Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team: Week 4

This thing is a work in progress to say the least, but I think it makes much more sense to put these posts out in the days leading up to my matchup, rather than write half of it ahead of time, and the rest on the Tuesday after.  Also, keeping a set schedule will make things easier on me, so look for this post every Thursday, with the Week 4 results coming up NEXT Thursday.  This will, if nothing else, make it less confusing to read.

Well, the BYE weeks are upon us, and already my team is affected.  I have one healthy tight end – Jordan Reed – and he’s on a BYE this week.  I have a number of bench players I really like – Kenny Golladay, Robert Woods, Adrian Peterson – and given my less-than-stellar quarterback situation, I feel it’s only prudent to keep everyone I’ve got (Wentz, Carr, Dalton, and Fitzpatrick) and play the best two based on matchups; or, at the very least, get someone of value in return, from one of the handful of teams in the league in desperate need of improvement at their own quarterback positions.  Ergo, I’m pretty committed to just not playing a tight end this week.  Because of all the reasons I just listed, plus I don’t think I’ll be one free agent tight end’s worth of points away from winning this week.  Either the rest of my team will pick up the slack, or I’ll lose so bad that the missing 4-10 points won’t even matter.

((for what it’s worth, here’s a smattering of available tight ends:  Benjamin Watson, Eric Ebron, David Njoku, Austin Hooper, Jesse James, Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and George Kittle.  None of these guys are even REMOTELY focal points of their respective offensive attacks; they’re all touchdown-dependant fliers who are otherwise worthless because they don’t get NEARLY the amount of targets as the wide receivers on their teams do.  They’re all essentially akin to buying a lottery ticket from the gas station, which is essentially akin to setting my money on fire.  I’d rather not risk losing players of actual value and bite the bullet for one week))

The downside is that I’ll be in this same pickle in a week’s time, because the Bears will be on a BYE in Week 5.  I similarly don’t have a backup defense on my bench, and I REALLY don’t want to drop the #1 defense in our league.  But, we’ll get to that next week.  There are always potential injuries to worry about.

Thankfully, I don’t have Jimmy G in this league (though I do have him on another team, and am scrambling accordingly).  But, an unforeseen affect of his injury is that my kicker – Robbie Gould – isn’t as un-waive-able as he once was.  I wanted to pick up Detroit’s kicker, but someone put a claim in for him.  So, it looks like I’ll stick with Gould for now and just hope the 49ers are able to move the ball based on their head coach’s expertise alone.

Here’s this week’s lineup:

  • QB1 – Carson Wentz @ TEN
  • QB2 – Andy Dalton @ ATL
  • WR1 – Tyreek Hill @ DEN
  • WR2 – Adam Thielen @ LAR
  • RB1 – Ezekiel Elliott vs. DET
  • RB2 – Leonard Fournette vs. NYJ
  • TE –
  • FLEX – Demaryius Thomas vs. KC
  • K – Robbie Gould @ LAC
  • DEF – Chicago vs. TB

My bench is:  Fitzpatrick, Carr, Peterson, Woods, Golladay, Reed, and Olsen.

I opted for Dalton over Fitzpatrick based on matchups.  I never like the idea of putting a quarterback in there against the defense I’m also playing, and I truly believe Chicago’s defense is a monster and could pop the bubble that is FitzMania.  Everything else is pretty self-explanatory.  I will say this:  I’m one more mediocre performance out of Demaryius Thomas away from benching him for either Woods or Golladay (who have been out-playing him all year and really deserve to be starting on an every-week basis).  Considering the Broncos are playing the Chiefs, I expect this game to be high-scoring.  As such, I expect the Broncos will be throwing the ball a lot.  So, if I was ever going to give somebody one final chance, this is the scenario in which to do it.  If Thomas can’t get me 20+ points in this game, then he’s probably not worth holding onto.

My long climb to fantasy relevancy doesn’t get any easier this week, as I go up against Korky Butchek.  He doesn’t have anyone on BYE this week and is stacked at just about every position:

  • QB1 – Jared Goff vs. MIN
  • QB2 – Matthew Stafford @ DAL
  • WR1 – Antonio Brown vs. BAL
  • WR2 – DeAndre Hopkins @ IND
  • RB1 – Alex Collins @ PIT
  • RB2 – James White vs. MIA
  • TE – Zach Ertz @ TEN
  • FLEX – Matt Breida @ LAC
  • K – Stephen Gostkowski vs. MIA
  • DEF – Seattle @ AZ

He’s also got Mike Williams on his bench, as well as T.J. Yeldon (in case Fournette is held out yet ANOTHER week), just in case he wants to swap out his flex or RB2 at the last minute.

I dunno, I don’t feel great.  Wentz’s favorite target is Ertz, so that right there pretty much wipes out my best player.  I should have a pretty good idea of how my week’s looking before we even get to the Sunday afternoon games.  I have Hill and Thomas going on Monday; while he’s got Brown and Collins going Sunday Night.  Either my guys blow their expected points out of the water (right now, Yahoo has me losing approximately 161 to 149), or I predictably shit the bed and start my season 1-3.  The way my year’s going, both of our teams will somehow underperform, yet I’ll still get my ass waxed.

Surprise! Husky Basketball for 2015/2016 Starts Tomorrow!

Yeah, tell me about it, right?

It’s back for another year.  What did YOU do over your Summer Vacation Away From Husky Basketball?  I went camping with my family, spent a long weekend down in San Francisco, worked a lot, did some writing, had my car broken into … I bought an iPhone.

It’s been a rough last four seasons for Husky basketball.  Lots of talented-enough players have come and gone, but the collective has failed to make the NCAA Tournament each and every year.  That in spite of the fact that last year’s team had potential NBA hopeful Nigel Williams-Goss (since transferred to Gonzaga of all places); the two years before we had NBA first round draft pick C.J. Wilcox; and the year before THAT we had NBA first round draft picks C.J. Wilcox, Tony Wroten Jr., and Terrence Ross, along with NFL second round draft pick Austin Seferian-Jenkins.  Suffice it to say, a lot of talent has passed through these hallowed halls, but not much in the way of actual on-court success.

Which, right or wrong, has led a lot of Husky fans to lay blame at the feet of the coaching staff, which in itself presents a conundrum.  On the one hand, you’re saying Lorenzo Romar isn’t good enough to mold the talent he has into winners, but does any other coach the Huskies could legitimately hire actually manage to recruit the type of talent we’re getting?  And, obviously, when you look at lists of colleges who produce NBA talent, you’re seeing Washington among some pretty prestigious college programs.  So, if he’s turning these guys into viable professional players, can he really be that bad of a coach?

To counter that, you just have to argue that there’s more to coaching than just recruiting and prepping guys for the pros.  There’s in-game decision-making.  There’s installing an offensive system.  There’s game-planning for your opponent.  You could argue that Romar and Co. have been lacking in all of those areas in recent years.  The old knock on Romar was that he didn’t really even HAVE an offensive system.  So, with the talent he brought in the last few years, he tried installing the High Post offense; it failed spectacularly.  He must have done it with the specific players he had on the roster in mind, but either they weren’t as suited for it as he thought, or they didn’t have the ancillary players around their stud point guards to make it work.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t matter, because the dedication to the High Post is gone now, replaced by the old motion offense he had so much success with early in his Husky coaching career.  I, for one, am ecstatic about this change.  If there’s one thing that’s been impossible to watch the last four years, it’s been this Husky offense struggle to grasp their half-court sets.

