The Mount Rushmores For Each Seattle Pro Team

* That I choose to cover, because I don’t give a fudge about the ones I don’t.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

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

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of TV shows still airing new episodes right now?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Rick & Morty, Better Call Saul, Bob’s Burgers, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different shows.

Today is going to be the first of a two-parter, of sorts.  I’m going to split up my Mount Rushmores between the Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks, with the goal of locking down an official Mount Rushmore for All Seattle Sports tomorrow.

First up:  the Seattle Mariners.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Edgar Martinez
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Ichiro

I thought this one was pretty easy, but I could see why people might want to make the argument for someone like Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez or even Alvin Davis, but ehh.  Griffey is Griffey; he’s the greatest player in Mariners history.  Edgar is Edgar; he’s the greatest hitter in Mariners history.  Felix is the King; his prime in a Mariners uniform was better than Randy’s prime in a Mariners uniform.  Had the Mariners never traded Randy, and he won a bunch more Cy Young Awards and whatnot, then yeah, Randy all day.  But, I’m going with the King because he’s my favorite player of all time and because he deserves to be on this list.  And, I’m going with Ichiro as my #4 due to his longevity and his sustained brilliance as this team’s leadoff hitter.  Again, it comes down to tenure over someone like A-Rod who had a short stint of supreme excellence before taking the money and running to the Rangers.  In the end, I don’t think A-Rod would end up on any team’s Mount Rushmore, and that’s exactly what he deserves.

Next up:  the Seattle Supersonics.

  1. Gary Payton
  2. Jack Sikma
  3. Fred Brown
  4. Shawn Kemp

You could go any number of ways with the Sonics.  Ray Allen, Lenny Wilkens, Gus Williams, Xavier McDaniel, Nate McMillan, Spencer Haywood, Slick Watts, Detlef Schrempf, Big Smooth, Dale Ellis, and on and on and on.  There were so many great players, so many great teams, and so many great eras of Sonics basketball.  I’ve got the Glove at the top because I think he was the best all-around player in team history.  He’s obviously known for his lockdown defense, but he really developed into a dominant offensive player over his career, becoming the team’s unquestioned leader.  Sikma was the best big man in team history, averaging a double-double in 7 of his 9 years in Seattle (as well as making 7 All Star Games).  Brown was a 13-year career Sonic bridging the early 70s, through the championship year, on into the mid-80s and the next generation of great Sonics teams.  And, finally, I’ve got 5-time All Star (with the Sonics) Shawn Kemp, the most explosive and athletic player in team history, who really developed into a force in the league, at a time when there were tons of great power forwards in the game.

And, without further ado:  the Seattle Seahawks (past).

  1. Steve Largent
  2. Walter Jones
  3. Cortez Kennedy
  4. Kenny Easley

Okay, so here’s the deal:  those are four Hall of Famers.  If you’re going to have a Mount Rushmore of Seattle Seahawks, you’ve gotta go with the actual NFL Hall of Famers, right?  Steve Largent, at the time of his retirement, had just about every single wide receiver record in NFL history; he was THE greatest, until Jerry Rice became THE greatest.  Now, many receivers have blown past Largent’s stats through the years, but the game is a lot different now than it was in the 70s and 80s.  Walter Jones, I think, is the greatest left tackle in NFL history; he absolutely belongs on this list!  The Tez is, without question, one of the greatest all-around DTs in the history of the league.  His ability to clog up the middle, command double-teams, and still create an abundance of pressure up the middle is simply mind-boggling.  And, as for Easley, he was a Pro Bowler 5 of his 7 seasons, and a first team All Pro in 3 of his 7 seasons.  Had he not had the health issues that forced him into retirement, he would’ve been an NFL Hall of Famer MANY years ago.  Essentially, he was Kam Chancellor before there was Kam Chancellor, at a time when the safety position was oft-overlooked.  His type of game-changing talent is generational and precious and should not be taken for granted.

There have obviously been other great Seahawks throughout the years – Matt Hasselbeck, Curt Warner, Shaun Alexander, Jacob Green, Dave Brown, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, and so on and so forth – but no one is on the level of the four above-referenced Hall of Famers.

Now, that having all been said, I think this current batch of Seahawks – since Pete Carroll and John Schneider joined the team – have some NFL Hall of Famers on it as well.  So, really, I had no choice but to split this part up.

We had the Seahawks (past) and now the Seahawks (present).

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Marshawn Lynch
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson

