It’s So Weird That The Huskies Are In The Big Ten Now

This time last year, I wasn’t super confident about the future of the Pac-12. We were heading into the last year of the Pac-12 as we knew it (at that time, we were looking at the L.A. schools leaving after the 2023 season), I didn’t have any super high expectations for the Huskies in general (or the conference as a whole) in football, or even basketball, and we were staring down the barrel of a terrible new media rights deal, and the potential addition of a couple of inferior schools to the conference. The only reasonable argument for good would’ve been the fact that the Huskies and the Ducks would’ve been the unquestioned leaders of the pack. But, that’s not saying a whole lot when compared to the greater college football landscape, if we’re generating pennies on the dollar compared to the other elite programs.

Thankfully, a lifeline presented itself, and to our credit, Washington took the Big Ten up on it. Leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten was definitely bittersweet, but it was ultimately the correct decision, for both our immediate future and our long-term goals.

Then, as the season got going, I was so wrapped up in Washington’s championship game run, I sort of forgot about the bigger picture. The Huskies were one of the best teams in the nation, the conference regained its long-lost form, and we really sent off the football portion of the conference with a bang. Even with every “final” moment – the final Apple Cup as a member of the Pac-12, the final conference championship game, the final home game, etc. – my eyes were squarely on the prize of a national championship, that we came oh so close to acquiring.

It hasn’t really hit me until now. Reading this article, wondering when my dad’s cable provider is going to get the Big Ten Network so he can watch the games … this is going to be a huge change!

The Apple Cup is on Saturday, September 14th! We’re now in a conference with 18 teams! Do I even know all 18 schools? And what do I know about them? Let’s see if I can list them all below:

  1. Michigan Wolverines – hated cross-country foes; I think we’ve beaten them a time or two in the Rose Bowl, but they also got one from us, as well as handling us pretty handily in the national championship game last season.
  2. Ohio State Buckeyes – one of the elites in college football, haven’t been able to beat Michigan the last few years. Always at or near the top in national recruiting, always sending huge skill guys to the NFL.
  3. Penn State Nittany Lions – Joe Paterno, diddling kids, and somehow still nationally relevant ever since the whole scandal (though, not quite on the top tier with Michigan and Ohio State).
  4. Wisconsin Badgers – one year of Russell Wilson, always a great O-line and running game. Usually pretty good, but hasn’t been great probably since Russ left.
  5. Michigan State Spartans – little brother to Michigan, yet somehow also not their main rival. Kind of like our Washington State Cougars.
  6. Nebraska Cornhuskers – Great in the 90’s, not so much the last 20 years. They just hired a head coach who’s supposed to be good, and didn’t they take our athletic director who was at Washington for six minutes?
  7. Northwestern Wildcats – Bunch of nerds. Meet the new, inferior Stanford Cardinal.
  8. Maryland Turpins – Actually Terrapins. What’s a Terrapin? Your guess is as good as mine.
  9. Rutgers – Ahh yes, the Scarlet Knights. Didn’t they used to have Greg Schiano? I wonder where he is now. … Oh, he’s at Rutgers again. Cool career path, bro.
  10. Indiana – Oh, of course, the Hoosiers. Used to be a great basketball program; I don’t think was ever even decent at football, but what do I know? I guess they had Penix before he was PENIX.
  11. Illinois Fighting Illini – Got that mascot nailed! I feel like they’ve been somewhat frisky in the last decade or so, but maybe I’m just thinking of that one time they made a New Years Six bowl.
  12. Iowa Hawkeyes – All defense. I think their offense is just punting on first down.
  13. Minnesota Golden Grahams – Gophers actually. If I recall correctly, I think the Huskies played them in the 1920’s, which is probably the last time they were any good. Also, NOT the school featured in the sitcom Coach; that was the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles, which is a fictional program that’s still more relevant than the Golden Gophers.
  14. Pittsburgh Tigers – I had to look it up; it’s actually the Purdue Boilermakers. That’s how memorable Purdue is. We beat them in the Rose Bowl when we had Tui and they had Brees.
  15. UCLA Bruins – Fuck U-C-L-A!
  16. USC Trojans – Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and all sizzle/no steak since then.
  17. Washington Huskies – The greatest school in the world.
  18. Oregon Ducks – Turd emoji.

So … I didn’t do great in my Big Ten knowledge. Now, I’ve gotta go into a season getting ready to play against these teams!

It’s bizarre looking at the schedule and not seeing any bay area schools. No Arizona or mountain time zone opponents. No easy pick-me-up against the Beaves. It feels all at once more daunting, as well as kind of the same when you dig into it. We play trash like Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers. But, we also get a rematch with Michigan at home, and a tough game in Iowa in October and Penn State in November. Then, in addition to a non-conference Apple Cup, we also face all three of our travelling Pac-12 partners (the L.A. schools at home, and Oregon on the road). Honestly, with all the turnover with Michigan’s roster and coaching staff, I think the toughest part of our schedule is joining us from the west coast!

It’s nice that we get to play all the Pac-12 schools in year one. That’s a cool way to help us transition. It’s a little odd that we face them all in the final month of the season, but it’ll be something to look forward to. Kinda feels like conference play starts in November this year, except not really.

You know what’s going to be fun? Hating on a whole new group of schools. I already have a strong distaste for the Big Ten anyway, but I know we’re going to get some razzing as one of the new kids in town. Which is going to infuriate me even further when we ultimately lose to one or more of these programs.

Really, though, it’s a soft landing of sorts. We don’t face a tough opponent until week 6 vs. Michigan, and again, how good will they be with all their best players going to the NFL? That kicks off a stretch where there’s almost no easy games the rest of the way (except for Indiana, but even that’s on the road).