Something else you’ll notice about this year’s team is how VASTLY different it looks.  Take a quick scan of the roster and the only name that’ll instantly pop out to you is Andrew Andrews, back for his fourth and final year.  His numbers have steadily improved over each year – a staple of a Lorenzo Romar Guy – but they were never all that impressive to being with, and they’re not all that impressive now.  Last year, he averaged 15 points, but it took him 11 shots to get there.  He’s a solid, if unspectacular 80% free throw shooter, and hits about 37.6% of his three-pointers.  On the plus side, they’re moving him back to point guard, mostly to lead the offense as he’s surrounded by youngsters (aside from him, there are only 2 Juniors, everyone else is a soph or frosh), but also because they appear to have better players on the team to play shooting guard.

Aside from Andrews, the only returning players I can see are 6’7 wing Donaven Dorsey (who didn’t show a ton as a Freshman last year), and 5’10 mascot/garbage minutes phenom Dan Kingma (who played some serious bench minutes the last three games of last season and showed a knack for his quick release on 3-point shots, and overall pumping up the crowd and the rest of the team with his tenacious play).  I seem to recall Kingma earned a scholarship this year, and I honestly hope we get to see more of him off the bench as an Instant Offense type of shooter.

One other familiar face shows up on the coaching staff, with Will Conroy coming on as an assistant.  Love the move.  Loved Conroy as a player.  He’s a diehard Husky, which never hurts.  He’s young enough and has played professionally recently enough (albeit, overseas, but still), that I’m sure he’s able to help these kids a lot, especially the guards.

As I don’t really follow the whole recruiting trail enough to be at all knowledgeable, I don’t have a lot to say about the new guys.  I do know that our recruiting class this year is one of the best in the nation.  We trimmed A LOT of fat off of one of our shittier rosters last year.  And, while the loss of NWG may sting a little bit (time will tell, I suppose), it sounds like we really won’t miss him all that much.  He was disenchanted with all the losing, and we have all these studs coming in who’d be gunning for his job and his minutes.  I’d rather start fresh, hand the keys to Andrews (who feels more like a true Husky, rather than the hired gun that was NWG), and watch this team go to work.

The Dawgs played an exhibition game last week against Seattle Pacific.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t televised, or even on the radio, but we have stats to look at!

Andrews and Dejounte Murray led the team in minutes as the starting backcourt.  Andrews shot 6/12 overall, 1/4 from three, and 8/9 from the free throw line, for 21 points and 5 assists.  Murray shot 6/10, 2/4 from three, with 4 assists, 5 boards, and 16 points.  Rounding out the starting five, we have forwards Marquese Chriss, Matisse Thybulle, and Noah Dickerson – all Freshman, and all played at least 19 minutes.  Dickerson was 7/10 from the field with 17 points and 6 boards; Chriss shot 5/9 for 11 points and 5 boards; and Thybulle only netted 3 points, but if his line is any indication, he’s going to be one of those glue guys who fills up the stat sheet in other ways (2 boards, 3 assists, 3 steals).  Our primary bench guys in this game look like guard David Crisp (20 mins, 4/8, 2/4 from behind the arc, 3 assists, 3 boards) and forward Malik Dime (21 mins, 4 pts).  For what it’s worth, Kingma played 1 minute and didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

The consensus about this team is that they’re young, they’re fast, they’re athletic, they can score, the defense might be a little shaky, but they’re going to give you everything they’ve got.  In other words, pretty much the opposite of what we’ve seen the last four years.  If nothing else, we should be entertained by the product we’re watching.  No one is picking the Huskies to do much of anything, which is probably accurate, but could be rife for fodder if this team comes together and goes on a nice little run.

We kick off the season in China tomorrow against the Texas Longhorns.  Then, we return home for a couple of tune-up games before going to the Battle 4 Atlantis, where we’re guaranteed to play Gonzaga, and it also features teams like Texas (again), Texas A&M, Syracuse, UConn, Michigan, and Charlotte (seriously, I wanted to go to this, but it would cost an arm and a leg, and it takes place over Thanksgiving, so it was tough finding people interested in going with me).  The rest of the non-conference schedule features a lot of smaller schools I really don’t know much about (Cal State Fullerton, Montana, Oakland, TCU, UC Santa Barbara, Seattle U), but at this point I don’t know if the non-conference schedule really matters a whole lot.  No one really expects anything out of the Huskies this year, so it’s going to take a lot to get on the national radar.

I feel like a broken record when I say I think this team has a chance to shock the world (or at least the conference), but really it’s now or never.  You have to like the way Romar has recruited of late, and his upcoming classes appear to be filled with just as much talent as the one we’ve got this year.  Now, it’s time to show it on the court.  I don’t want to see Romar get fired; I’ve got a real soft spot for the guy.  I really DON’T think he’s a bad coach; I do think he’s been saddled with some players that haven’t improved like they normally would under him.  And, obviously, he’s missed out on some highly-touted recruits in recent years that have hampered some of our plans (along with some seriously savage injuries to key players – Jernard Jarreau comes immediately to mind).  But, now, he’s getting those highly-touted guys, and he’s also been working hard on the JuCo circuit to bring in some transfers who are ready to play right away.

Will this be the right mix?  God, I hope so.

Huskies Shut Out Inferior Opponent It Paid Nearly Half A Million Dollars To Play Here

49-0.  After a scoreless first quarter, the result was never really in doubt.  One could argue this game was decided before it was even played – given the discrepancy in talent between the two teams – but upsets are known to rear their ugly heads from time to time.

I don’t know what you really take away from a game like this.  It counts as a win in the record books, so that brings us one game closer to a bowl game, I guess.  Maybe it gives the kids on the Huskies some confidence – or some relief, at getting the first win out of the way.  For a true freshman quarterback, I’m sure this is fabulous.  Say what you will about Sacramento State, but it’s still a step up from high school ball.

Jake Browning looked a lot better today.  326 yards, 2 TDs (one of which probably should’ve been picked off) and 0 interceptions.  He was more than a struggling newb throwing balls towards or beyond the sidelines; he dissected the middle of the field and looked confident doing so.  Again, the level of competition demands you pull back on calls that this kid is the next Brock Huard or Marques Tuiasosopo – surely we’ll find what he’s made of once we reach conference play – but nevertheless this beats a poor performance any day of the week.  I think we can all rest easier knowing that he has some semblance of greatness in him.  How great he’ll be remains to be seen.

Where in the holiest of fucks has Myles Gaskin been all my life?  Well, considering he’s a freshman, having just concluded his second college game ever, I’d say Myles Gaskin originated from some sort of Badass Running Backs Factory, subsisting on a steady diet of Gatorade and the bones of his vanquished enemies.  14 carries, 146 yards, 3 touchdowns, showing the vision and burst of a superstar in waiting.  Coach Pete has struck me thus far in his Husky career as a man most willing to spread the touches around.  But, if Gaskin keeps dominating the way we all saw today, I don’t think he’ll have much choice (if he wants to keep his job) but to give Gaskin the lion’s share of the carries and get the God damn fuck ass out of the way.

