  You play 16 games in 17 weeks just to get to this point.  Then, you play 2-3 games to get to the Super Bowl.  And then it’s just one game.  One game to define your whole season!  At least in other pro sports, you get a series!  Or multiple series!  In football, if you have one bad game, you’re fucked.  One bad series, one bad play, that could be all it takes.

It makes you wonder, how many times does the true “best team” actually win it all?  For that matter, how many times is the “best team” the team with the best win/loss record?  There are stats that will break everything down, but ultimately can they be trusted?  You can use numbers to make almost any argument you want to make.  Which numbers hold more weight?  It’s as subjective as this here Power Rankings list, if you want to be honest.  Besides, in the end, no one gives a shit about the numbers.  It’s all about the team that wins the game on the field.

I’m not sitting here trying to disparage stat-heads.  By many accounts, if we chose the best team by the numbers, the Seattle Seahawks would be your world champs in 2013.  But, where’s the fun in that?  No, I’m not making fun of something I don’t understand; I’m just trying to wrap my head around the inconceivable.  All of this.  All the time we’ve spent with this team, through the last few decades and through the last few months, it all boils down to what’s going to happen in the next five weeks.

It starts this weekend.  What happens in the Wild Card weekend affects us pretty obviously:  it determines who the Seahawks play next week.  You can break that down even further:  some controversial play in one of the games might decide its outcome; and the butterfly effect takes hold.

The Seahawks can mitigate a lot of the chance involved on this journey by simply playing their best.  The Seahawks, playing their absolute best, are better than every other team playing its best.  But, there are so many other factors out there trying to prevent us from being our best, it’s useless to try to keep track.

All we can do is hope.  Hope our best guys get (and stay) healthy.  Hope more lucky bounces go our way than against us.  Hope we’re blessed with favorable matchups.  We’ve already taken one of the giant steps:  we’ve got a first-round BYE and home field advantage throughout.  But, those two things alone won’t win us through to the Super Bowl.  Our fans won’t be able to yell us through to the Super Bowl.  Cold and wet northwest weather won’t freeze us through to the Super Bowl.  Our players have to go out there, survive the opponents, survive the refs, and survive the luck element.

It’s up to the Seattle Seahawks.  We, as fans, are completely powerless.  All we can do (aside from yelling and screaming from the stands), is hope.  We’re in the best possible position, with the best possible home field advantage.  Now, we’ve got three more games.

Please, for the love of God, don’t fuck this up, Seahawks.

On to the rankings.

***

The Best:

  1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) – We’re a flawed Super Bowl contender, but then again, who isn’t?
  2. Denver Broncos (13-3) – Peyton Manning certainly seems to be a man on a mission this year.  Moreso than in years past.

The Second-Best:

  1. Carolina Panthers (12-4) – That’s how you TCB at home against an inferior opponent to lock up the first-round BYE.  Let the opposing team’s center hike the ball to no one as they’re driving for the game-winning score.
  2. San Francisco 49ers (12-4) – Since I now fear only Peyton Manning, and all the great defenses, San Francisco gets a little Power Rankings Bump.
  3. New England Patriots (12-4) – It’s a nice story, and a helluva coaching job by Belichick, but this train is going to derail before the Super Bowl.  Mark my words.
  4. New Orleans Saints (11-5) – I want you, Saints!  You probably scare me the LEAST!  Your defense will be a nice little boost for our offense, which could use the shot in the arm.
  5. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – I feel like the Colts will be favored over the Chiefs – who they recently beat, on the road – but I still don’t like the Colts to win that game.  Call me crazy!
  6. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) – They benched all those guys and still played a helluva game.  You gotta like that if you’re a Chiefs fan.

The Rest:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – OK, so it’s the Eagles I fear the least, but the odds are pretty much 0% that we face the Eagles in the playoffs; there’s no way in HELL they make it to the NFC title game.
  2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) – San Diego at Cincinnati could be the best game of the week, or the ugliest.  Depends on which Philip Rivers and which Andy Dalton we see.  Consider this one a complete toss-up.
  3. Arizona Cardinals (10-6) – Here’s the world’s smallest violin just for the Cardinals not making the playoffs.
  4. Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) – I was gonna call you out for not going for two points, but you won, so I guess the ends justifies the means?  No?  It doesn’t?  Your coach is going to fuck up something crucial in the playoffs?  OK, got it.
  5. San Diego Chargers (9-7) – I never thought you had it in you.  And you very nearly didn’t, thanks to the KC kicker missing a chip-shot.
  6. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – Steelers!  You almost made me the smartest man in the room!  If I’m remembering correctly, I picked you to make it into the playoffs before the season started.  It’s too bad, because there’s nothing I would have rooted harder for than a rematch of Super Bowl XL.
  7. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – Anyone else relieved that we don’t have to see the Ravens in the playoffs?  Not because I’m afraid they’d make the Super Bowl.  Just because I’m sick of watching their brand of boring football.
  8. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Cut Jay Cutler.
  9. Miami Dolphins (8-8) – I wish I could go back in time and skull-fuck all the morons who thought the Dolphins would make the playoffs.
  10. St. Louis Rams (7-9) – Part of me hopes the Rams trade their #2 overall draft spot for more draft picks.  But, that’s the same part of me that wants their sinking ship to go down with Sam Bradford.
  11. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – You mean, it’s NOT just Tony Romo who throws late-game picks?  What is this world coming to?
  12. New York Giants (7-9) – Watch out for those Giants in 2014 … if they can figure out a way to get younger in a hurry on the defensive side of the ball.
  13. New York Jets (8-8) – Steelers fans have to LOVE the Jets for their effort the last two weeks.  It didn’t work out, but you’ve got some love from the steel workers of America.
  14. Detroit Lions (7-9) – Way to bend over and take the second half of the season up the ass.
  15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) – Holy crap, they fired the coach.  Finally!
  16. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – So long, Tony Gonzalez.
  17. Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Whatever.
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-12) – You fire your coach after one year?  What, is his name Jim Mora or something?
  19. Tennessee Titans (7-9) – I got nothing.
  20. Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) – Did Leslie Frazier deserve to be fired?  I would argue not!  Yes, they were bad, but that’s due to roster construction.  Fire the GM!  Frazier turned almost this exact team into a playoff team in 2012; now he’s unfit, one year later?  I don’t get it.  On a related note, isn’t it depressing when a bad team’s only good player is a running back?  At best, all he can do is get you IN the playoffs, but he can’t help you advance unless he has the proper pieces around him.  (See:  Barry Sanders).  I really feel for Adrian Peterson.  If it’s any consolation, it’s only a matter of time before the Seahawks trade for him (since, apparently, that’s where we get all of our players now).
  21. Oakland Raiders (4-12) – Yup.
  22. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars! (actually, that’s YOUR St. Louis Rams player who verbally abused the ref in Sunday’s game, but I couldn’t find a good one for the Jags this week)
  23. Washington Redskins (3-13) – Is there more of a no-brainer than firing Shanahan?  On an unrelated note, is there any way to get Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones together, managing one team?  Some men (me) just want to watch the world burn.
  24. Houston Texans (2-14) – Take that trip to Disneyland, Texans, you’ve earned it.

Because Everything Is Happening Today Yesterday: The Huskies Hired Chris Petersen

We got a coach!  This time last week, we had a coach, and now we’ve got a different coach.  Progress!

The Huskies wooed away Chris Petersen from Boise State – after he tore shit up as the bane of the BCS’ existence – doing to the Broncos exactly what the Trojans did to us.  I have no problem with that (and if I were a Broncos fan, I’d be super pissed about it, too).  This is almost better, in a way, than getting Jim Mora.  Either way, we’d be stealing a coach away from another school (proving that Washington isn’t just a “stepping stone”, but a destination), but at least Petersen has played harder to get.  What’s more satisfying:  getting the slutty girl on the first try, or getting her more-attractive, prudish sister on the first try after she’d turned down a bunch of other manlier, more macho dudes?

I’m sorry, this post has already gone off the rails.  Let’s try to right the ship here.