Obvious asterisk here in that Beastmode is not a current Seahawk, but he’s from this Pete Carroll Era, and that’s really what I’m talking about here.  I think Earl Thomas (assuming he comes back from his injury) is the best and most obvious future Hall of Famer.  Like Easley, in Earl’s first seven seasons, he’s made 5 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros.  He’s the heart & soul of this defense and really what makes this defense tick.  As you could see when the Seahawks lost him last year, this defense falls apart without Earl!  With him, it’s among the best in the league, and the primary reason why we’ve led the league in fewest points allowed so many times under Pete Carroll.  Next up, I think you have to go Beastmode.  I think, as it stands right now, he’s a borderline NFL Hall of Famer.  But, with a good season or two in Oakland, I think he blows past borderline into Obvious NFL Hall of Famer.  Lynch took this team from soft and old and carried it to back-to-back Super Bowls.  He allowed this team to bring its rookie franchise quarterback along slowly, and when it mattered most – in those playoff games – Beastmode brought his game to another level.  Ultimately, I think it’s his performances in the playoffs that will carry him into the Hall of Fame (in spite of his famous discontent with the NFL media), and it’s why I have him ranked so high on my list.  Third, I’ve got Sherm.  He’s the greatest cornerback in team history.  Period.  4 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros in his 6 seasons, and he has yet to miss a game as soon as he entered the starting lineup.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll be a member of this team, but as long as he is, he’s on my present-day Mount Rushmore.  And, fourth, I’ve got Russell Wilson.  I could’ve gone any number of directions here – Wagner, Kam, Bennett, Avril, K.J., Doug – and indeed, any number of those guys might end up making the Hall of Fame alongside my top 4, but I’m rolling with the QB.  In spite of the fact that for quarterbacks nowadays, it’s probably harder than ever to make the Hall of Fame, what with all the passing records that are falling, and how difficult it is to last in this league for 10, 15 years or more.  And make no mistake, Russell has A LONG WAY to go.  5 seasons, 3 Pro Bowls, no All Pros.  It’s especially questionable when you consider the step back he took last year with lots of injuries and behind an ineffective O-Line.  For this choice, I’m going mostly on faith, and I do have faith that Russell will reach all of his goals and go down as one of the greats of this era.  Disregarding all of that, right now, for what he is, Russell is the guy that stirs the drink.  This team doesn’t do what it’s done without Russell Wilson behind center.  No Super Bowls (plural), no division titles (plural), not nearly as many 10-win seasons (he’s 5 for 5 in his short career, no pun intended) with a replacement-level player.  Quarterback is the most important player on every NFL team, and the Seahawks are no exception.  As such, he’s making my Mount Rushmore over the rest.

Tomorrow, I’m going to pick from among the above-listed 16 players and come up with a definitive Mount Rushmore for Seattle Pro Athletes.  Weeeee!

What Does A Future Without Jermaine Kearse Look Like?

Word around town is that Jermaine Kearse doesn’t expect to be back in a Seahawks uniform in 2016.  You can take that one of three ways:  either this is a negotiating tactic, letting the world know he’s not giving any discounts and is most certainly looking for the most money; or he’s got it on good authority the Seahawks will lowball him or perhaps not offer him a deal at all; or he’s got it on good authority that another team is going to blow him out of the water with the type of deal he knows unequivocally the Seahawks won’t want to or be able to match.  I don’t think you make a statement like that by just reading tea leaves and guessing the Seahawks won’t be interested.  It’s my opinion the Seahawks would very much like to have him back, but at a price that won’t break the bank.  As such, you gotta figure somewhere out there Kearse is going to find a team to break that bank.

Let’s face it, the salary cap is rising and all over the league you’re seeing teams with dozens of millions of dollars to spend.  Jermaine Kearse is nobody’s elite, #1 receiver, but he’s a perfect complement, a good route runner, a physical blocker, and a guy who can make big catches in traffic (as we’ve seen time and time again).  I wish him the best in his endeavors and truly hope he’s able to maximize both his bank account and his opportunities on a team that likes to throw the ball a lot more than the Seahawks.

It’s no secret that as a University of Washington alumnus and Seahawks fan, I’m a pretty big Kearse fan, so in that sense, this is tough news to take.  I know there are more Husky receivers where he came from, and plenty of undrafted underdogs to root to glory, but I like Kearse for more than where he came from, and how hard he fought to get there.  Kearse fits this offense like a glove.  Over his 4-year career – especially the last three years of it – he’s come in here, done his job, and helped this offense achieve great things.  With him most likely leaving, there’s a big hole to fill; bigger, I think, than most fans realize.

Jermaine Kearse doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  I get the sense that most fans feel we can just plug anyone into his spot and not skip a beat; I’m not so sure that’s necessarily the case.

Yes, ideally, someone like Kevin Smith will take a big leap forward in his development this year and come in, ready to compete for the third receiver spot behind Baldwin and Lockett.  But, I dunno.  I hear about all the amazing catches Smith makes in practice – apparently he’s known for making at least one spectacular play per day – but I’ve yet to see him really make an impact in a game.  Obviously, when he’s the 4th or 5th receiver, there aren’t a ton of opportunities for someone in that position.  Maybe my fears will subside this fall, but I think it’s fair to question whether he’s ready for an increased role.

I guess, if you want to look at the obvious option, we still have Paul Richardson.  A guy who was a high draft pick, with a lot of speed and a lot of talent, who made a pretty solid impact as a rookie in 2014, getting better as that season went along.  But, then he got injured, and it essentially cost him all of the 2015 season (save one game, where he had one catch for 40 yards).  Word on the street is that he’s fully healthy and will be able to participate in all offseason programs, so at least we’ve got that going for us.  Nevertheless, you can’t help but be concerned about his injury risk.

If you just focus on the upside, there’s a lot to like about a 3-headed monster of Baldwin, Lockett, and Richardson.  Lots of good speed, good hands, and good route running there.  As we maybe transition to somewhat of a quicker-passing offense, those are three guys who can get open in a hurry (they would have KILLED IT back in Holmgren & Hasselbeck’s heyday).

Beyond that, there’s Kasen Williams, who’s probably more raw than Kevin Smith; and there’s Ricardo Lockette, who’s technically a free agent (but I doubt he’s going anywhere), and who’s someone you have to wonder if he’ll even be able to lace ’em up again.  His road to recovery might not be anywhere near complete by the time the season starts anyway, and you know how I feel about wide receivers who start on the PUP list and try to play later in the season (see:  Richardson, Paul … they tend to get re-injured a lot, okay?).