Joshua Perkins is a senior tight end I know relatively little about.  Quite frankly, I came into this season the way I go into most seasons where Austin Seferian-Jenkins isn’t on the college roster, believing the same thing:  the Huskies simply don’t have a tight end this year.  He had 25 receptions last year, and 5 the year before that.  But, he’s 6’4, and it looks like he’s going to be a prominent weapon for us down the seams and in the red zone.  I don’t know what his 40 time is, or what he’s got going for him in a 3-cone, but if he manages to ball out at the combine (and/or the Husky Pro Day, depending on if he’s invited to the combine or not), he could see himself on an NFL roster this time next year.

Today was a drubbing for the Hornets, plain and simple.  In the second and third quarters, the Huskies moved the ball at will.  And, for the most part, throughout the game, the defense held them in check.  Over 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing will always look good on the stat sheet, but who knows if this is real or make believe?  Last week, against a top 25 ranked opponent, the Huskies could only muster 150 yards passing and under 30 yards rushing.  I’d say the true talent level of the 2015 Husky offense resides somewhere in the middle.  Where we find them on that spectrum will dictate if this is another bowl team, or simply a step-back in the rebuilding of this roster under Coach Pete.  As he continues to secure top-flight recruits, and as today’s game featured far more inspired play-calling than last week’s game in Boise, I’m encouraged by the direction this team is taking.

Next week, we face a moderately more fierce opponent in the form of Utah State.  The Mountain West is certainly a step up from the Big Sky, but nevertheless the talent gap still resides in Washington’s favor.  All in all, you have to like the way the Huskies have been tested thus far, as we prepare for Cal to come to town in two weeks.  God Awgs.

Husky Football Starts Tomorrow, You Guys!

Look, you’re not going to get some huge in-depth breakdown or anything, because to be quite honest, I don’t have a great handle on the players I haven’t seen or am otherwise unfamiliar with.  Here’s my broad, general assessment of the state of the Husky program in 2014:  we’re strong across the board, but quarterback is a huge questionmark.

That’s really all you can say.  Every article about the Huskies is essentially that main point, written hundreds of different ways.  Sark may be a lying scumbag, but the coffers are full right now!  The offensive line is one of the most experienced – if not THE most – in all of the Pac-12.  We lost our stud running back in Sankey, but those behind him are flashy and exciting and the position overall is deep.  The receivers took a big hit when Stringfellow decided to act the fool after the Super Bowl, but with Ross and Mickens, and a healthy Kasen Williams (among others), we should be rock solid there.  You could say tight end is a little weak (with the loss of ASJ), but I’m not too concerned about that.  And that’s not even taking into account how strong the defense is, with Shaq Thompson returning and Budda Baker playing as a true freshman.

This is a STOUT team, in a STOUT league.  In any other year, with a more experienced quarterback, we’d be talking about the Huskies making a run at a conference championship and maybe even a playoff berth.

But, you can’t escape it.  Cyler Miles fucked up on that night with Stringfellow.  He missed all of spring ball and has been playing catch-up ever since.  He’s also suspended for the first game against Hawaii tomorrow, so that sucks.

If things were going well, Miles would be the unquestioned starter on this team, and we could let ourselves dream a little bigger.  As they stand right now, Miles is probably still the best QB on the team, but it’s iffy as to whether or not he’s going to have enough of a handle on the offense to re-take the starting job.

Right now, for at least the first game, it’s Jeff Lindquist (with Troy Williams backing him up).  I don’t know much about either, except that they’re both probably pretty highly rated prospects out of whatever high schools they came from.  We shouldn’t have much to worry about in the early going – the Huskies have kind of a pushover schedule for the first four weeks, with Hawaii, Eastern, Illinois, and Georgia State – but whatever happens, the Huskies absolutely NEED one of the three QBs to establish himself.

I don’t anticipate any upsets in those first four games, but it would be tragic if there are.  I would think, though, with how strong we are on defense, we’d just pound the rock with the running game and feel our way through the passing game.  If a guy steps up, this could be a really special season.  But, realistically, we should probably expect some ups and downs.

Best Case Scenario will have the Huskies starting out 6-0, with the four wins mentioned above, followed by a hard-fought home game against Stanford, and another cake walk down in Cal.  That would lead us to an October 18th road game against Oregon which we’ll most likely lose unless they’re suffering from massive injuries to all key positions.

To be frank, this is the easiest and best schedule the Huskies have had in YEARS.  The road games – aside from that one in Eugene – are pretty choice:  Cal, Colorado, Arizona, and WSU.  We avoid USC and Utah this year.  Meaning all of our non-Oregon tough games are at home, where we’re amazing:  Stanford, ASU, UCLA, and Oregon State.  It wouldn’t be a stretch – if the quarterback situation works itself out early – to see this team come together and go 8-1 in conference.

Even if I go with cautious optimism and play it safe, we’re talking about no worse than a 6-3 conference record (figuring we lose two of the Stanford/ASU/UCLA games), but I think we have a better than good chance of winning all three.  Either way, if we go 6-3 in conference, that should still amount to a 10-win season, which is something we haven’t seen ’round these parts since the year 2000.

The worst case scenario involves a lot of injuries and headaches that I just don’t want to get into right now.

The fact of the matter is, the Huskies are a really good football team.  They’re 25th ranked for a reason, which is remarkable considering the quarterback situation.  We’ve got a great head coach, a great schedule and should be poised for an amazing ride.

I think we’ve got an 11-2 season in us; that’s my official prediction.  Of those three home games I mentioned above, I’m worried about ASU first, Stanford second, and UCLA third.  I really hope we kick UCLA’s shit in.  It would be almost as satisfying as winning down in Oregon (especially after being forced to watch the Myles Jack dick-sucking-fest on ESPN last season).

But, regardless of what happens, football is back and that makes me happy.  Husky tailgates are a huge highlight of my year.  On September 6th, I plan on waking up at the crack of dawn to get there early for the first round of beer pong, no later than 7am.

Cyler Miles Is Back, Damore’ea Stringfellow Is Gone

You probably remember the kerfuffle back in February when these two crazy kids got into an altercation with some other people.  I most certainly don’t remember the specifics, because who cares?  The point is:  these two kids got in trouble with the law and were suspended from the team.

As it turns out, Cyler Miles wasn’t charged with anything, but Damore’ea Stringfellow was.  Neither one of them got any reps in the spring practices, and now here we are.  May 15th.  Cyler Miles has been reinstated, and Damore’ea Stringfellow has decided to transfer.

It’s good news for Miles.  This is a team that just lost its starting quarterback, running back, and tight end to the NFL.  We might have enough pieces to make up for the losses of Sankey & ASJ (obviously, we can’t say those pieces will be better, but if we can get 80 cents on the dollar, that might be good enough), but we need all the talent we can get out of the quarterback position.

This is a big year for Husky football.  The defense has improved by leaps & bounds the last two seasons, coming to a head in 2014.  This year’s defense is going to be as good as it’s been, probably since the last Rose Bowl team.  We can’t let that go to waste.

