The Definitive Mount Rushmore For Seattle Sports

That’s a bold proclamation, but I’m a bold individual.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers
Thursday:  Mariners, Supersonics, & Seahawks (past & present)

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 80’s Heavy Metal Bands?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue, and come at me bro if you think I’m wrong because I’ll fight this whole fucking town!

Today, it’s all on my shoulders to select the Mount Rushmore for Seattle sports.  It’s a daunting task, to say the least.  Am I man enough for it?  I dunno, probably not, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

So, I suppose to do this right, there have to be some parameters.  Obviously, they have to be great at their sport; Hall of Fame level.  There’s an element beyond that, though; one that transcends their own personal greatness.  Popularity is certainly a part of it, not just in Seattle, but across America and around the world, but I’d be remiss if I put too much emphasis on their notoriety.  I think it matters not just that they were great on their respective teams, but great when compared to others in the history of the game and position they played.

For instance, Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time, and at the time of his retirement he was the best the game had ever seen.  But, now?  Largent is 18th in the NFL in total yards, surpassed by the likes of Henry Ellard (played 2 more seasons, is not in the HOF), Andre Johnson (who is good, but does he strike you as transcendant?), and Reggie Wayne (who had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning throwing to him; of COURSE he has more yards!).  I’m just saying that the greatness of the wide receiver position has been deminished in the wake of the NFL turning into a passing league.  I mean, Terrell Owens has the second-most receiving yards of all time (behind the great Jerry Rice) and he’s still struggling to make it into the HOF!  I don’t care about his reputation or his attitude or whatever; 20 years ago, if he’d retired with the most yards in NFL history, he would’ve been a first ballot enshrinee.

Also, look at someone like Felix Hernandez; my favorite player of all time.  Yeah, he’s great, and he’s in my Mariners Mount Rushmore, but compared to some of the greatest pitchers of all time, Felix is just another guy.  Maybe in another era, with the stuff he has, he would’ve put up numbers commensurate to some of the all timers, but he’s in the era he’s in, and it knocks him back accordingly.  You have to go above and beyond in these situations if you want to make my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

In an effort to make this easier on myself, let’s knock out a couple of really obvious ones.

At the top, in the pole position of my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Ken Griffey Jr.

Absolute no-brainer.  22 years in Major League Baseball, 13 years in Seattle, at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #1 overall draft pick by the Mariners in 1987, in his first 11 years with the organization he made the All Star team 10 times.  10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and was the American League MVP in 1997.  He hit 417 of his 630 home runs with the Mariners.  He took the team to its first two playoff appearances in the history of the franchise.  He led the A.L. in homers 4 times and in RBI once.  He’s in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, is the only actual Mariner to have his number retired, was a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and was the highest vote-getter in MLB Hall of Fame history in his first year of eligibility.  HE WAS THE MOST POPULAR ATHLETE ON THE PLANET!  He’s 6th on the all time home run list, and if you discount the cheaters that are Bonds and A-Rod, he’s truly in rare company (Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, are you KIDDING me?).

That’s what I mean.  Ken Griffey Jr. is the definition of a Mount Rushmore-type player.  He’s the greatest athlete the city of Seattle has ever seen and might be the greatest we will EVER see.  Anyone alive who got to see him play in his prime should thank their lucky stars.

At my #2 spot in my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Gary Payton.

Again, I think this one is a no-brainer.  18 seasons in the NBA, 13 seasons in Seattle, again at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #2 overall draft pick by the Supersonics in 1990, in his Seattle years he made the All Star team 9 times.  2 All-NBA first teams, 5 second teams, and 2 third teams.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the steals leader the same year.  He is 4th all time in NBA history in steals with 2,445 (behind Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, and a million miles behind John Stockton).  He’s also 8th all time in NBA history in assists with 8,966 (among the likes of Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic, Oscar, and Isiah).  When you’re talking true point guards, you’re talking the best of the best, and GP is right there.  He was always a defensive force, but his offense didn’t really start to take off until his fifth season in the league; yet he still managed to score 21,813 points, which is good for 31st all time, just ahead of Larry Bird, and just behind Clyde Drexler.

Again, we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever put on a jersey and play the game of basketball!  I don’t know if people necessarily think of GP the way they think of Griffey, because Griffey might be the best or second-best centerfielder of all time; whereas there are a bunch of great point guards who are as good or even better.  But, I’m here to tell you that there really aren’t that many.

Guys like Stockton and Kidd played great defense and dished it out like no one else, but their offensive games were largely lacking.  They couldn’t take over a game and back down an opposing guard like GP could.  Nash and Iverson were awesome scorers, but they weren’t as suffocating on defense as GP would be.  Honestly, I think the only people in Gary’s league are Magic, Isiah, and maybe Oscar (but, I’ll be honest here, all three of those guys were either a little or a lot before my time, and I didn’t get to see them play in their primes).  Anyway, I’m talking about COMPLETE point guards, guys who played on both sides of the ball and did it damn well on both ends.  Not to mention from 1995 through 2003, Gary averaged over 38 minutes per game.

The only shame of it all is that he played in the opposite conference from Michael Jordan, and only got to face off against MJ the one time in the NBA Finals.  I think if those guys were in the same division and had to go against one another 4 times a year plus every year in the playoffs, it would’ve been one of the truly great rivalries in NBA history.  As it stands, Gary really didn’t have anyone who was his direct rival.  He was already established when Kobe was a young pup.  Kidd and Stockton were never much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball, so they never really challenged him at that end.  All the best scoring guards during Gary’s prime were in the East, or they were past their primes when Gary was in his.  That Finals series in 1996 was one for the ages, though.  It’s just too bad it was the first for that group in Seattle; I think the severity of the situation got to them mentally.  For the Bulls, it was old hat; just another business trip.  I think if the Sonics had gotten theirs in 1994 (like they SHOULD have), by 1996 it would’ve been like two equally fierce titans going against one another.  What could have been.

***

With the easy half of our Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore out of the way, now we get to the more difficult decisions.

For starters, where are the Seahawks?  I’m pretty sure you can’t have one of these without throwing a Seahawk on there, so let’s get cracking.

As I wrote about yesterday, there are currently 4 Seahawks in the NFL Hall of Fame (with this year’s induction of Kenny Easley).  So, yeah, a lot to choose from here.  At the top, I talked about Steve Largent a little bit, and I still stand behind that.  I think his candidacy for this list is pretty lacking, when you consider his current place in NFL history, which I very much believe applies here.

When you look at the rest of the Hall of Famers, I think one name clearly stands out, and that name is Walter Jones, my third choice for the Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

There aren’t really a ton of stats I can sit here and pull up to show Big Walt’s greatness; it’s not like the NFL keeps track of “pancakes” as an official stat (BTW tho, they absolutely SHOULD).  Jones made 9 Pro Bowls, was First Team All Pro 4 times, and Second Team twice.  He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and has had his #71 retired by the Seahawks.

If you want to get a little deeper, in trying to compare him to the other greats in NFL history, that’s a little trickier.  Pro Football Reference has their “Approximate Value” stat that tries to equalize things across all positions, and gives your career a numerical value accordingly.  Across all positions, in the entirety of NFL history, Jones is currently tied for 150th, which – when you think about how many players there have been – is pretty astounding.  I did the research, and there are only 26 offensive linemen ahead of him on that list, but the vast majority of them are either guards or centers.  Among just the left tackles, there are only 6 ahead of Walter Jones:  Anthony Munoz, Lomas Brown, Willie Roaf, Mike Kenn, Gary Zimmerman, and Orlando Pace.  Four of those guys are Hall of Famers, and the other two (Brown and Kenn) just played forever.  So, yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Anecdotally, Walter Jones IS one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.  The combination of speed, size, technique, power, durability, raw talent; it’s something we probably will never see around here ever again.  It’s ultimately the durability issue that cost him the end of his career, as injuries and surgeries became too much and cut it short, but he’s also a guy who was able to play through a lot of pain and injuries and keep up his high level of play.  He may not be the force of nature, popularity-wise, that Griffey or even Payton were, but his talent and standing among the greats at his position relative to the history of the game more than makes up for it.  As such, Big Walt is my #3.

***

Which leads us to our Abraham Lincoln spot on the mountain.  Who is my #4?

The fact that this is far and away the most difficult choice for me ultimately leads me to believe that whoever I choose is not long for this spot.  I’m a firm believer in the Smell Test, or the Eyeball Test, or whatever you want to call it.  Is a guy a Hall of Famer?  That should be obvious; it shouldn’t take much more than 10 seconds to decide.  Either he is or he isn’t.  Obviously, there are people on the bubble who need arguments in their favor (*cough* EDGAR *cough*), but for me it’s a lot more simple.  Yes, Edgar is a Hall of Famer; NEXT!

