There Will Always Be A Reason To Not Vote For Russell Wilson For MVP

Russell Wilson has famously never received an MVP vote, even though he’s been one of the best in the game since his rookie season in 2012. There’s always been a reason for that. There are two ways to take that sort of sentiment: there’s the magnanimous side of there simply being a lot of other, worthy candidates, and not everyone gets a trophy in the real world. And, there’s the bitter Seahawks fan in me, who can’t help but see it as my guy getting slighted.

Et tu, Trey Wingo?! I actually think he’s one of the more reasonable ESPN personalities, but in this week’s Slow News Day, he was all over Aaron Rodgers as MVP. Magnanimous Steven can hear that and say, “Sure, he’s having a fantastic season! Over 1,200 yards in four games, with 13 touchdowns and 0 interceptions; what’s not to love?” But, all Bitter Steven hears is Trey’s rationale: look at Rodgers’ weapons and compare them to Wilson’s.

Okay. First of all, we’re not ACTUALLY going to get bent out of shape about the MVP race five weeks into the season. So, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I COULD tell you that – while Rodgers’ numbers are great – his numbers aren’t quite up to Wilson’s over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in five games. If we’re talking weapons, yeah, D.K. Metcalf looks like a monster, and we’ve been singing Tyler Lockett’s praises since he joined the league. But, Rodgers still has Aaron Jones, one of the best dual-threat running backs in all of football (third in rushing yards per game), with a combined 6 touchdowns rushing and receiving. And, Davante Adams has only missed a couple games due to injury. On top of which, let’s face it, the Packers haven’t had to play very many elite teams. On top of the Vikings and Falcons (who we also beat), they’ve gone up against a one-win Lions team and a Saints team that looks like it’s on its last legs with Drew Brees. Also, just because you don’t know who some of these Packers are at tight end and behind Adams in the receivers room, doesn’t mean they’re not just as good as some of these other Seahawks; that Robert Tonyan (with five TDs so far) could be the next Greg Olsen for all we know!

The point isn’t the weapons, the point is the EXCUSE. The title of the post says there will always be a reason to not vote for Russell Wilson for MVP, but actually I should’ve put “excuse”, because that’s what we’re talking about. Everyone seemingly ALWAYS has a reason to poo-poo what Wilson is doing. Early in his career, he wasn’t an MVP because we had Marshawn Lynch, and that #1 defense, and a conservative play-calling scheme. Forget about Wilson’s efficiency – doing more with fewer attempts – or his touchdown numbers; it was always about the team around him. Then, as Lynch left, and the defense crumbled, this team clearly became all about Russell Wilson; he was dragging this roster bereft of talent into the playoffs kicking and screaming (he’s STILL never had a losing record, in spite of some REALLY lean rosters that would’ve been contending for a top draft pick had Wilson not been around). If you think about Most Valuable Player, you think about the guy who adds the most value to his team (obviously, this being football, there is that pesky “team” aspect that constantly skews things). Take Russell Wilson off of any of these Seahawks teams from 2016 to 2020, and you’re looking at one of the very worst teams in all of football. Can you imagine what Nick Foles or Ryan Fitzpatrick (the dictionary definition of Replacement Level Quarterbacks) would’ve done with these guys?

But, no one who votes actually sees the game in these hypotheticals. The MVP almost always goes to the best quarterback on the best team, period. If you take Lamar Jackson off of that Ravens team last year and put a replacement level guy in there, they probably still win 9-10 games, because the rest of the roster was so good. But, Jackson won the MVP because the Ravens went 14-2 and he was a hot, new story.

Story plays into it too. Is it a guy who’s never won it before? Well that’s interesting! (hence why momentum for Wilson is so high this year) Is it a guy doing something extra-special? (Patrick Mahomes as a 23-year old throwing for 50 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter explains what happened in 2018)

In a sense, blaming Wilson for the weapons around him is idiotic, because you NEED the team to win a lot of games, and you need SOMEONE to catch all those balls! But, it cuts both ways, because you watch the Seahawks and you have to see how bad this defense has been.

Remember a year ago, when the Seahawks played in 14 games decided by one score (including playoffs) and went 11-3 in those games? Remember how unsustainable that was, and how likely it was that the 2020 Seahawks would come crashing down to Earth? Already, four of our five games have been decided by one score, and we’re 4-0 in those games (including that near-miraculous come-from-behind performance against the Vikings last week). This is no longer a fluke. This is Russell Wilson. He is your MVP for 2020. You can make all the arguments you want – because otherwise, what else are you going to talk about on the various football chat shows; we all have content to produce – but in the end, when the Seahawks have the best record in football, and Russell Wilson has the best stats of all the quarterbacks, you’re going to have to make him unanimous.

And yet, even if all of that comes to pass, I bet there are still a few a-holes out there who will throw a bone to the Aaron Rodgers’ of the league. Because they just can’t live in a world where a 5’11 quarterback is the best player alive.

Are The 2020 Seahawks Better Than The 2019 Seahawks?

I’m having difficulty getting a read from the fanbase when it comes to their overall thoughts on the 2019 Seahawks; is that team considered a disappointment, or did they make the most of what they had? It’s easy to forget – knowing that was a Wild Card team who was ultimately thrust from the playoffs in the Divisional Round – but the 2019 Seahawks started out 10-2, among the best teams in all of football by record at the time. We lost three of our last four regular season games (all to divisional opponents) to lose our handle on the divisional title and a chance at a top two seed in the NFC, then we beat a decimated Eagles team before losing like we usually do on the road in the Divisional Round (by falling into a deep hole early and not having enough in the tank to come all the way back late). When you factor in a generational talent like Russell Wilson being in his prime, once again falling short of the Super Bowl, that feels disappointing to me. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I don’t know what to tell you.

The 2020 Seahawks are 4-0 right now. With the way our schedule is shaping up – among the easiest in football – not only do I see a reasonable path to at least matching our 10-2 start from a season ago, unless things take a dramatically dark turn, I’d be shocked if we’re not 12-2 as we head into the final two weeks of the season. 13-3 is not only on the table at this point, but should be the FLOOR. I don’t think a perfect season is happening, but one or two losses? I’m not throwing that out of bed for eating crackers!

When you think about how much we’ve obsessed over the quality of the defense to date – rightfully so, I might add – I can’t help but question whether or not this team is actually better than the one we saw a year ago. Are we better, or is our schedule just easier?

Well, let’s get the simple question out of the way: the schedule is unquestionably easier. The 2019 AFC North was much more difficult than the 2020 AFC East; give me those Ravens over these Bills, those Steelers (when we played them, with a healthy Big Ben) over these Patriots, those Browns over these Dolphins, and even those Bengals over these Jets. The 2019 NFC South was much more difficult than the 2020 NFC East; there’s no point in even going through the teams (we’ve seen this NFC East for many seasons continue to underwhelm at every turn). The 2019 Eagles and Vikings were superior to the 2020 Falcons and Vikings, no contest. And, I would argue the 2019 NFC West was much more difficult than the 2020 version, based on the 49ers being decimated by injuries and clearly not living up to the standard they set last year. We might’ve overrated the Cardinals in Year 2 of the Kyler Murray regime, and I think the Rams are about equal to what they were a season ago (Jared Goff will never take the next step as an elite quarterback, I’m sorry).

So, let’s look at the first question: are the Seahawks better?

On paper, just looking at the roster alone, the offense doesn’t look a whole lot different. Same quarterback, mostly same receivers, same starting running back, many of the same tight ends and offensive linemen, and even the same offensive coordinator. Obviously, everything is being made about Letting Russ Cook, but what is so remarkable to me is that there doesn’t seem to be any drop in efficiency. That was the knock against letting Russ cook in the past: we were winning games, mostly because he was the most efficient quarterback in football. He did more with less (attempts), and the only reason why he wasn’t among the MVP finalists is because he didn’t have those attempts, or total yardage numbers, that dazzle the eye and cloud the brain. Russell Wilson has always had high passer ratings, low interception numbers, and high yards per attempt averages. And, obviously, we’re looking at a quarter of the normal sample size in any given year, but he’s blowing all of those numbers out of the water so far!

You would think more attempts = more opportunities for mistakes. Or, more attempts = more short passes, for a lower yards per attempt average. Again, it’s the opposite! Last year, his passer rating was 106.3 (his career high in any season was 110.9 in 2018); this year his rating is 136.7 (out of a possible 158.3). Last year, his yards per attempt were an even 8.0 (his career high in any season was 8.3 in 2015); this year it’s 9.4. He’s not just dinking and dunking and checking down to running backs and tight ends; he’s throwing deep as he always has and still connecting on these beautiful arcing rainbow balls!

In short (no pun intended), I think many of us (myself included) thought we’d seen the best of what Russell Wilson has to offer, but he’s continuing to soar to new heights (ditto) and it’s incredible to witness.

There’s also a very credible argument to be made that these are the best weapons he’s ever had. That is a BOLD statement! Remember, he’s had guys like Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller … and sure, Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. But, would you rather have those guys, or Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, David Moore, Carlos Hyde, Jacob Hollister, and Freddie Swain? They’ve all come up big in the early going, and we still have Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Rashaad Penny waiting in the wings! Even when you just compare the 2020 group to 2019, I think you have to factor in the improved development of guys like Metcalf and Moore, as well as the rookie Swain who is already better than any fourth/fifth receiver we had last year.

Even though so many of the pieces are similar to what they were a season ago, this offense is unquestionably leaps & bounds better than it was (and better than it’s ever been, in the history of this franchise).

That brings us back to the defense.

