Seahawks Barely Get By Deshaun Watson & The Texans

This was a game you’ll love if you’re a fan of numbers.  Specifically offensive numbers, as we had oodles.  Russell Wilson:  452 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, 30 rushing yards.  Deshaun Watson:  402 yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs, 67 rushing yards.  DeAndre Hopkins:  11 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD.  Will Fuller:  5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett:  6 catches, 121 yards.  Paul Richardson:  6 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs.  Jimmy Graham:  4 catches, 39 yards, 2 TDs.  Hell, even Lamar Miller had 54 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards, and 2 combined TDs.  Offense.  For.  Days.

But, it was pretty slim pickin’s as far as defense is concerned.  Earl Thomas came back with a pick-six after giving up a long opening-drive touchdown bomb.  Richard Sherman had a couple interceptions after being challenged with impunity all game.  Jadeveon Clowney was a beast, both in pass rush and particularly in the run game.  The Seahawks had 5 sacks and 9 tackles for loss, including big games for Bennett, Clark, Wright, and Wagner.  Even Dwight Freeney got in on the action with half a sack.

All of those things were great, but you don’t come out of a 41-38 game and heap praise on the defense.  And, I gotta tell ya, while it was a refreshing change of pace to see the Seahawks go out there and sling the ball up and down the field, I think I still prefer it when our defense is the best group on the field.  There’s something about both teams scoring on 13 possessions out of 26 (not counting end-of-half kneeldowns) that’s a little overwhelming.

What I did like was the fact that no team was ever up by more than 7 points.  That’s pretty rare, considering how much scoring took place.  I mean, the Over damn near hit before halftime!  When there’s a game like this, it usually involves the Seahawks looking like crap for the first half, then scrambling to come back by multiple scores to win by some miracle at the end.  This one was just a slugfest; two insane offenses throwing haymakers back and forth.

In a game like this, you can take it one of two ways:  you can breathe a sigh of relief and live with your heads in the clouds over how the offense moved the ball.  Just throw out the books and appreciate this one for what it was:  probably the most exciting game (from start to finish) in the NFL this season (perhaps narrowly edging that Chiefs/Raiders Thursday Night game a couple weeks back, but I don’t want to succumb to recency bias).  Or, if you’re like me, maybe you can’t help but see some of the warts.

I’m willing to more or less overlook the L.O.B.’s lack of dominance in this one, because let’s face it:  they’ve pulled this offense’s ass out of the fire on PLENTY of occasions.  Every once in a while, they deserve to have a bad game and somehow the team still finds a way to win.

I thought, for the most part, the run defense looked pretty good, aside from some key breakdowns in contain when it comes to Deshaun Watson.  I mean, where was the spy?  Isn’t this game tailor-made for Bobby Wagner to have eyes on Watson all game?  What you absolutely can’t have happen is the line getting sucked over to one side, with 20 yards of open field for Watson to punish us.

More than anything, you can say the Seahawks’ defense – while mediocre as a whole – made just enough big plays when it mattered most.  The aforementioned Earl Thomas interception returned for a touchdown.  The Sherman interception that led directly to a field goal that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game at 27-24.  The sacks and D-Line pressure that led to the Texans’ five punts on the day.  And, the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

With just under 3 minutes to go in the game, and the Texans up 38-34, the Seahawks were driving.  Russell Wilson just scrambled for 21 yards that had me literally exclaim, “Wow, how did he do that?!”  He stepped up in the pocket and ran through a nexus of three Texans who all converged on a single spot, and instead of getting his block knocked off, he somehow caused all three of them to hit one another as he scampered to the 20 yard line.  At that point, it was without question that the Seahawks would re-take the lead, and the only question that would remain would be:  did we leave the Texans too much time on the clock?  Except, instead, Wilson treated everyone to his single worst throw of the game, an out-route that was easily picked off, as if he had intended to throw it to the defender.

(which, I mean, let’s not rule this out.  You know as well as I do that Russell Wilson is a wizard.  He just is.  He’s magic, and we’re all fortunate to be graced with his presence.  So, hear me out on this:  what if he could see into the future, realize we were in the process of scoring too quickly, and had we done so, Deshaun Watson would be the one everyone is lauding for his last-minute game-winning efforts?  I submit this as my argument that he MEANT to throw that interception, knowing we’d get the ball back, and ultimately score with too little time left on the clock for the Texans to do anything about it)

But, I digress.  Getting back to the biggest play of the day that no one is talking about:

The Texans took over with just under three minutes left in the game.  They ran the ball for 4 yards on first down, the Seahawks opted to save their time out.  They ran the ball for 8 yards on second down, and we hit the two-minute warning with a fresh set of downs.  After the break, the Texans ran again for 1 yard, time out.  THEN, we get to the play of the game:  second down, hand off to Miller again, this time for 5 yards.  But, if you look at it, the Texans had that thing blocked to go for double-digit yards or more.  Things just opened up like you wouldn’t believe, and if it weren’t for Michael Bennett diving in there and slapping at his foot to get him to fall down, the Texans would’ve ended the game right there.  Go back and look at it!  If you can find it, that is, because like I said, hardly anyone is talking about it, and yet the only reason the Seahawks had a chance at the end is because Michael Bennett saved the day.

Now, I’ll also say I agree with the majority of America today:  Bill O’Brien should’ve put the ball in Watson’s hands on at least the third down play.  I can see it both ways:  with the run, you take away Seattle’s final time out, and as I just discussed, there’s a decent chance of converting a 3rd & 4 with the way things were going as recently as that very drive.  But, on the other hand, Watson was a juggernaut yesterday.  You could’ve run with him, you could’ve had him drop back and pass, you could’ve done a run-pass option, you could’ve done one of those fucking plays where he fakes it to three other guys before hitting a fourth option (that our defense somehow could NOT figure out, at any point in this game).  Instead, in hindsight, it feels pretty weak to just run it back up the middle again for the fifth straight play.  The Seahawks stopped it for a 2-yard gain and the rest was history.

I suppose more of my consternation with this game comes from the fact that the Seahawks’ run game was abysmal.  I mean, just the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived through full seasons of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett!

Part of this absolutely has to do with Chris Carson going down with injury, because God fucking dammit would he come in handy right about now!  Why do all of our best running backs have to be fucking injured all the God damn time?  Him and Prosise this year, Rawls and Prosise last year, Rawls the year before.  I mean, shit!

Part of this has to do with Eddie Lacy, because he’s effectively useless.  I’d been willing to give him time to grow with this offense up until this game, because he’s a volume rusher, and gets better the more you feed him (ironically enough).  But, 6 carries for 0 yards?  No.  No thank you.  Go home, eat your China food, and waste some other team’s time.  You’ll never for ONE SECOND get me to believe the guys on the active roster are better than Mike Davis, who is LANGUISHING on the practice squad right now.

Which gets me to my next gripe:  Darrell Bevell.  Not Darrell Bevell the play-caller, mind you.  I know that’s what everyone gets on him about, but again, I thought he called a pretty great game, all things considered.  He gave the running game everything he had, but it clearly wasn’t working and he gave it up for the most part in the second half.  What I’ve got a problem with is Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator.  And, by that I mean, the way he designs his offense, and how he uses the players he’s got.

It took him FUCKING FOREVER before he put Jimmy Graham out wide near the goalline this season.  Why is that?  Because he doesn’t want to tip off his play-calling.  It’s why he lines Graham up inside on run plays, when Graham is the worst blocking tight end in the universe.  You can’t just have Graham out there on passing plays, because then defenses will expect that.  SO FUCKING WHAT?  Here’s a newsflash, you fucking moron:  what you’re doing now – by “out-thinking” the defense – ISN’T FUCKING WORKING!  Rushing plays with Graham on the field get blown up CONSTANTLY!

Same goes for Thomas Rawls, out there on third downs.  Why would you do this when you’ve got a talent like J.D. McKissic?  Oh, because if McKissic is out there, the defense will know you’re passing?  WHO CARES?  It beats throwing to a fucking stone-hands, who drops carefully-lobbed balls in the endzone!