We got a coach!  And he’s proven to be a good one!  At a smaller institution!  And they’ve beaten numerous powerhouse schools to boot!

Jim Mora hasn’t done shit, but I think we all wanted him because he was most likely to stay here long term.  When your woman leaves you, sometimes you just need a security blanket in your life, even if she’s not right for you.  The Huskies tried to sign that security blanket, but only served to get him a big, fat raise with UCLA.  In the end, we might be thanking our lucky stars when – in four years – Jim Mora is out on his ass looking for work, while we’re headed back to the Rose Bowl (making it a 4-pete of consecutive Rose Bowls #FuckOregon).

I’m hearing that Petersen isn’t the greatest recruiter, but that’s what your assistant coaches are for.  What Peterson IS is a helluva head coach.  A guy who made inferior talent great; so imagine what he could do with the type of talent we can get at Washington!

I hope like crazy that he can convince Wilcox and Lupoi to stay, because if he can:  DAMN.  Not only will we not be missing a beat, but we will be legitimately dangerous as soon as NEXT YEAR!  But, that doesn’t sound too likely, as I’m hearing that Petersen is planning on bringing over his own defensive coordinator from Boise.

Either way, this is a real coup for Washington (and, for the record, much more exciting than the Mariners signing Robinson Cano).

What’s Got Me Down About Seattle Sports NOW?

We’ve got a big ol’ Pity Party Alert on this one, so if you’re not in the mood – if, indeed, you’re still reveling in the bounty that is the Seattle Seahawks:  Best Team In All Of Football – then you may want to take a step back from this and wait for a post that’s a little more uplifting (it’ll be here bright and early tomorrow morning).

Truth be told, I have no reason whatsoever to be complaining.  Without a doubt, I would settle for losing seasons out of every other one of the teams I root for if it meant the Seahawks won it all.  But, let’s just assume for a minute that I’m a rational human being who realizes that karma isn’t a thing that exists and superstitions are as pointless as a pencil with no sharpener (get it … point-less? … zing!).  If you take away the Seahawks, what are we left with?

  • Another brand-new NBA season with no NBA franchise in Seattle
  • A college football team whose head coach just abandoned it for another team in the same conference (who will likely take away all of his assistant coaches and primary recruiters)
  • A college basketball team that struggles to beat the worst teams on its non-conference schedule
  • A total disaster of a baseball franchise who couldn’t bring in quality players even if they spent Yankees or Dodgers money

THIS IS DEPRESSING AS SHIT!

Just to expand on these points, it was what – less than a year ago to be sure – that we were looking forward to the Sacramento Kings playing ball in KeyArena at this point.  The investors were set, the MOU was in place, the team was for sale, the offer was accepted … everything was in place.  Then, the NBA came in and butt-fucked us and left us sitting around waiting for Someday.  It’s always fucking Someday.  Seattle’s been waiting for Someday since I’ve fucking been born!

But, you know, this is now the fifth season I’ve lived without the NBA.  It’s really not so bad.  It’s not ideal, of course, but there’s usually something else going on.

Like … College Basketball!  Except, oh wait, the Huskies are terrible.  And, let’s face it, even if they were good, they still wouldn’t be anything to write home about.  They’re never going to be Duke or North Carolina or Michigan.  But, at least if they were good, we’d have something compelling to watch for the next few months!  Something to tide us over until baseball season …

Oh, wait.

You guys, I hate to break it to you, but the secret is out:  everyone knows how inept the Mariners organization is!  I always get a kick out of these pundits and insiders who say they’re envious of the position the Mariners are in right now.  Low payroll, young, “talented” roster, good farm system, new local TV deal that should pump millions upon millions into the team, beautiful stadium that’s been made more neutral for hitters, the only long-term deal being Felix Hernandez.  Why, we’re the belle of the fucking ball!  Any manager or GM would be ELATED to get a job with the Mariners!  To get a chance to run this organization into the ground further than it already is, to help mold these young players into superstars … I’m sure people were lining up around the block!  Trampling their fellow man like they were headed for the doorbuster of all doorbusters!  How these other GMs weren’t quitting their jobs at just the CHANCE to interview with the Seattle Mariners, I have no fucking idea!

And yet, somehow this fucking message never reached the free agents.  We have ALL this money to spend, we have our hands in seemingly every free agent’s jock trying to convince him to sign with Seattle … and yet, no one will come.  WEIRD, I KNOW!  It’s like, didn’t you get the memo?  The Mariners are on the rise!  Pay no mind to all those 90-loss seasons behind the curtain, though.  Or the fact that our last manager wouldn’t touch us with a 100-mile pole.  Just take our truck-fuls of cash and be happy!

Of course, the Mariners won’t go oh-fer the winter.  After all, Willie Fucking Bloomquist is back!  Two year deal!  WOOOO HOOOO MOTHERFUCKERS!  And, as soon as we over-pay Nelson Cruz to play 80 games a year (surrounded by a handful of DL stints), we’ll be all set.

Because the Mariners won’t get the A-Listers, we’ll have to settle for the D-Listers.  The guys who are over-the-hill, who were last good two or three years ago, who haven’t played injury-free at any point in recent history.  The Mariners – like they always do – will Febreze a few turds nobody else wants and try to pass it off that Someday could be closer than we think.  How many times have we heard that story before?

Then again, I guess we should be used to the greats not wanting to come to Seattle.  We can’t even get our home-grown Favorite Sons to return!  Jim Mora Jr., by all accounts, has signed a big, fat extension with the Bruins to stay as far a-fucking-way from the University of Washington as possible.  I’m not saying Mora would guarantee a return to the glory days, but it says quite a lot that we can’t even lure a guy over here when this job is ostensibly his “dream job” (per a radio interview while he was still coaching the Atlanta Falcons way back in the day).

Do you know how rejected that makes me feel?  I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but if you’re a fan of some (or all) of these teams, and you hear that they’re struggling to bring in quality players and/or coaches, doesn’t it just feel like a huge slap in the face?  What does it mean when you can’t even OVER-PAY these guys to come here?

College is kind of a fucked institution anyway, but then again, if a place like Eugene can attract the cream of the football crop, why couldn’t Seattle?  Shit, weed is actually LEGAL here!  You’re telling me we can’t use that to our advantage somehow?  All we need is one great coach, with a great offensive mind, who has a scheme that no one else can stop.  A great scheme can make up for a lack of talent, and when it does, eventually it’ll attract that talent!  Then, you’ve really got something!

But, of course, the Huskies will probably go after some re-tread.  Thinking that we’ve made enough progress in the last five years that all it’ll take is some know-it-all head coach to put everything together (when all the while, we’ll slowly revert back to our also-ran ways).

In basketball, get ready, because a house-cleaning is coming.  If last season didn’t bring about Romar’s firing, then surely this will be the year.  At this point, I’m such a broken, beaten man that I don’t even care anymore.  Maybe we’ll hit the lottery and find the next John Calipari or something.  Of course, you know the odds of winning any lottery …

And as for the Mariners, not even the promise of seeing Felix pitch 30+ times can get me excited for this team anymore.  It’s all so fucked, I can’t even see straight.

Thank holy hell that we have the Seahawks.  We may only get to enjoy them for three hours a week, and there may only be two months left of the season (including playoffs), but by gar at least it’s something!

Fuck You, Sark

If I take my allegiance for the Huskies out of it, then I understand.  USC has the broader national spotlight.  He will be able to recruit players to that school he just couldn’t hope to bring here.  USC will have an easier road to a national championship because all the major media drones already have that respect for the Trojans.  They’re more likely to be ranked higher in pre-season polls, which dictate how programs are perceived throughout the regular season (until you lose a few too many games and become downgraded accordingly).  If you start the season as a Top 10 school and you win a bunch of games, your road to the Top 4 in the BCS (or whatever they’re going to call it) is a lot easier than coming from the unranked and winning a bunch of games.  USC also certainly has more money to offer.  They’ve got nicer weather down there.  Prettier girls.  And he has a history with that school.  We gave him his first opportunity to be a head coach in major college football, but USC gave him his first opportunity to be a coordinator (which, in turn, led to his being offered a head coaching job).