So … yeah, the pass defense isn’t great. The pass rush was never thought to be anything above the bottom quarter in football, but the secondary has been atrocious as well. We’re still giving up over 400 yards passing per game, which is easily worst in the NFL. However! The run defense is only giving up 75.8 yards per game (third best); in 2019, the Seahawks gave up 117.7 rushing yards per game (11th worst). In a way, that makes sense, because our offense is so good, teams have to throw more to keep up and/or catch up with what we’re doing. But, it’s not like our 2019 offense was a turd sandwich or anything; we were in the top ten in yards and points. I do believe there is a drastic improvement in the quality of our run defense, which is further helping us force opposing offenses into being one-dimensional. Think of it this way: don’t you think every single team that faces the Seahawks wants to do whatever it takes to keep Russell Wilson on the sideline? Wouldn’t you think – that being the case – that teams would do their best to get a running game going against us? The fact that they’ve mostly failed in that endeavor is pretty telling.

I also want to look at turnovers, because I like what I’ve seen from this part of our defense so far and I don’t think it’s getting enough credit. The Seahawks are +5 in turnover ratio right now, tied for second (and, as we all know, one of those Wilson interceptions went right off of Greg Olsen’s hands, so we really should be tied for first at +6). The offense should always limit turnovers based on our quarterback and our coaching staff’s emphasis on taking care of the rock, so that ratio is always going to be in our favor. But, the defense alone has generated 8 turnovers, good for a tie for second (the Browns lead the NFL with 10). Of those 8 turnovers, 6 are via the interception, which I think is huge (the Browns, by contrast, only have 4 interceptions). Fumbles are largely a byproduct of luck. Most fumbles are 50/50 propositions; it’s an anomaly if one team is particularly good or bad at recovering them. Sure, teams can be good at FORCING them, but the name of this particular game I’m talking about is turnovers. Getting the ball back. If we’re not going to sack the opposing quarterback (six in four games, tied for sixth-worst), then we better be good at generating turnovers if we’re going to contend for a Super Bowl.

Last year, the Seahawks were tied for third in turnover differential at +12. We had 32 takeaways, also good for third in the NFL. Of those 32, it was an even 16/16 split between interceptions and fumble recoveries; 16 interceptions is pretty good (tied for fifth in the NFL last year), but the 16 fumble recoveries were tied for second most, which is a pretty remarkable feat and difficult to match from year to year. However, if you project a decrease in the number of fumbles our defense can recover in 2020 (which I do), while acknowledging that even a moderate increase in interceptions MIGHT be in play, can we really expect to have a drastically improved turnover differential? I would say absolutely! Because remember, that factors in the number of times our offense gave away the football. The Seahawks in 2019 were tied for the third-most lost fumbles (many of them thanks to Chris Carson’s butter fingers, which improved dramatically as the season went on); the odds of the Seahawks losing that many fumbles on offense in 2020 seem low to me. Partly because of regression in fumble luck, partly because we’re just not running the ball as much, and partly because Chris Carson is in a contract year (and fumblers don’t get max-money deals).

I don’t see a path where our sack numbers improve from where they were a season ago (we were tied for second-worst in 2019, which feels about right for 2020), but I do very much see a path to an increase in interceptions, given the level of talent in our secondary (which will get better as they get used to playing with one another; those communication breakdowns will be eliminated, I’m sure of it) as well as the fact that most teams will be forced into throwing the ball more than they’re used to (thanks to our offense putting up tons of points, and our run defense stuffing the everloving shit out of the line of scrimmage).

All of that combined, I think, points to this 2020 Seahawks team being much improved over the 2019 incarnation. Tack on the easy schedule, and the top seed in the NFC is very much in our sights.

We just need the Packers to lose a few games and we’ll be all set!

Chicken Or Egg: Can A Dominant Secondary Prop Up A Middling Pass Rush?

The consensus opinion is that the most important aspect of a dominant defense is its pass rush. Boiling it down to its root: the goal of a defense is to give the ball back to its offense without allowing the other team to score. The best way to do that is to force a turnover; otherwise, forcing them to punt or turn it over on downs will suffice. When it comes to defending the pass, harassing the quarterback seems to be the best way to either generate turnovers or put opposing offenses behind the chains, usually resulting in punts. The sack is obviously ideal; it’s a negative play for the offense that can sometimes result in fumbles. But, just getting in the quarterback’s face – forcing him “off his spot” or otherwise messing with his timing – can lead to interceptions, incompletions, or harmless check-downs that gain little-to-no yards on that play.

The Seahawks – as has been the lament all off-season – are projected to have one of the worst – if not THE worst – pass rushes in the NFL. This is a travesty because as it stood in 2019, the defense was already pretty mediocre; this is also a travesty because we have Russell Wilson in his prime and we seem to be wasting those years by losing in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds of the playoffs.

But, the thing is, the Seahawks clearly haven’t done NOTHING. They’ve tried to mitigate the loss of Jadeveon Clowney by picking up multiple lesser individuals – in free agency and the draft – and they’re hoping that young holdovers from previous seasons make a leap in their development. They’ve also done a remarkable job shoring things up at the linebacker and secondary levels over the last two years, picking up multiple speedy linebackers in the draft, as well as trading for two phenomenal safeties and one troubled-but-excellent cornerback. We’ll see if it plays out as such, but an argument could be made that the Seahawks have the best secondary and the best group of linebackers from top to bottom in the entire league. They certainly have the highest-rated linebacker in Bobby Wagner, and a total superstar in Jamal Adams.

So, my question is: can all of that compensate for a sub-par (or even flat-out BAD) pass rush?

We always talk about how great pass rushes make up for mediocre secondaries; guys don’t have to cover wide receivers as long, because the quarterback has to make his decisions much quicker. But, whenever we talk about the opposite – great secondaries blanketing receivers, allowing the D-Line time to get home – we just dismiss it as a “coverage sack”. As if, A) they don’t count as much as a regular sack, and B) it’s some sort of fluke that never happens. I’d love to know the numbers, but I would argue if coverage sacks are so rare, maybe that’s because teams spend all their resources focused so much on the D-Line and hardly any of their resources on their secondaries.

Around Seattle, we love to talk about the Legion of Boom, and for good reason. That collection of individuals was freaky talented, and from top to bottom the best I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls with that group leading the way, winning one. Yes, that group also had a pretty great D-Line – helmed by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – but they were VASTLY overshadowed by the L.O.B. And, not for nothing, but the main reason why we lost that second Super Bowl isn’t because Russell Wilson tried to throw a slant in heavy traffic at the goalline, but rather because the ENTIRE Legion of Boom suffered catastrophic injuries either in the lead-up to or in the middle of that game. Don’t forget the Seahawks had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, before Tom Brady & Co. marched up and down the field at will. Had we rushed Marshawn Lynch and scored a touchdown on that second down play, they still would’ve had somewhere around 20 seconds or so to get into field goal range (which, the way the Patriots were moving, seemed inevitable).

Which leads me to ask: where was our supposedly-dominant pass rush THEN?! Why weren’t they able to pick up the slack when the L.O.B. was out of commission?!

Now, obviously it’s a stretch to say this seconary is as good as the L.O.B. But, for this incarnation of the NFL, it’s pretty fucking elite. With a couple of lockdown cornerbacks, and a couple of playmaking safeties, I think the Seahawks can provide enough pressure on the back-end of the defense to allow the front-line workers an opportunity to get in the quarterback’s face and do some real damage, regardless of who we’ve got up there.

I don’t know how to do a lot of this research, so a lot of what I’m about to say is pretty anecdotal. But, how many passing plays result in a sack? Not a very high percentage, I’d say. How many plays result in pressure on the quarterback? Obviously, a little higher, but there’s a lot of variables at play: how good is the O-Line? How good is the quarterback? How quick can the quarterback make a decision to get rid of the football? Is the offense set up for the quarterback to make quick, short throws, rendering even the BEST defensive lines inadequate? There’s a reason why more offenses are turning into some version of the college spread offense, and it’s to neutralize the opposing pass rush! Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White; he’ll be an automatic first-ballot hall of famer. And yet, it’s not like he’s getting to the quarterback on every single play, no matter how it may seem (especially as a Seahawks fan, watching this miserable offensive line over the years).

The Seahawks, in the early days of this era, were lauded for zagging while the rest of the league zigged. We targeted tall, bruising players in the secondary before everyone else, essentially starting that trend by proving the tactic is viable. We opted to hand the offense to a short quarterback who runs a lot when the VAST majority of teams still thought they had to be 6’5 white statues in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady mold. We’ve featured a punishing running game when the league was clearly going towards a pass-first model, and have won the second-most games in all of football, behind only the New England Patriots.

So, why are we automatically dismissive of the Seahawks zagging once again?

If the rest of football is moving towards a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush aspect, then doesn’t it make sense to bolster your secondary, so you can get up on those receivers, and force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer? Everyone talks about how difficult that is, and how much strain it puts on a coverage to follow those receivers around, but it also puts a lot of strain on an offensive line! I don’t care how great you are, it’s hard to block ANY defensive line for 5+ seconds per play!

And even if you discount the quick-passing game, the very best quarterbacks – those same guys you see year-in and year-out in the playoffs – are almost always able to get rid of the football and make plays in the face of even the very best stampeding pass rush. BUT, if you show those guys a mediocre defensive front, they might relax a bit more, and in trying to wait out a hole appearing in the secondary, and that’s when guys like Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin are able to shine. Because, they’ll get there eventually. They might not take over games like Clowney or Donald, but they’re not so incompetent that they’re totally worthless.

There’s no single blueprint to build a champion. Often, it’s the teams doing things a little differently who manage to make the leap, leading a very reactionary NFL to follow their example, instead of setting out on their own courses. Yes, it’s a copycat league, but those ALWAYS come with diminishing returns. Because, while everyone is trying to copy the hot, new trend, everyone ELSE is trying to figure out how to stifle that hot new trend! First it was offenses throwing more than rushing, which led to the meteoric rise in bolstering pass rush as a counter-measure. Then, offenses morphed into throwing quick, short passes, and getting the ball out to playmakers in space, hoping they make plays. I would argue the only natural counter to this method is to have VERY fast linebackers and VERY elite secondary players, to limit that open space as much as possible. This should lead to either the quarterback holding the ball longer than intended, or following through on their game plans, with those plays resulting in short gains or incompletions.

