Seahawks Death Week: What Would Make Me Happy As A Fan?

There’s so much going on right now, I really can’t be bothered to keep up. How many interview requests have the Seahawks put in for, like a dozen? Any one of these guys could be amazing, and any one of these guys could be a total disaster. I’ll admit, between the Mariners, Huskies, and Seahawks, my confidence level is pretty much bottomed out at this point. So, I’m going to be inclined – pretty much throughout this entire offseason – to come at this from a pessimistic standpoint. The Mariners were already incredibly bad offensively for too much of 2023 to be successful, and the notion that a second hitting coach is going to be the thing to turn everyone around is asinine to say the least. The Huskies are in a very toxic place right now – that place being the college football landscape at large – and the notion that we’re going to turn around our fortunes by going heavy into recruiting sounds like a fairy tale.

I would say, for the Seahawks, it’s funny that the number one objective in John Schneider’s head coaching search is to maintain our positive culture, because right now that’s the ONLY thing we have going for us. We’re not in a great spot with our roster the way it is – bereft of elite-level talent on both sides of the line of scrimmage – we’re not in a great spot with our salary cap – with lots of aging/useless veterans commanding high salaries and just-as-high dead cap hits – and we’re not even all that well off with our draft capital – having given away our second rounder for half a year of Leonard Williams, and only acquiring an extra third rounder from Denver (with no compensatory picks for the fourth year in a row). They don’t give away Lombardi Trophies for “best culture”. And, if you don’t win, it’s amazing how quickly that culture can dissolve.

The one thing that does make me happy is having John Schneider at the helm, making all the important decisions. It’s impossible to ever know how much influence Pete Carroll had over personnel. My guess is, not a lot when it came to the draft, and probably too much when it came to veteran trades and free agency. Even then, I wonder about what we were told at Schneider’s original hiring – or at least what we assumed, coming from his Green Bay background – and what we’ve actually seen come to fruition here in Seattle: namely, that we would be drafting a quarterback nearly every year, even if we didn’t necessarily need one. Why have the Packers been so successful in carrying over from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to now Jordan Love? Because they don’t miss an opportunity to take a chance at finding their Quarterback of the Future. It’s something the Seahawks let go straight to hell throughout the Russell Wilson era, and I believe it’s still setting us back to this very day.

So, that would also make me happy: having John Schneider in charge, and getting back to John Schneider-esque decisions. I believe we’ve had a couple of high-quality drafts the last two years. I also believe that the 2023 Seahawks underachieved based on the talent they have. If we can manage to keep the good drafts flowing, and marry that with a coaching staff that can get the most out of our younger guys, then I think there’s potential for a quick turnaround. Let’s eliminate some of these panic trades for aging vets, let’s dole out smart contracts to the right guys, let’s get rid of aging players a year too early vs. a year too late, and let’s trust in our ability to coach up young players immediately, to better take advantage of their inexpensive cost to our salary cap while they’re on rookie deals.

I couldn’t tell you who would make me happy to bring in as a head coach. I think Dan Quinn is probably the likeliest guy, and I also think he’s the least exciting candidate. I think Jim Harbaugh is the most intriguing, but I also don’t believe he will go anywhere if he doesn’t have full control over every part of the team, so that kinda rules him out. Of all the coordinators getting interviews, I think Ben Johnson is probably the most thrilling, but he’s also among the least-experienced names being bandied about, having just two years of OC experience with Detroit. Is his scheme something that’s revolutionizing the sport of football? Or did he just come up with the right team at the right time, who just so happened to have an elite collection of players? Is he the next Shanahan or McVay? I’m guessing probably not. But, is the next Shanahan or McVay even out there? Again, I’m guessing probably not.

The Seahawks have only had three successful head coaches in the franchise’s history: Chuck Knox, Mike Holmgren, and Pete Carroll. All three of them had previous NFL head coaching experience. Now, obviously, that’s not a guarantee, because Jim Mora Jr. also was previously a head coach in the NFL, and Dennis Erickson was a longtime head coach in college. But, it strikes me that the three best guys were all pretty huge names in the sport at the times of them being hired, and maybe there’s something to be said for that.

I’ve always liked Mike Vrabel. I think he’s smart and knows how to lead a team as much as he can lead a culture. He probably best fits in that mold of a prior NFL head coach who’s a big name and has a lot left to give to the game. But, he doesn’t seem to be a viable option for whatever reason. I know I’d be concerned about his desire to play older guys over young kids, but maybe that’s a perception I’ve falsely acquired over the years. Like with any coach, his success level is going to come down to the quality of the players around him, regardless of their age or experience.

I guess the biggest thing that would make me happy as a Seahawks fan is for them to cut the dead weight. I know these decisions are tough, I know these older guys have given us everything they had, and I know it might mean enduring a tough salary cap situation for a year. But, if we can make it through, there’s a real opportunity in 2025 and beyond. But, we have to understand what this team is right now: it’s not a Super Bowl contender. And it’s not one offseason (with one hand tied behind our backs thanks to lack of money and draft picks) away from being that contender. This is a two-year window. Year one is the tear down, and year two is the immediate rebuild.

K.Y.P. Know Your Personnel. One of the local basketball color guys used to say that all the time (I can’t remember if it was Marques Johnson or someone else), but it’s universal across all sports. Seahawks, K.Y.P! Figure it out, get rid of anyone who’s not part of the future, and let’s get this thing turned around. Hovering around 9-8 and a potential wild card spot isn’t going to make me happy. Competing – TRULY competing – for a Super Bowl title, THAT will make me happy.

What If The Seahawks Take A Quarterback With The Fifth Pick?

This question feels like a waste of time. It feels like clickbait nonsense. When you read it from established journalists/pundits – as opposed to yours truly, who’s writing this in his pajamas in the middle of the afternoon while listening to some #FunkyDiscoHouse – it feels like they’re just parroting what unnamed agents/NFL front offices want them to “leak”, for financial/competitive gains.

When I read about the Seahawks showing interest in the quarterback position at the top of the draft, it seems very disingenuous. That’s what we WANT the rest of the league to believe, so the price to trade into our spot goes up. Or, so teams will leapfrog us, in hopes that one of the bigtime defensive line prospects falls to us. And/or to drive Geno Smith’s price down.

99.9% of me believes it’s bullshit that the Seahawks would select a quarterback with the fifth overall draft pick. I can’t say 100%, because nothing is 100% in the game of football. But, I’m saying it without saying it: the Seahawks are NOT drafting a quarterback fifth overall.

I say that as a fan of the Seahawks who has followed this organization VERY closely through the years.

Can you name the highest-drafted quarterback in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era? You should, because his name is Russell Wilson, and he was famously taken by us in the third round. We’ve taken exactly one other quarterback in the draft since 2010: Alex McGough in 2018, in the 7th round. That’s a 50% success rate, for those keeping track at home.

The Seahawks have largely been unconventional at the spot over the last 12+ years. The inherited Matt Hasselbeck, they traded for Charlie Whitehurst (a huge bust), they took on Tarvaris Jackson because he was familiar with Darrell Bevell’s system, they made a medium-sized splash on Matt Flynn, and they’ve run through a number of starting busts to sit behind Wilson until we got to Geno and Drew Lock last year battling it out. LOTTA crap there, up to and including Hasselbeck’s last year here (when he was over the hill), outside of hitting the lottery on Russell Wilson.

But, at the same time, there haven’t been those huge swings you see out of most other franchises. Do you know who was the last quarterback we drafted in the first two rounds? The much-maligned Rick Mirer at number two overall, back in 1993. In fact, there’s only one other QB the Seahawks have taken in the first two rounds, and that was Dan McGwire at number 16 in 1991 (when Chuck Knox lobbied hard for Brett Favre). That’s a 0% success rate, for those keeping track at home.

