Seahawks Death Week: Talking About The Elephants In The Room

Russell Wilson, Pete Carroll, and John Schneider are those elephants. Jody Allen & Co. have some decisions to make. As I see it, the options are as follows:

  • Keep Everybody
  • Keep Pete Carroll and John Schneider, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Keep Pete and Russ, Fire John
  • Keep John and Russ, Fire Pete
  • Keep Russell Wilson, Fire Pete Carroll and John Schneider
  • Keep John Schneider, Fire Pete Carroll, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Keep Pete Carroll, Fire John Schneider, Trade Russell Wilson
  • Trade/Fire Everybody

Does that look right? It’s absurd how long it took me to figure out that 3-way quagmire. Anyway, one of those eight scenarios is bound to happen.

The likeliest three – in some order – are “Keep Everybody”, “Keep Pete & John (trade Russ)”, or “Keep Russ (fire Pete & John)”. The virtual lock that absolutely won’t happen is that everybody is gone.

Considering the news over the last couple days – and the fact that no change has been made as of yet – I’d say Pete and John are here to stay. I suppose – since we don’t have a traditional ownership set-up – they could be taking their time and might wait a little bit before making a move, but that seems like a disasterous scenario to me (considering all the teams who did their shit-canning on Black Monday would have a head start on us by now). It makes sense though, from a financial perspective. Pete and John were just extended to big money deals through the 2025 season (Pete) and 2027 draft (John); that’s fully guaranteed money. I know, in the grand scheme of things, a billionaire owner wouldn’t flinch at throwing away that kind of money if they felt it was necessary to make a move, but I would also argue the recency of these signings indicates they’re all on the same page with how this team should be run.

As for Russell Wilson, that’s anyone’s guess.

Do you put more stock in the rosy feeling of the Seahawks dominating their final two regular season games (and winning 4 of 6 overall)? Or, do you put more stock in Russell Wilson’s media campaign following the 2020 season, and how he nudge-nudge, wink-wink, wouldn’t mind being traded to a certain four teams? Everyone’s careful to state it wasn’t a trade demand, but following a 7-10 season, maybe whatever it was turns into one now.

Predicting this feels like a coin flip. I’m leaning towards Russell Wilson wanting out. I think there’s a lot of evidence to back it up. I would say, for starters, professional athletes (and coaches, and front office people, and just about everyone else) are notorious liars. So, when Wilson talks about wanting to be in Seattle, I’d put a big ol’ Maury Povich meme up next to that.

Wilson obviously wants to be in an offense that caters to his need to be the best quarterback in football. He wants everything to run through him, he wants to pass the ball significantly more than he hands it off. He wants an MVP award. He wants to be the main reason (by leaps and bounds) why his team wins football games. And he wants to win multiple Super Bowls. Ultimately, he wants to be a Hall of Famer. Because, again, he wants to go down as the best to ever play the position (or, failing that, the best after Tom Brady).

Yet, whenever Russell Wilson has tried to bite off more than he can chew in Seattle, he’s almost always struggled. The last two years of this Let Russ Cook nonsense is a prime example. It’s not ALL his fault, because obviously there’s a tug o’ war going on with Pete Carroll, who does stick his nose in and limits his rampant passing whenever the offense struggles and/or turns the ball over too much. It’s also not his fault that this offensive line largely struggles in pass protection (specifically for someone like Wilson, who likes to move around a lot and will run himself into opposing linemen; it’s hard to know where Wilson will be at any given moment as a play breaks down). It’s also not his fault that we continue to waste time with inferior linemen in general, when there are better options available (why it took so long for Phil Haynes to get an opportunity is anybody’s guess; why Pocic sat for so long after he returned from his injury is, again, a mystery).

But, I think we’ve also seen enough from Wilson to know where he’s limited, and where he’s sabotaging things. He’s not good at the intermediate passing game. He’s not smart about checking down when the deep pass isn’t there. He too often tries to twirl out of trouble or run backwards, exacerbating sacks that don’t need to be so devastating. He’s, frankly, not a good third down quarterback. And he chooses not to run as often as he should, to keep defenses honest; even if he’s lost a step, he’s still capable of running when he wants to.