Also, you have to figure, the offensive line is going to be as good as it’s been since I can’t remember when.  I’m not saying it’s going to be All-World or anything, but we’ve got enough upper classmen on the line with starting experience, that you HAVE to expect remarkable improvement over the last five to six years.

The foundation is in place.  The foundation – defense & the O-Line – has been mostly pisspoor for the last decade-plus.  In the Sark years, we mostly got by on the talent of our skill positions on offense.  As odd as it sounds, the script is flipped here:  there’s a lot of question marks about our skill positions.

And it starts with quarterback.  Cyler Miles is the only guy on the roster with starting experience at this level.  That makes his missing the spring practices all the more detrimental to our chances.  Maybe he’s good enough to overcome this setback, but he’s still at a serious disadvantage.  Had he participated, we’d be looking at a clear front-runner, and someone with serious momentum heading into this season.  In short, Husky fans would have a chance to relax in the knowledge that we’ll PROBABLY be okay with Miles at the helm.

Now?  I’m anything but comfortable.  On the plus side, I guess it’s a LITTLE comforting to know we’ve got three viable starting candidates, and that the other two – Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams – probably helped themselves a great deal by taking all the spring reps.  So, at least it’ll be interesting heading into fall camp.  I just hope someone is able to separate himself from the pack and take control of this team, because it can be pretty special.

Of course, it won’t be as special as it would’ve been had the whole post-Super Bowl incident never happened.  That’s because Damore’ea Stringfellow is no longer a Husky.

There is A LOT of smugness on the Internet from the holier than thou Husky alums out there who write about this team.  A lot of “this type of stuff doesn’t belong on this team”.  How soon we forget, when we graduate from college, all the dumb shit that WE’VE done.  It feels to me like Husky Nation has been pushing Stringfellow out the door as soon as they heard about this incident.

Let me ask you this:  why are we holding these kids to a higher standard?  If they’re truly STUDENT athletes, then you have to accept that as students – as young kids – they’re going to fuck up from time to time.  It’s how they respond that determines their character.  Maybe Stringfellow didn’t respond as well as the coaching staff wanted.  If so, that’s fine.  But, to expect these kids to be perfect – to never get in a fight, or get drunk at a party, or God forbid drink and drive even though MOST of us have done so at one point or another – is a little unfair.  Get off your high horses, people!  He fucked up!  And you should be more disappointed that he’s no longer a part of this football team than smugly happy that he’s leaving forever.

And don’t pretend you’re thinking about Damore’ea Stringfellow, the person.  You know him as Damore’ea Stringfellow, wide receiver, and that’s ALL you know him as.  You read some shit about the incident that got him in trouble, but don’t pretend for one second that you actually care about how his life turns out.  You care about him being a Husky or not being a Husky, and that’s it.  Leave his personal life to people who are actually IN his life.

As a Husky fan, it sucks.  Stringfellow was only getting better as the season went along last year, and he was due to REALLY take that next step.  If we could’ve gotten two more years out of him, there’s no telling what he could’ve done for our offense.  In that sense, in conjunction with the quarterback battle, expect our offense to take a step back in 2014.  How far that step back goes depends on the players who step up in his wake.  I’m not going to doom the season just because we lost our number one receiver.  That just means someone else will have to take charge.

Say what you want, but 2014 will NOT be a dull season.  Here’s to hoping it’s also a special one.

Ranking The Seahawks’ Needs In The 2014 NFL Draft

You know, at some point, people are going to realize it’s going to require more than two dudes and a pair of handcuffs to escort Jack Bauer into any prison/interrogation room.  I’d bring along about five or six trigger-happy ex-Marines and hope for the best.  GOD I’m glad 24 is back!

The better your team is, the less excitement surrounds that team once it comes time to draft.  For bad teams (like the 2008 & 2009 Seahawks, for instance), the draft means everything.  It’s a chance to dream.  The NFL is the Great Parity Hope!  One amazing draft can flip your franchise from a bottom-feeder to a champion!  Well, maybe not JUST one, but it can certainly send you down the right path.

When you’re great – and especially when you ARE a champion, which is what we’re dealing with here – the draft isn’t so special anymore.  You’re not looking for that sparkplug to jumpstart your franchise; you’re just looking to maintain your level of dominance and hope to pluck some quality, inexpensive starters for down the road when it’s time to reload.  What this draft means for 2014, however, is merely to add to our depth.

The foundation is here, and it’s spectacular.  The bulk of the starters are set, and they’re elite at the most important positions.  That might lead one to believe that the draft doesn’t matter all that much, but don’t fall into that trap.  Bad, useless drafts start to pile up and stink like a mountain of dirty diapers in the sun.  If you take enough dumps on draft day, you can go from among the youngest to among the oldest teams in the league in the blink of an eye.

So, while this draft isn’t necessarily make-or-break for our immediate future, it’s still important in the Big Picture.  And, as you well know, the Seahawks are all about the Big Picture.

There are always needs in any draft, so here I’m going to rank the Seahawks’ needs in order of importance.

#1 – Get More Draft Picks

The Seahawks, right now, have six picks.  They received no compensatory picks, traded away their third-rounder to the Vikings for Percy Harvin, and traded away their seventh-rounder for Terrelle Pryor (the Seahawks received an extra fifth-rounder from Oakland in the Matt Flynn deal).  On top of that, they draft last in rounds 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 (not counting compensatory picks, of course).  Essentially, it’s like the Seahawks have a high 2nd, a high 3rd, two high 5ths, a high 6th and a high 7th.  I’m not necessarily dismissing their chances to find diamonds in the rough – after all, they’ve made careers in their last four drafts by doing just that – but it always helps to have more chances.

You can’t predict draft-day trades (which is why all mock drafts have very little predictive value), but you have to anticipate the Seahawks at least TRYING to be big players in the trade market.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of move-downs (like those 32nd & 64th picks) to net more 4’s, 5’s, and/or 6’s.  If we can bump that number to around eight or nine total draft picks, I’d be more comfortable.

Of course, failing that, the Seahawks should be a major factor in the undrafted free agent market.

#2 – Cornerback

Did I just blow your mind or DID. I. JUST. BLOW. YOUR. MIND?

Yes, yes, yes, there are plenty of other needs on this team.  Offensive line comes immediately to mind.  So does wide receiver, so does the pass rush, so does the interior defensive line.  But, I’m here to tell you that if I had my druthers, I’d like to see the Seahawks go for a cornerback with one of their top two picks.

You like the Legion of Boom?  So do I.  They might be my favorite unit of any sports team I’ve ever rooted for ever.  The safeties are locked up, and a deal with Richard Sherman could be imminent.  So, where do I come off listing cornerback as the #2 draft need?

Well, I’ll tell you:  the talk of this draft is far and away its wide receiver class.  Everyone expects a record number of receivers going in the first round.  Beyond that, there’s the usual inane quarterback chatter, and all of the linemen who will be plucked by the more sensible teams.  With the rising importance of safety, you have to figure there’s at least one or two pretty good ones.  Ditto cornerbacks; I don’t see the Seahawks getting the cream of the crop here.