I’m ready to believe in this tactic. If it works, the Seahawks might once again be at the forefront of a new trend the rest of the league chooses to copy in 2021 and beyond.

Of course, if it doesn’t work, everyone will get to say, “I told you so,” and the Seahawks will be made to look the FOOLS! You know what? We’re all just trying to do our best with what we have, and I’m okay with that.

The Top Ten Biggest Seattle Sports Disappointments

It’s a cloudy-ass day in July and we haven’t had any sports that I give a shit about in over three months, so why not kick off the month with a big ball of negativity?!

Once again, in the absence of any decent sports news, I take inspiration from the Brock & Salk podcast, where one of the listeners asked the question of who is on your Seattle sports Mount Rushmore for biggest disappointments? I’m clearly unable to limit my disgust to just four individuals, so you get a Top Ten from me (with an extra Honorable Mention – FREE OF CHARGE – because these disappointments are like my babies, I can’t leave any of them out!).

Being a Sports Disappointment is obviously a nebulous concept with lots of different definitions, so here’s mine (for the sake of today’s argument): these are people who we expected to be great when they came here, and ultimately totally sucked. How they got here is irrelevant, so I’m not factoring in (as heavily) if it was a lopsided trade, a high draft pick, or an inflated contract (with the basis that all of these players were terrible for their respective Seattle sports teams, one would assume a poor trade, draft slot, or contract is a given anyway). Similarly, this can’t be based on someone else that our team passed on in the draft, because there would be inherent disappointment already built into that selection.

Malik McDowell, for instance, doesn’t qualify for this list. He’s certainly one of the most damaging draft picks of the last decade for the Seahawks, but as a second rounder, I don’t think expectations were astronomical that he’d be anything truly amazing. Likewise, trading away Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice doesn’t qualify, because I would like to think most people noted that right away to be a terrible deal, and as such I can’t imagine there were great expectations for ol’ #0.

Without further ado, let’s get to our Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero. The Mariners traded for the former #1 overall baseball prospect early in 2012 from the Yankees. Given Michael Pineda’s career since he left Seattle, this is one of those infamous Lose/Lose deals. Nevertheless, the next ten guys I talk about must’ve been REALLY bad, because Montero was as mediocre as it gets. The main reason why he’s on the outside looking in is because by the time he came to Seattle, there was already a building consensus that he wasn’t long for the catcher position. He just didn’t have the build, the skills, nor the presence with the pitching staff for his defense to measure up. The hope was that maybe he could land at first base with some practice, but ultimately I think most saw him as a future DH. Regardless of that, there was NO QUESTION that his bat would be what provided the bulk of his value, and when you’re talking about those Mariners squads from 2008-2013, a hulking power bat from the right side of the plate was our white whale. Montero was SUPPOSED to be our cleanup hitter for the next decade; instead he hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015, and is more known for his ice cream sandwich fight than his “prowess” on the baseball diamond.

#10 – Danny Hultzen (Mariners)

This is the only real draft bust on the list (not to say there aren’t some REALLY BAD draft picks going forward, but at least those guys played a little bit!). Hultzen was a #2 overall draft pick, considered to be the safest starting pitcher prospect of the 2011 draft, and appeared to be on the fast track to make it to the Major Leagues within 2-3 years. Even if there was a question of his stuff – and his high-ceiling/ace potential – if his arm injuries didn’t totally derail him, we WOULD HAVE seen him pitch for the Mariners relatively early in his career. We’ll never know how disappointing that might’ve been, but I remember being really high on this guy when we got him, and it’s one of the great What If’s in recent Mariners history.

#9 – Justin Smoak (Mariners)

He’s sort of in that Jesus Montero realm, in that he was formerly a very highly-rated prospect, with the bloom starting to come off the rose by the time the M’s were able to acquire him. Oddly enough, when we made the deal in 2010, it’s reported that the Mariners turned down a proposed offer from the Yankees which would’ve included Montero! What did we do to get so lucky as to end up with BOTH when all was said and done?! Again, we’re talking about the Dead Ball Mariners of 2008-2013 or so; Smoak was really the first bite at the apple of trying to turn around our moribund offense. Switch-hitter with power, elite first base defense, good eye at the plate, and a proven minor league track record to hit for average, get on base at a high clip, and impress with his power to all fields. That ended up translating to the Bigs as Warning Track Power, someone who couldn’t really hit from the right side at all, a very LOW batting average, and someone who would consistently roll over on pitches instead of hitting to all fields as advertised. While his defense played, and he had an okay eye for taking walks, he also struck out a ton and didn’t start figuring out how to play at this level until he left for Toronto, where he was an All Star in 2017 (with 22+ homers in the last three seasons, the high being 38 in that aforementioned All Star season).

#8 – Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

As a #4 overall draft pick in 2009, you can certainly point to any number of linebackers taken after him and lament Tim Ruskell’s poor decision-making. BUT! I said we’re not doing that here! So, instead let’s just look at the situation at the time: the Seahawks were coming off of a pretty abysmal 2008 season where the defense just had NOTHING going for it. The offense looked like it MIGHT be salvagable with our aging veterans, but the defense needed an injection of youth and explosiveness. Curry was famously the “safest” pick off the board, as someone who could come in, play right away, and play at a high level. Even then, though, his game started getting picked apart pretty quickly. We soon learned there wasn’t much of a pass-rushing threat to his game, which made him ostensibly a coverage linebacker. The Seahawks have long prided themselves on quality linebacker play, so that checks out. Except, as it turned out, Curry couldn’t even do THAT well! He did, in fact, nothing well, and two years later we traded him to the Raiders in the middle of the 2011 season for draft picks (one of which would turn out to be J.R. Sweezy, which wasn’t too shabby of a return, all things considered).

#7 – Dustin Ackley (Mariners)

Speaking of #2 overall draft picks, welcome to the first pick of the Jack Zduriencik Era in 2009! I wrote pretty extensively on the topic of Dustin Ackley over the years, to the point where the rest of my list today SERIOUSLY conflicts with that post I just linked to. But, I would argue the parameters of the argument today are a little different. I’m trying to eliminate all outside factors and just focus on the players themselves. Yes, Ackley was VERY disappointing! He was supposed to be a guy who hit for a very high average, with enough pop/speed/defense to make him a regular All Star for his Major League career. Instead, he was middling at best and hasn’t cracked a Major League roster since 2016. I would also put part of the blame on the Mariners’ front office, as they continuously dicked around with him. He was a primo first baseman in college, with some experience in the outfield. What did we do? We made him a second baseman, which almost certainly stunted his development. Then, when that failed, we tried to make him a centerfielder, even though he really didn’t have the range or ability to cover that much ground (especially in Safeco Field at the time). And yet, the bat never showed up in Seattle, so that’s ultimately why he’s such a disappointment.

#6 – Chone Figgins (Mariners)

You really, REALLY hate to see it! This was the first big free agent bust of the Jack Zduriencik Era: four years, $36 million in December of 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this signing! By this point, we’d long realized that Safeco Field – with its configuration, and with our Marine Layer in Seattle – would be death to home run hitters. Guys like Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, among others, tried and ultimately failed to replicate their prior glories in Seattle. But, Figgins was the opposite of that! He was an undersized Jack-Of-All-Trades type of Swiss Army Knife you could plug in at nearly EVERY position on the field, with zero power hype to speak of whatsoever! And, most importantly, he’d hit for the Angels in a big way (.291 average & .363 on-base percentage in Anaheim across 8 seasons before signing with the Mariners). Slot him in at third base (his preferred position) and at the top of your batting lineup, and watch him hit .300 and steal 40+ bases! He somehow reached that stolen base plateau in his first year here, but his average dropped about 40 points overnight. He couldn’t get along with the Mariners’ management (and, presumably, some of the players) and was deemed the very worst signing of Jack Zduriencik’s career. Smarter baseball people than myself probably saw all this coming, but I’ll admit it was a rude awakening for me.

#5 – Percy Harvin (Seahawks)

If this were a list of my own personal Most Loathed Seattle Sports Athletes, Harvin would probably rank higher. I have no problem invoking his name among the greatest all-time Seahawks blunders because he is SO unlikable (the peak being him punching out Golden Tate before our Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season). Why he doesn’t rank higher here is the fact that we DID win that Super Bowl (mostly in spite of him), on top of the fact that I think most of us realized – when the deal was made – that it was too high a price to pay for ANYONE, even with his ability (at the time). Still, he had proven in his career with the Vikings to be a lethal gadget player on offense, and one of the best return men in the Special Teams department. While we could see the cost in draft picks and contract compensation was stratospheric, it was hard not to dream big about what this offense could be with Harvin in the fold. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, AND Percy Harvin?! Come on! And, then he immediately got injured upon arrival, and didn’t really end up making any impact whatsoever until we reached the Super Bowl. The highlight of his Seahawks career was the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. Some thought he deserved consideration for the Super Bowl MVP, but we were already up 22-0 at the time, so I mean. The bottom line is, Harvin dogged it in 2014 – taking himself out of games, refusing to play through anything more than a hangnail – and was traded in the middle of the season for whatever we could get. So much wasted money and potential.

#4 – Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Everyone points to the lopsided deal – that sent the Orioles a ton of quality baseball players – but the true crime is just how bad Bedard became as soon as he got here! He was a bona fide Ace-type pitcher for Baltimore – so much so that he was deemed to be the #1 over Felix Hernandez in his first year here – and the expectation was that our rotation would lead us back to the playoffs with Bedard in the fold. Instead, he was a consummate Five-And-Dive artist who both stunk AND couldn’t stay healthy. Why he’s not higher on this list is because all of those Mariners teams were VERY terrible and would have been regardless, with our without Bedard. Still a bitter pill to swallow.