I get all that.  If this were the Minnesota head coach getting hired away by Ohio State, I wouldn’t think twice; “Yeah, that sounds about right.  Who wouldn’t want to be the coach of Ohio State?”

And make no mistake, that’s a pretty apt analogy.  Minnesota used to be an elite school.  Now, they’re just kind of middle-of-the-road.  That’s Washington.

But GOD DAMN IT, it doesn’t have to be!

Just, fuck off Sark!  I hope you fucking fail miserably and are run out on the rails just like Kiffin!

Do I appreciate what he’s done for us?  Of course.  He took an 0-12 team and made us respectable.  Yes, he has us trending upward, but that was with the assumption that he and his coaches would stick with the program indefinitely!  You can’t say we’re still trending upward when we’re losing our entire recruiting base!  When we’ve got to start over again with a brand new staff!  Granted, they won’t be starting over at the nadir Sark was starting over with, but now we have that stigma again:  “Washington Isn’t Good Enough”.

We’re not USC.  We’re not Ohio State.  We’re not Alabama or Florida or Texas or Michigan or Oklahoma.  At best, we’re a stepping-stone to one of those schools.  Maybe we can aspire to be a Wisconsin or a Stanford or an Oklahoma State or a Nebraska – if everything breaks right.

What’s worse?  Sark proved us all right.  All of us with that inferiority complex.  All of us who feared from day one that he’d leave us for greener pastures just as soon as humanly possible.  His allegiance was never with Washington; it was always with the next big opportunity.

Could I blame him?  Yeah, I think I could.  This isn’t a situation where someone like A-Rod was a free agent and was blown out of the water by an infinitely bigger contract.  This was a guy currently signed, currently making millions of dollars, who will still be making millions of dollars, and probably not that many MORE millions of dollars.  He could have levereged USC into getting a raise at Washington and I would have respected the move.  But, dumping a program he built from scratch just when we were ready to take those next steps towards being elite again is just a selfish, chickenshit move.

I don’t understand people with Sark’s mentality.  Yeah, USC is probably a better opportunity, but it’s not THAT much better!  You could do here what they do there.  Believe me, it’s possible.  It’s been done before, under a much better man in Don James.

You know what happens when you succeed in a place like USC?  When you take that team to Rose Bowls and contend for championships?  Yawns.  The expectations are so high in a place like USC that something so enormous as going to back-to-back Rose Bowls is met with disappointment (see:  the been-there-done-that attitude of many players at Oregon this year).  You know what happens when you succeed in a place like Washington?  You’re adored for life and spend your twilight years on our Mt. Rushmore of Awesome People.

Do you think USC fans lionize Pete Carroll the way Husky fans worship Don James?  Fuck no!  Pete Carroll simply did what was expected of him!  Don James, however, did the impossible, turning a middling program into a national powerhouse.  Don James made it so current Husky fans can demand the best out of our program, because we’ve been there before.  We can be hard on our coaches and expect better than a 5-4 conference record, because we know we deserve better!

With Pete Carroll, I bet they look back with a bit of disappointment.  Not for the way things ended, but because he didn’t win them MORE games.  With Washington, if someone was able to do what Pete Carroll did down there, Husky fans would never shut up about how amazing he was!

Bottom line:  Sark just doesn’t want to put in the work.  He wants all the heavy lifting done for him.  In this case, the heavy lifting is the locale and the tradition.  He’s got an over-abundance of talent in SoCal and that talent is inherently aware of how great of a school USC is.  When you coach for Washington, you have to out-work your opponents to get the type of players you need (conversely, when you coach for Oregon, you can just out-spend your opponents, but that’s neither here nor there).

I was disappointed and saddened for about two minutes when I heard about Sark leaving for USC.  Now, I’m pissed.  Yeah, he seemed to be one of the good ones, and I had all the faith in the world that he’d get us where we wanted to go.  But, his leaving this way will not have me looking fondly on his time here, whatsoever.  He can eat shit.

Sark did a lot of good here, but let’s not forget he did a lot of mediocre as well.  7-6 comes immediately to mind.  0-5 against Oregon is right up there.  Our pathetic road record, getting blown out by the elites, having this team look absolutely un-coached at times.  Don’t forget that we were one blown Apple Cup away from shit-canning his ass after this season.  Sometimes, people can just see the writing on the wall.  He staved off execution for one year, but what would have happened next year if our record declined in the face of guys like Price, Sankey, and ASJ leaving?  He probably got out of here at the exact right time.  Nevertheless, even if he stayed and then was fired after next year, I would have been against it.

Sark is merely a footnote, Husky fans.  A 5-year intermission between being the worst and being the best.  Hopefully, the people in charge will poach from the right schools to get us going again.  I wouldn’t mind seeing anyone from the SEC (coordinators included, obviously) get wooed away to the Pacific Northwest.  I also would be heavily in favor of Jim Mora getting his shot at returning home.  If USC can do it, why can’t we?  At least we’ll know that Mora won’t constantly be looking for his next big opportunity.  #HuskyForLife

2013 Husky Football Preview

Can you believe that August 31st happens THIS Saturday?  And can you believe that once again I will be out of town and won’t be able to make it to the home opener, or even watch it live on television?  I’M DYING!  Somebody kill me, because I’m dying.

Maybe it’s because I follow Husky fan-blogs, but I’ve got to say there is an amazing amount of optimism among the homers out there.  For instance, there is this universal belief that THIS is the year that Washington finally beats Oregon.  Which immediately gives me pause, because it can’t be THAT easy, right?  I mean, yeah, we’re looking at improved depth, we’re looking at a senior quarterback poised for a bounce-back season, and we have been focusing non-stop to counter Oregon’s style of play by adopting Oregon’s style of play (the ol’ Can’t Beat ‘Em/Join ‘Em Corollary).  When I see everyone and their mothers making the “difficult” prediction that the Huskies are going to beat Oregon, I can’t help but be the contrarian.  So, I’m sorry to say that it’s my official opinion that the Huskies WON’T be beating Oregon in New Husky Stadium and that it’s probably another couple years before we do.

For the record, I think this is the first time the Huskies actually make it a GAME with Oregon.  I think the final result is the Huskies lose by one score or less, and I think Oregon needs a fourth quarter scoring drive to seal the deal – certainly one of their toughest tests of 2013 – but ultimately I think they do, in fact, seal the deal.

So, here’s what I’ll give you.  Since you can’t be a college football fan and NOT be a homer, I’m going the other way with my prediction than the crowd at large.  I say the Huskies WON’T beat Oregon, but I say they DO have a winning road record for the first time in years.

Oh … yeah, I’m going there.  The Huskies have one of the surprisingly tough road schedules in the entire Pac-12 conference.  After playing Illinois in Soldier Field, they go to Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon State.  ASU and UCLA will be with USC in fighting for that Pac-12 South title; and Stanford & OSU will be fighting with Oregon and, yes, Washington for the North title.  And here’s a bombshell for you:  the Washington Huskies go 4-1 on the road.  BOOM!  Take that, prognosticators!

As much as it angries up my blood, I say the Huskies lose to UCLA and Jim Mora’s dumb ass (God, you have no idea how much I hate the Bruins and wish them nothing but pain & misery).  In every other road game, though, I think the Huskies play tough, hard-nosed football, and they prevail with a bevy of final-minute scoring drives.  You are going to look at one of the clutchest football teams since Tui was roaming these fields!

A 4-1 road record would be about as Awesome Sauce as it gets, because I think the Huskies will be going 6-1 at home, with that aforementioned defeat to the Ducks, leaving us 10-2 with a 7-2 conference record.  Ultimately, I don’t think two conference defeats gets us into the Pac-12 Title Game (because, with tie-breaker, that would involve Oregon losing three times in conference, which – with their relatively easy schedule – isn’t happening), but 10 wins isn’t 7 wins, and that by itself is something.