Taken as a whole, there are two receivers you can depend on, one receiver you have to worry about, two receivers who might not be ready to make the jump, and a guy coming off of one of the scariest injuries I’ve seen on a football field in a long time.  Therefore, I don’t think I’m speaking out of school here when I say the Seahawks might be wise to invest in this position a little bit (this would be especially prudent when you look at Jimmy Graham’s injury and the fact that he might not be ready to do any football activities whatsoever until the regular season starts, if not later).

What does that mean?  Well, it sure as shit doesn’t mean trading away our #1 pick for another veteran from another team, I’ll tell you that!  I also don’t mean that I necessarily want the Seahawks to USE that #1 pick on drafting a receiver, though I suppose I’d be okay with it if someone uber-talented happened to fall all the way to the mid-20s in the first round.  If I had my druthers, all positions being equal in the realm of “best player available”, I’d want the Seahawks to use their top pick on either an offensive or defensive lineman (preferably a guard or a defensive tackle).  But, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Seahawks using that 2nd or 3rd round pick to go after another receiver.

I’m pretty sure the Seahawks will look at receiver SOMEWHERE in the draft, anyway.  The question remains:  can we strike gold twice in a row?  Tyler Lockett came out of the third round of the draft last year ready to play right away; that’s pretty rare.  Hell, you’ll run into a lot of first round receivers who aren’t ready to play in year one!  For every Julio Jones, it seems like there’s twice as many Nelson Agholors or Kevin Whites.  Now, factor in where the Seahawks are picking (near the end of most rounds) and the odds of finding another diamond in the rough are pretty slim.

So, in short, you have to really wonder about the strength of this position in the short term.  2016.  If there’s a rookie who isn’t ready, or doesn’t start producing until near the end of the season, that leaves us pretty much with the guys I listed above.  Baldwin and Lockett as your top two, Richardson and probably Smith as your next two, and then who knows who fills out the final spot or two?

Obviously, we’ll know more once Training Camp and the pre-season rolls around.  Things might start looking better once we see these guys in action and start reading reports from bloggers and beat writers and whatnot.  Maybe someone I don’t even know about will pop and force his way onto the team.  As a fan, I feel less secure with the position without a glue guy like Kearse.  But, it’s also a little exciting (in a scary way) to see what’s going to happen.  You never know, with more opportunities, maybe we’ll find a guy or two who will show us something we never expected!  And MAYBE we’ll even be better for it!

What The Seahawks Should Do At Backup Quarterback

Recent news indicates that Tarvaris Jackson is likely to test the free agent waters this year, in hopes of getting into a situation that either pays him more money and/or gives him a chance to compete for a starting job/puts him behind a quarterback who might be a little more injury-prone than Russell Wilson.  Your guess is as good as mine as to what Tarvar has been doing in recent offseasons.  This story makes it sound like he’s been settling for being Seattle’s backup because it’s comfortable and familiar.  My guess is that Seattle has indeed been giving him the best possible deal, as I can’t imagine the market is too hard-up for a guy who’s proven he’s a backup in this league and nothing more.

Granted, he’s one of the better backups across the league, but a backup he remains.

Still, if you’re Tarvar, you’re looking around at some of these teams in 2015 – struggles in Dallas, Philly, St. Louis, Frisco, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Houston – and you’ve got to be thinking that you’re better than the backups for those teams who were forced into action (Dallas and Baltimore, particularly) and in other cases, better than who they’re running out as starters (Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis and the rest).  So, yeah, it makes sense – if you want to give it a go as a real live NFL quarterback (and not just a seat-warmer on the bench) – to put yourself out there as a veteran alternative for some of these teams who don’t land their Quarterback of the Future in the NFL Draft or free agency.  At the very least, he’d be likelier to see the field playing behind someone a little less durable than Russell Wilson (boy, am I putting the whammy on our boy with this sentiment).

So, what we’re talking about is, for the first time in years, looking for a non-Tarvar backup.

All else being equal, I’d like to have Tarvar back again.  That’s going to mean many multiple teams pass him over for other alternatives, leaving him with a pretty bruised ego, but so be it.  If, however, for the sake of argument we’re talking about a Tarvar-less future, then there are two obvious routes you can take:  bring in a veteran, or draft/sign a rookie.

Seattle’s in a wonderful position in this regard, because we have Russell Wilson.  He’s a solid, franchise quarterback, still in the early-prime of his career.  We don’t necessarily NEED to bring in another starting candidate to push him.  Which means, obviously, backup quarterback is a position that you can save some money on (which is important, considering how much money Wilson is taking in).  Therefore, you won’t see the Seahawks using a high draft pick, and you won’t see them blowing out the bank on free agents like Cousins, Fitzpatrick, Osweiler, or Bradford (who will all be looking for opportunities to start somewhere anyway).

That puts us in the range of a low-round draft pick (maybe 5th or lower), an undrafted rookie, or one of the other veteran options out there on the market.

In looking at those veteran options … woof!  What a bunch of dogs!  When you think of a backup quarterback in our kind of situation (i.e. someone who is a clear backup and has no chance to be this team’s starter when all players are healthy), your BEST CASE scenario is a guy who will fill in for a few weeks and somehow manage to keep the team in/around .500.  A guy like Seneca Wallace back in the day is a perfect example of this.  We were lucky to have drafted him to play behind Hasselbeck, so he was cheap for many years.  If we can somehow do that again, that’s probably the most realistic ideal situation.  Looking at veteran options, someone like … Matt Hasselbeck last year with Indy.  He was able to fill in for a few games and led them to some quality wins!  Then, as the season dragged on, as Luck was unable to return and the games piled up, Hasselbeck was less and less effective.  Old guys getting hit a lot tend to break down, shocking I know.