#3 – Rick Mirer (Seahawks)

The bigger disappointment here is the fact that the Seahawks had the #2 pick at all, and not the #1 (which would’ve guaranteed us Drew Bledsoe). In that Dustin Ackley piece, I had Dan McGwire among the biggest draft pick disappointments in Seattle sports history, but that largely hinged on who we DIDN’T get in that draft – namely: Brett Favre – but I don’t think anyone REALLY expected greatness out of McGwire (except for the inept Seahawks ownership group at the time). Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was very highly regarded. Even if he wasn’t the ideal QB of that draft, he wasn’t supposed to be a bad fall-back option. But, he was worse than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. He nearly destroyed my standing as a Seahawks fan for the rest of the 1990’s! The saving grace for Mirer is the fact that we were able to flip him for a first round draft pick in 1997.

#2 – Jeff Cirillo (Mariners)

I just remember LOVING this deal so much! In December of 2001 – coming off of the Mariners’ 116-win campaign – we were looking at one of the most complete teams in the Major Leagues. One of our main weak spots was third base, where we employed the pedestrian David Bell. Cirillo, on the other hand, had a remarkable 10-year career to that point with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, where he hit over .300, had an on-base percentage over .450, hardly ever struck out, and played a quality third base! I mean, on a team with Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, Edgar, Cameron, Wilson, Guillen, McLemore, and the rest, Cirillo was only going to put us MORE over the top! That’s when we got our first big taste of what happens when guys come over from Colorado: the thin air they play in made hitting at home a breeze. Meanwhile, in Seattle, even for someone like Cirillo – who wasn’t a natural power hitter by any means – it seems like Safeco just got in everyone’s heads if nothing else. He hit for a miserable .234 across two partial seasons, and his on-base percentage plummeted to a ridiculous .295! To add insult to injury, those two seasons coincided with two of the most frustrating years to be a Mariners fan, where both teams won 93 games, yet failed to make the playoffs because baseball is dumb and only had one Wild Card team at the time. To add even more insult to even more injury, we traded him away in early 2004 and got essentially nothing back in return.

#1 – Vin Baker (Supersonics)

You don’t see a lot of Sonics on this list, because for the most part – until the bitter end – we were a pretty well-run organization. Sure, you can point to the litany of failed centers we drafted in the 2000’s, but I would argue most fans saw through those duds the minute their names were called. Similarly, everyone wondered why someone like Jim McIlvaine was given such a high-money contract, so to be “disappointed” would mean you’d have to have high expectations for someone who had hardly done anything in his career to that point! Vin Baker, on the other hand, was a multi-year All Star in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. I almost didn’t want to include Baker on this list, because for some reason I have memories of more good times than actually existed. The truth of the matter is – upon trading for him when Shawn Kemp forced his way out in a 3-team deal, justifiably, because McIlvaine – the Sonics only enjoyed ONE quality year out of Baker. The first year here, the 1997/1998 season, when he maintained his All Star streak and led the Sonics to a semifinals appearance in George Karl’s last go-around in Seattle.

He then immediately fell off the cliff. The strike-shortened season saw Baker’s alcoholism creep in, resulting in a ballooning of his weight that drastically reduced his effectiveness on the court. For some reason, in spite of his fall-off, the Sonics rewarded him with a 7-year, $86 million deal. Yet, he was never the same, with three increasingly-mediocre seasons to follow before we were able to trade him to the Celtics for a bunch of role players. There’s a lot of unfair resentment towards Baker for tanking his career the way he did, but I think mostly people just feel sorry for him. No one in Seattle wanted to see Shawn Kemp leave; indeed Wally Walker & Co. did a remarkable job of destroying a championship-calibre squad. But, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we were able to get Baker here initially! His game – if maybe not his personality – fit this team PERFECTLY! He had a better post-up game than Kemp, could shoot from long range better than Kemp, and overall you didn’t have to worry about the ups & downs. Baker was a steady 20/10 type of guy when he got here, night-in and night-out. Which makes his post-1998 years SO disappointing! His wasn’t the type of game that should’ve deteriorated so quickly. Kemp’s game was more raw athleticism; Baker’s game was fundamental basketball prowess. Yet, when it’s all said and done, two of the great basketball tragedies to come out of that lockout season were Baker and Kemp, both succumbing to being out of shape and never ultimately recovering.

The Seahawks Signed Carlos Hyde Instead

I wrote about not wanting the Seahawks to sign Devonta Freeman last week, so you could say this one-year deal for Carlos Hyde is a good thing. Forgetting money for a moment, practically speaking, signing Freeman probably would’ve been a disaster. After two very productive seasons in 2015 and 2016, it looks pretty clearly like Freeman is breaking down. He hasn’t been able to play in more than 14 games in any single season since then (with a 2-game campaign in 2018 really crushing his value), and last year he averaged a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry. It’s hard not to like his dual-threat capabilites as a pass-catcher out of the backfield – when he’s healthy – but once you start seeing this type of slide in a running back’s career, it’s pretty rare that they ever turn it around in any sort of significant way.

When you’re looking at the Seahawks, they have certain needs at the running back position that Freeman just doesn’t fit in his current condition. Chris Carson – as I’ve mentioned repeatedly – is our #1 running back. He’s set to earn the lion’s share of carries as an elite-level back in the league. But, he and our previous #2 – Rashaad Penny – are both injury-prone. The man we brought in to fill out the running back room needs to NOT be injury-prone; that, quite frankly, rules out Freeman.

Now, obviously, Carlos Hyde isn’t ideal here either. He’s missed some games. He’s also a lower-ceiling guy compared to Freeman. In a vacuum, when both players are in peak physical condition, Freeman is the better back. But, I see Hyde as the more-reliable, more-durable player. Hyde can play through injury and be more productive doing so. It’s a long season, guys get banged up and have to withstand nagging bruises and strains and whatnot. Hyde seems like a guy who will still give you everything he’s got; Freeman seems like more of a diva who’s more likely to sit out or otherwise dog it on the field if the conditions aren’t perfect.

Hyde also, not for nothing, has a similar hard-nosed running style to Carson, so if our starter goes down, I don’t expect we’ll miss a beat at all.

I’ve always really liked Hyde. I don’t think he’s gotten a fair shake in this league. The 49ers, for some reason, never seemed to want to commit to him, opting to bring in a bevy of mediocre running backs. They often tried to feature those mediocre guys when Hyde was clearly out-playing them, which made no sense to me! It’s even more mind-boggling to me that he’s bounced around so much; the Seahawks will be his fourth team in three seasons. He’s such a Seahawky-type of guy it’s unbelievable we didn’t bring him in sooner!

I don’t know all the contract details, but it sounds like a 1-year contract that will be worth UP TO $4 million. Which means, there’s likely a base deal between $2-3 million, with incentives that would elevate it based on playing time and production. That’s probably a fair deal for a guy like Hyde. You don’t necessarily WANT him to see all of those incentives reached – because that probably means Carson will have gotten hurt again – but it’s comforting to know he’s here just in case.

In an ideal world, of course, Hyde wouldn’t be here at all. You’d roll with Carson, Homer, and Dallas and utilize those salary cap savings elsewhere. For as much as the Seahawks love to get young players involved early, they seem to be hyper-cautious about trusting young running backs. I thought Homer looked pretty good in limited playing time last year as a rookie. From what it sounds like, Dallas is supposedly the best blocking running back in this year’s draft. Rashaad Penny is SUPPOSED to return from injury at some point during the regular season, so there’s another set of fresh legs to help us in the stretch run!

But, that’s a lot of if’s. At this point, no one should count on Carson playing in every single game. Homer probably tops out as a backup running back in any prospect projection. And, Dallas is a rookie; unless he’s taken in the top 15, I don’t know if I’d EVER trust a rookie completely. Plus, Penny’s injury is very serious, and a lot of times guys returning from ACL tears don’t look the same the next season (it often takes two years to return to normal again), with a high rate of re-injury to that or another body part in their rush to return to game action.

So, figure Hyde is a $4 million insurance policy. With the added bonus of being someone who can step onto the field at any point this season and help this offense move the ball. He’s a veteran who will be another positive leader for the younger guys to emulate, but he’s not so old that it feels like a novelty (which, let’s face it, is what Marshawn Lynch would be at this point).

Plus, I mean, it’s not like Lynch is going anywhere. If he continues to stay in shape, there’s nothing stopping us – at any point during the regular season – from re-signing him and throwing him back into the fire like we did in 2019.

Seahawks, Please DO NOT Sign Devonta Freeman

I’ll say it: at ANY price!

Look, I get it (I guess). Rashaad Penny is injured and likely to start the season on the PUP list. Our current running back room looks like: Chris Carson, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and the rest. Carson, obviously, has never met a football season that didn’t kick him in the testicles with some injury or another. Homer is heading into his second season and in a brief tryout late in 2019 as the starter, didn’t appear to be anything special. Dallas is obviously an incoming rookie without the aid of a Training Camp to get any sort of look at him within the confines of our offensive scheme. We (sort of) need a veteran backup to plug in there, just in case Carson goes down.

Marshawn Lynch’s name was bandied about recently (which is always fun, because Beastmode rules), and he would certainly fit what we (the fans) are looking for: cool dude, inexpensive, great in goalline situations, good teammate, and willing to play backup to someone like Carson who – at this point in their respective careers – is clearly the better of the two. I don’t see ONE good reason not to go with Lynch and call it a day.

But, this is the Seahawks we’re talking about. They’re incapable of not turning over every single stone in hopes of trying to find the perfect fit.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the names of all the free agent running backs out there, but I’m assuming there are a lot of them. Carlos Hyde was another name referenced yesterday, and again, GREAT! He was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, averaged 4.4 yards per attempt with the Texans, will be heading into his age-30 season, and most importantly doesn’t figure to cost a FUCKING arm and a leg!

To be fair, I could be wrong on that score. Maybe he is looking for upwards of $4-5 million like Devonta Freeman. If so, I’m sorry, but no.

