Russell Wilson Will Be The NFL MVP For The 2019 Season

SCORCHING MOLTEN LAVA TAKE ALERT! This is one of those things where if I’m right, I’ll be crowing like a jackass for the rest of my life. And, if I’m wrong, then it’ll never be spoken of again.

Remember the time I predicted the Seahawks would beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl before the season started?

Remember the time before that when I predicted the Ravens would beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl just 1 week into the regular season?

I’ll leave it to the rest of you to find all the times I’ve been wrong, and go out on a limb to say I’m the greatest sports mind of our generation.

I don’t often do a lot of prognosticating on the NFL’s MVP award – or ANY MVP award, really – because I kind of don’t care about it. The only time a Seahawk has won was in 2005, when Shaun Alexander ran for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns in leading the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance in a 13-3 regular season. I argued this at the time and maintain it to this day: the most important player to the Seahawks’ success that year was actually Matt Hasselbeck (we NEVER would’ve gotten anywhere without him), but since he didn’t have insanely gaudy stats (3,459 yards, 65.5% completions, 24 TDs, 9 INTs) he didn’t stand a chance.

Which brings me right back to this year and begs the question: if gaudy stats are a precursor, WHY IN THE HOLY HELL WOULD I PREDICT RUSSELL WILSON FOR THIS AWARD?

Look, it’s not the most thought-out opinion I’ve ever had. 99% of everything I say on here I pull straight from my gut, which has been notoriously inconsistent over the years. But, I’ll try to make an argument and you take it with however much salt you want.

Last year, Wilson had a pretty impressive season: 3,448 yards, 65.6% completions, 35 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 110.9 passer rating. Of course, that was nothing compared to Patrick Mahomes’ season (the actual MVP): 5,097 yards, 66.0% completions, 50 TDs, 12 INTs, and 113.8 rating. Every step of the way (except for INTs) he was better than Wilson.

Well, the first part of my argument is that I believe Mahomes takes a step back in his second full year as a starter. I think he’ll come down to Earth and be more in the middle of the pack. He’ll almost certainly throw for over 4,000 yards, but I don’t think he’ll approach 50 TDs again, and I think his INTs will increase. I would also argue that whenever someone wins as thoroughly as he has, there’s inevitably a backlash among voters, who are constantly looking to give the award to someone different. If you don’t believe that to be true, then please explain to me why LeBron James has zero MVP awards since the 2012/2013 season, in spite of the fact that until this year, he carried his teams to every single NBA Championship series in that span. Also, while you’re at it, tell me why Bill Belichick hasn’t won since 2010 and yet Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera have both won twice in that span.

So, if you bet Mahomes at +400, you’re throwing your money away. Which brings me to the current betting odds:

  • Patrick Mahomes +400
  • Drew Brees +700
  • Aaron Rodgers +800
  • Andrew Luck +800
  • Tom Brady +1000
  • Baker Mayfield +1400
  • Russell Wilson +1600
  • Carson Wentz +1900
  • Philip Rivers +2200
  • Deshaun Watson +2500

That’s just the top 10. Some things stand out. All of those guys are quarterbacks (the most important players in the game) and all of those guys are projected to be in the playoffs (or at least contending for the playoffs). While being a quarterback isn’t a MUST, it’s certainly the safest bet. For a non-quarterback to win it, he has to do something REALLY special. Like Shaun Alexander’s touchdown totals. The last non-quarterback to win it was in 2012 when Adrian Peterson came within 8 yards of the all-time rushing yards record in a single season. The time before that, it was LaDainian Tomlinson the year after Alexander, when he ran for 1,815 yards and broke Alexander’s rushing touchdown record with 28.

If I were going to pick a non-QB in 2019, I’d lean towards Saquon Barkley (at +4000), but the Giants are so bad that he would literally have to break every single rushing record for it to happen.

Anyway, as you can see, Wilson is firmly in the Top 10 (shamefully behind Baker Mayfield, which is just a crime against humanity at this point), so Vegas likes his chances. With his new contract extension, Wilson’s name is in the zeitgeist. And, at this junction in his career, I believe there are enough fervent Wilson believers out there to really help make his case and keep his name alive.

Now, he can’t do it alone. It’s going to require the Seahawks to get back to the playoffs. It’ll probably even require the Seahawks to win the NFC West, which I believe this team is capable of. Ideally, the Seahawks will be a top 1 or 2 seed and have a BYE in the playoffs. Something like 12-4 could accomplish this, if everything breaks right. The Rams, you figure, are in for a Super Bowl hangover. The Saints and Bears figure to be our biggest obstacles, as I believe the NFC East will feast upon itself to keep their records down.

Playing well in marquee games is also a must. The Seahawks have five primetime games scheduled, including three in a row late in the season, right in that window where we separate the men from the boys in races like these. Wilson has traditionally stepped up big in these games, so I don’t see that as being an issue either.

With the team playing well, and with his reputation intact, that just leaves his biggest hurdle: his numbers.

Wilson has thrown for over 4,000 yards only twice in his career (though he was 17 yards away in 2017 from making it three times), and last year he was obviously limited by the offense’s design. Part of that was a backlash against the losses in our first two weeks, when the coaching staff had to re-set everything. But, ultimately this team was so successful running the ball that there wasn’t always a serious need to get things done through the air. While the plan heading into the season will be more of the same run-centric style, it wouldn’t totally shock me to see our effectiveness on the ground weaken (much in the same way that I see Mahomes’ numbers taking a dive). Opposing defenses will game plan better. And, I figure injuries will play a more significant role (Carson played in 14 games; I could see that dropping as he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay healthy for the duration) with both the running backs and the O-Line. There’s no Mike Davis, who was a solid contributor, and I seriously question whether Penny will be up to the task if he’s thrust into the #1 role. There should be just enough of a dip in the running game to add a few hundred more yards to Wilson’s passing total.

