My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

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

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

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Brief History Of The Seahawks & Packers In The Playoffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

COULD THIS REALLY BE HAPPENING?

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

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

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

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

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

Revising My All-Time Seahawks Greats

The last time I did something like this, we were in the middle of the offseason in 2011.  In all likelihood, I was looking for some way to fill space in the dreadful month of March when all the other local sports are effectively shut down and you can only say so much about Spring Training.

You may recall at the time that we were just coming off Pete Carroll’s first year with the team.  We made the playoffs at 7-9 and upset the reigning champion Saints in the Beastquake Game.  It was all very fun, but built on a house of cards.  The roster was aging, as leftovers from the Holmgren Era clung for dear life.  We drafted some promising rookies before the 2010 season – including Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor – which may go down as the all-time greatest draft class in franchise history (and, indeed, probably ranks pretty high in NFL history as well).

To be fair, my list of the greatest Seahawks of all time was pretty solid for what it was.  But, it’s CLEARLY out of date now.  So, I thought I’d go back and compare what my list would be today vs. what it was nearly four full years ago.  Let’s go to town:

Quarterback

2011:  Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn
2014:  Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg

You’re going to see a pattern here as we go forward:  better players from the current era will be pushing down players from previous eras.  It’s difficult to compare someone like Wilson – who is working on his third year in the pros – against someone like Hasselbeck who played for us for so much longer.  But, in this case, I’m going to keep it nice and simple:  Russell Wilson led us to three playoff appearances, two division titles, two #1 seeds, and one Super Bowl title (pending what happens in this year’s playoffs).  Wilson is a winner, and he’s the guy who’s starting for me in my hypothetical Greatest Seahawks Team Of All Time.

Running Back

2011:  Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Ricky Watters
2014:  Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner

I opted to throw out the numbers here.  If I went strictly by numbers, Shaun Alexander would still be the clear starter for this team.  9,429 yards and 100 TDs with the Seahawks for Alexander against 5,930 yards and 54 TDs with the Seahawks for Lynch.  The numbers say it’s a no-brainer.  But, I’m going with my heart on this one, and my heart says BEASTMODE!

Wide Receiver

2011:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Paul Skansi
2014:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin

So, the thing is, it’s going to be VERY difficult to overtake the top three (and damn near impossible to overtake the top receiver on my list, because Largent is my favorite), what with how this offense is constructed and executed.  Furthermore, I realize Skansi was a reach, but I’m not sure I had a whole lot to work with.  Also, with Golden Tate playing for the Lions now, he’s obviously stuck where he is, with no chance for advancement unless he – by some miracle – returns to the Seahawks.  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, if he sticks it out long term, could be a quick riser.  We’ll see where we are in another 3-4 years.  I could see someone like Baldwin topping out in the top 2 or 3.

Tight End

2011:  Itula Mili, John Carlson, Christian Fauria
2014:  Zach Miller, Itula Mili, John Carlson

The tight end position for the Seahawks throughout history is a vast wasteland of sadness.  Numbers might say that Jerramy Stevens deserves to be in the top 3, but numbers can suck my dick because Jerramy Stevens can suck my dick.  Zach Miller is a lynchpin for this offense who’s equal parts offensive lineman and soft-hands-pass-catcher.  He’s adorbs and I hope he gets well soon and sticks around another couple years.  I also hope someone like Luke Willson improves his catching ability, because I could see him being a fast riser here too.  It’s pretty sad that someone like Carlson is still hanging around on this list, what with how short his time was with us.

Fullback

2011:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams
2014:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams

While the fullback position is going the way of the dodo bird, I still got love!  And, while I think the world of Michael Robinson as a leader, a special teams stalwart, and a powerful lead blocker for Beastmode in previous seasons (before being forced into retirement and a new career in the media), there’s just no way his impact surpassed what Mack Strong and John L. Williams were able to do.  And, not for nothing, but I think those two names are going to be 1 & 2 on this fullback list for the duration of my lifetime.

Offensive Line

2011:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard
2014:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard

So, the thing here is:  I’ve made a conscious decision to list a man for every spot along the line (as opposed to, say, listing the five best linemen regardless of where they played along the line).  That having been said, if I felt like cheating (or, if I had the power of some sort of god), I’d probably look to put Russell Okung in at right tackle (because, let’s face it, he nor anyone else will be supplanting hall of famer Walter Jones).  Max Unger is a curious omission, but quite frankly, he’s been too injured in his stint as this team’s starting center to get serious consideration.  An interesting case will be J.R. Sweezy.  If he sticks around and continues his trajectory of improvement, we could be looking at a switch at right guard.  But, for now, Sweezy’s a little too loose in pass protection to take over that spot.

Defensive End

2011:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Phillip Daniels
2014:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Michael Bennett

Chris Clemons gets an honorable mention here.  I’ve split these up by first and second team.  Green & Sinclair are the clear 1 & 2 in Seahawks history and will be for the foreseeable future.  Michael Bennett jumps up into the second team because he’s been a force since his return and can pretty much do it all.  I opted to put him in with the ends because, to be honest, there are too many good defensive tackles, which you will see shortly.

Defensive Tackle

2011:  Cortez Kennedy, Joe Nash / Rocky Bernard, Sam Adams, John Randle
2014:  Cortez Kennedy, Brandon Mebane / Joe Nash, Rocky Bernard

The only reason Mebane was left off of my 2011 list is because he hadn’t quite played long enough, and because there was a question about whether he’d be sticking around long term.  Luckily for us, Carroll & Schneider saw fit to extend him, which has been a boon to our line.  You get a great sense of his value with him out of the lineup, as there are many things we just can’t do without him.  It has taken a rotation of 3-4 guys to try to make up for Mebane’s absence, which is about as impressive as it gets.

Also, can you IMAGINE what a defensive line would look like with a healthy Mebane in at nose tackle and an in-his-prime Cortez playing right alongside him?  Partner those two up with literally any of the defensive ends I’ve listed above and you’re talking about a powerhouse line on par with some of the best in the history of the NFL!

And, for the record, I understand going with a 3-man second team in 2011 was a total cop out.  Glad Mebane is here on this list to clean up my mess.

Linebacker

2011:  Chad Brown, Lofa Tutupu, Rufus Porter
2014:  Chad Brown, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright

So, yeah.  In my hypothetical defense here, I’m sticking with just the lone middle linebacker, but I’ve opted to essentially interchange who plays at outside linebacker.  In other words, I haven’t differentiated between strongside and weakside.  K.J. Wright’s primary position is weakside, but I THINK that’s where Brown played as well.  What puts Wright ahead of most other linebackers in Seahawks history is his versatility.  He can play all three spots, he’s been a stud since he joined the team, and he was just extended long term.  For the record, if I was picking linebackers regardless of position, Lofa certainly makes this list.  But, Bobby Wagner is lethal and should be for many more years than Tatupu.

Cornerback

2011:  Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant, Shawn Springs
2014:  Richard Sherman, Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant

This one is kind of irritating.  Right off the bat, Richard Sherman is the greatest cornerback we’ve ever had, full stop.  Dave Brown is a Ring Of Honor member and a VERY good corner in his own right.  Before Sherm came along, it was Dave Brown and everyone else a distant second.  Now, if I’m going by any cornerback who has ever put on a Seahawks uniform, then I’m looking at either Brandon Browner or Byron Maxwell over Trufant in a heartbeat (gun to my head:  I probably pick Maxwell because he can play inside and outside corner spots).  BUT, Trufant had a Ring Of Honor career in his own right, and Maxwell will only have a year and change as a starter before he moves on to another team (as the Seahawks surely won’t be able to afford to extend him).  And, not for nothing, but Trufant in his prime was as good as any other corner, so I don’t feel SO bad putting him third on this list.  Nevertheless, if the Seahawks do somehow find a way to squeeze blood from a stone and extend Maxwell, I’m coming back to this page and revising it immediately!

Safety

2011:  Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson
2014:  Earl Thomas, Kenny Easley, Kam Chancellor

If I’m being 100% honest, I’m probably not splitting up Earl & Kam if I’m starting up this team.  But, I know I’m not the only one who wonders just what it would look like if Earl played alongside Kenny in his prime.  SICK!

Special Teams

2011:  Norm Johnson (Kicker), Rick Tuten (Punter), Steve Broussard (KR), Nate Burleson (PR)
2014:  Steven Hauschka (Kicker), Jon Ryan (Punter), Leon Washington (KR), Nate Burlson (PR)

I hope I’m not totally jinxing things, but I’m taking Hauschka as my all-time kicker.  Jon Ryan is sort of a no-brainer (he is, after all, the MVP of our hearts).  Leon Washington, while short in his time with us, made a HUGE impact (plus, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t have a long and storied history with kickoff returners; also, Percy Harvin can suck it).  And the challengers to Nate Burleson’s throne never quite did enough (in this case, Joey Galloway – who didn’t last long as a return man – and Golden Tate – who was awesome, but is no longer with us, and wasn’t quite as dynamic).

So, there you have it.  A blog post for Thursday.  Giddyup.

#8 – Doug Baldwin

To see the full list of the Top 10 Most Important Seahawks in 2014, click here.

Spoiler Alert:  Doug Baldwin is one of my very favorite Seahawks playing for this team right now.  You gotta like the underdogs, am I right?

We all know about Doug Baldwin, superficially.  Undrafted free agent out of Stanford in 2011, he earned a roster spot right out of the gate.  To be fair, the Seahawks had a real dearth of talent at the time.  Yes, they’d made the playoffs in 2010, but it was as a 7-9 squad with tons of turnover at the back-end.  It was a good time to be an undrafted guy, or a lowly-drafted guy, because there were tons of spots up for grabs.  I know Pete Carroll always says that everyone needs to compete for their spots at all times, but let’s be realistic:  if you’re good enough and talented enough, you’re not losing your spot.  Richard Sherman doesn’t have to worry about his job, no matter HOW talented Tharold Simon is.

In 2011, though, it was wide open.  And, to his credit, not only did Doug Baldwin take advantage of his opportunity, he thrived, leading the team in yards as a rookie.  His numbers hit a dip in 2012 due to injuries, but he returned in 2013 as good as ever.  And, in 2014, another opportunity has opened for him.  It’ll be interesting to see him once again seize this opportunity and surpass expectations beyond our wildest dreams.