Isn’t that interesting, though? When you think about the Seahawks, you don’t think about us being totally bereft of quarterback talent. But, we’ve been unorthodox at getting our guys. Jim Zorn was an undrafted free agent. Dave Krieg was as well. Warren Moon was a free agent, Matt Hasselbeck was a trade acquisition; those are all the big names, that comprise a significant chunk of the Pre-Wilson Seahawks history.

What’s also interesting – especially going from the Holmgren era through the John Schneider era (both with ties to the Green Bay Packers way of doing things) – is that this organization doesn’t even take a lot of draft fliers the way the Packers model themselves after. We get our franchise quarterback, and we throw whatever scrubs we find off the scrap heap behind him. Now, to be fair, what are we talking about? The Packers have made two high-profile draft picks of Aaron Rodgers (when Favre was still playing at a high level) and Jordan Love (when Rodgers was still playing at a high level); it’s not like they’re actually drafting a new quarterback every season.

But, that’s their reputation, and that’s also the reputation that was foisted upon John Schneider. I don’t know if he buys into that or not. Maybe that was an unfair allegation that was levied against him, since he came from Green Bay. But, regardless, it hasn’t been even remotely his practice since coming here. Not even when you consider this team really could’ve used a little more attention paid to the position!

There are those rumors that he was all in on Patrick Mahomes and/or Josh Allen. That if those guys would’ve fallen to us in their respective draft classes, we would’ve taken one of them even though that was smack in Wilson’s prime. Of course, we’ll never know; it’s easy to plant those stories to make yourself look smart. It’s also easy to plant those stories when you want to drive down the price of your own franchise quarterback in times of contract extension. But, it’s a great What If. What if we traded Wilson back in 2017 and acquired a ton of draft picks at that time? What if we used those picks to select (or trade up for) one of Mahomes or Allen? Wouldn’t that be exciting?!

That’s where you get to the 00.1% chance of the Seahawks taking a quarterback at five. Because to do that, they would have to be SO SURE this guy is the next superstar in this league. Which is what makes all the Anthony Richardson hullabaloo at the combine over the weekend all the more intriguing. He blew the collective minds of everyone watching, with his freakish athleticism, with his interviewing skills, and with his leadership traits. He also apparently had a very positive interview with Pete Carroll (who, as we all remember, had that crazy interaction with D.K. Metcalf before we later took him at the end of the second round).

Would I be excited if the Seahawks took a quarterback at five? You’re damn right I would be! Because I love a surprise out of left field. Because I don’t really want to overpay for Geno Smith’s services. And because I would have to 100% buy in on this guy, since the organization is taking such a huge risk. With our philosophy largely undermining the quarterback spot throughout the years, this would be a HUGE step in the other direction.

Naturally, it depends on who we take at five. I’ll say this, there’s no “sure thing” in this draft. Bryce Young is undersized and slight of frame. Also, I don’t know how much I buy Alabama quarterbacks, after the underwhelming showing of both Mac Jones and Tua (Hurts goes pretty far in turning that tide for me, but he also transferred out of there, and had to find a way to succeed without the crutch of being on the best roster college football has to offer). C.J. Stroud has great accuracy, but lacks a willingness to scramble, and if I don’t trust Bama quarterbacks, I REALLY don’t trust Buckeye QBs. He also had the luxury of being on an elite roster of players, and it’s impossible to tell how someone will react to the real world of the NFL, where there’s significantly more parity.

Richardson is naturally on everyone’s minds – and might excite me more than the other two guys, if only for his potential upside – but he has serious accuracy problems. He also didn’t play much at college and might be a little too reliant on his legs for success at the next level. I know it feels nitpicky – one guy runs too much, the other not enough, what is this a 3 Bears situation? – but that’s the nature of the beast with drafting a quarterback, especially in the upper half of the first round. For every Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, there are dozens of Blake Bortleses. You don’t often get those “sure things”. Most of the time, you get someone with flaws that you hope don’t usher him out of the league as a bust.

But, as I said, if the Seahawks take a quarterback at five, of course I’m going to be excited! What other choice do I have? That being said, if it’s not one of those three guys I just referenced, not only would it be a gargantuan shock, but it would be downright irresponsible. There’s just no one else worthy of that kind of attention.

When Seahawks fans speculate on the team taking a QB, it’s usually in the second or third round; MAYBE with the 20th overall pick (or trade down from 20 and take him later in the first). That feels a little more reasonable. It’s FAR less sexy, but it’s also probably the smarter play. Take a bigger project with less upside and hope to mold him over this season as he rides the pine behind Geno. But, can you imagine how much we’d lose our minds if we were one of those teams to take a quarterback in the top five?! What a thrill!

The Seahawks Suck At Hiring Defensive Coordinators

As Sean Desai gets poached by the Eagles to be their defensive coordinator – following one season as our … Associate Head Coach & Defensive Assistant (emphasis on the secondary) – I can’t help but think we’re keeping the wrong guy.

Clint Hurtt has been a punching bag for me ever since he was promoted from Underwhelming Defensive Line Coach to Underwhelming Defensive Coordinator, following the firing of Ken Norton Jr. Why hire some guy to install Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme when you could’ve just hired Vic Fucking Fangio (hired by the Dolphins this year, after taking 2022 off)? It doesn’t seem like we did any sort of DC search whatsoever last year. At the very least, we could’ve made Desai our DC and made Hurtt our Associate Head Coach or whatever.

It’s going to be pretty easy to compare the three guys – Desai, Hurtt, and Fangio – as they all embark on their jobs. Desai has the advantage of coaching for a Super Bowl team that was largely defined by their excellent defense. Fangio is going to a squad with a lot of talent, that figures to bolster that talent (considering they’re pretty well set on offense, assuming they opt to keep Tua) this offseason. Hurtt has one small advantage in that he’s been in the same organization for a number of years, with this being his second year in charge. The experience and familiarity should hopefully do him well.

I would also argue that Hurtt has the easiest job of the three. It’s been lean times for the Seahawks defense in recent years; all he has to do is build it up to be semi-competent and he’ll have done his job. If he exceeds expectations, then he should be on the fast track to head coaching opportunities. Whereas Desai is being given the keys of a defense that’s already great; there’s nowhere to go but down! And Fangio has the misfortune of being in a conference with a lot of elite offensive talent to go up against. He’s also getting up there in age and at some point you have to wonder when he’s going to shuffle off into retirement.

That being said, I have the least faith in Hurtt. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the Seahawks continue to be inept. At which point, I’ll be the one “I Told You So”-ing on this blog until my fingers fall off.

What was the one thing that worked on the 2022 Seahawks defense? Where was the one area that exceeded expectations (while the others flopped miserably)? It was the secondary. Where Desai was firmly in charge. I can only dream of what might’ve been for the rest of the defense. It’s not that I expect the secondary to suddenly take a step back; I’m just lamenting the loss of someone who seems so damned good at his job (in favor of keeping someone who, I guess, gives good interview?).

But, this has been a long string of terrible defensive coordinators, with precious few bright spots.

Ken Norton was a bust. Kris Richard oversaw the dismantling of a once-great unit. Dan Quinn was the lone amazing hire by Pete Carroll in his tenure. Even Gus Bradley, I don’t know if he was good, so much as the organization just so happened to draft and sign a lot of future Hall of Famers. Bradley sure as shit hasn’t done a damn thing in any of his other jobs, as head coach or DC.