But, if there’s a prototypical “Seahawks Cornerback” still on the board late in the first or early in the second round (depending on whether or not we’re able to trade back), I could totally see this team going in that direction.  An homage to last year’s drafting of Christine Michael out of nowhere when we still had Marshawn Lynch in his prime and a hungry young runner in Robert Turbin.

Here’s the deal:  Byron Maxwell is only signed through the end of 2014.  I fully expect him to continue starting across from Richard Sherman, and I fully expect him to be as good – if not better – than he was in the last few weeks of 2013.  And, when that happens, I fully expect him to sign a lucrative contract with another team (please not the 49ers).  So, in looking long-term (and really, not THAT long, just one season after this one), the Seahawks are going to need another starter to play across from Sherman.

And, not for nothing, but the depth at nickel & dime cornerback could use a boost as well.  In that area, we’ve got Jeremy Lane and a lot of question marks in 2014.

Don’t sleep on the cornerback position.  Just because we’ll have the best corner and the best safety combo in the league, it’s still a position of need and a pretty big one at that.

#3 – Pass Rushing Defensive End

Also known as the LEO defensive end.  It’s where Chris Clemons called his home the last few years.

The pass rush isn’t in total shambles – thanks to Michael Bennett’s 4-year deal – but it could use an infusion of young talent.  A big question going into the 2015 season will be:  can the Seahawks afford to extend Cliff Avril?  If he has a repeat of his 2013 season – or improves – then I would wager that we can’t afford him.  If he regresses, or gets injured for a big chunk, then I’d have to ask if we even WANT to bring him back, but that’s neither here nor there.

Elite pass rushers are at a premium in the NFL.  Recruiting these guys in free agency requires blowing a big chunk of your salary cap.  It would be nice to have a young, cost-controlled option from the draft.

The only problem with this is:  it’s hard to find a pass rushing end who is capable of starting right away.  The best guys are usually picked high in the first round.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for the Seahawks to find a worthy guy at this position, given their crappy draft picks at the bottoms of nearly every round; but I am saying it might take more time for that guy to develop.

Unlike offensive linemen, running backs, and linebackers – who tend to start and succeed right away – defensive ends tend to need a little more seasoning.  If we get lucky, then great, we’ve got a guy who can start at the end opposite Michael Bennett.  If we’re not so lucky, then maybe we just drafted a guy who, in a few years, will develop into Michael Bennett’s replacement.  Either way, it’s something that needs to be addressed this year.

#4 – Defensive Tackle

Because Brandon Mebane won’t be around forever.  And last year’s picks at the position – Jordan Hill & Jesse Williams – didn’t necessarily inspire a whole lot of confidence with their rookie campaigns.

Yes, it’s always possible to find this position on the cheap in free agency, but if you go that route, you’re opening yourself up for a lot of injury risk (if they’re cheap and seeing free agency, they’re either not very good, or they’ve been injured in the recent past).  Brandon Mebane is so important to this line because he’s so durable.  Finding someone like him, who’s just as durable, is a huge need for this D-Line going forward (and would obviously save us a few bucks to boot).

#5 – Linebacker

Like cornerback, linebacker appears to be a position of strength with no holes outside of some back-end depth spots.  But, take a look at where these guys are in their rookie deals:

  • Bobby Wagner is signed thru 2015
  • Malcolm Smith is signed thru 2014
  • K.J. Wright is signed thru 2014
  • Bruce Irvin is signed thru 2015 (but is converted from defensive end and will be entering his second season as a strong-side linebacker)

I feel like we might be able to re-sign Wright to a reasonable deal.  I think Wagner will be the bigger priority, but his cost might be a little prohibitive.  Malcolm Smith is the biggest wild card of the bunch.  If he continues this opportunistic roll he’s been on since the midway point of 2013, he very well could find himself on another team with a big, fat contract.

Either way, I don’t expect the Seahawks will be able to extend all of these guys to long-term deals, so a starting replacement will likely be necessary as soon as 2015.  I don’t think that replacement is currently on the Seahawks’ roster, which means they’re going to want to draft someone.  Maybe in the fifth round or thereabouts.  I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go any higher than a fourth rounder, but I’ve been surprised before.

#6 – Wide Receiver

This spot was pretty high on my list before the Seahawks re-signed Sidney Rice.  For the record, I expect Rice to make the team and be among its top four receivers.  So, anyone drafted at this position will have to be a special teams ace or ride the pine until someone above him gets injured.

Like defensive end, I don’t expect this spot to get a whole lotta play in 2014.  Nevertheless, when looking at the future, it would be nice to have someone at a reasonable salary, especially when we’ve got Harvin taking up so much cap room.

Doug Baldwin is with us through at least 2014.  If we can’t work out a long-term deal with him, then we’ll be hurting.  Jermaine Kearse is also with us thru 2014, but he may be a restricted free agent for 2015 (in a sense, getting a similar tender that Baldwin has this year).  I don’t expect Kearse’s value to skyrocket, but you never know.  If there are injuries, and he ends up picking up the slack, catching a bunch of touchdowns and whatnot, he very well could price himself out of this market.

It’s just a nice luxury to have a home-grown receiver on a small deal.  Golden Tate used to be that luxury for the last couple years of his deal before moving on.  Finding that kind of value – even if it takes a year or two for him to grow into the position – is huge in this league.

#7 – Offensive Line

You ask most Seahawks fans who they want to see with our first draft pick, and I bet a big majority says, “An offensive lineman”.  I wouldn’t be among them.

Right now, pre-draft, the Seahawks have six guys with SOME starting experience.  That’s not counting Alvin Bailey, who filled in nicely at times as a rookie last year.  If push comes to shove, I think the O-Line looks like this in week 1:

  • Russell Okung – LT
  • James Carpenter – LG
  • Max Unger – C
  • J.R. Sweezy – RG
  • Michael Bowie – RT

That still leaves this team with enough depth to fill in, as well as another rookie or two to fight for a roster spot.

Frankly, I’m more interested in this Caylin Hauptmann guy who we kept on our roster all year last year than I am in anyone we might draft on the line this weekend.  Either way, I’m not as concerned about the line as most people.  Sure, our guards were sub-par last year, but I don’t think that necessarily means you have to go and get one in the first couple of rounds.  Now, if some great guy falls and we’re looking at a high first round grade on someone who slipped for no apparent reason, then fine.  But, I feel like the best guards are going to be snapped up well before we get to pick 32.

Do what you’ve been doing.  Find that value later in the draft or among the undrafted free agents.  No sense in reaching for someone when you can mold a nobody into a legitimate starter.

For the record, I don’t think J.R. Sweezy is that bad, and I kind of expect him to make a big jump in 2014.

#8 – Tight End

I’m back-tracking like you would not believe on the prospects of ASJ.  Right after the Super Bowl, I had him in my sights as a possible target with pick #32, but not anymore.  Part of it is the foot issue, but part of it is I just don’t know if he’s going to translate into an elite professional.

He’s not particularly fast.  He’s not freakishly athletic.  He was a valued member of the Washington Huskies and, at times, a dominant force in the red zone, but here’s the thing:  he’s not much of a blocker.  If you’re not a very good blocker on the line, then you better be the type of pass-catcher that they’ve got in New Orleans with Jimmy Graham, or in New England with Gronk.  I don’t think he’s that.  I think linebackers in the NFL will be able to keep up with him no problem.  He might be able to use his size to leverage a career in the Tony Gonzalez mold (not the best line blocker, not the speediest guy), but that’s going to require a work ethic I’m not sure ASJ possesses.