I come from the school that says, “Put my best 11 guys up against your best 11 guys and let the chips fall where they may.”  Because, more often than not during the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era, the Seahawks have had the most talent in the NFL.  That’s just a fact.  And, you know what?  It used to be enough for this team.  The Seahawks used to be a team (albeit, with Beastmode in the backfield, which obviously has to account for a lot) that would run the ball when the opposing team had 8-9 guys in the box, and we’d STILL get a productive gain on the play!  Because our 11 guys were better than their 11 guys, and we’d make them pay for their inferiority.

But, nowadays?  The Seahawks have lost their sack.  They’re trying to get cute, which leads to throws to Rawls, runs towards Graham’s side, long bombs to McEvoy, and fullbacks streaking free up the middle for 66-yard gains.  Which, obviously, when it works – like the throw to Madden, and the 53-yard bomb to McEvoy – you look like a genius.  But, more often than not, those plays haven’t been working this season, and you just look like an asshole who’s trying to get a head coaching job somewhere else.  Which, GREAT, DO IT, GET OUT OF HERE!  But, of course, the NFL sees right through that, so we’ll be stuck with Bevell here for as long as Pete Carroll remains head coach.  It’s our burden, but one I’m willing to live with.  Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about it.

Thankfully, the receivers were there to pick up the slack.  Doug Baldwin was mostly quiet, which is shocking.  But, we had 100-yard games from Lockett and Richardson, who both had a bevy of long bombs they went up and snagged.  P-Rich in particular looks like the Golden Tate we’ve been lacking since we let him walk to Detroit.  See, the Seahawks don’t necessarily need a guy who’s 6’5; we just need a guy like Richardson who’s 6’0, but can jump like a freak of nature.  Thankfully, he’s been able to stay healthy, because he sure looks like a stud this season.

Let’s finish with some quick hitters.

The Seahawks took over their final drive on their own 20 yard line, and Russell Wilson immediately uncorked a dagger.  Honestly, I don’t know how Ifedi got away without a holding flag, and I’ll admit, I half-expected another flag on P-Rich for offensive-PI (replays showed that to be a clean catch, but I’ve seen flags for less contact than that).

I hope Earl Thomas’ hamstring injury isn’t too serious.  At the same time, I was relieved that Steven Terrell wasn’t back there to get torched in the game’s closing moments.

I thought the Special Teams got short shrift for having a pretty great game.  The Texans didn’t get much of anything on their returns, Jon Ryan made some clutch punts off of some poor snaps, and Blair Walsh was a silent assassin.  He made his two field goals (both pretty short range), and all 5 of his extra points, which ended up being huge, particularly the last two that gave us 3-point leads, as a Houston field goal in response would’ve only tied the game instead of given them the lead.  The NFL’s objective with the longer extra points was to make them more exciting, and while I hate them with a passion and wish like Hell that they’d move them back to the 2-yard line, I have to admit they’re maddeningly interesting, particularly in games like this.

Finally, I’d like to shout out the offensive line.  Not so much for the running game, in which their blocking was predictably awful; but in pass protection, they were okay!

I know, the narrative now and forever is that the pass-protection was, is, and always will be dreadful.  But, I mean, if it was really THE WORST as everyone (particularly the national media) claims it to be, could Wilson have thrown for a franchise-record 452 yards?  Obviously, while it wasn’t the best, and a stick figure quarterback like Jay Cutler or Eli Manning would be lunch meat behind this kind of line, it was Good Enough.  Hawkblogger’s Sunday night tweets go into it in a lot of detail, so check out his Twitter.  Essentially, the Seahawks were middle-of-the-road, from a leaguewide perspective, when it comes to pass protection, and God bless ’em, that’s all Russell Wilson needs!  Hell, that’s all any of us have been clamoring for since Wilson busted out onto the scene!  We don’t need a Top 5 unit to put up a ton of points, just give us a Top 15-20 unit and watch us go to work!  And, yesterday, the O-Line (again, from strictly a pass-protection perspective), played like just that.  They gave Wilson time to throw, and when they didn’t, they at least opened up lanes for him to scramble around until he could find someone down field.  That’s our game!

What’s frustrating is when there’s a guy in his face on the third step of his 3-step drop.  I’m sure the Texans’ defensive numbers will show a lot of good pressures on Wilson, but those are the types of pressures we can all live with.  And, in the end, it all added up to Wilson’s best day as a pro.

Of course, we’ll never REALLY know how much of that was due to his wizardry, but that’s the beauty of magic:  it’s more fun when you DON’T know the magician’s secrets.

Is It Possible For The Seahawks To Beat The Patriots This Weekend?

As is custom, when the schedules are released, we as fans tend to pour over them like they’re ancient sacred scrolls.  I usually like to take a look at how many primetime games the Seahawks have, followed by any 10am starts, and then I just cruise around for a while looking for anomalies.  3-game road trips, extended homestands, whether the first half or the second half looks tougher on paper.  Then, I’ll bitch about where we have our BYE week for an hour and a half and then go about my day.

I think when most of us saw 2016’s schedule, our eyes were immediately drawn to the matchup you see this weekend.  Seattle at New England, Sunday night, 5:30pm.  There are other big games on the slate, there are DEFINITELY more important games, against divisional opponents and major conference rivals.  But, Seattle at New England is special.  Obviously, because it’s the first time we’ve played one another since the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named, but beyond that, you’re talking about the two premiere franchises in the NFL.  The Patriots have been good forever; the Seahawks have been dominant since 2012.  Lots of teams have waxed and waned since 2012.  Most every team, from Denver, to Green Bay, to Carolina, to Pittsburgh, to Baltimore, to Indianapolis to Arizona to the entire NFC East have had up and down seasons in that short span.  Only the Seahawks and Patriots have won at least 1 game in the playoffs every year since 2012.  Any well-run franchise can make the playoffs on a down year, in a down division, but it takes consistent greatness to not only do that, but have some success in the post-season.  Obviously, the Patriots have been doing that for a lot longer than the Seahawks, but they’re the team to aspire to be.  The Seahawks have been the closest thing to a dynasty since these Patriots.  Hence, the two best-run franchises in the NFL.

Regardless of how good you thought the Seahawks would be, when these schedules were released, you probably did what a lot of us do:  you went game by game and ticked off the wins and losses.  And, I’ll bet dollars to donuts, if you’re not some deluded homer, but you ACTUALLY gave this game serious, objective consideration, you probably ticked this game off as a loss for the Seahawks.  Maybe I’m wrong!  Maybe more people have more faith in this team than I realize; or maybe I’ve just become snowblind from all the sugary praise Tom Brady and the Patriots receive from every nook and cranny of this planet.  But, I know what I’ve read from other people, and my hunch is that a lot of people thought the Seahawks would lose this game before the season even started.

And, now that we’re flippin’ 8 games in – at the exact midpoint of our season – in spite of the fact that we’re currently in the 2-seed in the NFC and a VERY respectable 5-2-1, I feel like people are giving the Seahawks even less of a chance than they were before, when hopes were at their highest and we weren’t yet constantly bombarded with injury updates from our favorite, most important players.  Certainly, Vegas gives us no shot; we’re 7.5-point underdogs, which is kinda crazy if you think about it.  If the Seahawks lose on Sunday by more than 7 points, it will only be the third time that’s happened since the start of the 2012 season.  Think about THAT!  I’m as skeptical as anyone that the Seahawks will find a way to pull this out, but if I’m a betting man, and I’m putting my money on this game, I’m ABSOLUTELY putting my money on the Seahawks to cover this spread, and there wouldn’t be a worry in my pretty little head!  Shit, if this line holds, part of me wouldn’t mind flying direct to the nearest sportsbook and putting my life’s savings on black the Seahawks to cover; easiest got-damn $77 I’ve ever made!

But, I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere, so fuck Vegas.  Let’s talk about the game and how the Seahawks can pull one out of their asses.