On top of that, Wilson’s rushing yards are going to continue to go down with every year. He’s a quarterback, and an elite one at that. Elite quarterbacks throw the ball or hand it off, period. He’s heading into his 8th season, which puts him squarely in his prime. He’s had a Hall of Fame trajectory to this point in his career, and I don’t know a whole lot of Hall of Fame quarterbacks who haven’t won an MVP award. With that in mind, it sort of feels like it’s his destiny to win this award at least once. If we get to the end of the season, and no one has really stood out with awe-inspiring numbers at any position, maybe the voters will look around, see Wilson sitting there with 0 career MVPs, and figure he’s due. People have voted for things based on dumber logic before (say hello to every politician who ever seemed like a guy you’d want to have a beer with).

Getting back to the numbers, though, Wilson’s best chance seems to be with his touchdowns. While he was a far cry from Mahomes’ 50 last year, Wilson was still tied for third with 35. In 2017, he led the league with 34. In 2015, he came in sixth also with 34. I could easily see that number jump up into the 40’s, which should put him well within range. More than that, he’s usually very careful with the ball. Last year he tied a career low with only 7 INTs. I feel with his ability, he can shave that down even further. If he has an insane TD:INT ratio of something like 40:3, that’s the sort of stat that could push him over the top.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the Most VALUABLE Player, then who has had more value to his team than Russell Wilson in his career to date? The knock against him has always been that he’s had an elite defense (except for last year) or an elite running game (except for a few years there post-Beastmode). Well, I’ve already argued that I don’t believe the running game will be as exceptional as it was in 2018, and as for the defense, it was already middle-of-the-road last year; this year, I think middle-of-the-road will be this unit’s CEILING. I think the defense could be truly terrible this year. We’ll likely rank in the bottom third or bottom quarter in the league in sacks and turnovers.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 43 sacks, 13 of which belonged to Frank Clark. 43 put us 11th in football; 30 would’ve been tied for 30th. Ziggy Ansah figures to mitigate some of that, but I highly doubt he’s going to get us all the way there. In fact, I don’t think he’ll even get us halfway there (yes, I’m putting Ansah’s over/under of sacks at 6.5, and I’ll bet the under). With no one else coming in to help account for the loss of Clark’s production (both in sacks, and in the help he provided someone like Jarran Reed, who saw his numbers skyrocket playing with Clark on the outside next to him). If Reed is our only pass-rushing threat (assuming Ansah misses multiple games, or plays through injury and is ineffective as a result), he can be easily neutralized, sending the D-Line tumbling towards the bottom of the league.

In 2018, the Seahawks had 12 interceptions, 5 of which belonged to Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, and Frank Clark. 12 put us tied for 18th in football; 7 would’ve been tied for 29th. Bradley McDougald had 3 of his own last year, but he’s also an injury waiting to happen. Of our younger core in the defensive backfield, Shaquill Griffin, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Tre Flowers all combined for 3 total INTs (Hill and Flowers combining for 0). Who did we add to this group? A couple of rookies, and presumably whatever veterans we bring into Training Camp later this summer. There just isn’t a lot of turnover production in this unit. With the D-Line unable to get pressure, that puts more of the onus on the secondary, which is not NEARLY as talented as the Legion of Boom in its prime.

Now, of course, the Seahawks tied for the league lead in fumble recoveries in 2018, but as we all know, that’s largely based on the luck of the bouncing ball. We did tie for third in forced fumbles, which you’d hope would translate, but again our leader in that category – Frank Clark – is gone.

My point with all of this is to further indicate that I think the Seahawks’ defense will be bad. Our only hope is that we hold teams to an inordinate amount of field goals. But, my expectation is, for the Seahawks to win a lot of games, we’re going to rely exclusively on our offense. That means Russell Wilson will have to do considerably more than he had to do in 2018.

All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like a strong argument, and I get that. All I can say is, with this being the second season with a new offensive coordinator, you have to figure Brian Schottenheimer has had a full year to work with this team, and a second full off-season to tinker with his scheme. While it’ll be foolish to expect the running game to take a complete back seat, I think his ability to adjust in games will improve. With the defense putting us into more passing situations – based on game score alone – I think it’ll open things up for Wilson to really shine like he’s never quite shone before.

Wilson has had spurts. The back-half of his 2015 was as brilliant as it gets; if he had a full season of that, he’d be a hands-down winner of the MVP. I also thought 2018 was his best year yet, particularly from an efficiency standpoint. If we keep the efficiency (or even improve upon it slightly), increase touchdowns, decrease turnovers, and boost up those yards, there won’t be any other excuses to keep him from his due. ESPECIALLY when you consider Baldwin retired, and Lockett is his only quality veteran receiver heading into this season. Voters won’t have the L.O.B. to fall back on, nor will they have as dominant of a running game. They’ll have 8 full years’ worth of elite game play, with 2019 as a coronation of sorts.

In a muddled year of MVP candidates, Wilson will win it in a close voting battle. Mark my words (unless I’m wrong, then forget this ever happened).

Seahawks Death Week Starts Both Earlier & Later Than Expected

The Seahawks lost in the Wild Card round for the first time since the Holmgren administration, 24-22 to the Dallas Cowboys. Depending on your perspective, the season comes to a close either MUCH earlier or MUCH later than we’d all anticipated.

On the bright side, we all figured the Seahawks to be an 8-8 team heading into this season. If you dropped an 8-8 team into the 2019 NFL Draft, we would’ve been picking 18th. So, to win 10 games and the NFC’s top Wild Card slot is exceeding even our wildest expectations. And, as it is, with the way the rest of the Wild Card games shook out, we’re still drafting 21st (or, at least, have the 21st pick with which to trade back, to accumulate more draft picks in lower rounds), which is the best-case scenario, considering there were 20 teams who missed out on the playoffs.

On the dark side, once we saw what this Seahawks team morphed into as the season progressed, I think we all expected them to go into Dallas and come away victorious. As it stands, we would’ve earned a third game against a very beatable Rams team, with a very remote chance of hosting the NFC Championship Game still in play thanks to the Eagles upsetting the Bears yesterday.

