The Seahawks Had An Unexciting Draft This Year

It’s interesting to go through the years – dating back to 2010, because I’m less into the idea of going back to the wild west days and trying to decipher a through-line – and see where things went right and where they went wrong. Obviously, the 2010-2012 drafts were epic and life-changing. But, there’s a real argument to be made that every single draft since then has been a failure.

Just scroll through this. Let’s leave 2022-2024 out of it, because there’s just not enough information to make a sound judgment in such a short period of time. But, 2013-2021? I think Seahawks fans with rose-colored glasses will say there have been peaks and valleys in our draft classes in this span. 2013 was pretty miserable and I don’t think anyone can really defend it at this point. But, if you want to think positively, you can say they’ve consistently found role players, contributors, and even starters.

In 2014, they got an offensive line starter in Justin Britt; in 2015, there was Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. In 2016, there’s Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed; in 2017, there’s Ethan Pocic and Shaquill Griffin. In 2018, you’re looking at Michael Dickson and Will Dissly; in 2019 there’s D.K. Metcalf. You could say 2020 was the start of a rebound by this organization, with guys like Jordyn Brooks, Darrell Taylor, and Damien Lewis rounding things out; but, also, almost this entire class is on other teams, and the three picks in 2021 produced absolutely no one.

Not a lot of second contracts in Seattle among this bunch. Lockett, Metcalf, and Dickson are the three greatest Seahawks draft picks since 2013. Everyone else were just role players, or able bodies who ate up an offensive line spot. But, no one has really flashed. No one has stood out. It’s all been pretty middling talent, which has led to middling results for this team.

I’m willing to believe in the 2022 and 2023 classes, because I think there’s a lot of meat on the bone. Charles Cross can still be great. Boye Mafe really took a big step in year two. Kenneth Walker is a fuckin’ stud. Abe Lucas, when healthy, can be a beast. Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen can be ball hawks in the right scheme. Devon Witherspoon clearly has All Pro type talent. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be amazing if he’s unleashed in the right offense. Derick Hall has the body type to do great things, Zach Charbonnet flashed true elite greatness as a rookie, Anthony Bradford could be a mauler at guard, Cam Young and Mike Morris could be big bodies in a solid D-Line rotation, and Olu Oluwatimi figures to be in a battle for this year’s starting center job as a fifth round pick in his second season. That’s a lot of potential greatness just waiting to be unleashed by the right coaching staff.

But, then again, we’ve already seen the writing on the wall that many of these guys could be busts. Should it really take a left tackle in Charles Cross 3+ years to develop into a star? Shouldn’t that guy enter the league ready to take it by storm? You’ve got two second-round running backs in there, a devalued position that’s frequently getting itself injured. Speaking of injuries, Lucas appears to have a chronic knee issue, and it can only be a matter of time before Witherspoon – with the way he attacks players with reckless abandon – plays himself out of the league a la Jamal Adams. If Kam Chancellor had to retire early due to medicals, what makes you think some tiny dude like Witherspoon is going to last very long into a second contract? JSN sure looked pedestrian for his rookie season as the #1 receiver drafted; Mafe and Hall could both be one-trick ponies unable to set an edge or play at all against the run. There’s whispers about Woolen’s toughness and ability to stay healthy; I could go on and on picking these draft classes apart.

The thing is, I really want to believe in John Schneider. I want to believe it was Pete Carroll putting his foot down and leading to the worst personnel decisions of the last decade. But, I dunno. The last three draft classes – including this one that took place over the weekend – have had decidedly different feels compared to the ones that came before. It’s really felt like a Best Player Available festival, which is a strategy I hold near and dear to my heart. But, if we proceed to spend the next 3-5 years finishing at or around .500, without any real charge towards Super Bowl contention, then I think it will be pretty obvious that this front office doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing any more than any other front office, and 2010-2012 will be seen as flukes more than anything else.

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That’s a lot of preamble – and a negative one at that – to get to what I actually thought was a pretty smart draft by the Seahawks. If there’s ever going to be a draft that seriously turns things around for this franchise, it’s going to be one that features a lot of bulk along the line of scrimmage, and absolutely nothing with any of the skill positions.

