Have I Overreacted To All The Coaching Change On The Seahawks?

If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and take a gander at what I wrote yesterday.  A lot of doom and gloom and whatnot.  Anyway, I got a GREAT comment from someone named Justin that I thought I’d respond to.  I’m not here to be a Hot Taek factory, and I really hate it when recency bias creeps into my arguments and gets me to overreact to something that’s not really that big of a deal, so I thought I’d take a step back and consider Justin’s argument.

I do stand behind the crux of my argument yesterday, in that it’s never a great sign when a head coach makes wholesale coordinator changes, and you could argue that the Seahawks fired three coordinators, considering Tom Cable’s influence over the offense.  We’re in a period of transition with the Seahawks, there’s no doubt about it.  Some of the stars of those championship teams are aging out, or injuring themselves out, and will need to be replaced.  While it’s not impossible for this team to hit rock bottom in 2018, it’s just as possible that they find the right pieces to fill in and get this team back to the playoffs.  We could be looking at one 9-7 blip on the radar, and nothing would make me happier.

I like a lot of what Justin has to say.  I agree that Russell Wilson is in the Top 5 for me among quarterbacks in this league.  And we all know he has another level to his game; we’ve seen it during the second half of 2015.  He obviously can’t do it alone, though, and is going to need some help from his O-Line and running game.  But, that’s obvious to anyone.  Even Tom Brady looks pretty fucking mediocre in those rare instances where the Patriots have a struggling O-Line; the difference is they seem to know how to push the right buttons and right the ship before too long.

I also agree that we probably have a Top 15/Top 10 defense as it is.  That part of it is never going to get TOO bad, because Pete Carroll is too good of a defensive mind.  My biggest concern is that the injury bug tends to be random, and the Seahawks were pretty well battered in 2016, then followed that up by arguably being MORE battered in 2017.  That, to me, shows signs of age.  And, considering the core on this defense is so deep and has been together for so long, that’s A LOT of holes that need filling, not to mention a lot of depth that needs replenishing around that core.

It’s too early to know what that’s going to look like.  We don’t know, for instance, if Avril or Kam will make miraculous recoveries and try to play again.  Forgetting the cap situation for a moment, assuming we get those guys back, they’re still one awkward hit away from being done for good.  Then, there’s Michael Bennett, who ALWAYS seems to be slowed by one nagging thing or another.  A foot, a quad, a pec, an ankle.  I still say he’s someone who needs to be on the field way less than he is to remain effective.  There’s more snaps you have to replace.  Earl Thomas made a nice recovery in 2017, as I assume Richard Sherman will in 2018, but again:  guys getting older.  Guys more susceptible to these debilitating injuries.  And, I haven’t mentioned guys like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright, because they’re almost always pretty healthy.  But, before he went down, Sherm had never missed a game, and I don’t know if Earl missed much time either.  It just takes one hit, or one bad step and then a bunch of others that eventually wear you down until whatever’s ailing you just SNAPS.

So, let’s take a step back and look on the bright side:  who do we have on defense that we like?  That we can count on in major roles going forward?

Frank Clark, obviously, heads that list for me, and feels like a guy this team should prioritize with a big extension.  Dion Jordan is another guy I’ll be happy to see return, and in a meatier role than he had in 2017.  Should he prove to be effective, he’s a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing around semi-long term.  Naz Jones really flashed as a rookie.  He looks like a guy who could play every down and be an effective interior rusher (I just hope he’s not another of these injury-prone guys, what with him missing the last few weeks of the regular season).  Jarran Reed is another impressive interior lineman who feels more like a Brandon Mebane type (which is NOT a bad thing) and is someone I hope to have around for a long time.  So, that’s four guys, not counting Bennett (who I still think will probably be back in 2018).  I don’t expect Sheldon Richardson back, and who the fuck knows about Malik McDowell, but either way, the D-Line could use some work.  And some better injury luck.

Love me some Wagz and Wright; they’re both squarely in their primes.  But, would it kill this team to draft a couple of talented, athletic backups who might one day take their places?  Or, competently fill in for when those guys get nicked up?  I mean, we’re always one Wagner injury away from the biggest fucking drop-off on the entire team outside of quarterback!

In the secondary, I – along with most everyone – liked what I saw from Shaq Griffin.  He still has room to improve, and I hope he makes that leap.  With Earl and Sherm back in the fold in 2018, and Coleman being a solid slot guy, there’s even more to like.  But, how do you replace someone like Kam?  And, who’s gonna be your third outside corner?  Are ANY of the other rookies we drafted in the secondary in 2017 going to pan out besides Griffin?  I think it’s a BAD sign that guys like Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson hardly ever played last year.  I hope they look good behind the scenes, because I have a feeling we’re going to need at least one of them to pan out in the near future.

So yeah, there’s talent defensively.  There’s plenty of talent to be a Top 15 defense as it stands right now.  And, of course, the team will make moves this offseason to bolster that side of the ball.  A Pete Carroll team would NEVER neglect the defense.  But, is this team good enough to overcome just a Top 15 or a Top 10 defense?  Or, does it need a Top 2 defense to really do something?

And, I guess that’s my whole point in all of this.  With all its faults, the 2017 Seahawks were still SO CLOSE to making the playoffs.  And it would’ve been fun, and we would’ve had a rabid ramp-up to that game against the Rams (or whoever would’ve been the 3-seed in this alternate universe).  And who knows?  Maybe we shock the world just like we’ve done so many times in the Wild Card round of the playoffs!

But, I’m not interested in just making the playoffs.  I don’t think there’s a way in Hell that the Seahawks of 2017 – with all the injuries and everything else they had to deal with by season’s end – were in a position to make a serious championship run.  Odds are, if it’s Rams in the Wild Card round, then Eagles in the Divisional round, then Vikings in the Championship game … I mean, look at those defenses!  Those are far and away the three best defenses in the NFC this year (with the Saints probably coming in 4th).  You’re telling me this team, with this O-Line, and this lack of a running game, could’ve made it through all three?  I think the chance of that is 0.00%.

Maybe I’m being greedy.  As a long-suffering Seahawks fan through the years, maybe I SHOULD just be happy with a playoff appearance.  But, after 2013, all of that changed.  With Russell Wilson in the fold, I want to see MULTIPLE championships!  At least one more, ideally two more.  Anything beyond that would be beyond my wildest dreams, but you get the idea.  Great, amazing, franchise-altering quarterbacks don’t come around everyday unless you’re the Green Bay Packers, apparently.  To squander someone like Russell would be a travesty.  Beyond that, I can’t bear to imagine a world where his final play in a Super Bowl is that fucking interception at the goalline.  He NEEDS to be redeemed!

And no, this team probably WON’T collapse in the near future, not as long as Wilson is healthy.  He’s in his prime, and we’ve seen PLENTY of mediocre teams with elite quarterbacks who carry them to consistent 7-9/8-8/9-7 seasons.  Aside from 2015/2016, that’s pretty much the M.O. of the San Diego Chargers under Philip Rivers!  Not to mention a lot of those post-Super Bowl Saints teams.  And a lot of those Lions teams under Matthew Stafford.  On and on and on.  But, to be honest, those types of teams are my worst nightmare.  Not to say I envy the Browns or something, but I would RATHER bottom out for a year or two, bring in a bunch of highly-drafted college players, and turn things around.  The Seahawks will probably never get to be that bad, though, so I think it’s a very real concern that we have a bunch of 8-8 type seasons in the years ahead.

How do we avoid that?  Well, ideally, we need to figure out what the Saints did in their draft room last year, because God Damn!  Justin points out that we should have faith in the combo of Pete and John.  I have the utmost respect for those guys, and I agree they’re the best head coach and GM in franchise history (and maybe in the history of all of Seattle sports).  But, I also think it’s valid to wonder if they’re not coasting on the achievements of their drafts and free agent acquisitions from 2010-2012.  I mean, that’s one of the best turnaround jobs in all of professional sports, what they were able to do in that 3-year span.  And, for the most part, I like that they take chances and they swing for the fences on guys with rare and unique talents.