Alas, what might’ve been …

All of the talk since the Seahawks biffed the onside kick – thus sealing our fate – has been directed towards the offense and the play-calling. Both sides are coming down hard. The anti-Schottenheimer crowd – forced into silence lo these last many weeks, as the team moved the ball and scored with the best of ’em – has come out in full force, with pitchforks and torches brandished, calling for heads to roll.

For starters, Schottenheimer isn’t going anywhere. He’s running the offense Pete Carroll is dictating, so if anything, you’re calling for Pete’s head, and he’s not going anywhere either. He just got a big, fat extension, so his status is secure.

Secondly, it was this same approach that led the Seahawks to 10 wins in 14 games. You can’t put the blame entirely on the coaching staff when there are players out there who failed in their charge. There were breakdowns across the board in the running game. It’s likely injuries hampered our O-Line to riddle them ineffective. Playing on the road obviously didn’t help. But, ultimately, the Cowboys’ front seven just out-played us, plain and simple.

All that having been said, there’s a SHIT-TON of defenders coming out of the woodwork, to counter the anti-Schotty throngs, and to you I just have to say this: the Seahawks’ offense absolutely should’ve fucking adjusted their play-calling.

It was 10-6 Dallas as the Seahawks punted deep and pinned them near their own goalline. The Seahawks’ defense forced a 3 & Out to give our offense the ball back with excellent field position. And it was 3 straight runs into the line for 5 yards before a miracle 4th down pass down the sideline to Baldwin for the conversion. From there, two more slugs into the line for 5 yards before Russell Wilson took over. He kept it on the zone read for a first down, then two plays later kept it again for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

That appeared to be the magic elixer: Russell Wilson running the ball. The Cowboys were clearly dedicated to stopping the run from our running backs, by loading the box and daring us to take advantage of one-on-ones with the receivers. But, they were also crashing down the line HARD, leaving wide open lanes for Russell to keep it and gash them for chunk plays. We should’ve kept going to that well once it gushed open, but instead we totally abandoned it the rest of the game.

I’ll also say this: with the way we play the game, penalties are a way of life. We’ve known this since Pete Carroll joined the team. So, there are going to be times where it’ll be 2nd & Long. We HAVE to find a way to convert at least SOME of these drives into first downs. Instead, we seemingly throw them away every single fucking time, with conservative rushes into stacked boxes, or conservative check-downs to guys standing at the line of scrimmage.

Tyler Lockett is a WEAPON, in case you haven’t noticed by his perfect rating with Wilson this year! Maybe, oh I dunno, THROW IT DEEP to him! Maybe he catches it, maybe he draws a flag for PI, maybe it lands incomplete and you have to punt anyway, or maybe it turns into a long INT which is as good as a punt anyway, BUT GOD DAMMIT TAKE A FUCKING SHOT!

But look, for the most part, I’m happy with how the offense looked. People are now saying it doesn’t make any sense to extend Russell Wilson the money he’s worth if we’re not going to use him like other teams use their elite quarterbacks, but I would argue the opposite. We NEED an elite guy to run this offense, because it’s his efficiency that makes this thing work. Without the threat of his deep ball, and his accuracy, and his overall clutchness, the running game wouldn’t be as effective as it is in the first place.

This Seahawks team was pretty flawed, and it was going to take a lot of Russell Wilson Wizardry to make a deep playoff run. Most of those flaws show up on the defensive side of the ball, however.

Shaquill Griffin had probably the worst game I’ve ever seen out of him. Yeah, his ankle was bothering him from last week, to which I say: THEN SIT OUT! You’re hurting the team! You at 70% or whatever isn’t as good as your healthy backup, so let that guy start! But also, on the whole, Griffin clearly didn’t progress as you’d hope this team’s ostensible #1 cornerback would’ve. Tre Flowers was the rookie, but he made HUGE strides over this season; he was the guy with the target on his back, yet it was Griffin who the Cowboys chose to pick on ALL DAMN GAME. What does that say about who this team’s #1 cornerback REALLY is?

As I mentioned last week, proper tackling was one of the keys, and this game completely shit the bed in that arena. Dak converting a 3rd & 14 when we could’ve held them to a field goal – and a one-score game late – was just a back-breaker. The Cowboys ran for 164 yards on the day, which is inexcusable for a Pete Carroll-led defense.

So, yeah, there are a lot of areas to clean up for 2019.

I’m not gonna lie, this one hit pretty hard. If the Seahawks went into L.A. and got shellacked by the Rams next week, it would’ve been disappointing, but also kind of expected. Losing to Dallas, though, I mean they’re good, but they’re not better than us. Had we performed better, we would’ve taken this one. As per usual when the Seahawks lose, it’s the self-inflicted wounds that take us down.

Going forward, I’ll have my usual week-long in memoriam for the Seahawks’ season. There were more highs than lows this year, though I’d argue the outlook for the future isn’t necessarily as rosy as we’d once thought.

The Seahawks Will Keep Losing Until They Stop

I’m torn this week.  On the one hand, I feel committed to this bit I started where I’m picking against the Seahawks until they prove to me they’re capable of actually winning a football game.  On the other hand, the Seahawks are at home, and I feel like they actually match up pretty well against the Cowboys this Sunday.

There’s a lot of toxicity around the Seahawks and their fanbase this week after a pretty embarrassing road defeat to the Bears on Monday Night.  We’re not used to this.  Not since Russell Wilson joined the team, anyway.  The Seahawks have been consistent winners!  This is uncharted territory, albeit probably not totally unexpected given all of our pre-season reservations.  8-8 teams lose on the road to other 8-8 teams.  By the same token, they usually win at home against other 8-8 teams.  Dallas is an 8-8 type team.

But, I’ve gotta say, if I pick the Seahawks and they lose, I’ll be FURIOUS with myself for going against my stated pledge!

Make no mistake, while I’ve picked against the Seahawks in the first two weeks, I was absolutely rooting for them.  It’s one of those no-lose situations where either my pick comes through, or it doesn’t but my team is happy.  But, at some point, you gotta stop riding the fence, you know?  Either you hop on the bandwagon or you run away screaming; but just walking beside the bandwagon isn’t a viable long-term solution.