But, I don’t really have a solid #4, which means my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is sitting atop a pretty shaky foundation.  There are certainly guys in the running.  Edgar Martinez, for instance, would be a fine choice; but can I include a guy who’s not even in the MLB Hall of Fame (yet)?  Same goes for someone like Jack Sikma (who absolutely should be a basketball hall of famer).  There are plenty of former Sonics and Seahawks who ARE in their respective halls of fame, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.  On top of that, can you rank any of these other guys as among the greatest at their positions all time?

My actual belief is that the #4 player on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks.  But, since his career hasn’t ended yet, is it really appropriate to put him on there now?  Frankly, I think we’re another 7 years of quality play out of Earl Thomas from him being the guy.  If he can keep it up, and manage to stay healthy, he will go down as one of the most talented and important free safeties in the history of the NFL, with this Seahawks defense going down as one of the elite defenses in the history of the NFL.  As I wrote about yesterday, he’s the straw that stirs the drink; others may come and go, play or be injured, but the constant is Earl Thomas.  And, most importantly, we got a clear and obvious look at what this defense is without him, in the final 5 regular season games and 2 playoff games last year:  it’s not pretty.

So, I WANT to put Earl in here, but I just can’t.  What if injuries plague him from here on out and cut his career short?  Well, that opens the door for Richard Sherman, who is already the greatest cornerback in franchise history and already has made a name for himself among the greatest to ever play the game.  He needs some longevity to go with that to be Mount Rushmore-worthy, and the biggest question here is:  will he play out the duration of his career in Seattle?  There are obvious, serious doubts there too.

Which takes me to Russell Wilson.  What if he plays another 15 years for Seattle, and leads us to another 2-3 Super Bowls?  Doesn’t he HAVE to be the #4 on my Mount Rushmore, simply for the fact that he’s the most popular, recognizable figure on this team, at its most important position?

So, you see the bind I’m in.  All three of those guys are worthy, but all three of them need to put on some more years before they can be taken seriously among the top three on this list.

Where do I go from here?  While I acknowledge all of the above is true, I refuse to put “Placeholder” as my #4, so I’ve gotta make a choice.  To me, I think it has to come down to a couple of names:  Cortez Kennedy and Ichiro.

The Tez falls a few points below Big Walt on the ol’ Approximate Value scale, but I’m not going to go through and count the number of defensive tackles ahead of him.  Here’s what I’ve got:  11 year career, all with Seattle.  First round draft pick, #3 overall.  8 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pros, 2 Second Teams.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.  NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  His number 96 is retired, and he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, he got saddled on a lot of bad and mediocre teams, so the 2-time College Football National Champion only made one NFL playoff appearance (losing in the Wild Card round).  In my estimation, Tez ranks among the best all time at what he did, which was an all-around defensive tackle who could both rush the passer and defend against the run.  His sack numbers are impressive – particularly when you consider the number of double-teams he had to face – but his total tackle numbers are even MORE impressive.  I mean, he had 3 seasons where he averaged over 70 tackles per year!  As a DT!  Those are linebacker and safety numbers!

Then, there’s Ichiro.  He’s not in the MLB Hall of Fame, but that’s only because he’s STILL playing, at the age of 43.  Here’s a guy who spent 9 years in Japan before coming over to Seattle.  From age 18-26 (where, for a lot of people, he’d be working his way through the minors and getting into his prime at the Major League level), his numbers are essentially rendered irrelevant by a lot of baseball fans.  He nevertheless, as a pro starting at the age of 27, has managed to get over 3,000 hits, 2,533 of which were in a Mariners uniform.

Let’s get into it:  he was with the Mariners for 12 seasons.  An All Star his first 10 years (including All Star Game MVP in 2007).  A Gold Glover his first 10 years.  A Silver Slugger 3 times.  A Fielding Bible Award winner 3 times.  American League batting champion twice.  In 2001, he was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the A.L.  He also led the league in stolen bases that year.  He also had over 200 hits in his first 10 years, and set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004.  Like Tez, Ichiro was saddled with some pretty bad Mariners teams after the 2003 season.  Yet, he stuck around and remained true to the organization long after he could’ve gone to any number of teams to play for a contender.

If you want to talk about popularity – particularly on a global scale – Ichiro sits up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.  Even across America, he was the face of the Seattle Mariners for a decade!  He was a dominant force at the top of the lineup, and he was equally as great at his defense in right field.  He stole bases, he kept the opposing team’s running game in check, and if he were in a better-run organization, he could’ve done even MORE with his offensive numbers.

Is he among the greatest outfielders of all time?  That’s a little tougher to nail down.  He wasn’t like a Griffey or a Mays; Ichiro’s game is speed and singles (among other things).  I think he ranks up there among the greats at his defense, and among the greatest all time leadoff hitters.  I think he’s the greatest Japanese-born baseball player of all time, which is not an insignificant feat.  And, I think when you tack on the fact that some of his prime years were spent in the inferior Japanese leagues, you have to wonder what could’ve been had he gotten to America sooner.

All of that considered, that’s why I’m making Ichiro my #4 on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

So, what do you think?  Griffey, Payton, Jones, Ichiro.  With a very strong likelihood that my future #4 will be someone on this current Seahawks team.  Maybe in another decade I’ll come back and write a new one of these for shits and giggles.

If Terrell Davis Is A Hall Of Famer, Why Not Shaun Alexander? Marshawn Lynch?

I was going to get to this earlier in the week, but work happened.  And, I didn’t want to half-ass this one.  And since there weren’t any other things I COULD half-ass, you get the 2-day gap in posts.

So, apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, the name Jamal Lewis popped into my brain, and I got it into my head that he had a crazy amount of rushing yards for a running back to NOT be in the NFL Hall of Fame.  As it turns out, he’s currently only 24th on the list, with 10,607 yards, and there are PLENTY of backs with 10,000+ yards who aren’t in the Hall and quite frankly don’t belong there.  As I look at Jamal’s numbers now, even though he’s one of a VERY small few to have a 2,000-yard season, it’s not a total shocker to see him not in there yet.  He does have seven 1,000 yard seasons in total, but only the one Pro Bowl/All Pro year.  I’ll let some Ravens fan make the case for Jamal Lewis; this is a Seattle-centric blog for Christ’s sake.  I’m here to talk about Shaun Alexander, and yeah, Marshawn Lynch, relative to the recently-inducted Terrell Davis.

So, when I looked at the list of the running backs with the most yards in NFL history – to check and see where Jamal Lewis stood – I went ahead and dug around to see where Terrell Davis landed.  Knowing nothing, aside from the fact that his career was relatively short compared to most running backs you consider to be Hall of Famers, I figured going in that he was sub-10,000 yards.  But, I figured he’d be in the 9,000 range.

NO!  Not even!  Try 7,607!

He’s 55th all time.  The only other Hall of Famers in his range or lower are the REAL old timers.  Like, before the Super Bowl was a thing.  Like, before the AFL and the NFL merged into a single league.

Now, for what it’s worth, I do think Terrell Davis belongs in the Hall of Fame.  But, you know, I’m more of an Eye Test guy.  When I say the name Terrell Davis, I think, “Yeah, that guy was one of the all-time greats.”  But, when you see 7,607 staring you back in the face, it’s enough to give you pause.  It gave me pause anyway!

I’ve always maintained that Shaun Alexander was and is a fringe Hall of Famer, but ultimately if you twisted my arm, I’d say probably not.  But, with 7,607 here to consider, I mean, come on!

Shaun Alexander finished with 9,453 yards (Lynch with a little less, so I’ll get to him later in the post).  If you discount his 4 games with the Redskins in the final year of his career, he spent 8 full seasons in Seattle.  Davis did what he did in 7 seasons in Denver, so the career lengths are comparable.  Alexander finished with exactly 100 rushing touchdowns and another 12 receiving TDs; Davis finished with 60 rushing and 5 receiving.  Alexander averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, Davis at 4.6, so not a HUGE difference there.  And, if you go by Approximate Value per Pro Football Reference (the higher the number the better), Alexander finished with a 79, Davis with a 78.

I mean, when you put it all down there like that, and you factor in the extra 1,846 career rushing yards and the extra 47 combined touchdowns, how is Shaun Alexander not even in the conversation and Terrell Davis is already in?

Politics aside – because I will say this:  it IS a popularity contest, no matter what you hear from anyone; if the voters don’t like you (*cough* Terrell Owens *cough*), you’re screwed – it’s kind of insane.  But, one thing we were told is that Terrell Davis’ induction is a referendum on the production he had in his Peak Years.  I think, going forward, for a lot of these players on offense – as the numbers skyrocket, as rules changes make the game more high scoring – unless you have just insane career totals, you’re going to need to build your case in your Peak Years, when you were at your very best.  How many Peak Years did you have, and how dominant were you in those years?

Terrell Davis was drafted in 1995.  He had a pretty good rookie year, but his very best years were 1996-1998.  From 1999-2001, he played in a grand total of 17 games and was out of football after that.  So, really, we’re talking about a 3-year span, but since he ended up in the top 10 in rushing in his rookie year, we’ll include that to give him a 4-year Peak.