Look, I hope I’m wrong about the guy.  I hope wherever he goes, he terrorizes everyone who let him fall in the draft (again, please don’t go to the 49ers).  I just know that I don’t want the Seahawks to pick him (and no small part of that is because I think he needs to get away from his hometown and away from friends & family to just focus on football).

The Seahawks might want to pick SOMEONE at the position.  If, for nothing else, than some Anthony McCoy insurance.  If they do look for this position, I’d like for them to go low in the draft (or, more likely, in the realm of the undrafted).

We’ll need a replacement for Zach Miller eventually.  Luke Willson impressed me as a rookie, but will he be able to carry the load as a blocking tight end in our run schemes?

If it were up to me, the Seahawks would find a long-term stud of a blocking tight end and pair him with Luke Willson going forward.  Willson in small doses, I’m sure, can block on the line just fine.  But, when we need to beef up, then we bring in our bulldozer.

Anyway, that’s pretty much that.  I guess the Seahawks could consider the safety position, but I’m not sure I see much of a point in that (unless Kam Chancellor’s hip injury is worse than we realize, in which case I think I need to start this post over again).  I’ll be very disappointed if they draft another running back or another quarterback.  I mean, seriously, you can only carry so many on one roster!  We’ve already got too many of both as it is!

What Will It Take For The Seahawks To Repeat As World Champions?

Normally, in the days & weeks following the end of a Seahawks season, after lamenting where it all went wrong, I’d look forward to see what the Seahawks could do to be even BETTER next year and go all the way.

Well, suffice it to say, this year is a little different.  The Seahawks are the best team in football.  They WON the Super Bowl.  Granted, you’ll always accept your team getting a little better, even if they’re coming off of a season where they won it all, but in reality I’m not expecting other teams to magically become SO much better that we’d have to be any more improved than we were in 2013.

Essentially, what I’m saying here is:  we just need to maintain the status quo.

If I could bring this same exact team back next year in its entirety, I would do it in a heartbeat.  But, of course, that’s not going to happen.  Guys are going to be getting raises.  Free agents are going to command more money than we can spend under the salary cap.  I’ve more or less gotten into that in a previous post, so I’ll use this space today to be a little more broad in my thinking.

For starters, I think we’re going to have to get younger along the offensive line.  We’ve been blessed with another year with Tom Cable, so I suggest we put that time to good use.  Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey should be starting for this team in 2014.  One of them (likely Bowie) should be our right tackle, and the other (likely Bailey) should be our left guard.  I’m not saying we need to cut the cord with James Carpenter as of yet (let him duke it out for that left guard spot if need be), but we most certainly should cut the cord when it comes to McQuistan and Giacomini.  The way I see it, we got by last year with more or less an average offensive line.  I think we can replace those two veterans with younger guys and achieve the depth we need.

Before we get into what the Seahawks should do in the draft, I should remind everyone that we don’t have a third rounder (thanks to the Percy Harvin trade).  In essence, we have two “high” draft picks (1st & 2nd), three mid-round picks (4th & two 5ths), and two late-round picks (6th & 7th).  I don’t know if there will be any compensatory picks, nor do I know if we’ll be wheeling and dealing for more draft picks (though, you’d have to think we’ll trade back at least once to get some more guys).

For my money, I’d like to see this team address the offensive line just as they’ve been doing:  late round picks & undrafted guys.

In those first couple of picks, I’d like to see this team go after two of the three following position groups:  wide receiver, tight end, defensive line.  At some point, this team is going to have to find a way to save money in these areas.  We can’t keep over-paying Zach Miller forever, so if someone like ASJ falls to the end of the first round, I’d give him every opportunity to win this team’s starting tight end job.  Between ASJ and Luke Willson, I think you’re set at that position (you can find a third tight end anywhere, for peanuts, if need be).

This team is also in need of cheaper big bodies among the defensive line.  I think it’s wise to cut Clemons and re-sign Michael Bennett; I don’t think you lose a whole lot in your pass rushing abilities.  I’m thinking more along the defensive tackle realm with this high draft pick.  Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant won’t be around (and healthy) forever.  I think you take a shot in this year’s draft AND next year’s draft to try to find replacements.  If you can’t get two starting defensive tackles in three draft classes (including 2013’s, assuming Jesse Williams will be able to participate in football activities), then I don’t know what to tell you.  All I know is, there is money to be saved in the defensive line, as the Seahawks spend the most in that position among any team in the NFL.

Also, I know everyone thinks we’re all set in the wide receiver department, but my question is:  are we?  Yes, we all assume Sidney Rice will be gone.  That leaves Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse, with Doug Baldwin likely to be back and Golden Tate a free agent.  Even if this team re-signs both Baldwin and Tate, there are two issues at play.  First, that does nothing to improve your size at that position.  Second, we will still need depth in a couple years when more decisions need to be made.  Will Harvin ever play a full season?  What if he comes back next year and only plays in half of the games?  Odds are, this team will have to cut Harvin after three years regardless, because his contract is way too high and there will be other guys to better spend that money on.  We need to keep re-stocking the back-end of this position, especially because it usually takes at least a couple years before a wide receiver really breaks through.

Yes, a tall, athletic receiver in the first or second round could be exactly what this team needs.  And, if Tate happens to walk, then this position is in even more need!

So, in summation, the offense needs to supplant their two older free agent offensive linemen with the two rookies from 2013 (as well as replace the depth with low-end draft picks and undrafted free agents).  The offense should try to re-sign both Tate & Baldwin if possible, while also looking to draft a tall, athletic receiver.  The Seahawks should absolutely draft ASJ and – if they do – waive Zach Miller.  The Seahawks need to stay away from adding any more running backs.  And, I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing back Tarvaris Jackson as a backup QB if he’s willing.

Let’s move on to the defense now.  Brandon Browner is gone.  Walter Thurmond is most likely gone.  That doesn’t decimate our starting secondary, as Byron Maxwell is still under contract, but it cuts into our depth a little bit.  Jeremy Lane will be back as a nickel corner, which is a godsend.  If we end up letting Thurmond walk, I’d recommend using one of our mid-round picks on another cornerback, because why not?  If you’re thinking long-term, then you’re thinking Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are going to command huge salaries.  Hopefully, they’ll get those salaries and hopefully the Seahawks are the team that pays them.  If we assume 3/4 of our Legion of Boom will be here long term, then you have to assume that other 1/4 will be part of a rotating cast of characters.  Like the Spinal Tap drummer, only hopefully less injury-prone.

What I’m getting at is:  you can’t pay Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, AND Maxwell huge salaries and think you’re going to get away with it.  I think you have to let Maxwell go after his contract runs out.  Which shouldn’t be a huge deal, as long as we’re able to draft guys and coach them up like we’ve coached up Maxwell and Co.  But, to do that, you have to continuously draft guys and keep them on your roster until it’s their time to step up.