The Reasons Why The Cowboys Will Win On Sunday

Because even with the likes of Bobby Wagner and Tre Flowers back in the fold, this defense isn’t anything special.  The Cowboys might not dominate with their rushing attack, but they’ll be able to do a little bit; the Seahawks won’t totally shut Zeke down.  They’ll be the more disciplined team – avoiding offensive penalties that put them behind the chains – and Dak is fully capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field.

Furthermore, there won’t be enough big plays to keep the 12th Man in it.  The 12th Man just isn’t as formidable as they once were.  Sure, it’ll be loud to start the game – it is the Seahawks’ home opener after all – but that’ll dissipate as the Cowboys rack up the first downs and move the ball at will.  By the second half, I’m sure Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be wondering where all that vaunted crowd noise went.

And, let’s face it, the Seahawks’ weapons just aren’t there to help out Russell.  With no Doug, we’re over-dependant upon guys trying to get open, and those guys just aren’t up to the task.  With Wilson holding the ball longer and longer, that gives ANY defensive line – even one that’s as mediocre as the one I’m assuming Dallas has – time to get home.  The book is out:  nothing fancy, just constrict the pocket, wall Wilson in, and wait for him to make a mistake.  As long as you don’t let Wilson escape – and as long as the Seahawks’ coaching staff is willfully preventing any movement of the pocket – then it’s only a matter of time before we run into a sack, a fumble, or a penalty.

Speaking of the coaching staff, their unwillingness to stick to the running game – and stick to a specific running back (COUGH COUGH CHRIS CARSON) within that running game – is sinking this season.  I don’t expect anything here to change.  Penny is still going to get his shots; he’s going to continue looking just okay (but far from a first round talent).  Carson is going to look amazing, but left on the bench for long, unforgivable stretches.  C.J. Prosise is going to be healthy, but never in there when he’s most valuable (in 3rd downs and 2-minute offenses).  And, most importantly, the team is going to continue to slow down the pace of the offense, making it so it takes an entire half of football or more before Wilson gets comfortable and in the flow of the game.

It’s the same garbage fucking offense we had under Bevell, with a fresh coat of stupid slapped on there by way of Brian Schottenheimer’s play-calling (or Pete Carroll’s hormonal instincts, take your pick, depending on what you believe is actually going on).

The Reasons Why The Seahawks Will Win On Sunday

For what it’s worth, this is probably closer to what I actually believe, so spoiler alert.

This was never going to be an overnight fix.  What am I talking about?  Well, take your pick.

The offensive line was always going to need time to gel.  D.J. Fluker might be back this week, though it now looks like Britt is going to miss some time.  I think, in the grand scheme of things, it’s more important to gain Fluker’s mass than it is losing Britt’s … whatever he brought to the table.  Leadership, I guess.  I just think any sap can be a center.  The quarterback can always assist in line reads and pointing out blitzes and whatnot.  From strictly a talent standpoint, I don’t think there will be much of a difference between Hunt and Britt.  The dropoff from Fluker to Sweezy is much more significant, so getting our starter back would be HUGE.

Even though I don’t think the running back rotation will be any different, I think as time goes on, this O-Line will continue to improve.  Furthermore, the coaches have had 2 weeks to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  I HAVE to believe they’re going to work some fixes into the offensive play-calling to get this thing going.  It won’t be perfect, but it should be significantly better than it was the first two weeks.  Being in our temperate climate, without the significant crowd noise we had to endure on the road, should only assist in making sure plays are called timely and correctly.

As always, it’s going to be entirely dependant upon the offense to win this game.  I think the defense will be fine.  Sometimes, the Cowboys will drive the ball with ease; sometimes we’ll be able to stop them.  They’ll probably score in the low-to-mid 20’s; so it’s a matter of the Seahawks scoring in the mid-to-high 20’s to win it.

I think we can do that, because I don’t think the Cowboys are nearly as formidable in their pass rush as the Bears or Broncos.  If I had to point to one reason why the Seahawks will win this game, it’s that the Cowboys don’t have a Von Miller or a Khalil Mack.  That’s it!  That’s good for probably a Seahawks win by 3 points.

Where it could all go haywire is:  what if it doesn’t matter?

What if the Cowboys are just sort of average as a pass rushing unit, but they get home and make Russell Wilson’s life miserable anyway?  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’m dreading next week if that’s the case.  The last thing I need in my life is more consternation about Wilson and the offensive line.

Anyway, I’m picking the Seahawks, but I’m not thrilled about it.  In fact, an overwhelming sense of dread and panic just set in as I typed out those words.  Visions of Wilson crawling around on the turf trying to collect the football he just had ripped out of his hands, combined with various Cowboys slicing and dicing through our Swiss cheese defense.

I CAN’T DO IT!  I’m picking the Cowboys.  As I’m usually wrong about most things, what’s really going to happen isn’t a 27-24 Seahawks victory, or a 24-16 Cowboys victory, but probably a 38-13 Cowboys victory, where the whole city just melts down.  Wilson will have multiple turnovers, Janikowski will miss a field goal and an extra point, the defense will give up a bevy of long plays, Elliott will run for 170 yards, and our punter will dislocate a shoulder trying to make a tackle.

Just the worst case scenario, all across the board.  And the calls to blow the whole thing up will only intensify.

Pre-Pre-Season Preview: Seahawks Blocking Game

Aside from digging into the various news stories, I’ve largely neglected talking about the Seahawks by design:  2017 was a bitter pill to swallow.  After such a sustained stretch of brilliance, this team was a slog to cover last year; but, they’ve jettisoned a lot of aging veterans, brought in fresh blood throughout the organization, and I would argue there’s some reasons to be optimistic (even though my default prediction is that this team will win anywhere from 7-9 games; everything would have to go perfectly in our favor to get to 10 wins or more, and when does THAT ever happen?).