Freeman – of the titular Devonta Freeman from this blog post – is even younger than Hyde. He’s also been significantly worse than Hyde the last three years; he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2016! Injuries have decimated his value, so the fact that he’s looking for a $5 million deal is hilarious to me. NO! Do NOT do this!

Let me just say this for the record: none of the free agent running backs on the market at the time of this writing are worth ANYTHING over $2 million dollars. You want to know the bar? Chris Carson is set to earn $2.133 million in the final year of his deal this season. He deserves to be the highest-paid running back on this team, because he’ll be the starter heading in and is – when healthy – one of the most talented running backs in football. Veteran or not, none of these other guys deserve to earn one cent more than Carson, period.

There’s clearly a reason why these guys are still available. No one else wants them! So, why would you negotiate against yourselves? It’s a complete waste of money, when – AGAIN – we still need to fill out our roster along the defensive line! HELLO?!?! Is ANYBODY listening?!

I’m gonna go ahead and post this now, before I’m disappointed later to discover that Freeman is the newest member of the Seahawks and I have to start talking myself into why this is a good idea. God help us all.

Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

General Manager John Schneider has been in the news a lot lately, doing interviews and whatnot. Over the years, it’s hard not to have your ears perk up whenever this happens. It’s obviously not a super-busy time in the football year; once the hullabaloo around the draft is over, things are pretty dead until ramping back up again in August. So, what’s with all the chatter?

The sports media landscape is a lot different nowadays. Players and teams are much more savvy with what they let get out into the world (for the most part). If there’s a news item about a player, it’s generally some bit of information that’s been leaked to a trusted reporter – who is always loathe to reveal his “sources” because he wants to maintain that connect for future stories – for a very specific reason. Depending on the tenor of the story, you can tell if it was the player’s camp or a team camp that leaked it. This is usually done in conjunction with negotiations – the team doesn’t want to pay as much, the player wants to squeeze every last dollar out of his value – so little items are thrown out into the world. It’s the cosmic ballet that is professional sports and … it’s really just a distraction, but ultimately not very important.

It’s all about image. No one wants to be the bad guy in this song and dance. It’s all just business; nothing personal!

You can’t help but start to take notice, though, when instead of leaking messages as an anonymous source, the team sends a prominent representative out into the world to show their hand. Teams don’t have to do any more media appearances than is otherwise necessary to drum up interest in fans and sell season tickets. So, that’s why you tend to see the coach and/or GM in the good times: during/immediately after the draft, and upon signing a quality free agent. These are advertisements – infomercials, if you will – for the Seattle Seahawks Football Club: Catch The Excitement! As draft hysteria has drifted back out to sea, however, we’re still seeing John Schneider pop up to talk about the Seahawks’ offseason plan. With good reason, of course.

There are two universal truths we’ve been harping on since the 2019 season ended: the Seahawks’ pass rush stinks, and Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent. After making a number of moves – signing Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, re-signing Jarran Reed, drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson – the consensus is: the Seahawks’ pass rush still stinks. Again, I can’t stress this enough: it stunk as bad as could possibly be in 2019 and that was WITH Clowney, one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league (when healthy). As it turns out, that health factor is a lot bigger than we anticipated, as Clowney remains unsigned well into the month of May, with no end in sight.

What has caught a lot of eyes is the fact that the Seahawks – according to Over The Cap – have a little over $16 million in salary cap space at the moment. Of course, it should be noted that this figure doesn’t factor in the rookie salaries we’ll have to pay for our draft picks. Then, you have to set aside some money for minimum-salary guys the team brings in when our regulars get hurt and have to go on Injured Reserve. Also, the Seahawks put a lot of incentives into their deals with players that don’t necessarily show up in cap totals until those players hit those incentives. All these hidden figures ultimately detract from that $16 million. Smart fans know this, but most fans aren’t as into the weeds on these things; so they see a player like Clowney – easily the best-available free agent still on the market – and they see their Seahawks with a need at the very position he fills, and they’re wondering, “What gives?”

I mean, if nothing else, you have to figure that’s what Clowney’s agent is saying in negotiations with the Seahawks!

Beat writers and bloggers can bring up these hidden salary cap expenses until they’re blue in the face, but most fans are only going to sit up and take notice when the team tells them something directly. Enter: John Schneider.

There’s been a definite theme in his recent interviews that Schneider has been trying to get across: the importance of in-season moves.

The Seahawks are no stranger to making roster moves all throughout the year. Why, in 2019 alone, we made a deal for Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season that vastly improved our secondary; on top of taking a flier on Josh Gordon, who had at least one big catch in every game he appeared in. Then, with our rash of running back injuries late in the year, we famously brought back Marshawn Lynch to score us a few TDs in December and January! If I wanted to put in the work, I’m sure I could go back and list a bunch of other in-season moves the Seahawks have made through the years, but just trust me when I tell you that this isn’t a new concept for this organization.

And yet, this is the first time I ever remember the team harping on this fact in interviews. It’s obviously for a reason!

The way I see it, this has everything to do with Clowney, and it can be only one of two things. Either the team truly has moved on from Clowney, and the Seahawks are trying to get fans on board with this decision; or the team actually IS willing to bring Clowney back, but they’re going to remain firm in their lowball offer to him, and he either needs to get on board with it or find employment elsewhere.

This has to be hard for fans AND Clowney to reconcile, because as has been noted repeatedly, the Seahawks have a number of moves they can make to free up some extra money. They can cut certain veterans to free up salary cap space; but, this weakens our depth and probably robs Peter to pay Paul. Sure, our defensive line will be stronger with Clowney, but if that means cutting Bradley McDougald, that likely weakens our secondary and could be a wash in the grand scheme of 2020 things. They can also convert base salaries for guys like Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner – guys you know aren’t going anywhere – into signing bonuses, to further spread out those figures across the remaining lives of their respective contracts; but, that kicks the can down the road and puts your team’s financial flexibility in jeopardy in a few years. Under normal circumstances, you could argue that’s a no-brainer – especially with Russell Wilson, who isn’t going ANYWHERE, hopefully ever – but with this whole COVID-19 pandemic (and the likelihood of games being played without money from ticket sales/concessions coming in for part or all of 2020), the effects on future salary caps could be dire. The NFL salary cap has gone up by around 10% or so every season since the last CBA went into effect in 2010, but there’s a very legitimate chance that it stays flat or even goes DOWN in the next year or two. Considering Wilson – as is – takes up a considerable percentage of the team’s cap number, boosting that by converting his base into bonus just seems like flirting with disaster.

The thing is, I do believe the Seahawks are being truthful when they talk about the importance of in-season moves. There are always guys being waived, or otherwise floated in trade offers, and it’s nice to have that flexibility to bring on talented players (or at least prevent those talented players from going to your playoff rivals). I also believe that the Seahawks can’t put all their eggs in the Clowney basket. However small it may feel, there’s a non-zero chance that the Seahawks’ pass rush actually manages to IMPROVE (somehow) without him here. It’s going to take a big leap of faith; guys who have never performed at this level are going to have to step up and take some of the load off of mediocre-looking veterans. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE … but, you know, I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess.

The bottom line is: probably don’t count on Clowney being back. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the Seahawks bring SOMEONE in, that’s an actual name who we can count on to give this pass rush a little more zazz.

Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Offense

Yesterday, we got into it with what the Seahawks should do on defense. In case you couldn’t tell, these last two posts were supposed to be one, but as usual I got a little wordy, so here we are. Maybe someday I’ll do a Kill Bill-style re-imagining and smash these two posts into one big one. Probably not, but you never know.

Here are the offensive free agents-to-be, in some particular order:

Offense

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Joey Hunt (C)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • George Fant (T/TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • David Moore (WR)
  • Jaron Brown (WR)
  • Geno Smith (QB)
  • C.J. Prosise (RB)

That’s a lotta O-Line. Today’s edition is going to be a little different than yesterday’s, as I’m gonna talk about one of our potential cuts right at the top.

The Seahawks have a HUGE decision to make at the center spot. Not a lot of people are talking about it right now, but soon it’s going to be everywhere. Justin Britt – who has been a reliable starter for the last few years – will be heading into the final year of his deal. He’s set to count approximately $11.4 million against the salary cap. He’s also coming off of an ACL injury that ended his season and required surgery.

Joey Hunt – a 6th rounder from 2016 – filled in and did pretty well. He’s obviously undersized, and usually once a game he’d get knocked back on his ass in embarrassing fashion, but other than that I thought he was fine. Also, given his own salary, there was great value there, as I don’t feel like we dropped off much at all compared to Britt. Obviously, starting so many games this season, Hunt is set for a raise, but I have to imagine it’s still less than what Britt is currently earning, meaning this is an opportunity for the team to save some money in the long term. If we cut Britt, he only counts about $2.9 million against the cap, which is about $8.5 million in savings for 2020.

I think the Seahawks should cut Britt, extend Hunt (maybe in the $4-5 million per year range), and draft another center to study under him. Now, Hunt is a restricted free agent, meaning we can slap a 1st round tender (a little over $4.5 million), a 2nd round tender (a little over $3 million), or an original round tender (a little over $2 million) to keep him for another season. That’s also an option. An original round tender seems like a waste, as I could easily see another team willing to sign him long term and give us a 6th rounder. Even a 2nd round tender feels like cheaping out; I’d look to slap a 1st round tender on him and play chicken with the rest of the league; I can’t imagine anyone giving up a 1st round pick for Hunt, and if so, then god bless ’em. And, who knows, if the guy we draft ends up being a stud, then maybe we let Hunt walk after 2020 and go with the draft pick going forward.

Either way, I’d like to have seen Justin Britt make his last start in a Seahawks uniform in 2019.