I also can’t help but feel a little sad knowing there are so many teams we’ll no longer see again. The state of Arizona can fuck right off, and I still have nightmares flashing back on all the crazy Cal games, and all the times Stanford steamrolled us. But, I genuinely liked competing against Utah, and Colorado was the team we beat to win the Pac-12 Championship Game back in 2016, en route to a playoff loss against Alabama. I also feel bad that the Cougars and Beavers have to make due with their weird 2-team conference; they deserve better. They certainly deserve more than Rutgers or Maryland or fucking Minnesota.

I’m going to take solace in the fact that nothing is permanent, especially in college football. Things have changed so much, so quickly, and it’s only going to continue. We know where this thing is headed; it’s eventually going to be a sort of semi-pro league between high school and the pros, loosely affiliated with colleges and universities, but otherwise probably its own standalone thing. Depending on how many programs get scooped up into whatever the new thing will end up being, we might very well return to some semblance of normal. You have to figure there will be divisions of some sort, based off of geographic locations. Maybe that puts us back in line with our former conference foes. Maybe that brings WSU and OSU back into the fold. Maybe we won’t have to suffer the indignities of being in a cross-country conference, and we’ll never have to play Rutgers ever again!

Wouldn’t that be something?

Until then, we just gotta ride it out. What’s happening in college football is above my pay grade. I’m not going to pretend like I understand everything that’s going on. All I know is it has to do with gobs of money.

My job is to root for the Huskies, root against the Ducks, and let the chips fall where they may.

The Seahawks Have Been Very Seahawky In Free Agency

There was a great post on Formerly Twitter this week that had something to do with the top 10 or whatever free agent signings of 2022. There were precious few (maybe only 1?) that are still with the team they signed with AND haven’t taken a pay cut. That’s … two seasons. And already, most of them have moved on.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily par for the course, or an outlier, but I would venture to say it’s closer to the former than the latter. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say free agents – by and large – are busts, I will say they are – by and large – not worth the money they receive. We all know why; this isn’t our first rodeo: you’re paying for past production.

That isn’t to say there aren’t diamonds in the rough here and there. Some of my best friends are free agents! Where would the Seahawks have been without Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril? Where would the Saints have been without Drew Brees, or the Broncos without Peyton Manning? Every once in a while, they exceed expectations, but more often than not, they disappoint.

It’s not even remotely a hot take to say that teams are best served building through the draft. It’s also not even remotely a hot take to say that teams will always prioritize re-signing their very best players. Regardless of how good they end up becoming, free agents who actually make it to market are always deemed to be expendable for one reason or another. Maybe that reason is due to chronic mismanagement by the team letting them walk, and they simply can’t afford to hang onto a guy they would otherwise prefer to keep.

Or maybe those free agents are flawed in some way, and their former teams understand those players aren’t worth what they’re destined to command after a bidding war.

I like the fact that the Seahawks generally stay out of the big-spending free agency fray. That being said, I also understand the fan angst, especially THIS year.

We’re not overburdened with draft picks, for starters. Now, maybe that means we’re looking to trade down a bunch of times; wouldn’t shock me in the slightest. But, there are a lot of open roster spots on this team, and we can’t fill them all via the draft. If we don’t start making some free agent moves eventually, then we’ll have to back-fill via any undrafted free agents coming out of college, or other cast-offs literally nobody else wants.

But, honestly? I don’t have a big problem with what the Seahawks have been doing. Like, I don’t have a problem with saying goodbye to everyone from our 2020 draft class except for Darrell Taylor. If they’re not worth the second contract, then don’t force it just because you drafted them. Sometimes, guys don’t pan out. Sometimes, other players are going to be better fits. Especially when you’ve got a brand new coaching staff and a brand new offensive and defensive scheme.

The latest signings seem to be more of that line of thinking. They’re all kinda fringey.

We signed a second tight end, Pharaoh Brown, to a 1-year, $4 million deal. He hasn’t done a whole lot since being an undrafted free agent in 2017, but he’s very tall and allegedly more of a pass catcher than a blocker. So, really, he’s Colby Parkinson, only a lot cheaper.

Then, we went out and got ex-Husky center Nick Harris for a year and two and a half million. He gives us competition at all of the interior line spots, for cheaper than an Evan Brown type (which means that if we want to go young across the O-Line, we can do that, as Harris is by no means guaranteed a starting spot).

Then, we brought back Artie Burns. Great! He was a valuable contributor last year to our secondary and provides much-needed depth. We also tendered RFAs Michael Jackson and Jon Rhattigan (with Jackson being an original-round tender, meaning if he signs elsewhere, we get an additional 5th round pick). I’m all for it, more solid depth pieces.

Maybe the biggest news of the last day or so was the re-signing of Darrell Taylor. We could’ve gone to the trouble of also tendering him, but given how productive he’s been as a pass rusher the last three seasons (21.5 sacks), it’s fair to wonder if we would’ve lost him. We don’t know what this deal looks like, so I’ll just say it’s nice to have him back. Obviously, he’s got some flaws to his game – in his utter inability to set an edge or stop the run – but the way he flashes to the quarterback isn’t ordinary. You’re not finding that in any ol’ free agent pass rusher.

The Seahawks resumed adding outside players by picking up Rayshawn Jenkins on a 2-year, $12 million deal. He was a cap casualty by the Jags, but he was also extremely productive in limiting receptions. A defensive backfield with Jenkins and Julian Love should be just as great – if not moreso – than the one we had with Diggs and Adams, for considerably cheaper.

The final big move (so far) was bringing back George Fant, on what’s reportedly a 2-year deal worth up to $14 million. As has been noted, this is more than just offensive tackle insurance. This appears to speak to the delicate nature of Abe Lucas’ chronic knee condition. I think it’s fair to wonder: is he going in for surgery that’s going to cost him the 2024 season? Is he going to be a frequent inactive due to health issues? That’s a tremendous shame, as he looked like a unique talent and value as a 2022 third round draft pick. Regardless, the odds of Lucas seeing a second contract with the Seahawks seems pretty slim at the moment.