But, the mounting mistakes from 2013 onward is pretty glaring.  Bringing in Harvin, which led to losing out on Tate.  That whole fucking 2013 draft which has only netted you a backup tight end in Luke Willson (and no, they don’t get credit for Spencer Ware, because he was let go and has done all of his damage with the Chiefs).  Then, there’s the Jimmy Graham deal, and the whole fucking 2014 draft.  Paul Richardson has given us exactly 1 fully healthy season before turning into an expensive free agent.  Justin Britt gave us a couple of mediocre seasons as right tackle and left guard before finding his place at center.  Cassius Marsh and some of the guys below him were non-factors on defense and mostly just good special teamers.  Then again with the 2015 draft.  Clark and Lockett were hits, but Glowinski was a bust, and everyone else is gone.  Now, take a look at the 2016 draft:  the best player is arguably Alex fucking Collins, yet ANOTHER late-round running back this team threw away!  Ifedi has been miserable, Reed has been a run-stuffing defensive tackle, Vannett looks like nothing more than a 3rd or 2nd tight end at best, Prosise is a living, breathing ankle sprain, and the rest of those guys are backups, training camp fodder, or out of the game entirely.  That brings us to the 2017 draft, where it looks like maybe they got their mojo back with guys like Griffin, Jones, Carson, and hopefully Pocic, but also features your top selection in McDowell who might never play a single down in the league.  Then, when you compound it with some of the other deals, giving Joeckel so much money, giving Lacy ANY money, consistently trading away high draft picks for veterans.  My confidence with this line of decision-making hasn’t totally plummeted, but I’ll say this:  2018 is going to go a LONG way toward either restoring my faith, or leading me to construct a noose and hang myself.

I mean, shit, what happened to their prowess in picking guys on the third day of the draft???

In short, because this one ballooned WAY out of control, yesterday’s post is probably a bit of an overreaction, with an asterisk of We’ll See.  This thing has been trending downward for three years, so we just have to hope that the new blood is able to come in and turn things around.  If they can’t, or if injuries continue to kill us, or if guys don’t develop into stars for whatever reason, or if the front office keeps kicking the can down the road with some of these contracts and draft pick trades, then I’ve been on record for a while now saying this could be another Seattle Mariners situation:  a lot of high-priced veterans getting this team to at or around .500, but ultimately treading water for a bunch of years in a row.

Seahawks Death Week: What Could’ve Been

Now is the part of Seahawks Death Week where I sit in quiet, somber reflection of what might’ve been.

In an ideal world, George Fant would’ve played 16 games and looked spectacular!  It would’ve spared us half a season of Rees Odhiambo’s flailing, and kept him rotating at guard where he belonged.

In an ideal world, Chris Carson would’ve been in the Rookie of the Year conversation.  Sure, he probably would’ve had a relatively slow start, but over time we would’ve seen some huge games out of the kid.

With Carson pushing 1,000 yards and any number of touchdowns, it might’ve spared the defense – especially later in the season – allowing the offense to win more Time of Possession battles.

In an ideal world, Sheldon Richardson would’ve been the game-changer we all expected him to be.  What we got out of him was okay, I suppose, but I was really thinking he’d be this force of nature a la Cortez Kennedy in his prime.  What I got instead was 1 sack and not NEARLY enough big plays in the backfield.

Of course, in an ideal world, we never would’ve needed to trade for Sheldon Richardson in the first place, because Malik McDowell would’ve come into Training Camp healthy, he would’ve been a model citizen, and he would’ve been the force of nature up the middle that we all hoped he’d be!

In an ideal world, sure, maybe some of our defensive players would’ve been banged up from time to time, but not to the extent that guys like Avril, Sherman, Kam, and Bobby were!  Those guys, for a full season, would have absolutely prevented our December swoon.  There’s no fucking way guys like Fournette and Gurley would’ve gone off the way they did had Kam and Bobby been near 100%; and there’s no fucking way guys like the Bort or Drew Stanton would’ve thrown on us the way they did with Sherm locking down his side.  And, you better believe we would’ve owned that tie-breaker over the Falcons!

If you would’ve given me just one unicorn season – a season with almost zero injuries; those seasons you always see from teams who make the Super Bowl – this Seahawks team could’ve contended.  This Seahawks team could’ve even run the table in the second half!  With wins over the Eagles, Falcons, and a sweep of the Rams, people would be talking about the Seahawks right now as NFC frontrunners!

Of course, that’s just a pipe dream.  To believe that injuries alone torpedoed our season neglects all the other problems we had.  The offensive line woes outside of the left tackle position.  The quarterback’s late-season regression.  The fact that this team was mostly healthy for games against the Redskins and Titans and STILL managed to look bad in those games.

That’s all true, but if I’m slicing up the pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Missed The Playoffs, the biggest slice by far is injuries to key guys.  And, quite frankly, if I’m slicing up a different pie, and each slice is a Reason Why The Seahawks Are Fucked In The Immediate Future, it’s injuries again.  Because injuries forced us into trading multiple high-value draft picks to bring in guys like Richardson and Duane Brown.  Because some injuries are so severe, guys like Avril, Kam, and McDowell might not play another snap of football in their careers!  Because other injuries – to guys like Sherman, Bennett, Fant, and Joeckel – might force the team to move on from them.

It just sucks, because we really WERE all in on this year.  At the beginning of the season, there were two big needs for this team (aside from, of course, the need to stay healthy):  interior pass rush, and offensive line help.  We had high hopes for the young guys (McDowell and Fant), and we had skyrocketing hopes for the veterans (Richardson and Brown).  It really felt like, particularly with the Richardson trade, that the rich was getting richer, and that this defense was going to be a hornet’s nest.  But, it never really came together, and ultimately got worse and worse as injuries started to mount.

At that point, I have to wonder if the bigger problem isn’t Darrell Bevell or Tom Cable, but Kris Richard.  I agree that he’s had his moments, particularly with the Eagles game, but he’s had WAY more bad performances in his career, and nothing is really all that encouraging for him going forward.  It’s hard to know if some of that is Pete Carroll putting the restraints on him, forcing Richard to adhere closely to his scheme (when maybe this team would’ve been better served with a lot more blitzing and maybe a different type of coverage scheme).  But, I find it hard to believe that even with all the injuries, this defense would’ve fallen as hard as it did with a better defensive coordinator at the helm.  And that doesn’t even get into all the sideline arguments we’ve seen since Richard took over; it doesn’t really feel like he’s got control of that unit.  Weird, a mediocre player in his day evolved into a mediocre coordinator now.  And I guarantee you the only reason he’s seeing head coaching interviews is because of the Rooney Rule, and the fact that there aren’t enough qualified African American candidates out there that haven’t already been interviewed a million times.  Because, really, who is SERIOUSLY considering Kris Richard to be their head coach right now?  That’s total lunacy!  He’s done NOTHING but be the caretaker of a #1 defense that has gotten worse every year under his watch.

Sheep!  Get off the Bevell & Cable nonsense!  Remember, we’ve actually WON a Super Bowl with these guys!  You know who we HAVEN’T won with?  Richard.  He needs to go.  Now.

Oh, what could’ve been.  In an ideal world, we would’ve snagged Gus Bradley back after he got fired from the Jags.

Seahawks Death Week: What Will They Do This Off-Season?

I got into what I think the Seahawks should do this off-season in this post following the debacle against the Rams, so I don’t want to repeat myself all over the place this soon after.  I’m on record as saying that I don’t necessarily think THIS is the year to blow it all up and start over – nor do I think that’s the direction the team will take – my whole agenda is to loosen up the cap a little and prepare for a bigger overhaul in 2019.  In short, that means letting the dead weight walk (Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Joeckel, Eddie Lacy, Blair Walsh, and all the other guys on 1-year deals, except for maybe Bradley McDougald, depending on what happens with the other safeties on the roster); further trimming some of the fat by getting rid of guys like Jon Ryan, Cliff Avril, Jeremy Lane and Thomas Rawls; and then making calculated decisions on some of the aging vets nearing the ends of their deals.  For the most part, I’m cool with hanging on to a lot of guys – Bennett, Sherman, Earl, Wright, maybe Kam if doctors clear him to play again – but I’m not going to be devastated if the team opts to trade/release them.  I do think, however, that all of those guys should be playing for their jobs in 2018 if they remain, and we look to clean house after 2018 if the team’s record plummets.

So, that’s my take.  In a nutshell:  run it back with the same core – or close to it – don’t make any crazy trades or high-priced free agent signings (in order to keep our compensatory picks for 2019’s draft), and if things fall apart for a third straight year with injuries, look to the 2019 draft/free agent class to replenish the roster with younger/hungrier options.  The key being:  DON’T FUCK WITH THE 2019 DRAFT.  I don’t know if it’s going to be a good one or not; all I know is we can’t keep kicking the can down the road with these inflated veteran contracts and bad draft classes.  And, if we’re going to be bad in 2018 – like I think we probably will be – then at least take advantage of the higher draft picks in each round by having all of them in place.