This isn’t just a Pete Carroll problem, though. Ray Rhodes was the only good hire of the Mike Holmgren tenure (though the tragic loss of Fritz Shurmur in 1999 – before he could even coach a game for us – was painfully unfortunate). And, none of the guys pre-Holmgren were anything special; even Tom Catlin – the DC under Chuck Knox – was never able to parlay that into anything outside of Seattle (even taking a demotion to linebackers coach once Knox left the organization).

It’s not that the Seahawks have always been terrible on defense outside of the Dan Quinn era; we’ve had plenty of talented players come through the organization since its inception. But, I would argue we’ve largely been underwhelming. Sometimes that’s due to bad luck, or injuries, or randomness. Sometimes it’s due to incompetence at the top, or a lack of skilled defenders. But, it sucks when you see the organization making a mistake in the moment.

I want the Seahawks to be good. I’ll often bend over backwards to talk myself into this team being better than it actually is. But, I can’t do anything with Clint Hurtt. Just like I couldn’t do anything with Ken Norton. We just have to fucking endure it. We have to watch mediocre defense for another 2-4 years before another change will inevitably have to be made. Meanwhile, we’re all going to wish the Seahawks had opted to choose Desai, because even if the Eagles take a slight step back on defense, they’re still going to be leaps and bounds better than the Seahawks for the foreseeable future.

How Long Will It Take The Seahawks To Find Their Franchise Quarterback?

19 of the 32 NFL head coaches were hired in 2020 or later. That gives you some idea of the kind of turnover we’re talking about in the league. It also gives you a little bit of an idea of how many well-run franchises are out there. The teams with head coaches hired since 2020 by and large haven’t been very good. There are exceptions, of course; Tampa and New Orleans had legit guys either retire or take a year off. But, for the most part, when you think of the worst-run franchises in the NFL – the Giants, Jets, Texans, Jags, Bears, Lions, Commanders, Browns – and even the mediocre franchises – Panthers, Cowboys, Falcons, Dolphins, Eagles, Vikings, Raiders, Chargers – they’re all on this list.

I would say the best-run orgs with new head coaches are the Broncos, Saints, and Bucs. The Broncos just made a huge move to bring in Russell Wilson. The Saints are on year two of trying to replace Drew Brees. And we’re well aware of the Bucs and how they’ve done with Tom Brady.

It’s no coincidence that to win in the NFL – and therefore to be considered a well-run organization – you need a quality quarterback. But, even that doesn’t guarantee anything. Do we think the Bengals are a well-run organization? Of course not. But, they lucked into Joe Burrow, who seems to be a generational talent. Do we think the Cardinals are well-run? No way! But, they’re saddled with Kyler Murray through a second contract, and we’ll get to watch them fail to make a Super Bowl for many years to come. The Titans and Colts have won a lot of games in recent years, but I don’t think either franchise is super thrilled with their quarterback situations.

What I’m trying to get at here is the Chicken/Egg question: are well-run organizations more prone to finding quality franchise quarterbacks? Or, is it the quality franchise quarterback that makes an organization appear to be well-run?

What makes it tricky is the fact that head coaches don’t usually get opportunities to stick around through multiple quarterback changes. Either the coach finds his quarterback, and they make a pact to run it back for a long time, or the coach is brought in after the quarterback is already in place – maybe having underachieved during a prior head coach – and they make a pact to run it back for a long time. But, very rarely – especially in today’s game – do you bring in a coach, and he sticks around beyond the one main guy.

Bill Belichick, obviously, went from Drew Bledsoe to Tom Brady to Mac Jones (we’ll see on how good Jones ends up being). If Mac Jones pans out, I think that speaks very highly of Belichick and the organization as a whole being an environment that’s able to foster quarterback development. But, he’s also the greatest head coach of all time, so what are we talking about here? He’s a one of one. If anyone can do something like that, it’s him.

The Steelers will be an excellent case study, because Mike Tomlin is the second-longest tenured head coach in football, and as a whole they are considered to be probably a top five organization. They’re moving on from Ben Roethlisberger for the first time since Tomlin has been there. If they can turn Kenny Pickett into a star – especially when he wasn’t graded out super-high in this poor overall draft class for quarterbacks – then that’s another notch in the belt of Organization being more important than simply finding a fluke of a quarterback in the lottery that is the NFL Draft.

The Ravens succeeded pretty well in transitioning from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson (and even Tyler Huntley balled out in limited duty); the fact that they’ve won as much as they have speaks volumes. The Chiefs obviously hit the aforementioned lottery with Patrick Mahomes, but would he be the consensus #1 quarterback alive without Andy Reid’s system? The Rams certainly took it to another level when they brought Matthew Stafford into the fold, but they were winning at a tremendous clip with Jared Goff of all people. The 49ers have been pretty injury-prone under Shanahan, but he’s definitely built up a solid overall roster, and if Trey Lance hits, I think that’s another feather in his cap.

Clearly, this is all preamble before I talk about the Seahawks. I would put the Seahawks up there – at least in the top 10, if not the top 5 – in well-run organizations. But, maybe that’s mistaken. Maybe that’s the homer in me. After all, we’re talking about the VAST majority of our success coming in years where Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback. Clearly, we fared a lot better when we had a bomb-ass team around him – a bomb-ass team built through Pete Carroll and this organization – but even when the team around him faltered, Russell Wilson kept things afloat, almost by himself.

Before Russell Wilson, it was two years of rebuilding, with mediocre quarterback play (though, to be fair, I don’t know if even Russ could’ve won with the collection of “talent” we had in 2010 and 2011). Now, in 2022, it’ll be just the third season without Wilson at the helm for Pete Carroll & Co.

One thing’s for sure: I don’t believe our next franchise quarterback is on the roster at the moment. Geno Smith is a mediocre quarterback at best, Drew Lock might be even worse, and Jacob Eason seems to be destined for the XFL or USFL or working at a car dealership. Best case scenario, 2022 will be a rebuilding year akin to 2011. If everything goes right and we’re able to build up the roster around the quarterback position, maybe we luck into that franchise guy in 2023 and beyond.

Assuming we don’t trade for Jimmy G – who I would not place in that franchise quarterback bucket, especially since now we’re talking about not one but two teams who’ve given up on him – then we’re talking about 2023 at the earliest. But, even if we’re bad this year – which most people agree that we’ll be in the bottom 10, and maybe bottom 5 – that’s no guarantee that the guy we draft next year will be The Next Russell Wilson, or The Next Fill-In-The-Blank.

Think about all of those teams who’ve hired a new head coach since 2020. You don’t think they tried repeatedly to draft their franchise guy? For some of those organizations, that’s all they ever do! The Bears are STILL trying to find The Next Sid Luckman!

But, I also believe there’s something to the notion that better teams – with a solid foundation in place, both in coaching, as well as personnel – are better able to find those franchise guys, just as they’re better able to win with perhaps sub-par guys (see: the Titans). We’ll find out how true that is with the Seahawks, when they presumably draft a quarterback next year in one of the first three rounds (almost certainly in the first round, but you never know). I think that’ll give us a pretty good sense of what we’re dealing with here. There’s a good contingent of Pete Carroll haters out there – or, at least, Pete Carroll doubters – and I think they’re all of the same mind, that this team needs a breath of fresh air before we go out and find the next quarterback. I disagree. I want Pete Carroll here during these uncertain times. Why? Because he led us out of the wilderness during the LAST period of uncertainty.

Growing up, the Seahawks went from being a relatively well-run organization – through at least the early portion of the Chuck Knox era – to without question the worst-run organization. We were a laughingstock in the late 80s and early 90s. Really, it wasn’t until we hired Mike Holmgren before things turned around. He built us into winners. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, just as I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pete Carroll was able to do what he did in the last decade. Winners find a way to win. They attract other winners.