So, with precious few weeks remaining until the pre-season games kick things off, I’ve got a quickie series of posts where I’ll look at the 7 areas of this team as they’re set up right now:

Without further ado, let’s talk about the Seahawks’ blocking game.

Offensive Line

Here we are.  So much of what the Seahawks want to do hinges on this.  Every year since Russell Wilson has proven himself to be a superstar quarterback in this league, I’ve been waiting for this offense to really bust out and start carrying the team; and every year, those hopes are dashed by an offensive line that couldn’t stop a pack of infants from wreaking havoc in our backfield.

And it’s not like the Seahawks haven’t tried!  We hired Tom Cable, we used many multiple draft picks, in a variety of rounds from the first through the seventh.  But, nothing worked, and indeed it got progressively worse over time, until last year when we has the worst running game in football.  How Russell Wilson hasn’t been killed in a live NFL game is beyond me, because he’s taken a BEATING!

I wish I could walk those comments back and say, “Oh, it wasn’t as bad as we remember,” but actually I think it was worse.  I mean, you’d expect a unit that was as healthy as our O-Line was last year to at least show SOME signs of improvement as the season went along, but I saw no evidence of that.  Did you?

Who’s at fault?  Well, how much time have you got?  Obviously, Tom Cable had to go.  I wouldn’t say his tenure was an utter failure – he did help take us to 2 Super Bowls, so it wasn’t ALWAYS this bad – but I’d say the last three years (2015-2017) were as bad as it gets.  Instead of taking advantage of Russell Wilson’s absolute prime, he had to run for his life on almost every play, while battling constant nagging injuries for one of those seasons!

The front office certainly shares some of the blame, be it Pete Carroll, John Schneider, the scouts, all of ’em.  Letting Tom Cable have so much power and direction over personnel, for starters.  The collective, for just having the worst insight/intuition/whathaveyou when it comes to picking which players we ended up drafting and signing to free agent deals.  The front office also for losing its way – to quote Richard Sherman – by trading away Max Unger for Jimmy Graham.  One of the better blocking centers in the league for one of the worst blocking tight ends in the history of football.

Now, certainly there were factors outside of their control, in that so many other players on this team turned into All Pros and Pro Bowlers, and as we talk about all the time, you can’t pay everyone.  But, the front office still made a choice in who they decided to pay; and ultimately they decided to make this offensive line the most under-funded in the entire league.  It backfired, and they’ve since corrected for that, but now we’re years from our last Super Bowl and, I’m afraid, many more years away from our next one.

I mean, if they’d just signed ONE high-priced left tackle, instead of paying the likes of Percy Harvin or Jimmy Graham, just think of how different things might be.  We might truly be talking about a Seahawks Dynasty, instead of a Seahawks What-If.

But, the past is the past and we can’t do anything about it now.  Let’s take a look at who we’ve got.

Well, I’ll say this:  the left side of the line looks VERY promising.  There are still a tremendous amount of caveats and question marks even about these three guys, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario where Duane Brown (at left tackle), Ethan Pocic (at left guard) and Justin Britt (at center) truly anchor this offensive line and make it a halfway competent one.  That having been said, Brown is going to be 33 in August and is heading into his 11th season; that’s a lot of mileage.  He’s also coming off of a year where he held out for half the games, then suffered an ankle injury.  He appears to be healthy now, but how long will that last?  And, even when he was (supposedly) healthy last year, he didn’t look great.  Maybe he needed time to get used to Russell Wilson’s style of play and scrambling and all that … or maybe he’s in his 30’s and is on the downside of his career.  How many more years does he have left, realistically?  2?  3 at the MOST?

This thing falls apart in a hurry if Duane Brown isn’t The Man.  I like Pocic as much as the next guy, but it’s still his second year in the league.  He’s also on his second offensive line coach in as many seasons (well, third in as many seasons, I suppose, if you include his college coach), so what is that going to do to stunt his growth?  And, as for Britt, again I like him, but he also pulled his share of boners last year, following his contract extension and the anointing of him as the leader of this unit.  Maybe that was because he had to compensate for the dunderheads around him – and I really do hope that’s the case – but don’t forget who’s at fault for George Fant getting hurt in the first place.  He took a blind dive into a guy and ended up landing on his own teammate’s knee; Britt isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

I want to believe in this left side of the line – I HAVE to believe in them, for my own sanity – because the right side scares the everloving shit out of me.

The Seahawks brought back Mile Solari to coach up the offensive line.  He hasn’t had a successful O-Line in more years than I can count, so right away we’re dealing with a huge red flag.  Now, maybe there were other circumstances outside of his control, and it wasn’t necessarily all his fault that his lines have been terrible.  Maybe, if he had more control over things, he would’ve gotten his type of guys and had more success.  I certainly hope so, because it sounds like the Seahawks really took him to heart when he recommended signing D.J. Fluker to be this team’s right guard.

For starters, I think a lot of fans were clamoring for Germain Ifedi to move inside to guard.  I wasn’t one of them – I think if we’re ever going to see our faith in Ifedi pay off, it’s going to have to be at one single position, and not by jerking him around from guard to tackle and back again – but I can certainly understand the thought process.  Ifedi looks like a giant lunkhead over there at right tackle, and it might be easier to hide some of his flaws if you moved him inside and had Britt helping him out on double-teams and whatnot.  But, I’m of the opinion that if Ifedi is the bust we all fear he is, then he’s going to be a HUGE GAPING LIABILITY wherever you put him.  Sort of like Britt was, when we moved him from tackle to guard to finally center; unfortunately, you can only have one center on an offensive line, and Britt weaselled his way into the league first.

Getting back to Fluker for a minute, here’s a guy who was another former first rounder, as well as a guy who’s been considered a giant bust since entering the league.  He’s also a guy who was injured for most of 2017, and who thus far through OTA’s and mini-camps, hasn’t seen any action that I can recall hearing about (again, due to injury).  Even in an ideal world where Fluker was 100% healthy this off-season, he still was never going to be a guarantee.  I like him because he’s cheap, and hungry, and huge, and is supposedly a quality run blocker if nothing else; but that still doesn’t mean he’s destined to be worth a damn in 2018!