  • In 1995, he ran for 1,117 yards and 7 TDs, good for 9th in yards and outside the top 10 in TDs.
  • In 1996, he ran for 1,538 yards and 13 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders) and tied for 3rd in TDs with Ricky Watters, behind Curtis Martin’s 14 and Terry Allen’s 21.
  • In 1997, he ran for 1,750 yards and 15 TDs, good for 2nd in yards (behind Barry Sanders’ 2,000 yard season) and tied for 1st in TDs with Karim Abdul-Jabbar.
  • In 1998, he ran for 2,008 yards and 21 TDs, good for 1st in yards and TDs.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl and first team All Pro three times, 1996-1998.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 1998.  He led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, winning the Super Bowl MVP the first time and ceding it to John Elway the second time.  He was placed on the 2nd team All-1990s team to boot.

So, that’s the resume, more or less.  How does that compare to Shaun Alexander’s Peak Years?  Well, he didn’t start as a rookie in 2000, which was understandable at the time – we still had a prime Ricky Watters giving us his all – but will likely go down as the reason why Alexander ultimately doesn’t make the Hall.  If he were to hang another 1,000 yard season on his career totals, with another 10 or so TDs, I don’t see how you could keep him out.  Regardless, I’m giving Alexander a total of 5 Peak Years, from 2001-2005.  He topped 1,000 yards each year and had no less than 14 rushing TDs in each of those years!  To wit:

  • In 2001, he ran for 1,318 yards and 14 TDs, good for 6th in yards and 1st in TDs.
  • In 2002, he ran for 1,175 yards and 16 TDs, outside the top 10 in yards, but tied for 2nd with Ricky Williams in TDs (behind Priest Holmes).
  • In 2003, he ran for 1,435 yards and 14 TDs, good for 8th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with Clinton Portis & the aforementioned Jamal Lewis, behind Ahman Green and Priest Holmes again.
  • In 2004, he ran for 1,696 yards and 16 TDs, good for 2nd (by ONE YARD behind Curtis Martin) in yards and 2nd in TDs behind LaDainian Tomlinson.
  • In 2005, he ran for 1,880 yards and 27 TDs, good for 1st in yards and tying a then-NFL record for TDs in a season (to be broken by LDT the very next year with 28, who holds it to this day).

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl three times (2003-2005), made first team All Pro one time, in 2005.  He won the NFL’s MVP award in 2005.  He led the Seahawks to just one Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season (he likely would’ve been the Super Bowl MVP had the refs not screwed us over, but that’s neither here nor there).  And, he was placed on the 2nd team All-2000s team.

I guess, what you have to ask yourself is, what do you take more stock in?  Shaun Alexander had a longer Peak, and arguably a better one.  I mean, those touchdown totals are INSANE for a 5-year run!  Terrell Davis didn’t set or tie any single-season marks!  So, do you rank that higher, or do you rank Davis’ Super Bowl success higher?

You gotta admit, it’s a helluva story.  Terrell Davis helps the long-suffering John Elway get his only two Super Bowl titles as he rides off into the sunset.  While Shaun Alexander led an okay Seahawks reign in the mid-2000s, that only got to the lone Super Bowl, and lost it in frustrating fashion.

You might sit here and argue that Shaun Alexander had a couple of Hall of Famers in Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson to run behind, but Terrell Davis had a very good O-Line in his own right.  On top of that, let’s face it, the zone blocking scheme Denver was running back then was relatively new, and the NFL hadn’t really adapted to defending it.  Which is why you saw so many Denver running backs in those days plucked from the bottom of the draft and making huge impacts.  I’d put all of that as a wash, or even a little in Davis’ favor.

Where I think Shaun Alexander might have some trouble is that he spent most of his career in LDT’s shadow.  Sure, there were good running backs playing when Terrell Davis had his reign, but I don’t think there were as many as when Shaun Alexander was doing his thing.  The running back position as a whole really exploded in the early-to-mid 2000s.  I mean, shit, with Davis’ induction, now we’re talking about Priest Fucking Holmes having an argument to be included!  The guy only had 3 good years and was injured the rest of the time for fuck’s sake!

It’s a shame, too, because Shaun Alexander came up in the era where Fantasy Football really exploded.  If that has any effect whatsoever, then you have to remember that Shaun Alexander was ALWAYS a top 2 pick in any fantasy draft, with LDT.  The game of football, at its purest, is about scoring touchdowns and preventing the other team from scoring touchdowns.  There weren’t many running backs in the history of the league who had a nose for scoring touchdowns the way Shaun Alexander did.  In fact, looking at the leaderboard, Alexander is tied for 7th with Marshall Faulk for his 100 touchdowns.  He only falls to 13th in combined rushing & receiving TDs as well.  Davis is 48th & 120th respectively.

I dunno!  Maybe I’m a homer.  Or, maybe I’m a fucking purist and Shaun Alexander deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!

Now, regarding Marshawn Lynch, I think he has an even-tougher road to hoe than Alexander in a lot of ways.  He has 6 seasons where he surpassed 1,000 yards rushing, his first two with Buffalo and his first four full years with Seattle.  He racked up a career total of 9,112 yards (37th all time) and 74 rushing touchdowns (24th all time), with another 9 receiving TDs.  I won’t discount his first two years in Buffalo, but I’d have to say his Peak Years were the first four full ones with Seattle, so let’s run them down now:

  • In 2011, he ran for 1,204 yards and 12 TDs, good for 7th in yards and tied for 3rd in TDs with AP and Ray Rice, behind Cam Newton and Shady McCoy.
  • In 2012, he ran for 1,590 yards and 11 TDs, good for 3rd in yards and tied for 5th in TDs with Doug Martin and Trent Richardson.
  • In 2013, he ran for 1,257 yards and 12 TDs, good for 6th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with Jamaal Charles.
  • In 2014, he ran for 1,306 yards and 13 TDs, good for 4th in yards and tied for 1st in TDs with DeMarco Murray.

On top of that, he made the Pro Bowl five times (2008, 2011-2014) and the first team All Pro once, in 2012.  No MVPs, but he led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one, and should have won them both.  He was also stripped of a Super Bowl MVP award opportunity by not being handed the ball at the 1-yard line against the Patriots, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, obviously, the numbers aren’t really there for Lynch, compared to Alexander.  But, as I said before, it’s always so much more than just numbers.  Now, I’m not sure Beastmode is going to win many popularity contests, with the way he shunned the media in his later years – particularly in those two Super Bowl seasons – but I also feel like time will heal those wounds somewhat.  I guess it just depends on how many Hall of Fame voters were also those media people who were all bent out of shape about his antics.  I could see that going either way, but it’s hard to see that as a deal-breaker.

What’s very much in Beastmode’s favor is the fact that he was a motherfucking BEAST!  He had, without question, the greatest run in the history of the NFL, PERIOD!  And, if you search for a reel of highlights, I mean, he’s amazing.  For me, he’s on a short-list with guys like Barry Sanders, Walter Payton, Jim Brown and maybe that’s it, of guys I just love to watch run with the football.  Guys who could do ANYTHING with the football!  With that mystique behind him?  Compared to Shaun Alexander, who has this reputation for being a bit soft (which I don’t think is totally fair, but it’s out there), I dunno.  I think that pulls Marshawn Lynch up even with Alexander, when you factor in total numbers plus the popularity contest element.

Then, take a look at playoff numbers.  Because I think this is obviously where Terrell Davis got over the hump, with the two Super Bowls and all that.  Davis is 6th all time in playoff yards with 1,140.  Each of the top 7 guys on this list (and 8 of the top 9) are in the Hall of Fame.  Ready for a shocker?  Marshawn Lynch is 8th on this list (and hence the only one of the top 9 not in the Hall) with 937 yards.  That, I think, is going to be a huge feather in his cap, if and when Lynch ever gets his day in the sun.

So, where do you look next?  I’ll tell you:  the era.  Shaun Alexander played in the last era of the great running backs.  Once he hung ’em up, and teams started realizing you could find quality running backs later in the draft, and pair them in these shared backfields teams have gone to, to mitigate injury risk and running back paydays, you just don’t see as many workhorses as you used to.  In that sense, Marshawn Lynch has a leg up, because he was a rare breed in that regard.  A workhorse and right up there at the top for his 4-year Peak run with Adrian Peterson and that’s about it.

At this point, once we start passing by the Hall of Famers in the first decade of the 2000s and get into the 2010s, you have to shift your expectations for what a Hall of Fame running back looks like.  You can’t just STOP putting running backs in the Hall of Fame, because their numbers aren’t like the video game numbers of the 1990s and early 2000s!

So, I could see a legitimate situation where Shaun Alexander never gets in (which would be a crime) and Marshawn Lynch does get in (which would be well-deserved).