I think 2013 will ultimately be remembered as the year Sark finally put together a dominant team.  All that hot-seat bullshit will go away for good and this program will spring-board into bigger and better things.  Of course, 2014 by default will be a bit of a step back, as we will be working in a first-time starting quarterback.  But, I don’t think we will step back far enough to miss out on a bowl.  And, that kind of experience should make 2015 our target year for making it back to the Rose Bowl and returning to the kind of prominence we deserve!

***

The season, as always, hinges on Keith Price’s performance.  If he manages to return to or exceed his Sophomore form, we will be looking at that 10-win team everyone has been salivating over.  If he maintains his Junior form, then God help us all.

I truly think Price was hampered by a loss of weapons in this offense last year, moreso than the injuries.  Remember, Price was hobbled for most of his Sophomore season too, and that didn’t prevent him from being one of the best QBs in the conference.  The bottom line is:  we need to supplement the talent round Kasen Williams and ASJ, and I think this team has done so.

Kevin Smith, thus far through camp, has taken a huge step forward after an injury-plagued Junior season.  At the moment, he’s looking at a starting spot on this team, but of course that can change at any time.  The real reason for optimism lies in our true freshmen receivers:  John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow.  At the moment, Ross is listed as a starter and Stringfellow is listed behind Williams.  There were grumblings about red-shirting one or both of these players, but I think this season is too special and too important to not play our very best guys.  That means All Hands On Deck, and that means true frosh – if they’re able – get the nod over disappointing elder statesmen like Jaydon Mickens and DiAndre Campbell.

One of my very favorite things about college football is that constant sense of competition (it’s also one of my very favorite things about the Seahawks right now).  You replenish lost talent via recruiting, and those guys have an instant chance to make an impact and join the ranks of the starters.  They only fail in that charge if they have legitimately been beaten out by more experienced players, who feel the push from those coming up behind them and rise to the occasion.  Either John Ross and Damore’ea Stringfellow play meaningful snaps with this team, or they make the other receivers around them better.  Win/win.

And, speaking of improved depth, look no further than our running game.

Bishop Sankey returns as one of the best backs in the Pac-12 – with an outside shot at being one of the best backs in the nation.  Jesse Callier returns from injury to give us that change-of-pace quickness we were lacking last year (though, some accounts have him as not quite back to his 2011 form; possibly worried about that knee, possibly due to lack of conditioning).  Between the two (Callier is listed 3rd on the depth chart, if you can believe it), is Dwayne Washington, the converted wide receiver who – by all accounts – has looked absolutely phenomenal in camp thus far.  So phenomenal, in fact, that it wouldn’t be shocking to start seeing him steal carries away from Sankey as the season goes along.

As with any other football team, though, this offense will only go as far as its offensive line allows.  I can’t remember the last time the Huskies have had a dominant line, which goes a long way in explaining how far this team has fallen from its Don James/Jim Lambright days.  This year, I think we’re all hoping for marginal improvement.  Major improvement would be unthinkably outstanding, but let’s not get our hopes up too much.  What this line does have going for it – aside from returned health – is experience.  The number of linemen on this team who have started games is amazing.  That can only be an asset for a unit searching for an identity and hopefully some cohesion.  There are currently no Seniors on the depth chart, so that’s a little concerning.  But, four out of five starters are Juniors, so that will bode well if they manage to play the majority of snaps.  If we can get improved play out of these guys, 2014 should be an embarrassment of riches along the line.

This offense should be capable of averaging well over 30 points per game this season.  I have the utmost confidence that we will see a return to form for this Husky offense.  It will be an asset and not a liability like last year, I promise you.

***

The 2012 Husky defense was the very definition of a Pleasant Surprise.  After the Nick Holt abomination, the 2012 D could have been only slightly better than its 2011 counterpart and we would have been thrilled.  But, in truth, the 2012 D was a legitimate strength, it kept us in some games we had no business being in, and it won us some games we shouldn’t have won.  Granted, we still got thrashed by LSU, Oregon, and Arizona.  But, they helped us over the hump against the likes of San Diego State, Stanford, Oregon State, and Cal on the road, in one of the sloppiest games in recent memory.

The 2012 defense wasn’t perfect.  That choke-job in the Apple Cup is an embarrassment of the highest order.  But, the defense was a step in the right direction, leaving this team poised for even better things in 2013.

The two big losses on this unit were Justin Glenn and Desmond Trufant.  I agree that there’s no way to replace someone like Trufant, but I don’t think the cupboard is bare by any stretch.  We still have Sean Parker, who will be among the best safeties in the conference, as well as Marcus Peters at one corner spot, who should be poised to make a name for himself in his second season.  Gregory Ducre, my erstwhile whipping boy ’round these parts, is one of the fastest guys on the team and going into his Senior season.  The level of improvement out of this kid never ceases to amaze me.  With another senior, Will Shamburger, at the other safety spot, we actually have one of the most experienced secondaries in the Pac-12.  There’s no Desmond Trufant in there, but that might not matter with the depth we’ve got behind these guys I just mentioned.

The Husky linebacking corps is one of the best – as a whole – we’ve had in some time.  Led by Junior John Timu in the middle, and all-world athlete Shaq Thompson on the outside, we will be fast, powerful and elite in the middle.  Which is important as this defense goes from challenging the power rushing attack of Stanford to the speed rushing attack of Oregon to the aerial assault of Arizona State.  If this team is going to take the next steps towards being elite, it’s going to be on the backs of these linebackers.

I’m not necessarily as sold on our D-Line as many, but I’ll be glad to be proven wrong.  Danny Shelton is a Junior looking to make a name for himself among NFL draft boards.  To generate the kind of attention he’s hoping to get, he’s going to have to be a dominant force not just once in a while, but on every single down.  Many question whether he has the drive to become the next in a long line of elite Husky defensive tackles, and count me among them.  I’ve seen him out there, seemingly going through the motions, far too often to have much more than wavering confidence.

One interesting note on the recent depth chart is Cory Littleton taking the defensive end spot over Josh Shirley.  If that’s a way of saying that Shirley isn’t so much an every-down end as much as a pass-rushing specialist, then I agree.  If that’s a way of saying that Littleton is actually on par as a pass-rusher with Shirley, then I’m pretty fucking happy.  Because we know what Shirley is capable of as a rusher, and we have a good idea of what he could develop into if he puts his mind to it.  And, if Littleton is on par with that, while also being an asset in the run game, then that’s a little scary.

***

There’s a lot of reason for optimism for this team.  We’re at a point where it’s all Sark’s guys, and those guys have the kind of talent we haven’t seen in over a decade.  Get ready, Husky fans, because 2013 is the year it all starts getting fun again.  Fewer embarrassing blow-outs, more thrilling last-minute finishes.  And, with an improved kicking game, I actually might not have that much to bitch about (oh, who am I kidding?).

The Last Five Years In Seattle Sports

2008 was the lowest point in Seattle sports.  It was our Absolute Zero.  Rock Bottom.  The total nadir of sports humanity!

It was the primary inspiration for the title of this website.  Take an already-crappy sports city, with practically no history of real success whatsoever, then rain down a million boulders while giving fans only a tiny umbrella to protect themselves.

We did NOT deserve this …

Well, we just finished the 2012 sports year with the 2012/2013 Husky basketball season coming to its conclusion.  As such, I have taken it upon myself to take a look back.  Five years ago, it was 2008; we were just getting started with the worst year ever.  How have things changed with our primary Seattle sports teams?

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners came off of a surprising 2007 campaign that saw them appearing to turn a corner.  Beltre, Ibanez, and Ichiro led the offense.  We hoped that a possible resurrection of Richie Sexson would bring about a further boost.  Two young guns up the middle – Lopez & Betancourt – were proof positive that what we were doing in our farm system wasn’t a complete joke.  Felix was coming into his own.  Losing Weaver & Horacio Ramirez was addition by subtraction.  You figured, with another quality starter, and another bat or two, and we’d be in business!