Obviously, it’s fair to question whether or not the game has passed Carroll by. I think that’s the argument for a lot of the doubters. We’ll see. I think he’ll get through this year no matter what our record is. Then, I think he’ll get 2023 to see if we can turn things around and start looking competitive again. If we fade in 2023, then I highly doubt he’ll have 2024 or beyond to do anything.

The next two years will say a lot about the question of Organization vs. Quarterback. Can we find and develop the next franchise guy? Can we win with just an okay guy? If not, then there’s no way this doesn’t get blown up by 2024. And if THAT comes to fruition, then who the fuck knows how long it’ll take to find our next franchise quarterback? We could be talking decades!

2024, not so coincidentally, will also likely coincide with the Seahawks potentially being sold to a new ownership group. That’s something else to keep in mind. Maybe that’s a reason to keep Carroll an extra year or two, to make the transition. But, all that uncertainty might make a clean break ideal for all parties, especially if the Seahawks are bottom-dwellers over the next couple seasons.

Culture Is Everything In The NFL

Buyer beware, because I can already tell this is going to be a long, rambling mess. Buckle up!

I’m on record as being in favor of the Seahawks retaining Pete Carroll, even if it’s at the expense of Russell Wilson demanding a trade out of Seattle. Yes, I’ll acknowledge the obvious: it’s really fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL who’s capable of leading you to a championship.

There are differences between run of the mill franchise quarterbacks, and those who can take you all the way. Andy Dalton was a franchise quarterback for many years; he led the Bengals to the playoffs a number of times. But, he was never going to win them a title. Not without a remarkable level of talent around him, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I would lump guys like Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, and Matthew Stafford into that camp, even though Flacco won it all, Ryan very nearly won it all, and Stafford very well might win it all this season. Flacco rode an elite defense and a red-hot playoff streak to a title; Ryan had the biggest Super Bowl choke job in NFL history; and Stafford has a crazy fantasy roster around him helping prop up his damaged throwing hand and shaky decision-making.

The point is, none of those guys are on the level of Russell Wilson. And I would still pick Pete Carroll over him, even though odds are Carroll’s time in the NFL will come to an end first. Because I would argue it’s just as hard – if not harder – to find a quality head coach in the NFL to build the kind of winning culture you need to succeed for many years.

Head coaching in the NFL is a neverending revolving door. Really, you can extend that to all the major professional sports.

The Seahawks have been lucky in that regard. We’ve had three Grade-A culture builders in our relatively short tenure in the NFL. Chuck Knox was the first, and arguably one of the most underrated; if he was blessed with a proper ownership group, there’s no telling where he could’ve taken this franchise. Even still, from 1983-1991, he led the Seahawks to the second-best winning percentage in franchise history (minimum of 10 games), even better than Mike Holmgren (who everyone points to as the first great culture builder in Seahawks history). Holmgren, obviously, helped build and lead the Seahawks to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Then, we’ve got Pete Carroll, hands down the best of the bunch. Those three guys comprise 31 of the Seahawks’ 46 seasons of existence; we’ve been spoiled with great culture builders!

You’ll notice, though, of the 15 other years, we had a total of 5 separate head coaches. And that’s common throughout the NFL. I couldn’t tell you what the average is, but it feels right to say guys get approximately 3 years to prove if they’re winners or not. When you consider it’s predominantly the worst organizations who are doing most of the hiring of new coaches – you don’t see the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, or Seahawks hiring and firing guys all willy-nilly all the time – it’s doubly hard to turn things around. You really have to catch lightning in a bottle with the right quarterback, the right roster construction, the right scheme, and the right salary cap situation to see those kinds of quick results. All just to prolong your tenure an extra few years! But, as you’ll frequently see, even guys who’ve won it all don’t get a free pass forever. One or two bad years and suddenly you’re washed up. This leads to going the complete opposite direction with who you hire next: a stern disciplinarian might give way to a “players’ coach”, a defensive guru might give way to an offensive mastermind, etc.

Now, take a step back and look at the Mariners, for instance. Lou Piniella was our greatest and longest tenured manager in franchise history; he was out following the 2002 season. Scott Servais is already the second-best and second-longest tenured manager in Mariners’ history at only 6 seasons. Of the Mariners’ 45 years in existence, Piniella and Servais have managed for 16 seasons; of the remaining 29 seasons, the M’s have had 18 official managers (interim or otherwise). That’s insane. Merely taking into account the 13 seasons between Piniella and Servais, we had 8 managers. When you think of the worst-run, most-dysfunctional North American professional sports franchises, you think of – among many others – the team with the longest playoff drought: the Seattle Mariners. Is it any surprise that we would have 8 managers in 13 seasons, until finally stabilizing things under Servais and Dipoto? I’m not saying either of them are perfect, but unless things go totally FUBAR, they should be the ones to lead us back into the post-season (even if an extra playoff spot will help necessitate it). I’d say it’s looking good – with the talent we have at all levels of the organization – that they’ve done a good job of both finding the right talent and turning the culture into a winning one. They still have to go and do it, of course. But, that’s how hard it can be. That’s how long it can take. The Mariners were one of the best baseball organizations from the mid-90s through the early 2000’s; then they were one of the worst for almost two full decades. That has everything to do with the culture we let fall apart with the loss of Lou Piniella and Pat Gillick; finding their replacements has been exceedingly difficult.

Now, take a look around the rest of the NFL. The longest tenured head coaches are Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid. All are guys at the top of their profession, who regularly take their teams into the playoffs and have won at least one championship. But, aside from Belichick, they’ve all weathered some down periods. Down periods that lesser organizations might’ve fired them over. Of course, they’re still employed because those down periods aren’t very long, nor are they very bad, but still. Head coaches have been fired for a lot less, because their organizatons lack the fortitude to ride out the rough patches.

Every coach aside from those top five have been hired in 2017 or later. Not coincidentally, I would argue those head coaches are one or two bad years away from also joining the unemployment line, even though they’re coaches who’ve led their teams to conference championship games and Super Bowls.

Not all of them, of course. I think there’s a valid point that a great head coach needs a great quarterback, but I would also say the reverse is true: a great quarterback needs a great head coach. Granted, great quarterbacks have been propping up good-to-mediocre head coaches since time immemorial, but a great QB by himself is only going to take you so far. How many titles has Aaron Rodgers won in his Hall of Fame career? How about Drew Brees? On down the line.

I would argue great quarterbacks are helped along and nurtured to their fullest potential by the elite head coaches who’ve built a culture in which they can thrive. It’s when they try to bash heads with the head coach and the culture where things go sideways. And organizations – fearing reprisal from the fanbase – will almost always side with the elite QB over the elite head coach.

For those who wanted to put the issue to bed after one Tom Brady championship in Tampa Bay, just look at what Belichick has done in that same time: he had a down year with Cam Newton at the helm, then he turned right around and made it back to the playoffs with a rookie QB. Now, it looks like the Patriots are set up for another decade of success, while Brady just went and retired. THAT is what an elite coach – with an elite culture – can do for an organization.

Meanwhile, look at the Dolphins. They just fired Brian Flores after back-to-back winning seasons. His first season with the team was arguably his best, in spite of a 5-11 finish. The ownership and GM did everything to strip that team of all its talent; yet, Flores managed to win 5 of his last 9 games with a nothing roster.