What have we been complaining about for years? Even during the Super Bowl years, what were we after? Elite defensive tackles who can rush the passer and be a force in the middle against the run. From 2013-2019, we drafted 12 guys who were either DT’s or plus-sized DE’s who we wanted to slide inside on passing downs; those were all some of our greatest busts. Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Naz Jones, Jesse Williams, Demarcus Christmas; the list goes on and on. Jarran Reed was the only guy worth a damn in that bunch, and even he wasn’t worth it – in the minds of this front office – to spend on that second contract he received. Defensive tackle has been a fucking wasteland for this franchise, and if it wasn’t for Michael Bennett sliding inside during the glory years, we’d be talking about spanning multiple decades of futility.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about Byron Murphy. I’m also justifiably reserved in my excitement, because while it’s great to say we got the best all-around defensive lineman in this class, you also can’t deny that we got him with the 16th pick. The NFL deemed 15 other guys better than him. I know a lot of those teams had more pressing needs – mostly on the offensive side of the ball, what with the first 14 picks going that way – but if there was a true juggernaut, no-doubter of a defensive behemoth ready to plug-and-play as a future All Pro and maybe even Hall of Famer, there’s no way that player would’ve fallen to 16. You think Will Anderson – had he left for the NFL this year – would’ve been there for us? Or Aidan Hutchinson, or Chase Young, or Nick Bosa, or Quinnen Williams? I don’t think so.

I think the odds are a lot better that Byron Murphy was the best of a very weak defensive line class, than he’s a future game-wrecker in the mold of Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. He’ll probably be good, but I’m not holding my breath waiting around for him to be great. As long as he’s not a fucking turd like just about every other defensive tackle we’ve drafted in the last decade, I’ll be happy.

One of the big problems with this draft is how it laid out for the Seahawks. This was a top-heavy draft, with an extremely thin bunch of players in Day 3. If ever there was a draft to select your next punter, kicker, or even long-snapper, this was the one. And, unfortunately for us – when all was said and done – only two of our eight picks were in the first three rounds, where the odds were best we’d actually find useful players. Even though we traded down once – at the top of the fourth round, to get an extra sixth, I think – we didn’t have any sort of capital to make the kinds of moves necessary to give us back the second rounder we lost in the Leonard Williams deal. Had we traded out of 16, we likely would’ve missed out on the last remaining true impact players. Would that have been worth a pick in the mid-20’s and mid-50’s? Probably not.

So, instead, we stuck at 16, took the best player available, and had a LOOOOOONG wait until pick 81 in the third round.

Where we took Christian Haynes, a quality guard who figures to start right away, and might even convert to center, to give us more beef at that spot than we’ve had since Max Unger. I don’t know how good a lineman is from UConn, but draftniks seem to like him, so that’s good enough for me.

I hear the inside linebacker we got from UTEP in the fourth round, Tyrice Knight, is more of a project than a guy we can plug and play. I’m assuming we missed out on the linebacker we actually wanted, and settled for this guy because that was a particular need (one of the few instances where we probably went away from our BPA strategy). I don’t expect Knight to be much of anything.

I also don’t expect much out of our other fourth rounder, A.J. Barner, tight end out of Michigan, but for very different reasons. I actually like the pick, because it sounds like he’s one of the better blocking tight ends in this class, and that was certainly a position of need. If we can get tougher at that position, I’m all for it, because it’s almost like drafting another lineman. He’s probably NOT the stone-hands catcher we’re all imagining, but he’s also not going to drastically improve this offense with his receiving. But, if he opens up holes in the running game, and gives our quarterback a little extra time to make a throw, he’s exactly the kind of tight end I want on my roster.

With our last four picks, we took two cornerbacks from Auburn, and two more offensive line projects. It certainly seems strange to invest so heavily in cornerback depth, when there’s no realistic way we can keep all these guys on our roster (Witherspoon, Woolen, Brown, Jackson, the two rookies, Artie Burns, Coby Bryant (unless we’re still turning him into a safety)), but maybe we’re looking to wheel and deal during training camp. Or, maybe some hard cuts are a-comin’. Either way, until further notice, guys like Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James are just camp fodder, and probably practice squad-bound, unless they really stand out as special teamers.