Finally, in outgoing player news, Bobby Wagner signed a 1-year deal with Dan Quinn in Washington for $8.5 million. That’s certainly more than I’d want to spend on a run-stuffing middle linebacker who can’t cover anyone in space. Also, among the RFA players NOT tendered was Jake Curhan, who has been dealing with injury issues of his own throughout his young career. Can’t be saddled with too many offensive linemen who can’t stay upright; best to move on.

I still think there’s potential for one more splash signing at some point, though obviously the best of the best free agents are already off the board. So, we’ll see.

This Is The Best Husky Football Team I’ve Ever Seen

For the record, I didn’t become a Husky football fan until I started attending the University of Washington in 1999. Admittedly, I don’t know how much of the team I actually followed that year, but I do remember being 100% on-board for the 2000 team and going forward. That’s a relatively quick way of saying I wasn’t part of the Don James heyday. In fact, I actively disliked the Huskies all my life up until I was accepted in my senior year of high school.

Before this year, the best Husky team I’ve ever seen was clearly the 2016 squad that went 11-1 in the regular season, won the conference title over Colorado, and made it to the first round of the playoffs (where we lost to Alabama in the Peach Bowl 24-7). I will say that I have a soft spot for that 2000 team that went 10-1 in the regular season before defeating Drew Brees and Purdue in the Rose Bowl. We were shut out of the BCS Championship Game, saddled with a #4 ranking. I’ll always wonder what we could’ve accomplished had they had a 4-team playoff like we do today.

But, that 2016 team was something special. It’s a year I’ll never forget. The defense was outstanding, the offense had stars at the skill positions, and a steady quarterback who was accurate and careful with the football. They stopped the losing streak to Oregon for crying out loud!

The circumstances around that season afforded the Huskies the luxury of being a 1-loss playoff team. That never would’ve happened this year, especially if that one loss came in the final Pac-12 Championship Game of all time.

As we all know, my confidence in the Huskies beating the Ducks for a second time this season – and a third time in the least two years – was shamefully low. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be so wrong!

We jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter, dominating time of possession and forcing the Ducks into back-to-back 3 & Outs to start the game. Unfortunately, Penix overthrew Jalen McMillan on our third drive of the day, in what would’ve put us up 17-0 and really gotten a stew going. We still managed to go up 20-3 late in the first half, after forcing a third 3 & Out by the Ducks. But, that’s where things started to get scary.

The Ducks marched right down the field with under 2 minutes to go in the half, to pull the game to 20-10. They subsequently got the ball to start the third quarter and again marched right down the field to make it 20-17. Then, we picked the absolute worst possible time to get intercepted. Thankfully, our defense got the ball right back two plays later thanks to a Bo Nix pick. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to settle this game down, as Oregon took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter.

That’s when we finally woke up! I’m not gonna lie to you, my wife and I were on the road for the entire first half – until just before the Ducks scored on their 2-minute drive – when we checked into a Kirkland hotel to spend the night. I was VERY concerned that the Huskies were only winning so handily at that time because we were listening on the radio. So, it was nice to see my weak-willed motherfucker instincts were incorrect. The Huskies got back in the endzone to make it 27-24, forced an Oregon punt, then scored again to go up by 10 points with a little under three minutes left in the game. The Ducks proceeded to go 75 yards in 30 seconds (literally) to pull the game back to within 3 points. But, we were able to run out the clock on them and win a game we were projected to lose by double digits!

I would’ve been curious to see what this game looked like from the very beginning, because other than the mid-game lull between the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, it seemed like the Huskies were in complete control. That, quite frankly, starts with Dillon Johnson, who had another MONSTER game. 152 yards on 28 carries with 2 rushing TDs, a reception for 7 yards, and if that wasn’t enough, a 4-yard TD pass when he shovelled to Germie Bernard crossing behind the line of scrimmage. Just a brilliant game from our most unheralded super-stud!

What I’m really interested in is how Bo Nix compares to Michael Penix. All I saw from Nix – when we finally showed up to Top Golf to watch the game in the bar area – was excellence. But, he struggled for a lot of the first half, and I can’t help but wonder if this was related to his Heisman Trophy candidacy.

When it comes to great quarterbacks, there are two kinds: those who care about stats and personal accolades, and those who care more about winning. The Seahawks recently employed a guy we all THOUGHT only cared about winning, until it became blatantly obvious Russell Wilson cared more about his personal legacy. Which is what makes Michael Penix so refreshing, and has to be a disappointment for anyone who had their eggs in the Bo Nix basket.

It seems like the Ducks had every opportunity to win this game on the ground. Bo Nix himself ran for 69 yards on 6 carries. But, I would argue the Ducks are actually strongest at running back, and between Nix and the two backs, this game might’ve looked a lot different if they relied on the ground game. Instead, Nix threw it 34 times, was frequently pressured, and ultimately limited to 21 completions for 239 yards and 3 TDs (with the 1 INT).

Penix, meanwhile, had the more efficient game (27 for 39 for 319 yards) even though he only had the 1 TD to go along with the INT. He got the ball to our play-makers as he always does (McMillan came back with a vengeance to catch 9 for 131, Odunze had his usual excellent game of 8 for 102, and Ja’Lynn Polk had a nice bounce-back after some drop-filled performances, catching 5 for 57), but then he ceded the important moments to Dillon Johnson, who really deserved the game MVP given what he was able to do.

As it stands, Penix most likely won’t win the Heisman. However, given how Nix lost twice and failed to lead his team to the playoffs, I can’t imagine he’ll win it either. That’s usually what happens to players who care more about their own stats than winning: they fail to win games AND they fail to win the awards they so crave.