Now, I’ll admit, it doesn’t look good.  The O-Line hasn’t progressed at all, the running game is worse than I’ve ever seen it (maybe literally of all time, maybe since I was a little boy watching this team; this might be worse than even the Julius Jones years!), Russell Wilson is moving better, but isn’t all the way back yet, the defense has been savagely over-worked, hindering our ability to stop the run and get off the field on third down, and oh yeah, while Kam Chancellor looks like he’ll be back, Michael Bennett is still out.  It’s already tough to get a pass rush going on Tom Brady, because he’s so quick and decisive with the football; now we’re trying to do it without our very best pass rusher, the one guy who can slip through the line and make the other team’s guard/tackle look like a statue.

So, I ask again, is it even possible for the Seahawks to beat this team?

I gotta tell you, it looks grim.  The Pats are coming off a BYE to boot, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this game.  I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the thought of Bill Belichick having an extra week to expose our team.  I would think our talent will be enough to force a couple punts here and there, but we should probably gear up for the Pats to hit the endzone at a minimum of 3 times.  My guess is probably in the 4-5 range.  This team can score quick, so I think they’ll have no problem getting into the 30’s in this one.  And that’s with the Seahawks defense playing assignment-perfect football.

What’s going to have to happen here is a good ol’ fashioned shootout.  We were done a solid by the Pats trading away Jamie Collins a couple weeks back, as well as Chandler Jones before the season.  Obviously, it’s not a prerequisite for the other team to have dominant players to be able to get pressure on our quarterback, but it can’t be a bad thing to have those guys playing for other teams this weekend.

While I think the Seahawks might try to buck trends and get a running game going (likely without Christine Michael for the most part), I just don’t think this unit is good enough yet.  As such, I’d look for this one to be on Russell Wilson’s shoulders.

Now, fortunately, he’s looking about as good as he’s looked all year.  Buffalo was a nice warm-up game for us, and for him, but he’s going to have to go above and beyond.  I’m talking a 400-yard passing day, I’m talking about 4 TD passes, and I’m talking about a gut-churning finish like we’re all used to seeing by now.  I have a feeling this game will start out sour early, and it’s going to require a furious comeback in the second half, but in the end I think the Patriots have just enough flaws on defense – and the Seahawks just enough talent on offense – to shock the world and steal a game they have no business winning.

Either that, or the offense will never get going and we’ll lose by 20.  Sunday night has the real possibility of being horrible and embarrassing for us!  WINTER IS COMING, EVERYONE!!!  WE’RE ALL FUCKING DOOMED!!!

Seahawks Death Week Reloaded

a.k.a. What The Seahawks Need To Do To Get Back To The Super Bowl & Win It All This Time, Again

“Rebuilding” is a word people use to talk about bad teams who are trying to get good again.  Eventually.  In a couple, two, three years.  “Reloading” is a word people use to talk about good teams who are trying to stay good in a hurry.  I’ve seen that word “reload” used to describe what the Seahawks are doing this offseason, but I’ve always read that with a negative connotation.  Teams that need to “reload” are teams that have been good in recent years (plural), but in the most recent season, the quality of their team dipped.  Like, a team that’s made the playoffs a bunch of years in a row, then had one down season where they missed the cut.  And, instead of blowing things up, they’re just going to reload for another run at a championship.

The 49ers are a PERFECT example of this.  Great team, had a rough 2014.  They weren’t terrible; they weren’t bad enough to warrant a complete rebuild.  They just need to reload.  Add some pieces to the core they’ve got now and they’ll be all set for another post-season run.

“Reload” is also a word you use when you talk about teams that are desperately trying to cling to relevance when they’re WELL past their prime.  Think about what the Seahawks were doing in the offseason between 2007 & 2008.  They PROBABLY should have blown it all up and done a total rebuild.  Instead, they tried to keep the team together, reloaded with a couple of ill-advised signings in Julius Jones & T.J. Duckett (among others), to give it one more go with Hasselbeck, Jones, and Co.  What happened?  They bottomed out in 2008, and bottomed out again in 2009 when they had the same strategy (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, anyone?).

These Seahawks, right now, this year, aren’t “reloading”, because these Seahawks are already loaded!  Regardless of what happens, we’re still going to be one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the league next year.  Losing a Super Bowl doesn’t mean you “reload” for next year.  You don’t re-anything!  You do a little tweaking and you continue to build up the depth of your squad.  It would be no different had we won the Super Bowl, or ended up losing in the NFC Championship Game.

***

The primary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Russell Wilson.  The secondary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Bobby Wagner.  Considering they were drafted into the new CBA, this is the first opportunity the Seahawks have had to extend these two (and to give them raises commensurate to the output they’ve given this team on the field).  We’re actually in really good shape right now, thanks to the in-season extensions the team gave K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril; those are two fewer deals the team has to worry about now that the offseason is ramping up.

How Wilson’s deal is structured will dictate a lot of the other moves this team makes, so it’ll be important to get that squared away pretty quickly.  I would argue Wagner’s deal – by virture of him not being a quarterback in the NFL – will be much simpler and easier to plan for (though, I doubt the team will wait to get him done either).

Those two guys are a given, and will get done, likely sometime around the Draft.  There are other, lesser guys up for new deals that the team will have to think about.

James Carpenter is a free agent.  After a rocky start to his career – one that has been pretty injury-plagued – it wouldn’t shock me to see the team let him walk away.  I can’t imagine he’s going to command a king’s ransom on the open market, but I’ve been surprised before.  Considering he’s more of a run-first blocker, with suspect pass-protection skills, I can’t imagine he’s a great fit for most teams who are pass-first.  If the Seahawks can bring him back on the cheap, I’d be all for it.  If they can’t, I’m not going to shed too many tears.  Either way, I would expect this team to draft hard for interior linemen this year.  Perhaps a guard/center type who could replace Carpenter now, and replace Unger when he’s no longer fit to handle the center duties.

Byron Maxwell is another biggie, and one we’ve all along said is not long for this team.  I can’t imagine the market is going to low-ball him; he’s going to get serious starter’s money.  Maybe not All Pro money, but it’ll likely be enough to price out the Seahawks.  I believe John Schneider when he says that Maxwell is a high priority, but I don’t think that’s at any price.  Here’s to hoping Tharold Simon grows up in a hurry between last season and this season.

Malcolm Smith is another free agent, but you can kiss him goodbye.  He hardly played at all outside of special teams when our core linebackers were healthy.  We’ve already extended Wright, we’re in the process of extending Wagner, and Irvin appears to be a coveted piece of our future that we’re keen on keeping around long term.  There’s just no room for Smith, who could likely be an effective starter on another team.  Let him go, replace him with a guy making the minimum, and we’ll be just fine.

Beyond that, the only other free agents we could potentially lose would be depth guys.  Tarvar, Schofield, Shead, Jeron Johnson.  None of these guys are “must keeps”.  I would argue extending our long snapper is of more value to the team than any of these other guys I’ve mentioned in this paragraph.

***

So, where does this team need help?

Our obvious starting point is Wide Receiver.  We need a couple, and we’re probably going to have to draft them to get them.  Let’s face it, trying to attract a free agent wide receiver into this offense is about as easy as the Seattle Mariners trying to attract a slugging right-handed power bat; nobody wants to sign here and watch their numbers plummet!  And, I don’t know if this has hit you yet, but we’re about to have a quarterback who is one of the top two or three highest-paid players in the NFL, so it’s not like we can afford to over-pay for Larry Fitzgerald or whoever else may or may not be available on the open market.  There will be no Percy Harvin-esque deals this offseason, or for the foreseeable future.

Draft.  Draft is the way to go for this position.  Lock them in pretty much against their wills and try to squeeze as much as you can out of them.

One route to take is what the Falcons did a few years ago:  sell out and trade up to draft a sure thing.  While it’s enticing – since this team is already at a championship-level – it’s never going to happen.  But, we do need to draft a receiver high.  In the first round, ideally, but no later than the third.  And, we probably need to draft a couple (one early, one late) just to get our numbers up and create some really good competition in camp this summer.