Now, he can’t get hired anywhere, even though I think he’s proven to be an effective and winning head coach with a great culture. The reason why the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs in 2021 has everything to do with being saddled with a sub-par quarterback. And yet, Flores still managed to coach them to a winning record! He’s suing the NFL and I think he has a point; the Giants knew who they wanted to hire well before they “interviewed” Flores for the job. Flores was only cursorily considered for the job because he’s a person of color, and therefore fits the requirement under the Rooney Rule.

Look at David Culley of the Houston Texans. He – another person of color – replaced Bill O’Brien, someone who gutted the organization in his desperation to cling to his job. O’Brien, not for nothing, was a mediocre coach and culture builder, responsible for some of the worst and most lopsidedly terrible trades I’ve ever seen. How he kept his job for as long as he did is baffling. Culley only won 4 games this year and was fired after one season on the job. A season, mind you, where the Texans – much like the Dolphins in 2019 – gutted the roster to try to tank for the top draft pick. The fact that they won any games at all is a testament to the job Culley did.

These are just two examples of dysfunctional organizations; I haven’t even mentioned the Washington Football Team, which seems to embarrass itself on a monthly basis with its variety of scandals. Or the Jaguars, who churn through terrible head coaches like cheap sticks of gum. Or the Lions or Bears or Cowboys or Raiders or Jets, who have done nothing but underachieve for years and years and years. They continue to fuck up on the regular, with zero accountability from the top.

Is that what you want for the Seahawks?

Most franchises pay a lot of lip service to diversity and doing the right thing; very few actually back that up in their hiring practices and the way they construct their organizations. The Seahawks aren’t perfect; no team is. But the Seahawks do it better than most.

I don’t worry about the Seahawks paying lip service to hiring their next defensive coordinator. Because they have the culture in place, and a proven track record of hiring based on their scheme and the qualifications of the coach, regardless of race. If the Seahawks hire a white guy, I’ll at least be satisfied with the fact that they searched far and wide for the best person for the job. If the Seahawks hire a person of color, ditto.

The thing about culture is it has to be about what’s best for the organization, what’s best for everyone involved. It can’t be all about one man’s ego trip. That’s where you see pitfalls throughout professional sports. The ego of the owner, the ego of the general manager, the ego of the head coach, the ego of the quarterback (or that team’s best player, whoever it may be). Once it becomes about one man’s quest to be the best, all is lost. That person is the cancer, and that person is who needs to go. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done, the higher they are on the organizational chart.

The Mediocre 90’s Ended With An Unlikely Seahawks Playoffs Apperance

I’ve been seriously negligent in my ongoing series of Seattle Playoff Futility, so thank you COVID-19 for killing sports and affording me the opportunity to wallow in the past. I’m effectively the human embodiment of this meme:

Also: I be shopping …

The 1990s were fucking HARD to be a Seahawks fan, especially for me. Which is a shame, because I was born in March of 1981, so they should’ve been smack dab in the epicenter of my wheelhouse. I was 7 years old in 1988 – the last time they made the playoffs before this year – and I remember very little about that time as a Seahawks fan, other than the fact that Steve Largent was my favorite professional athlete on the planet. But, he retired after the 1989 season, and it was all downhill from there (Largent would go on to a Congressional seat in Oklahoma by the time the Seahawks returned to the post-season in 1999).

Nevertheless, formative Steven A. Taylor caught the Seahawks bug coming out of the 80’s, which made the next ten years all the more tragic.

When you talk about the Worst People In Seattle Sports History, most others get overshadowed by the people involved in the Sonics going to OKC, but there’s a special wing in Sports Hell for Ken Behring (and owners of his ilk). He bought the team in 1988 – again, the last time the Seahawks made the playoffs – and he did everything to destroy this franchise from the inside out, so he could move them to Los Angeles in 1996.

It all started by disillusioning would-be Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Knox after the 1991 season, stripping personnel control away from the most-successful figurehead in franchise history to that point. Behring went on to hire Tom Flores, who had success with the Raiders in the early 80’s, but was well past his prime. It’s hard to tell who was more inept – the bumbling Flores, or the men he was charged with turning into professional football players – but the real losers were the fans, who had to watch the Seahawks from 1992-1994 go 14-34; including the absolute nadir in franchise history, when we went 2-14 in 1992 (as fate would have it, we weren’t even competent at LOSING, as we somehow managed to defeat the only other 2-14 team that season – the New England Patriots, IN Foxboro – to miss out on drafting Drew Bledsoe #1 overall, settling for the incomprehensibly-pedestrian Rick Mirer at #2).

As we got to the Dennis Erickson era from 1995-1998, my interest in rooting for the Seahawks took a serious nosedive. Thankfully, Paul Allen stepped up in 1997 to save the franchise and help get a new stadium built. That nevertheless didn’t stop this team from an endless string of middling finishes during this period:

  • 1995: 8-8
  • 1996: 7-9
  • 1997: 8-8
  • 1998: 8-8

Woof. There were some interesting players on those teams – future Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy was wrecking fools on the D-Line, Joey Galloway was drafted and was easily the most-talented receiver we’d had since Largent, and Warren Moon was a gun-for-hire for those last two seasons at the tail-end of his career – but we were simply unable to put it all together for one reason or another (epitomized in a December game in 1998 against the Jets in Giants stadium, when Vinny Testaverde was clearly short of the goalline on a 4th down QB-sneak, yet the refs didn’t see him reach the ball over after the fact, resulting in the NFL re-instituting Instant Replay the next year; you could argue that lone play prevented us from making the playoffs and ultimately cost Erickson his job).

By the time 1999 rolled around, I was all but actively courting other NFL teams to root for (the Atlanta Falcons were a particular favorite of mine at the time). If it were easier (like today) to root for a team in another market, I’m sure I would’ve bailed long before. Paul Allen, to his credit, was quite a hands-off owner, but he knew when to step in at the right time. When it was clear that Mike Holmgren was available, Allen stepped in and hired him to be Head Coach and General Manager, unprecedented to that point in franchise history. And it worked! That move single-handedly kicked off the greatest run of Seahawks teams (until Allen turned around and hired Pete Carroll in 2010).

Even factoring in the disasterous Jim Mora season in 2009, from 1999 through 2019, the Seahawks made the playoffs 14 times in those 21 seasons (including 9 division championships, three Super Bowl appearances, and the one NFL championship I’ll never have to write about for this series).

What makes the 1999 season awkward to analyze is the fact that so many of the guys on this team were holdovers from the Erickson era (especially that 1998 team that came so close to breaking the futility streak). It’s brought into even starker perspective when you consider that first Holmgren draft was among the worst in franchise history (Lamar King, anyone?).

But, that team was weird in general. There were zero expectations heading in; we all figured there’d be at least ONE rebuilding season before Holmgren could tear everything down and build it back up again. Which made it all the more surprising when the 1999 Seahawks started out 8-2; they would go on to finish the season 9-7 and be improbable champions of the AFC West. Jon Kitna won the starting job and was a reasonably-capable Game Manager in his 15 games that season. Ricky Watters was an absolute stud for us at running back with over 1,200 yards rushing and another 387 yards receiving. Unfortunately, Joey Galloway – who should have THRIVED in a Mike Holmgren system – held out for half the season in a contract dispute and hardly made a dent that year when he did play (he would go on to be traded the next year for two first round picks, who would go on to be Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson).

Obviously, backing into the playoffs is never a good thing (we were tied with the Chiefs at 9-7, but held the head-to-head tiebreaker by defeating them twice, including a Must Win matchup in Week 16 in the Kingdome), but considering it had been over a decade since our last post-season berth, beggars can’t be choosers.