Doug Baldwin has always had a heavy role in the offense, but this year he’s going to be a starter on the outside – rather than the slot – for the first time in his career.  Sure, he’s had some experience out there, but now that’s his primary position.  Instead of going up against a lot of nickel corners, he’ll be going up against the best of what other teams have to offer on the outside.  Will he be able to hold his own, the way Golden Tate was able to?  I think so, without a doubt.

Doug Baldwin can do anything he sets his mind to; you can’t say that about everyone.  I mean, think about it, we’re over here wondering if Cliff Avril can rush the passer from the LEO position – because he’s been so comfortable rushing the passer from the other side – and there’s a legitimate concern that Avril will struggle now that he has to go up against a left tackle on most plays.  To be honest, I DON’T think Avril can do anything he puts his mind to (don’t mean to pick on him, but that’s just the example that came immediately to mind).  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, could probably figure out how to play quarterback if you gave him enough time!

Doug Baldwin has always been critical in making this offense go.  He’s got the most reliable hands, he runs the most precise routes, and he’s got the best body control on the team, which is how he’s able to make all those circus catches on the sideline.  He’s always there when we need to convert and Russell Wilson is running for his life.  The rapport those two share is unlike any we’ve seen between quarterback and wide receiver since Dave Krieg and Steve Largent (with an honorable mention going to Hasselbeck & Engram).

This year, though, Baldwin’s importance goes through the roof.  Most people talk about Percy Harvin replacing Golden Tate, but that’s not really accurate.  Percy Harvin’s role in this offense is going to look nothing like Tate’s.  In reality, Harvin is replacing Baldwin, because it’s Baldwin who is replacing Tate!

This offense is always going to have the threat of the deep pass at its disposal, because it’s always going to have the great running game.  With the great running game, you’ve got defenses who will want to crowd the line of scrimmage.  With Harvin also doing the bulk of his damage around the line, you’ve got to figure defenses will be more keyed in than ever before on what’s going on in the short field.  Which means that Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse on the outside will be the beneficiaries of a lot of our deep balls on play-action.  Can Baldwin do what Tate did?  Can he win more often than not on those jump balls?  Can he shed tackles and break plays for long runs?  Most of America doubts that he can, but not me.  I think he’ll be on-par with what Tate was able to bring.  And, at a fraction of the cost, it was why I wanted so desperately for this team to choose Baldwin over Tate in this past offseason.  I think Tate will be great in Detroit, opposite Calvin Johnson.  But, I think Baldwin will be the more important and more efficient player in Seattle.

Speaking of contract, Doug Baldwin is locked in for the next three years.  He was a restricted free agent, meaning he was going to get something around $2.4 million for this year.  Instead, we were able to lock him in at 3 years, $13 million – a VERY reasonable deal.  This bought us a few more years at a good cap number, while it gave Baldwin a little security and a nice payday.  After the 2016 season, Baldwin will be 28 years old, which is RIGHT in the sweet spot in his career.  If he’s able to continue his upward trajectory, it’ll be interesting to see the decision the Seahawks make on who to keep or not.  I know this is three years away, but if Baldwin does well, and continues to improve, he could be looking at a HUGE deal.  It would be nice to see Baldwin end up a lifelong Seahawk.  That Wilson to Baldwin connection needs to be something we see through to the bitter end.

Who Should Return Punts For The Seattle Seahawks?

In 24:  Live Another Day, you’ve got another of the ol’ tropes alive and well.  When they take you out of the field RIGHT BEFORE a big assignment where they’re going to go somewhere with guns to attack some bad guys, possibly with more guns, it ALWAYS means that assignment is going to be a huge, explosive failure.  In this case, Cute Blonde C.I.A. agent gets shackled to the office while the C.I.A. head Benjamin Bratt and his lead officer both go out to supposedly bring in the main terrorist lady.  Except, in this case, SURPRISE!  They’re at the wrong house, and there’s a bomb, and EXPLOSION, and now some are dead and some are not.  All in a day’s work in the world of 24.  With some bigtime cast members either killed or knocked out for the rest of the day, it’s only a matter of time before Jack Bauer is reinstated and put out into the field with Cute Blonde.  For sexy times and ass-kickery, just break glass …

File this under:  Slow News Week.

Yesterday, the local media just about crapped their pants when they heard Pete Carroll tell everyone that Earl Thomas would be the starting punt returner if the season started today.

This is news??? has turned into THIS IS NEWS!!! because it’s the end of May and absolutely nothing important is going on in the world of local sports.  And because I’m no different, here’s my two cents.

For the last couple of years, Golden Tate returned punts.  He was good at it.  Prior to that, Leon Washington returned punts.  He was really good at it.  As far back as I can remember, from Bobby Engram to Joey Galloway, it seems like the Seahawks have always had quality punt returners.

I tend to like the more conservative, veteran guys, who lean towards fair catching a punt, because the worst case scenario with any return is muffing it and letting the other team recover.  I’d rather just secure the possession, because really, what are the odds you’re going to break a punt return for a TD?  What’s the average punt return anyway?  I bet it’s less than 10 yards.  Is it worth it to gamble the health of a valuable part of your offense or defense just to see if you can improve on a very small number?

Yes, I loved having Golden Tate back there returning punts, even though he took what some deemed foolish risks.  And yes, Golden Tate was also a very valuable member of our offense – at wide receiver, where we weren’t necessarily the deepest.  And, of course, on any play, anyone – even your most important player – can be injured.  Hell, Russell Wilson could be standing on the sideline talking to a teammate during a kickoff return when someone rolls up on him suddenly, without him expecting it!  That’s the football equivalent of walking out of your home and getting hit by a bus.  If you sit around waiting for the worst to happen, what kind of a way is that to live?

Fast forward to 2014:  Golden Tate is a Detroit Lion.  Apparently, the only other person who ever returned a punt for the Seahawks in 2013 is Richard Sherman, who had one return for -6 yards, and I’ll be damned if I remember when THAT happened.  No one on the 2014 squad really has any significant punt returning experience, so someone will have to step up.

The obvious choice is Percy Harvin – who is slated to return kickoffs for us.  He’s an experienced kickoff returner, and an elite one, so how much harder could it be for him to take in punts?

Other options include Earl Thomas and the aforementioned Richard Sherman.  I’m less interested in Richard Sherman returning punts, because I think there’s no chance in Hell he wins that job.  My hunch is, he’s throwing his hat into the ring because he heard Patrick Peterson talk all of his shit about being the more complete player and wants to show him that it doesn’t take much to be a punt returner in this league (which it doesn’t, for the record).

I’m more interested in Earl Thomas, especially because he’s the supposed front-runner.

Earl Thomas has elite speed.  He just LOOKS like the kind of guy who would thrive in the punt returning job.  Elusive, able to cut on a dime, able to get around the edge while also running right over you.  If he wasn’t so integral to the defense, I’d put my 100% stamp of approval on this move right now and move on with my life.

But, you can’t remove risk/reward from the situation.  Yes, as stated above, there’s risk on any football play.  There’s risk in every second of your everyday life!  But, not all moments are created equal.  Earl Thomas, flying around in the field, playing free safety, trying to remove the torsos from the bodies of ball-handlers is not the same thing as one man, isolated, with 11 snarling beasts bearing down on him while 10 of his teammates backpedal in a hopeless attempt to prevent bodily harm.

In one scenario, Earl Thomas is the aggressor:  he chooses where he’s going to hit and how hard that impact is going to be.  In the other scenario, Earl Thomas is on the defensive:  he could get smashed head-on, or he could get rolled up from behind.  Or, any other injury in-between.  It’s a vulnerable position being the punt returner, just as it is being the kick returner.  Why do you think they’ve been talking about all these rule changes with kickoffs?  They moved the kickoff line once and almost did it again!  They want to eliminate kickoffs because they’re so dangerous.  As are punt returns.

You could argue that Golden Tate was pretty important, but he was nowhere NEAR the level of Earl Thomas.  Without Thomas, our defense changes drastically.  Without Tate, it would’ve been tough, but our offense would’ve essentially continued as it did, with just the next man up replacing him.

I know Bryan Walters is being tossed around as an option, but I wouldn’t make him the punt returner unless he’s also a clear winner of a roster spot as just a wide receiver.  I see no point in keeping a guy on the team to JUST return punts.

What about Terrelle Pryor?  This team seems hell-bent on keeping him as a quarterback, which is a damn shame, because I’d LOVE to see what he could do returning punts.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing Doug Baldwin back there, but it doesn’t sound like the team is considering it.

If the Seahawks really want to go dynamic, why not use Paul Richardson?  As a rookie, you don’t expect a whole lot out of him on offense, so it’d be nice to get some value out of him in special teams.  Of course, with any rookie, you have to worry about inopportune fumbles in such a role.  Probably not something the team would be comfortable with (especially considering I’m not so sure he has any experience in that role).

If you ask me, I’d say we just go with Jermaine Kearse.  He has proved to be reliable with the ball in his hands, elusive-enough in open space, and tough enough to endure the types of hits he’d have to endure.  With his role looking to be diminished with the additions of rookies Richardson and Kevin Norwood, it might be a good way to establish some more value, especially if the team decides they don’t want to extend him beyond whenever his contract ends.

Either that, or just stick with Percy Harvin and have him return both kickoffs and punts.  If we’re already risking his health in one arena (or, I guess two arenas, if you count the actual offense), then why not go full bore?  He’s obviously the best candidate, and he’s NOT as important as Earl Thomas.

The Doug Baldwin vs. Golden Tate Argument

If you’ll allow me to put words into your mouths, I think I can speak for everyone when I say:  We all want both Golden Tate AND Doug Baldwin back in the fold long term.  If we had it our way, as Seahawks fans, these two guys would retire as career Seahawks, with multiple titles to reflect upon.

But, the way you hear people talk about it, the Seahawks are destined to only keep one.  With the salary cap and all that nonsense, you’ve got to make difficult choices.  Every player in the NFL wants to be paid what he’s worth (or, rather, what he THINKS he’s worth).  Yet, there’s only so much money to go around for one team.  Can the Seahawks afford to give Golden Tate the long-term deal he deserves, while somehow locking up Doug Baldwin, while also mainlining the gargantuan Percy Harvin cap figure, while extending guys like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson and so on?

The short answer is:  probably not.  The Percy Harvin deal REALLY screwed the damn pooch in this whole thing.  We all figured that Percy Harvin would be a guy to put this offense over the top.  Little did we know, when we were making this deal, that we had the talent all along.