Well, we know what happened with 2008.  The Erik Bedard trade was a total and complete disaster (though, it went a long way towards the Orioles making their surprising playoff run in 2012).  The Mariners opted to let Jose Guillen walk and replaced him with the corpse of Brad Wilkerson.  Richie Sexson became a local pariah.  And, oh yeah, the other big pitching piece – Carlos Silva – was signed to the single-worst contract in recorded history.  You tack on little things – like J.J. Putz going from the greatest reliever in baseball in 2007, to an injured pile of crap in 2008 – and it all boils down to this team losing 101 games.  The first team with a payroll over $100 million to lose over 100 games.  Everyone was fired; it was brutal.

Enter Jackie Z, who could seemingly do no wrong at first.  He replaced Sexson with Russell Branyan – big upgrade.  He traded Putz for Franklin Gutierrez, who had an amazing season both in the field and at the plate.  We also ended up with Jason Vargas in that Putz deal, who came in and earned his way into the starting rotation.  He brought in Ken Griffey Jr., who wasn’t a total disaster as a DH.  In short, there was an immediate turnaround thanks to God knows what.  Good vibrations?  Luck?  I dunno.  But, this team improved 24 games over 2008 and contended well into the summer.  Everyone thought we’d struck gold!

Then, like some kind of sick fucking plague, every move Jackie Z made to help bolster the 2010 team turned to shit.  Chone Figgins was signed to a 4-year deal and immediately was the worst player in baseball.  Branyan was allowed to walk in favor of Casey Kotchman; Kotchman was terrible and Branyan was brought back in a panic-deal mid-season, because we had the most punch-less lineup in all of baseball history.  Silva was traded for Milton Bradley – which was a move of pure GENIUS until it turned out trading one cancer for another still leaves you on your deathbed.  Griffey was brought back, because HEY!, he hit 19 home runs the year before and it’s not like players suddenly lose all of their ability to swing a bat all at once or anything.

Mind you, just about everything Jackie Z did in anticipation of the 2010 season was believed to be the right thing.  Except for Griffey, but really, if we didn’t make the playoffs that season, it wasn’t going to be exclusively the fault of our elderly DH.  And, to a lesser extent, the Brandon League for Brandon Morrow trade was a bit questionable.  I mean, who trades a bona fide Major League starting prospect for an 8th inning reliever type? Nevertheless, this was a bold move looking to shore up our bullpen.

The cherry on top was the Cliff Lee trade.  We gave a bunch of Bavasi draft rejects to the Phillies for Cliff Lee in his final season.  At best, he’d be the starting pitcher to put us over the top.  At worst, we’d be a losing team and trade him at the deadline to the highest bidder for the best crop of prospects.

Like everything else that happened in 2010, even THIS ended up backfiring.  Cliff Lee came with a built-in contingency plan!  And he was traded for Justin Smoak – a disappointment to date – Blake Beavan – a less-than-adequate starting pitcher – and what has turned into a season’s worth of Michael Morse, a season’s worth of John Jaso, and a season’s worth of Josh Lueke.  There’s still time to turn around our fortunes, but unless Smoak figures out a miracle cure to his sucking ways, this has bust written all over it.

So, what happens when every single offseason (and in-season) move you make backfires?  You lose another 101 games, your franchise icon retires mid-season, your manager gets fired, and your GM is lucky to still have a job.

2010 was a wake-up call, both for fans and for the organization.  The last two times the Mariners had winning records – 2007 and 2009 – they immediately went out the very next offseason and tried to Win Now.  All the moves they made in hopes to Win Now were total disasters, so they had to come up with a new plan.  Either you keep riding this rollercoaster, firing your manager and/or GM every two seasons, or you start over from scratch.

Even though Jackie Z managed to bungle every Major League move known to man, he had still built up the minor leagues a fair amount.  With another high draft pick in his pocket, he put his head down and went to work.

The 2011 season was essentially given over to the kids.  Our major offseason moves included bringing in Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy, Brendan Ryan, and handing over the starting rotation to guys like Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Blake Beavan.  In addition, Ackley, Seager, and Carp all got their feet wet; Peguero was given an inordinate amount of playing time for what he was actually bringing to the table.  Others, like Wells, Trayvon Robinson, Saunders, and Halman all got varying amounts of playing time.  2011 was Try-Out central in Seattle.  Throw a bunch of spaghetti noodles into a pot of boiling water, take them out and see which ones would stick to the wall.

2012 took it a step further.  The big free agent pick-ups consisted of Millwood, Iwakuma, and a backup shortstop in Kawasaki.  We traded away Pineda – our best pitching prospect – to bring in Jesus Montero, because we absolutely could not live with the same old offense we’d had the past two seasons.

What did 2011 and 2012 accomplish?  Moderate gains in the win/loss column (+6 wins in 2011, +8 wins in 2012), moderate gains in our offensive production, and a whole lot of salary coming off the books.  The Silva/Bradley money, the Ichiro money, the Olivo money, another season’s worth of the Figgins money.

Now, it’s 2013.  The Mariners brought in some big bats via trade – Morse & Morales for Jaso & Vargas respectively – and some veteran bats via free agency – Ibanez and Bay.  They re-signed Iwakuma (when they realized he’s actually a quality starter), brought in Joe Saunders (who will probably be terrible), and have given the back-end of the rotation over to youth (Maurer and Beavan).  The crown jewel of the 2012/2013 offseason was re-signing Felix through 2019.  That’s huge.  The Mariners may never make the post-season while he’s with us, but God damn it, if they do WATCH OUT.

There is reason for optimism five years after bottoming out in 2008, but we’re still in a Show Me stage.  I’ll believe it when I see it, and all that.  2013 is critical, because if they don’t show some significant improvement, I think a lot of people will be out on their asses again and we’ll be looking at ANOTHER rebuild.

Husky Football

The Huskies ended their 2007 season with a 4-9 record.  Their 2007 schedule was deemed by many to be the toughest schedule in the nation.  Tyrone Willingham was coming off of his third consecutive losing season (going 2-9 in 2005 and 5-7 in 2006), and many believed he should have been fired then and there.  I was one of those simple-minded folks who said we should give him ONE more chance.  Jake Locker had a full season under his belt, why not give Willingham an opportunity to turn things around with the guy he brought in as his quarterback?

Well, we kicked off 2008 by being trounced in Oregon (who would go on to finish 10-3).  Then, we lost by a single point at home to BYU (thanks to the infamous penalty flag thrown on Locker as he ran in for the would-be game-tying touchdown and tossed the ball over his shoulder … thank you Pac-10 referees for being so damn competent) on a missed extra point at the end of the game.  Then, we lost at home to Oklahoma (who would go on to lose to Florida in the BCS National Championship Game).

THEN, we lost our quarterback, our best player, and really our only GOOD player, in the Stanford game.  After that, with the likes of Ronnie Fouch at the helm, we proceeded to lose all the rest of our games (including a pathetic heartbreaker of an Apple Cup, 16-13 in overtime).

0-12.  Doesn’t get any worse than that.  Can only go up from there, right?

Willingham:  gone.  Sarkisian:  in.

The 2009 Huskies improved by 5 games.  There was a signature win at home over the then-#3 USC Trojans, 16-13 on a last-minute field goal.  There was a signature near-win the first game of the season at home against LSU.  Jake Locker took huge strides in his development as a passer.  Everything looked great for the future.

The 2010 Huskies weren’t all that much more improved than the 2009 team, but they managed to win six regular season games (winning out after starting 3-6, thanks to a soft schedule to finish things) and earned a bowl game against Nebraska.  Of course, they got killed by Nebraska, IN Husky Stadium, earlier that season.  But, in the rematch, this Husky team was totally reborn and they took it to the Cornhuskers, stifling them 19-7.

That led to somewhat higher expectations for 2011, but how high could we possibly make them?  Let’s face it, we’d lost our best player and were breaking in a new quarterback.  Our defense was still on the fritz, and we were still in a very tough conference with Oregon, Stanford, and USC.  Not to mention we had to go to Nebraska, where we most certainly got our shit kicked in.