Our reward was the #3 seed and a home Wild Card matchup against the 9-7 Miami Dolphins. All things considered, that was EASILY the cushiest of matchups that we could’ve gotten, considering the Titans – who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Rams that year – were a 13-3 Wild Card team in the 4-seed, and the Bills were 11-5 as the 5-seed (Hello Music City Miracle!).

This was our first home playoff game since the 1984 season. It would also prove to be the last time Hall of Famer Dan Marino ever won a football game (the Dolphins would go on to be DESTROYED by the Jags the next week, 62-7).

But, Seahawks fans old enough to remember January 9, 2000, obviously remember this as the Trace Armstrong game.

Trace Armstrong was a … good defensive end. He played from 1989-2003; in five of those seasons he had double-digit sacks (and one of those seasons he was a Pro Bowler, in 2000, when he had a career-high 16.5). Sometimes he was great, sometimes he was mediocre, and obviously – because this is football – sometimes he was injured.

On January 9, 2000, however, he was a fucking WORLD DESTROYER!

Of his three sacks in the game, two of them came on third down (resulting in punts). His final sack came late in the fourth quarter, on a drive that would result in a punt (it resulted in a punt, because on third down, he stopped Kitna for a 1-yard gain to force yet another punt). But, even that doesn’t do his day justice. He was in Kitna’s face ALL DAMN DAY. If he wasn’t getting the sack, he was wreaking so much havoc that the guy next to him got it (Kitna was sacked 6 times total, 3 times in the fourth quarter, including twice on that all-important next-to-final possession).

On the final possession of the game, Kitna was 1 for 7 for 17 yards. This game outlined in great detail the need for improved offensive line play, as well as at the quarterback position (within two years, the Seahawks would go get Trent Dilfer, Matt Hasselbeck, and Steve Hutchinson – on top of eventual MVP Shaun Alexander – to really solidify things on the offensive side of the ball).

The Seahawks had so many chances to win this game. They were up 10-3 at half, and then 17-10 midway through the third quarter after a kickoff return for a touchdown. The offense couldn’t do jack shit in the second half, though. Aside from that kickoff return, we went 3 & Out, 5 & Out, 6 & Out, 3 & Out, and that final 7-play drive that ended on Downs; we moved the ball a total of 27 yards of offense and another 22 yards of defensive pass interference on one play. That’s just never going to get the job done.

Jon Kitna was 14/30 for 162, 1 TD and 2 INTs; Dan Marino wasn’t much better (17/30 for 196, 1 TD and 0 INTs), but he was only sacked one time and obviously didn’t make the mistakes Kitna made. In the end, it was a workmanlike 20-17 victory for the Dolphins, in the final game the Seahawks would ever play in the Kingdome (indeed, the final event the Kingdome ever hosted!).

All of that turmoil being said, as you could see by the thrashing the Jaguars gave to the Dolphins the very next week, there’s no way in HELL the Seahawks would’ve advanced any further. So, would you rather lose in a semi-heartwarming way to a beloved figure like Dan Marino? Or, would you like to be murdered and have your corpse micturated upon by Hitler and The Devil after ass-fucking you for three consecutive hours? Kind of a harsh image to put on a team like the Jags, but you get the idea.

Better days would be ahead for the Mike Holmgren-led Seahawks, but of course, not before a few more instances of utter heartbreak.

The Biggest Blunders In Seattle Sports History

There’s always a reason to be disgruntled about what’s going on with sports in the Seattle area. We’re far from burdened with championship squads, unless the MLS or WNBA is your bag (which is fine if they are, but they’re just not mine). I don’t have a good handle on the breakdown, but essentially most sports fans complain about one of two things: something unfortunate happened to our team that’s outside of their control, or our team did something fucking stupid that effectively sabotaged all hope for success.

If we were talking about the former, I’d bring up something like Super Bowl XL (where I’ll go down to my dying breath contending we were jobbed by the refs at every turn), various good-looking trades that just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (Percy Harvin, Vin Baker, the deal to bring Cliff Lee in), or the countless injuries to promising young stars/prospects who could’ve been great had their bodies only held together (Franklin Gutierrez, Malik McDowell, Danny Hultzen, our entire secondary right before Super Bowl XL).

But, I’m talking about the blunders! The dumb-looking shit that was dumb-looking at the time and only proceeded to grow ever more mind-boggling with each passing year. It’s a rough sketch, but here are the top ten worst self-inflicted wounds I can think of in Seattle sports history.

#10 – We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score

You gotta have stakes in this thing, so any individual event has to come in the playoffs at a minimum. This one happened in the Wild Card round of the 2003 season. It’s not JUST that the Seahawks won the coin flip heading into overtime and Matt Hasselbeck made that unfortunate guarantee (indeed, I thought it was cool then, and I would gladly welcome such bravado anytime), but combine that with the fateful call.

Let’s go back: remember, this was back when the first score of overtime wins, regardless; so all we needed to do was get into field goal range. We got a first down and had the ball at our own 45 yard line. A stuffed run and an incompletion made it 3rd & 11. And, for some reason, Mike Holmgren decided to call a 5-wide receiver set. For some reason on top of that, Hasselbeck decided to throw the ball to our 5th receiver, Alex Bannister. For some reason on top of THAT, it was an out-pass – the easiest one to undercut and run back for a pick-six – that the receiver didn’t even get beyond the 11 yards needed for the first down! And, of course, not for nothing, but the pass was simply terribly thrown. The rest is history, and so began our continued demise whenever we play a playoff game in Lambeau Field.

#9 – The Deal To Trade Cliff Lee Away

It was supposed to be the epitome of a no-brainer. Cliff Lee was heading into the final year of his deal in 2010. At the time, he already had a Cy Young Award under his belt and was probably the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game. The Mariners traded three nobodies to the Phillies to bring Lee to Seattle and the plan was simple. The M’s were coming off of a winning season in 2009, and Lee – paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez – was going to help push us over the top and back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately, Cliff Lee got injured in Spring Training, and didn’t make his first start until the last day of April. In spite of Lee going 7 shutout innings that day, the Mariners lost 2-0 to drop their record to 11-12 on the season. On July 9th, our record fell to 34-52, and it was clear no playoffs would be forthcoming. That’s okay! We had a backup plan if things fell apart in spectacular fashion (which they did, as we would go on to lose 101 games). Since Cliff Lee was so great – indeed, his numbers after two months with the Mariners were among the best of his entire career – his value should’ve been sky high for a pitching-needy team looking to cement their status as a championship contender.

But, we had Jackie Z at the helm, and our return – Justin Smoak and three other nobodies – was far from inspiring. This was supposed to jumpstart our big rebuild, and Smoak was supposed to be the centerpiece. Instead, we rode his wave of warning track power into mediocre season after mediocre season. You could throw any number of trades Jackie Z made for the Mariners on the list of greatest blunders, but I’m putting this one here because Cliff Lee was amazing, and we BLEW IT.

#8 – Steve Hutchinson Transition Tag

The Seahawks were riding high after their appearance in Super Bowl XL. The only thing we could do to screw it up was dick around with our best players.

Tim Ruskell’s seat in Hell is being kept warm for him by the resentment and hatred of thousands upon thousands of Seahawks fans. What a buffoon! The offensive line was not only the backbone of the Seahawks’ offense, but it was easily the best part of the entire team, anchored on the left side by two Hall of Famers: Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson. Through them, we had an MVP in running back Shaun Alexander. Through them, a sixth-round quarterback was able to play at a Pro Bowl level. We had the money, we had the desire, and indeed we had NO ANSWER for Hutch’s replacement when he eventually signed the Vikings’ Poison Pill contract!