This team can win with Tate, Baldwin, and Kearse.  How do I know that?  Because they just fucking did it.  The Seahawks just went 16-3 and were only 3-0 when Harvin made an appearance.  I’d say 13-3 (including a victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game REAL Super Bowl) is pretty damn good.

The question is:  will Percy Harvin make us better?  Only time will tell.  If he’s healthy, then you have to say, “Of course he makes us better!”  But, if he keeps getting knocked out of games and misses huge chunks of seasons, while at the same time costing us someone like Doug Baldwin, who had to get his money elsewhere because the Seahawks couldn’t afford to pay everyone, then I’d say Percy Harvin might actively make us worse.

The bottom line is:  Percy Harvin isn’t going anywhere.  At the very least, not until AFTER the 2014 season.  Now, I’m not sitting here counting down the days, trying to push the guy out the door, but it IS interesting how his contract shakes out.  If the Seahawks really wanted out, they could cut him after next season and save $5.7 million (not to mention all the dozens of millions of dollars we’d save by not paying his base salaries for the subsequent four seasons).  So, if Percy Harvin spends most of 2014 on the shelf, and we feel he can’t be relied upon to carry the load going forward, we can jettison him and try to salvage what we have.

And what we have is Doug Baldwin.  Right now, he’s a restricted free agent.  Word on the street is, the Seahawks are going to give him a 2nd round tender, which means he’s worth a little over $2 million.  If someone signs him away from us, then they owe us a 2nd round draft pick.  Personally, if I was some other team in desperate need of a quality receiver, I’d sacrifice that 2nd round pick in a heartbeat and make Doug Baldwin an offer he can’t refuse.  You’re telling me right now, Indianapolis couldn’t use a receiver like Doug Baldwin to take some of the pressure off of T.Y. Hilton?  That wouldn’t be worth a 2nd rounder to them?

If you ask me, I say the Seahawks should put a first round tender on him, because the only way it’s worth losing Baldwin is if we get a first rounder out of the deal.  And, even then, I’m not so sure …

The point is, the Seahawks don’t necessarily HAVE to sign Baldwin long-term now.  But, they DO have to sign Tate now, if they want to keep him, because he’s an unrestricted free agent, and if we don’t pay him, someone else will.

So, that’s where we stand.  Everyone is so damned convinced that the Seahawks will give Tate a big ol’ extension and wait and see with Baldwin.  You’ve even got some people out there saying that the Seahawks might be better off TRADING Baldwin and getting something for him now!  The argument being:  we won’t be able to pay him long-term money anyway, so we might as well get something before he walks at the end of the 2014 season.

Shit man, that’s CRAZY talk!  Because if Harvin really is as injury prone as we all fear, the Seahawks are in an excellent position to cut him after 2014 and re-sign Baldwin to a more modestly-sized deal and use whatever extra money we’d have left over to sign Russell Wilson or somebody else.

But, okay, let’s go the other way.  Let’s say Harvin is a rock from this day forward.  Let’s say he becomes the star of the offense and totally blows everyone away in 2014.  Maybe he even garners some MVP attention for a while, who knows?  At that point, you’ve got a problem.  Because you’re not cutting a guy like Harvin who is a game-changing talent.  Which means you really DO need to make a tough choice on Baldwin.  And, if you’ve already got Tate locked up with Harvin, you’re most likely not going to want to throw any more huge contracts into the wide receiver position.

This leads right into the main argument of this post, 900+ words in:  I think the Seahawks would be better off signing Doug Baldwin long term right now and letting Golden Tate walk.

I’ve read the arguments for signing Golden Tate and I’m just not buying them.  Not if it comes at the expense of Doug Baldwin.  One of the feathers in Tate’s cap is his ability to return punts.  Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s nice having him back there.  I like that he’s a risk-taker.  I like that he’s fearless.  He’s not reckless so much as he’s smart when taking his chances (like catching the ball inside the 10 yard line with a 10-yard cushion between him and the nearest defender), because more often than not it’s those chances that end up being modest to awesome gains.  But, what happens the next time Golden Tate gets injured on a punt return?  What happens if he doesn’t fair catch the ball and gets slammed into the turf, woozy with concussion?  What happens if someone falls on his leg and he sprains an ankle?

You know what happens?  That’s the end of Golden Tate:  Punt Returner.  The Seahawks aren’t going to pour gallons upon gallons of money into someone like Golden Tate – who is ostensibly too important on the offense – just to see him get injured returning punts.

Besides, come on, how hard is it to find a decent punt returner?  If you want my two cents:  just give me a guy who won’t fumble.  You know who was an AMAZING punt returner for us?  Bobby Engram.  Granted, he almost NEVER returned a punt, but he caught every fucking one of them and didn’t cost our offense any possessions.  Give me THAT.  Give me a fair-catching machine and I’ll take it.

Now, the argument for Golden Tate on offense is a little more complex.  He’s great at going up and catching the ball at its highest point.  He’s freakishly athletic.  He’s our best big-play threat.  And, he’s adept at breaking off of his route when Russell Wilson starts to scramble.  That last trait might not be so important for most quarterbacks, but it’s essential when you’re talking about Russell Wilson.

My thing is:  I believe Doug Baldwin does all of that for us just as effectively as Golden Tate.  PLUS, Baldwin has probably the best hands on the team.  He’s one of the smartest players on the team.  He’s probably our best receiver at getting himself open – whether it’s creating separation in man-to-man, or finding a hole in the zone for a first down.  Who do you trust when it’s 3rd & 8 late in the game and you need a first down to win it?  Doug Baldwin.  Who do you trust to catch the ball with two feet in bounds when Wilson is running for his life and heaving up what appears to be a desperation hail mary?  Doug Baldwin.

And, to be honest, if you’ll forgive me for focusing too intently on the most recently-played games, who had the better playoff run?

Golden Tate caught 8 balls for 61 yards and 0 TDs in our three playoff games.
Doug Baldwin caught 13 for 202 and 1 Super Bowl TD.

I mean, let’s face it, Tate was shut down in the playoffs.  Aside from a punt return here and there, did you really ever see him make an impact?  Great players, worthy of big contracts, don’t just disappear when the games matter most.  Great players step up.  Also, great players are relied upon by their quarterbacks when there’s no tomorrow.  In the playoffs, you’re not fucking around.  You go with what works.  What works, for this team, is Doug Baldwin carving up defenses.

Now, people will tell you that Doug Baldwin is “just a slot receiver”.  First of all, no he’s not.  He’s capable of playing on the outside if need be.  He can run all the routes you need to run and he’ll succeed regardless.  Secondly, is Wes Welker “just a slot receiver”?  Why are you poo-pooing the slot receiver position?  People say that slot receivers are a dime a dozen, and that may be true.  But, slot receivers like Doug Baldwin are pretty fucking rare.

Golden Tate has a special talent.  But, does he really do all that much that Percy Harvin doesn’t already do?  The Seahawks did a great job of building Tate up from a second round draft pick into a #1 receiver for the Seahawks.  What’s to say we don’t do that again with someone else?

Again, if it’s up to me, I’d keep all of our guys.  But, that’s not the way it works in reality.  In reality, sometimes you’ve got to lose someone great to keep someone even better.  I would hate to think of what would have become of the 2013 Seahawks with Harvin missing most of the year, while at the same time not having Doug Baldwin around.  Defenses would have clamped down on Tate and we would’ve been left with Kearse and Lockette doing all the work.  I like Kearse enough, but I’m not trusting him to make all the insane 3rd down catches Doug Baldwin made on a game-by-game basis.

In 2014 and beyond, this team needs Baldwin much more than it needs Tate.  Unless and until they’re able to hit on a tall receiver in the draft, our offense is going to move on the legs of our running game, on the quick passes to Percy Harvin, and on the clutch 3rd down grabs by Doug Baldwin.  The bulk of Seahawks fans and bloggers might not agree with me, but really try to picture life without Doug Baldwin.  It’s scary.

Exorcising The Demons Of Our Super Bowl XL Defeat

February 5, 2006.  We’re coming up on the 8th anniversary of that fateful day in Seahawks history.  Do you remember what you were doing?  Because, I remember what I was doing.  I was in my house in West Seattle, with my roommates and some other friends.  Pretty small gathering.  I was in my rocking chair, with a fridge full of Miller High Life at my disposal.

I drank 18 beers that day.  I want to say that’s a personal high, but then again I’ve never really sat there and counted.  This total was unmistakable though, as I found them the next morning, in a semi-straight line next to the chair I had sat in throughout the entire afternoon.

According to the day-after notes I took, on my old LiveJournal account, I started drinking around noon and was most likely passed out by 8pm.  I had one of the worst hangovers the next day that I’ve ever endured.  How I made it through even PART of a work day is mind-boggling to me now.  In 2006, I would turn 25, so maybe that explains it a little bit.  Couldn’t do that today, that’s for damn sure (which is why I have requested the Monday after this upcoming Super Bowl off of work).

I don’t remember a lot about the experience of actually watching the game, though.  Obviously, I remember seething with hatred.  At the refs, at Jerramy Stevens.  At the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I remember being with friends who weren’t nearly as rabid in their Seahawks fandom as myself (but, then again, I have a real problem, so don’t consider that comment in any way detrimental to their character) and I vaguely remember feeling some of their eyes on me, as if to say, “Who is this crazy person I’ve chosen to make my friend?”

I remember, in an important situation, when the Seahawks were in need of a big play, a long bomb to Jerramy Stevens.  At first, the announcers called it a catch.  It LOOKED like a catch, if only for a moment, because he had his back to the camera when he fell.  In my excitement, I jumped up out of my chair, with a fist raised to the air, unleashing a raucous cheer … and in the process, my fist collided with the ceiling and punched a hole through it.  A moment later, it was revealed that Stevens, in fact, dropped the ball.  Not only did that drive stall, but now I had a hole in the ceiling that would come out of my share of the deposit (the house was a rental).

I remember after the game, when all was said and done, not saying one word to anyone else at our little gathering.  I left the room, called a friend of mine (who happens to be a Steelers fan) to grudgingly congratulate him, and that’s it.  That’s all that I remember.

***

After Super Bowl XL, I avoided any and all highlights of that game.  If it popped up on television, I’d change the channel.  If they talked about it on the radio, I’d turn the fucking thing off.  I also avoided any and all Internet articles on the subject.  I tried my damnedest to pretend the whole fucking thing never existed.  And, aside from a few drunken debates among friends, I did my best to never bring it up.