I just hope the media guy who advocates for those two puts up a good fight, because I now think both are VERY deserving, especially if Terrell Davis is already in there.

Pre-Season Game Against Kansas City Proves Pivotal Once Again

2012.  Seahawks roll in with a 3-way battle for the starting quarterback job.  In the first pre-season game against the Titans, Matt Flynn got the start.  He played okay, but was outshined in the second half by rookie third rounder Russell Wilson.  The following week, Flynn started again, and once again he played okay.  If you’ll recall, though, that was the infamous Terrell Owens game where he dropped everything in sight, costing Flynn at least one touchdown and a whole lotta points on his QBR.  As such, he was once again outshined by the second half prowess of one Russell Wilson.

Third week of pre-season, 2012.  Road game, in Kansas City.  This time, Matt Flynn was nursing some sort of minor arm injury.  Russell Wilson would get the start and play into the third quarter.  Many speculated as to whether Flynn had an injury at all.  Either way, with Wilson getting the biggest showcase of his all-too-young professional career, against a rather pedestrian Kansas City defense, the starting job was his to lose.

Russell Wilson went out and dominated anyway, and the rest is history.

In hindsight, giving Wilson the biggest showcase against the weakest of our four opponents could’ve proven short-sighted and fatal.  What if Wilson was a bust?  What if his inflated numbers against a crappy Chiefs defense led this team into a false sense of security?

Thank Christ that wasn’t the case.  Yet, here we are.  Pre-season 2015.  Road game in Kansas City.  And our future very well might hang in the balance once again.

That was a franchise-defining moment back in 2012.  It set this team on the course of a world championship.  We may be looking at a similar moment tomorrow night.

The Seahawks have, on offense, the most talented collection of players in this entire Pete Carroll run.  With that being the case, you could make the argument that it’s the most talented collection of offensive players in franchise history, but I’m still going to keep that distinction with the 2005 team until proven otherwise.  Offensive line is a big part of that.  The 2005 O-Line had two future Hall of Famers and two very good and underrated veterans.

The 2015 O-Line has an injury-prone Pro Bowler at left tackle and that’s it.

That’s a problem.  Because you can have Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Luke Willson, Chris Matthews, and Ricardo Lockette – all these GREAT FUCKING PLAYERS – but if the O-Line is letting defenders run free through our ranks, rendering our starting quarterback ineffective at best & on the IR at worst, then it won’t matter how many stars this team has.  It will fall on its face, and another year will have gone to waste in this Championship Window we’re all basking in.

This is all preamble to say that there are Twitter reports saying veteran All Pro guard Evan Mathis could be coming out for a visit on Saturday.  He’ll be going into his 11th season, so he’s no spring chicken.  But, just last year he was in the Pro Bowl, and just two years ago he was an All Pro, so he’s still got the chops.  Reports indicate he’s been looking for $5 million on a 1-year deal; teams have thus far balked.  However, with the Seahawks in apparent tremendous need, maybe he gets that (or something approaching that) here.  OR, maybe he uses the Seahawks to gain leverage elsewhere.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s here.

This makes tomorrow’s game against the Chiefs VERY important, for some admittedly non-obvious reasons.

It looks like Justin Britt – erstwhile right tackle turned left guard – has one game (and but a handful of practices this week) to prove he’s got what it takes to stick at the position.  If he does his best impression of a wet paper bag, I’m not going to tell you his pro career is over, but I will say it’s all but certain this team in fact signs Mathis the next day.  That takes away one spot, leaving him just the right tackle spot, to try to take it back from Garry Gilliam.

What’s wrong with that?  Sounds perfect!  We shore up a very important position, knock a shaky player back into the second string where he belongs, and resume ass kicking through the NFL.

Well, as I mentioned above, Mathis won’t come cheaply.  And, capwise, the Seahawks are RIGHT up against it.  Signing Mathis means cutting another guy.  Which guy?  Well, if I had to throw out a wild guess, I’d say Brandon Mebane.  He’s set to make around $5 million, and he’s already said once this pre-season that the team came to him and asked him to take a pay cut (which he refused).  I SUPPOSE, the team could theoretically sign Mebane to an extension to reduce his cap hit this year, but I’m not sure that was such a priority for this team given the nature of his injury last year and his advanced age.

Losing Mebane to sign Mathis is the ol’ robbing Peter to pay Paul thing.  I don’t know how jacked I am about that, but I also don’t know where else this team can chop a large amount of salary.

This also obviously hurts us going forward, because if none of these guys we have now end up sticking at guard, then that’s one more position we’ve got to focus on next year.  But, without serious improvement along the offensive line, I doubt we’re in a position to win it all.

The best case scenario is:  Britt looks good at guard tomorrow and the team lets Mathis walk without a deal.  I’m not so sure I believe all that highly in Britt, but I’m also not ready to throw a second round draft pick away when this spot – left guard – could actually be his calling in the league.

Things are going to look a lot more dicey after tomorrow if Britt looks like trash.

Four Tet – She Just Likes To Fight

An Appreciation of Sidney Rice

There are rumblings that Sidney Rice will be waived very soon.  This comes as zero surprise.  There’s a $7.3 million boost to the salary cap that comes with this move.  To show you how not-surprising this move is, literally every single time I’ve ever sat down to write about the Seahawks’ impending salary cap situation for 2014 and beyond, the very first thing I’ve done every time is go to Google and type “Sidney Rice overthecap” and hit “I’m Feeling Lucky”.

Ever wondered who uses the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button?  I’m your man!

I have a difficult time bad-mouthing anything the Seahawks have ever done in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, since they went and won us a championship and everything.  But, I have a feeling that people are going to look at the career of Sidney Rice in a Seahawks’ uniform and say, “Well, that was a move that totally backfired!”

The Seahawks signed Sidney Rice coming into the 2011 season.  We were coming off of a 7-9 campaign that resulted in a division championship, a wild playoff victory over the Saints, and a predictable playoff defeat against the Bears.  He signed for 5 years and $41 million, with a $6 million signing bonus.  In his three years with the Seahawks, Sidney Rice earned $23.5 million of his $41 million deal; not too shabby for three years’ work.

The 2010 Seahawks were led in receptions and yards by Big Mike Williams (65 for 751 and 2 TDs), followed by Deon Butler, Ben Obomanu, John Carlson, and Brandon Stokley (all ranging between 30-36 receptions and 318-494 yards).  Suffice it to say, the Seahawks could use some help in their receiving corps.  Golden Tate was on the roster, but he was still a rookie in 2010, and two years away from starting to break out.

There were plenty of holes on that Seahawks team, and thanks to an unlikely Divisional Round playoff appearance, we were rewarded with a low first round draft pick.  Not only that, but the 2011 season came on the heels of the Lockout, so the time to sign players and get them ready for the season was ridiculously short.

And, I don’t know if you remember anything about the free agents in 2011, but here’s a smattering of names that were available:  Mike Sims-Walker, Antwaan Randle-El, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt, Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Chris Chambers, Plaxico Burress, and Steve Breaston (and those are just the names I recognize).  We had our pick of a bunch of nobodies, and a bunch of those aforementioned, over-the-hill losers.

Truth be told, Sidney Rice was the pick of the litter.  Granted, they probably should have just drowned that litter and started over, but that’s neither here nor there.

An interesting name being floated around at the time was Vincent Jackson.  He was franchised by the Chargers in 2011 and was looking to get the hell out of there.  He was a disgruntled, super-talented receiver looking for greener grass, and the Seahawks had their eyes on him.  Of course, he would have cost us a buttload of draft picks on top of what would eventually be a 5-year $55 million deal (that he would go on to sign in Tampa the very next year), and at that point it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for that Seahawks team (with that many holes they needed to fill through the draft) to give up draft capital just to bring in a superstar receiver.

So, the Seahawks got Sidney Rice.  And they got Zach Miller.  And those two moves sort of paid dividends, except Rice was injured through most of his first year here and ended up only playing in 9 games.  I would argue that his full participation in 2011 wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because we still weren’t that great of a football team, so I’m willing to overlook all of that.

Rice came back in 2012 and played in all 16 games, leading the team in receptions and yards.  Granted, they weren’t the greatest numbers in the world (50 for 748 and 7 TDs), but on that team, with how much we wanted to run the ball, those were indeed #1 receiver numbers.  I’d say in 2012 we got our money’s worth.

2013 was, once again, a disappointment, as Rice was only able to play in 8 games before tearing his ACL and losing out on our Super Bowl run.  Even in those 8 games, it’s hard to say he was living up to what was expected, as his numbers were WAY down compared to 2012.  That’s essentially while he was playing with the same receiving corps (Harvin and Rice never once played a down together at the same time last season).