Then there are, of course, all the non-football reasons why Wilson might want to leave. Seattle is a middling media market. Ciara is an international music star. Russ wants to be a Business, man. I think they would prefer he play for a team in New York, L.A., Miami, Chicago, Dallas, D.C., or Vegas. For football reasons, throw New Orleans, Atlanta, Indy, Denver, Cleveland, or Minnesota into the mix. There’s lots of options, any number of them would be more attractive for someone looking for a change of scenery than Seattle.

If we assume Pete and John are here to stay for the foreseeable future, then Russ has to decide if this is the place he wants to be. And, if he chooses to stay, then he needs to buy in 100% to the way this offense needs to be operated. We need to rely on our running game to bring the defense closer to the line of scrimmage; it’s the best way for Wilson to take advantage of what he does best: exploiting the defense over the top for explosive chunk gains.

Meanwhile, John needs to shore up talent along the offensive line, and have a better plan when it comes to bringing in quality running backs. And Pete and his coaching staff need to determine who the best players are earlier in the season, so we don’t keep blowing games early.

But, as I said before, gun to my head, I think Russ forces a trade. Now, is that something I want?

It’s hard. I know I’ve talked about how I’ve soured on Wilson after last year’s media blitz, but I’ve seen how this team can perform at its best. When everyone is on the same page, and everything is clicking, the Seahawks’ offense can do some real damage. And I do NOT believe Wilson has fallen off a cliff. Sure, he’s on the downside of his career, but he’s still close enough to his peak to easily be a Top 10 quarterback in this league, with a shot at being a Top 5 guy if everything goes according to plan. I still believe he’s destined to be a Hall of Famer; even the best all-time QBs have had down years during their careers.

Beating the Lions and Cardinals the way they did to close out the season shows me this team’s potential. That’s the closest I’ve seen to our late-2012 run since it happened. Sure, we’ve ended seasons on fire before, but not imposing our will the way we did in those two games. Again, the last 50-point game we put up was in 2012; that’s extremely difficult to do in the NFL!

But, do I want to be sucked in by our most recent two performances, one of which happened against one of the two worst teams in football (ignoring all the games that came before it, both this season and some of the more infuriating games we’ve bungled over the last half-decade)? Do I ultimately believe that this is a team – with Russell Wilson at the helm – that won’t just contend for playoff spots, but win a motherfucking championship?

Not really.

I think we, as Seahawks fans, have to face up to some hard truths. One of which is: Russell Wilson absolutely needs a quality running game and defense to win championships. Simply having “Russell Wilson: Top 5 Quarterback” isn’t sufficient. He’s good enough to make up for a lot of illnesses across this roster, but he’s only one man. Without proper support in those two key areas, all is lost.

I don’t believe those Seahawks teams from 2012-2015 would’ve been nearly as dominant without Russell Wilson; I certainly don’t think they would’ve made the Super Bowl in back-to-back years with someone like Andy Dalton (or some other replacement-level quarterback). That being said, it’s clear why those teams were so successful: the defense and Marshawn Lynch.

The defense, more or less since 2015, has declined severely as the key guys from that Legion of Boom era have all retired, gotten older/slower, or moved on to other teams. We’ve been massively unsuccessful in replacing those guys through the draft, trades, or free agency. And, as our coaching staff kept getting poached of its best and brightest, we’re left with mediocre leadership who continue to fail to get the most out of their players.

Meanwhile, we’ve tried countless times to find the successor to Marshawn Lynch. Most have been mediocre. Chris Carson was a worthy follow up, but he’s been too injured too often to come close to living up. Beastmode has so many elite and wonderful qualities – from his rough-house style of play, to his infectious personality – but one of the more underrated aspects to his greatness was his availability. He showed up, game-in and game-out.

Just go back and look at those seasons, particularly our Super Bowl runs of 2013 and 2014. Look at how many games where our offense struggled for long stretches and needed the defense to keep us in them, until Wilson led the offense to a late-game victory. Or, those games where the offense got us a lead, and the defense had to hold on to secure it. Now, start thinking about all of those games we haven’t won since 2016. Think about how the defense has struggled. Think about how we’ve needed the offense to be the one to carry this team, and how often they’ve failed in key moments.