With that out of the way, what do I think the Seahawks will actually do?

Well, for starters, I don’t think they’ll do everything that I’d like them to do, and I don’t know how that makes me feel.  I’m conflicted, because on the one hand In Pete & John We Trust, but on the other hand I just don’t know if they have it in them to be patient.  They’re constantly aggressive, which is part of what made their moves from 2010-2012 so dynamic and franchise-altering; but it’s also a big part of this team’s downfall.  Start with the Percy Harvin disaster, which gave way to letting Golden Tate walk, which ultimately led to them doubling-down on their mistake by trading for Jimmy Graham, who has never been a fit for this team – even when we finally figured out how to use him in the red zone two years too late – and the Seahawks’ only real offensive success has come when he was out with his knee injury.  I absolutely, 2,000% believe that’s no coincidence, and if they bring him back on a high-priced contract, I seriously might have to reconsider whether or not I want to keep following this team as a fan.  I don’t care how shitty the draft is at the tight end position, and I don’t care how shitty the tight end free agency class is; if you over-pay for Jimmy Graham, because he’s Russell Wilson’s BFF or whatever, I’ll probably have to take a break from investing myself in this team as thoroughly as I have over the years.

I don’t know if I actually believe they WILL bring him back, and I honestly don’t think he wants to be back, so my hunch is that will work itself out.  But, my fear is that they compound this thing even further by trading for some other offensive weapon that’s a terrible fit for our particular scheme, style, and quarterback.  I’m not a fan of trading for receivers in any capacity anyway (be they tight end or wide receiver); if I had my druthers, if the Seahawks are going to make any splashes in the passing game, I’d rather they extend Paul Richardson (though, that’s really the lesser of two evils, and in a perfect world the Seahawks would do neither).

I think the Seahawks have lost their minds when it comes to trading away draft picks, so expect more of the same.  I would anticipate Plan A is for them to trade back from the 18th pick to get an extra second and/or third rounder, to go along with a low first rounder.  I highly doubt there’s a player in this draft who’d fall to them at 18 that would lead them to take him over trading down and collecting more picks, but if there is, then I think you really have to be concerned about this team trading some of its 2019 picks to get back into the second and/or third rounds, which is my nightmare.  Of course, my WORST nightmare is they trade 18 for some other team’s unwanted veteran, citing the tried and true (and misguided) credo of:  he’s better for us right now than any college player we would’ve taken with that pick.  If I fucking hear that one more fucking time, I’m gonna lose it.

See, the worst part of where the Seahawks are at right now, with their core as it is, the salary cap where it is, and where they often find themselves drafting, is we’re in a prime position to finish anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7 every year, until we somehow, miraculously find ourselves hitting more on these draft picks.  Which means, unless we find some magic elixir that keeps these fucking guys healthy for a full season, it’s gonna be a long, frustrating road back to Super Bowl contention.  And, we can kiss goodbye any thought of being as good as we were from 2012-2014.  It’s the New Orleans Saints model, and I fucking hate it, because it took them fucking forever to get as good as they were this season, and even now it’s no guarantee that they’ll make it to the Super Bowl, or be great for years to come.

I also think the Seahawks have at least one big free agent splash in them, be it an offensive lineman, an outside pass rusher, or some sort of stud interior pass rusher.  I doubt that means re-signing Sheldon Richardson (who I would prefer, if for no other reason than to preserve our comp pick for Jimmy Graham going elsewhere), but I bet it WILL mean we lose out on the surefire 3rd round comp pick we would’ve gotten for whatever insane contract Sheldon will end up signing with some sucker team.

Ultimately, I think it means while a bunch of our outgoing free agents get signed elsewhere, the best we can hope for in comp picks is a 4th or 5th rounder, with a very real chance we get stuck with a 6th or 7th rounder, or nothing at all, if this front office continues to chase the dragon on whoever the equivalent of Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy are this upcoming offseason (1-year fliers on the hope of turning around total miserable busts).

It’s bleak, man.  That’s really what I’m getting at.  I think we’ll get our panties in a wad about some of the free agent signings, as the Seahawks continue to put Band Aids over their amputated limbs; and then we’ll further blow our loads over whatever prospects we settle for in the draft, but will any of it translate to real, tangible improvement?  In the running game?  In the offensive line?  In the passing game?  In the pass rush?  In the run defense?  In the pass defense?  At all those levels we struggled at in 2017?  And, will there be any LASTING tangible improvement?  Or, will half of these guys immediately go down with injury and leave us scrambling yet again to plug the dike?

See, these temporary fixes that the team has employed the last couple years – the same ones I fear they’ll continue trying in 2018 – are what the fanbase at large wants to see.  They want to see heads roll.  They want to see a massive influx of free agent help.  But, the smart franchises don’t over-react to every fucking thing.  The smart franchises plan for the future as they continue to play for the present.  You don’t have to be the Cleveland Browns – throwing away every valuable player to accumulate as many prospects and draft picks as possible – but you also shouldn’t be the Ravens or Saints – clinging to aging vets and trading away your future picks/prospects in hopes of winning now over all else.  Unfortunately for where we are now, the Seahawks have veered over into that Ravens/Saints territory, and have drastically reduced their future flexibility and prospect pool in the process.  While some of the moves might have made sense at the time (the Sheldon Richardson & Duane Brown trades in particular), we have to admit they ultimately failed this year, and might have crippled this organization in the short term future.  The worst thing you can do is cripple yourselves in the long term future on top of it.

So, take a bath in 2018.  Ride it out, and set yourselves up to be in a position to take advantage of things in 2019.  Otherwise, expect to keep spinning your wheels in the land of the .500 teams, never quite making the playoffs and never quite getting bad enough to draft the improvements you need for sustained success.

I’m … I’m not going into 2018 with any semblance of a good headspace when it comes to the professional Seattle teams.  Wake me up when the year is over.

Seahawks Death Week: Spread The Blame Around Nice N’ Thick

Had the Seahawks made the playoffs, I’m certain a topic of conversation would’ve been:  what do the Seahawks do well?  If things had gone differently – i.e. if the Seahawks won and the Panthers had beaten the Falcons – we’d currently be preparing to go on the road to Carolina.  The Seahawks would’ve been considerable underdogs in this game, and we would’ve been sitting around wondering how the Seahawks might match up with the Panthers.  Where is our edge?  In what universe could you imagine a Seahawks upset, as they’re currently constructed?

Boil it all down, and you come back to the question:  what do the Seahawks do well?

Well, at TIMES, the Seahawks have done lots of things well (except run the ball), so we should probably refine that to say:  what do the Seahawks do consistently well?  Or, to put it another way:  what DOESN’T need fixing for 2018?

I’m a little bit at a loss with this question, because I don’t think there’s even one single thing the Seahawks do consistently well.  Sure, they have Russell Wilson, and he’s a good quarterback you can win a championship with, but all too often he fails to step up in the pocket and make quick decisions with the football.  Either because he can’t see what’s going on (and he’s being super-careful with the football to not throw it into harm’s way), or he’s constantly waiting for something better to come along.  And, he thinks he can beat everyone when he escapes, which leads to further issues (fumbles, intentional groundings, sacks, holding penalties on the O-Line because they have no idea where he’s going).  For everything he does well, he does something that holds this team back, and when the rest of the team isn’t up to the task, our margin of error is extremely low, so more often than not that Russell Wilson Magic is useless.

The running game is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  That’s partly on the O-Line and partly on there being no dynamic running back on this roster for the last two years.

The receiving game is okay, but even there we have issues.  Aside from Doug Baldwin, guys don’t get consistently open, and Doug Baldwin can’t do everything.  Jimmy Graham seemed to always disappear unless we were 15 yards away (or closer) to the endzone.  Just about everyone aside from Doug (particularly the tight ends, particularly Graham) had issues with drops, which this team obviously can’t afford when – again – it can’t run the ball and can’t provide consistent protection for its quarterback.

The O-Line is what it is:  a total fucking disaster.  Luke Joeckel was a bust.  Germain Ifedi is certainly trending towards the bust category (though, I want to see him get multiple years in one position before I make that declaration).  Ethan Pocic was a rookie.  Duane Brown came in mid-season and I don’t think ever became totally used to what we’re trying to do here (and how our quarterback plays).  And, quite frankly, Justin Britt made too many fucking mistakes to be considered anything but a so-so player.  He’s certainly not worth Max Unger-type money, and once the dead money isn’t prohibitive, I’d seriously consider getting rid of him and moving Pocic over to center (where he played so well in college).  Don’t forget, it was Britt’s boneheaded and pointless dive that landed him on George Fant’s ACL and started us down this whole messy road (when it appeared Fant was going to take the next huge leap in his development in the pre-season).  Consider me off the Justin Britt bandwagon.