If I’m sitting here objectively, looking at his totals over the last three seasons (97 receptions, 1,463 yards, 12 TDs, 33 of a possible 48 regular season games played), then no, there’s no way that type of production was worth $23.5 million.  97/1,463/12 are the type of numbers you’d expect out of a legitimate #1 receiver in a single season, not spread out over three.  And make no mistake, Sidney Rice was getting paid #1 receiver money.

But, here’s the thing:  what else were the Seahawks supposed to do?  Sidney Rice was the best-available option in a free agent class that could best be described as “slim pickin’s”.  We needed offensive firepower, because the previous regime left this team bereft.  And yes, Sidney Rice had injury concerns coming in (which turned out to be valid, given the number of games he missed with the Seahawks), but you have to figure that’s the cost of doing business.

Sidney Rice was never a bona fide #1 receiver for the Seahawks, but he was incredibly valuable in that 2012 run.  Likewise, once we lost him in 2013, our offense suffered tremendously.  Had the Seahawks lost in the playoffs, instead of all this joy in my heart, I would have written endlessly about how losing Sidney Rice was an underrated aspect in this past season falling apart.  Sidney Rice might have never been a true #1, but he made some catches that left my jaw on the floor.  And without him, I don’t think we would have seen near the progress in this offense from Russell Wilson’s first snaps onward.

It all boils down to football being a business.  Some fans feel a little jaded because this team paid all this money to a guy who did relatively little, but as I said before, it’s the price of doing business.  When you’re a bad team looking for a quick fix via free agency, that’s the price you have to pay to bring in talent.  Conversely, some players get upset because teams never honor their contracts.  The price of doing business:  if you’re over-compensated, you’re going to get the ax when your contract becomes too prohibitive.  Had Sidney Rice lived up to his #1 billing, then paying him a little under $20 million for the next two years would have been a relative bargain (or, at least commensurate to what he’s capable of producing).  Since he didn’t live up to his end, he’s gone.  So it goes.

Sidney Rice won’t go down as one of the greatest Seahawks wide receivers of all time, but that’s okay, because in the end we got our championship.  While he didn’t catch any game-winning touchdowns down the stretch, he was still a part of this team.  He was a part of turning around a franchise, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.  For that, he’ll always be remembered fondly, at least in my book.

And, with this cap savings, you could say Sidney Rice is the gift that keeps on giving.  With this $7.3 million (not to mention the base salary of $9 million we won’t have to pay next year), we’ll be able to re-sign Michael Bennett.  Or extend Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman.  His sacrifice enables our greater good.  So, don’t kick the man on his way out of town.  Thank him for his hard work and wish him well in his next endeavor.  There’s no sense in being resentful when your team is getting fitted for championship rings as we speak.

The Whole Richard Sherman Hullabaloo

There are two universal truths on the subject of Richard Sherman:

  1. I’m a hardcore Seahawks fan, therefore I love Richard Sherman
  2. If I was a 49ers fan, I would despise Richard Sherman

And that’s what it boils down to.  If he was on your team, you’d love him and defend him like he’s a member of your family.  You’d take him exactly as he is and you wouldn’t trade him for anything.  As it stands, literally any team COULD HAVE gotten him, but he fell to the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, so if you don’t like him, blame your organization’s general manager for lacking the foresight that ours so obviously has. 

To the rest of the world – outside of Seattle and San Francisco – Richard Sherman is up for debate.

There are people, no doubt, who hate the Seahawks simply because of Richard Sherman.  Even though we’ve got one of the most pleasant young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, even though we’ve got one of the funniest, toughest, and most likeable running backs in Marshawn Lynch.  If you have no affiliation with Seattle or the Seahawks, and you’re watching this game as a casual observer of the NFL, AND Richard Sherman just so happens to rub you the wrong way … well, you’re probably going to be rooting for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl (that is, unless you live in Kansas City, New England, Oakland, or San Diego).

***

Richard Sherman, boy is he polarizing!  I often find myself wondering if I would appreciate his antics if he played on another team.  Obviously, if he was a 49er, I’d hate his guts.  But, let’s say he played for Cincinnati, or Philadelphia, or some other team I have relatively benign feelings about.  Well, the easiest way to answer that question is to look back at some of the most polarizing players in years gone by.  Deion Sanders.  Chad Johnson.  Terrell Owens.  Randy Moss.  I like ALL of those guys!  To me, talent always trumps any of that off-the-field nonsense.  Sometimes, what a guy says is funny.  Sometimes, what he says is enlightening.  Sometimes, it’s just narcissistic boasting.  But, it’s almost always entertaining.  And, if they have the talent on the field to back up what they say off of it, then I’ve got no problem.

It’s when guys run their mouths, then turn around and suck dick on the field … that’s what I’ve got a problem with.  But, with players like Owens, Moss, Sanders, and Sherman, it’s like watching a majestic bald eagle soaring over a field of supermodel lesbian orgies:  I don’t want to take my eyes off of them, except to brush away a tear because of how beautiful it all is.

***

I like a good rivalry.  Hell, I LOVE it.  There’s nothing like it.  Of course, what would I know about it, since this is the first real rivalry I’ve been a part of?  Even those Sonics teams in the 90s didn’t have one particular team they always competed against on an even level.  The Utah Jazz came close, I guess, but can you really define your sports fandom on a Sonics/Jazz rivalry?  The Trailblazers and the Lakers came close too, but I dunno.  It’s hard to remember the passion you felt for something 20 years ago.  I have this memory of just generally hating all the other Western Conference teams equally.

Anyway, what makes for a good rivalry are two teams who are evenly matched, who play one another regularly (so, it helps if they’re in the same division), and who actively dislike one another.  Scrapes and jawing on the field.  Verbal barbs through the media.  Rumors floating around on Twitter about what REALLY happened between so-and-so and so-and-so.

In this case, we have Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree.  Apparently, at an off-season charity event, Sherman was slighted by Crabtree in some way.  We’ll probably never get the full truth out of this one, but suffice it to say, they don’t like one another.

Then, we had the quotes after the NFC Championship Game.  First, on the field, with Erin Andrews:

I’m the best corner in the game!  When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you going to get!  Don’t you ever talk about me!

And, when Andrews tried to get the scoop, asking him who was talking about him, Richard responded:

Crabtree.  Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut if for you real quick!

The exclamation points are mine, but really I like to think they’re everybody’s, because that was as delightful an exchange as I’ve ever seen from a post-game, on-field interview.  Generally, those things are THE WORST.  The interviewer & interviewee can’t really hear one another, the questions are always the same (“How does it feel to win the game?”  “What were you thinking when so-and-so did that thing?”), and the answers are always dumb fucking cliches, because when you ask a dumb fucking question, you deserve a dumb fucking answer.  I will take Sherman’s animation and exuberance any day of the week.

Then, in his post-game interview session with the rest of the reporters, Sherman said the following:

I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre player.  Me-di-oc-re.  And when you try to beat the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens.  Game.  I appreciate that he knows that now.  There has been a lot of talk from him running his mouth about me.

And also:

He wouldn’t make the top 20 of NFL receivers.  If any team had a chance to pick Crabtree, they wouldn’t draft him.

And finally, in response to a question about being surprised that Kaepernick challenged him:

Everybody in the stadium was surprised.  You throw that?  It’s insane.  I’m thankful they keep doing it.  I should have picked it, but there was some offensive interference and I knew it wouldn’t be called.

Jewels.  Crown jewels, all of them.  I treasure each one of these quotes like they’re my own offspring.  I could write a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of fiction and it still wouldn’t make me as happy as those quotes.

Here’s the thing:  if you’ve ever played sports – even if it’s just at the intramural level of basketball or football or whatever – and you’ve gone up against a team or a player who just rubs you the wrong way, you know exactly what Richard Sherman was feeling at the end of that game.  It takes a certain type of individual, with a certain mind-set, to get as caught up in these petty grudges.  But, when you’re in the moment, nothing else matters.  To defeat that fucking dickhead – regardless as to WHY you think he’s a dickhead – is the best thing that’s going to happen to you that week.  It’s a feeling unlike any other, because it’s a feeling that only the most competitive sorts possess.

***

Richard Sherman is a rare talent.  He’s the best at what he does, yet he’s punished by not getting a chance to do what he does as often as he’d like.  What I mean by that, of course, is that other teams avoid throwing at him like the plague.  He had two balls thrown his way in the entire game.  One resulted in a holding penalty on third down that continued a scoring drive for the 49ers; the other ended the game with a Seahawks victory in hand.  To go out there and maintain your focus has to be one of the toughest things to do in this sport.  At any moment, the threat of being beat is real.  Richard Sherman has to stay in that moment and prevent that threat from becoming a reality, play-in and play-out.

He has to stand there as the quarterback ignores him.  He has to try his best, even though the other team is CLEARLY positioning its third or fourth-best receiver in his area of the field.  Not only did Sherman play a near-flawless game of coverage, but he almost single-handedly preserved the victory when the 49ers were so foolish as to change the one tactic that was working for them all game.