This post by Field Gulls has a nice little list of free agent quarterbacks.  If you remove Tarvar (for the sake of argument), and you remove the four starting candidates (Bradford, Cousins, Fitzpatrick, and Osweiler), you’re left with the crap of the crap (obviously, it’s still really early in the offseason, and a lot of cuts/trades are out there to be made; this post won’t include guys likely to be released/already under contract).  Among guys with significant starting experience, you’re talking about:

  • Cassel
  • Clausen
  • Gradkowski
  • RGIII
  • Hasselbeck
  • Henne
  • Lindley
  • McCown
  • McCoy
  • Moore
  • Schaub
  • Stanton
  • Vick
  • Weeden
  • Whitehurst
  • Yates

Cassel is old and grossly over-valued.  I have zero confidence in his abilities to guide a team to a .500 record in the absence of this team’s starter (see:  his stint in Dallas last year).  Clausen is horrible; Gradkowski hasn’t had significant starting experience in half a decade; Lindley & Stanton are who we think they are; Vick is as done as done can be; the best thing Whitehurst has ever done is somehow trick Jewel into going out with him (aside from tricking multiple teams into giving him multiple millions of dollars, including the Seahawks, and now this is making me even more upset); and Yates apparently only has value to the Houston Texans, so that’s a stay-away in my book.

Of the guys I didn’t list in that paragraph, Hasselbeck is obviously the most interesting.  Who knows if he’s even in the market to continue his career after the thrashing he took in Luck’s absence last year?  Odds are, since Wilson does a better job of avoiding contact, he probably doesn’t suffer the same lacerated spleen or whatever the hell it was that Luck had.  Then again, if you’re Hasselbeck, would you ever expect a tough hoss like Luck to get injured in the first place?

RGIII might be another someone looking to compete for a starting job.  In fact, I’m almost sure of it, so I don’t know why I kept him here.  Obviously, I worry about injuries with him.  I also worry about his mindset.  By all accounts, he was a quality teammate last year and didn’t cause any trouble in the lockerroom.  But, for a guy drafted as high as he was, who still has a lot of the skills that made him so highly sought after (minus the legs, obviously), he’d make an ideal backup candidate.  BUT, maybe not for the Seahawks.  I just have my doubts as to his willingness to come in and be the clear #2.

If I’m being honest, I don’t totally hate the idea of Chad Henne as this team’s backup.  When he first got a crack to be a team’s starter, it was in Miami in 2009 & 2010.  Those weren’t great teams, but they were sort of middle-of-the-road, .500-ish teams, and he led them to .500-ish records accordingly.  His career started to go down the shitter when he went to Jacksonville, playing on some truly horrendous teams.  On the right team (i.e. on THIS team, the Seahawks), I think Henne could be a .500-ish quarterback again.  He’s going to complete upwards of 57-60% of his passes, and if you instruct him to refrain from taking too many chances, you might be able to coax his interception percentage down to reasonable levels.  He is getting on in age, though, so he’s probably not all that mobile, which obviously is going to be an issue for most of these veterans we’re looking at.

Luke McCown had 1 start in 2015, and played brilliantly in a losing effort.  Against Carolina, he completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards and a pick.  Before that, he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so I don’t know what you’d expect here.  That one start for New Orleans really skews his career numbers, but he could be an interesting buy-low candidate with some semblance of upside as a backup.

Colt McCoy might honestly be the best of the bunch.  Drafted by Cleveland, I tend to discount whatever anyone does in Cleveland, as they’ve been a trainwreck ever since the NFL let them back into the league (and for many years before they went to Baltimore to boot).  In 2014, McCoy had a string of games with the Redskins that showed everyone why he was thought of so highly coming out of college, as well as why he’s now exclusively a backup.  He had two and a half really good games (including an impressive Monday night victory over the eventual division champion Cowboys), and a couple of real stinkers (albeit, I believe that last game he was injured and had to leave the game early).  He’s definitely not going to blow anyone away or win any shootouts, but I think he could manage a game effectively well.  What more can you ask for?

Matt Moore has been backing up Tannehill these last few years, and honestly I don’t know how he can stand it.  Moore, in his starting efforts early in his career, was the epitome of a .500 quarterback.  Hovering around 59% completions, with slightly more touchdowns than interceptions.  He strikes me as another semi-ideal candidate.  Like Henne, he’s getting on in years, so I don’t know how mobile he is, and he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so that’s tough.  Maybe he’s like another Whitehurst, who loves being a backup and living in a tropical climate!  If that’s the case, I wonder if Seattle is the right spot for him.

Matt Schaub scares me.  A lot like Vick, I think he’s done.  A lot like Cassel, I think he’s over-valued.  He strikes me as a guy who, personality-wise, wouldn’t fit in on a team with this many alpha dogs.

Brandon Weeden is probably the last interesting name on the list.  He’s young enough to where you don’t totally worry about his durability (even though, let’s be honest, he’s like a tree back there in the pocket).  And, in spite of his Cleveland roots, I think it’s probably set in by this point that he’s going to be a career backup.  Last year was interesting for him, as he was the next man up after Romo went down for Dallas.  He proved to be underwhelming at best, leading to the Cowboys to over-pay for Matt Cassel (who managed to play even worse).  Weeden landed in Houston, where he ran circles around Cassel in his two appearances (though, he ended up relinquishing the job to Brian Hoyer for the playoffs, so make of that what you will).