So, for those keeping track at home, that’s NOTHING about the offense that I trust as far as I can throw it.  How about the defense?

Well, the pass rush was hit or miss.  Sometimes it was on point, sometimes it completely disappeared.  Michael Bennett got way too much playing time, and struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness down the stretch (as anyone could’ve predicted).  Cliff Avril’s loss (probably for good) was a huge blow.  Frank Clark was probably our most consistent player, but he never made that leap to superstar status we were all secretly hoping we’d see.  And, most annoyingly of all, we were never able to find a consistent interior pass rusher.  Malik McDowell is the biggest fucking moron on the planet and might have ATV’d his way out of football before his career even started.  Which necessitated in us trading for Sheldon Richardson, who was okay, but who also never really seemed to fit in with our scheme or make any sort of an impact.  Jarran Reed took a baby step forward, but was never a consistent threat.  Naz Jones looked great for a rookie, but got injured and probably hit the ol’ rookie wall.  The back-end of the roster guys would flash from time to time, but never consistently.  Way WAY too often, opposing quarterbacks had all day to pick apart our defense, and it seemed like we only ever got pressure when we blitzed, which isn’t this team’s way (but maybe it should’ve been; maybe we should’ve gone hyper blitz-happy and seen if that would’ve helped spur more turnovers).

The run defense is SUPPOSED to be this team’s strength, but all too often it was a weakness.  The 49ers and Titans early in the year ran all over us.  And the Jags, Rams, and Cowboys had no problem whatsoever gaining big chunks of yards on us late in the season.  Teams with elite runners doing whatever they wanted:  that rarely ever happened before this year.

Then, you know, there’s the pass defense.  Earl Thomas missed a little time.  Kam and Sherm missed a lot of time.  Jeremy Lane lost his job early and often.  Byron Maxwell came in off the street and started over Lane almost immediately!  And he’s no prize pig!  Shaq Griffin looked pretty good for a rookie, but I’d still like to see a lot of development in him before I annoint him with Lockdown Corner status.  Justin Coleman looked pretty good for a slot guy.  Deshawn Shead never really came back from his injury (aside from a few special teams snaps).  Bradley McDougald was a solid pickup at safety (and a HUGE improvement over Steven Terrell/Kelcie McCray).  When everyone was healthy, the pass defense was okay, but even then, everyone was healthy for that Deshaun Watson game, and he threw all over us!  Tennessee didn’t have any trouble moving the ball down our throats.  And even the Redskins had no trouble marching down the field late on our pass defense.  Then, once you factor in everyone’s injuries, you could argue this was the weakest part of our team by season’s end.

I guess, if you had one position group to laud this year, I never really worried about the linebackers, until the end of the season, when it was obvious Bobby Wagner’s injury was severely limiting his mobility.  And, K.J. Wright had that concussion game he missed.  And, I’d be hard pressed to say I loved our veteran depth; the drop-off from starter to backup was pretty severe.  Seems like we could’ve filled those spots in the draft if we hadn’t completely neglected it the last few years (opting for undrafted free agents and veterans on minimum deals over actual draft picks).

So, no, nevermind.  There are zero position groups you could say I was 100% comfortable with over the course of the season.  Every single player on this team played a part in why the Seahawks are not in the playoffs right now, and if they WERE set to play in Carolina this weekend, they’d surely get their asses destroyed.  I hope the guys who remain on this roster in 2018 take a good, long look in the mirror.  Do you want to be here?  Do you still love the game of football?  Let’s maybe think less about that paycheck and more about wins and losses.

Seahawks Death Week: No Post-Season For The First Time Since 2011

I don’t know if there’s any point in rehashing this one too in depth, so let’s blow through it really quick:  the Seahawks lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals.  Led by Drew Stanton and his slightly torn ACL (that still left him spry enough to repeatedly run away from Michael Bennett in the open field), the Cards racked up 259 yards en route to a 26-24 victory.  Of course, the most mind-boggling thing was their 20-7 halftime lead, but at this point should it even be all that mind-boggling anymore?  We suck early in games, period.  That only made the inevitable second half comeback all the more painful in the end, as Blair Walsh sailed yet another field goal wide of its target in the closing seconds of the game.

Of course, by that point, it was known that the Panthers – behind garbage-ass Cam Newton’s 3 interceptions – lost to the Falcons, blowing their opportunity to win their division in the process (because, against all odds, the Bucs actually managed to beat the Saints).  So, it didn’t really matter what Blair Walsh did, and missing that kick actually made things better for the Seahawks, not just in dropping our draft pick from 20 to 18, but ensuring that there’s no fucking way this front office loses its collective minds and opts to re-sign that good-for-nothing piece of shit kicker.  21 of 29, for the worst season percentage of his career.  3 of those misses were under 40 yards (not counting the extra point he also missed), and 0 of those makes were 50 yards or more.  Ostensibly, we brought Walsh in here to be a cheaper alternative to Steven Hauschka, but we also brought him in here because of his big leg.  Once it was determined that he couldn’t be trusted, he finished the season with just 1 attempt over 50 yards, so obviously that was a huge embarrassing failure of a signing.

But, you can’t blame the fact that the Seahawks missed out on the playoffs on a terrible kicker like Blair Walsh (though, you can certainly trace at least a couple of these close losses to his missed field goals).  There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Seahawks finished 9-7 and outside of the playoffs.  We’ll get into more of that as Seahawks Death Week goes on.

Before we get to that, a few notes on this final game of the season:

Tyler Lockett looked amazing, particularly on his kickoff return for a TD.  He’s slowly but surely returning to form after his devastating injury; I would expect great things from him in 2018.

I hope the Seahawks can bring Byron Maxwell back on the cheap.  He’d be a nice depth piece to have behind Sherm and Griffin.  I would also hope DeShawn Shead can return, but I think that’s less likely.  He’s probably looking for more of a starting role, and if he shows out in workouts, could very well command a salary this team has no business matching.  Besides, Justin Coleman appears to have that slot corner position on lockdown, so there isn’t a lot of room for more DBs (assuming, of course, that the team goes out in the draft and picks up another one).

I would absolutely love it for Dion Jordan to stay on.  I’ll get to where he should play in the coming days (hint:  so long, Michael Bennett), but I thought he was clearly the best defensive lineman on the field for the Seahawks in the last couple weeks, and it would’ve been nice to see him at least get more than 50% of the defensive snaps.

I’m less high on Sheldon Richardson returning, but I’d consider it for a couple reasons:  I don’t want the Seahawks to waste their time on high-priced free agents from other teams (mostly because I want some good compensatory draft picks for 2019).  While he would certainly figure in that equation if he walked away, I just don’t know who you could bring in to fill that spot, unless you’re sure Malik McDowell can come back from whatever stole his rookie season from him.  I have my doubts there.  Obviously, though, if Richardson is looking for Ndamukong Suh-type money, then let him walk.  But, if he can be had at the right price, with an out after 2-3 years, I say jump on it!

Okay, so I’m jumping on some of my future posts, so I’ll wrap it up with this:  I think the Seahawks need a lot of work in their receiver corps.  Baldwin is a stud, Lockett is criminally under-utilized, but as for the rest … yeesh.

An Early Look At What The Seahawks Should Do In 2018

There is a lot of justified talk this week – following the 42-7 smackdown against the Rams – that the Seahawks need wholesale changes.  Blow the damn thing up!  No one is off limits!  (up to and including Russell Wilson … shh!)

And, yes, I get that, 100%.  This year, in many ways, has been a huge disaster (only to be punctuated by a 9-7 or 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era).  The second half of 2015 for Russ appears to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come.  We’re still seeing the same issues with him (missing open receivers because he can’t see them, running himself into sacks and/or turnovers, throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and/or behind the line of scrimmage for intentional grounding penalties).  We’re also dealing with the same O-Line issues (penalties, early pressure, lack of a running game) and the same running back issues (injuries, lack of dynamism).  Jimmy Graham appears to be useless outside of the red zone, the receivers after Doug Baldwin don’t appear to be making any improvements, and the second and third tight ends aren’t anything more than second and third tight ends.

And that doesn’t even touch on the aging and injury-prone defense.