The thing is, it’s not one or the other. You need the running game and the defense, but you DO need the quarterback as well. However, there’s only so much money to go around. And there’s only so much a GM can do when you’re drafting so low in the first round most years (that is, when you’re not trading away those picks to try to find elite talent in other ways, since there’s rarely elite talent falling into the 20’s of the NFL draft). Can the Seahawks build that defense when they’re paying Russell Wilson so much money? It’s possible, but it’s very difficult. Can a defense that’s not-quite-elite still win us a title with Wilson at quarterback? It’s possible, but it requires buy-in from the quarterback himself. And, even then, it’s going to need a running game like we saw from Rashaad Penny the last month of the season.

My main line of thinking is that I don’t believe Russell Wilson will ever get with the program. Even if he makes the commitment to stay and buys in to a more balanced philosophy that features more rushing than he’d like, he is who he is. He’s still going to struggle in the intermediate game, finding check-downs, converting third downs, and knowing when he himself needs to run with the football. I also don’t believe we’re ever going to find someone as durable as Marshawn Lynch, and so our running game will continue to be a revolving door from week to week. Finally, I don’t believe this defense – with Ken Norton & Co. in charge – is capable of being consistent enough to sustain even a Top 15 level of production.

At this point, I think it’s probably best for all involved for Wilson to demand a trade. The Seahawks need an infusion of draft picks. They need to bring in a new, young QB while we still have the culture in place to surround him with quality players in order to turn him into a winner. And, they need to use any and all resources – with that quarterback on his rookie deal – to bolster the defense like they did heading into 2013, so that we can take advantage in that brief window where the quarterback isn’t earning an untenable percentage of the overall salary cap.

If it doesn’t happen, and Wilson opts to stick around, I won’t be up in arms or anything. But, I’ll go into every season from here on out knowing there’s a ceiling to the Seahawks’ success, that being the Divisional Round of the playoffs and no further. Until they prove me wrong, that’s what we have to look forward to. And, instead of getting a jumpstart on a rebuild – while there’s enough of a core in place to possibly right the ship in a hurry – we’ll just kick this can down the road another few years, until Pete Carroll has to retire in disgrace, John Schneider returns to Green Bay, and Russell Wilson is wearing another jersey anyway.

The Seahawks Are Losers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s In A Worse Position Right Now, The Huskies Or The Cougars?

The simple answer is to say: the Cougs. Always the Cougs. But, I dunno. There are, as usual, good people idiots on both sides.

Earlier this week, Nick Rolovich was fired by WSU. The short story is that the governor of Washington instituted a mandate stating all state employees needed to be fully vaccinated by October 18th. The head coach of Washington State University is technically considered to be a state employee. Nick Rolovich is not vaccinated and does not wish to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Therefore, he was let go.

That’s obviously an oversimplification. Muddying the waters is the fact that the state is supposed to grant legitimate religious exemptions, Rolovich applied for one as a Catholic, and it’s unclear if he was granted one or not. I’m assuming it’s also an oversimplification to say that since the Pope encouraged getting the vaccine, that negates Catholicism as a viable pathway towards an exemption, but either way, even if he was granted the exemption by the state, Wazzu refused to grant the accommodation that would be needed to make everything work. With the accommodation denied, there was nowhere else to go but job termination.

It doesn’t really help Rolovich’s public relations cause that he spent EVERY press conference answering questions about the vaccine mandate like Marshawn Lynch at the Super Bowl. Then again, once people have their minds made up on an issue like this, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of leeway as far as listening to differing viewpoints. I’m not so naive as to think Rolovich could’ve changed any minds by speaking his beliefs. But, saying literally nothing on the matter, other than he’s going to follow the mandate or whatever, just makes this all look like litigation was his goal all along.

Maybe that’s just a college football thing, though. College coaches are notoriously tight-lipped about even the most innocuous of subjects. In that sense, Jimmy Lake of the Huskies is as bad as any of them. Just try getting a straight answer out of him about the program! At best, he’s going to give terse, meaningless replies about keeping things the status quo. That’s fine if you’re winning – because why give your opponent any information they can use against you – but when you’re 2-4 (after being projected to contend for the Pac-12 title), you better fucking come up with some different answers, or else it’s going to be your ass with a pink slip stapled to it.