I want to believe in these guys, 1-5, but I just can’t get it up for this right side.  At this point, I’m done hoping Ifedi will be anything; I’m resigned to him being a bust and if I’m pleasantly surprised, then so be it.  As for Fluker, I don’t think he has more than 5 games in him before some body part gives out.  I’m mentally preparing myself for a revolving door on this side, with guys like Rees Odhiambo or Jordan Roos seeing some action at right guard, and with guys like George Fant or Isaiah Battle seeing some action at right tackle.

That having all been said, I think there’s an offensive line here we can use.  It’s far from perfect, and it’s far from ideal, but 3/5 of a competent offensive line is better than the 0/5 we’ve had the last three years.

As I said before, it all hinges on Duane Brown.  If he can return to even 80% of his former Pro Bowl self, we’ve got a shot.  Hopefully he’ll get better acquainted with Wilson’s scrambling style, as well as stay healthy the full year.  If he can do that, and help guide a beefed-up Pocic through any more growing pains he’s got left, then I don’t think Britt has to worry about helping out on that side, and can put his talents towards helping out his right guard, whoever that ends up being.  At which point, I’m not even asking for a huge step forward out of our right tackle; just don’t get any WORSE and I’ll be ecstatic!

With how BIG this unit is, if we still have trouble running the ball, then I’m gonna go jump off a bridge.  Also, it sounds like maybe there’ll be something of a scheme change, away from the strict zone blocking scheme we had under Cable?  I think that could help an oaf like Ifedi, where he doesn’t have to use his brain as much.  Maybe he can put those remaining brain cells into keeping track of the snap count, and not illegally hitting guys after the whistle and whatnot.

It’s the pass protection that’s my bigger concern, as it always is.  Pocic is a great unknown at this point in his career (one would hope his pedigree, work ethic, and increased mass will help him going forward), but everyone to his right has their moments of utter, mind-blowing ineptitude when it comes to letting guys just get free runs at the quarterback.  So, again, I turn to Duane Brown; he NEEDS to be our rock.  If we just have that one guy doing his job, we’ve got a chance.  Where it always breaks down is when both ends get to charge at Wilson and he has nowhere to go; but, if Brown is solid, then at least Wilson will be able to escape to the left side and try to make something happen.

I hate having to rely so much on one guy, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  If Duane Brown doesn’t earn his next contract with superb play, we’re fucked.  There’s no other way around it.

As such, my grade is a C-.  There’s room to take it as high as a B, and obviously as low as an F, but as a baseline, C- is still better than anything we’ve gotten in the previous three seasons, which I find really encouraging.

Tight Ends

Can’t talk about the blocking game without mentioning the VAST improvement we’ve established among our tight ends!

Swapping out Jimmy Graham and bringing in Ed Dickson is like an NBA team trading me for LeBron James; I’m so giddy I can’t even stand it!

I want you to close your eyes.  I want you to picture the Seahawks lining up on offense, with 3 wide receivers, a running back, and Jimmy Graham.  I want you to picture Jimmy Graham motioning out wide to the right, then turning around and motioning back towards the offensive line.  I want you to picture just as Graham gets to the right tackle, we snap the ball, and Russell Wilson turns to hand it off to the running back, with the intention to go off-tackle.  There’s a linebacker coming around the edge; he’s Graham’s responsibility.  All Graham has to do is execute a wham block – blocking him down into the mass of bodies along the offensive and defensive lines – and if he does that, we have a considerable gain with the running back bouncing it around.  Can you picture it?  Can you picture Jimmy Graham standing fully upright, sort of half-heartedly (quarter-heartedly?) pushing on the linebacker with his forearms right before said linebacker blows up the play for a 3-yard loss?  Is your blood now sufficiently boiling?  Do you want to go out and murder 50 people?

I never thought I could hate someone more than I hated Percy Harvin, but I hate Jimmy Graham with the intensity of A FUCKING GOOGOLPLEX OF SUNS!  I mean, at least Harvin has a mental condition to explain why he’s a worthless pile of shit; Jimmy Graham is just a soft asshole whose only skill is catching 1-yard touchdown passes against undersized cornerbacks (and even THEN he drops the ball half the time!).

So, yeah, I love the Ed Dickson signing.  Is it sexy?  HELL NO!  But, I’m tired of going after sexy offensive weapons; where has it gotten us?  Give me the guy willing to hunt for his meal.  Give me the guy who will scrap and claw and fight for that inch.

Shit, give me a guy who can help out this poor excuse for an offensive line!

The Seahawks did it in spades.  Not only did they let Graham go, but they let Luke Willson go as well.  I like Willson, but he’s just a guy.  Sure, he was a fighter, but you wouldn’t say blocking was his specialty.  You know whose specialty that is?  Will Dissly, 4th round draft pick out of the University of Washington.  “Best blocking tight end in the draft” is what I’m told.  Good enough for me.  He could catch 0 balls this year and he’ll still be worth his weight in gold if he can live up to that moniker for this team.

Beyond that, it’ll be a fight between Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes, the 3rd round pick from 2016 vs. the undrafted rookie from 2017.  Vannett has largely been considered a disappointment, and you can see why.  You pick a guy in the 3rd round, you expect more than 15 total receptions and 1 touchdown in his first 2 years.  Beyond that, I really don’t remember him making any sort of special teams contributions, so what is he good for?

Well, I’d argue he was buried behind two very established veterans in Graham and Willson, and how often do you really see a team’s third tight end?  It’s now or never for this kid, and you’d have to say his chances are never going to be better.  I have to believe – heading into the pre-season – Vannett is probably the most gifted offensive, pass-catching weapon at tight end on this team.  If he can’t stand out over a guy in Ed Dickson (who you know what you’ve got) and a rookie in Dissly not known as much of a pass-catching threat in college, then we’ve probably reached the end of the road with Vannett.  From a blocking perspective, he doesn’t even need to be that great to make an impact, so long as he’s a catching machine.  But, regardless, he HAS to be better than Graham, so we’re talking about a considerable improvement any way you slice it.