2011 was a disappointment because there was no Signature Win.  In 2009 and 2010, we had victories over USC and Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.  In 2011, we barely squeaked by Eastern Washington in the first game.  We were absolutely terrorized by the aforementioned heavy hitters (losing the games to USC, Oregon, Stanford, and Nebraska by a combined 190-93).  In spite of losing ALL the games were were technically “supposed” to lose, we were still in line for a 1-game improvement over 2010.  That officially died when A. we went into Oregon State and lost (they ended the season with 3 wins) and B. we faced RGIII and the Baylor Bears and gave up 67 points on 777 yards of offense in losing by 11.

Back-to-back 7-6 seasons left a bitter taste in our mouths.  After storming the field against the Cornhuskers, we bent over and grabbed our ankles against the Bears.  2012 would SURELY be different, though.  We had a full season with Keith Price, he had surpassed our wildest expectations by throwing for over 3,000 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.  How could 2012 NOT be a huge improvement?  On top of all that, we didn’t wait that extra season to see if Nick Holt could turn things around on defense.  We went out, brought in some heavy hitters at recruiting and defensive coaching, and nabbed some top prospects in the process.

Well, there was improvement.  The 2012 Huskies DID manage some signature wins against the likes of Stanford and Oregon State (both in the top 10 at the time we beat them), but they also fell completely flat against the likes of #3 LSU, #2 Oregon, and #11 USC.  In spite of yet another 3-game losing streak in the middle of the season, these Huskies were looking at possibly winning 8 or 9 games when all was said and done!

They were 7-4 (riding a 4-game winning streak) going into the Apple Cup in Pullman.  They had an 18-point lead going into the final quarter … so of COURSE they ended up blowing the game in overtime.  This ultimately led to the Huskies facing Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl and ending up – once again – 7-6.

In short, the Huskies went from 0-12 in 2008, to 5-7 in 2009, to 7-6 in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  No 7-6 record is created equal, obviously, but at the end of the day people don’t remember how you got there.  They just see where you were and shake their heads.

Keith Price showed all the promise in the world in 2011.  But, he lost all his major weapons (Kearse and Aguilar at receiver, Chris Polk at running back) and couldn’t recover in 2012.  In the Baylor bowl game, Price accounted for 7 touchdowns on offense and looked like the best quarterback on the field – even better than the Heisman Trophy winner and ultimate #2 overall draft pick.  However, in the Apple Cup and again in the Boise State bowl game, Price ended both with interceptions.  He was going into the 2013 season fighting for his job, but from all accounts he’s got it locked up after Spring Ball.  Nevertheless, I have to imagine he’s on a short leash.  We can’t suffer the kind of downgrade in production again.

At this point in Sark’s tenure, he’s got all his own guys now.  2013 is the year we’re expected to win and win consistently.  The non-conference schedule is relatively easy, and the conference schedule isn’t too bad either.  We’ve got veterans in all the right places, we’ve got some serious talent on defense for the first time since he got here, and Price has had a chance to gel with his offensive weapons.  2013 isn’t a Rose Bowl or Bust, but it’s close.  The Huskies have to at least be in the conversation.

I’m not gonna lie to you, beating the Ducks for the first time in eons would go a long way towards cementing Sark’s status as a legend ’round these parts.

Husky Basketball

The 2007/2008 Huskies were a definite low-point in the Romar era.  They finished the regular season 16-16, losing in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament, and received the #1 seed in the College Basketball Invitational.  You know, that post-season tournament for the teams not even good enough for the N.I.T.

We lost.  To Valparaiso.

In 2008/2009, we brought in Isaiah Thomas and he was a firecracker right from the start.  We enjoyed Brockman’s senior season, and we rode that wave to a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Round of 32 loss to 5-seed Purdue by two points.  More or less, it was a successful season, but once again it ended prematurely.

In 2009/2010, we had another senior leader taking to the forefront.  This time, it was Q-Pon, who averaged 19 and 7 per game in leading us to a Pac-10 Tournament victory, an 11-seed in the tournament, and upset wins over #6 Marquette (where he hit the clutch game winner) and #3 New Mexico.

Once again, though, the Romar-era Huskies couldn’t get past the Sweet 16.  This time, we lost to West Virginia, thanks to them totally having the length advantage on us.

In 2010/2011, we had our version of a Big 3 with Thomas, MBA, and Holiday.  The last two were seniors and Thomas was playing in what would be his final season.  We rode this squad to another Pac-10 Tournament victory (you all remember COLD BLOODED don’t you?).  This resulted in a 7-seed – our third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance – and a victory over 10-seed Georgia before losing in the Round of 32 to 2-seeded North Carolina (by only 3 points, but still).

The 2011/2012 season saw the emergence of Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross.  Both were young, extremely talented, and irritatingly inconsistent.  Ross would disappear for minutes at a time.  Wroten had no jump shot whatsoever, so he had to fight for every single basket in the paint.  This team ended up winning the Pac-12 outright, but since the Pac-12 sucked dick that season, and since the Huskies lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, AND since they had no quality wins over ranked non-conference opponents, the Huskies were denied a fourth consecutive NCAA invite.  Instead, they locked down the #1-overall N.I.T. seeding and ran with it to the Final Four in New York City.  It ended with a loss to Minnesota, who would end up losing to eventual-champion Stanford the very next game.

The less said about the 2012/2013 season, the better.  Wroten and Ross both bolted for the NBA, and absolutely no one came in to replace them.  That’s what happens when you’re a good-not-great recruiter in a good-not-great university for basketball:  sometimes you DON’T bring in a player of quality and you suffer as a result.

Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, and N’Diaye were left to pick up the pieces.  This team was pretty solid on defense, but ultimately inept on offense, and now at least three of those guys are gone (with Wilcox having a difficult decision to make regarding his final year of eligibility).  The 2012/2013 Huskies didn’t beat a single ranked team, only beat three teams who ended up going to the NCAAs (Saint Louis, California, and Colorado), and wound up being a 6-seed in the N.I.T., where the subsequently got their shit kicked in at BYU.

What’s in store for 2013/2014?  Well, a solid incoming class with one McDonalds All American at point guard in Nigel Williams-Goss.  If Wilcox comes back, that gives us a veteran scoring presence (for the record, he’s a fool if he leaves; his past season was absolutely dreadful and injury-plagued).  If we can get anything from our young forwards, you could look at a team that surprises a lot of people.  Or, you could be looking at a third-straight N.I.T. bid.  If it’s the latter, I’m not so sure I’d be confident about my job security if I was Romar.

Seattle Supersonics

I won’t go into excruciating detail on this end.  We all know what the last five years have been like for the Sonics.  They went 20-62 in their final season in Seattle (after drafting Kevin Durant and bringing in one of the finest GMs in the game from the San Antonio organization).  They were given away by the city of Seattle, they struggled again the following season, and then they went to the playoffs four straight seasons (losing most recently in the Finals to the beloved Miami Heat).

Now, we’ve got an ownership group and an arena deal in place, and we’re fighting like crazy to steal the Kings from Sacramento.  If all goes according to plan, we will have pro basketball back in Seattle for the 2013/2014 season.  If it doesn’t, then this part of next year’s “Five Years” post is going to be REAL fucking depressing.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m saving the best for last because I can.  Because, honestly, it’s all a little too much and I can hardly believe it myself.  There is cautious optimism for the Mariners and their young core to turn things around.  There’s more confident optimism that the Husky football team will turn some heads this fall.  There’s hope that the Husky basketball team can somehow gel with their new incoming players and make an improbable Tourney run.  There’s delusions that the NBA will be back in Seattle this time next year.

But, that’s nothing.  There is outright SWAGGER for the Seattle Seahawks.  How did we get HERE?

In 2008, we went 4-12.  We had dicked around with Mike Holmgren, we signed on his replacement – Jim Mora Jr. – to be his defensive backs coach, and all the major veterans took a huge dump.  This was coming off of a 2007 season where the Seahawks once again won the division.  But, Shaun Alexander was released at the end, losing out to another injury.  So, Tim Ruskell opted to reload via free agency.  Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were brought in to liven up the running game, but no dice.  Hasselbeck missed a bunch of games, Walter Jones tried surgery but wasn’t the same and was forced to retire at season’s end … it was just a mess.