Doug Baldin is locked in thru 2016.  Jermaine Kearse is a restricted free agent who will be tendered at a high rate, meaning he’s pretty much a lock to be here at least in 2015.  These are two fine receivers, who both probably need to be bumped down a peg or two.  Ricardo Lockette is another restricted free agent who SHOULD be back, but he’s less of a lock than Kearse.  Paul Richardson had that devastating injury and is probably a strong candidate to start the season on the PUP list (meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season; so it’s pretty safe to consider him a non-factor for 2015, considering the rate of re-injury when players try to rush back into playing shape mid-season).  Kevin Norwood had quite the underwhelming rookie campaign, so who knows if he’ll even be on the team when we eventually cut the roster back down to 53?  Then, there’s Chris Matthews, Bryan Walters, and some other fringe guys to think about.  I know Matthews was a revalation in the Super Bowl, but there’s a reason why he wasn’t playing the whole game – he was only in a small package of plays, because he’s not really that good.

I mean, yeah, Matthews is tall and athletic, and that accounts for something, but a lot of being a wide receiver is being in the right place at the right time and doing the right things when you get there.  He might not be the best route runner, he might not be adept enough at shedding defenders or creating separation.  I dunno, but there’s a reason why that guy kicks around on the fringes of the NFL all his career.  If he was better at all the things BESIDES height, he’d be making millions of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.

Really, what this all boils down to is:  get ready for another crapshoot.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and find a top-notch receiver in the draft.  But, we took two cracks at it last year – with Richardson and Norwood – in one of the all time deepest drafts for the position, and we likely came away with a couple duds.  This year doesn’t look to be nearly as promising, so hopefully we find that diamond in the rough.

Because if we don’t, I hate to break it to you, but the overall makeup of our wide receiver group doesn’t figure to be all that remarkably improved in 2015.  Yes, the team needs to keep trying to get it right, but unless you get that Odell Beckham, you’ve likely got a project on your hands that will require a couple years to get up to speed.  Remember, Golden Tate wasn’t a star the minute he stepped into the NFL.  This shit takes time.

***

After receiver, things look a little more reasonable on offense.  I would expect the Seahawks to go hard after a free agent tight end.  That may or may not spell the end of Zach Miller’s Seahawks career, but considering he’s making a relatively low figure of $4 million, I would suspect he’ll be back (he may also agree to a pay cut, which would be all the better).  If we could pair Miller with a high-quality free agent tight end, and let Luke Willson continue to develop (i.e. stop dropping the ball so much), we may not NEED a bona fide #1 wide receiver.  Hell, Luke Willson by himself is already matchup hell for defenses; imagine if we’re able to sign another studly threat at tight end to go with him!  At a reasonable cost, that’d be the way I’d go.

Don’t expect the Seahawks to wade in the free agent waters for a lineman.  Carpenter is a wild card.  J.R. Sweezy might be looking at an extension this year, at a relatively reasonable cost.  We’ve still got Alvin Bailey, Garry Gilliam, and Patrick Lewis as quality depth pieces.  Okung is signed thru 2015, Unger is signed thru 2016, and Britt is signed thru 2017, so really the bulk of our offensive line will remain at least through next year.  I would still expect some late round finds by Tom Cable, but this probably isn’t the year where the Seahawks look high in the draft for replacements, unless someone TOO good falls to them.

Another big storyline is what’s going to happen to Marshawn Lynch.  Good God, is this something I don’t want to have to worry about.  The Seahawks are already on record as wanting to extend him, to keep him happy and well paid.  But, rumors are floating around hot and heavy that Lynch is thinking about retiring, which depresses me to no end.  I’ve been as vocal as anyone about not keeping running backs past their expiration dates, but Lynch is as crucial as they come.  I agree with the Seahawks in their desire to extend him another couple years, and I hope Lynch takes the deal.  If he were to happily retire as a Seahawk, I don’t know if I could be any more pleased.

Failing that, if he does leave the game this year, the Seahawks are obviously going to have to look to the draft.  Turbin is signed thru 2015 and will be the likely starter.  But, I imagine there’d be a big time share between him, Michael (signed thru 2016), and any rookie we bring in who wins that third RB job.  Our running game will take a noticeable hit, but I’m hopeful we’d be able to find our running back of the future out of that mix.

***

On defense, the immediate need is in the interior defensive line.  Kevin Williams was on a 1-year deal and probably won’t be back (he may retire, or he may take another small deal to try to get that ring, but I think the team will end up moving on).  Mebane and Tony McDaniel are both signed thru 2015.  I have a hard time seeing the team moving on from either of these guys before the ends of their deals, but I do think we’ll look to draft a defensive tackle pretty early.

What we’ve got that we can count on is Jordan Hill.  He’s probably not a starter, but he’s certainly a quality depth piece who has found a role in our pass rush packages.  Beyond that, it’s a lot of slim pickin’s.  Filler guys like Dobbs, Scruggs, Jesse Williams, and a bunch of other names who are THIS close to trading in their jobs in the NFL for jobs as nightclub bouncers and with private security firms.  Ideally, we’d be able to pick up someone high in the draft who will go into the rotation immediately and eventually replace Mebane or McDaniel, with another guy drafted late who could hopefully develop into a replacement next year or the year after.

This is also a position the team could look to bolster in free agency, if the price is right.  Ndamukong Suh is an interesting name people are talking about as a potential target for the Seahawks, but I’m not buying it.  He’s about to be one of the top two highest paid defensive linemen in the NFL; 1) he’s not taking a discount to be here, and 2) we’re not going to blow up our entire salary cap for the next three years just to bring him in.  Yes, it would be AMAZING if Suh played on this line next to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril; we’d probably have the single greatest pass rush the world has ever seen.  I could also win the Mega Millions lottery tonight and be a wealthy unemployed person tomorrow.  Let’s not waste the time or brain cells giving this too much thought.

More likely, the team goes after a lower tier free agent.  Cost effective, helpful, hopefully younger with a longer shelf life than a Kevin Williams.  Someone equally as effective at stopping he run and rushing the passer.  I don’t have any specific names for you right now, but they’re out there.  It’s just a matter of if they want to play for a winner or not.

***

Elsewhere on the defense, I think there’s a lot of clamoring for another defensive end, but I’m actually pretty happy with what we’ve got.  Bennett on one side, Avril on the other.  When Bennett moves inside, we’ve got Irvin along with Avril on the same line going after the quarterback.  Even our depth is okay, with Cassius Marsh looking like a good prospect last season before he went out with injury.  Hopefully this is the year we let Schofield go and find a quality replacement in the draft.  Maybe somewhere in the 2nd round to 4th round range.  Get some freak athlete who does one thing and one thing extremely well.  Probably not a spot we’ll look in free agency, unless it’s as a depth guy to help out in camp.

Our linebackers are solid.  As I mentioned before, we’ll have Wagner, Wright, and Irvin all back.  We’ve still got Kevin Pierre-Louis and Brock Coyle who are signed long term as quality depth guys and special teamers.  Malcolm Smith should be pretty easy to replace with another low-round draft pick or undrafted free agent.

In the secondary, I’m assuming Maxwell will be gone.  Lane is signed thru 2015, Simon is here thru 2016.  Beyond that, I would expect the team to go after another corner or possibly two in the draft.  Unlikely you’ll see this team get a free agent unless it’s another depth guy for camp.

***

As per usual, this is a team that’s built through the draft, with strategic forays into free agency.  I would expect more of the same.  With Russell Wilson’s contract expected to be pretty reasonable in 2015 (most of his money will be in the form of a signing bonus; his cap number this year will be manageable because we can spread out his bonus across five years of salary cap), there may be opportunities to get free agents on bigger 1-year deals.  But, unless Lynch retires, or something unexpected happens, I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go out of their way to bring in a big money free agent from another team.  The most we spend – aside from extending our own guys – will likely be for a quality tight end.  Otherwise, it’s all draft, all the time.