The next big decision revolves around Ifedi. We all know Ifedi. He’s a 4-year starter who was absolutely the whipping boy of an entire fanbase for his first two years in the league. He took a big step forward in 2018, and continued that work on into 2019. Now, of course, he’s not perfect. He gets penalized a lot, he gives up a good amount of pressure, but you can’t deny he’s made progress. Plus, he’s durable, and most importantly: the NFL simply has a shortage of reliable offensive linemen, so the demand for him on the open market is sure to be high. The Seahawks were already unwilling to give him a 5th-year option (which was a little over $10 million), so you can take that one of two ways: either they were taking a wait-and-see approach, or they just don’t think he’s worth that money on a short-term basis.

The Seahawks COULD use some of the savings by letting Britt go to extend Ifedi. Extending him another 4 years or so would allow the team to spread the signing bonus around, which would help us in the short term (likely resulting in a cap hit less than $10 million in the first year, allowing us to wait for the league-wide salary cap figures to continue to grow, as they have every year since the current CBA was put into place).

Or, the Seahawks could let Ifedi walk, but that comes with great risk, as I don’t believe they have his replacement on our roster just yet. Which brings us to George Fant. He obviously is looking to get a starting job somewhere, and I can’t imagine he’d be willing to stay here unless there are built-in assurances that he’s set to replace Duane Brown when he retires. But, that would still likely require a significant financial investment in a guy who figures to be a hot commodity around the league. Fant has lots of experience, including starting experience at the all-important left tackle position. The way around that quandry is to give Fant the right tackle job right away, then slide him over to the left side when Brown’s contract expires, and hopefully have developed the right tackle of the future in the interim.

The other option is to let Fant and Ifedi walk, and select a right tackle HIGH in this year’s draft. But, that comes with it pretty much the same thing we dealt with in Ifedi’s first two seasons here: lots and lots of growing pains.

If I had to make a decision now, I’d lean towards keeping one of either Ifedi or Fant. Preferably Fant – if the salaries are similar – but if he’s going to break the bank somewhere for a super high deal, then settle for Ifedi and try to develop your next left tackle of the future. I REALLY don’t want to lose them both, but I’d understand if the money is too prohibitive.

As for Iupati, I think we could retain him on the cheap if we needed to. That would allow us to continue bringing Jamarco Jones along slowly, and allowing him to be our backup guard on both sides of the center.

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Let’s talk about tight ends and receivers now.

Will Dissly should be back for the start of 2020, but he’s pretty much all we got. I would LOVE for the Seahawks to extend Hollister, though he’s a restricted free agent, so I think we could get away with a 2nd round tender on him (it would be pointless to put an original round tender on him, as he went undrafted, and I feel like he’s built up enough value in his time here to be worth more than nothing). If someone signs Hollister and is willing to give us a 2nd round pick, then GREAT! More ammo for the upcoming draft.

As for Luke Willson, I think it’s worth it to bring him back on a minimum deal. I also think the team should invest in another blocking tight end in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, as we obviously need the depth with Dissly’s injury issues.

I think we should let Jaron Brown walk. He was an okay veteran, but he’s not worth the money. I could see us slapping an original round tender on David Moore, as a little over $2 million isn’t going to break the bank, and quite frankly I’d welcome the 7th rounder if another team signed him.

With Lockett and Metcalf, our top two receiver spots are locked up. The Seahawks obviously kept John Ursua on the roster all year (and traded back into the seventh round of the 2019 draft) for a reason. He was a healthy scratch for all but a small handful of games, but this team sees potential in him as a #3 receiver. I think that starts to take hold in 2020. If he puts in the work this offseason, I could see him making a huge impact in training camp and pre-season, and then sliding right into a regular role on this team.

If David Moore comes back, that’s your top 4 receiver spots right there, leaving us maybe one more for a veteran-minimum guy, or another young gun out on the scrap heap. The Seahawks are fine at receiver; I don’t see a huge need to spend a lot of money here.

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As for the rest, it’s time to let C.J. Prosise go away and spread his wings. He’s officially spent significant time every season of his NFL career injured. With Carson, Penny, and Homer all returning, there’s no point in bringing Prosise back. Draft another running back if you have to. Or, hell, bring back Turbin or Lynch! Just not Prosise; I can’t take it anymore.

And, yeah, if you want, bring Geno Smith back. I have no problem with that. He should be cheap and hopefully never play, so it’s no skin off my nose. Or, draft a quarterback in the later rounds; who cares?

***

Other than Britt, the only possible cut I see on the offense is Ed Dickson, which should go without saying. He’s played in 10 games (including playoffs) in his two full years here in Seattle. He’s set to count nearly $4 million against the cap; we’d save approximately $3 million by cutting him. It’s a no-brainer.

As for possible early extensions, the only real candidate is Chris Carson, but I would caution strongly against it. 2020 is the final year of his deal and he’s earning less than $1 million. He’s also proven to be injury prone, as well as fumble prone, so I would not pour a ton of money into him. If he’s looking for money in the $5-10 million range, let him seek it elsewhere. If he holds out of training camp and the pre-season in 2020, let him. DRAFT ANOTHER RUNNING BACK. A big one, in the Carson/Lynch mold. Don’t tie your future to Carson, it won’t end well!

***

All in all, I like what the Seahawks have going on offense. I don’t think they really need to shake it up all that much in the skill position area. Little tweaks here and there, plus some depth through the draft should be fine.

The Seahawks have around $68.5 million in cap space, minus around $10 million or so for incidentals (dead money, practice squad, draft picks, IR, incentives, etc.). I feel like most of that needs to go towards the defensive line, with a good chunk set aside for our offensive line (to either keep what we’ve got together, or find quality replacements in free agency). The worst thing we can do is put a bunch of money into bringing in new receivers and running backs; let Russell Wilson carry that burden. Worry more about the lines.

I know I can sound like I’m down on the Seahawks, but it’s not like we’re the Browns or Lions or Dolphins. We’re not a team in total peril. But, we still need to make a lot of moves and hit on those moves if we want to be a legitimate championship contender, and not a wild card team just happy to be playing on the road in the Divisional Round. The only thing more frustrating than that is being 8-8 every year, and quite frankly I don’t think we’re too far off from that either.

Wasting Russell Wilson’s prime should be a crime punishable by death. Let’s hope we get this thing figured out, because it’s not like the NFC West is getting any easier.

Seahawks Death Week: The 2019 Seahawks Were Too Pure For This World

I’m still sort of catatonic and it’s going to be at least another day before I actually WANT to talk about the Seahawks, but here I am, ever the trooper. Honestly, I want to say about an hour or so after the game ended – after reading all the post-mortem tweets and finishing the last two episodes of Letterkenny just to unwind and try to laugh again – I was EXHAUSTED. I could barely keep my eyes open. The game, as usual (and as expected), was so intense and nerve-wracking, then it was over and I was so upset and ready to burn the whole fucking thing to ashes, I really expected to be wired and obsessing over it into the midnight hour. But, I was in bed not only at a reasonable hour, but probably 60-90 minutes before I really NEEDED to go to sleep. I wouldn’t say I’m wide-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning – I kept dreaming of being chased by giant rabbit monsters – but I guess I could always be less refreshed, so I’ll take it.

I was really trying, you guys. I was reverse-jinxing my ASS off these last couple weeks and I hope it was appreciated! I feel like my efforts alone got the Seahawks past the Eagles and if I’m not immortalized in this season’s Wikipedia page, then there’s a great injustice in the world. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to get us through the Divisional Round.

Truth be told, I think the result would’ve been exactly the same had we played the 49ers on Saturday. Just a hunch, obviously there’s no way to know for sure, but I actually liked our chances a lot more had we somehow managed to beat the Packers and gotten to face them next week. Not for nothing, but the ideal scenario – winning the division, securing that 3-seed – still figures to have been the best path to success this playoff season. In that case, we would’ve beaten the Vikings at home (no doubt in my mind; Kirk Cousins is a fraud), gone on the road to play the Saints (who have proven they’re not unbeatable at home; plus it’s a climate-controlled dome over the freezing cold of Lambeau Field), and then either hosting the 49ers for the NFC Championship Game or going on the road to play the Packers after they’ve been tenderized by Frisco. The Super Bowl isn’t a mortal lock in that alternate universe, but I have to believe it beats our stupid reality.

The bottom line is: these Seahawks just weren’t good enough. We’ve overachieved all season, and this result is probably our absolute ceiling: going on the road in the Divisional Round, fighting back against an underwhelming 13-3 Packers team, and losing a 1-score game.

I mean, I hate to keep harping on it, but we were +7 in point differential in the regular season. Including our two playoff games, we’re +10 over 18 games; it’s almost a miracle we got THIS far. Play this season in a million different simulations, and I’m not sure there are too many examples of better outcomes than what we saw this year.

In my darkest hour, when I reflect back on this season, I’ll always wonder what could’ve been if we’d hired a babysitter for Josh Gordon …

We don’t really need to dwell too hard on the first half; it went about as expected. If gambling were legalized, you know what I would’ve done? I would’ve bet our poor, mistreated Taylor Family Farm on the Packers in the first half. What was it, -2 points? THAT was the easiest money of the weekend. With they way they always get off to hot starts – and the way we always trip over our own dicks – how do you not make that bet?

We went down 7 early, punted on our first two possessions, and then pulled it to 7-3 on a very unsatisfying drive that started at our own 42 yard line. Those would be our only points of the half, as we missed our other field goal attempt; meanwhile the Packers dominated the second quarter to go up 21-3. If it’s a Divisional Round matchup and the Seahawks are on the road, we’re DEFINITELY going to shit the bed for the first 30 minutes of the game, that’s just a given.

Then, the big climb out of the gutter. Touchdown to Lynch out of the break, 21-10. The Packers came right back down the field – embarrassingly easy, which was the name of the game – to make it 28-10, but to our credit we got right back to work with a long drive to make it 28-17. Then, we forced the first of two punts of the half, and things felt like they were turning. On our first drive of the fourth quarter, we drove all the way down again to score on another Lynch goalline plunge to make it 28-23; getting sacked on a corner blitz on the 2-point try felt like a pretty large tell that things were about to get shitty again.