The hit to the Seahawks was immediate and obvious. Bottom line was: the Seahawks were never the same again, and didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until the 2013 season (with an all-new regime and set of superstars at the helm).

#7 – The Erik Bedard Trade

There’s no need to clarify; we all know which Bedard trade I’m talking about. In February of 2008, we gave up Adam Jones (5-time All Star center fielder; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), Chris Tillman (an All Star starting pitcher who would go on to have a 38-16 record from 2012-2014; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), and George Sherrill (an All Star reliever who would save 52 games from 2008-2009; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), among two other stiffs.

What we got back in return was a starter in Bedard who – like Lee before him – was brought in to be paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez, coming off of a winning 2007 season. Instead, we got a guy who could never really stay healthy, whose style constantly saw his pitch counts inflated early in games, which meant you could only count on him for about 5 innings per start at best. On top of that, there were rumors abound about how he didn’t really give a shit about baseball or winning and was just in it for the paycheck (more power to you, I guess). He sucked so hard, the Mariners couldn’t even flip him for any semblance of value, which meant Bedard had to go down with the sinking ship that is our Mariners existence. On the plus side, this was the final straw to getting Bill Bavasi fired (on the down side, see: Jackie Z)

#6 – The Lowe/Varitek Trade

Woody Woodward stumbled into a lot of success in his tenure as GM of the Mariners. To our dismay, he had no idea what to do with this team once we started reaching those heights.

The 1997 Mariners were a fun bunch. Tons of heavy hitters all up and down the lineup. Led by Randy Johnson, the starting pitching was good enough to take us all the way, assuming the hitters hit and the relievers didn’t totally shit the bed.

As you might have guessed, there was A LOT of bed shitting in 1997; worst year for bed shitting I’ve ever seen, if I’m being honest! Woody Woodward, not knowing what he was doing or how he could rectify the problem, made two of the worst panic-deals for three of the worst relief pitchers I can imagine. The absolute worst was sending Derek Lowe (a 2-time All Star who would go on to win 176 games in his 17-year career) and Jason Varitek (a 3-time All Star catcher for the Red Sox over 15 seasons) for Heathcliff Slocumb (a turd).

Like most of these deals, this one wasn’t helpful in the short term (the M’s would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs) and it was an outright disaster in the long-term (we either could’ve had two great players for the next decade, or at least flipped them for better players/prospects).

#5 – Jim McIlvaine Signing

Really the beginning of the end of the great run of Supersonics teams of the 90’s. Almost immediately following our hard-fought defeat in the NBA Finals to the greatest team of all time in six games, the Sonics looked like a team that could easily run it back and re-join the Bulls the very next year. You could argue center was our weakest spot on a team riddled with strengths all the way up and down the roster. So, enter Jim McIlvaine – a guy who had done NOTHING to that point – on a 7-year, $33.6 million deal (which was a lot at the time, trust me). He had a whopping TWO years under his belt at that point, as a reserve on the Washington Bullets, where his big claim to fame was averaging a hair over 2 blocks per game the year before in just under 15 minutes per.

This ungodly amount of money – for a guy who’d proven nothing in his brief pro career – obviously angered a lot of players on the Sonics, particularly Shawn Kemp, who effectively forced his way off the team in a deal that would bring in Vin Baker. Now, you can argue both Kemp and Baker – particularly after the strike season – did a lot to damage their own careers as we headed into the new Willennium, so who’s to say what would’ve happened to the Sonics had we gone in a different direction?

All I know is, McIlvaine instantly became entrenched in the starting lineup his first year with us, averaging 18 of the most worthless minutes of each and every game he was in, bringing NOTHING to the table. He actively made the team worse with his play alone, regardless of what happened to the chemistry in the locker room (which is exceedingly important in the NBA, with how long the season is, and how many games they have to play). We ended up losing in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals, and that was as good as it got for the rest of the decade.

#4 – Randy Johnson Trade

I did a deep dive on this a few years ago that you can check out (as chance would have it, a lot of these other blunders find their way into this piece!), but the bottom line is this: the Mariners were cheap, and Randy Johnson’s best years were still AHEAD of him.

Moreover, I would argue that while the value looked pretty good at the time – indeed, two starting pitchers and a starting infielder isn’t a bad return – the very best Mariners teams of 2000 & 2001 were in such desperate need for a true #1 ace, that Randy Johnson would’ve been perfect for those teams. I’m sorry, I like Freddy Garcia as much as the next guy, but he’s no Randy. Randy who would go on to win four Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 (again, the years where the Mariners were playing the very best ball in franchise history); you don’t think he could’ve helped those teams get over the hump, and maybe even win a World Series title?

#3 – Not Drafting Brett Favre

Chuck Knox ran the Seahawks efficiently and to the best of his abilities from 1983-1991. You could argue he got more than anyone could’ve expected him to out of a bunch of ragtag guys, especially with at best a mediocre quarterback in Dave Krieg. When it finally came time to move on, Knox had one man in mind in the 1991 NFL Draft: Brett Favre. Ownership, however, refused to see it, and refused to listen to their legendary head coach, opting to go with Dan McGwire with the 16th overall pick (Favre would fall to the Falcons in the second round).

See, McGwire was 6’8. You know, that insanely crazy height that no NFL teams want, because it’s too damn tall to be an effective quarterback? If you don’t remember McGwire, you’re lucky; he was trash. Knox would leave the Seahawks following the 1991 season, and immediately we’d fall to such lows that we’d have to draft yet another dud in 1993 (Rick Mirer, with the #2 overall pick, after losing an opportunity to draft Drew Bledsoe). That went on to cost us the rest of the 90’s, before Mike Holmgren came to town and properly revived this franchise. Had we had Brett Favre? Who knows?! There’s an alternate universe out there where the Seahawks were one of the great teams of the 1990’s.

By that same token, there’s an alternate universe out there where we had to deal with Favre constantly threatening to retire, then return, then retire, and so on. So, maybe we lucked out in the long run?

#2 – Not Properly Renovating Key Arena

By the early 1990’s, the Seattle Center Coliseum was in shambles. Teams around the league were updating their own arenas and it was time for Seattle to join in. Unfortunately – even though this was set up prior to the Kingdome implosion being a twinkle in any of our eyes – the city and county ultimately went the cheap, tight-ass route in renovating the arena. By the time it re-opened in 1995 – while it was a fine place to enjoy a basketball game, from a fan perspective – it was already out-of-date by NBA standards, and apparently impossible to derive any sort of profit from, again by NBA standards.

Say what you will about the league, or about tax payers funding sports venues, but you can’t deny the fact that the Sonics were the first in this city to start the trend of venue renovations, and they fucking blew it HARD. By the time subsequent ownership groups demanded the funds for a proper NBA facility, the Seahawks and Mariners had already gotten brand new stadia. Considering it had been such a short time since the opening of Key Arena, combined with public fatigue over the matter, it’s not shocking in the slightest that the Sonics were shot down.

You could obviously argue the biggest blunder was selling the Sonics to Howard Schultz, or the Schultz Group buying the load of horseshit from the OKC people. But, all of that stems from the inferior building that was presented to the world ahead of the 1995 season. Had we just gotten THAT right, everything else would’ve fallen into proper order, and we’d still have our fucking basketball team. Instead, 25+ years later, we’re finally getting around to doing what we should’ve done then, and for our troubles we get the NHL instead. An okay consolation prize, but obviously not what I’d prefer.