It was cool having this all wrapped up on Friday night, because we had all day Saturday to bask in the afterglow of our achievement, knowing with as much certainty as one can that we’d be a lock for the playoffs. Was there still an inkling of a doubt? Naturally. Especially when Michigan and Texas both won, Alabama beat Georgia, Florida State remained undefeated, and we still had certain 1-loss teams lurking like Ohio State. It wouldn’t be the first time a 1-loss team who didn’t even play in its own conference title game somehow made it into the playoffs. When you know the games don’t really matter, and some committee is going to pick the four teams it thinks are best, literally anything can happen (more on that in another post).

Thankfully, Washington was able to earn enough respect to be ranked #2 overall. It’s weird to not have a team in the SEC in the top two, but here you have it:

  1. Michigan (13-0)
  2. Washington (13-0)
  3. Texas (12-1)
  4. Alabama (12-1)
  5. Florida State (13-0)
  6. Georgia (12-1)
  7. Ohio State (11-1)
  8. Oregon (11-2)
  9. Missouri (10-2)
  10. Penn State (10-2)

Just as Oregon was the highest-ranked team with one loss, now they’re the highest-ranked team with two losses. Arizona finished 14th and Oregon State finished 19th, giving the Pac-12 four teams in the top 20. I don’t know if it mattered or not, but Utah was one of the first teams out of the Top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Which just further goes to show what kind of team Washington is, that we were able to win five games against Top 30 opponents, which doesn’t even factor in USC and their high-flying offense, and the rest of the conference, which doesn’t play like the bottom-feeders we see in other conferences.

Is there an argument to be made that we deserved the top seed? Absolutely. Michigan beat Ohio State once, Penn State once, and a garbage Iowa team that couldn’t even put up a single point in the Big Ten Championship Game. We had to beat Oregon twice, an underrated Arizona team, and a rock-solid Oregon State team (both on the road). You think Michigan would’ve beaten the Buckeyes in back-to-back weeks? Because I certainly have my doubts.

But, you know, I’m not going to get a big bug up my ass about it. Michigan is saddled with playing the red-hot Crimson Tide – who just took out the previous #1 team in the nation – so what did they get for all their troubles?

Not that Texas is chopped liver, given that they gave that red-hot Crimson Tide team its only defeat. But, we do have to go all the way to New Orleans – instead of playing in the Rose Bowl – so you could say no one is really happy in this scenario.

But, we did beat the Longhorns in last year’s bowl game. I know these are different teams in different situations, but it’s nice to at least have a little bit of familiarity. I thought we looked shaky as hell in that game last year, so it would be nice to come out a little sharper after this next month off from game action.

Let’s hope we do better than the PREVIOUS best Husky team I’ve ever seen!

The Seahawks Are Lucky To Be Rid Of Russell Wilson

I occasionally return to writing about Russell Wilson, because he’s a truly fascinating figure in Seattle sports history. “How the mighty have fallen” is something that comes immediately to mind.

There was an article released by The Athletic today outlining his miserable first year in Denver. It also touched on the impetus for him being traded to the Broncos in the first place: he allegedly went to Seahawks ownership and called for them to fire Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Wilson has since denied those claims on Twitter – an intriguing move, to be sure, since I don’t know him to be so reactionary when negative news about him is released – but the Seahawks have stuck to their usual stance of not commenting whatsoever.

I don’t think anyone is really inclined to believe anything that Russell Wilson says at this point. There was another bombshell recently released that got into Wilson’s charitable foundation, and how they may or may not be spending their money. Turns out extravagantly wealthy people aren’t always all that inclined to give away their money, and that they may inflate what they’ve purported to donate. The sad thing is that he’s just like any other multi-millionaire in the world.

While he might not have gone directly to Jody Allen (or whoever’s running the show with the Seahawks), I would venture to guess probably his agent passed along both of their wishes. It’s particularly believable given the additional nugget of information released by The Athletic: that Wilson’s preferred head coaching replacement for Pete Carroll was Sean Payton. We all know Wilson’s affinity for Drew Brees, and the fact that the Saints were on his previous list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to (back when Payton was still their coach).

There’s an alternate universe where Russell Wilson spends his entire career with the Seahawks. It’s fascinating to contemplate what would’ve happened if the organization sided with the player over the coach and general manager. What kind of dystopian hellscape would THAT look like?

For starters, we wouldn’t have had Denver’s draft picks last year. No Charles Cross at left tackle. Who takes that spot? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe we would’ve re-signed Duane Brown for one more year. We wouldn’t have had Boye Mafe either (he didn’t do a ton as a rookie), and there’s a legitimate question as to whether or not we would’ve used our other second round pick on Kenneth Walker. I mean, really, without John Schneider running the draft, it’s highly unlikely we’d have ANY of the guys we got. We’re talking an entirely different, unknown crop of rookies and free agent moves, all likely catering to Wilson’s whims.

Also, I would strongly doubt the Seahawks could’ve managed to hire Sean Payton in this kind of situation. Why would he want to come here? As we’ve seen the last two years, he clearly had his pick of the litter when it came to head coaching jobs. Why would he put himself into a situation where he’d have to be subservient to his quarterback? It’s also a situation that has him living in Seattle (probably not his ideal destination), working for an organization that might be going through an ownership change as soon as 2024. That sounds like a headache I’m sure he would’ve rather avoided.

But, if you believe Wilson had that kind of pull this time last year – that he could convince Payton to come here – then I suppose you can look at the 2023 Broncos as sort of a barometer or the kind of success we might’ve enjoyed in 2022. Except, the 2023 Broncos have a drastically superior roster of talent outside of the quarterback spot, compared to what the Seahawks had last season.

I’m trying to imagine what the Seahawks would’ve looked like this past year, with Wilson behind the center, running Payton’s offense with our guys (minus Kenneth Walker, of course), saddled with that defense (that surely would’ve performed worse than they actually did, thanks to the loss of Carroll’s guiding influence). It seems like it would’ve been an absolute nightmare, made all the worse by the fact that WE would be the ones overpaying for Wilson’s diminishing services for the next however many years.