In 2009, there was something of a fresh start expected with Mora.  T.J. Houshmandzadeh was brought in on a huge free agent deal, Aaron Curry was signed as our can’t-lose first round draft pick … in short, we were one of the oldest and least-talented teams in the NFL.  When all was said and done, these Seahawks improved by only 1 game and both Mora and Ruskell were fired.

2010 was the REAL fresh start.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider tag-teamed this roster from head to toe.  They traded for Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, and Charlie Whitehurst (hey, they can’t all be winners).  They got rid of Housh (taking a healthy bath in the cap hit) and later Deion Branch.  They brought in a rejuvinated Mike Williams who led the team in receiving.  They drafted Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor.  They made hundreds upon hundreds of free agent moves, giving tryouts to anyone and everyone who they thought might be an upgrade.  They got significantly younger, and thanks to a piss-poor division, ended up making the playoffs with a 7-9 record.

Understand, this wasn’t a legitimate playoff team.  Yes, after two years in the wilderness, they found their way back to civilization, but it was totally phony!  The fact that we beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at Qwest Field is a travesty of common decency (though, it did provide us with the greatest NFL play ever, Beastmode’s Touchdown Scamper).  Our “Cinderella” run ended the following week in Chicago, and you had to wonder how long it would be before the Seahawks made the playoffs again.

The 2011 Seahawks were hamstrung by the NFL Lockout.  They fired their offensive coordinator and hired Darrell Bevell from Minnesota.  Which meant, if they stood any chance of competing in ANY games that season, they’d have to bring some people in who knew Bevell’s system.  This meant Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.  They let Hasselbeck go with a cordial goodbye and handed the keys to the team over to Tarvar (without so much as a second look at Whitehurst, who was as bad as we all remember him being and then some).

Tarvar proved tough, but ultimately inept when the game was on the line.  Those 2011 Seahawks also finished the regular season 7-9 and weren’t given the benefit of a lousy NFC West to “earn” a home playoff game.

With a full offseason going into 2012, the Seahawks needed to make a change.  They’d drafted well, bringing in guys like Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright.  But, they needed a signal-caller with some zazz!  So, they signed Matt Flynn to a three-year deal, and they went out and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round.

People say if Wilson was just 2-3 inches taller, he would’ve been a Top 10 pick.  But, he’s not, so now he’s ours.

Wilson earned his opportunity to have an Open Competition in Training Camp.  This led to him wowing us in the Pre-Season, which ultimately led to him winning the job and running with it.  The 2012 Seahawks took it easy with him for the first few weeks, but once they knew he could handle himself, they opened things up.  This resulted in the Seahawks being the best team in football over the second half of the season.  Still, their early-season slip-ups meant that the 49ers won the division, relegating us to the fifth seed in the NFC.

We went into Washington and somehow came away with a victory.  Then, we went into Atlanta, gave them a 20-point lead, and somehow led in the game with 30 seconds to go.  That was choked away, but the message was sent.  It wasn’t, “Wait Until Next Year,” the way most fanbases say it, more resigned to their current fate as losers, sorely, bitterly hoping that things will turn around for them in short order.

No, this is, “Just you WAIT until next year, chickenfuckers!”  Because the 2013 Seahawks are a runaway train that has Super Bowl or Bust written all over them!

In five years, the Seahawks have gone from one of the oldest and worst teams in the NFL to one of the youngest and best teams.  In five years, the Seahawks have gone from bottom-feeders to would-be kings.  We fans are cashing in our 401Ks in anticipation of buying Super Bowl tickets in 2014.  It’s never been so clear and so positive in the city of Seattle.  They can single-handedly reverse the fortunes of this desolate sports city.  All they need to do is win.

What’s more, they’re spreading around the positivity.  People are stoked on the Mariners WAY more than they should be thanks to the good will generated by the Seahawks.  Sports fans have something to look forward to and spirits are bright.  This is carrying over to the other sports in hopes that the good vibes will roll on.

We’ll see.  If the Seahawks win it all, the Mariners contend for a playoff spot, the Huskies make a run at the Rose Bowl, the basketball Huskies make a run at the NCAA Tournament, and the Sonics return to Seattle, we could be talking about the greatest 5-year turnaround any sports city has ever seen.  Fingers crossed.

Seahawks Lose Defensive Coordinator, Gain Another Defensive Coordinator

So, Gus Bradley is gone.  Jacksonville hired him to be their head coach.  On the one hand, I guess it’s a good move for him.  If your goal all along has been to be an NFL head coach, then hey!  He achieved his goal!

But, I mean, just LOOK at that franchise!  They’re a complete disaster!  Blaine Gabbert is about as far from an elite quarterback as it gets.  Their best player, MJD, is over the hill and falling fast.  In 2012, their offense was the 4th-worst, their defense was 3rd-worst, and fan interest is at an all-time low.  The best thing they have going for them is they draft #2 overall this April.  Of course, even that’s kind of a shitty deal, because there’s no RGIII coming out in this draft.

Which leads to the ultimate question:  is it better to hold out, stick with your coordinating job on an elite team, and bide your time until the right job offer comes along?  Or, is it better to jump while the iron’s hot, because NFL head coaching vacancies are so rare?

I suppose it’s a nice problem to have.  You have to consider the fact that it’s very possible that the Seahawks’ defense could decline, if injuries take hold or players regress.  You also have to consider:  if you turn around a fledgling franchise, you’ve essentially got job security for life.  But, how often does THAT happen?  More often than not, even the greatest head coaches have a blemish on their record.  Belichick has his Cleveland stint.  Carroll has his Jets debacle.  Marv Levy had a mediocre stint with the Chiefs.  And that’s not counting all the countless head coaches who found second jobs yet never managed to turn their careers around EVER.

This is all prelude to the ultimate argument:  how important are coaches?  Let’s face it, you can be a genius.  You can have a brand-new offensive or defensive scheme that takes the league by storm.  But, if you don’t have the talent to execute those schemes, your team isn’t going anywhere.

Gus Bradley’s career is riddled with jobs at low-level colleges.  Yes, he once ascended to be a head coach at that level, but that’s not really saying a whole lot.  In the NFL, before he came to be the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator in 2009, the highest he ever got to be was Linebackers Coach under Monte Kiffin in Tampa.  In 2009, with an absolute joke of a team, Bradley led the defense to a 24th-ranking in yards per game allowed and 25th-ranking in points per game.  In 2010, the defense was even worse (27th in yards, 25th in points).  Finally, in 2011, once the majority of the turnover was complete, he turned the defense around (9th in yards, 7th in points).  And, in 2012, he enjoyed coaching one of the most talented defenses in football (4th in yards, 1st in points).

So, he struck while the iron was hot.  And, since he’s apparently such a great interview, he got himself a job after only 4 years’ worth of NFL coordinating.  And only TWO years’ worth of quality results!

But, you have to admit, his performance as a coordinator sure did synch up with the influx of raw, improved talent.

I would argue that if you’re reasonably smart and dedicated to your job, you can coordinate the hell out of a defense like Seattle’s.  How hard is it to watch tape on your opponent, set up a game plan, call plays during the game, and make adjustments accordingly (depending on how different they look at the onset of the game, or how they adjust to your initial gameplan)?  That’s essentially all you need out of a coordinator.  Develop the right scheme for your personnel, adjust to what the offense is giving you, and let your players make plays.

I mean, what was the last huge innovation in defensive coordinating?  The Tampa Two?  Yeah, that’s been around like forever.  Before that, what was it?  Dick LeBeau’s Zone Blitz?  Buddy Ryan’s 46 Defense with the Chicago Bears in the mid-80s?

It’s not like offense.  Offense is continually changing, evolving.  Defense is mostly just reacting.  But, essentially it’s the same.  Good defenses have good players.  You can’t just magically create a good defense out of stiffs!