As for Swoopes, he more or less rode the Practice Squad all of 2017.  He’s seen as more of a project, but with great potential as a pass-catcher, so again there’s probably only room for either him or Vannett.  Unless he shows tremendous skills – and tremendous improvement over what was probably a pretty raw rookie campaign – then he’s going to need to be a force when it comes to blocking.  I have no idea, but my hunch is that’s probably the biggest part of his game that’s lacking.  We’ll see.

Regardless, when it comes to just blocking, I’m giving our tight ends an A+.  I couldn’t be happier!

The question now is:  when you factor in the combo of the O-Line and our Tight Ends, will we have the blocking to be successful?  Assuming we scheme it up right, and take advantage of all of them, I think we do.  Darrell Bevell liked to spend all his free time trying to out-think opposing defenses (hence why you always saw Graham on the field in obvious rushing situations, to try to “fool” defenses into thinking we’d throw to him; only problem with that is it never made up for the liability he was in actually trying to throw a block).  It sounds like Brian Schottenheimer is more old school in that regard.  I’d expect a lot of ground & pound.  In which case, it’s our best guys against your best guys, and may the best team win.  With the group of guys we’ve got, I think that suits us to a T.  I could easily see our blocking unit end up with a grade of a B-, which is all we need with our skill position guys doing their things.

I really do believe there’s potential for greatness out of this offense.  Of course, there’s also potential for utter ruin, but that’s what makes this season so exciting!

The Seahawks Signed Brandon Marshall

This feels like more of a news story than it is, I think.  Brandon Marshall is a fringe Hall of Famer who frequently elevated the play of the sub-par quarterbacks around him.  If you had paired him with a Hall of Fame quarterback for the majority of his career – if, for instance, he had played his 12 years with Tom Brady – we might be talking about one of the very best wide receivers of all time.  But, I guess teams didn’t want to deal with his personality or whatever, so he never really stuck with any one team.  Not for longer than 4 years, anyway.

The Seahawks would be his 6th NFL team.  Up until last year’s injury-riddled stint with the Giants, Brandon Marshall had racked up at least one 1,000-yard season everywhere he went, with guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Matt Moore, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Jay Cutler (again) throwing to him.  Just like Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brian Schottenheimer has ever had, Russell Wilson is the best quarterback Brandon Marshall will have ever had.

Of course, that’s assuming he sticks.  It’s just too bad he’s 34 years old instead of 24 years old.

It’s a 1-year deal, for up to $2 million with incentives.  I can’t imagine much of it – if any – is guaranteed.  This has the feel of a guy we bring into Training Camp and see if he has anything left in the tank, a la Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.

Obviously, Doug Baldwin is your #1 and Tyler Lockett is your #2.  The Seahawks brought in Jaron Brown to be the team’s #3, so if anything, this looks like it’s Jaron Brown Insurance.  Brandon Marshall can walk onto this team right this moment (assuming he’s fully healthy from last year’s injury) and be the 5th or 6th best receiver on this roster.  That would take very minimal effort from a fringe Hall of Famer, but you don’t bring in a Brandon Marshall to be this team’s 5th or 6th receiver.  Because, in all honesty, you need more from those guys; you need those guys to be standout special teamers, and that’s absolutely not in the cards for Marshall.  The only way Marshall makes the team is if he’s so much better than you’d expect him to be.  If he’s simply AS good as Amara Darboh, David Moore, or Marcus Johnson, then guess what:  you’re going to keep the younger guys with more cost control and less miles on their legs!  Is he better than those guys right now?  Almost certainly, but that’s not enough.

Brandon Marshall isn’t fighting for a spot against all the other wide receivers on this 90-man roster; he’s fighting for a roster spot against Jaron Brown.  He essentially needs to be BETTER than Jaron Brown to make this team.  I should point out that it doesn’t preclude the team from keeping both; in that hypothetical scenario, it just means both Brown and Marshall will have impressed the coaching staff enough to make a difficult decision (also in that hypothetical scenario, figure that means the team keeps 6 receivers, which – if I have to guess – is not something they want to do; I bet they opt to keep 5 and one of those veteran receivers gets the ax; most likely Marshall, but that’s neither here nor there).

In the end, figure it’s much ado about nothing.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall is good enough to make this team, aside from some pretty serious injuries to the wide receiver unit.

The Seahawks Also Fired Kris Richard, Hired 3 New Guys

I wanted to wait until things were a little more official before talking about the influx of new coaches on the Seattle Seahawks, as you never know when a deal is gonna go sideways at the last minute.

As we all know, the Seahawks fired Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable last week.  Now, we have their replacements, as well as the news that Kris Richard was also canned.

Brian Schottenheimer, son of Marty Schottenheimer, will take over for Bevell as the offensive coordinator.  He’s been coaching in the league since 1997, first becoming a coordinator back in 2006 with the Jets.  He was there for 6 years, then with Jeff Fisher’s Rams for 3 years, then he went to college and was the coordinator at Georgia for a season before returning to the NFL with the Colts as a quarterbacks coach the last two years.  In that time, he’s had some good seasons and some bad seasons, though by and large he’s been saddled with some pretty mediocre-to-terrible quarterbacks; suffice it to say, Russell Wilson will be the best one he’s ever coached.

Mike Solari, former Seahawks offensive line coach from 2008-2009, will take over for Cable as the offensive line coach (there will be no assistant head coach or whatever on this staff, it would seem).  Solari has been coaching since the 70s, in the NFL starting in 1987, and has been coaching offensive lines practically the whole time.  He was most recently with the Giants the last two years (certainly not a running juggernaut), was with the Packers for a season in 2015, and spent 5 years with the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh.  He too has had some good seasons and some bad seasons.  I remember being really jacked up the first time the Seahawks signed him, but he caught on just as all of our O-Line talent was falling apart, and we never really recovered in that 2-year span.  He’ll have his work cut out for him this time too.