I talked about it yesterday, but it bears repeating:  only a foolish type of arrogance would lead a team down this direction.  If Michael Crabtree is your best receiver, and you’re determined to throw it to him to win the game, why wouldn’t you put him on the other side of the field, against Byron Maxwell?  I’m not saying it would have worked out any better – because Maxwell is a beast in his own right – but at the very least it would have given them a CHANCE.  Against Sherman?  No chance.  Game.

***

Richard Sherman doesn’t need a guy like me defending him.  Anyone who has done the least bit of research knows, deep down, this is a good guy at heart.  When you consider the man’s background, his charity work, his dedication to this team and the players around him:  really, he’s the ideal guy to root for.

Most people refuse to listen to reason, though.  They’ll never take the time to learn, and if they do, they’ll dismiss all of his genuine qualities.  I get it.  It’s like arguing politics with someone.  They’re steadfast in their beliefs and nothing is going to change their minds.

All I can say is, I’m glad we’ve got Richard Sherman, and I’ll take him exactly as he is.  Accept no substitutes.  This is the guy to lead us to the Promised Land.

Seattle Sports Hell 2013 NFL Power Rankings – Week 9

Normally, I’m of the opinion that winning is the only thing that matters to me as a fan.  I don’t necessarily care what type of person you are off the field, what your beliefs are, what you do in your free time, whatever.  I’m not a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Person.  I’m just a fan of Local Sports Athlete, The Member of Local Sports Team.  And when you leave the Local Sports Team, I tend to immediately lose interest in you.  Even the all-time greats!  I rarely took the time to see what Ken Griffey Jr. or Gary Payton did after they left Seattle.  Unless they were involved in a playoff run, in which case I would root from afar, but not too hard, because it’s impossible to root hard for a team that’s not your own.

Tangents aside, in getting back to my original point:  NORMALLY, I could care less about who these athletes are.  If you’re kind of a creep, I’m probably going to put up with your antics, because as the axiom goes:  You would absolutely LOVE everything Richard Sherman says and does if he was on YOUR team.

I’m sure Richard Sherman has his fair share of fans who aren’t necessarily Seahawks fans.  It is possible to overlap in this Venn diagram.  For instance, I always liked whenever Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens or Randy Moss made waves with whatever controversial things they said or did.  Even the Sharpie Incident, which happened during a game against my beloved Seahawks; I LOVE that shit!  I think it’s hilarious.  Now, in the heat of the moment, I was most likely enraged, but taken objectively, I think there IS a place in the game for these types of characters, and I wish we had more of them.

Nevertheless, Richard Sherman has an inordinate amount of haters because of who he is and what he says.  Golden Tate, too, has an inordinate amount of haters, because of the Fail Mary, and more recently the taunting spectacle in the Monday Night Rams game.  And, I guess because he went to Notre Dame and it’s always popular to hate on the Fighting Irish.

I contend that I would be fans of these guys even if they’d never once worn a Seahawks uniform, because they’re entertaining.  They’re not boxed into some white-bread formula for what a professional football player is supposed to be.  I don’t need a league full of cookie-cutter athletes.  I think Mark Schlereth is the most boring analyst on television and I’d rather there be MORE players who ruffle his feathers.  I don’t subscribe to the Mike Golic way of thinking, and I’m better for it.

That having been said, there’s another type of professional athlete who I can’t stand.  And I want to believe I’d hate this type of player even if he donned the Seahawks’ unis.  This player is no better exemplified than by one Richie Incognito.

This guy is a fucking asshole of the highest order.  What’s worse, the bulk of his value isn’t derived from his skill at the offensive guard position, but rather in how dirty he is as a player.

There have been dirty players I’ve enjoyed and rooted for in my lifetime.  Dennis Rodman was always pretty dirty; but he also rebounded the ball like a madman and was ultimately an asset on the floor until his personality got in the way and the team soured on his antics.  There have been any number of cheaters in baseball who I’ve rooted for at one time or another.  I even have a generally postive opinion of Barry Bonds; but don’t get me started on that dickhead Roger Clemens.  Even Brandon Browner is more imposing enforcer than NFL cornerback; but he still has a skillset and for the most part plays within the rules.

Richie Incognito, on the other hand, is damn near a psychopath.  How he has never played for the Oakland Raiders is anybody’s guess.  Being billed the Dirtiest Player In The NFL isn’t something to be proud of!  What’s more, if he wasn’t so dirty, he wouldn’t even be in the league!  The guy is a mediocre lineman at best, and that’s while using every dirty trick in the book.  He’s often one of the most-penalized players in the NFL.  And now, we’ve got this hazing incident.

If the Seahawks went out and signed him to the minimum for next year as some added depth, there is no way I’d root for the man.  I’d actively criticize this front office every chance I got.  Hell, if the Seahawks would’ve signed him in his supposed-prime, I still would have criticized the move!  He’s a terrible football player, a wretch of a human being, and I hope he has played his last down in the NFL.  And, if he gets another chance to play again, I hope he tears both ACLs in his first practice.  Incognito is scum; that is all.

On to the rankings.

***

  1. Denver Broncos (7-1) – WOW, look at this schedule the next four games:  @SD, KC, @NE, @KC.  There’s your gauntlet, my friends.  This is also the stretch that likely decides the AFC West and the AFC top 2 seeds.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (8-1) – The best team in football doesn’t let a team like Tampa put up a 21-point lead; I don’t care if we came back in the second half.

The Rest:

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) – They’re just steady, what can you say?
  2. Indianapolis Colts (6-2) – Boy, that Andrew Luck is simply a baller.  It’s going to hurt him not having Reggie Wayne around, though.  They’re going to need to find a #2 receiver in a bad way.
  3. San Francisco 49ers (6-2) – You chickenfuckers thought you were going to get one on us!  Not sorry to let you down, assholes!
  4. New England Patriots (7-2) – Whoop-dee-doo, they beat up on the Pittsburgh Steelers, BFD.
  5. New Orleans Saints (6-2) – They’ll still end up with a good record, but I just can’t see the Saints as a Top 2 team in the NFC.  I still think Green Bay steals that #2 seed in the end.
  6. Green Bay Packers (5-3) – Like so many teams, the Packers are one injured quarterback away from being totally worthless.
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) – And, Andy Dalton follows up his best game ever with three interceptions and a safety to end the game in overtime.  This is why we can’t have nice things!
  8. Detroit Lions (5-3) – So, have you seen Detroit’s second-half schedule?  Look at these cupcakes:  @Chi, @Pit, TB, GB, @Phi, Bal, Giants, @Min.  This team could EASILY be 12-4 at season’s end!
  9. Carolina Panthers (5-3) – Panthers are riding a 4-game winning streak and absolutely had to win that game against the Falcons.  Their upcoming schedule is pretty rough, with the next three:  @SF, NE, @Mia.  If they figure out a way to go 2-1 in that stretch, I would legitimately be afraid of this team.  Also, not for nothing, but they still play the Saints twice.
  10. Chicago Bears (5-3) – Matt Forte is a national treasure.  This year of fantasy dominance totally redeems him for his last two years of utter sucktitude.
  11. New York Jets (5-4) – J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!  They beat the Saints for us and we ALMOST blew it.  Either way, way to go!  You’re earning more points in my book every week!
  12. Dallas Cowboys (5-4) – Wow, Tony Romo in the clutch … what is the world coming to?
  13. Arizona Cardinals (4-4) – This team could finish 10-6 or 6-10 and it wouldn’t totally shock me.  Home games against Texans, Indy, Rams, and 49ers.  Road games against Jax, Phi, Ten, and Sea.  I could see 6 wins in that slate, and also 6 losses; guess it just depends on whether or not Palmer has enough in the tank.
  14. San Diego Chargers (4-4) – Like the Dolphins, we’re not talking about a good team.  One of these two teams (Chargers or Dolphins) will take that 6th spot in the AFC playoffs, but they will lose in that first playoff game, without question.
  15. Miami Dolphins (4-4) – They beat an inconsistent Bengals team.  Who cares?  They’re still not very good.
  16. Houston Texans (2-6) – Boy, I tell you, that Case Keenum fella is going to be fun to watch for the next 5-6 years.  Houston kinda lucked out this year.  If they can finish with a crappy-enough record, maybe they get a high draft pick and immediately reload for next year.
  17. Atlanta Falcons (2-6) – Matt Ryan is KILLING me right now.  You can’t be throwing all these interceptions!  Well, except for next week, when Seattle comes to town.  but, after that, NO MORE!
  18. Cleveland Browns (4-5) – Oh those resilient Browns!  I never had a doubt that they’d beat the Ravens.
  19. Buffalo Bills (3-6) – Tuel looked kinda okay against the undefeated Chiefs.  In the end, he cost them the game, and he’s clearly the third-best quarterback on that team, but still.  He should hold his head reasonably high.
  20. Baltimore Ravens (3-5) – There is something seriously wrong with Ray Rice.  Well, there are five things seriously wrong with Ray Rice, and that would be his offensive linemen.
  21. Tennessee Titans (4-4) – Didn’t have Locker’s best game, but still went in and put a pounding on a decent Rams team (on the road, no less).
  22. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) – Nick Foles, you have single-handedly won me my fantasy game on an otherwise down week!  I love you!  You may have also saved my season and pushed me through into the playoffs!  I want to have your babies!
  23. Oakland Raiders (3-5) – Pretty stinky performance, Raiders.  My fantasy team thanks you for that.
  24. Washington Redskins (3-5) – That goalline stand against the Chargers was bigtime to force the field goal that forced overtime.  I’m pretty skeptical that the Redskins are going to turn it around two seasons in a row after starting off ultra-shitty, but this might be the spark they need.
  25. New York Giants (2-6) – Everyone in the crappy NFC East won on Sunday.  And yet the Giants are still in this thing at 2-6.  Ye gods.
  26. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) – Maybe the only offensive line worse than the Seahawks’.
  27. St. Louis Rams (3-6) – They looked decent, but you’re still talking about a team headed by Kellen Clemens.  No thanks.
  28. Minnesota Vikings (1-7) – I had to play Nick Foles in my fantasy league this week (2-QB league) and I ALMOST swapped him out when I saw Christian Ponder on the waiver wire.  In the end, I stuck with Foles, believing that while Ponder was probably the safer play, Foles had the higher upside.  Had I gone with the swap, you’d be looking at a dead man right now, because I would have jumped out of a 10-story building before the end of the afternoon games on Sunday.
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8) – Still a bad team.  They just caught the Seahawks at the right time.  Maybe if they had the same dedication to the run, they’d start winning some games.  Ya think?
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-8) – Your 2013 Jacksonville Jaguars.