BUT! We forced yet another punt, and now it REALLY looked like this game was going to be memorable. At that point, the Packers’ defense was spent. Our offense was humming, we were letting Russell cook – as the kids like to say – and right off the bat he hit Lockett for an easy 14-yard gain.

Then, arguably the play of the game. He had Malik Turner wide open on the Green Bay side of the 50-yard line. He hit him in the gut with the ball. And Turner dropped it. You know who wouldn’t have dropped it? Josh Gordon, but that’s neither here nor there. Okay, that was only first down, not a huge deal, right? We came back to hit Hollister for five yards to make 3rd & Manageable at our own 42 yard line. It sounds like MAYBE we considered making that 4-down territory, but we’ll never know for sure because for some reason, whatever play we called left Hollister trying to block one of the best pass rushers on Green Bay, who easily beat him for a 6-yard sack (with Ifedi standing there with nothing to do but fondle his own choad, I guess, instead of helping the overmatched receiving tight end against a linebacker who had at least 50 pounds of muscle on him).

At 4th & 11 at our own 36 yard line, punting was the right choice, in my mind. We had all three time outs (somehow, none were wasted), plus the 2-minute warning. If our defense could’ve forced just one more punt, the game could’ve been ours.

But, we let them convert a 3rd & 8 and a 3rd & 9 to salt away the game. And, here’s where I start calling out some guys, because it’s time.

Lano Hill was on the field, and I want to say he was involved in getting beaten on both of those third downs. He’s the fucking WORST. I saw Marquise Blair was inactive with an injury in practice this week, and that might legitimately be the reason why we lost this game. Words can’t describe how terrible Lano Hill is, and I can’t believe we’re stuck with him for one more season.

Let’s see, who else? AHH! Tre Flowers sure did suck! That guy couldn’t cover (my old, dead granny? the broad side of a barn? a cold?) Rock in a game of Rock/Paper/Scissors where his opponent had both hands genetically fused into the shapes of fists! (nailed it). He really doesn’t look like he’s made any progress between Year 1 and Year 2; frankly he looks the same as he did in his very first game. At no point whatsoever did I trust him against Davante Adams yesterday, nor any other receiver they opted to slot to his side. He was a total disaster in this game, and he’s eating a pretty significant slice of the “Reasons Why The Seahawks Lost To The Packers” Pie.

Also, I don’t know who I should blame for this, but not adjusting your scheme to put your best cornerback (Shaquill Griffin) on the other team’s best receiver (Adams) when it’s pretty apparent they’ve only got the one good one … I mean, it’s appalling! 8 catches for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. You can’t allow that, while also allowing Jimmy Graham to do what he did, while also allowing them to get decent yardage on the ground, while also allowing them to go 9/14 on third downs.

(also, I know it’s annoying that Graham made all those big catches and ended our season, but he still sucks and they could’ve paid literally any tight end to do the exact same thing; instead they’re taking on a $12.67 million cap hit in 2019 for a stiff, slow, soft bum to do those things, so good for them I suppose)

I know Pete Carroll probably makes that call, but I agree with Field Gulls here, you’ve GOT to find someone who is halfway competent to run this defense. All Ken Norton has shown in his time here is that he’s decent at developing linebackers. As a former linebacker … WHAT A STRETCH!

For shits n’ giggs, here’s a rudimentary look at how Norton’s units have fared since he’s been a Defensive Cordinator. He was a DC for Oakland from 2015-2017, then in Seattle the last two seasons. So, we’ll look at those defenses the year before he arrived, as well as the years he was in charge (in bold and underlined):

  • Raiders 2014: 32nd in points, 21st in yards, 16th in passing yards, 22nd in rushing yards
  • 2015: 22nd in points, 22nd in yards, 26th in passing, 13th in rushing
  • 2016: 20th in points, 26th in yards, 24th in passing, 23rd in rushing
  • 2017: 20th in points, 23rd in yards, 26th in passing, 12th in rushing
  • Seahawks 2017: 13th in points, 11th in yards, 6th in passing yards, 19th in rushing yards
  • 2018: 11th in points, 16th in yards, 17th in passing, 13th in rushing
  • 2019: 22nd in points, 26th in yards, 27th in passing, 22nd in rushing

I’ll let smarter people than me dig into the analytics, but those are numbers everyone can understand, and they’re NOT GREAT BOB! I’m stepping on the toes of some later posts this week, but Ken Norton has done nothing to warrant keeping his job in Seattle.

Getting back to this game, I’ll gladly shit on Malik Turner a second time. He belongs in the XFL posthaste. He’s just a guy. Jaron Brown is just a guy. Every receiver not named Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf are JAGs and this is a spot – with how frequently the Seahawks are in 3-wide receiver sets – the team could use an upgrade (again, lament the loss of poor Josh Gordon).

Everyone’s talking about the total absence of turnovers in recent weeks, so I guess I’ll mention that here. But, I always treat those as fluke occurrences; if you’re counting on your team to generate turnovers, then you’re bound to be disappointed in games like these. The Packers take good care of the ball. They’re well coached. And, they have one of the best quarterbacks of all time who has NEVER really turned the ball over much. Expecting Aaron Rodgers to throw picks is a better definition of insanity than the old cliche everone trots out on a daily basis nowadays.

I’m more disturbed by the lack of a pass rush, which is something far more in our control. I know it’s dumb to send the house against quarterbacks like A-Rod, but also leaving him in a pocket for 10 seconds to scan the field three or four times is also a bad recipe. Of course, that was our concern from the very beginning of the season, so I’ll say again: Thanks Ziggy Ansah, for NOTHING! That’s not totally fair, since he got hurt last week, but he also brought nothing to the table the entire season, so fuck him.

Anyway, 2 sacks for 8 yards (and, really, not too many pressures beyond that, ESPECIALLY on that final drive to run out the clock) won’t get it done against the Packers. You’ve got to get A-Rod on his ass early and often and have him running from ghosts by the 4th quarter.

***

It wasn’t a total disaster of a game though, so I’ll finish with some bright spots.

I won’t give the Marshawn Lynch Experience a letter grade in his return to the Seahawks; he gets special treatment of the pass/fail variety. And, in that sense, it’s an easy Pass for Beastmode. He had 2 TDs in this one on 26 yards rushing. It was tough sledding, as I feared it might. I’ve said this too many times to count: the Seahawks tend to get owned by really elite interior linemen, and Kenny Clark’s return was the difference in this one. He clogged up the middle and there was just nowhere for our guy to run. I like the idea of giving Lynch more carries and essentially making him the starter in this one over Homer – and he certainly made SOME chicken salad out of the chicken shit blocking we were giving him – but I don’t know if anyone on our roster or out in the free agent scrap heap could’ve done any better.

That’s 4 more touchdowns to throw on the Marshawn Lynch career pile, including 3 more in the playoffs, to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances. I really hope he makes it someday.

Ever since Shaquem Griffin started getting some run at defensive end in passing situations, I’ve been waiting for him to get his first sack in a huge situation, so it’s fitting it came in our last game of the season, in the fourth quarter, which ended up forcing the Packers to punt. What a fucking cool moment, with his brother getting there at nearly the same time, allowing them to celebrate together! Ruined, of course, by Malik Turner and our offense’s inability to capitalize. But, that’s something big to build on heading into the 2020 season.

Russell Wilson, of course, had a fine game. He wasn’t given a lot of help, but once again he accounted for an insanely high percentage of this offense’s output. 341 of our 387 yards came from Wilson’s arm or legs (not counting sack yardage).

One guy who showed up in a huge way was Tyler Lockett: 9 for 136 and a touchdown. As expected, with D.K. being the story last week, he had a relatively quiet game, as the Packers put a lot of resources his way. But, thankfully Lockett was up to the task, as he was getting open all over the field.

Before I forget, I can’t tell you how impressed I was with Duane Brown. He wasn’t perfect, but he was definitely needed, and rushing back from surgery to start in this game was super-human. Unfortunately, Mike Iupati couldn’t make the same miracle recovery, and he was seriously missed in the middle. Without him – and with Jamarco Jones leaving early with a head injury – there was absolutely nothing we could do with the aforementioned Kenny Clark.

Defensively, I dunno. Our front seven did pretty well, given the circumstances. We held down their rushing, and got better as the game went along in that regard. Clowney was a warrior. Bobby Wagner had some big stops. But, we didn’t get much from our safeties, and in the end we just couldn’t make the stops when it mattered most. The Packers were 3/3 in the red zone, all for touchdowns, and you just can’t do that against this team and expect to win. You have to make one of those a field goal! And, I don’t know what the fuck happened on that 40-yard TD to Adams, but 1-on-1 coverage with Flowers as the primary was inexcusable. He should’ve been double-teamed all day, and ultimately that call comes from the top.

Terrible defensive scheme by Pete Carroll. You were ultimately the reason why we lost this game. Of course, you’re also the reason why we ended up making the playoffs in the first place, and got this far with a team that probably should’ve been 9-7 or 8-8, so good job I guess?

They can’t all be Bill Belichick.

For Real This Time: We’ve Come To The End Of The Road For The 2019 Seahawks

Every year, after the Seahawks’ season ends – meaning they either get knocked out of the playoffs, they fail to make those playoffs, or that one time they won it all and the NFL season came to its conclusion – I run a week’s worth of posts under the banner “Seahawks Death Week”. Sort of an In Memoriam, as it really does have a funereal feel whenever the NFL season comes to a close. Without the NBA in my life – and still a year away from the NHL – what do I have to look forward to for the next 9 months? Baseball? The Mariners?! Stick a gun in my mouth right now …

Anyway, ever the trooper, I’ve already gotten a jumpstart on Seahawks Death Week, outlining the set of posts that will drop in the coming days. There’s the traditional final game recap, an always-unsatisfying “What Went Right” piece (to try to bring a little hope into the following season), a raging “What Went Wrong” screed, and my favorite exercise: What The Seahawks Should Do Next (because the NFL season never really ends, when you can obsess about the draft and free agency).