On top of all of this, we’ve traded away a lot of good future picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, in an effort to Win Now (which I very much approved of at the time; it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been enough to push this team over the edge).  So, the only way to get those kinds of draft picks back is to trade down in the first round again (when you’re looking at a first round draft pick that will be the best we’ve seen since 2012, somewhere in the Top 20 to start out), or trade away some of our valuable stars (of which we don’t have many who aren’t currently injured or on bad contracts or both).

The Trade Russell talk is pretty dire, and most certainly a topic deserving of its own post (which I’ll probably get around to at some point, even though I can all but guarantee it will never happen in a million years … or at least not until he’s considerably older and/or whenever a new regime takes over), so I will proceed here under the assumption that Wilson will be on the Seahawks in 2018.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, I do agree that almost everyone else is on the chopping block.  Probably NOT Bobby Wagner, who has the second-largest cap hit next year, with $5.2 million in dead money.  Probably NOT Doug Baldwin, who has the fourth-largest cap hit next year, with almost $9.5 million in dead money.  And probably NOT Justin Britt, who is set to only count a little over $6 million against the cap, but has almost $9 million in dead money.

There are some obvious moves I think the Seahawks will make, without question.  Jimmy Graham is off the books after this season, and I think he stays that way.  It was a nice idea, but that experiment was an unmitigated disaster.  Sheldon Richardson is in the same boat; I think you let him walk and you accept the comp pick for 2019.  There’s no way he’s worth a huge extension at his age and at what will be his price.  Jeremy Lane only has $2.5 million in dead money, and was never meant to see 2018 in a Seahawks uniform anyway (unless it’s on a veteran minimum deal, but he would surely get more than that from another team).

Jon Ryan is currently set to have the 13th-highest cap number on the Seahawks next year, which is INSANE.  He’s not only been one of the least-effective punters in football, but $3.2 million?  Get the fuck right out.  It’s insane that we’ve been trying to pinch pennies all season, as far up against the salary cap as you can get, and we’ve got a punter making this much money.  Nice guy?  I don’t give a shit.  Good father?  Fuck you.  Go home and play with your kids.

Then, as sad as I am to say it, you’ve got guys like Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, who might not play another down in the NFL.  And, if they do, they’ll definitely be at risk the next time they get hit to either go back on the IR or end up paralyzed.  No one wants to see that.  Cliff is set to make $8 million, but only has $500,000 in dead money, so I think that’s a no-brainer:  cut him.  Kam, on the other hand, is set to count $9.8 million against the cap, while having a dead money hit of $7.5 million.  Let’s get back to him.

Richard Sherman has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $13.2 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $2.2 million.  It feels like Seahawks fans are already shoving him out the door without giving much consideration to the fact that he’s impossible to replace.  Let’s also get back to him in a minute.

Earl Thomas, as well, has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $10.4 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $1.9 million.  If you cut both Sherm and Earl, that’s a TON of free money you get to play around with.  But, again, another guy who’s impossible to replace.

Duane Brown is back in 2018 at a figure just under $10 million, with no dead money since he was acquired in trade.  I don’t think it hurts you at all to keep him for another season, then make a decision on left tackle (groom George Fant to take his place in 2019 and beyond?).

Michael Bennett is an interesting case.  He’s under contract through the 2020 season, set to count only a little over $8 million against the cap, with only a little over $5 million in dead money.  You could argue that his 2018 season hasn’t been on par with his peak, and I would agree with you.  But, I don’t feel like he’s been totally useless.

K.J. Wright is another interesting case.  He’s only signed through 2018, and while his cap hit will be $8.2 million, his dead money is only $1 million.  He missed the Rams game due to a concussion, so a lot of people are lumping him in with the “aging defense” that needs to be purged, but he really hasn’t been all THAT injury-prone in his career.

My point, with guys like Kam (if he is medically cleared to play again), Richard (assuming he makes a full recovery of his Achilles, which I think will happen), Earl, Duane, Bennett, and Wright, is that you don’t necessarily NEED to dump all these salaries right away.  If you’re worried about extending Frank Clark, don’t be.  The Seahawks will have more than enough money to keep him here for the long haul.  If you’re worried about any of the other impending Seahawks free agents, I would ask why?  What have they done to garner such concern?  And, if you’re worried about having money to bring in other free agents, to bolster the O-Line or whatever, then I repeat:  don’t.  The Seahawks will have enough money coming off the books from the likes of Graham, Sheldon, Lacy, Joeckel, Walsh, Lane, Ryan, and any of the other turds on this team who don’t deserve to be back, that we should be fine to plug holes where needed.

But, I honestly don’t think we need to do a total rebuild.  Not THIS offseason, anyway.  I think, if you were to rid the Seahawks of every single big contract (outside of the aforementioned Russell, Bobby, Doug, and Britt), you only do that because you want to tank the 2018 season.  And, if you’re doing that, then you might as well go all the way, trade EVERYBODY (including Russell Wilson), stockpile a billion draft picks, and start all over with a new rookie QB in 2019 with the first overall draft pick.  But, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cleveland Browns approach, and I don’t think you should be either.

I think the Seahawks should let it ride in 2018 (minus, of course, the obvious moves of letting go of Graham, Richardson, Lane, Ryan, Walsh, Lacy, Joeckel, Avril, and so on and so forth).  I absolutely don’t think the Seahawks should be thinking about throwing around any extensions to any of our aging vets, and I think we use 2018 as a testing ground.  If 2018 goes well, and the team improves, maybe we look on a case-by-case basis.  For instance, I don’t hate the idea of extending Earl or Richard, if they make it through 2018 unscathed, as long as their next deals give us some easy outs in the event of future injury (particularly Earl, as I could see him eventually acquiring this neck/stinger issue that Kam’s dealing with right now).

And, if 2018 goes to shit, then I think you’re in a MUCH better position to drop all the vets, blow the thing up, and head into 2019 with a cleaner slate to start over through the draft and whatnot.

This is also contingent, of course, on not blowing your wad with 2018 free agents.  Bringing in Sheldon Richardson in the first place – and giving away such a high draft pick – was only palatable because he was going to get us a huge compensatory draft pick in 2019.  If we fuck that up, by spending a ton of money on high-priced free agents, then what was the point?  Same goes for keeping Jimmy Graham around; he should get us at LEAST a 4th round comp pick, if not another 3rd.  I WANT those comp picks!

And, for the love of God, stop trading away our draft picks for players!  It should be the other way around, if anything!  It was fine for 2017, as we were clinging to hope that our championship window could be extended.  But, to double down on this terrible line of thinking would be a disaster.  Kicking the can down the road is exactly what the New Orleans Saints did for so long, and they ended up with a bunch of 8-8/7-9 seasons as their reward.  It wasn’t until they finally devoted themselves to rebuilding through the draft this past offseason when they were finally able to get back to division-winning football.

Let’s just … maintain.  No huge splashes in free agency, no giving away draft picks for veterans, no free agency money PERIOD on the running back position, let the big money free agents walk so we can get some comp picks, cut off some of the fat, but save the rest of the fat to deal with after 2018, at which point we’ll be better prepared to set this team up for 2019 and beyond.

I Don’t Know Why We Should Expect The Seahawks To Win This Weekend

My world is a little upside down right now, when it comes to the Seahawks.  I was pretty sure they were going to lose to the Jags, but they were supposed to lose a 14-9 slugfest (that would, of course, assume Blair Walsh could actually make three fucking field goals, so right there the faulty logic bit me in the ass).  Under no circumstances, however, should Blake Bortles have out-played Russell Wilson in damn near every facet of the game!  And, to a lesser extent, the Seahawks’ defensive line should’ve probably done SOMETHING aside from bend over and take the ol’ dick in the ass, but that’s neither here nor there.

What am I supposed to make of a defense that couldn’t stop The Bort?  Just a matter of flying across the country and playing on the road?  Bullshit!  That shouldn’t matter.  Hangover from the big Philly win?  Bullshit!  With so much on the line, and so many losses already under our belt, they could ill afford to give away yet another game.

Ergo, I have to assume that the Seahawks’ defense just isn’t very good.  I mean, Cleveland held the Jags to 19 points.  The Chargers held them to 20.  The fucking RAMS went to Jacksonville and limited them to 17!  The Jets held them to 20, the Titans held them to 16.  I mean, aside from the Rams and Chargers, we’re not talking about world-beating defenses here.