Ken Norton Jr., former Seahawks linebackers coach from 2010-2014, will take over for Richard as the defensive coordinator.  He was most recently the coordinator for the Raiders the last 3 seasons.  I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but it seemed like they underachieved pretty hard, particularly the last two years.  That’s a defense with a lot of talent, but maybe not as much as I think.  I dunno.  The Raiders, obviously, cleaned house this offseason, handing over the keys to the franchise to Jon Gruden, who’s brought in a pretty impressive staff under him.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can bounce back after a disappointing 2017.  Norton, meanwhile, was poised to be an assistant for the 49ers, until the Seahawks offered him the coordinator job.  I don’t know if he’s necessarily a step up from Kris Richard, but I also don’t know if he’s a step down either.

As a Seahawks fan, it’s hard to get too excited about any of these moves.  They’re all retreads, and they’re all pretty boilerplate.  When you look around the league, and you see what certain guys are doing with their creative schemes, you’d hope the Seahawks would want to be on that cutting edge.  At the very least, you’d like to see these coaches having some sustained success at what they do; but each one of these guys were spotty at best.

Which begs the question:  knowing what I know now, would I do it over again?  Would I still want to replace Bevell, Cable, and Richard?  And I have to say yes, because again, it was time for a new voice, a new set of eyes, and a new mindset.

I also have to say that the most important ingredient in all of this is Pete Carroll.  From what I’m reading – and I tend to agree – this is Pete taking over control of his team, and if the end is somewhere on the horizon (2 years, 3 years, 5 years?), he’s going to go out on his own terms, doing what he does best:  running the football and playing smashmouth defense.

It also means you know who to blame if all of this goes south, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’m sure Ken Norton Jr. is a fine teacher and motivator, but he’s going to be running Carroll’s scheme to the letter.  Richard was more or less also doing that, but Richard would also probably benefit from coaching under someone besides Carroll for the first time in his career.  The point is, Carroll has always had his hands all over the defense, so nothing is going to change there.  I would expect things to look pretty much the same as they have since Dan Quinn left.

As for Solari, I honestly don’t know what he’ll be able to do that Tom Cable couldn’t do better.  It’s no surprise that Cable was on the market for all of a couple of days.  I’m pretty sure they both run essentially the same zone blocking scheme, only Solari has done it consistently worse, without any sort of knack for improving pass protection either.  He feels like a poor man’s Cable in every respect.  But, with the way the staff was organized, I doubt Cable would’ve accepted a reduced role here – to JUST coach the O-Line, and not be the “run game coordinator” or whatever – and I doubt we could’ve gotten a respectable offensive coordinator to come in, knowing that Cable had just as much, if not more power, in the offense.  This might be the one case where change for the sake of change backfires, but Solari probably isn’t the VERY worst, so let’s hope the drop-off isn’t too severe.

The most interesting hire – and the one under the largest microscope, among fans – is Brian Schottenheimer.  I know as far as head coaches are concerned, his dad is on my short list of the ones I respect the most (and I do believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, in spite of his lack of success in the playoffs), so the hope is there’s some of Marty’s magic in Brian.  I guess we’ll see.  He’s largely an unknown precisely because he hasn’t had as good of a quarterback as Wilson in his coordinating career.  He was a quarterbacks coach for Drew Brees in San Diego, and apparently did him a world of good, so there’s been a lot of talk about him bringing Wilson’s game to another level.  That’s less interesting to me, because I don’t know if there’s another level to Wilson’s game, necessarily.  He’s also considerably more experienced than Brees was at that point in his career, so it’s not like Schottenheimer would be bringing along some wide-eyed rookie.  Wilson is an established veteran and Pro Bowler, with 2 trips to the Super Bowl under his belt and 1 championship; what is Schottenheimer going to tell him that Bevell couldn’t?  Throw from the pocket more!  Throw on time!  Yeah, we get it, this has been harped upon since day 1.

Word on the street is, Schottenheimer (boy, am I going to get tired of writing that long-ass name out) likes to run the football.  So, again, this has Pete’s influence all over it.  Getting back to old school football.  Of course, it would help if we had a talented running back – who can also stay healthy for more than 6 games – to hand the rock off to, but that’s neither here nor there.  We’re not going to get anything flashy out of Schottenheimer; this isn’t Sean McVay.  This is the Seahawks trying to reclaim former glories.

On the one hand:  sad.  We kill the Mariners for constantly living in the past, but I’m supposed to get all lubed up over the Seahawks returning to their 2013 form?  Besides, can we even put that genie back in the lamp?

Which leads me to the other hand:  good.  My main concern is Russell Wilson in all of this.  He’s been in the league for 6 years now, and has done everything you could ask of a franchise quarterback.  You have to wonder:  is he going to accept a slightly reduced role, if it means this offense has greater success?  Ego is a powerful thing.  You obviously have to have a lot of ego to play quarterback in the NFL, but when you get to the level Wilson’s reached in his career, that ego tends to expand to galaxy-sized proportions.  The biggest question that I’ll have, as we head into the 2018 season, is:  will Russell Wilson put his money where his mouth is?  Is he REALLY all about winning?  Or, is it only about winning when he’s the lone star on the team?

Don’t get me wrong, I would have this same question for almost every single successful quarterback in the league.  There gets to be a point in a young quarterback’s career where he becomes bigger than the team, and it’s not until he’s logged a decade or so when he comes to realize that in the end, all that matters is winning.  What I want to know is, can we somehow accelerate that line of thinking for Wilson, get him to come back down to Earth a little bit, and run a more conservative-style offense that helps out our defense and gets this team back on track?

The other word on the street is, Schottenheimer is pretty salty.  So, here’s hoping he can infuse a little more discipline into this offense, again particularly with Wilson.  He needs a coach, not a buddy, and I don’t get the sense that Bevell was much of an authoritarian.  This should also help teammate relations when it comes to their quarterback resentment.  But, you know, we’ll see.

No one really knows how these coaches are going to be, or how the players are going to respond.  So, it’s hard to get too uptight about any of it.  Save that energy for when the games start.