So, in conclusion, I’ll rank my favorite options for the Seahawks’ backup quarterback:

  1. Talk Tarvaris Jackson into returning for another year
  2. Colt McCoy
  3. Matt Hasselbeck
  4. Rookie QB (either low round pick, undrafted free agent, or guy already on a futures contract)
  5. Brandon Weeden
  6. Henne/Moore (tie)
  7. Luke McCown
  8. Fuck it, give the job to Jon Ryan (also, make sure to re-sign Jon Ryan)
  9. No one/all Wildcat all the time
  10. Schaub
  11. Cassel
  12. Fan (open tryouts every week for a local Seahawks fan)

My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

The Seahawks Are One Of The Best Franchises In Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s The Deal With Russell Wilson’s Contract Extension?

I’m getting more and more uneasy with each passing day where Russell Wilson hasn’t been locked up to a long-term extension.  This isn’t how it was supposed to go down.  We were supposed to extend him and Wagner and be living in that afterglow as we cruised right on into the NFL Draft.  Now, we’re a week into June.  We’ve had some OTAs, we’re starting to look forward to training camp, and nothing.  Nothing doing on the Russell Wilson/Seattle Seahawks front.

It makes me queasy just thinking about it.

Ideally, the earlier you get these deals done, the better.  That way, YOU set the market for other teams, and not the other way around.  We’ve already seen Ryan Tannehill and now Cam Newton get their extensions, which is pretty much it.  The only deals left to do would probably be Philip Rivers and then Russell Wilson (with Andrew Luck probably a year away, as the Colts have a 5th year option they can tangle with).  As it stands, it kinda sounds like Russell Wilson is trying to re-set the market – with the highest payout for a quarterback in history – which is pretty scary.

Today’s Peter King article poses some interesting thoughts on the matter.  As a rule, I try not to write a blog post on every article written by a national pundit, but when a story gets so big that Peter King starts to take notice, it’s no longer something you can just dismiss.  Ever since Russell Wilson started winning football games and it became readily apparent that he was to be our Franchise Quarterback, I’ve always just taken it for granted that after Wilson’s third season – the earliest point he’d be eligible to have his contract re-worked – he’d get paid and we’d all move on with our lives.  It was just never a concern of mine; why would it be?  He’s a good guy, we like to take care of our stars, we’ve got a good thing going here, why would we have any trouble getting something done?

Even if I sat down and brought up all the points against a deal getting done timely – his outlandish 3-year stats and W/L record as a starting quarterback coming up against how the team relies on its defense and running game to get the bulk of those wins accomplished – I could point to this 4th year, where he’s making less than $2 million, as well as the Franchise Tag, as reasons why the Seahawks should have a leg up in negotiations.  Those feel like PRETTY big chips!  And yet, after reading Peter King’s article, they kinda feel like nothing at all.

Russell Wilson is a different animal.  In all the ways where he’s a walking sports cliche – right down to the interviews he gives – he’s also something entirely different.  Hence the agent who’s a “baseball guy”.  This is someone who’s used to getting max deals.  King notes, “he’s never had any fear taking his baseball clients to the market.”  That … is absolutely terrifying.

Russell Wilson is EXACTLY the type of person who’d be comfortable rolling the dice on himself.  Hell, he’s been doing it his whole life!  At any point between high school and the NFL Draft, he could’ve switched to a different position more becoming a man of his height.  He stuck with quarterback, bet on himself, and it’s paying off.  He’s also got more than enough money from endorsements and whatnot to make this year’s deal good enough to live on.  Why wouldn’t he play out the 2015 deal, take the Seahawks back to the playoffs for a fourth straight year, and take away a huge chunk of leverage the Seahawks had in negotiations?  The only reason to do the deal now is out of risk of injury, but Wilson isn’t the type of guy to shy away based on theoreticals.

Then what happens?  Well, then the Seahawks place the Franchise Tag on him.  At that point, he’ll get around $20 million for 2016 – which is pretty much what the Seahawks want to pay him on a yearly basis.  If he still doesn’t like the contract extension the Seahawks are offering at that point, then he plays out 2016.

Then what happens?  Well, if they Seahawks want to franchise him a second time, then they’d have to pay him 120% of his prior-year’s salary, which puts him in the $24 million range for 2017.  At that point, you might as well be dealing with Darrelle Revis, because he’s the only guy I can think of who has bet on himself this much and succeeded.

Then what happens?  If the Seahawks were to franchise him a third time, you’re talking 144% of his prior-year’s salary.  This puts him in the $34-35 million range, which is absolutely insane and out of the question for a football team, even with the rising salary cap figure (you also have to take into account the salary cap isn’t going to KEEP going up at the rate it’s been going up the last couple years, if it even continues to go up at all).

So, what does it all mean?  Well, bank on Russell Wilson being in Seattle in 2015 regardless.  I’m about 95% confident we’d have him again in 2016 no matter what, but at that point you have to wonder if the Seahawks trade him away to try to recoup some value.  Assume, if the Seahawks give up on Wilson, that means he’s hellbent on reaching the open market no matter what and negotiations are a moot point.  I’m 50/50 on the Seahawks keeping him for a second franchise tag in 2017, but it’s certainly something the organization could do if we feel like the championship window has one final season in it, and if Pete Carroll is looking to call it a career around that time (or move on to greener pastures), and if it’s just time to do a full rebuild in 2018.

I’m 100% positive the Seahawks decline the option to tag Wilson a third time, at that $34+ million figure.

Truth be told, I’m nervous.  The more I allow myself to think about it, the more I’m able to convince myself that he WANTS to be a free agent on the open market.  Because he’s not like the other franchise quarterbacks out there.  Because he’s not tied down to one city.  Because he secretly wants to play for a bigger market and be the Derek Jeter of football.