So, if the Seahawks’ defense isn’t very good, and the Jags were able to rack up 30 points … and if we assume the Rams’ offense is better than Jacksonville’s (which it very much is), I can only believe that the Rams should have no problem whatsoever coming into Seattle and moving the ball at will.

And don’t you DARE give me this 12th Man bullshit.  CenturyLink Field is not what it once was!  We’ve already suffered 2 losses at home.  The Falcons came in here and put up 34, the Texans put up 38; and on the road we have the aforementioned 30 from Jacksonville, and 33 from Tennessee.  That’s 4 teams so far – including two teams when we were pretty much at full strength – who have dropped 30+.  So, no, I’m not gonna buy the It’s Loud In Seattle argument.

You could maybe remind me that we held the Rams to 10 points, but I’ll again remind you of all the injuries we have now, and double down on the fact that the Rams had their fair share of drops in that game.  By all accounts, they should’ve WON that game, if Kupp had held onto the ball in the endzone at the end of the game.  Plus, there was the Earl Thomas forced fumble that hit the pylon.  That game was more fluke than anything else.  On top of that, the Rams have played a bunch more games since then, and have to be more comfortable in their offense.

That doesn’t factor in how great the Rams’ defense is.  They’ve ALWAYS been great against the Seahawks, and this year they’ve got Wade Phillips, the best defensive coordinator in the league.  You can’t tell me that defense isn’t vastly improved over where it was at the beginning of the year.

Again, I’ll reiterate, I just don’t know why we should expect the Seahawks to win this weekend.  From here on out, with all the nothing we’re getting defensively, I think you have to require the Seahawks to score 30+ to win, and I just don’t think they’re capable of doing that, ESPECIALLY against the Rams, and regardless of how money Russell Wilson is playing this year.

I’ll do you one better:  unless we see some serious magic the rest of the way, I can easily envision a scenario where the Seahawks finish the year 8-8.  I’m already calling this Rams game a loss, which will drop us to 8-6.  At that point, we’d need to win out and get help to make the Wild Card, which makes that game in Dallas all-important (because I fully expect them to beat the Raiders this weekend).  Dallas will have Zeke Elliott back, which will make their offense whole again.  And, if we can’t stop the Jags or Rams, I don’t see why we should stop the Cowboys at full strength.  There’s a possible record of 8-7, at which point we’re officially eliminated from the playoffs.  By then, you figure anyone playing through injuries will just go on the IR and call it a season.  And, with nothing left to play for, I’ve heard of crazier things than the Cardinals winning in Seattle (like, for instance, last year on Christmas Eve).

I’m not necessarily guaranteeing an 8-8 record, but I’m also not poo-pooing the idea either.

The Seahawks are broken, and it really feels like the championship window is slamming shut right before our eyes.  I fucking HATE it when the Seahawks’ defense is bad; it literally ruins my whole life.  You know what my vision of Hell is?  All those bad New Orleans Saints teams we’ve seen under Drew Brees.  You know the ones:  where he’s great, throwing for 5,000+ yards and the offense is tops in the league, but the defense is the very fucking worst and they end up anywhere from 7-9 to 8-8.  Bad enough to consistently miss out on the playoffs, but not bad enough to get a draft pick that’s actually worth a fucking damn.

That’s what I see in the Seahawks’ immediate future, as we continue to try to lean on aging veterans on the defensive side of the ball, who can’t help but get injured every fucking year.  Sometimes, it’s the usual suspects, like Kam Chancellor, Jeremy Lane, and to a lesser extent Bobby Wagner; sometimes it’s someone you never expected, like Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, or Richard Sherman, and your season goes down the toilet as a result.  If you keep those guys and ride them out, then yeah, you’ll be pretty good, but your seasons will end disasterously as one by one they get picked off in the annual churn that is NFL injuries; if you dump everyone and start over, then you’ve got to suffer through a rebuild, and there’s no guarantees that the next crop of draft picks will be able to return this defense to its Top 5 form.  Plus, given Pete Carroll’s age and personality, there’s no way in a million years I see them blowing this team up.

What a miserable time to be alive.  Oh sure, Russell Wilson will be in the MVP discussion every year, but the rest of the team will be mediocre so what’s the point?

At least we still get to enjoy fantasy football.  That’s certainly not a huge bundle of agitation and disappointment waiting to happen every fucking year.

The Seahawks Are Never Not Gonna Be Injured

Old teams have injury problems.  Not every old player gets injured, but the more old people you have on your team, the odds of a bunch of them getting injured skyrockets.  The Seahawks are old.  Oh sure, the back-end of the roster is super young, which brings down the average age of the team, but the stars on the Seahawks are all getting up there.  So, it’s time to stop thinking of 2016 and 2017 as fluke years, and start thinking of this as the norm.  We’re never going to keep this team fully healthy, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can think about turning over this roster for real.

Guys like Bradley McDougald, Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin, Byron Maxwell, and take your pick from our running back group, these are all Band Aids.  Fine for small cuts and scrapes, but useless when limbs start getting amputated.

Russell Wilson is great, one of the best players in the league, so you can never really count yourself out of any game.  But, he’s not good enough to overcome losses to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Cliff Avril.  Yesterday was just another example of that.

That being said, I don’t know if I can put all of this loss on the injuries to Wagner and Wright.  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that the D-Line accounted for 0 sacks and just 1 QB hit?  Was it Wilhoite & Garvin’s fault that Byron Maxwell kept getting beat by The Bort throwing deep down the sideline on him?  Now, it might’ve been their fault that Leonard Fournette was able to convert a 3rd & 11 when you needed a stop to get the ball back, but like usual, this loss was a total team effort.

It didn’t help anyone but my fantasy team (who has the Jags’ defense) that Russell Wilson kept throwing deep bombs into double coverage or really good single coverage for picks. It didn’t help that Jimmy Graham wasn’t able to catch a single ball.  It didn’t help that we saw more damaging play from Germain Ifedi with his penalties and his more penalties.  It didn’t help when Blair Walsh missed yet another make-able fucking field goal.  It didn’t help when the defense – as I mentioned before – laid a total fucking egg.

And yet, there we were, on the comeback trail, late in the second half.  Three plays and two touchdowns across two fourth quarter drives to pull to within 6 points.  Plenty of time on the clock, and more importantly, all the time outs at our disposal.  The defense got a stop!  And we had the ball, with a chance to take the lead.  Throw to Baldwin for 9 yards, out of bounds, and that’s as far as we got.

Didn’t help that the fucking refs missed an obvious fucking holding penalty, as the defender got beat and took Paul Richardson to the ground, but that’s the theme of the day, isn’t it?  The Seahawks didn’t get much help from anyone.  And that’s why they lost.

And then, at the end, when the Jags were in Victory Formation, out came the pissy-pants, with Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Co. all acting like fucking assholes.  At this point, I don’t care if it was in retaliation to whatever harmful things the Jags were doing to you; there’s enough of a precedent with you acting like a bunch of Bitch Babies to automatically not take your side.  I don’t feel ashamed to be a Seahawks fan, but you absolutely should feel ashamed for the embarrassing display.  You probably don’t, and that’s okay too, and while I’ll continue to root you on in future games, I’m going to stop defending you and your juvenile actions.

So, yeah, the Seahawks lost.  They now sit 7th in the NFC, because the Falcons and Panthers both won.  At the start of the game, we were talking about possibly running the table and maybe sneaking into the 2-seed; now we’ll just take what we can get.  Fortunately, the Rams also lost, so next week’s game is going to have a lot to say as far as the NFC West is concerned.  I could see the Seahawks winning that game.  But, I could also see the Seahawks losing either of the next two, against the Cowboys or Cardinals, to fuck up their shot.

Except, this year, I don’t think a Wild Card spot will be our consolation.  I think the NFC West is going to have exactly one representative, and I think it’ll be the Rams.  Maybe it’s for the best.  All the better to get a jumpstart on the big rebuild.

Why I’m Dreading This Seahawks/Jaguars Game

There’s a lot riding on this game.  Frankly, there’s a lot riding on ALL of the remaining games on the schedule, thanks to a couple of bumbling home losses to the Redskins and Falcons.  The Seahawks are a game back of the Rams, and if they want to hold out any hope of winning the division – or even a remote hope of getting a top 2 seed, which is highly unlikely, but still – they almost certainly need to run the table.  Winning out at home is a must, and is very do-able (so long as the Seahawks don’t lose any more key starters to injury), and that road game against the Cowboys doesn’t look nearly as imposing as it did before the season.  But, here, this week, against the Jags, is where I’m most afraid.