My point of view on this whole vaccine mandate thing is: I don’t think these issues have any business being turned into a political conflict. I think there are lots of legitimate sources that provide quality information on the benefits of being vaccinated against COVID-19, and I think there are lots of bullshit sources raising questions that infect the minds of people who are on the lookout for contrarian viewpoints. The same people questioning the safety of vaccines – because of some bullshit they read on the Internet – are also people who will blindly gorge themselves on unhealthy foods and beverages, or take medications prescribed by their doctors that they haven’t themselves vetted. Everyone’s a fucking scientist all of a sudden.

But, I’m not here to solve all the world’s problems. I’m here to talk about the Huskies and Cougars.

In a vaccuum, it’s always better to be a Dawg than a Coug. We have access to better recruits, we have better facilities, we’re located in a more populous city with more things to do, and our history in the game of football is vastly superior. We’ve actually won a national championship! We’ve actually played in the College Football Playoffs within the last decade.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that it has to stay that way forever. If the Cougs ever found the right coach – who was willing to stay there for the long term – he could certainly build up a program that eventually surpasses UW. It’s not impossible.

But, it’s also not likely. What I see are two programs in need of new head coaches, and new directions overall. And, I see one program – Wazzu – that’s got a head start. The lawsuit is just a distraction, but it’s not like there’s any chance he gets his job back; that’s a headache for the university, not the football program. The football program is going to move on with a new coach by next season. When will Washington follow suit?

Jimmy Lake very nearly inherited one terrible offensive coordinator, but Bush Hamdan was fired at the close of the 2019 season. He hired another terrible offensive coordinator, who he finds himself tethered to. The decision at the time was justifiably panned, and it’s proven everyone but Lake knew best. As I’ve written about, he’s weirdly aggressive-yet-conservative in his decision-making. He goes for it on fourth down like no one we’ve had around here before, but he’s also committed to running the ball even though our offensive line sucks at it, and opposing teams are gearing up to stop it.

Lake is also supposed to be this defensive mastermind, but we can’t stop the run to save our lives, and he refuses to let his elite defensive secondary play man-to-man to open up extra defenders to try to stop the run. As I’ve written before, he’s coaching this team like it’s got Vita Vea in the middle, when he has no one even close to that level of talent along the interior!

I’d still be bitching if the Huskies were merely mediocre, but mediocre would be an improvement! The Washington Huskies don’t lose to teams like Montana or Oregon State. They don’t get consistently out-muscled at home. And they sure as shit don’t struggle this mightily to move the football on offense! This isn’t the worst it’s ever been for the Huskies, but it’s as bad as it’s been since 2008.

As for the Cougs, they’re actually 4-3, having won three games in a row. They managed to take care of business against Cal, Oregon State, and Stanford; we’ve beaten only one of those teams so far. They’re at least in the hunt for a bowl game, if not a full comeback to win the Pac-12 North. What do the Huskies have going for us right now? We’re 18-point favorites down in Arizona tonight, and you KNOW we won’t be covering that spread!

I’ll be honest, part of me is jealous that the Cougs have this head start on a new coaching regime! Not only do I think the Huskies are stuck with who we’ve got, but that’s probably going to extend into next year. We MIGHT get lucky with a change at OC, but I don’t think Lake is going anywhere. And, as long as we’re saddled with his philosophy, we’re going to continue to be disgruntled with the play-calling. Considering we’ve got a 5-star quarterback just sitting there, collecting dust on the sidelines, it’s a total nightmare.

No one expects anything from the Cougs. That’s why they’re able to delight their fanbase when they do anything well. That’s as beaten-down a group of fans as you’ll find across all sports, but they always come back for more like a fucking Whac-A-Mole game.

Huskies are expected to be great. Husky fans are a different sort of delusional, because we still believe this program has a chance in hell at competing for a national championship. The fact of the matter is: as long as we’re saddled in the Pac-12, recruiting is going to forever be at a sub-optimal level, and we will NEVER compete with those other national programs. The best we can hope for is Pac-12 success, and maybe a seat at the playoff table when they expand it so every major conference gets a slot.