The Nonsense Surrounding Super Bowl XLIX

I don’t like calling them “distractions”, because I don’t really think the players give two shits about all the crap people talk about in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.  They may be in awe of the whole experience of just playing in the big game, but all this other stuff?  It’s not going to affect how they prepare, how they practice, and ultimately how they play the game.  Once we hit kickoff on Sunday, all of this will be immediately forgotten.  As it should.

Of course, the biggest, most inescapable story of these last two weeks has been the circus surrounding the New England Patriots and their under-inflated footballs.  I’ve been kind of passively following along with this bemused indifference, but I’m sure if I was a Pats fan I’d be outraged.  You’re telling me that instead of celebrating our great season, everything is going to be boiled down to some bullshit that ultimately didn’t even matter?

Well, you know what?  I’m sorry, but that’s too damn bad.  Because for starters, people STILL won’t let go of the whole Seadderall Seahawks thing, even though like half of those suspensions were for marijuana anyway, and aside from all of that, adderall has about as much impact on a football game as under-inflated balls.  So suck it, Patriots fans.  Eat a dick.  Also, your hands aren’t clean in the whole suspension for banned substances issue.  Just be glad no one gives a shit about Aaron Hernandez anymore, because I’m pretty sure murdering multiple people out-weighs a simple brain stimulant.

Am I as tired of the issue with the footballs as everyone else?  Of course.  But, it speaks to a larger issue, and that’s how the Patriots are pathological cheaters.  And what’s more:  they’re obviously TERRIBLE at it!  I know there probably aren’t a ton of ways you can cheat in this day and age, what with there being cameras everywhere, and with everyone capable of going on Twitter to rat out virtually anyone doing anything.  But, you’d think with Belichick being this so-called “genius”, he’d figure out a way to cover his tracks better.

Obviously, them spying on the Jets is the bigger of the two scandals, but this thing with the footballs constitutes a trend.  They absolutely deserved to be raked over the coals, even if it had no effect whatsoever in their crushing the Colts last week.  Don’t forget, we’re talking about a team whose only focus is the legacy of their head coach and quarterback.  Sure, they care about winning the championship, but they care for the wrong reasons.  The Seahawks want to win for themselves and their teammates.  The Patriots want to win so they can feel validated.  So the franchise can be considered the most elite.  They’re focused on nothing but the history books, while the Seahawks are living in the now.  That’s not nothing.

The second-biggest story of Super Bowl week is the story that WE’RE all sick and tired of hearing about:  Marshawn Lynch.  Specifically:  Marshawn Lynch Not Speaking To Reporters and Marshawn Lynch Grabbing His Nuts.

Oh, Pats fans are tired of talking about balls?  Join the club.

It’s weird to hate something as much as I hate the NFL, while at the same time love an entity within the NFL as much as I do the Seahawks.  Will the NFL’s bullshit policies stop me from watching the game of football?  Of course not.  Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop bitching about them endlessly for being hypocrites, evil fuckers, and all around punk bitches.

You know what I want to see?  I want to see the Seahawks – in the waning moments of a triumphant victory this Sunday – collectively gather together and in unison grab their crotches.  You want to penalize us?  You want to fine us?  Fuck you, NFL!  If you’re going to do it to Marshawn, you’re going to do it to everyone!  The whole post-Super Bowl celebration, nothing but crotch grabs.  Count me in.

As far as the whole not talking to the media thing, I’m pretty much over my initial outrage.  Lynch has found a way to circumvent the NFL’s draconian rules, he gets to keep his money, these twisted old fools in the national media get to stick it where the sun don’t shine, and maybe we can all finally get over it and move on.  I mean, seriously, who cares?

One thing that causes me a little more concern are these reports of Marshawn Lynch retiring after the season.  I tend to believe that he WON’T retire, because that just sounds crazy to me.  But, then again, it sounded crazy to me when Barry Sanders retired.  It sounded crazy to me when Ricky Watters couldn’t get a deal anywhere once his contract with the Seahawks ended.  And, it was crazy when Robert Smith of the Vikings had the greatest season of his career and then CALLED it a career.

Look, I’m like 85% confident that Lynch won’t retire.  But, that needle keeps getting pushed a little more towards 50/50 with every new report that comes out.  I mean, it DOES kinda make sense.  The NFL keeps on with their bullshit rules and their bullshit crackdown … I mean seriously, with all the off-the-field trouble the NFL has had to deal with this year, from beating women to beating children to drunken driving to drug and alcohol suspensions, and THIS is their main focus?  Preventing Lynch from grabbing his junk while at the same time forcing him to interact with the media?  THIS is your big stand?

The NFL is pathetic.  And, if they’re not careful, they’re going to push one of the greatest running backs in the game today right out of the league.

The more I watch Lynch and the more I see what he means to this team, the more convinced I am that we’re fucked the day he walks away from us.  Think of how great we have it now, and think of how great we had it with Shaun Alexander.  Now, think of how awful we were with Julius Jones & Co.  Don’t take Beastmode for granted, because believe me, it can be A LOT worse.

A little more under the radar have been some interview comments in recent days.  I’m, like, 100% convinced the media looks for perceived slights against an opponent more than the players of either team.  It’s like everyone says:  if you need bulletin board material at this point in the season, then you don’t deserve to be there in the first place.  But, you gotta write about something, and the Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year.

Something that caught my eye was Jeremy Lane saying something to the effect of, “Gronk isn’t very good.”  Granted, it’s just another comment in a long line of brash, cocky musings from this team, but I dunno.  While I won’t condemn him, I’m more of the school of Let Your Play Do Your Talking.  More than anything, I just don’t like hearing our third-best cornerback calling out probably the very best tight end in the league.  I don’t NEED that!  I don’t want to look back on a game we’ve lost because Gronk exploded for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns.  I have all the confidence in the world that our defense will figure it out and keep his production to a dull roar, but you never know.  I never thought Antonio Gates would have the kind of day he had earlier this season, for instance.

Then, there was that thing with Brandon Browner calling for his teammates to attack Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas because they’ve got a couple bum wings.  For starters, stop it.  Just STOP.  He’s good friends with these guys.  He’s also – not for nothing – not the most eloquent speaker in the world.  I don’t think he literally wants people to hurt his friends.  But, yeah, do you go after those guys a little bit more, knowing they have this weakness about them?  Of course!  If you were a Pats fan, you’d be outraged if they DIDN’T attack these guys!

Finally, out of the hullabaloo that was Media Day yesterday, we got a nice little bit of reciprocity from LeGarrette Blount, who said something to the effect of the Seahawks’ defense isn’t immortal.  They can be beaten.  There we go.  If that’s not on par with what Jeremy Lane said, I don’t know what is.  I happen to agree with the sentiment, mostly.  CAN the Seahawks be beaten?  Of course.  We’re not out there shutting teams out every week; you CAN score on us.  But, it’s tough to know what he really meant by it.  We can be beat?  Yeah, four teams beat us this year alone.  But, what’s the context?

Does Blount think they can run up 30 points on us?  That seems a bit far-fetched.  Over 25?  It’s possible, but not too likely.  In the low 20s seems a bit more in range.  But, I’ll tell you this much:  if the Patriots beat the Seahawks, it will have more to do with how their defense shuts down our offense than their offense being overly dominant.

The difference between what Lane said and what Blount said should be pretty clear.  Lane attacked one guy.  And, Gronk is Gronk, I don’t think it’s going to phase him.  It might lead to Brady targeting him more, to make a point.  But, it’s not going to make Gronk run faster or catch better.  See, but Blount talked about our entire defense.  You don’t think he’s going to have guys barking in his face every time he’s stopped for a 2-yard gain?  And, pity the moments where we stuff him in the backfield; he’ll never hear the end of it.

Anyway, that’s all I can stomach.  We’re in the home stretch now.  Two more days of build up, then we can all get rowdy as fuck on Saturday in anticipation of the big day on Sunday.  Soak it all in.

Is This The End (As We Know It) Of Marshawn Lynch In Seattle?

As the Seahawks get ready to play the New Orleans Saints this week, one can’t help but reflect upon what happened this week, three years ago, when the Seahawks won a game 41-36.  Of course, we played the Saints on that day, and everyone remembers it for the Marshawn Lynch game-clinching 67 yard touchdown run where he broke countless tackles and set off the 12th Man into an ecstasy we’ve never seen ’round these parts before or since.