As a kid, I remember watching TV after a major sports championship and seeing those Sports Illustrated commercials.  You know, they offer a year’s subscription to their magazine, and if you bought RIGHT NOW, you’d get this deluxe, embossed keepsake of whichever sports team just won their respective championship.  I remember watching those commercials and thinking, “One day, a Seattle team is going to win a championship, and I’m going to be the first one to call that number and order that subscription so I can get that keepsake.”  I thought it might happen for me in the mid-90s with one of those Sonics teams.  Then, I thought it might happen for me at the turn of the century, with one of those Mariners teams.  Then, I thought SURELY I’ll get my chance with the Seahawks after Super Bowl XL!  And, every year of my life, I’ve been denied this opportunity.

Just once, I’d like to have that keepsake in my home.  I’d like to buy that DVD of the championship game.  I’d like to be able to reflect back upon just ONE season with joy in my heart.  And not a sense of loss.

I don’t know if there are Seahawks fans out there who bought that Sports Illustrated subscription after the Steelers beat us, just to have something saying that we WENT to the Super Bowl, but I know there are fans out there who are just happy to be involved.  Who would like to see the Seahawks win it all, but are just as satisfied with “having a good season”.  Those people – while maybe they’re not psychotic about sports like I am – make me sick.

It has taken me nearly 8 years to get to the point where I was able to re-watch Super Bowl XL.  Honestly, I’m only just now capable of this feat because my Seahawks have finally made it back.  I figure, if I’m ever going to be able to let this thing go, I’m going to have to sit there, watch the whole thing, and try to keep an open mind.  Maybe not ALL of the calls by the refs were horrid.  Maybe it wasn’t so much the Seahawks making mistakes as the Steelers just out-playing us.  MAYBE, the Steelers actually did deserve to win that game.

So, over the last week, in two separate sittings, I sat there and watched this game.  For the record, the first half was so brutal, I had to give myself a few days before I could come back and watch the second half.  I originally intended to do some sort of Sports Guy Running Diary of this thing, but that flew out the window pretty quick.  Instead, I took copious amounts of notes, which I’ll get into right now.

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For starters, I pulled this video from the Internet.  It had the ABC video feed, but they dubbed it over with the Pittsburgh Steelers radio announcers.  Right off the bat, I was annoyed.

Before I get into the actual notes of the thing, if you wanted to perfectly sum up Super Bowl XL, I don’t think I can say it any better than this:

To score points in an average football game, normally you have to punch the ball into the endzone (for a touchdown), kick the ball over the goal post (for a field goal), or tackle the quarterback/running back in his own endzone (for a safety).  However, if you scored Super Bowl points based on your effectiveness of driving the football between the 30’s and then failing miserably, the Seahawks of Super Bowl XL would be the greatest Super Bowl team known to mankind.

So, let’s just get into this.  The Seahawks got the ball first and, if you remember anything about Mike Holmgren-coached teams, you remember that he likes to script his first 15 or so plays to start the game.  I don’t know why.  I don’t remember it working predominantly more than it failed; I feel like it’s a 50/50 endeavor.  If you succeed on that first drive, then it’s because you prepared really hard?  But, if you fail, then what?  I don’t understand the rationale behind it either.  Essentially, you’re saying, “We’re going to run these 15 plays in order, regardless of the situation or the defense in front of us.”  Yet, if it works so well, why wouldn’t you script the first 30 or 45 plays?

Whatever.  Anyway, in the first couple minutes of the game, Seattle moved the ball down the field with authority.  Quick passes, quick huddles, quick snaps.  Everything quick, everything in a nice little rhythm.  We got to midfield and on 2nd & 9, Matt Hasselbeck overthrew Darrell Jackson – who was wide open at the 35 yard line of Pittsburgh – which would have given us a first down and a lot more.  We got sacked on third down and that was that.  Tom Rouen punted the ball into the endzone.

As I go along, I’m going to track all the Seattle Mistakes, as well as all the times the Seahawks were screwed over.  In the first drive, we had two big mistakes:

  • Hasselbeck overthrew a wide-open Jackson
  • Rouen punted the ball into the endzone

On Pittsburgh’s first drive, our defense was strong, holding them to a 3 & Out and one net yard gained.

Possession #2 – Started at our own 36 and we quickly moved into Pittsburgh territory.  Again, very quick pace.  It’s startling to watch, after these last two years of the Seahawks slowing things down to a turtle’s pace.  Darrell Jackson caught a ball that would have put us into field goal range, but there was a holding call on Chris Gray.  On a repeated viewing, this looked to be a legit call.  He got there late on a stunting linebacker on the right edge.  This led to 3rd & 16 and a poor throw by Hasselbeck into massive coverage (which should have been picked off).  This was followed by another fucking punt into the endzone.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Legit holding call on Chris Gray
  • Punt #2 into the endzone

On Pittsburgh’s second possession, they ran the ball twice and threw an incompletion for another 3 & Out.  Roethlisberger had all day, but just made a bad throw.

Possession #3 – Booming punt was returned to the 49 yard line by Peter Warrick.  Remember that guy?  I sure as shit didn’t.  Anyway, two plays into the drive and we were in field goal range.  Darrell Jackson was REALLY having a day, tying a then-Super Bowl record of 5 catches in the first quarter.

Next play:  offensive pass interference on Darrell Jackson, which would have been his sixth catch of the quarter AND a touchdown.  If I’m going to be honest with you:  it’s a bullshit call.  WHO calls that?  Did Jackson stick his arm out?  Yes.  Did he push off with that arm?  No fucking way.  Did he gain an unfair advantage by putting that arm out there?  No fucking way.  The Steeler who he supposedly interfered with (known as #28 because I don’t care to learn the man’s name) was in a TERRIBLE position to make a play.  28 got caught standing in the back of the endzone looking into the backfield.  Also:  the ref didn’t even begin to throw the flag until Jackson had secured the ball and 28 started complaining like a bitch.  If the ref sees a foul, fine, throw the flag.  But, don’t let the emotions of the game lead you to throw the flag late.  Either you saw something that should have been penalized, or you didn’t.  If you did, then throw it IMMEDIATELY!

I don’t think that flag gets thrown today.  Even the Steelers radio guys thought that was a ticky-tack call!  I’m not even shitting you!

Nevertheless, we still had 1st and 20.  We were still more or less in field goal range.  There were ample opportunities to get that yardage back and have a reasonable chance at a touchdown.  So, what did we do?  TWO SLOW-DEVELOPING STRETCH RUNNING PLAYS IN A ROW!!!

I like Mike Holmgren.  I think he did more for this city and this franchise than any other head coach, maybe with the exception of Lou Piniella.  But, I’ll be God fucking damned if Holmgren didn’t make some BAFFLING play-calling decisions in his career.  Are you fucking SHITTING ME?  I know our offensive line was good and everything, but why do you run practically the same play twice when it didn’t work the first time AND YOU NEED 20 FUCKING YARDS FOR THE FIRST DOWN???

I’m telling you, that actually makes me more infuriated than the bogus pass interference call.  3rd & 23 (so we LOST three yards on those two runs).  In this situation, there are two things you can do:  go conservative to try to better your position for a field goal, or go for the knockout.  I love me some Matt Hasselbeck, and the next play is exactly why:  fade pass into the right corner of the endzone.  D.J. Hackett actually had two fucking hands on the ball, but couldn’t come down with the catch.  There was incidental contact by the Pittsburgh defender, but he was facing the direction of the throw, so probably a good no-call.  Either way, we ended this drive up 3-0 when we should have been up 7-0.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Holmgren’s play-calling on 1st & 20
  • D.J. Hackett dropping a touchdown

Referee fuckup:

#1.  Lame offensive pass interference on Jackson that should have been a no-call.

Pittsburgh’s third possession ended the first quarter with a third straight 3 & Out.  I’m trembling with rage at this point, considering we ONLY had a 3-0 lead.  Feels like it should have been 21-0, but every drive has seen us shoot ourselves in the foot.

Possession #4 – Another booming punt by the Steelers, which Warrick returned into Steelers territory.  Except … you guessed it.  Holding penalty on #35 brought it back.  This was probably the weakest holding penalty I’ve ever seen, as repeated viewings show he hardly put a hand on the guy.  Cost us a good 30 yards of field position.

Still, Hasselbeck was on point, quickly getting us up near midfield.  Shaun Alexander ripped off a couple of nice runs that got us to 3rd & short.  For some reason, we took Alexander off the field, but that really doesn’t matter, because Matt Hasselbeck was dropping dimes.  He made an excellent throw to Jerramy Stevens about 20 yards down field, who caught it, but got hit immediately and had the ball pop out.  He absolutely should have come up with that play.  Professionals make that catch!  He had it in both hands, tucked it into his right arm, and that’s when the hit came & knocked it out.  It was very nearly a completion and a fumble, but he never made a “football move” in my opinion.  This drive finished with a third punt into the endzone.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #1
  • Tom Rouen Shitty Punt #3

Referee fuckup:

#2 – Phantom holding call on the Seahawks’ punt return.

The Steelers finally got their first first down of the game at 11:15 to go in the second quarter, on a completion on 3rd & 8 with fabulous coverage by the Sehawks.  Considering to this point, the Seahawks have had the ball four times, moved the ball fairly well each time, and only came away with 3 points is more than a little disconcerting.

We ended up biting on an end-around to Hines Ward for 25 yards to put the Steelers around midfield, and on the play Marquand Manuel was injured.  That’s something to keep in mind, because we were already thin as it was in the secondary, and because Manuel would not return to the game.

On the very next play, however, a deep ball by Roethlisberger was badly underthrown and picked off by Michael Boulware.

Possession #5 – 3 & Out.  We were short of converting that by mere inches.  And, of course, when we NEED a big, booming punt out of Tom Rouen, he kicks a low, short line drive.  Fuck me?  No, fuck YOU, sir!

On Pittsburgh’s next drive, we had them in third & long, but somehow lost Hines Ward, who caught a shovel pass and converted.  From there, Roethlisberger hit a seam pass deep into Seattle territory.  Marcus Trufant was lined up a MILE in front of the guy, to allow him to make an easy catch for a big gain.  Remember, this was our BEST cornerback at the time.  If the 2013 Seahawks played corner that poorly, I’d have a fucking heart attack.