Now, if you take Sean Payton out of that equation, and saddle us with a Nathaniel Hackett (or whoever we could’ve managed to convince to coach here), I think we’re talking about a team that’s even WORSE than what the 2022 Broncos actually were.

I believe that Russell Wilson believes that Pete Carroll and John Schneider were holding him back in his quest to win MVPs and Super Bowls. I also can’t entirely dismiss that line of thinking. It’s easy to sit here and dunk on Wilson. Age is catching up to him, his size limits his ability to throw over the intermediate middle, and hubris is preventing him from ceding control or reining in his preferred style of play (meaning he no longer runs with the football, and opts to take deep shots over checkdowns that might actually net more yards). So, I fully understand the instinct to call Wilson crazy. The only person holding Russell Wilson back is Russell Wilson.

But, I can’t just unsee what he did in the second half of 2015.

It’s the outlier to end all outliers. In the final seven games of the regular season, the Seahawks went 6-1. In those six victories, Wilson’s lowest passer rating was 123.7 (his average rating over that span was 132.8). He had a 71% completion percentage. He threw for 1,906 yards, with an absolutely RIDICULOUS 24:1 touchdown to interception ratio. It’s literally the best stretch of football I’ve ever seen by a quarterback, and it was unlike literally any other season he’s played in the NFL. He threw from the pocket, he threw with precision, on time, to all areas of the field (including the intermediate middle). I can’t even fathom how brilliant and efficient the Seahawks’ offense was, at a time when our rushing attack wasn’t there to prop us up. It was all on the arm of Russell Wilson. And, I’m afraid it’s warped everyone’s thinking – including his own – ever since.

The sad part is the fact that he reverted right back to his usual style of play when we hit the playoffs that season (the last of our L.O.B. Championship Window). It really seemed like we’d turned a page, and the offense was ready to ascend that year. Instead, we barely got by the Vikings in the wild card round, before taking a HUGE shit early deficit in the first half of the divisional round against Carolina, before our furious comeback fell seven points short in the end.

From then on, though, it felt like there was no limit to Wilson’s abilities. Sure, he had the running, and he had the play-action deep balls, but now he had this precision timing offense down. THAT was supposed to be the key to how he’d age gracefully in this league. And when we never saw him do it again, we all assumed it was because Pete Carroll was holding back the offense. And/or because John Schneider wasn’t giving Wilson the guys he needed around him to make it work.

Part of that is true. Carroll did rein in the offense. Except, it was only AFTER Wilson made too many horrendous throws and turned the ball over an uncharacteristic amount. And, of course, how can we forget all the times John Schneider did, in fact, sign free agents that were Wilson-approved? The Greg Olsen tenure here is a boil on my ass that will never go away.

This takes us back to Russell Wilson being the only person holding Russell Wilson back. But, he still did what he did in that 2015 season. And it’s fair to wonder what his career might’ve looked like if he’d had Sean Payton’s offense from the get go.

It’s also fair to wonder if it’s too little, too late. He’ll be 35 years old in November. And he’s clearly not aging the way Tom Brady aged into his 35th year.

I’m just glad he’s not our problem anymore.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top 10

You can check out Part 1 from yesterday.

For the record, this isn’t in any particular order. Though, I will say – spoiler alert – that the top five listed here comprise my favorite five, which I’ll get around to writing about tomorrow. Sorry to really drag out this flimsy concept!

My Top 10

  • King Felix
  • The Big Unit
  • Beastmode
  • Bam Bam Kam
  • The Reign Man
  • The Glove
  • Young Zeke
  • Tui
  • Reg-gie
  • Steve Largent

Look, not everyone can have a cool nickname or shorthand. But, for the first – I dunno – 25 to 30 years of my life, Steve Largent was my favorite athlete of all time. When you’re a kid just getting into sports, you gravitate towards the very best players. And, in the late 80’s, that guy was Largent for me. He had every wide receiver record at the time of his retirement (eventually surpassed by Jerry Rice, among others), but nothing’s ever going to top this sequence of events with Mike Harden. What’s insane is that Largent didn’t even miss a game after that cheap shot in week one! Talk about tough as nails.

I don’t know of a great way to rank all the amazing Husky wide receivers through the years, but anecdotally the first name that comes to my mind is Reggie Williams. He started playing with us a year after that magical 2000 season, and is sort of synonymous with my friends and I following the team religiously. There just wasn’t anyone like him. It seemed like every game he was good for at least a small handful of big plays. And, as it turns out, it was pretty much exclusively thanks to his natural-born ability, as he was never really able to parlay his college dominance into NFL success. I’ll save that for some bitter old-time Jags fans who were underwhelmed by him on a regular basis after being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. But, as far as Huskies go, there were few better.

One of those guys would be Marques Tuiasosopo. All I need to talk about is 300/200. Against Stanford. 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing. For the longest time, he was on an all-time list of only his name, until very recently when Malik Cunningham did it with Louisville in 2021. Tui led us to an 11-1 record in 2000 and a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, and I still contend if we had a college football playoff system, that Husky team would’ve made some noise! Maybe even won it all! Just a fun guy to watch on a weekly basis though, especially when you consider how good the Pac-10 was back then, as well as how many times he pulled games out of his ass late.

Isaiah Thomas followed a succession of great Husky basketball players, but how could you not root for a guy of his size and ability? I’ll be honest, he’s on this list because of this, one of my top three favorite singular plays in Seattle sports history. I mean, it’s up there with The Tip and the Beastquake, but I’ll be honest, the one I keep coming back to and rewatching on YouTube is the Cold Blooded call from Gus Johnson in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Championship Game. It’s just unfortunate that the program hasn’t even come close to getting back to that level of play.