That play will live on as one of the most amazing individual feats in NFL playoff history.  We’ll be talking about that play in 50 years just like we talk about the Immaculate Reception and the Dwight Clark catch.

Locally, it’ll be remembered as the moment where it all started to go right for the Seahawks.  Personally, I’ll always remember it as the point where Marshawn Lynch was at his absolute peak.  It’s all been downhill (albeit, a very negligible grade) since then.

The Seahawks traded for Marshawn Lynch 4 games into that 2010 season.  The Bills had just drafted C.J. Spiller, plus they already had Fred Jackson on roster, so there was no point in holding onto three starting-calibre running backs.  The Seahawks were just working their way out of the dark days of Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett and were looking for a dynamic talent to bring this team into the light.  Supposedly, Lynch had fallen out of favor in Buffalo for reasons that aren’t important.  Either way, we got him for a steal.  His numbers in Buffalo weren’t particularly outstanding, and there was a real chance that he would come to Seattle and fizzle out.  People tend to forget that.

Lynch came into a situation in Seattle where everything was a mess.  The offensive line was a massive ball of injuries and ineptitude.  To his credit, Lynch was a consummate professional, and one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet as he continuously took on defenders behind the line of scrimmage and turned those runs into positive gains.  His first game in Seattle was a road contest in Chicago, and he ran for the most impressive 44 yards on 17 carries that anyone has ever seen.

The rest of his first season wasn’t much better, as Lynch never had a 100-yard rushing game in 2010.  But, his hard running set the tone.  And he was rewarded in that playoff game against the Saints.  Aside from that 67-yard run, Lynch had 64 yards on 18 carries, which sounds about right.  Nevertheless, with that putrid offensive line, you’ll never find a more-impressive season out of a running back.  That 67-yard run was indeed the peak of Lynch’s powers.

Of course, with Tom Cable coming in starting in 2011, things started to improve.  We infused the line with more talent, and halfway through 2011, Lynch ripped off six 100-yard efforts in his last nine games.  His numbers from 2010 to 2011 were drastically improved.  And, in 2012, his numbers were even better!  With 1,590 yards and 5.0 yards per carry, Lynch was the second-best running back in the NFL.  So, how could I sit here and say that he peaked in the 2010 season?

Well, with all aspects of the offense, improved line play makes everyone’s job easier.  And, like I said before, it’s not like Lynch’s effectiveness has diminished THAT much.  But, still, if you put the 2010 Lynch behind last year’s offensive line, you would’ve seen him damn near approach 2,000 yards.

Anyway, while still carrying the load in 2013, Lynch’s numbers came back down to Earth.  At a 4.2 yards-per-carry average, Lynch put up 1,257.  Still good, but not great.  He has averaged almost exactly 300 carries per season the last three years, and that’s not including playoff runs.  My hope is that he’s got enough left in the tank to push us through to a championship this year, because I don’t know how many more years he has left.

If we want to maximize Lynch’s effectiveness going forward, we’re going to have to start cutting back on his carries.  We did just draft Christine Michael and he looks like the kind of twitchy, breathtaking talent that you eventually can’t help but play.  I expect a couple things going into next season.  First, I expect to read a bunch of stories about how amazing Michael looks in OTAs and Training Camp later this year.  And second, I expect more of a time-share in the backfield starting next season.

When you read that a running back had 301 carries in 2013 (which Lynch did), it sounds like a lot.  It sounds like you’re running a guy into the ground prematurely.  But, honestly, that averages out to a fraction of a carry less than 19 per game.  Lynch had a high of 28 carries against the 49ers in Week 2 and only 7 games with over 20 carries.  Robert Turbin had approximately 5 carries per game and Russell Wilson had about 6 carries per game.  That’s the bulk of this team’s carries in 2013:  30 carries per game.  So, if I’m expecting a Lynch/Michael time-share, what would that look like?

Well, I don’t expect Wilson’s carries to go down all that much.  Maybe he drops down to 4 carries per game (you have to expect he’s going to become less and less of a “running quarterback” the deeper he gets into his career).  Turbin really muddies things a bit.  It’s impossible to have a three running back rotation, because this isn’t college football and we’re not running the single-wing offense.  Either the team shops Turbin for a low-end draft pick, or converts him into a Michael Robinson-esque fullback.  After that, I think you look at something of a 13/13 split of carries for Lynch and Michael.  Maybe that means running them in and out, alternating by series.  Maybe that means Michael carries the load between the 30s and Lynch comes in when they’re closer to the goalline (sort of like how Buffalo uses Spiller more between the 30s and Jackson on goalline).  I don’t think it’s as simple as giving the ball to Lynch on first and second down, then running Michael in on third downs and passing situations, because the real wildcard here is how improved Michael is at pass protection.  But, either way, expect Michael to carry more of the load in 2014, with him to eventually become the featured back in 2015.

Marshawn Lynch’s cap numbers going forward aren’t too prohibitive.  He’s set to earn $5 million in base salary and $1.5 million in signing bonus in 2014 (with a $500,000 roster bonus, bringing his cap number to an even $7 million), and $5.5 million in base and $1.5 million in bonus in 2015 (with a $2 million roster bonus, bringing his cap number to $9 million).  This contract was designed to keep Lynch around for three years at the most.  With guys like Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, and Harvin all set for big raises, you’re going to have to find money somewhere.  I don’t think that means cutting Lynch prior to 2014 (even though we would only owe $3 million in dead money, saving us $13 million in base salary and roster bonuses over the next two years), but I’m certain that means cutting Lynch prior to 2015.  Either way, I’d like to see us win it all now, just to give Lynch his due while we still can.

In this day and age, it’s almost foolish for teams to over-pay for running backs.  While Lynch has been the one guy above all others who has come to define what Seahawks Football has become under Pete Carroll, at some point you have to make decisions that are best for the team long-term.  In this case, it means cutting ties with a guy on the down-side of his career.  It’ll be a sad day when it comes (especially if it comes sooner rather than later), but the last thing you want to see is a once-great player turn into a burden.

While Marshawn Lynch was never better than he was at the tail-end of 2010, he’s still in what can be considered his prime.  What we have to be prepared for is that this is the tail-end of his prime.  It’s been a great 4-year run, but all great things eventually come to an end.

#8 – Marshawn Lynch

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2013, click here.

Beastmode is our best running back.  Let’s start there.  Last year, he showed up at #3 on the list, so what gives?

Well, for starters, I like what this team has as far as depth is concerned.  If they do indeed opt to go with the five running backs, then we’re as loaded as it gets.  Lynch is a Top 5 league-wide running back.  Robert Turbin is no slouch.  Christine Michael is the future at the position.  And, Spencer Ware is the banger we haven’t had since Leonard Weaver.  Remember when Tim Ruskell went out and signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett to give us some of that Fire & Ice bullshit certain teams love to do?  Well, Michael and Ware is like the GOOD version of that theory.

As such, if we lose Lynch for an extended stretch, I think we’ll be okay.  At this point, the offensive line is a well-oiled machine.  If they’re capable of ANYTHING, it’s opening up holes in the running game.  So, regardless of who we’ve got handling the rock, I think our running game will be okay.

Where we will hurt if Lynch goes down is, oddly enough, in the passing game.  Lynch is the best pass-protection running back on the team and it’s not even close.  Michael is going to be inactive for much of the season (or, at least, not playing any offensive snaps) because he’s not good yet in blitz pickup.  Russell Wilson’s main area of improvement will need to come on timing routes.  We need to see Wilson stand in the pocket and hit that receiver as soon as he’s completed his drop.  To do that, we’re going to have to make him comfortable in the pocket.  To do THAT, our O-Line needs to do its job, and our backs need to do their jobs.