Next up, Hines Ward dropped what would have been a highlight-worthy catch at the right sideline of the endzone.  At this point, the second-year Roethlisberger was looking more and more comfortable.  This was a lucky break for the Seahawks, because Hines definitely had a chance to make the catch.  Offensive pass interference followed (didn’t see it, they never showed a replay), followed by a sack back at the 40 yard line.

This led to 3rd & 28.  They were out of field goal range, so we were probably expecting some sort of 10-yard checkdown.  The line flushed Ben out of the pocket to his left, then he unloaded a ball all the way down to the Seahawks’ 3 yard line, which was miraculously caught by Hines Ward for the first down.  MOTHER OF GOD!  What the Hell is going on here???  There were three Seahawks around him, yet not one of them could make a play.  There are no words.

A steady diet of The Bus followed, netting 1.5 yards and running the clock down to the 2-minute warning.  This led to yet another fuck up by the refs:  bootleg by Roethlisberger (designed run) for a touchdown.

Here’s the thing:  like the pass interference call on Jackson earlier, if you see something, CALL IT IMMEDIATELY!  You know what I saw on this play?  I saw the line judge raise one hand in the air, as if to signal fourth down.  As he ran down the line towards the pile, he switched his call and put both hands in the air signifying touchdown.  Do you know what happened in these seconds between the 4th down call and the touchdown call?  Roethlisberger – who landed with the ball in his gut, while half of his torso was over the line – discreetly moved the ball over the goalline.  You can see on the reverse view that shows the ball, the ref ran into the shot, and he only had one arm in the air until Roethlisberger moved that ball.

Of course, in reality, it was as close as a play gets.  I could look at that play 50 times and flip-flop back and forth as to whether that ball crossed the line or not, but that’s not the point.  The point is:  if the ref calls it 4th down, they won’t overturn it on replay.  If the ref calls it a touchdown, they won’t overturn it on replay.  There’s no concrete evidence either way, so that initial call is CRUCIAL.  And that particular ref didn’t stick with what he saw initially.  He pussed out and called it a touchdown after Ben moved the ball.  From how he landed, if you just saw his body and nothing else, you’d think, “Surely he scored on that run.”  Except, when the Seahawks defender stopped him, his helmet knocked the ball down around Ben’s gut.  The ball wasn’t positioned on his body like it normally would have been.  The ref was fooled, he fucked up, and that’s that.

Seattle fuckups:

  • Allowing Pittsburgh to convert 3rd and 28

Referee fuckup:

#3 – Switching his call halfway down the line after Ben moves the ball across the goalline a la Vinny Testaverde.

Possession #6 – 2-minute offense, just after the 2-minute warning.  Pittsburgh squib-kicked and we returned it to the 40 yard line.  But, of course, they called holding.  On #57.  He didn’t hold anyone.  How do I know that?  Because he didn’t BLOCK ANYONE.  I don’t know if anyone else held on that play, but 57 sure as shit didn’t.

Almost immediately, we got the yards back and drove up near midfield.  Our offensive line was holding up well against their blitzes as we moved into Steelers territory.  There was a deep ball up the right sideline to Jackson that would have been a touchdown, but Jackson was careless with his footwork and was rightly called out of bounds.  He got his left foot down, his knee grazed the pylon, but his right foot landed totally out of bounds.

Then, for some insane reason, we opted to run the ball up the gut for four yards with 40 seconds left.  AND THEN WE LET THE CLOCK RUN DOWN TO 13 SECONDS BEFORE PITTSBURGH CALLED A TIME OUT???  What the tap-dancing FUCK?

Part of that is on Hasselbeck totally not giving a shit about the clock winding down as he’s changing the play at the line, but most of that is on another Holmgren play-calling brain fart.  Seriously?  It’s a 2-minute offense and you’re running the ball up the gut?  And then you DON’T call a time out when Hasselbeck is clearly freaking out about something he’s seeing from Pittsburgh’s defense?  Bad Holmgren.  Bad.

Once again, we aired it out to Jackson down the right sideline, but the pass was offline and led him out of bounds.  Probably not the best decision by Hasselbeck, when just getting ten yards would have been more helpful.  But, what do you expect him to do when his coach doesn’t put the team in a position to succeed by running the fucking ball with 40 seconds to go on the clock?

That led to a 54-yard field goal that Josh Brown pushed wide right.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Some of the worst clock management I’ve ever seen
  • Poor footwork on Jackson’s part on that first deep pass
  • Poor decision on Hasselbeck’s part to not check down for some extra yards for the field goal

Referee fuckup:

#4 – Phantom holding call on the kick return.

Halftime.  7-3 Pittsburgh.  Legitimately, the Seahawks missed out on 10 more points in that half (4 for the bullshit P.I. call on Jackson, 3 on the Jerramy Stevens drop that would have put us in field goal range, and 3 on that drive before half).  Should have been 13-7.  Should have been a lot of things.

Pittsburgh got the ball after halftime and on second down, Willie Parker ran up the gut for 75 yards and a touchdown.  14-3, Pittsburgh.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Linebackers were swallowed whole
  • Safety (Manuel’s replacement) bit ridiculously hard on a cut inside before Parker bounced it out into the clearing
  • Overall shit defense from A to Z on that play

Possession #7 – Good first drive out of the half by the offense.  There was another deep ball to Jerramy Stevens who dropped it again.  This one would have made it first and goal.  The fucking thing hit him right in the chest.

Still, we drove it into field goal range.  On 3rd & 5, Hasselbeck was pressured into throwing quickly, took a shot down field, and it landed incomplete.  Josh Brown, this time, pulled the field goal wide left.  He was 1 for 3 at this point.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #2
  • Poorly kicked field goal

On Pittsburgh’s next possession, on 3rd & 4, Hines Ward totally shoved a defender in the face to get open.  No flag, first down.  They got deep into Seattle territory – 3rd & 7 inside our 10 yard line – and Roethlisberger made the worst throw I’ve ever seen, on a short out route to the right side.  #31 for the Seahawks jumped it and ran it all the way back to Pittsburgh’s 20 yard line.

Referee fuckup:

#5 – No offensive pass interference on Hines Ward on a third down conversion

Possession #8 – We gained four yards on the first two plays, then on 3rd & 6 from the 16, Hasselbeck hit a wide open Jerramy Stevens for a touchdown.  14-10, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh’s next possession was a 3 & Out, where they ended up running all three times.  Looked like they wanted to protect Roethlisberger’s ego there instead of giving him a chance to atone for his mistakes.

Possession #9 – First play would have been at least 10 yards if not more, but of course, Jerramy Stevens dropped it again.  This drive ended up as a 3 & Out and Rouen had another short, shitty punt.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Jerramy Stevens Drop #3
  • Tom Rouen Shitty Punt #AllOfThem

Pittsburgh came back with another 3 & Out as Roethlisberger overthrew an open Hines Ward.  Seriously, does ANYONE want to take control of this shitty game?

Possession #10 – Peter Warrick let the punt bounce at the 20 yard line, where it rolled all the way down to our 2.  What’s it like to have a good punter?

It’s really nice to have the best left side of an offensive line in the history of the NFL, though, because the 2 yard line became the 7 yard line on one play.  Ryan Hannam was now in at tight end, because JESUS CHRIST JERRAMY STEVENS SUCK A DICK.  We got all the way back to midfield on some more quality throws.  Then, a third down conversion to Engram took it down to the 30 yard line, followed by a couple of solid Alexander runs taking it inside the 20.

And, like clockwork, after the Seahawks did so well to move the ball down the field, they started shooting themselves in the foot.  This time, the edge rusher for Pittsburgh got an INSANE jump, moving into the neutral zone just as the ball was being snapped.  He happened to be rushing on Sean Locklear’s side, who had no choice but to hold or let Hasselbeck get killed.  The refs saw the hold and called it.  Where this hurt, of course, is that on the pass, Hasselbeck actually completed a ball to Jerramy Stevens down to the 3 yard line.  Instead of first and goal, with Alexander running it in all but certain, it was 1st & 20 at around the 30 yard line.

Next play:  Tobeck got abused and Hasselbeck got sacked.  2nd & 25, we ran a draw play that gained a good 9 yards or so.  Alexander would have had a lot more, actually, but the Pittsburgh defender horsecollar tackled him.  Refs missed it, but the Pittsburgh broadcasters sure didn’t, and wondered why a flag wasn’t thrown.

On 3rd & long, Hasselbeck threw deep again, and this time was bit for it, getting picked off.  He was eventually called for a “low block” on the return, even though he was trying to make a tackle on the play, and even though he hit THE GUY WITH THE FUCKING BALL and not any other Steeler.  #Refs.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Warrick letting punt go down to 2 yard line
  • Holding that negated a 1st & goal
  • Interception, throwing into heavy coverage, not allowing your team a chance for the field goal

Referee fuckups:

#6 – Did not call the horsecollar tackle
#7 – Penalizing Hasselbeck for a low block on an interception return when he went in to make a tackle.

On the Steelers’ next possession, they converted on third and short just past midfield.  Then, they ran an end-around pass from Randle-El to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown.  Seattle fuckups:

  • Safety bit hard on the play-action
  • Linemen didn’t keep contain on the end-around
  • Allowed a fucking WIDE RECEIVER to throw the ball to another fucking wide receiver!

Possession #11 – It’s 21-10 with 9 minutes to go.  We once again got the ball quickly to midfield, then the drive stalled with Hasselbeck taking a sack on third down by an unblocked cornerback.  We opted to punt the ball with 6:30 to go in the game (obviously – AND I MEAN OBVIOUSLY – the punt was kicked into the endzone).  Seattle fuckups:

  • Letting an unblocked cornerback sack your quarterback
  • Punting when you’re down by 11 points with 6 and a half minutes to go in the game

Pittsburgh’s next possession had a real chance to be over with a 3 & Out.  On 3rd & 6, the refs missed a delay of game penalty, opting to give Pittsburgh the time out, even though Roethlisberger didn’t call the time out until the clock had already reached zero.  They converted that on a wide receiver screen and bled more clock.

The Bus ran it down to a 3rd & 2, as the Seahawks were using their time outs, then we fell for another quarterback bootleg keeper for the first down.  The Steelers ended up running the clock down to the 2-minute warning before they had to punt.