What Husky fans don’t realize is, to the Alabamas and Georgias and Ohio States of the world, WE are what Wazzu is to us: the perpetual little brothers, ineffectual and unimportant. I would argue that we’re in the worse spot, because denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

The Cougars succeed when they win the conference once in a blue moon. The Huskies are expected to contend every year. Falling short of that – settling for an Alamo Bowl or a Holiday Bowl, or God forbid a Las Vegas Bowl – is unacceptable. The Huskies have been trending in the wrong direction for a while now, and when your goal is to be among the college football elites, it’s much harder to turn everything around.

Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Running Backs

If the quarterback room gets an A+ based on the starter alone – weighing depth in any sort of significant way brings the overall grade down considerably – then I think I have to go A- or even B+ for the running back room.

For starters, you definitely have to consider the depth much more here. When was the last time we saw a running back play all 16 games? Marshawn Lynch in 2013/2014 is your answer there (and, don’t forget, we’re up to an inane 17 games in 2021!). And also, to be perfectly honest, I’m not as high on any of these guys as I used to be.

I think it’s fair to say Chris Carson has A+ talent. But, to belabor a dead horse, you always have to add “when he’s healthy” to any blanket statement regarding Carson. After a flukey rookie year where he only appeared in four games, he’s gone 14, 15, and 12 games. Not great, but not terrible, I guess. Nevertheless, you KNOW you’re going to need to have another guy on the roster to start a few games, which has to reduce Carson’s overall grade.

And, I would argue we started to see Carson avoid some contact for the first time in his career in 2020. ESPECIALLY after he missed a month to injury in the middle of the season, and it became clear he was trying to preserve his body with his impending free agency looming this past offseason. He averaged 4.83 yards per attmept last year on the whole; you saw a pretty steep drop-off in the final three regular season games, averaging 4.19 yards per attempt. Now, he might’ve been trying to play through something, and so he really NEEDED to preserve his body just to stay on the field.

Also, by the way, he has every right to avoid bone-crunching hits and maybe take a few carries out of bounds instead of needlessly pounding his body into defenders every single time. The career-expectancy for a running back in the NFL is akin to the life-expectancy of a soldier in the Vietnam War; you just get chewed up and spit out. But, my contention is a lot of Carson’s value is in those extra yards he gets after contact, as well as the intimidation he instills in defenders who have to take him on for 15-20 carries per game. If latter-day Chris Carson is going to turn into Shaun Alexander, I don’t think you can even give him an A grade of any kind at that point, because he doesn’t have Alexander’s skillset (I always thought Alexander got a bad rap, but he was a great back for us, different than how Marshawn Lynch was a great back for us; but both were nevertheless great!).

Behind Carson, the drop-off has the potential to be pretty significant, though there is breakout potential from any number of guys.

Rashaad Penny is in the final year of his rookie deal. He’s briefly flashed A+ ability, but more often than not he’s been hurt, to even a more significant degree than Carson (who is the poster child for Injury Prone around these parts). He was lost for the season late in 2019, which left him out of commission for most of 2020 as well. When he returned in late December, he got a few touches here and there, but really made no impact whatsoever.

On the plus side, between doing most of his rehab in 2020, and having all of this past offseason to fully recover and get his body into “the best shape of his life”, we’re looking at a guy who’s motivated and hungry to show the NFL what he’s made of, as he heads into free agency after this season. It’s also fair to wonder how the new system will support his talents; I’m hearing a lot about the team being more under center than ever before in Wilson’s tenure. If that’s true, that definitely plays to Penny’s strengths more than working out of a shotgun set. If he’s indeed faster and stronger than ever before, it might finally be time to take advantage of his skillset in the passing game out of the backfield.

While the top-line talent in the running back room is suspect, the depth is pretty solid.