It’s sickening to think about.  I hope like hell that I’m wrong.  I hope we’re able to get a deal done this summer and everything’s right with the world.  But, if the deal breaks down, I think we all have to start preparing for a life without Russell Wilson.

This is super-uncharted territory for us.  We’ve never been in this position before.  Not with a franchise quarterback.  Matt Hasselbeck was nice and all, and I’m sure he made a pretty penny once he locked down the starting job for us, but he was never the kind of guy who’d inspire a huge bidding war on the open market.  He was never in those top two tiers of quarterbacks; he was more in that third tier where he still needs a quality team around him to get the job done.  Russell Wilson IS in those top two tiers.  If he decides to stick around, he’s going to be the highest-paid Seahawk we’ve ever had.  I hope I see the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Breaking Down My Feelings During The Big & Small Moments Of The NFC Championship Game

I’m sitting here in the hours following the most exciting finish to a game I’ve ever seen and probably ever will see, and my overwhelming feeling right now is Survivor’s Remorse.

I know Packers fans don’t want to hear this from someone like me – mostly because I was happily a collosal dickweed during the week leading up to this game – but I truly mean this from the bottom of my heart:  no fanbase (except, maybe the 49ers) deserves to lose a game like that in that fashion.  And that’s saying nothing of the players – especially poor Brandon Bostick, who’s sure to be a Scott Norwoodian goat (or maybe a Steve Bartmanian goat) in the eyes of Packers fans for the rest of his life – who also don’t deserve to lose like that.  To comfortably dominate for 56 minutes, have a 12-point lead with the other team back on its own 31 yard line, then give up a quick score in under two minutes, followed by a successful onside kick, followed by another score, followed by the most impossible 2-point conversion, followed by your team driving to tie the game, followed by losing the coin toss in overtime, followed by your team not getting the ball back again as the opponent drives down and nails a touchdown … that’s the sickest way you could possibly lose.  I don’t think there’s a way to craft it that would be any worse.

I have nothing to say.  I can’t even say I’ve been there, because I haven’t.  I don’t think anyone has.  That’s just Brutal with a capital B and that’s all there is to it.

I’m not going to sit here and say I wish the Seahawks would have lost, because that’s crazy and a total lie.  I just wish maybe the game could’ve been different.  I wish it could’ve been more along the lines of the game we all expected to get:  a thorough thrashing of the Packers by the Seattle Seahawks in all three phases of the game.

But, that’s just me right now.  This Survivor’s Guilt or whatever will fade away and I’m sure I’ll look back on it for the truly amazing miracle it was.

I’m kind of a zombie at the moment.  I was also a zombie for most of the game, but for very different reasons.  There’s a sense of delirium to my current emotional state, whereas throughout most of the game it was nothing but bitter, intense hatred.  I’m going to pick out some moments and just talk about the ramifications and my feelings at the time.

To start, let’s go with the third play from scrimmage.  The Seahawks won the toss and deferred.  The Packers had the ball and it was 3rd & 6.  Michael Bennett jumped offsides and it turned into a 3rd & 1.  What happens there if he DOESN’T jump offsides?  Or, either way, if we hold them to a Three & Out to start the game?  Does that change everything?  I know we would go on to have Richard Sherman intercept the ball in the endzone at the end of that drive, but the Packers still ripped off four minutes of clock and proved – in the stormy, gloomy confines of CenturyLink Field – that they could move the ball on us and that our crowd & our weather wouldn’t be the deciding factor in this game.

I’m a firm believer that for teams to survive on the road – especially in an environment like ours – they need to get that first sustained drive out of the way before getting down by too many points.  If we’re able to chop their legs off early and hold them to a bunch of 3 & Outs, while at the same time moving the ball on the other end, then our crowd is able to become much more of a factor.  But, with the confidence of moving the ball against our defense & our crowd, that early in the ballgame, you had to know we were in for a long day.  My feeling after this drive was one of relief, but it could’ve been so much more.

The Seahawks subsequently turned the ball over on their first drive of the game, with the ball hitting Kearse in the hands and bouncing out, so maybe my theory is total bunk.  Even though the Packers were immediately in the Red Zone, I wasn’t totally upset.  That pick wasn’t totally on Wilson, so it was impossible to see what this day would turn into for our superstar quarterback.

The Packers had 2nd & Goal from the 1 and appeared to punch it in, but it was overturned.  If I’m coaching the Packers, I’m handing it off two more times, going for the touchdown.  When they opted to go for the field goal on 4th & goal from inside the one yard line, I was ecstatic.

Subsequent kickoff, Doug Baldwin fumbled.  REALLY fucking irritated.  In this new NFL where they kick off so deep now, I’m almost always disappointed when one of our guys brings it out of the endzone.  Frankly, if you’re not Percy Harvin – or someone as fast as him – you really have no business running kicks out of the endzone.  Seems like more bad happens than good (either a turnover, or getting stopped well inside the 20 yard line).

Once again, the Packers were back in the Red Zone.  Once again, they got the ball down to the one yard line, and once again they kicked the field goal.  In a tie game, MAYBE I could see going for the sure three points; but when you’re up 3-0, with the ball on the one, why aren’t you going for it?  Seems like the perfect time to put the nail in the coffin at best, or at worst pin us deep and possibly get a safety out of it with the way Seattle’s offensive line played.  Once again:  pure relief.

The Seahawks went 3 & Out and the Packers closed off this miserable first quarter with 56-yard touchdown drive to go up 13-0.  I was pretty down at this point – as this was OBVIOUSLY not the way I envisioned this game would start – but all wasn’t lost.  We touched the ball three times in that quarter.  First drive ended on a tipped interception, second drive ended before it even began with a kickoff fumble, and the third drive ended in a 3 & Out.  No way I expected the misery to continue.  Eventually, we WOULD find a way to move the football.  I just hoped we weren’t too far out of it before it happened (visions of the playoff game against the Falcons danced in my head).