I would argue Offensive Coordinators are vastly more important.  I would also argue that we could do a lot better than Darrell Bevell, but for the sake of maintaining SOME kind of continuity, I guess I’m okay with him getting a pay raise and sticking around for a while.

But, losing a guy like Gus Bradley is just the price you pay.  Same with this Idzik guy from our front office.  Good teams get poached from ALL THE TIME.  As long as we’ve got John Schneider running the show from a talent evaluation standpoint, I think we’ll be in good shape.  Next man up, and all of that nonsense.

Dan Quinn returns to replace Bradley.  For those not in the know, Quinn was our Defensive Line coach and an Associate Head Coach in 2009 under Mora.  He stuck around in 2010 under Carroll, but then left to be the Defensive Coordinator of the Florida Gators from 2011-2012.  In 2012, the Gators were 5th in points allowed per game with 14.5.  So, he’s got SOME experience as a coordinator, at a very high level in college, and he’s familiar with the workings in the NFL (and the Seattle Seahawks).  It’s a natural fit, and I don’t anticipate missing a beat.

I don’t know how his style differs from Bradley’s, but I would assume not that much.  He’s been a Defensive Line coach for pretty much forever, so hopefully some of that experience will help inprove what’s a huge need for this team.  Hopefully too that’ll mean he’s familiar-enough with some of the D-Line talent coming out of college.  At the very least, he should have a type of D-lineman in mind (a la Tom Cable and his needs for the O-Line), in the event that we’re not able to draft the cream of the crop.  Given that the Seahawks are drafting in the mid-20s again, he better be adept at turning chicken shit into chicken salad.

Regardless of who’s at the helm, it’s always going to boil down to talent.  Bring in the talent, you bring in the wins, bottom line.

Seahawks Death Week: An Appreciation Of The 2012 Seattle Seahawks

The two best overall seasons in Seattle Seahawks history are the 2005 Super Bowl team, and the 1983 AFC Championship Game-losing team.  The 2005 Seahawks went 13-3 (best regular season record in team history), went on to beat the Redskins and Panthers before losing to the Steelers.  The 1983 Seahawks went 9-7, snuck in as a Wild Card team (back when they had three divisions and chose only 5 teams per conference to go to the playoffs, with the division winners all getting first-round BYEs), beat rookie John Elway and his Denver Broncos, then went into Miami (with the best record in the AFC) and beat rookie Dan Marino, before losing to the Los Angeles Raiders in the title game.

I reference these two seasons, because those are the only two times the Seahawks ever made it past the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  The 1984 Seahawks had the second-best regular season record in franchise history – 12-4 – but thanks to the Broncos being one game better, the Seahawks were once again stuck in the Wild Card game.  They made it to the Divisional Round that year, but got reamed by the Miami Dolphins, and didn’t see another playoff game until the 1987 season.

Success is fleeting, is what I’m trying to say.  I was alive at the time, but I was a very small child and remember nothing of this time in Seahawks history.  What I do know is the city of Seattle and surrounding areas were on cloud nine when it came to the Seahawks.  They thought, SURELY we were in for some extended good fortune.  Then, the Seahawks went 8-8 and found themselves third in the AFC West in 1985.  In 1986, the Seahawks went 10-6, but once again found themselves third in the AFC West and on the outside-looking-in at the playoffs.  When they went back to the playoffs in ’87, they lost in the first round to the Oilers.  The very next year, the Seahawks were division winners at 9-7 and had a first round BYE.  But, they had to go to Cincinnati (because we had the worst record among the division winners) and lost again.

It would be 11 more seasons before the Seahawks made the playoffs again, at the time the longest drought in the NFL.

One could argue we’ve been a little spoiled, but really that’s loser talk.  However, if you talked to Teenage Me from the 1990s, I’d tell you that making the playoffs in 7 out of the last 10 years (which is what the Seahawks have done, dating back to 2003) is an embarrassment of riches!  Not only that, but it’s been merely five seasons since the last great Seahawks team (not counting the 2010 squad that hardly deserved to be there, division winners at 7-9; that was NOT a good team, in spite of their victory over the Saints).  The last great Seahawks era – the Mike Holmgren Era – ended in ignominy in 2008 after five consecutive playoff appearances and four consecutive division titles.  Then, there was the Jim Mora Jr. disaster of a 2009.  Then, Pete Carroll and John Schneider came to town in 2010, and they started completely cleaning house.  Two seasons after that improbable division title, the Seahawks have returned to glory.

2012 was resoundingly great.

2012 ranks 3rd all time in franchise history in regular season wins with 11 (behind the aforementioned 2005 and 1984 teams).  2012 ranks 3rd all time in total points scored (412, behind 2005’s 452 and 1984’s 418).  2012 ranks 2nd all time in least points allowed (245, behind 1982’s 147 in a strike-shortened 9-game season).  2012 ranks 2nd all time in point differential (+167, behind 2005’s +181).

In 2012, the Seahawks ranked #1 in the NFL in points allowed and #4 in the NFL in yards allowed (which are both franchise highs in finishes).  The 2012 Seahawks’ average margin of victory was 10.4 points, which ranks #2 behind 2005’s 11.3.  However, the 2012 Seahawks rank 7th among all Seahawks teams in toughest strength of schedule (the 2005 Seahawks schedule ranks among the 8th-easiest in franchise history).

Russell Wilson had the greatest rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history.  There have been rookie quarterbacks that went further in the playoffs.  There have been rookie quarterbacks who threw for more yards (11 in fact, with Andrew Luck leading the pack).  But, the combination of yards, touchdowns, lack of interceptions, and playoff games won, I believe, puts Wilson ahead of all the rest.

Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,590 yards, good for #3 in the NFL.  It’s also good for #3 in Seahawks history (behind 2005 Shaun Alexander’s 1,880 and 2004 Shaun Alexander’s 1,696).  Lynch ran for 5.05 yards per attempt, which is good for #2 in Seahawks history (behind 2005 Alexander’s 5.08).  Lynch also tacked on 23 catches for 196 yards and a combined total of 12 touchdowns rushing & receiving.  All in all, one of the best running back seasons we’ve ever seen in this city.  And he did it AFTER signing a big, fat contract extension.

Sidney Rice and Golden Tate made huge strides in leading this team in receiving.  They weren’t breaking any records, but given their past production for this team, and the overall lack of receiving production in recent years, and I’ll take the numbers they’re peddling.  50 catches for 748 yards and 7 TDs for Rice; 45 catches for 688 yards and 7 TDs for Tate.

Among kick returners with a minimum of 500 kick return yards, Leon Washington ranked third in the NFL in average yards per return with a shade over 29.  That’s coming from a guy who just turned 30 this past August!

On the defensive side of the ball, the Seahawks had two guys with 100 tackles or more (Wagner with 140, Chancellor with an even 100).  For as much as we lament the pass rush, Clemons finished with a career-high 11.5 sacks and Bruce Irvin finished with 8 as a rookie (which led all rookies).

Richard Sherman had 8 interceptions, tied for 2nd in the NFL behind Tim Jennings with 9.  Three other Seahawks had 3 interceptions each (Wagner, Earl Thomas, and Brandon Browner, in only 12 games).

And, let us not forget the 2012 Seattle Seahawks 1st Team All Pro’s!  They would be Marshawn Lynch, Max Unger, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas.  All deserving, all amazing, all under contract for ever-so-long.

The Seahawks went 4-1 against 2012 playoff teams in the regular season (and 1-1 against 2012 playoff teams in the post-season).

They have an offensive rookie of the year finalist (who probably won’t win) and a defensive rookie of the year finalist (who also probably won’t win).  They’re a great team that’s only going to get better and they lose no one of significance to free agency.  They have the best home field advantage in the NFL, they play a 2nd place schedule next season (which essentially means they play the Vikings instead of the Packers, and the Giants instead of the Redskins).

It’s exciting to be a Seahawks fan right now.  And if they ever push themselves over the hump and go all the way, my sports life will officially be complete.