#4 – Richard Sherman

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

Look, I know I’m quite high on Richard Sherman, you know I’m quite high on Richard Sherman, because he’s a brilliant football player.

I feel that he is the best cornerback in all of football.  Many other Seahawks fans do as well, but there are still quite a lot who have doubts.  And, pretty much anyone who ISN’T a Seahawks fan thinks he sucks.  All of this comes down to his personality.  I think it’s great, and it’s great for the game of football to have these types of personalities.  And I’m not just saying that because I’m a Seahawks fan.  I thought Primetime was awesome, I thought OchoCinco was awesome, and I even enjoyed the things Terrell Owens and Randy Moss would do to drum up publicity that wasn’t necessarily football-based.  These are entertaining guys in a league where they are doing everything they can to suck the fun right out of it.  Because a bunch of old, white men long for the 1950s where slow, lumbering oafs simply handed the ball to the ref after a play ended and everyone fucked missionary style and only missionary style.

Regardless of how you feel about Richard Sherman’s off-field verbal gymnastics this past offseason, he still has to go out there and prove that he’s the best in the game.  Which means, of course, that all eyes are going to be on him.  Which can be good or bad.  Let’s face it, if you want to make a name for yourself in this game in a hurry, then talk as much shit as possible.  Because, once that spotlight is on you full-time, if you show up and back up that shit-talk with your actions, then you WILL be seen as the best in the game.  The flip-side of that, of course, is that when you get beat, that will ALSO be seen by everyone because the spotlight is on you.

Not only does Richard Sherman need to show up this year and be just as dominant – if not moreso – than in 2012, but he has to come out of the gate on fire.  If he shows up in Carolina and Steve Smith burns his ass for a  bunch of yards and touchdowns, then everyone will dismiss Richard Sherman out of hand and all the work he has done up to this point will be for naught.  But, if he comes out and forces a couple turnovers and plays the lockdown corner I think he’s capable of, then he immediately jumps to the Best In Show status and everyone else is his second banana.

I tend to freak out about a lot of things when it comes to sports, but shit-talking isn’t one of them.  Richard Sherman knows what he’s capable of.  If shit-talking makes him better, then so be it.  We need more shit-talkers in sports.  If they’re going to start throwing flags every time anyone celebrates for any reason, I’m going to need SOMETHING to keep me from falling asleep.

Focusing On What Percy Harvin Is, Not What He Might Be

The more I think about it, the more I read about it, the more I let go of my Seattle “poor me” baggage, the harder my dick gets at the thought of Percy Harvin in a Seahawks uniform.

Which is odd, because for every amazing new tidbit of exciting information I receive, there’s also another that should give me even more pause.  Like how Percy Harvin is a Diva Head Case.  Like how he might have faked migraines because he was disgruntled in Minnesota.  Like how you never promise crazy a baby (i.e. don’t reward someone’s insanity with one of the biggest wide receiver contracts in recorded history).

But, you know what?  Fuck it.  I’m putting on the big ol’ floppy Homer Hat and I’m swatting criticism of this trade away like a pimp in a bitch-slapping competition.

No more worrying about injuries!  No more concerning myself with what it has taken to bring him here (a first & seventh rounder this year, and a third rounder next year … yeesh)!  No more fretting over what it’s going to cost to keep him here (upwards of $12 million per year)!  No mulling over what this is going to do to what was once a cap situation the envy of all of pro football!  I’m just going to sit back, and soak in all the potential goodness.

Like how this trade might give the Seahawks the very best offense in football.  Yeah, I said it!  Did you see how this offense performed down the stretch last season?  That happened because Russell Wilson improved exponentially.  Now, we’re injecting that same offense – where everyone came together and gelled so spectacularly – with one of the biggest talents in the NFL.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t say one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, though I would argue he’s easily in the Top 20.  But, when you factor in how he’s a multi-threat, that puts him in a very small, very elite league of his own.  Already, you can argue he’s one of the best slot receivers in the game.  Already, you can argue he’s one of the best kick returners in the league.  Now, recall he has experience coming out of the backfield.  Also recall he has experience in the zone read with Tim Tebow back in college.  And, for shits and giggles, I’m not going to limit him to just short and intermediate routes; right now, he’s probably the fastest receiver on the Seahawks.  So, you’ll be damn sure that this team is going to stretch the field with him and see if he can’t get behind some safeties.

Let’s just count the ways Percy Harvin can take over a football game:

  1. Deep Threat
  2. Zone Read Option back
  3. Natural running back
  4. End-Around runner
  5. Screen pass catcher
  6. Slot receiver
  7. Kick returner
  8. Punt returner

Am I missing anything?  Because, that’s pretty fucking insane, right?

Someone likened him to Darren Sproles earlier today.  Remember how Darren Sproles was an absolute game-changer for the New Orleans Saints, once he was paired with Drew Brees?  And that’s a straight up running back who primarily runs the ball and catches screen & swing passes, with a few other short routes mixed in.  Harvin can stretch the field!  You don’t need a tall receiver a la Randy Moss in his prime to stretch the field.  Pure speed and pass-catching ability will do.  Harvin has that.  Maybe he won’t win the most jump balls in the world, but there are other ways to score touchdowns.  Wes Welker doesn’t have much problem scoring in the red zone.

This time last year, one of our biggest concerns was the wide receiver corps.  Sidney Rice couldn’t stay healthy.  Golden Tate hadn’t shown much of anything in his first two seasons.  Doug Baldwin was a nice story as a rookie, but could he keep up his production?  And where was the Zach Miller we thought we were getting when we signed him to that huge contract as a free agent?

Well, Tate took a big step forward, Rice stayed healthy (for the most part), Baldwin kept up his end of the bargain even though he spent most of the year battling nagging injuries, and Miller came up HUGE in the playoffs.  Now, throw Harvin into that mix.  Worst case scenario:  you’re improving the overall receiver depth on this team tenfold.  Instead of Jermaine Kearse or Charly Martin, or Insert Over-The-Hill Veteran’s Name Here (Braylon Edwards, T.O., Mike Williams, Brandon Stokley), this team can go into 2013 with a legitimately high-tier receiving corps.  I’m not going to say we’re the best 1 through 4 in the NFL (my big ol’ floppy Homer Hat only goes so far), but we’re certainly in the top half in the league.  Maybe top 10.  MAYBE, if everyone reaches their potential, top 5.  I don’t know; it’s too early to start focusing on the rest of the league right now.

Before I drop this (for the time being), I’m taking a quick looksee at our 2013 schedule.  The dates & times haven’t been set, but we know the teams and we know WHERE we will be playing them.  It’s the AFC South, the NFC South, the NFC West (obviously), and Minnesota and the Giants.  Without a doubt, the Seahawks are going 8-0 again at home (toughest non-49ers matchup at home is New Orleans, which is a team we can probably score 50 on).  As for the road, the toughest non-49ers games are the Falcons, the Texans, and the Giants (with honorable mention going to the Colts).  Still, the only tough non-49ers defense we play all year will likely be Houston’s.