We kicked off the second quarter with another 3 & Out.  This was followed by another Packers drive that led to a field goal.  Key play on this drive was giving up a first down on 3rd & 13 thanks to a Hands To The Face penalty.  Such bullshit.  Not the penalty, that was legit; but there’s no way a 5-yard penalty should be an Automatic First Down.  The NFL needs to get its shit together and stop making ALL THE RULES benefit offenses.

The Seahawks got the ball back, now down 16-0, and on the first play of the next drive, Wilson threw into double-coverage and got picked off a second time.  This one was ENTIRELY on Wilson and smacked of desperation.  Yes, we’re down by two touchdowns and two 2-point conversions, but there was still over nine minutes left in the first half!  There was SO MUCH time left in this game; that throw was not warranted whatsoever.

At this point in the game, I was pretty surly.  I started fiddling around on the Internet and totally missed the Byron Maxwell interception on the very next drive.  Seemed like more luck than anything, as apparently a Packers receiver ran the wrong way, but I’ll take it.

FINALLY, the Seahawks were able to move the football.  They got their first first down of the game, as the running backs decided to take over.  Russell Wilson even completed his first pass of the game on 3rd & 7 with just under 4 minutes to go in the half to put the ball in the Red Zone for the first time in the game.  We HAD to score on this drive; even a field goal wouldn’t have been all bad.  It came down to 3rd & 8 just after the 2-minute warning, and Wilson threw his second ill-advised pass:  a fade to Kearse down the sideline in the endzone, totally underthrown for his THIRD pick of the game.  Un-fucking-believable.

We were able to force a Packers punt and went into halftime down 16-0, but by this point I could hardly contain my rage and disappointment with what I was forced to endure.  I was probably 90% sure we were going to lose this game, and probably 75% sure this game was going to end in a Green Bay rout.  More than anything, I think my feelings at this point were pure bewilderment.  This is NOTHING like we’ve seen from this team since the start of 2012.  Were we REALLY going to get blown out on our home field in the NFC Championship Game to a finesse passing offense?

Of course, the Seahawks had the ball coming out of halftime, and with that, another “We MUST Score Here” drive.  And, of course, the Seahawks went 3 & Out, punting on 4th & 1.  At this point, I was legitimately hoping we’d just say Fuck It and go for it, even though the ball was on our own 29 yard line.

Fortunately, it appeared at this point that the Packers opted to slow the game down in the second half.  Their first drive of the half was a 3 & Out with two Lacy runs for minimal gain, followed by a safe pass that ended up a yard short of the first down.

This led to a sustained drive by the Seahawks that chewed up over six minutes of clock.  We got the ball down in the Red Zone again, but were again unsuccessful in completing the third down.  As the field goal unit trotted onto the field, I saw there was less than five minutes left in the quarter.  We’d surely kick to pull to within 16-3, but two things were certain:  we could NOT let Green Bay score another point, and we’d have to put up two consecutive touchdown drives to pull out this victory.  I saw the game unfolding before my eyes, with a glimmer of hope for the first time all day.  17-16, THAT’S how the game would end.

And then we pulled off the fake field goal for a touchdown?  Ex-squeeze me?  Baking powder?  UhhWhatTheFuck?  Is this the St. Louis Rams going up against the Seattle Seahawks?  Pete Carroll doesn’t do this sort of shit!  These shenanigans are beneath him!  We’re all about beating you with our best available players, mano a mano.  And here we are, resorting to this bushleague bullshit I’ve been endlessly bitching about ever since the Rams used it against us to beat us for the second time in three years?  I’m not gonna lie to you, I was PRETTY fucking happy about it succeeding, but I still felt pretty dirty about it.

So, now it’s 16-7 and I’ve still got visions of 17-16 as the game hits all zeroes.  We forced them to punt on the next drive and there we were, back in business.  But, no dice.  Another 3 & Out.  So much for momentum, I guess.  Still, gotta hold Green Bay scoreless the rest of the way if we want to win this.

And then they got their running game going.  We were hemorrhaging yards at a frantic rate, but even worse, we were also hemorrhaging clock.  The defense stiffened up to hold them to a field goal that barely squeaked inside the upright, but the damage was damn near done.  19-7, with just under 11 minutes to go in the game.

I was pretty dour about this, suffice it to say.  We hadn’t moved the ball all that well, even though we had a couple trips inside the Red Zone to that point.  Somehow, we’d have to pull off TWO touchdowns in 11 minutes, without letting them score?  Highly unlikely.

But, we converted 3 first downs to get to midfield.  Things were looking somewhat promising.  And then we just totally fucked up on two straight passes to get to 4th & 15 with 7 minutes to go in the game.

THAT CAN’T BE THE PUNTING UNIT!  THERE’S ONLY 7 MINUTES LEFT TO GO!  WE’RE GIVING THEM THE GAME RIGHT HERE!

Sure enough, we punted.  At this point, I was pretty much at 99.9% certainty that we were losing.  As I’d spent the night at my dad’s house in Tacoma, I went into my room to pack my bag to get ready for the long, angry drive back up to Seattle to get ready for work the next day.  The Seahawks held on a 3 & Out, and with a little over 5 minutes left in the game, we had one last dying gasp.