So, the Seahawks need a mid-round cornerback.  They also need to get Earl Thomas extended.  And, they could either try to extend Sherman now, or let his contract expire and try to deal with it after the season.  I’d prefer to get everyone locked up all at once, but that might be a pipe dream.

With the linebackers, I don’t think you get too crazy.  You leave Malcolm Smith in there on the weak side, you leave Bobby Wagner in there in the middle, and you put K.J. Wright back over to the strong side.  Bruce Irvin probably needs to go back to the defensive line and tend to that LEO position (which will be vacated when we dump Clemons).  It might be a good idea to pick up a mid-to-late round linebacker who is also a standout on special teams, because I don’t know how much longer you can keep paying Heath Farwell the money he deserves.  With the veteran’s minimum increasing with every year he’s in the league, there’s some moderate savings to be had by picking up someone younger to go in his place.

Along the line, as I said before, I think you draft a defensive tackle.  High if possible, but if no one is there, then in the mid rounds at least.  I think you put Bruce Irvin in at the LEO defensive end position, as part of a rotation with Michael Bennett; when Irvin’s in there, you slide Bennett inside to rush from the tackle spot.  I’d really love it if this team could find a way to keep Red Bryant, as I’ve gone into before, because that reduces the amount of turnover in a very volatile spot on the defense.  If you assume Clinton McDonald gets more money elsewhere, I think we can still maintain some semblance of what we had in 2013.

Ideally doh, the D-Line looks like this:

  • Michael Bennett
  • Brandon Mebane
  • Jordan Hill
  • Red Bryant
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Cliff Avril
  • Greg Scruggs (coming off of an IR’d 2013)
  • Jesse Williams
  • And a couple more guys for depth (either via the draft, or guys who recently signed futures contracts)

Also, there’s Tony McDaniel, but I don’t see him returning.  I could see the Seahawks going after another Tony McDaniel “type” in free agency, though, playing for a minimal amount, and pushing Jesse Williams for a roster spot.  Obviously, you can’t predict injuries and such, so I wouldn’t expect this to be the roster on Opening Day or anything, but this is essentially what I’d like to see as the plan for the Seahawks.

Again, in summation:  the defense should draft for depth along the linebackers and cornerbacks positions in the mid-to-back end of the draft, they should draft in the upper area for defensive tackle, they should re-sign Michael Bennett and extend Thomas & Sherman, and they should figure out a way to keep Red Bryant around.

With Rice, Clemons, and Miller gone, as well as some of our pricier offensive linemen and depth guys, I would hope that would be enough to do all of the important things this team needs to do (new contracts for free agent receivers and defenders).  Then again, this organization has been full of surprises from Day 1 since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over, so this entire post is most likely going to be rendered pointless in a matter of time.

It’s Official: Bishop Sankey To Turn Pro

It’s funny, when I first heard about Bishop Sankey, it was because he defected from his committment to go to Wazzu, specifically to come to the University of Washington.  I didn’t hold a lot of high expectations.  I mean, if he was nearly a Cougar, how good could he possibly be?

Sankey had limited carries in 2011, as Chris Polk was still handling the bulk of the mail.  I didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk for YEARS, maybe even decades.  I certainly didn’t think I’d see another runner like Polk the very next season!

You could argue that Sankey’s 2012 season was better than ANY season Polk ever delivered (and Polk finished his career as one of the very best Husky running backs of all time).  Sankey had 1,439 yards and 16 touchdowns (5.0 yards per carry), to go along with 33 receptions for 249 yards.  In his first full season as the lead Husky running back, Sankey proved he was someone very special.

And then he came back for 2013 and totally shattered everyone’s expectations.

You’re looking at the new single-season leader for a Husky running back.  1,870 yards and a whopping 20 touchdowns (5.7 yards per carry), to go along with 28 receptions for 304 yards and 1 receiving touchdown.  For the record, the last single-season rushing leader was Corey Dillon with 1,695 yards in 1996. 

Sankey averaged over 140 yards per game this year!  All but two of his games saw Sankey rush for over 90 yards (and one of those was against Idaho State where he ran for 77 yards on only 4 carries).  In his career, he’s had 16 games with 100+ rushing yards and 4 games with 200+ rushing yards.  His career day was against Cal this season, where he ran for 241 yards on 27 carries.

With ASJ (where rumors were running rampant that his financial situation was going to force him into entering the draft), I was 100% sure that he would not be coming back for the 2014 season.  With Sankey, I was still pretty confident that he’d leave, but I’ve been surprised before.  Still, when you consider the running back position and the pounding they take on a game-in, game-out basis, now is the time.  Sankey carried the ball a total of 616 times in the last two years (with an additional 61 touches through the air).  He was far-and-away the best player on this offense and almost to a fault we relied on him way too much.  It was necessary, of course, because we wouldn’t have been nearly as good without him.  I’m just glad he survived and looks to be in pretty good shape going into the 2014 draft.

They’re projecting him to be a 2nd or 3rd round pick.  That’s impressive considering NFL teams aren’t selecting running backs NEARLY as high (or as frequently) as they’ve done in decades past.  There are no injury concerns that I’m aware of, so there is no reason for him to fall like Polk did.  I think he’s going to be an elite running back in the league for many years to come.

Honestly, I think a team like Baltimore should look HARD at bringing him in and replacing Ray Rice.  I think he could step in TOMORROW and be a better running back than Rice.  Sankey has the running chops, obviously, but he’s also a quality pass-catcher and an elite blocker.  He should be an every-down back; I just hope he finds a quality organization (outside of the NFC).  Other teams who might want to take a look at him would be the Giants, 49ers (Gore isn’t getting any younger), Miami, and maybe even Houston (if they let Tate go in free agency and get rid of Foster’s oppressive contract).  As much as I’d like to see him in a Seahawks uniform, he doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We JUST drafted Christine Michael last year in the second round and he looks like he’ll be a game-changer in his own right, just as soon as he’s given a chance to produce.

I’m happy for Sankey.  He’s done everything we could have possibly asked of him in a Husky uniform; now it’s time for him to become a star in the National Football League.  I’m also not too concerned about the Huskies’ situation going forward either. 

I REALLY hope Deontae Cooper gets a shot to be our #1 back.  He was able to stay healthy throughout 2013 and put on a clinic in that Oregon State game.  It looks like his jets are back, giving him the burst to be a big play machine for us next year. 

We’ve also got Callier, who I still see as more of a change-of-pace back.  He also kept himself healthy in 2013, but looked a step slower than he did pre-injury.  One would hope that Callier will be back to full speed next year.

Finally, Dwayne Washington, in spite of some fumble problems earlier in the season, is another option with some quicks.  He, as well, worked some magic in that fateful Oregon State game, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a chance to show what he can do.

We’re loaded, is what I’m trying to say.  Barring injury, running back (and the running game in general, with Cyler Miles at the helm) will be the strongest part of our team in 2014.  Coach Pete has the dedication to the run that we, as Husky fans, have come to rely upon.  This isn’t a time to mourn the loss of Sankey.  It’s time to celebrate all that he’s done for the program and wish him well in his next life.  We’ll be fine.  And clearly, so will he.