In case you couldn’t tell, I believe this is where the Seahawks’ season ends. I’ve said that all along, as soon as we blew it against the Cardinals and 49ers at the end of the season, and we officially got saddled with the Wild Card. Indeed, I’ve harped on this for years: it’s not enough just to get INTO the playoffs, you’ve got to get one of those top two seeds or you’re just deluding yourself.

As I wrote about yesterday, it’s very difficult to win on the road in the Divisional Round of the playoffs; the Seahawks are 0 for their last 8 in this situation. It’s not just a Seattle problem; in the previous 10 seasons (because I really didn’t want to go back further and work on this forever), only 10 teams who played on Wild Card weekend advanced beyond the Divisional Round. And, of those 10, only 4 were actual Wild Card teams who had to go on the road for the duration of the playoffs. The last time an actual Wild Card team advanced to its respective conference championship game was – oddly enough – the 49ers from 2013, when we beat them with The Tip. Not for nothing, but the last time a Wild Card team won it all was Green Bay back in the 2010 season (as a 6-seed, no less).

So, in the last 40 Divisional Round games, 4 teams went on the road in the Wild Card round, won, and then went on the road again and won the very next week. How can you not love those odds?!

Part of me tried to talk myself into believing this week, simply for the fact that we haven’t seen the Packers yet this year (or, more importantly, they haven’t seen us). We last played them on a Thursday Night game in 2018, when they sucked and eventually fired their head coach. I never totally understood that team; sure their defense was so-so, but that’s always been their weakness. But, the fact that their offense struggled so much – with Aaron Rodgers at the helm – really spoke volumes towards why they needed to make a change. Anyway, I tend to like our chances more when a team hasn’t had to face us in the regular season. I don’t have a ton of evidence to back this up, but here are four recent examples to try to bolster my flawed theory:

  • 2018 – Beat Dallas in the regular season; lost in the Wild Card round
  • 2016 – Beat Atlanta in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round
  • 2015 – Lost to Carolina in the regular season & Divisional Round
  • 2010 – Beat Chicago in the regular season; lost in the Divisional Round

It’s more of a feeling or a generality than a hard and true fact, but it just seems like most teams – when they get a crack at taking on a good team a second (or, if you’re in the same division, third) time, it’s not like it was before. I don’t know if that Eagles game last week would’ve ended remarkably different had Wentz not gone out, but it’s not difficult to fathom the Seahawks ultimately losing (surely Wentz would’ve been better in the red zone in the fourth quarter than McCown, you have to give me that).

***

Anyway, let’s get back to this week’s opponent. This year, the Packers have been much more balanced. I don’t know if I ever feel great about playing Green Bay; with Rodgers, you know they always have a chance, regardless of the talent level around him (this HAS to be what opposing fan bases think about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson). I especially don’t feel great about playing Green Bay when they’ve got a quality running game and a better-than-you-think defense. In the NFL, you’re never without flaws, but this is a Packers team that lacks a real GLARING weakness.

On the flipside, you could also argue that the Packers also aren’t particularly elite at any one aspect either. Honestly, for how balanced they’ve been on offense, I would’ve expected them to be running up the score on some of these crappy teams they’ve played. Instead, they’ve done just enough, and sometimes have played down to the level of their competition (sound familiar?).

Their two real embarrassing losses both came on the road, at the Chargers and 49ers. The loss in L.A. feels wrong in retrospect; I don’t really have a great reason for that happening (other than me believing they’d cover the spread, since I’m apparently the world’s worst football gambler).

They’re actually kind of middle-of-the-road in a lot of key areas. They’re not especially dominant at getting sacks or preventing sacks. That having been said, I don’t figure we’ll be able to get Rodgers on his ass all that much in this one, and with our O-Line as banged up as it is, I fully expect Russell Wilson to be running for his life like last week. They’re also weirdly not great at converting third downs, which I wouldn’t have expected. My hunch is that maybe they went overly conservative in the regular season, with their easy schedule and whatnot. If you’re almost always in it and/or leading, you don’t need to take as many chances on converting third downs.

The keys, as usual, will be those third downs, as well as turnovers and big plays. I wouldn’t expect too many interceptions in this one, as both quarterbacks have had fantastic seasons not giving the ball away; but you just can’t predict fumbles (when they’re going to happen, or whether or not you’re going to lose out on them). Bad fumble luck will make an already-difficult situation pretty much impossible.

I never know what to expect from this Seahawks defense when it comes to giving up big plays. It seems like we can’t help but give up a few – especially between the 20’s – but obviously the emergence of Quandre Diggs has helped curtail that a little. The thing about not playing Green Bay earlier this season kind of gets thrown out the window when you consider how many times Aaron Rodgers has gone up against our defense in the Pete Carroll era; they’re practically a divisional opponent and one of our biggest rivals at this point!

I feel like our biggest liability in this one will be third downs. Rodgers is more than happy to dink and dunk it around our linebackers, picking up good chunks of yardage. This is, of course, a byproduct of our lack of pass rush, which I think will return with a vengeance this week after a season-high 7 sacks last week in Philly (this point is nailed home by the fact that the Packers’ O-Line is fully healthy for the first time in a while). Rodgers knows how to beat this team at this point; there’s nothing we can throw at him that will be a surprise.

***

Offensively, for the Seahawks, if we’re able to move the ball, we should be in it at least. Thankfully, the Packers don’t figure to be nearly as talented at stopping the run as the Eagles. We should get a good, honest look at what the Seahawks have in Homer and Lynch; are they okay? Or are we fucked because one is a Day Three Rookie and the other is over the hill?

Containing Green Bay’s pressure will be important, as they have a couple of outside linebackers with 13.5 and 12 sacks respectively (Za’Darius & Preston Smith). The only real interior threat looks to be nose tackle Kenny Clark, who returned to practice this week after battling an injury. Of all the quality defenders they have, the thought of Clark clogging up the middle probably scares me the most. If we’ve got two maniacs coming from the edges, I want to be able to take comfort in Russell Wilson maybe escaping through the middle. It sounds like with Clark, that window just closed.

The games where we struggle the most are when opposing defenses are able to overly-pressure Russell Wilson with a 4 or 5-man front. Granted, he sees a lot of pressure on a regular basis, but when we look REALLY bad on offense – the recent Cardinals & Rams games come immediately to mind – there’s usually at least one man wreaking total havoc on our protection on an every-down basis. The key will be – if we’re unable to keep a clean pocket – allowing Wilson outlets to escape, scramble around, and either get yards with his legs or throw on the run for gains down field. Even though Cox last week was one of those Aaron Donald-type monsters, Wilson was still able to get around him and keep the chains moving. It’s those games where the pocket gets quickly squeezed, where Wilson does his thing where he dances around, ducks down, and meekly succumbs to the chaos around him, that this offense truly suffers. If the Packers are in his face all day, this will be a hard game to watch.

As long as our targets stay healthy, I don’t think passing will be too much of a chore. The Packers are better at pass defense than rush defense, but that’s never really been an issue for us so long as Wilson can avoid sacks. I don’t know if we can count on a repeat performance out of D.K. Metcalf, but I also wouldn’t expect him to revert back to his dropping and fumbling tendencies either. If anything, I would expect a concerted effort by Green Bay’s defense to put their best cornerback on him, thereby hopefully freeing up Lockett to do damage down field. We’re fucked if they’re able to totally lock down Metcalf with one-on-ones, while they double-team Lockett on the other side. At that point, it’ll be asking a lot to generate explosives and keep the chains moving on a consistent basis.

***

Defensively for the Seahawks, we HAVE to stay healthy to stay in it. The drop-off from our studs – Diggs, Wagner (especially with Kendricks on IR) and Clowney – would be too much to overcome against this offense. Also, Davante Adams is a beast, and if he’s going up against Tre Flowers all day, I’d expect a lot of flags on our dude. I also heard Adams has been making some hay in the slot, which is scary. There’s been talk about Shaquill Griffin following him around the field. I don’t normally like taking our guys out of their comfort zones, but in this case it might be warranted, especially if the Packers get off to a hot start.

And, since I don’t expect a whole lot out of our pass rush, we’ve got to figure out a way to keep Aaron Jones from taking over. He’s a great running back who had been criminally underused in Green Bay until this season, and his emergence has really paid dividends for this offense as a whole. They may not blow teams out like they used to, but with a Top 5 QB like Rodgers, and a Top 5 or Top 10 running back like Jones, that’s the type of combo all teams dream of.

***

My ultimate prediction in this one consists of the Packers not really punting a whole lot (if at all), scoring more touchdowns than field goals, and generally making life miserable for the Seahawks to keep it close. I would anticipate being down by double-digits in the first half, scrambling like crazy to close the gap in the second half, but ultimately falling well short, probably by two scores. Green Bay -4 honestly feels like the easiest money of the weekend (I like the Chiefs over the Texans a little more, but 9.5 points are a lot to cover for any team).

I just can’t help but envision the Seahawks dropping like flies. I see guys leaving with concussions, ankle strains, you name it. And, lacking the depth to pick up the slack, on top of being on the road, in Lambeau, and all the rest, I think it’ll just be too much.

While I think GB -4 is a mortal lock, I could also easily see us up late, needing to prevent the Packers from scoring on a last-second field goal or something. Anything and everything is on the table; there are countless ways for the Seahawks to blow it, leaving us all – on Monday morning – bemoaning the fact that once again we let a viable opportunity slip through our fingers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: even if we won in the Wild Card round (which we did), we were never making it to the NFC Championship Game. It’s too hard, too much of the deck is stacked against us, and as I’ve said countless times, the Seahawks just aren’t good enough. If you took an honest assessment of this team, you’d agree that on eye test alone (if nothing else), these Seahawks aren’t championship-calibre. I’ve come to terms with that since I saw we were destined to play in the Wild Card round. Soon enough, everyone else will come to terms with it too.