I don’t need to tell you that the Jags have the best defense in the league.  Their secondary is second to none, and their D-Line is as ferocious as any in football.  They lead the league in fewest total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, and total points allowed.  By a pretty considerable margin, I might add!  They lead the league in sacks, are tied for second in interceptions, are tied for fourth in forced fumbles, and tied for first in fumble recoveries, as well as lead the league in turnovers returned for touchdowns.

In other words, they lead all of football in just about every important defensive statistic.  Where they’re middle-of-the-road is in rush defense, which just so happens to be the area of the Seahawks offense where they struggle the most.  Yay.

I’ll say this, apropos of nothing:  the Seahawks picked the worst possible week to have their most significant victory of the season.  Coming off a game where they thoroughly destroyed the best team in football, you just know the Seahawks will have spent this week sniffing their own farts and reading their own press clippings, to the detriment of the on-field product this Sunday.  Sure, the Jacksonville defense will have something to say about it, but when the Seahawks’ offense comes out flat and we’re all mashing our respective Twitter keyboards in frustration, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The problem is, a loss like the one I’m predicting this Sunday is often seen as a “wake-up call” for a good team.  Better to get that unexpected defeat out of the way now, before the playoffs, when that type of performance will end your season.  But, here’s the thing:  the Seahawks don’t NEED any more wake-up calls!  They’ve had 4 already this year!  The next wake-up call will send us hurtling to a Wild Card spot, and the wake-up call after that will keep us out of the playoffs entirely.  WE’RE AWAKE!  And, if you don’t see this Jaguars team for what it is – a real, legitimate threat to your 2017 season – then you might as well go the fuck back to bed.

To spin it another way, though, it’s not like all hope is lost.  The Seahawks CAN win this game, but they have to tread lightly.  The Rams and Cardinals both put 27 on them; the Titans earlier this season put up 37.  The Jags’ defense isn’t infallible.  But, I don’t think we can afford a slow start and a big 2-score early deficit.

Thankfully, the Jacksonville offense is absolutely nothing to write home about.  Led by Blake “The Bort” Bortles, we’re talking about a 4-year pro who is just the worst, most bustiest bust who is somehow still starting for an NFL team and not a car dealership’s sales team.  They’ve effectively chopped his balls off this season, which is absolutely the correct call, in making this a run-first, run-second, and run-third offense.  The beneficiary of that move is rookie Leonard Fournette, who started his career absolutely on fire, in looking like Ezekiel Elliott 2.0 through six weeks.  But, then an ankle injury and a suspension set him back.  Over his last four games, he’s averaged only 2.94 yards per carry, with just the 1 rushing touchdown (after 6 in the first 6 weeks).  He’s coming into a game against the Seahawks, who are 7th in the league in rush defense.  So, it’s appropriate to believe we should be able to hold their ground game in check.

And, if we can do that, we should have no trouble whatsoever in holding The Bort in check, L.O.B. or no L.O.B.

So, ultimately, the question is:  can the offense go out there and do its job?

That doesn’t necessarily mean we need Mike Davis to rip off 100+ yards, or Russell Wilson to go out there and continue his MVP pace.  I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  How about:

  • Can Russell Wilson avoid turnovers?
  • Can the O-Line avoid free rushers at the quarterback?
  • Can our receivers and running backs hold onto the football?
  • Can we all limit our penalties?

The way to lose this game is to cough up the ball and put our defense on its heels with short fields.  I don’t expect the Jags to score a bunch of touchdowns or have a bunch of lengthy, ball-control drives.  But, they might have one or two.  So, I wouldn’t expect to hold them to single-digits (if we do, our odds of winning this game goes up tenfold).  But, if we give them those short fields, I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jags to score 20+ points, in which case it’s going to be VERY difficult for the Seahawks to win this game.

I don’t expect the Seahawks to look very good on third down.  Likewise, I don’t expect to see a lot of big plays out of our offense.  It’s not hopeless, but it’s going to mean taking advantage of our limited opportunities.  Touchdowns instead of field goals.  Hitting long field goals instead of punting, or worse.

If the Seahawks are going to win this one, it’s going to have to be in that 20-17 range, and it’s likely going to require a last-minute drive for go-ahead points.  There is a universe where I can imagine that happening.

But, there are also plenty of other universes out there, where I see the Seahawks losing 15-9, or 16-6, or 10-9, or 11-8, or 23-12.  In those games, I see Russell Wilson getting sacked 6 times and suffering a safety.  I see a couple fumbles and a pick.  I see the Jags moving the ball at will early in the game and the defense needing to adjust on the fly.  I see Fournette – against all rational thought – having a monster game and making the likes of Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner look foolish on his cutbacks.  And, I see that Jags defense dancing on our grave.

Look, I want to be there with you guys.  I want to BELIEVE!  I want to cast off the shackles of this Haterade I’ve been drinking and sail the Good Ship 12 into the Harbor of Positivity, but as a Seattle sports fan, I’ve been beaten to a pulp over the years.  Granted, a lot of that was from the Mariners, who continually get my hopes up, only to pull the rug out from under me, but the Seahawks of the last couple seasons have played their part.

I will say this, if you allow me to put on the rose-colored glasses:

The offensive line is as good as it’s been since 2013/2014.  That’s not hyperbole.  With Duane Brown healthy and getting healthier by the week, we’ve already seen the dividends being paid.  With Luke Joeckel healthy and getting healthier by the week, the left side of that line is terrific!  With Ethan Pocic taking over for the revolving door of Mark Glowinski/Oday Aboushi, the right guard spot is no longer a total bust.  And, as he continues to get more comfortable at the right tackle spot, I no longer find myself cursing the name Germain Ifedi on a play-by-play basis.

In short:  the offensive line IS good.  I’ll say it!  Come at me, brothers and sisters!

It’s going to take a while before they get the credit they’re due, but I’m charging through as conductor of this bandwagon, and there’s plenty of room if you want to come along for the ride!

I’ll also say this:  the depth on this team is what we thought it was.  Heading into the year, after bemoaning our fate vis-a-vis the O-Line, the depth on this team was all I could talk about.  When our 2016 season was so thoroughly derailed by the loss of Earl Thomas, and the thinning of our D-Line, 2017 is going a long way towards subsiding those concerns.

A year ago, the thought of losing Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, AND Cliff Avril would’ve brought about a rash of suicides among the 12’s.  Yet, aside from some tough times against the Falcons, we’ve largely looked okay.  Getting Byron Maxwell back, and watching him play his ass off like he never left, could prove to be the luckiest move of the year.  Having Shaq Griffin grow into a bona fide starter, signing Bradley McDougald as Kam-insurance, Jeremy Lane failing his physical with the Texans, snatching Justin Coleman from the cornerback-starved Patriots (at the time, anyway; they’ve since improved their secondary play as guys got healthier), all of these events – along with the impending return of DeShawn Shead (fingers crossed!) – has helped this secondary not miss much of a beat, and could be critical going forward, as we look to face the likes of the Rams, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles in the playoffs.

Then, there’s the depth along the D-Line.  Sheldon Richardson coming over via trade, Frank Clark taking that next step, Naz Jones coming alive as a rookie, Jarran Reed becoming an every-down monster in the middle, the Dion Jordan flier actually turning into a useful rotation piece, the return of Quinton Jefferson, the production we’ve gotten out of the likes of Branden Jackson and Marcus Smith, on top of the fact that Michael Bennett is an ageless wonder who still thrives on playing just about every single defensive snap against all rational thought.  We’re not only super deep in this all-important area of the football field, but we’re also improving as the season goes along and these guys learn one another’s strengths and tendencies.

Finally, I’ll say this:  Russell Wilson has arrived.  Yes, he’s been great since he came into the league in 2012.  Yes, we would never have reached the heights we reached in 2013 & 2014 without him, and he’s carried this team on his back (particularly late in 2015 when Lynch and Graham were lost with injury).  But, he’s putting it all together now, in 2017, with the running game being what it is and this team NEEDING him to be The Man.  It’s what the all-time greats do, they pick their games up when their teams need them.  This is the difference between Pro Bowl quarterback, All Pro quarterback, and Hall of Fame quarterback.  Russell Wilson is playing like a Hall of Famer in his prime.  All he needs now to make that Hall of Fame a reality is time.  Continue playing like he’s playing for the next 5-8 years, and slowly fade into his 40s, and he’ll be a lock for the golden jacket.

If anybody can lead this team across the country, against a young, hungry defense, and come away victorious, it’s Russell Wilson.  In Russ We Trust.  Time to go out and take care of business.