DeeJay Dallas got some run as a rookie last year. He wasn’t prepared to shoulder a starting running back load, but that was never supposed to be his fate in the NFL to begin with. He’s more of a third down back who can provide some value out of the passing game; but he’s not really a between-the-tackles runner like Carson or Penny. Having survived his rookie year, and hopefully pouring all his efforts into getting faster and stronger in 2021, I have high hopes that he’ll look a lot better. If that comes to fruition, he’ll be everything I could ever want out of a #3 running back.

Travis Homer largely held that role in his two years in the NFL, but he’s been a disappointment. I guess you could say he blocks well, but that’s not going to win you a ton of casual fans. I see a guy who’s slow and easily stuffed at the line of scrimmage on goalline plays. In other words, I see a guy who constantly elicits the phrase, “Why are they giving the ball to Travis Homer here?!” On top of that, he’s hurt and on the PUP. I would say: don’t hurry back. Get completely well and we’ll see you in six weeks.

But, to make up for that, we brought back Alex Collins last year! He’ll only be 27 in a couple weeks, even though he feels a lot older. That shouldn’t be over-the-hill for someone who didn’t even play in 2019, and only appeared in a handful of games with us last year. I would hope he continued to work on his fitness to make it as this team’s fourth or fifth running back, especially with Homer needing some time to get well. I think he’s got … enough to offer. He’s not great, but in a pinch if you needed him to start a game or two, I wouldn’t hate it. Which, by the way, happens with the running back room more often than I care to admit! Why do you think he was brought back last year in the first place?! Because all we had was DeeJay Dallas and he clearly wasn’t ready to take on a full time running back load! Shit, why do you think we’ve had Marshawn Lynch on speed dial the last two years?

The depth of this room really supports the B+ grade I’m giving it (with potential to raise to an A-, but I doubt it’s ever a top 10 unit in the league), but we’ll see how it goes. The big question on everyone’s mind is how Shane Waldron will balance the need to make Pete Carroll (run) and Russell Wilson (pass) happy. Obviously, you want balance. Obviously, a great rushing attack opens things up all over the place in the passing game. But, as Seahawks fans, it’s hard to not have PTSD with the play sequence of Run-Run-Pass-Punt that we’ve seen all too many times. That forces Russell Wilson – and an inferior defense – to be perfect, and that’s been too much to ask for a lot of years now.

There’s nothing really dynamic about the running backs on this team. As guys age and continue to deal with injuries, what is there to look forward to? What is there to count on? It’s not a matter of “if” guys get injured, but “when”. In that sense, all I can really do is spend the early part of the season worrying about injuries every time a guy steps awkwardly or gets hit hard; then I spend the rest of the season wondering when guys will return and if they’ll be the same as before. For what? Fleeting joy when Carson or somebody trucks a guy? Only to then think to myself, “What’s the cumulative effect of THAT hit? How many more before his shoulder snaps in half?”

When guys are consistently getting injured, there’s no joy in consistency. I’d almost rather they flush the entire running back room down the toilet and start over with the draft next year. Part of me is annoyed Chris Carson got that extension this offseason, even though it’s at most a 2-year deal for just over $10 million, with an out after this season that only costs us $3 million next year in dead cap space (and I think you could spread that out over two years, depending on when you cut him; regardless there’s $1.5 million of dead cap built into his contract with the void year of 2023). I feel like the Seahawks should just draft a running back every other year and make due with those guys and veterans making the minimum. Is Carlos Hyde – making just over $2 million this year with the Jags – really that much of a drop-off compared to Carson? Not really. And Carlos Hydes are ALWAYS available in free agency! You can’t walk ten feet without finding another Carlos Hyde – a durable veteran who will average 4 yards per carry – so why not just settle for them, and hope you hit the lottery every few years with a rookie who pops? Carson was a 7th rounder, you can’t tell me this isn’t a sound strategy!

Honestly, my favorite running back on this team is probably Nick Bellore, the fullback. Dude almost NEVER plays on offense – so he never has an opportunity to disappoint – he crushes it on special teams – making the Pro Bowl in 2020 for his efforts – and I’m reading about him moonlighting as a linebacker in training camp! Get out of here, that’s amazing!

Finally, I’ve never heard of … Cameron Scarlett or Josh Johnson. If they make the 53-man roster, I’ll eat my hat.