Tui Gets His First Win As A Head Coach

There was a lot to feel good about in this feel-good 31-16 win over the BYU Cougars.  Keith Price – while getting dinged up towards the end of the game – still had a solid, Keith Price-esque game.  Bishop Sankey ran for a couple touchdowns and had an overall solid game.  ASJ – who declared after the game that he will turn pro in 2014 – added another touchdown to the pile.  While Sankey said he’s still undecided, you have to figure that all three of our studs from 2013 will be gone, so it was nice that they all played well and went out on top.

That BYU quarterback did a lot of things well, running for 133 yards, throwing for 293 yards, and just generally being a pain in the ass all game long.  But, to our credit, we mostly held BYU to field goals, and that was the difference in the game.

Just as this was the swan song for our Big 3, it was also the swan song for Justin Wilcox, who nailed down some righteous adjustments in the second half to hold BYU scoreless over the final two quarters.  I’m disappointed to see him go, and I’m even more disappointed to see him go to USC, but I take solace in the fact that in a few years, he will defect from USC to be a head coach somewhere else.  Ahh, the circle of life.

Mostly, I just feel happy for Tui.  I don’t know if there is a place for him on Coach Pete’s new staff, but I’ve got the sinking feeling that there isn’t.  We may eventually see him return sometime down the line, because I have no doubt that Tui will be an amazing head coach.  Who knows, maybe after he gets his feet wet coaching some small school like Idaho State or something, we bring in Tui to replace Coach Pete a decade or so down the line.

This is a weird, scary time to be a Husky fan.  A lot of unknowns out there surrounding the program.  A lot for us to learn about the new staff, the new offensive scheme, the new players stepping up for legendary departing ones.  It was nice, just for a night, to forget about all of that horseshit and just sit back and celebrate what has turned out to be a remarkable 2013 season.  9-4!  It feels weird to say that We’re Back!  But, doesn’t it kind of feel like we’re back?  Or, at the very least, much closer to being “Back” than being “The Worthless Pile Of Crap” on the college football spectrum?  Yeah.

2014 Will Be The Most Important Season In A Generation For Huskies

We’re jumping the gun here a bit, but that makes it no less a pressing concern.

As the Huskies prepare for their bowl game next week – the primetime, post-Christmas, Friday night spot against BYU – know that we’re seeing the end of an era.  An era that beat the hell out of the previous era, for sure!

It’s interesting to look at the ebbs and flows of the history of the University of Washington football team.  If you go all the way back to the Jim Owens era, you see a team in the late 50s and early 60s that was one of the best in the nation.  His first seven years brought with it three Rose Bowl appearances (two victories), before a long descent into mediocrity.  The Huskies of the mid-60s to the mid-70s weren’t terrible, but they weren’t all that good either.  Just sort of okay.

Then, Don James came in, and the mediocrity continued for the first two years.  His third year was probably the most important season in Husky football history, and we were all rewarded with a Rose Bowl victory.  Thus began the next great era of Husky football, lasting through the early 90s.

Once Don James left, the team fell back to the pack again.  Part of that was losing a legend, but most of it was due to the sanctions that really wiped out our ability to recruit the proper talent we needed to maintain our stay as one of the nation’s premiere football programs.  Just as we were starting to recruit, Lambright was replaced by Rick Neuheisel, who reaped the rewards and took this program back to the Rose Bowl in 2000.

Ever since then, it was a long, slow, brutal decline, culminating in the 2008 winless season.

So, if you’re keeping track, the Jim Owens era started off great, then went mediocre.  Then, greatness returned with Don James, and immediately went mediocre once he left.  Greatness returned briefly under Neuheisel, then the program plummeted to its nadir.  Sark came in here and brought us back to mediocrity, and that’s where we sit today.

Coach Pete’s first year will be the most important year for the program since Don James’ third season.  Any regime change is going to automatically see a hit in recruiting; that just comes with the territory.  How bad we’ll have it largely depends on where the assistant coaches end up.  If we’ve got Wilcox and Lupoi going to USC, that really puts us in a bind.  If they end up at Boise State, it’s not AS bad, but they’ll still be going after a number of the same players they recruited to Washington.  If they left the west coast, it would be ideal (but that’s probably not going to happen).  Just figure, this recruiting class won’t be as highly rated as some of Sark’s last classes.

Which, fine.  Long term, it could be a problem, but we can also make up for it by redoubling our efforts in our 2015 class.  However, that 2015 class will hinge on how well we do in 2014.  Of course, you can say that about literally every year, but the importance of this year outweighs any other.

You always want to put a good product on the field to show kids that if they choose Washington, they’re choosing to play for a winner.  No one wants to come to college and get their shit kicked in.  However, kids are going to be watching this team to get a sense of Coach Pete’s style and how they might fit.  We all know that Coach Pete is great when it comes to getting the best out of the talent he’s able to bring in.  Will that translate with a program that currently houses a number of blue-chip prospects – kids who never seriously considered playing for a “lesser” school like Boise State?  It’s one thing to coach up some kids who are just happy to be there; but does he have the ability to coach up kids who already expect to be great?

The Huskies, right now, are a team on the rise.  Sark brought us Top 25 & Top 30 recruiting classes the last few years.  We have A LOT of talent on this team.  But, we’re also losing some critical pieces.  Keith Price, Sean Parker, most likely Bishop Sankey & ASJ, maybe even Danny Shelton (among others, who I can’t remember off-hand right now). 

Whenever you’re looking at a quarterback change of this magnitude, you can’t help but think that the next year will be a year of transition.  Fortunately, Cyler Miles had a chance to get some meaningful reps this year, so we won’t TOTALLY throw a greenhorn into the fire.  Still, there will be growing pains.

And, on top of that, Coach Pete doesn’t get to work with the kids right now.  That’s falling on Tui and the rest of our M*A*S*H unit of interim coaches.  Just as Miles and the rest of our quarterbacks are fighting for the starting job in spring, they’ll also have to contend with learning a new offensive scheme.  That’s BOUND to set us back, especially when you consider this will be the third scheme-change in three years (from traditional pro style, to the HUNH-hybrid, to whatever Coach Pete installs).

Even under normal circumstances, with Sark and the rest of our coaches returning, I wouldn’t have been shocked to see this team to take a bit of a step back.  But, under these freak circumstances, a step back is almost expected!

And yet, we can’t have it.  If we want this program to be one of the elites not just in the conference, but in the nation, we need to continue with the momentum we built under Sark.  And THAT means:  not having two or three down recruiting years in a row.  2014 will already be down, because Coach Pete won’t have the time he normally would as an incumbent head coach, saying nothing of the players who will be poached.  To avoid a repeat down recruiting class, though, we’re going to have to show people we not only have the best head coach in the conference, but we’re already surrounded by the best talent in the conference.

There are a lot of reasons to come to Washington.  New stadium & facilities, located in a major city, most beautiful gametime setting in the nation, a premiere head coach, lots of player talent already here, we’re in a major conference and play against some of the best teams in the nation.  Now, we just need to win.  That’s it.  Sure, it starts with this bowl game next week, but there’s going to be a major asterisk next to this game.  The real fight will be next season.  If we’re able to show the kind of improvement I know we’re capable of, then it’s off to the races after that.  We should have kids banging down our door to come to UW.