For this team to succeed, they’re going to need Marshawn Lynch to do what he does.  But, there are other more important players on this team who will have to do what THEY do as well.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part II

We continue from yesterday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Seahawks

I’m not gonna lie to you, this one was a lot tougher.  Aside from a couple of very obvious names, not a lot of Seahawks immediately jump out as annoying.  Unlike baseball – where your every move is on display for everyone watching, so if you screw up regularly, you WILL be noticed – it’s a lot easier to mask your mistakes.

Of course, that doesn’t make a ton of sense, because look at all the mediocrity, especially in the late 80s and all of the 90s.  But, that’s just it:  sure, they were mediocre, but it’s hard to point to just a couple of guys as the primary culprits.  When you have a bad football team, it’s because the whole TEAM is bad.  Not a lot of people really stood out, at least to me.  Maybe you have ideas that I don’t.

At the top of this list, now and forever, is Ken Behring.  He bought the team from the Nordstrom’s in 1988 for a scant (in today’s dollars) $80 million.  Ironically, at the time, in an article in the Spokesman-Review, he called out then-Mariners owner George Argyros who was threatening to move baseball out of Seattle, saying:

I sure don’t agree with anything he does.  I’m not sure he even wants to win.  I’m not sure he knows where he wants to be.  We’re far, far apart in what we’re trying to accomplish.

Bold words from a guy who – less than eight years later – was looking to move the team to Los Angeles.  It’s telling, actually, in that same Spokesman-Review article, he was asked about the possibility of moving the Seahawks to Oakland (after Al Davis had moved the Raiders down to L.A.).  Seemingly, there was no trust for this man from the get-go, which would seem to jibe with the family’s feelings that Seattle never really embraced Ken Behring.

Ken Behring’s reign started with a division championship in 1988, but then everything fell apart, with the nadir being the 1992 season and its 2-14 record.  After that first year, no Behring-led team would finish better than third in the AFC West.  Finally, in February of 1996 (a decade before this team would play in its first Super Bowl), Behring ordered the moving vans and drove the equipment to Los Angeles to play where the old Rams called home prior to moving to St. Louis.

Luckily for Seattle, two things existed:  a local government willing to work to keep the team here, and a sports league that was unwilling to see yet-another team change cities (after the Raiders moved back to Oakland, the Rams moved to St. Louis, the Oilers moved to Tennessee, and the Browns moved to Baltimore).  Gary Locke partnered with Paul Allen to help the billionaire purchase the team, and we passed measures to build what is now CenturyLink Field.

Ken Behring is one of the all-time pricks, no doubt about it.  But, this isn’t exactly the same thing as Clay Bennett buying the Sonics and moving them to OKC.  Even though the trust might not have been there from the beginning, I think that comes with the territory.  Whenever a non-local guy (or group) comes in to buy your team, you’re wary of the possibility of them moving.  But, to be honest, there was no inkling back in the late 80s about Behring having an agenda.  Besides, the lease on the Kingdome ran through 2005.  When the Sonics were purchased, the lease on KeyArena was much MUCH closer to running out.

However, similarities they share include an unwillingness to make things work here.  That means, the instant the going got tough, Ken Behring was on the horn to Los Angeles.  Which leads me to believe this L.A. move was a longer time coming than simply a snap reaction to the county rejecting $150 million in Kingdome improvements.  He also, let’s be honest, didn’t do everything he could to put a winning product on the field.  In that same Spokesman-Review article, Behring is quoted as saying:

We want the coach and the general manager to run the team.

This was in response to a question about having minority owners, with Behring taking the stance that local minority owners would try to butt into the affairs of the team.  Which is FUNNY, because in 1991, with the 16th overall pick, the Seattle Seahawks selected one Dan McGwire out of San Diego State.  It’s reported that then-head coach Chuck Knox really wanted to draft Brett Favre.  But, Ken “We Want The Coach And The General Manager To Run The Team” Behring stuck his big snout into the proceedings and forced the team to draft the all-time greatest bust in Seahawks history.  Brett Favre went on to be a Super Bowl winning Hall of Famer.  Dan McGwire went on to suck dick for crack rock (allegedly).

Ken Behring was no NFL owner.  He was a fucking tourist.  He was a sexual harassing Good Time Charlie who enjoyed the power and prestige of owning an NFL franchise, but he wasn’t really an NFL fan.  This quote, from his own son, then-team president David Behring, is pretty telling:

“I had tremendous passion for the game,” said David Behring, who opposed his father’s decision to move the franchise. “I felt that I was getting along with many of the people, and I was trying to push my father into background so as not to be a target. But the ’92 season really turned him off from football. When you’re 2-14, you’re criticized daily.”

Bring a little adversity into his life, and look at what he does!  Tries to take his prestige and power to a city that placates people with prestige and power.  Seattle doesn’t give a FUCK about your money or your status (at least, not compared to L.A.).  So, while he might not have been a snake in the grass a la Clay Bennett, we’re still talking about an inevitability.  Seattle wouldn’t embrace him as being the King Sultan of the World, so he wouldn’t embrace Seattle.  It’s as simple as that.  You want to know why people from the Pacific Northwest tend to badmouth people from California?  Look no further than the example set by Ken Behring.

***

The other big name on this list for the Seahawks is Tim Ruskell.  Ruskell was brought in to replace Bob Whitsitt (who himself had supplanted Mike Holmgren in 2003 as the primary general manager).  This move was a no-brainer, because Whitsitt (originally hired by Paul Allen when he purchased the Seahawks to be the president of the team) was a basketball guy (also being Allen’s right hand with the Trail Blazers down in Portland).  Ruskell immediately selected Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill in the 2005 draft and the team went on to lose in the Super Bowl that very same year.

We thought, “All right!  We got something here!”  Holmgren was largely believed to be spread thin by doing double duty as head coach and GM; most people here thought his GM duties suffered.  He needed a football guy to handle player personnel, and after one season, Ruskell seemed to be the magic man.

But, Ruskell immediately lost all his goodwill by dicking around with Steve Hutchinson.  He also traded away a first round pick for Deion Branch (an insane price for a sub-par receiver), drafted an endless string of busts (Kelly Jennings, Lawrence Jackson, Josh Wilson, Aaron Curry), and signed an endless string of useless, old players (T.J. Duckett, Julius Jones, T.J. Houshmandzadeh).  By the time he was forced to resign after the 2009 season, it was pretty clear:  that Super Bowl team was Mike Holmgren’s team.  Holmgren brought in the bulk of the core that got us to the promised land.  Ruskell just caught on at the right time and bought himself five seasons even though he was a complete moron.

After those two guys, I’m finding it hard to find Seahawks I hate.  I think there’s a reason for that:  in baseball, it’s a lot easier to hate the player, because all of his money is guaranteed.  If you sign a huge contract in baseball, then you go on to suck, you’re stuck with him!  In football, if they sign big and suck, you just cut him and save yourself the cap space.

The first player that comes to mind for me is Jerramy Stevens.  I can’t STAND that guy.  He was a first round pick at tight end that was supposed to lock down the position for a decade or more.  But, of course, he came in and was middling at best.  He was NOT the dynamic game-changer you expect out of a first round pick.  Then, he ran his stupid fucking bitch mouth in the week leading up to Super Bowl XL, and THEN he proceeded to drop crucial, game-changing balls IN the Super Bowl!

I blame the refs for a lot when it comes to losing that game, but a VERY close #2 is Jerramy Stevens.  I hope that game haunts him until his dying breath.  Jerramy Stevens is the primary reason why you should NEVER draft a home town guy who is known to have legal issues in college.  If a guy has legal issues in college (drugs, drunk driving, date rape, plowing your vehicle into nursing homes), that means he’s a fucking idiot.  It also means he has fucking idiot friends.  When drafting a fucking idiot, you’ve got to get him as far away from his fucking idiot friends as possible, otherwise he’s never going to mature to the level you need him to.

After Stevens, I guess I’d throw Rick Mirer on this list.  This one’s a stretch, though, because he’s been gone so long.  And, when we traded him, we got a pretty hefty haul from the Bears in draft picks, so that mitigated a lot of the hate.  Nevertheless, he was a #2 overall draft pick after the Seahawks went 2-14.  A #2 overall drafted quarterback is SUPPOSED to be a franchise guy you can build your team around.  Mirer went on to have a decent rookie season, then made absolutely no strides whatsoever, and was a constant disappointment every season thereafter.