Referee fuckup:

#8 – Not calling Delay of Game on 3rd & 6, which would have made the next play much more difficult.

Possession #12 – The Seahawks got the ball into Pittsburgh territory on a couple of plays before clocking it with 1:00 to go.  Hasselbeck missed Engram, who was open down the sideline, for a would-be big gainer.  Not that it matters, but after that Hasselbeck was throwing short outs for some reason.

The final Seahawks play of the game:  a deep ball, near the goalline, which was dropped by Jerramy Stevens.  Because what more fitting way to end this game, except for maybe another shitty Tom Rouen punt?

By my count, here’s the happy totals:

  • 23 total mistakes by the Seahawks
  • 8 bullshit calls/non-calls by the refs
  • 5 of the worst punts you’ve ever seen
  • 4 legitimate, should-have-had-them drops by Jerramy Stevens
  • 3 legitimately huge plays by the Steelers (3rd & 28, 75-yard TD run, 43-yard WR-to-WR TD pass)
  • 3 bonehead coaching decisions by Mike Holmgren
  • 2 critical offensive holding penalties that were good calls by the refs and drive-killers for us
  • 2 missed field goals by the supposed “most clutch kicker in Seahawks history”
  • 1 interception deep in the opposition territory to cost us at least three points

Add it all up, and you’ve got one of the worst Super Bowl performances in the history of the game.

Make no mistake, the Steelers were NOT the better team on this day.  They had a bunch of 3 & Outs, Roethlisberger had some baffling throws, and for this supposedly-vaunted defense, they sure as shit let the Seahawks move the ball up and down the field at will.  We had nearly 400 yards!  Their wide receivers had more touchdown passes than their quarterback!  This was NOT a good Steelers performance.  For as great as they were in the three AFC playoff games leading up to this, they looked like they were lost and overwhelmed in the Super Bowl.

Had the Seahawks capitalized – like they should have – the Steelers would have lost this game, and Bill Cowher would have been The Coach Who Chokes In Super Bowls.  And I’m not even saying the Seahawks needed to play a perfect game!  Just take back a small fraction of those mistakes, and a small fraction of those bullshit referee decisions, and you’re looking at a comfortable win for the Good Guys.  Just about EVERYTHING had to go against us at critical times for us to blow this game.

In the end, there’s not one person or entity to blame.  The refs are to blame as much as Jerramy Stevens, Mike Holmgren, and our own offensive line.  This was truly the perfect storm, and a nasty way to introduce Seahawks fans to participation in the NFL’s greatest spectacle.

So, did you hate reading this as much as I hated researching it and writing it?  Good.  Let’s keep this game in mind as we head into Sunday:  we CANNOT have a repeat of this performance.

Comparing The 2005 Seahawks To The 2013 Seahawks

Last week, we more or less giddily looked forward to the “Big Game” on February 2nd.  This week, I’ve decided to take a step back and review the last time the Seahawks were in a position to give all of our lives meaning.

The 2005 Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere, per se, but they also didn’t look like a team that would be bound for the Super Bowl.  In 2003, the Seahawks finished second in the NFC West (to the Rams), and lost in the Wild Card round to Green Bay (take the ball, score, all of that nonsense you wish you could forget).  In 2004, the Seahawks won the NFC West, but lost again in the Wild Card round, this time to the Rams (who, sadly, managed to beat us three times that season).

Suffice it to say, these Seahawks were starting to remind everyone of the early George Karl Sonics teams (good enough to win divisions and make the playoffs, but ALWAYS with the first round exits).  In a way, 2005 was a make-or-break year for Mike Holmgren.  Obviously, he had already lost his General Managing duties by this point, but if there was another underperforming finish to this season, you had to wonder how hot his seat would’ve been.  2005 was his seventh season in Seattle.  He had made the playoffs three times in those seven years, and each time he lost in the first round.

So, it was more than a little disconcerting to see us go into Jacksonville – where we expected to be the better team, given the Jags’ questions at quarterback – and lose to kick off the season.  Granted, those Jags would end up 12-4, but we had no idea they’d be that good going in.  The Seahawks bounced back with a couple of home wins over a couple of mediocre teams (Falcons & Cardinals), before losing on the road once again (this time to the Redskins).

By this point, it was the same boring storyline:  the Seahawks can’t win on the road (and they especially can’t win on the road at 10am Pacific time).  The very next week would, once again, put this theory to the test, as we faced off against our most bitter rival (at the time), the St. Louis Rams.  After they’d beaten us three times the previous year, we knew there was a dragon left to be slain.  Having it on the road, in the morning, made it all the sweeter when we won 37-31.

This kicked off an 11-game winning streak that was only broken in Week 17 when we rested many of our starters (as we’d locked up the #1 seed).

Looking back on it, the NFC was VERY weak in 2005.  The Rams & Packers were both in the midst of down seasons.  The Bears had a great defense, but were led by Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman of all people.  The Seahawks drew the Redskins in the Divisional Round, with the aging Mark Brunell, and easily dispatched them.  That led to an NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers.  We made mincemeat of Jake Delhomme (probably the beginning of the end of his career, with three interceptions against only one touchdown) and Steve Smith (at the height of his powers, held to a trivial 5 catches for 33 yards).  These were not teams to fear.

For sure, all the talent was in the AFC in 2005.  The 14-2 Colts were the best team in football.  The 13-3 Broncos were surprisingly effective with Jake Plummer at the helm and the 3rd ranked defense by points scored.  The 10-6 Patriots were still, more or less, the same team that had won three of the last four Super Bowls.  The 11-5 Bengals were a surprising division winner, with Carson Palmer looking to really make his mark on this league.  The 12-4 Jaguars were one of the better 5-seeds in the history of the league to that point (boxed out by the aforementioned 14-2 Colts).  Leaving the 11-5 Steelers, in the 6-seed.

Had things gone according to plan (or according to the 2013 blueprint), the Seahawks would have played Peyton Manning and his Colts in the Super Bowl.  Of course, nothing goes the way you want it to.

The Steelers started out their playoff run by killing Carson Palmer’s career.  He thew one pass for 66 yards.  On his next attempt, he was hit at the knees by a defensive lineman and was out for the game (Palmer would make it back, but he was never as good as he was in 2005).  A promising Bengals team was defeated, with Jon Kitna at the helm.  The Steelers continued their run by going into Indy and playing the top team in the league.  They came away with a 3-point victory.  That led to them going into Denver to play the Broncos (who somehow managed to defeat the Patriots), where they won easily.

To be honest, the run couldn’t have gone more perfectly for the 6-seeded Steelers.  It was a harrowing feat to say the least.  You want to talk about steel sharpening steel?  Compare that run of three straight road games to the charmed life the Seahawks had, with one of the easiest conference regular seasons in recent memory, followed by two home games where we enjoy the best Home Field Advantage in the world.  Pretty much, the Seahawks were flying first class to the Super Bowl, while the Steelers had to survive a death march over steaming hot coals.

In any other year, against any other team, I would have been cheering on the Steelers like nobody’s business.  Instead, I came out of Super Bowl XL with the Steelers as one of my most hated teams of all time

***

I’ll have more on Super Bowl XL tomorrow.  Right now, let’s take a look at those 2005 Seahawks, and how they compare to the 2013 version.

As a general overview, the 2005 Seahawks were (unsurprisingly) quite successful on offense and not so much on defense.  In fact, they led the league in points scored and were second in yards gained.  However, on defense, they weren’t quite the trainwreck I seem to remember.  They were 7th-best in points allowed and 16th in yards given up.  Of course, I would contend their schedule had something to do with that, but the point is, we’re not talking about the 2012 Saints or anything.

The 2005 Seahawks had the MVP of the league in Shaun Alexander.  He scored 27 rushing touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record.  It would be beaten by LaDainian Tomlinson the very next season, but it was still an amazing achievement.  Alexander also ran for 1,880 yards, which was a career high for him.  You can say what you want about his running style, but the man got the job done for us and should be appreciated as the greatest running back in Seahawks history.

The 2005 Seahawks were led by Matt Hasselbeck.  He was in his seventh year in the league, fifth year with the Seahawks, and third year as the Seahawks’ unquestioned starter at the quarterback position.  Remember, when he first got here, we were jerking him around with Trent Dilfer on the roster.  As if winning that Super Bowl with the Ravens (and the greatest defense of all time) somehow made Dilfer competent at the quarterback position or something.  Anyway, I made the point at the time (and stand behind it to this day) that the 2005 Seahawks were as good as they were because they had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback.  Shaun Alexander might have been the league’s MVP, but Hasselbeck was the team’s MVP.  Had we played that season with a replacement-level quarterback (or, Seneca Wallace, as he’s formally known), we would have had replacement-level results, no matter how many yards and touchdowns Alexander ran for.

Then again, the heart and soul of the 2005 Seahawks resided along the offensive line.  It was EASILY the best in football and EASILY the best line we’ve ever seen in Seattle.  It also probably rivals some of the best offensive lines in the history of the league, but I’ll leave that argument for people smarter than me to make.  All I know is:  with Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson on the left side of that line, the rest of the offense’s job was made a lot easier.

So, let’s start there.  Let’s make the rest of this post a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the offensive line.  For the record, I’m going to try to pick the player who played the most games at his given position (or, who is known as that team’s “starter”).  The better player is highlighted in blue.

Left Tackle
2005 – Walter Jones
2013 – Russell Okung

Left Guard
2005 – Steve Hutchinson
2013 – James Carpenter / Paul McQuistan

Center
2005 – Robbie Tobeck
2013 – Max Unger

Right Guard
2005 – Chris Gray
2013 – J.R. Sweezy

Right Tackle
2005 – Sean Locklear
2013 – Breno Giacomini

Overall, when you consider the offensive line as a whole, you give the overwhelming nod to the 2005 Seahawks.  The 2013 Seahawks have no one NEAR the calibre of Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson of 2005.  Max Unger gets a marginal nod over Tobeck.  Chris Gray was like 2005’s version of Paul McQuistan (savvy veteran, able to play multiple positions along the line, helps more than he hurts).  I never did like Sean Locklear.

Quarterback
2005 – Matt Hasselbeck
2013 – Russell Wilson

I’m not gonna lie to you, before I looked at the stats, just going off of memory, I REALLY wanted to pick Hasselbeck over Wilson.  I just thought, given the style of offense (West-Coast, heavy on the passing and the completion percentage), the Seahawks would have required more out of Hasselbeck than they do out of Wilson now.  But, look at these numbers!