The Supersonics were the model sports franchise in Seattle for the longest time. From the 70’s through the 90’s, they were consistent winners. Regularly in the playoffs. Made the finals three times – winning once in 1979 – and had our lone world championship until the Seahawks won it all in 2013. Clearly, there were a lot of tremendous players to wear that uniform, but none were better than Gary Payton. He was the heart and soul of all those 90s squads, and I’d put him up there with any Seattle sports all time great, Griffey, Largent, you name it. He made a name for himself with his unrivaled defensive ability, but over time he really developed a strong offensive game. He was one of the more potent post-up guards in the league, and eventually he even found his 3-point stroke. Things became a lot more challenging for him once he lost his partner in crime in Shawn Kemp, but he still did his best to keep this franchise afloat. Also, he makes this list for being one of the best shit-talkers in the history of mankind.

Are The Seahawks Actually Good?

Well, if we lose this weekend, I think the answer is a pretty safe “no”. In reality, this is a game we’re supposed to lose, but it’s going to look considerably worse when we lose while the Saints are missing Jameis Winston and probably Michael Thomas. Old Man Dalton carving us up? That’s going to be a REALLY bad look.

But, here’s the thing: if the Seahawks win, that’s back-to-back wins – on the road, in 10am starts (not that that’s a thing anymore, but I still think it’s impressive when we win with wonky body clocks) – against teams that are allegedly comparable to us. 50/50 games are everything in the NFL. Win more of those 50/50 games – while dominating the games you’re supposed to win, and not losing too many of the games you’re supposed to lose – and you’re looking at a playoff-contending team. I’m not saying that if we win against the Lions and Saints that we’ll make the playoffs – maybe they’re just terrible teams! – but it’s at least an interesting look.

If we win, I think the national narrative is going to be just that, though: Are The Seahawks Actually Good? It’s especially going to happen if Geno Smith continues to look like GENO SMITH!

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a ton about the Saints. They were projected to have a good defense, but I think that was vastly overblown. They’re 1-3 on the season, with a 1-point victory over the Falcons. Then, there were a couple of non-competitive losses to the Bucs and Panthers, before a 3-point loss to the Vikings in London. It’s early, but I think I may have overrated them heading into the season. Bad coaching? Mediocre quarterback play? Not a lot to really scare you.

Chris Olave looks like he could be a stud. I’d be worried about him. I’d be MORE worried about him if we had the Jameis deep ball to contend with, but I can’t imagine Andy Dalton’s Noodle Arm TM will take too many chances down field. Kamara is an obvious baller (when healthy), but he hasn’t been the same weapon since Drew Brees retired.

Nevertheless, the Seahawks’ defense is so bad right now, it might not matter. There’s a world where the Saints put up 30+ points and really embarrass us hard. That’s because I kinda have a hard time believing the Seahawks’ offense is THIS elite. My guess is we lose 30-22, where the Seahawks maybe get some garbage points to bring it to within one score late.

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 Seahawks Are Losers

I’ll admit, last night I was more annoyed by my fantasy football team almost blowing it (I had D.K. Metcalf and Taylor Heinicke going, and only a 15-point deficit to overcome; it shouldn’t have taken ALL GAME to finally do it) than I was by the Seahawks once again playing like the losers that they are.

Did anyone think they were going to legitimately run the table? If you were holding back a shovelful of dirt for some reason, go ahead and drop that right on top of the coffin there. This team is dead, and it’s not coming back.

Nevertheless, it’s not so easy to wrap my head around what’s going on. I know where I place most of the blame though: on Russell Wilson’s shoulders. I refuse to blame the offensive coordinator, because this is the guy that Wilson wanted. I’m also not entirely sure Wilson is running the offense properly, as indicated by all the times we’ve seen guys running WIDE OPEN who he is simply missing. I’m also not blaming the offensive line, though they are not as good as any of us expected, nor are they as good as they’ve been the last couple years. But, Wilson has thrived under worse offensive line conditions before.

I don’t think Wilson is done as a quarterback in the NFL, though we may be witnessing the beginning of the downside of his career. I’ve always wondered what his game would look like when he can no longer run/refuses to run and is JUST a pocket passer. He’s always passed well from the pocket before, but that was when he had legs and knew how to use them. Now that he’s more or less a statue, is he physically capable of seeing all the receivers and making all the throws? Who can say?

The obvious scapegoat is to blame the finger injury. I’m sure that will be the excuse when the season is over. It has to be, because Wilson won’t blame himself or his deteriorating skills. He’ll say something to the effect of, “Yeah, I probably pushed myself too hard to come back too soon,” and he’ll get credit for actively harming the team. The interviewer will laud him for being a tough guy, when he’s really just being selfish. But, that would only really make sense if we’re talking about the last three games. Wilson has been an ongoing problem for this team all season.

You want to know what I really think? I believe Russell Wilson has one of the lowest football IQs among all of the elite quarterbacks. There’s levels of stupidity in the NFL. Thankfully, Wilson isn’t a guy who foolishly puts the ball in harm’s way too often. But, what I’m talking about is the more cerebral side of the game. The pre-snap stuff. Dissecting a defense and knowing where to go with a football. I don’t think he’s good at that at all. He’s not Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Drew Brees, and he’s never going to be them. Those guys aged into wise veteran quarterbacks who beat teams with their minds. Those guys made the teams around them better.

Russell Wilson, on the other hand, is on some fucked up Hero Ball shit. Wilson doesn’t make the team around him better and he never has. Instead, he wants to do everything himself. He’s been blessed with some of the most gifted receivers in the NFL over the years, but if he could throw the ball to himself for long bomb touchdowns, he would do it. It’s always gotta be the home run. It’s never the checkdown until we get under two minutes against a prevent defense. It’s never taking what the defense gives us. Instead, it’s trying to force his will against other teams who know exactly what Wilson is trying to do. He isn’t capable of adjusting, because he’s not intelligent enough to see that his blind faith way of doing business isn’t working anymore. You can’t just close your eyes, chuck it deep, and hope that God will place the ball where you want it to go.