I don’t know what to tell you after those four guys.  The Boz?  There were quite a few Seattleites who didn’t like the guy.  He was KIND OF an overrated pile of shit who Bo Jackson made his bitch.  Then, he was an action movie star?  Then he was irrelevant?  I dunno, man.  I read his autobiography and I find him entertaining.  And now?  Now, I just kinda feel sorry for him.  Not only is he a punchline for his “movie career”, but he’s a punchline for the thing he ostensibly did the best:  play linebacker.  I don’t know what the Boz is doing with his life right now, but if it doesn’t involve soliciting gentlemen to pull out their dollar bills while playing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and asking that we all “give it up for Roxie”, then he has REALLY missed his life’s calling.

I know there are still some hard feelings about the whole Hutch debacle, with Seahawks fans soured on him for his dickish attitude following his signing with Minnesota, but truth be told I put 100% of the blame on Ruskell.  First, for not getting the long-term extension done, and second, for not using the Franchise Tag (but, rather, the Transitional Tag, which doesn’t come with nearly the penalty for other teams when they poach your players).

In fact, it’s hard to hate any of the free agent or draft busts either, because we know the person who was in charge.  Were Housh and Deion Branch irritating?  Sure they were!  It’s always irritating when you’re confronted with aging stars who think they’re better than they are (or better than they were five years prior).  But, they didn’t ask to come here.  They were brought over on the whim of a GM who was willing to over-pay so this team would be JUST good enough to be mediocre (but not so bad as to be blown up and start a true rebuilding process, which this team so desperately needed as it aged into retirement).

Since this post is also longer than I had anticipated, I’ll be making this one a three-parter.  God help us all.

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.

2008: A Seattle Sports Apocalypse

Editor’s Note:  To read this blog post, click HERE.  It is one of Seattle Sports Hell’s “Featured Articles”.

Seahawks Death Week: What Needs To Change

In a mixed-bag type of season such as this one, you’ve got just as many things you like as things you don’t like.  In this mini two-part series, today I will look at what I would like to see improved on this team (tomorrow, I’ll look at what I’d like to retain from this team; here’s a hint:  the man likes Skittles!).

Just to get it the FUCK out of the way, I’ll state the obvious:  The Seahawks NEED To Draft A Quarterback.  While I don’t necessarily mind opening the season with Tarvar under center, I HAVE to know that this team is looking for a long-term solution at the most important position on the team.  The only real downside to this scenario is:  do I REALLY want my quarterback of the future to be learning from someone like Tarvar?  Let’s face it, this is about as far from Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre as it gets!  Maybe we can look at it this way:  whoever is the quarterbacks coach can just sit next to our hotshot rookie and say, “See what he did there?  Holding the ball for 9 seconds before getting crushed by three defensive linemen?  DON’T DO THAT!”

The bad thing about these last two drafts (2011’s and the upcoming 2012 draft) is that there APPEARS to be a glut of quality quarterbacks coming out, while at the same time there are a buttload of teams looking for quarterbacks.  You HATE those odds!  First of all, because more than half of the quarterbacks who enter the pros never amount to a hill of beans.  Secondly, because odds are the Seahawks will be drafting too low (25th last year, the mid-teens this year) to get one of the likelier sure things.  Luck is already out of the question.  The other two top throwers will likely be gone too.  That leaves us, if we choose to select one in the first round, with probably the 4th or 5th best guy coming out of college.  That’s no good!  Look at the 2011 draft.  Cam Newton turned out to be a stud, Locker looks to be better than we could’ve imagined; but Gabbert looks like ass and Ponder is a HUGE question mark (who, honestly, has been outplayed the last couple of games by Joe Webb, but that’s a topic for another blog).  Granted, Andy Dalton has looked pretty solid as the 5th QB taken, but honestly I don’t know if I see him ever being an elite kind of Aaron Rodgers guy.

Anyway, moving on.  I didn’t really want this to be a whole quarterback post (considering, as we near the draft, I’ll be spilling words hand over fist about this position).

The second-biggest deficiency, as far as I can tell, is the pass rush.  Now, I know, the Seahawks aren’t like most other teams.  Our D-Line is padded out with three jumbo tackles, one of whom is playing on the end in Red Bryant.  I’ll admit it, I’m a fan.  I LOVE the thought of making teams one-dimensional (even IF the league is consistently turning itself into a pass-only type of Arena football creature).  But, there are times where a pass rush would be NICE.  You know what I’m saying?

Lookit, I’m in love with our secondary.  I don’t necessarily think we’ve got the best of the best, but I think we’ve got some serious talent, to the point where the Seahawks – in the next year or two – will have to be considered in the discussion of the league’s best secondaries.  We have a couple of corners who, in their first year of NFL ball, have MORE than held their own.  Browner and Sherman have the size, the toughness, the ego, and the cojones to do to receivers what our oversized D-Line does to running backs.

That having been said, if we’re playing situational football – as every team does – then on those obvious passing downs, we need to have a couple of ends who can just rear back and tear the head off of the opposing QB.  Chris Clemons is great.  But, Chris Clemons can’t do it alone!  And, let’s face it, he’s getting up there in years.  It would be nice to find a diamond in the rough to play opposite Clemons on 3rd downs, who could also be his successor in upcoming seasons as Clemons’ body breaks down and he nears retirement.

So, I’d like to see that.  He doesn’t even have to be an end!  He could be another outside linebacker!  I don’t think a year should go by where the Seahawks DON’T pick up a speedy linebacker in the 4th or 5th round.  You can keep them on special teams, you can use them to replace more veteran linebackers who are looking for a big payday, and let’s face it, injuries are a way of life in the NFL, so it’s good to have depth at such an important position as linebacker.  Much like the old Pittsburgh Steelers philosophy before they went and let everyone get old these past couple of years.

Another place I’d like the Seahawks to look into is running back.  To be honest with you, I thought Justin Forsett brought absolutely NOTHING to the table this season.  There are two types of offenses in this league:  power rushing teams and pass-first teams.  Power rushing teams – like the Seahawks – need big, bruising backs like Beastmode to punish defenses early in the game (so, in the fourth quarter, those same teams can reap the rewards of tired opponents giving up chunks of yards on the ground by the bushel).  Pass-first teams – like, for instance, New Orleans – can get away with having a bunch of scat-backs, running occasional draws and catching a ton of screen/swing passes.

But, you know what happens when power rushing teams throw in those scat-backs on third down?  It’s like giving the defense a reprieve!  “Hey, you mean we don’t have to try to drag down this musclebound behemoth?  Instead I get to smash to high hell this little tsetse fly?  Bring it on!”

Besides all that, we’ve already got Leon Washington.  Leon Washington is better in every facet of the game, so why hold onto Forsett?  It makes no sense!  He was nice when we had guys like Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett carrying the mail.  But, now we’ve got BEASTMODE!  It would be better to have a backup running back with a little more bulk, in case – God forbid – for whatever reason we have to replace Beastmode (either because he leaves for another team, or because he gets injured).

Finally, I hate to say it – because I think we’ve focused on this position too much lately as it is – but I think the Seahawks need to look at wide receiver again.  Primarily, I think the Seahawks need to clean house and start over.  Keep Rice and Baldwin, for sure, but then look to drop every other guy on this roster if they don’t prove they have what it takes to play with the big boys in the NFL.  I would lean towards giving Tate one more year, but that’s mostly because I like his flash and his speed.  But Obomanu, Mike Williams, Deon Butler, and our 6’5 draft pick last year who spent just about all season on the DL:  those guys ALL have to be on notice and/or looking for new jobs.  I’m kinda tired of these guys who can’t get separation on defenses – most of whom are NOT the best of the best at covering guys.

I’m sure I’ll have more on this subject as the Draft Day nears, but for now, these are the changes I’d like to see (while the season is still fresh).