#1 – Slant At The Goalline

It’s hard to top losing a fucking NBA franchise on the list of biggest sports blunders, but costing your team a championship in the most demoralizing way possible? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

I would hope, by now, that consensus has found its head when it comes to the decision to throw in that scenario. The Seahawks had one time out remaining, it was second down. Run it and fail, and we’ve got zero time outs and they know we’re throwing two consecutive times (considering how that play ended up, you can’t tell me it wasn’t on the docket for at least one of those possible attempts).

Long story short: throwing was the correct call. Throwing a fucking SLANT at the goalline, to a fourth receiver in Ricardo Lockette (shades of the Bannister play up top), was absolutely the biggest blunder in Seattle sports history.

If you’re going to throw a slant, throw it to Baldwin or Kearse! But, no, DON’T THROW A SLANT! Throw literally anything else! Throw a fade to Chris Matthews – who, to that point, had been carving up the Patriots’ defense – or shit, just throw the ball 30 yards out of bounds! Anything but that!

Okay, that’s all. I have to go lay down now. Where’s my fainting couch?!

Paul Allen Passed Away

What makes a good owner?  Well, winning doesn’t hurt.  Paul Allen took over the Seahawks in 1997 and since then the team has only had 6 losing seasons.

Being decisive certainly helps.  In his two seasons with Dennis Erickson at the helm, the Seahawks finished 8-8 both years; not satisfied with mediocrity, he handed the keys to Mike Holmgren.

Patience is always a virtue.  Holmgren was allowed time to do his thing, build the team his way.  After an improbable wild card run in his first year, Holmgren was back in the playoffs – with HIS team – four years later.  That started off a run of five straight playoff appearances (including four consecutive division championships, and one Super Bowl appearance).

Making the right decisions, of course, is probably the most important.  Things got away from the team towards the end of Holmgren’s run.  Tim Ruskell infected this organization with his idiocy, which led to Holmgren’s ouster and the rise of Jim Mora Jr.  Holmgren’s final year was a 4-12 disaster and Mora’s lone year was a somehow-worse 5-11.  Not content with the direction of the team, Paul Allen cleaned house, brought in Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and before we knew it, this team was a world champion.

I think Paul Allen’s best attribute as an owner is all of those things … followed by staying out of the way and letting the football people HE hired make the football decisions.  Not meddling.  Not – like a certain Dallas Cowboys owner – making himself the fucking general manager and having his fingers in all the pies (seriously, thinking that HE’S smarter than Jimmy Johnson in his prime).  Paul Allen didn’t just hire splashy names – though at the time, Holmgren and Carroll were certainly that – but he hired people with visions.  With clear philosophies.  With plans for winning football and strategies to make that happen.  And if things went south, he didn’t overreact.  He let his people do their jobs.  And, most importantly, he always knew the perfect time to make a change.

It’s a stark contrast to the other owners we’ve had in Seattle through the years.  Obviously, the Seahawks before Paul Allen were owned by a monster, Ken Behring.  Before him, though, the Seahawks were run by the Nordstrom family, and their stability (and smart thinking in hiring Chuck Knox) led to a lot of success in the 80’s.

Or, consider the Seattle Mariners, whose decades upon decades of incompetence led to a brief 9-year window of semi-winning baseball.  Aside from that one brief period of bliss, that organization has been run by complete morons.  An owner who was never around.  An executive group prone to rash decisions, bad decisions, poor hires.  Letting general managers stick around too long, compound mistakes on top of more mistakes, while seemingly firing their field managers every other year!  You don’t get to be the team with the longest playoff drought in major North American sports unless you’re one of the very worst-run organizations of them all.  It’s been non-stop misery my whole life, and the saga continues.

And, don’t even get me started on the Supersonics.  As soon as the Ackerley family decided to sell, that was the end of professional basketball in Seattle.

See, the thing is, Seattle is Sports Hell for a reason, and more often than not that reason starts at the very top.  We had one good thing going for us, and that was Paul Allen’s involvement with the Seahawks.  He’d obviously been having a lot of health problems in recent years, and so we knew this day would come, but I still hoped we had more time.  He was only 65!  We should’ve had at LEAST another 20 years!  It’s obviously incomprehensibly sad for his family and friends, but it’s also a sad and uncertain time for Seahawks fans.  We don’t know what the plan is going forward, but it sure looks like the team is going to be sold.  At that point, we’re at the whim of some stranger.

One thing’s for certain, the new owner won’t be able to hold a candle to Paul Allen.  We had the best, now get ready for the rest.

Chuck Knox Passed Away

Sad news over the weekend, for Seahawks fans, and real hardcore NFL fans (as well as, obviously, his friends and family and former players and whatnot), as Chuck Knox passed away from complications related to dementia.

He’s currently the 2nd-winningest head coach in Seahawks history (behind Mike Holmgren, and just ahead of Pete Carroll, who should pass both of them in 2018, if he can just get us to 8-8), and the 10th-winningest head coach in NFL history.  There were lots of stories about how tough his teams were, and how he won at all three stops he made in his tenure in the league, but the story as it relates to Seahawks fans has to do with all those teams in the 80s that captivated the Pacific Northwest, in ways having only been surpassed (at the time) by the Supersonics of the late 70s and the Husky football teams since the dawn of time.

The 1983 Seahawks went 9-7, secured one of the two wild card spots, and went all the way to the AFC Championship on the back of a couple upset victories against the John Elway-led Broncos and the Dan Marino-led Dolphins in Miami, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Raiders.

We parlayed that into a 12-4 season the very next year, another wild card berth (thanks to the fucking Broncos going 13-3), and some revenge over those Raiders in the wild card round, before falling to the Dolphins in Miami (who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the 49ers, in Dan Marino’s only appearance in the big game).

It’s a testament to Chuck Knox and the physicality of his Seahawks teams that we were able to do so much with some pretty average quarterbacks.  Jim Zorn and later Dave Krieg were really propped up by an elite running game and a hall of famer at wide receiver, Steve Largent (the best receiver to have ever played the game until Jerry Rice entered the league).

I didn’t really become a Seahawks fan until after those glory years, sometime around 1986, 1987, and especially 1988 (as I was 5, 6, and 7 years old, respectively).  So, the bulk of my Seahawks memories were forged in the Ken Behring years.  My memories of Chuck Knox were ones of respecting the man, but frustrated at all the losing and mediocrity.  I would later learn, that had this franchise been run by someone halfway competent – and not someone who just wanted to run this team out of town – we could’ve drafted Brett Favre when he came out of college.  The 1990s might’ve looked VERY different had that been the case.

For one thing, you figure Knox would’ve stuck around beyond the 1991 season.  I believe he was so disenchanted with the whole organization that he couldn’t stick around, which is what led to us bottoming out in 1992 under Tom Flores, followed by us drafting Rick Mirer and continuing to be the height of disappointment for the rest of the decade until Mike Holmgren came around.

Can you imagine, though?  The Seahawks with a different owner?  Drafting Brett Favre?  With Chuck Knox sticking around another 6-7 years or more?  Maybe winning a Super Bowl or two, with his great running games and defenses anchoring a hall of famer at quarterback?

I’ll tell you what I believe:  I believe we’d be talking about a hall of fame head coach in Chuck Knox and one of the top 4 or 5 winningest head coaches in NFL history!  Mike Holmgren might never have become Mike Holmgren without Favre in Green Bay; maybe he would’ve ended up at another team.  And, you figure when the 90s came to a close, and Knox was ready to hang ’em up, he probably would’ve had some unknown protege all lined up to succeed him.  WHO KNOWS WHERE THE SEAHAWKS WOULD BE TODAY?  Or, more importantly, how successful we could’ve become.

Chuck Knox was really one of the good ones.  He’ll be missed by all longtime Seahawks fans.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.