Hasselbeck:  294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 98.2
Wilson:  257/407 (63.1%), 3,357, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 101.2

First of all, I thought Hasselbeck would have attempted WAY more passes than Wilson, but it turned out to only be 42 more passes (or a little over two and a half passes per game).  As it turns out, Wilson was the more efficient quarterback, who still managed to best Hasselbeck in touchdowns thrown.  When you tack on Wilson’s rushing yards, it’s pretty clear who’s the better quarterback.  It’s NOT Year 7 Hasselbeck; it’s Year 2 Wilson.  Soak that in as you daydream about the next dozen years with Wilson at the helm.

Running Back
2005 – Shaun Alexander
2013 – Marshawn Lynch

Listen to me, now.  I know how much you love Beastmode.  Hell, I love myself some Beastmode as much as anybody!  I wouldn’t trade his hard-nosed, rugged running style for anything.  It isn’t even really a question of who would you rather have.  I’m not posing the notion of putting 2005 Alexander with 2013’s offensive line to see who would be the better guy.  Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander WITH 2005’s offensive line is just a better running back than 2013 Lynch with 2013’s line.  I’ll kindly refer you to the numbers:

Alexander:  370 attempts, 1,880 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns
Lynch:  301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns

Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander’s numbers are Looney Tunes!  You just don’t see running backs like this very much anymore.  They’re a dying breed.  Alexander was 28 when he had this season.  Lynch is 27, but considering the pounding his body takes, you’d have to think he’s in a similar boat.  When Alexander hit 30, he fell off the cliff.  I would expect nothing less out of Lynch.

Also, 2005 Alexander had 69 more attempts!  In what is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense.  Now, granted, those Seahawks won a lot of games and leaned on teams late with that rushing attack.  But, the 2013 Seahawks ALSO won a lot of games, but weren’t putting up numbers like this.

It boils down to those 2005 Seahawks being a fast-paced offense vs. the 2013 Seahawks slowing the game down.  Of course you’re going to get better offensive numbers if you’re going to be running so many more plays.

Wide Receiver 1
2005 – Darrell Jackson
2013 – Golden Tate

The numbers don’t bear out that Jackson was the team’s #1 receiver – because he missed a good ten games in the middle of the season before returning for the playoff run – but it’s pretty obvious who the team’s top target was.  Jackson’s early career was mired by drops, but he managed to get his shit together starting in 2005.  And, in that playoff run (where he caught 20 balls for 268 yards in three games – and it would have been more in the Super Bowl had things gone a little differently), Jackson really took a step forward.

Nevertheless, Golden Tate gets the nod.  He draws the lion’s share of the coverage (usually with the other team’s best cover corner), and still managed to catch 64 balls for 898 yards.  What puts Tate over the top is his talent, his versatility, and his ability in the punt return game.

Wide Receiver 2
2005 – Joe Jurevicius
2013 – Sidney Rice / Jermaine Kearse

I resisted the urge to put Doug Baldwin here, mainly because I want to save him so I can compare him to Bobby Engram.  In his stead, I put the duo of Rice & Kearse.  Rice was obviously this team’s #2 receiver when he was healthy, but of course, he went down after 8 games and Kearse picked up some of the slack.  You’ve got to ding Rice for not being reliable with his health.  But, aside from all that, Jurevicius was rock solid in 2005.

He caught 55 balls for 694 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns!  He was the type of big body that Pete Carroll has been spending his entire Seahawks career trying to bring in.

Wide Receiver 3
2005 – Bobby Engram
2013 – Doug Baldwin

Bobby Engram was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin was even a twinkle in the Seahawks’ eye!  Engram was Hasselbeck’s 3rd Down security blanket just as Baldwin is that for Wilson today.  And, when other receivers went down – as they seemingly always did – Engram was able to pick up the slack, just like Baldwin has this year after Rice went down.

I’m giving the nod to Baldwin for a couple reason.  Even though Engram caught 17 more passes, they caught the same exact number of yards:  778.  Doug Baldwin is the more explosive receiver.  He can go downfield and make a big play FAR more regularly than Engram ever could.  While he may play in the slot, Baldwin isn’t just a traditional slot receiver like Engram was.  Baldwin can play all over, yet still be that security blanket on third down who finds the hole in the zone or makes the diving sideline grab.

Tight End
2005 – Jerramy Stevens
2013 – Zach Miller

I probably shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, but in this case I can’t help it.  2005 Jerramy Stevens’ numbers absolutely dwarf Zach Miller’s, and if he even REMOTELY lived up to the hype coming into his pro career, Jerramy Stevens would be a beloved individual around these parts.  Instead, he sucked dick, and is beloved in Pittsburgh for handing them the Super Bowl.  So, Zach Miller gets the nod (plus, Miller is actually a true tight end who blocks well and does the whole thing; Stevens was a glorified, overweight wide receiver and not a very good one at that).

So, if you add it up for both sides, 2005 gets the edge on Offensive Line, Running Back (an extension of the offensive line), and one of the three wide receivers.  2013 wins on Quarterback play, Tight End, and 2/3 of the wide receivers.  If I’m weighting things as I should, it’s pretty neck and neck.  Offensive line is the most important part of any football team, so they factor in pretty heavily.  QB comes next.  And, I figure the receivers and tight end equal out the Shaun Alexander MVP factor.  I’m calling it a wash across the board.  But, you can’t just call it a tie, so let’s go to the numbers:

2005:  452 points, 5,915 yards, 1,020 total plays, 5.8 yards per play, 17 turnovers
2013:  417 points, 5,424 yards, 973 total plays, 5.6 yards per play, 19 turnovers

Look, by the slimmest of margins, I’m giving 2005 the nod over 2013 on offense.  There are pieces there to cobble together the greatest offense of all time (2005 O-Line with 2013’s skill position players), but if you want the truth, I’m going to go with the offense that scored more points.  It’s kind of as simple as that.

***

Let’s hop right into the defenses.

2005 Defensive Line
Bryce Fisher (DE)
Grant Wistrom (DE)
Rocky Bernard (DT)
Marcus Tubbs (DT)
Chuck Darby (DT)

2013 Defensive Line
Red Bryant (DE)
Chris Clemons (DE)
Brandon Mebane (DT)
Cliff Avril (DE)
Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
Tony McDaniel (DT)
Clinton McDonald (DT)

This goes without question.  I mean, LOOK at that rotation!  The 2013 Seahawks can come up with any number of fronts, whereas the 2005 version pretty much ran out the same four guys play-in and play-out.  I would argue that Mebane was just as disruptive up the middle as Tubbs.  Michael Bennett can do just as much as Rocky Bernard on the inside (as far as pass rush is concerned), as well as have the ability to slide outside and rush on the edge.  Grant Wistrom was less of a joke than a nightmare I’m still trying to wake up from.  No contest.  Next song.

2005 Linebackers
Leroy Hill
D.D. Lewis
Lofa Tatupu

2013 Linebackers
K.J. Wright
Malcolm Smith
Bobby Wagner
Bruce Irvin

In 2005, you had Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu as rookies, and therefore at the height of their powers and physicality.  But, Tatupu was never good enough to hold Bobby Wagner’s jock, and the combination of Wright & Smith is WAY more versatile than Leroy Hill ever was.  Hill was great at run-stuffing, and he managed 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, but there’s more to linebacker than simply running forward.  You’ve got to run laterally, and backward.  You’ve got to play in coverage, and that’s where the 2013 crew has it all over the 2005 crew.  Which is odd, because those Holmgren defenses were known for their speed.  Here’s the thing:  2013 HAS that speed, but they’ve also got size and versatility.  Again, no contest.  Next song.

2005 Secondary
Marcus Trufant
Kelly Herndon
Michael Boulware
Marquand Manuel
Jordan Babineaux
Ken Hamlin
Etric Pruitt

2013 Secondary
Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell
Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Brandon Browner
Walter Thurmond
Jeremy Lane

I could have stopped after just Richard Sherman – with he alone covering all of the other team’s receivers – and he would have beaten out the 2005 secondary.  I was going to split them up by cornerbacks and safeties, but what’s the point?  It’s laughable how terrible that 2005 secondary was.  Luckily for the 2005 team, they were frequently playing with a lead.  It’s a lot easier to play defense with a lead than it is from behind.

On the whole, it’s not even close.  2013 defense in a landslide.  In fact, I don’t know if there are any guys on that 2005 team would would even PLAY on the 2013 version!  I don’t think anyone turns down a 2005 Rocky Bernard.  And I know 2005 Bryce Fisher had 9.0 sacks, but does he have the ability to stuff the run like Chris Clemons does?  I mean, maybe Fisher cracks the defensive end rotation, but most of those 2005 guys are backups at best on the 2013 team.  I’ll tell you this much:  I’m starting Byron Maxwell over Marcus Trufant every day of the week.

***

In conclusion, the 2013 Seahawks are the better team.  You pit them against the 2005 Seahawks, one game, winner takes all, it’s the 2013 team by a comfortable margin.  2013’s defensive line might struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, and it’s 50/50 whether or not the 2005 team runs the ball well.  But, there’s no way 2005 is throwing all that well against 2013’s secondary.

For the record, nothing would bring me greater joy than to see Kam Chancellor knock the shit out of Jerramy Stevens.  I don’t even mean in any hypothetical matchup between these two teams.  I mean in real life.  Kam Chancellor hunts Jerramy Stevens down, wherever he’s living, and he fucks his shit up.  For real.

Concerning The Saints Game This Weekend

The Seahawks play the Saints on Saturday.  For starters, don’t you just hate being the first game of the weekend?  I guess, in one sense, it’s nice to get it out of the way.  You also don’t really want to be the last game of the weekend either; the mounting pressure becomes too much to handle.  But, that first game?  Doesn’t it always seem like something weird happens in that first playoff game of the weekend?  It would’ve been nice to have been that overlooked second game of the Saturday slate.  Get in, get out, and you’re already forgotten by the time Sunday rolls around.

I don’t want anything weird to happen.  I want a regular, boring ol’ game with the expected outcome and no aggravation at the end.  The Seahawks are expected to win this game.  They’re favored by a good 8 points.  But, more than that, they’re a 1-seed playing a 6-seed.  They’re at home, with probably the best Home Field Advantage in the game.  They’re playing a team whose defense can be scored upon.  They’ve got the best secondary in the game (to combat New Orleans and their awesome passing attack).  This is, in short, the perfect playoff matchup.  We couldn’t have expected anything better.  There’s no reason why we should lose this game.