This Might Be Bobby Wagner’s Last Year With The Seahawks

I keep seeing trades happen for defensive ends and the Seahawks aren’t involved. I hear about free agents still out on the scrap heap, but no calls from our end. Coming into this year, the pass rush was assumed to be a disaster, and through six games that’s been proven accurate.

Now, the Seahawks have the least amount of extra cap space in all of football. That’s not hyperbole, that’s just a fact. The coffers are bare. But, there are ways to re-work contracts to free up some extra space. That’s why you hear about the Seahawks being “in” on a lot of guys, even if they don’t manage to land them. We’re just waiting for the right deal, the one that hurts us the least in the long term.

We’re getting to the point, though, where the lack of pass rush is a real emergency. Say what you will about how difficult it can be to bring down someone like Kyler Murray, this team had two weeks to prepare. It’s not just that we couldn’t get him on his ass, we couldn’t even get close enough to SEE his ass! For as difficult as it is to bring in guys with COVID happening all around us, we’re at a crisis point, and they’re going to have to do something soon, or else risk throwing away a real, legitimate chance at a Super Bowl. If we falter to another Wild Card finish, I’m afraid heads might roll.

What I’m wondering is: are they reluctant to take on any more money because they know Bobby Wagner is going to be cut after this season?

The Seahawks committed one of the cardinal sins when it comes to football contracts: you do NOT pay top dollar for running backs or linebackers. We paid marginally-top dollar with Marshawn Lynch back in the day, but the way his contracts were structured made it so we could get out from under them pretty easily. Bobby Wagner was another story, though. Not only did we extend him with a year already left on his deal, but we made him the highest-paid linebacker in the game. 3 years, $54 million, a little over $40 million of that guaranteed. If he sees it through to the end, he’ll be here through the 2022 season, when he’s 32 years old.

Now, at the time, we figured, “Okay, he’s worth it.” He was – more or less – the last remaining star from our glory days on defense. He was squarely in the prime of his career as the best middle linebacker in the game, and based on history, middle linebackers can play well into their 30’s if they stay healthy. But, from a value standpoint, to be worth the money he’s making, he has to continue to be THE best middle linebacker in football, and that clearly isn’t the case. Blame it on the team around him, and I agree with you: they ARE mediocre. But, he’s not elevating his game, nor does he seem to be elevating the people around him.

So, look at his contract status. There’s an out after this season. His cap hit next year is set to be over $17 million; we can get out from under his contract by eating $7.5 million. That is a SPICY meatball to have to eat, but you can’t pay him what he’s set to earn for what he’s bringing to the table now (saying nothing of the amount of decline he’ll see being another year older). At this point, he’s NOT the best middle linebacker in the game. Is he in the Top 10? Maybe. But, he’s still making Top Dog Middle Linebacker money, and that’s unacceptable. When you figure he’s much too proud to take a pay cut, that points to one alternative: the Seahawks have been eyeballing his exit all along.

There is money that could be better spent at other positions. For instance, Jamal Adams will be looking for a new deal after this season. Shaquill Griffin as well. And, of course, we’re still going to be in need of a pass rushing defensive end. Jordyn Brooks will probably be ready to take over one of the linebacker spots from K.J. Wright after this year, and the Seahawks can just as easily dip their toe into the second round of the draft next year to find Bobby’s replacement. Even if we have to slog through a season with Cody Barton; I know he’s not great, but is he SO MUCH of a drop-off at middle linebacker, relative to the money he’s making? What is Bobby Wagner bringing to the table with this defense that’s elevating things for the team?

All of that being said, I’m sure the team could rework Russell Wilson’s contract to free up money. I think I even read a headline talking about extending Tyler Lockett to tinker with the salary cap. There are options.

One of those options doesn’t appear to be – and frankly CANNOT be – shuffling money around on Bobby Wagner’s deal (moving future base salary to signing bonus, thereby increasing the amount of dead money we’d have to eat by cutting him next season). If we do that, we’re essentially guaranteeing his 2021 season at that inflated cap number.

Until now, I would’ve been 100% convinced Wagner would still be here at least for one more season. But, in looking at the numbers, and the situation as it’s laid out in front of us, it’s feeling remarkably slim.

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.