In other words, there is no saying this team CAN’T average 30 points per game.  13-3 is a reasonable expectation.  14-2 isn’t off the table.  Hell, feel free to dream a little dream about 15-1, because THERE’S NO STOPPING THE BLUE WAVE!

#2 – Sidney Rice

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2012, click here.

A couple weeks ago I was scurr’d.  I thought I’d made a mockery of the whole idea of sports-related lists by putting Sidney Rice #2 in my Most Important Seahawks countdown.  With the advent of T.O., Braylon Edwards, all the young guns on our roster, and considering Rice had yet to play a down in practice, let alone an actual pre-season game, I was honestly considering the possibility that Pete Carroll might do something drastic and crazy like cutting Sidney Rice.  It’s not like Pete Carroll has never done anything crazy before; just look at who we’ve got at quarterback in week 1!  Who saw that coming just two weeks ago?

Then, T.O. dropped all those passes, some of the young guns came down with nagging injuries preventing them from playing, and the coaches felt it was time to let Rice get hit by real live football players again.  He played last week, looked pretty good, and here we are, with our #2 most important Seahawk.

I think, without question, wide receiver is our weakest position.  Hands down!  We’re slow, we can’t get open, we can’t get separation, guys keep dropping shit.  It’s just a mess.  And NOW we’ve got a rookie quarterback!  So, the rest of this offense is really going to have to pick up the load as Wilson gets used to seeing different types of defenses and experiencing the type of NFL speed he rarely, if ever, saw in college.

Sidney Rice is by far the most talented receiver on this team.  Does that mean he’s the best?  Well, if he can stay healthy, then yes, by all means.  With Rice on one side, Edwards on the other, and Baldwin as our #3, I might even let myself get a little over-confident.  But, with Rice on the sideline with some injury, our overall group of receivers takes a HUGE hit.

Edwards is nice, and these leaping grabs over defenders are really amazing to watch, but I don’t want him anywhere near being our primary receiver.  He’s a nice second option, when we want to take a shot down the field or something.  But, too much of Braylon Edwards will surely be a bad thing for this offense.

Sidney Rice, now there’s the answer.  I want Rice all day, all night, and all day.

Conspiracy Alert: Russell Wilson Is The Seahawks’ Starting Quarterback

So, I guess not much happened this weekend, did it?  Man, I fucking knew I should have stuck around!

Uhh, so hey, should I keep going on with my 30 Most Important Seahawks series?  I’ve got six names to go and one very conspicuous flaw.  When you think you see it, go ahead and let me hear it.

Did I predict Matt Flynn would be the starting quarterback in week 1?  Of course I did.  I’m pretty sure the breakdown among fans and media alike went like this when we were told of Pete Carroll’s intention to have a 3-man competition:

  • 49.5% believed Tarvar would be the week 1 starter
  • 49.5% believed Flynn would be the week 1 starter
  • the looney tunes, batshit crazy 1% believed Star Wars would be the week 1 starter

In other words, no one in his right mind could imagine a way in which Wilson would be the starter.  Unless … this wasn’t really a 3-man competition, was it?

Of course it wasn’t!  I’ve got some oceanfront property in Kansas for you if you believe that!  This was a 2-man competition with Tarvar sitting there as injury insurance.  Tarvar was either going to be the #2 QB (with either Flynn or Wilson suffering a serious injury), or he was going to be off the team.  You wouldn’t keep him to be a #3 because you just don’t pay #3 quarterbacks $4 million; and you wouldn’t keep him as the #2 with Wilson as the #3 because obviously if Flynn failed or got injured, you’d want to see how this exciting, smart rookie could handle the fire of being thrown into the NFL his first season.

So, in reality, we’re talking about a 2-way competition.  And, if I were a man who believed in a good conspiracy (and I do), I’d say there are some REAL tell-tale signs that this thing was rigged from the get-go to give Wilson the best chance to “win” the job by the third pre-season game.

For starters, look at the schedule.  Titans, Broncos, then Chiefs.  The Titans and Broncos have MUCH better first-unit defenders – especially in the secondary – than the Chiefs, with the Broncos probably the best of the bunch.  Conventional wisdom would have dictated that Flynn would start against the Titans and Wilson would have started against the Broncos.  What did Carroll do?  He flipped conventional wisdom on its ass and started Flynn against the best defense we would see all pre-season (aside from our own, in practice).  That’s fishy any way you slice it, but not TOO fishy.  You want to see how Flynn looks against a really good defense like Denver’s, but you also want to shelter Wilson a little bit as well.  Cunning strategy, Pete, but I’m on to your tricks!

So, Flynn gets some treacherous road to hoe and Wilson gets to flash his talents against inferior players:  Advantage Wilson, albeit by a small margin, because quality of opponent.  How can we make Flynn’s job all the more difficult?

I know!  Let’s take away all his weapons and replace them with a guy who hasn’t played in over a year!

Sidney Rice was barred from even participating in practice for the first half of Training Camp (if you consider this time where we’re playing games a part of Training Camp, which I do).  Rice was wearing a red jersey and was only allowed to run routes but never participate in 11-on-11 drills.  Then, Baldwin went down mysteriously and Lockette went M.I.A. as well.  To compensate, the team went out and signed T.O. and gave heavy playing time to Deon Butler – two guys almost guaranteed to not make this team (one definitely guaranteed, now that we know what we know).  T.O. went out there in Denver – his first action after a long layoff – and pretty much did everything he could to let Flynn down.  I don’t think T.O. did it on purpose, because I think he was doing everything in his power to try to win a spot on the team and make some money, but I DO think the team forced Flynn into targeting T.O. as much as possible.  Maybe it was to see what T.O. had left in the tank … or maybe it was because they knew T.O. wouldn’t be ready and would make Flynn look all the more foolish.

If they really wanted to see what T.O. had left, wouldn’t they have left him in the game in the second half in Denver to have Wilson throw some balls his way?  Just throwing that out there, because I didn’t see T.O. at all after the first half except on the sideline.

And now, right before the third pre-season game – where Carroll has finally decided to give Wilson a shot with the starters (again, against the worst defense we’d see all pre-season) – Flynn came down with this mysterious “dead arm”.  Interesting.  It’s also interesting that the Seahawks have a policy where the media is forbidden to speak with injured players.  Not that I think Flynn would say anything, even if he WAS forced to lay low with a fake injury, but all these little pieces start to add up.

Also, surprise!  Sidney Rice is finally okay to go out and play with the first unit this week!  Would you look at that!  Only a small percentage of targets to T.O., nearly a full contingent of receivers at his disposal, the terrible Chiefs defense … who wouldn’t look like a starting quarterback in this scenario, with all of these outside factors working against your only other competition in this so-called 3-man race?

Pete Carroll is a gunslinger.  He’s also a shit-slinger, but he’s a gunslinger in the sense that he’s not afraid to take risks.  To go for the hail mary, high-risk/high-reward type of gambit over the safe choice.  I believe he and John Schneider went after Flynn believing that he was genuinely better than Tarvar and would come in to win a job accordingly.  But, once they saw Russell Wilson was still on the board in the third round of the draft, I think they saw their wild card.  Their ace in the hole.  They saw a guy they can build a team around.  A guy who could one day take this team to a Super Bowl and be a sensation in this league.  As people have been saying all along, if Wilson was only a couple inches taller, he would have been a Top 10 pick.  I’m beginning to see why.

Look, a lot of that up there that I just wrote, a lot of that is probably nonsense.  But, it’s hard to avoid the fact that things went down a little odd in this whole competition for the starting quarterback job.  Whether it was the team consciously trying to sabotage Flynn’s chances and make Wilson look better in the process, or if it was just blind, freak-ass luck that cost Flynn his starting gig, any way you look at it you have to admit one thing:  Wilson won this job.  Did he win it fair and square?  We’ll never know.  The only way we could possibly know is if both he and Flynn each played against the other team’s first-unit defenses.  Since this parallel universe thing probably doesn’t exist, we won’t know who actually deserves this job.

Maybe Wilson would have looked like shit had he started against the Titans and Broncos.  OR, maybe Wilson would have looked just as good as he did against the Chiefs.  Don’t throw that out with the bathwater either.

Is it risky to start a rookie in the NFL?  Of course, but look at all the rookies recently who have had huge impacts.  Andy Dalton last year, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco a few years ago, hell, even Mark Sanchez guided his team into the playoffs as a rookie!  With improved scouting comes improved game play on the field.  You trust the Seahawks when it comes to just about every other position on the field; in a few short years they’ve reloaded this team and made it a contender.  Now, they’ve found a rookie they love, who looks legit, and they’ve got the pieces around him to give him a soft landing in this league.  This team is good enough to win 8 or 9 games regardless of who is playing quarterback.  Charlie Whitehurst could start with this team and get us to 8-8!  There’s no doubt in my mind that if Wilson can stay healthy, he can be one of those special rookies who sneaks this team into the playoffs as a Wild Card.

From there, the sky is the limit.