You don’t ever hear about how dumb Russell Wilson is as a quarterback, because everyone is so mystified by the magical plays he’s managed to pull out of his ass at times. But, those instances are fewer and farther between nowadays. And, it’s not like you can ever get a straight answer from Wilson himself, because every interview is an avalanche of clichéd gibberish. If that doesn’t speak to how simple-minded he is, then I don’t know what does. He’s literally just memorized the same dozen phrases and spews them out over an over, in a different order, every time he gets in front of a microphone. He can’t think on his feet, he can’t analyze and react in real time; you see that whenever an interviewer really pushes him to give an honest answer, he freezes and doesn’t know what to say, and you can almost catch him, until his robot programming takes over. He’s also pretty dim when it comes to interacting with his teammates; he doesn’t know what to do around people. It’s almost sad to see what happens when he can no longer simply rely on his out-of-this-world physical gifts, because his brain won’t be able to get him out of this jam.

There’s been a lot of talk about this being an “end of an era” for the Seahawks. I don’t think that’s totally accurate though, not in the way people intend. They’re talking about this “era” of Seahawks football as a monolith, from 2012-2021, but it hasn’t been one singular era. Really, there was the era from 2010-2015, then 2016-2021. The first era was the great one, the second era has largely been miserable. The first era was the Legion Of Boom Era; the second one has been the Russell Wilson Era.

Even though Russell Wilson’s tenure spans both eras, this didn’t really become HIS team until most of those L.O.B. guys were long gone (I would throw Marshawn Lynch in with them as well, since he embodied that mindset). It’s still my belief that the Seahawks never would’ve reached the heights that we did in the Legion Of Boom Era without Russell Wilson. If we’d had Andy Dalton, or some other mere game manager, it’s possible we still could’ve won a Super Bowl, but I don’t think it would’ve been likely. However, it’s clear to me now that Russell Wilson will never make it back to the Super Bowl without an elite defense. He can’t carry a team by himself. In that sense, the Russell Wilson Era has been an abject failure.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Return Of The Splinter League

My fantasy column (which is really just an excuse to complain about my fantasy teams, but also lets me provide my analysis on a variety of players and matchups on a weekly basis) has been a regular feature on my blog since 2018. You can catch up on the types of leagues I’m in HERE. I mostly just talk about my Main League, one I used to be commissioner of since its infancy back in the 2003-range. I’m still in it – with a group of my oldest friends – though I’m no longer in charge. I went and started my own Splinter League with some friends who are in the Main League, as well as some other friends, and it’s much more lowkey and casual. Both are 2-QB leagues that heavily skew towards more points for the quarterbacks (since they’re the most important players in the real NFL, I feel this is valid for fantasy as well).

The Splinter League is much more QB-friendly (15 yards per point, compared to 20 in the Main League; both are 6-point touchdowns and -4 points for INTs). Anyway, I’ll have more to say about the Main League at another time, but my Splinter League team just had its draft on Sunday night, so let’s get into it!

This year’s Splinter League team name is BUCK FUTTER, from the infamous SNL Jeopardy! sketch. It’s an okay name, but I didn’t have a lot of inspiration this year, especially after trying to compete with last year’s Pound Some Cunth, which was *chef’s kiss*.

I’m mostly just excited because I drafted a really good team. I’m not the only one who thinks so, as Yahoo – on draft day – pegged me for a 14-1 record this season. Just a day removed – even though Yahoo has tinkered with the projected standings of other teams – I remain with that 14-1 prognostication. I was also the only team to get an A grade by Yahoo (the next-highest was a B; then there’s a B-, with everyone else in the C-range in our 10-team league).

I logged on 30 minutes prior to find I was drafting 9th. That means that – again, with our scoring system being what it is – most of the top tier quarterbacks would be taken. The guy with the first draft pick never showed and had his team auto-drafted by Yahoo; as a result, Yahoo drafted him a team the way it would in any old league (i.e. eschewing quarterbacks early for running backs and receivers). CMC was the first overall pick. Then it went: Mahomes, Allen, Brady, Dalvin Cook, Wilson, Kyler, and Lamar (the Cook guy also temporarily forgot about the scoring system, but that’s not a bad alternative for him).

So, I was left with the guy I picked – Aaron Rodgers – among players like Tannehill, Dak, Herbert, Hurts, Stafford, and Lawrence. The 10th pick in the snake went with Zeke Elliott and Tannehill back-to-back, which left me in the illustrious position of getting Alvin Kamara with my second round pick. Outstanding! I’ve never had him on a fantasy team before and I couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s with me now (with no Brees, and lots of question marks on that Saints offense).

I had the usual LONG wait before I got to my third and fourth picks. I opted for Matthew Stafford over Trevor Lawrence to close out the third round (I never considered for a second going with either Baker Mayfield or Matt Ryan, who both went later in the fourth round). I’ll say this: if the Splinter League were a keeper league, it would’ve been Lawrence all day. But, we do full redrafts here, and I’m not willing to jump on the Lawrence bandwagon if there’s no long-term benefit for me. There will be lots of yards thrown, but I also anticipate lots of turnovers that will hurt him. I also wanted to go with Stafford because – like Rodgers – he’s on a team that’s going to be in the running with the Seahawks for the top seed in the NFC. If I have any bad mojo on me, and it carries over to those guys, all the better for my beloved Seahawks. Otherwise, if they play as well as I expect them to, I should have no problems at the quarterback position in 2021 (for this league, anyway).

With my fourth round pick, I nabbed Najee Harris. This is a guy I LOVED in college, and desperately wished my Seahawks could’ve somehow gotten in the real NFL draft. I was burned last year in my Main League with rookie running back CEH, but Harris seems like a slam dunk as long as he stays healthy. I can’t remember the last time I had two running backs I was so fond of! If you let me hand-pick any two running backs for my fantasy team, it would’ve been Kamara and Harris. I know guys just say things like that all the time, but for me it’s true. I think both will be durable, as well as points hogs both in the running and passing games. Plus, they’re just fun players to watch (unless they’re going against your team, then you’re never more miserable, particularly when they’re going off).