The Seahawks Have A Huge Game Against The Eagles This Sunday Night

Sometimes, football makes no sense.  Sometimes, you can have all the facts and figures and stats and Vegas all screaming in your face that a certain team is going to win.  And sometimes that means something!  New England at home against the Miami Dolphins?  Of course, pick New England, they’re obviously going to win.  And yet, sometimes, your gut is just as good an arbiter of picking football games.

I do this weekly pick ’em contest with my friends where we just pick the winners of all the games (no spreads).  Last night, the Redskins were in Dallas to play the Cowboys, who had been on a 3-game losing streak and just looked GOD FUCKING AWFUL since Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, and some of their offensive linemen got banged up.  Dak Prescott looked totally lost and inept, the running game never got going, and the offense as a whole just looked slow and ordinary.

Whereas the Redskins, sure, they’re as injured as any team in the league, but they’ve been frisky in just about every game!  Hell, they came into Seattle at their MOST decimated and walked away victorious!  They played tough against the best the NFC has to offer – and their schedule has been brutal to boot – so you could say the Redskins are battle tested.

And even though the betting public (the rubes, as it were) loves nothing more than to slap their money down on America’s Team, this line swung heavily to Washington’s favor.  On paper, it seemed like a no brainer.  Even in my pick ’em league, it was heavily on Washington’s side.  And, truth be told, I should’ve been right there with ’em.

But, my gut said Dallas.  Against all rhyme or reason, my gut thought that MAYBE they’d finally figure out how to play without their star running back.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have predicted a 24-point Cowboys blowout, but the gut wants what the gut wants.

This Sunday Night, as noted in the title, the Seahawks host the Eagles.  It’s our final primetime game of the regular season, unless some games get moved around, which seems unlikely.  It’s also about as big a game as the Seahawks have played in quite some time.

The Seahawks are on a 2-game home losing streak, which sounds insane, but there it is.  The Eagles are 10-1 and in first place in the entire NFL; the Seahawks are 7-4 and in seventh place in the NFC.  Depending on where you look, the Eagles are 5-6 point favorites.  In Seattle.  Where the 12’s reside and the dead fish fly.

Some of the reasons why that’s the case include the fact that the Eagles are remarkably healthy up and down their roster; the Seahawks are missing countless starters and stars.  The Eagles have looked steady and dominant in their games; the Seahawks have looked inconsistent and sloppy.  Some will point out that the Eagles have a pretty weak schedule – at least as weak as Seattle’s – but is that true?

The Eagles’ only loss was against the Chiefs, when they were the best team in football for the first month of the season.  They beat the Redskins twice; the Seahawks lost to them at home.  The Eagles killed the 49ers; the Seahawks have struggled to beat them twice.  The Eagles destroyed the Cardinals; the Seahawks scratched and clawed to a close victory.  The Eagles also went on the road and beat the Panthers and Chargers, who are currently two of the hottest teams in the NFL.  What are Seattle’s impressive wins?  A game we almost blew to the Rams in the final seconds?  A shootout at home against the Texans when they still had Deshaun Watson and we still had the entire Legion of Boom?

I’m sorry, but anyone trying to put pen to paper words to website making the argument that these two teams are evenly matched – or CLOSE to evenly matched – is a homer of the highest order.

The Eagles are flat out better in every single phase of the game, period.

They have better, more consistent quarterback play; it doesn’t take Carson Wentz three quarters before he finally gets hot!  He’s hot from the starting gun!  (and I should know, he’s on my keeper league fantasy team).  They have a defense that generates better pressure and flies to the ball.  They’re better in yards allowed per game (6th vs. 8th), points allowed per game (3rd vs. 9th), and rushing yards per game (1st vs. 9th).  The only statistical category they trail the Seahawks is in passing yards per game (10th vs. 17th), but those numbers were largely built on having a healthy Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.  And, don’t forget the Eagles’ rushing offense; third in the league in yards per attempt.  The Seahawks?  23rd.  And, I’m sure it’s dead last when you take quarterback scrambles out of the equation.

The Eagles are better and more disciplined.  So, why do I get the feeling that the Seahawks are going to win this?

I dunno.  My gut!  It’s the only rational excuse!

Oh sure, you can point to the Seahawks being at home, but I just told you how we’re on a 2-game losing streak at home!  You can point to the Seahawks’ record in night games, but they JUST lost on Monday Night Football to the Atlanta Falcons, and the Seahawks have the best all-time record on MNF!  You can point to how it seems like the Seahawks turn it up a notch when the calendar flips to December, but last year they were 2-2, the year before they were 3-1, and in their championship season of 2013 they were 3-2!  They don’t ALWAYS dominate the month of December, and besides that, even if they did, that has no bearing whatsoever on what’s going to happen THIS December.

So, what gives?  Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t know how to spin this in a way that makes it sound logical that the Seahawks should win on Sunday.  I will say that this is a team Russell Wilson SHOULD be able to pass the ball on.  They don’t get a ton of interceptions, and while the pressure should be there, they don’t get home as much as you’d think (especially when you factor in how the Eagles are constantly ahead in the fourth quarter, with opposing teams passing to try to catch up; shouldn’t they be higher than 18th in sacks?).  Also, we’re going into this game with the best offensive line formation we’ve had in YEARS.  Duane Brown-Luke Joeckel-Justin Britt-Ethan Pocic-Germain Ifedi.  We just got through a whole entire game without Wilson taking a sack.  Granted, it was the 49ers, but still.  It feels like the offense has a nice little rhythm, with Wilson leading the charge.  There’s also the chance that Mike Davis comes back.  If that’s the case, you could make an argument that the running game could be slightly improved.

Defensively, Bobby Wagner is playing like a DPOY.  The D-Line should be pumped up for this one.  And, I just wonder if this is an offense that our defense could handle.  Wentz strikes not just me as a Ben Roethlisberger type; someone always looking for the deep shot down field.  He’s not a Philip Rivers type, I’ll tell you that!  Philip Rivers is our G.D. kryptonite.  I just don’t know if Wentz has the patience and awareness to dink and dunk his way down field.

The key is going to be how well we cover their guys.  Zach Ertz is one of the best tight ends in the league, and I could see him torching us if we consistently leave K.J. Wright on him.  Alshon Jeffery is past his prime, but he has made his share of plays this year; I could easily see him jumping over Jeremy Lane for a big gainer up the sideline.  They also have a nice collection of running backs who could conceivably carve us up, but I’m less concerned about that.  I really need to see our secondary do its job and allow the front seven a chance to get to Wentz.

My gut also tells me that I need Wentz to have a good game so I can win my fantasy matchup this week and play my way into the better playoff bracket, so OF COURSE the Seahawks are going to eat him alive to the tune of 3 picks and a fumble.  But, that’s neither here nor there.

At this point, I’m even questioning my gut, because it sounds like a lot of other peoples’ guts are telling them something similar.  There’s something in the air, and it’s giving a lot of hunches to a lot of prognosticators out there to make the Seahawks their “upset special”.  When I hear things like that, I start to think about going the other way.  It’s like my gut’s gut is telling me to abandon this line of thinking!

Because I know this Seahawks team!  They have tons of penalties at the worst possible times!  On defense, these penalties prolong drives, turning punts into touchdowns.  On offense, we’re consistently behind the sticks!  Promising drives turning into drivel.  Then, there’s First Quarter Russ, who is consistently off-target and now throws mind-boggling interceptions into good coverage?

To win this game comfortably, the Seahawks will need to play a near-flawless game.  They’ll need to score more touchdowns than field goals, and they’ll need to score these touchdowns starting in the FIRST quarter!  Now, like I said, I know this team, so I know the likelihood of that happening is pretty remote.  It happened against Denver in the Super Bowl, and maybe 2-3 other times in this Pete Carroll run.

What’s MORE likely is that the Seahawks will fall behind early, scramble to catch up, and if they’re going to win, they’re going to have to do it with some late-game heroics.  That’s CERTAINLY more likely to happen than the Seahawks being good from the jump and enjoying a comfortable victory.  But, is it more likely than the Seahawks finding a way to lose it late?  Or, worse, getting blown out at home by the consensus Best Team In Football?

I don’t think it is.

I’ve been waffling back and forth on this one all week (indeed, even since the start of this post!), and I might continue waffling on it up until gametime, but right now, I gotta say I see an Eagles victory.

NO WAIT!  Seahawks.

NO … no, hold on.  Let me think about it some more.

Shit.