Which ended up being a first-play pass to Kearse that again bounced off of his hands for an interception.  I went back into my bedroom, started putting on my shoes, and grabbed my bags.  I had everything ready to go.  As soon as the game was officially over, I’d be out of there.  I was in the living room, holding two small bags of my crap, silently stewing.  The Seahawks forced another 3 & Out – burning two time outs in the process – but who gives a shit?  It was all academic.  Isn’t that what they say?

The Seahawks were able to get some chunk yards on the next drive – with Clay Matthews out of the game, which I didn’t understand at the time.  Did he get hurt or something?  Because he was back out there for overtime.  Anyway, we scored on a pass to Lynch with 2:52 left in the game and one time out.  At that point, down 19-14, we could theoretically kick it deep and get the ball back with 1:20 (or so) left in the game.  Doing the math in my head was more or less just a way to push out all the negative thoughts about losing this game.  In the end, it didn’t even matter, because Lynch had stepped out of bounds anyway.  We would go on to score that touchdown, but with only 2:09 left in the game.  At this point, you pretty much HAVE to go for the onside kick.  And, how often does that ever work out?  Less than 10%, when they’re expecting it?

Nevertheless, my heart rate kicked back into gear again.  How could you not at least hold out some small sliver of hope?  It’s what being a fan is all about!

Then, the impossible.  HOLY CATFISH!  The ball bounced off of Bostick and into the sure hands of Chris Matthews.

I was elated, but tense, obviously.  With a little over two minutes to go in the game, almost anything could happen.  Wilson could throw his fifth pick, going Full Eli.  We could drive down and fail at the goalline.  We could drive down and score with no time left.  And yes, we could score too quickly and leave them too much time left on the clock (with all three of their time outs to drive it back on us and score).

Sure enough, Beastmode went Beastmode for 24 yards to go up by one with 1:25 left in the game.  For some reason, up until that moment, I’d completely forgotten that we’d need to go for two if we did score there.  I just figured – great – we’d be up 21-19 and have to sweat out a game-winning field goal.  Then, when I realized what the Seahawks were doing, it was back to being super-tense again.

We HAD to score that 2-pointer!  If we didn’t hit it, we WOULD lose.  That’s all there is to it.  Aaron Rodgers isn’t Colin Kaepernick; he’s not just going to hand you the game.

I saw the play unfold:  a roll out to Russell’s right.  The Packers’ line blew it up a little bit, forcing Wilson to improvise.  I saw the heave to the opposite side of the endzone.  I saw Luke Willson in the area, but I saw two defenders.  I saw the high arc to the throw:  SURELY someone would knock it down and/or pick it off!  Nope!  Conversion!  22-19!  Not so much happy, but again, pure relief.

At this point, with the Packers taking over on their own 22 yard line, I was praying to any god that would have me.  Asshole hypocrite?  Yah you-betcha, but what else are you going to do?  My hands were clenched in tight fists, clutched close to my chest, unwilling to move an inch, STILL with my two bags resting on my lap, ready to leave at the drop of a hat.

No surprise whatsoever that the Packers scored to tie it up there.  A little surprised they didn’t make more of an effort to play for the game-winning touchdown with all three time outs in play, but I wasn’t going to complain.  Overtime.

When we won the toss, I was pretty thrilled, but again, I wasn’t in any position to expect victory.  I just knew one thing:  if we gave the ball back to Aaron Rodgers, we’d lose that game.  Richard Sherman was playing with one arm.  Earl Thomas had to have his shoulder popped back into place during the game.  Everyone was exhausted, on their very last legs.  The offense would have to take care of business, or this would be it.  Yet another overtime playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.  Fox even showed a replay of Matt Hasselbeck’s infamous coin toss comments to the refs in that prior game for good measure.

Baldwin was pretty much forced to run the kick out, as it wasn’t deep enough to simply take a knee in the endzone, and we were rewarded with shitty field position once again.  The Seahawks would have to go 87 yards if we had any hopes of ending this right there.  Lynch ran for a modest gain.  Wilson completed a short pass to Baldwin off of a run fake that was good for a first down.  Lynch ran for another modest gain, then Wilson was stuffed for a 1-yard loss.  Third down, 7 yards to go, on our own 30 yard line.  This is it; this is the ballgame right here.  To have watched this game up to this point, you’d know that the Seahawks struggled with the pass all day, and especially on third down.

With man coverage, Baldwin got behind the defender and pulled in a perfectly-thrown ball for a 35-yard gain, to get us to the Green Bay 35 yard line.  Earlier in the day, Baldwin had flat-out dropped a perfectly-thrown pass that would’ve resulted in a first down when we really needed it.  I had that play all lined up in my mind if the Seahawks would’ve lost.

Make no mistake, this article was going to be A LOT different.  I won’t get into too many specifics, but just know that the words “mediocre” and “pedestrian” were going to be thrown around with the regularity of someone with tourettes.  Baldwin and Kearse were going to be high on my scorn list, with Russell Wilson catching a lot of flak for being the negative-usage of the phrase “Game Manager” and proving all the national doubters right.

I mean, can you imagine what we’d all be saying and thinking if Jermaine Kearse – on the very next play – didn’t catch that 35-yard touchdown to end it and send us to the Super Bowl?  We’d be FREAKING THE FUCK OUT!  As this post is already running a little long, I’ll save it for another day, but suffice it to say, the more I think about it, the more glad I am with the way things turned out.

I still feel bad for Packers fans.  Nothing’s going to change that except time.  For now, I’m just going to try to make it through these next two weeks as best as I can.  I mean, it’s damn near impossible to be productive at work when you’ve got your team in the Super Bowl.

A Brief History Of The Seahawks & Packers In The Playoffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

COULD THIS REALLY BE HAPPENING?

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

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

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

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

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