With another long wait between picks, a lot of good receivers were going off the board. I had no shot at the upper tier guys (Tyreek, Davante, Kelce, D.K., Hopkins, Diggs, and Ridley all went in rounds 2 and 3 between my picks), and players I was potentially eyeballing for the end of the fifth round, like Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, and particularly CeeDee Lamb, were all swiped from me (Lamb one spot prior). I could’ve gone after the Rams guys – Kupp & Woods – to pair them with my quarterback; I could’ve had Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper, or even Julio for that matter. But, inspiration struck, and I decided to ride the bandwagon of another prominent Seahawks opponent in the NFC in the Tampa Bay Bucs. I got Chris Godwin in the 5th, and swung around and took Mike Evans in the 6th. People are down on Evans, but I still like his touchdown potential if he stays healthy. Godwin is playing for a new contract next year and I expect him to be fired up to make a big splash this year, statswise. I’ll put both of them in my starting lineup together and hope Tom Brady can give it another run (big “if”, I know).

With my next two picks, I was looking for Best Skill Position Available, as the Splinter League has two flex spots (and no mandatory tight end spot, though you could play TE at either/both flex spots if you wanted). Adam Thielen was sniped from me one pick prior, so I settled for Tee Higgins, who is a guy I really like anyway. I had a chance to make him a keeper in my Main League, but was ultimately scared off by the two other quality receivers they have in that offense. Nevertheless, I expect Higgins to continue to produce as long as Joe Burrow is healthy. When the draft whipped around, I got the other running back I wanted: Darrell Henderson. With Cam Akers out for the year, Henderson seems like a strong bet to break out in the Rams’ offense. There’s a chance Sony Michel takes some of his carries (particularly at the goalline), but there’s a reason why the Patriots gave up on Michel: he stinks. I might end up handcuffing the two at some point, but for now Henderson is the safer bet.

I opted to continue going Best Skill Position Available in the 9th & 10th rounds, settling on Mark Andrews first. I’m already iffy on that, but Gus Edwards was sniped from me one pick prior (seriously, that guy who drafted 8th fucked me no less than three times). I also didn’t love the value I was getting on defenses at that spot (the elite defenses were already taken, meaning I had some questionable ones left over), nor did I love the value on a backup quarterback (which I’ll talk about later). Andrews gets a lot of looks around the goalline with the Ravens, so he’s very TD-dependent; he also can get a case of the dropsies which is frustrating. Nevertheless, he’s a fringe flex guy for me until I can find someone more dependable. When we whipped around to the 10th round, Michael Thomas was still sitting there and I jumped on him.

Michael Thomas is one of the biggest question marks of this year’s fantasy football drafting world: when do you take a chance? He’s injured, he’s unhappy with the Saints, and they have a non-Brees starting quarterback heading into a season for the first time in forever. When will he be healthy enough to play again, and how will he fit into the offense? I’m hoping he’ll be back by October, and I’m hoping he returns to being one of the most dominant players in football. For a 10th round flier? Absolutely! Plus, I can stash him in my IR spot until he plays again. No brainer whatsoever.

By the 11th and 12th rounds, it was time to get a defense and a third quarterback. Somehow, the 49ers’ defense was still there, so I grabbed them. But, waiting until the 12th round meant I had slim pickins for QB. I opted for Zach Wilson, not because I believe in the Jets rookie, but because he seemed to be the best of a bunch of terrible options (including Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, and Jimmy G).

The thing with quarterback for me was: Stafford has a BYE in week 11, and Rodgers has his in week 13. Some of these guys – like Jimmy G – might not have their starting jobs that late into the season! Zach Wilson isn’t going anywhere, unless he gets injured or is supremely inept. If he’s halfway competent, he’ll give me the two games I want out of him. Teddy Bridgewater would’ve been a perfectly fine option, but he has a week 11 BYE as well, so that defeats the purpose. I didn’t have room to keep a fourth QB, nor would I want to if I did. I’d rather have a second defense, if anything, just in case!

The guys who ended up on the free agent scrap heap include Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, the aforementioned Jimmy G, Andy Dalton, and, of course, Taysom Hill. Rookies who aren’t even starting yet were drafted ahead of all these guys! It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. I have zero faith whatsoever in Zach Wilson, though. If anyone else even remotely interesting becomes available, I won’t hesitate to waive him.

In the 13th round, D.J. Chark was still available; that’s excellent value, in my book. That meant I missed out on snagging the Patriots’ defense (which I think will be good this year), who was taken with the very next pick, but oh well. With my 14th and final selection, I took a flier on a lottery ticket in Darnell Mooney, wide receiver for the Bears. He has strong sleeper potential in an offense that could be better than we give it credit for. I don’t know if he’ll be long for my roster either, but that’s okay. You can’t make an omelette without scrambling some eggs, or some damn thing.

One thing that leaps out about this team is how razor thin I am in my depth at quarterback and running back. Rodgers and Stafford just can’t get hurt, period, end of discussion. If they go down for any length of time, I’m probably screwed. Similarly, I only have Kamara, Harris, and Henderson. I need to play a minimum of two running backs every week. Thankfully, they all have different BYE weeks, but what are the odds they play every single game? Slim-to-none. So, I’ll have to work my magic on the waiver wire at some point (I have #2 priority after the draft, so I’ll want to use that to my advantage).

I get an extra roster spot with Michael Thomas on IR, so that helps. I have a couple players in mind as we get into the week that I’ll be looking to snag. Then, it’s just the long wait until the regular season starts!

I don’t know how this column is going to look this year, but I imagine it’ll be heavily discussing my Main League. However, I’ll also devote a section in each one to my Splinter League team. It’s too good and interesting to just ignore completely!

I’m also joining a third league – ran by my brother’s friend – but it’s going to be too confusing if I bring a third into the mix, so we’ll let that one go, unless I absolutely get a bug up my ass about it.