Then again, there’s no reason why we should have lost ANY of the games we’ve played this year!  We’re the best team in football!  Yet, the best teams don’t always end up winning it all.  And that’s what we’ve got left to worry about.

It’s that time of year.  You’ve got to play every single game like it’s your last, because a single loss will MAKE it your last.  This is what we’ve been looking forward to all this time.  When the season started, we expected the Seahawks to be great.  Through the regular season, the Seahawks HAVE been great.  Now, it’s up to these last three games.  But, really, it’s up to this game on Saturday.  All that stuff we’ve been hearing all season long, about how the Seahawks just want to go 1-0 every week, and about how every game is a “championship opportunity” … well, those chickens are coming home to roost.  That shit’s just a lot of filler.  It’s things athletes say to make it sound like they’re saying the right things.  It’s also something athletes say to stay focused.  These guys read all the press just like we do.  But, they need mantras to see past all that.  To keep their eyes on the prize, as it were.

There’s no reason for the Seahawks to EVER lose, but some losses are easier to understand than others.  Losing to the 49ers makes some sense, because their defense is great and their offense can do just enough to get the job done.  They’re like the evil, bizarro Seahawks.  But, to lose to the Saints?  That just sounds too absurd to compute.

I don’t necessarily expect it to be as easy as it was in Week 13 when we played the Saints last.  Then again, I have no reasoning behind that statement.  Why WOULDN’T we beat them by four touchdowns again?  Everyone points to the elite quarterback, as if that’s just the great equalizer.  In a sense, yeah, it is.  You’re not going to go anywhere in this league without an elite quarterback.  Just look at the remaining teams in this year’s playoffs:  Wilson, Newton, Kaepernick, and Brees in the NFC; Manning, Brady, Luck, and Rivers in the AFC.  More or less, these are 8 of the best quarterbacks in football!  But, how many times have you seen great quarterbacks get shut down in the playoffs?  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning all have one Super Bowl win apiece.  Brady has three, but none since the 2004 season.  All of these quarterbacks have been shut down by solid defensive play.  Why, just last week, Aaron Rodgers was shut down by the 49ers!  Brady was taken down twice by the Giants in the Super Bowl; Manning was taken down countless times by the Patriots back in the day.  Is Drew Brees any different?  I would argue not.  He’s no more special than any of these other elite quarterbacks.

Are the Seahawks on defense any different?  I would argue so; I would argue that they’re BETTER than the Giants, Patriots, and 49ers of recent years.

When people compare the Seahawks and the 49ers on defense, it’s common to give the secondary to Seattle and the front seven to San Francisco.  The Seahawks have three All Pro-calibre players in their secondary, and a couple others in Maxwell and Thurmond who fall just short (but would likely be Pro Bowlers elsewhere if given a chance to start); so I don’t think there’s any question that the Seahawks have the better secondary.  It’s not even close, and you’re a fool to say otherwise.  But, I don’t think the front seven is as open-and-shut as many others like to make it out to be.  The 49ers certainly have the name recognition, with guys like NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Ahmad Brooks, Justin Smith, and Aldon Smith (just to name a few), but the Seahawks compare very favorably when you look at the numbers.

The Seahawks have 44 sacks this year, and another 39 tackles for loss.  The 49ers have 38 sacks and 41 tackles for loss.  The 49ers have their Pro Bowlers and their All Pros along the front seven, but the Seahawks have guys like Bobby Wagner (who led the team in tackles again with 120, and also added 5 sacks and 2 INTs), Michael Bennett (who led the team in sacks with 8.5, while being an all-around force both inside and on the end), Cliff Avril (who tacked on 8 more sacks), Chris Clemons (who came all the way back from an ACL tear to net 4.5 sacks and play very solid run defense), Clinton McDonald (who added 5.5 sacks on the inside after being cut and missing the first game of the season).  Not to mention guys like K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith getting it done at outside linebacker (combining for 134 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble).  And Bruce Irvin was quietly effective in transitioning from a pass rushing specialist in his rookie season last year to a strong-side linebacker this year.  He ended up with 40 tackles, 2 sacks, and a pick.

What you’ll notice from the Seahawks is that no one guy really stands out from a national perspective.  But, when you put them all together, and you factor in glue guys like Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane (who arguably had the most dominant season of his career), this front seven as a unit did just as good, if not better than the 49ers.

So, getting back to my original point:  even WITH Drew Brees, why would anyone even remotely consider the Saints a threat?  If elite defenses shut down elite quarterbacks with regularity, and the Seahawks have the best defense in football, are you really telling me that I should fear the Saints because they have one of the five best quarterbacks in football?

And yet, to harken back to my other main point:  anything can happen in the National Football League.

If the Seahawks are going to blow this game, it’s not going to be because we couldn’t force the Saints into a punt.  It’s going to be because our offense shit the bed.  In our two recent losses – to the 49ers and Cardinals (because I still feel like that Colts loss was an anomaly) – the Seahawks struggled to move the ball; and when they did move the ball, they struggled to get it into the endzone.

The Saints’ defense isn’t on par with that of the 49ers or Cardinals, but they do enough things well to be of concern.  They actually gave up the 4th fewest yards and points in football.  Their secondary gave up the second-fewest yards per game, which is pretty impressive when you consider that they were an 11-win team and often held leads that required their opponents to pass to get back into the game.  Of course, the Seahawks gave up the fewest passing yards, and 22.1 yards fewer per game to boot.  The Saints were 19th in rushing yards per game allowed, so that’s something we can hang our hats on (though, they did just hold the best rushing attack in football – the Eagles – to only 80 yards on the ground, in a game that was never really TOO out-of-hand).

What we really need to watch out for is the pass rush.  The Saints were fourth in sacks, which sounds about right when you think about a Rob Ryan defense.  They probably blitz a lot, which means there are big plays to be had.  If we struggle like we did against the Cardinals in hitting on the big plays, then we might be doomed.  We’ll need to watch out for the likes of Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette, who each had at least 12 sacks this past season.  I fear those two guys WAY more than I fear someone like Drew Brees.

So, yeah, we’ll lose if our offense lets us down.  That’s if all things are equal.  I don’t even want to think of how this game will turn if we have to deal with the kind of injuries the Chiefs had to deal with last week.  Or the kind of botched refereeing we’ve come to expect out of this league on its biggest stage.  It’s not quite Pac-12 Refs-bad, but it’s getting there.

Mostly, I’m just concerned because I’m a worrier.  That’s why my friends call me Whiskers.  I’ve been here too many times over the last 15 years.  I’ve endured pretty much everything you can possibly endure in the playoffs with this team.  The Trace Armstrong Game in 1999 against the Dolphins.  The “We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score” Overtime Game against Green Bay in 2003.  The Bobby Engram Dropped Pass Game against the Rams in 2004.  The officiating fiasco that was Super Bowl XL in 2005.  The Rex Grossman long bomb in overtime against the Bears in 2006.  The six consecutive touchdowns by the Packers in 2007 (after notching a 14-0 lead thanks to two fumbles on their side of midfield).  The 28-0 lead by the Bears in 2010 (before the Seahawks made it a marginally interesting 35-24 defeat, with 21 points in the fourth quarter).  And of course, who could forget the 20-point halftime deficit to the Falcons last year, which we made into a 28-27 lead with 31 seconds left, only to lose thanks to a field goal with 13 seconds left in the game?

This is our 9th time in the playoffs in the last 15 years.  The previous eight have ended in defeat, in spectacularly embarrassing fashion.  This is the team we need to end a couple generations’ worth of losing.  It all starts on Saturday.  Take care of business and move on to the NFC Championship game.  Fail and … well, that’s something I’d rather not think about right now.

#16 – Doug Baldwin

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

With the Percy Harvin injury, Doug Baldwin’s importance jumped up nine spots.  I’m told that a lot of what they were going to install in this offense for Harvin is now being directed towards Baldwin, which may or may not be accurate.  The bottom line is:  he’s the third wide receiver.  It’s not an unimportant spot on this team – even as run-heavy as it is – but still, Baldwin is no Harvin.

I’m on record as a man who is predicting great things for Golden Tate this year.  Pro Bowl-level production, even if he’s not necessarily voted into the Pro Bowl.  I also think that Number 2 receivers don’t get much better than Sidney Rice, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at some of his diving sideline grabs from last year.  He’s not the big play, deep threat everyone wants, but he can move the chains and dominate as an intermediate threat with the best of ’em.

That leaves Doug Baldwin, who everyone has shoe-horned into that Slot Receiver role.  I, for one, don’t think people actually understand what a “Slot Receiver” is.  People seem to think that every team’s third-best receiver is automatically labelled a “Slot Receiver”.  If a slot receiver is a guy who lines up – more often than not – between the outside receiver and the offensive line, then okay, whatever, Doug Baldwin is a “Slot Receiver”.  But, when you think of a slot receiver, you think of guys like Wes Welker, who run nothing but slants and 8-yard outs.  Who get a lot of attention from the quarterback because they’re so often covered by inferior cornerbacks or linebackers, which results in a higher number of completions (even if it’s a lower number of yards per catch).

Which, okay, Doug Baldwin is fully capable of that.  Of being our new Bobby Engram.  But, I think Doug Baldwin is also capable of being a down-field threat.  Last year, on more than one occasion, Baldwin was able to run down the field and win the battle for the jump ball with an opposing defender.  I also think he’s just as good as Tate at improvising when the play breaks down and Russell Wilson is on the move.

No, Doug Baldwin isn’t Percy Harvin.  He’s not going to be as dynamic in the running game or in the screen game, but if he can be 3/4 Harvin, that might be enough to take this offense to another level.  If this team can make Baldwin a weapon and not just a slot guy, then that’s just one more thing for the defense to worry about.  Might take some of the pressure and double teams off of Tate & Rice.

I don’t expect Baldwin to lead the team in touchdowns or catch 100 balls.  Hell, I don’t expect him to catch 70 balls!  But, on an offense this stacked, it’s not out of the question for Baldwin to be the offensive MVP for a few games this year.  I’ll be interested to see the impact he’s able to make this season now that he’s fully healthy.  I’ll also be interested to see what he’s able to accomplish if/when Percy Harvin is able to return.