As for the O-Line projects, we got a widebody from Utah named Sataoa Laumea, and some no-name guy from Findlay who goes by Michael Jerrell. Laumea, by all accounts, is the more interesting of the two, as he could conceivably have a shot at contending for a starting spot. Jerrell might as well already be on the practice squad, but I’m not going to hold that against him.

We took three offensive linemen in this draft, that’s not lost on me. I think that’s a huge development for this team. Not that they’ve neglected the O-Line, necessarily. They’re always taking bites at the apple. But, they’ve also failed so miserably for so long, while getting by with middling production from guys on rookie deals. It’s nice to see they haven’t given up. There’s a way to build this unit up from the draft; other teams do it all the time. You need your foundational guys like Charles Cross to pan out, but you also need your mid-rounders like Lucas and Haynes and Bradford and Laumea to develop in a hurry and take the world by storm. I want to be the team that’s the envy of fans across the league. I want them to look at the Seahawks and think, “How do they keep finding these diamonds in the rough later in the draft?!” It’s nice to do it at cornerback and wide receiver, but when you can do it on the O-Line, you’ve really got something.

Half of this draft went to the line of scrimmage; when you throw in a primarily blocking tight end, and an inside linebacker who’s going to have to attack that LOS on the regular, that’s 3/4 of your draft going to the most important non-quarterback spots on the team. If we’re ever going to turn this thing around, it’s either going to be by finding another transcendent quarterback, or by killing it everywhere else. Since we’re bound and determined to ignore QB in the draft every fucking year, then we’ve gotta start putting in work on Plan B. Devoting the bulk of your draft to the LOS, while signing Leonard Williams to a long-term extension, and bringing back George Fant to be offensive tackle depth, is a great start to that process.

Now, let’s check back in three years and see if this class – and any of the others that came before it – are worth a damn.

The Seahawks Have Been Very Seahawky In Free Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Seahawks Aren’t Great At Any One Thing

The Seahawks get a lot of credit for being competitive. If I understand the phrase right, it’s a double-edged sword. When things are going well, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll does a great job of adapting and getting the most out of his players!” But, when things go poorly, people point to the coaching staff and say, “Boy Pete Carroll is over the hill and washed up and doesn’t understand what the game of football is morphing into!”

There was a time this year where the Seahawks were winners of 5 out of 6 games, and the one we lost (to the Bengals) you could argue we gave away. But, even still, they were the Bengals, Joe Burrow was still alive, and you can understand why even a good team would lose that game on the road. The offense felt vibrant, the defense appeared to be improving, and we all let ourselves believe that these Seahawks could compete with those 49ers for this NFC West and maybe even above and beyond.

Then, we got massacred by the Ravens. That kicked off a lull where we lost 4 out of 5 games, with the lone victory being a 3-point variety against one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in football (the Commanders), at home no less. We won the next two games to regain control over our own playoff destiny, only to lose to the Steelers last week, to once again need a Week 18 victory plus some help.

The Seahawks are 8-8. You can’t really give this team a lot of credit for being competitive, because if we’re honest with ourselves, this team is only competitive against very flawed-to-bad teams.

There are lots of teams hovering around .500, though. Lots of flawed teams who are in contention for the playoffs. There have been plenty of flawed teams throughout the years who have made the playoffs, gotten hot, and managed to do some damage (even winning a Super Bowl here and there). It’s not always the VERY BEST teams who win it all. Sometimes, you just need to pose the right matchup problems against the right teams, to get the result you want.

The Cleveland Browns are 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. You wouldn’t consider them a front-runner; they’re on, what, their fourth quarterback? Joe Flacco off the scrap heap re-joined the league and has set the world on fire. Has Joe Flacco suddenly gotten amazing again? No way! But, he’s in the right situation, with the right team, that has some elite components (defense, running game, O-Line) that allows them to make up for any mistakes Flacco might generate.

The Dolphins are also 11-5 and locked into the playoffs. Their defense kinda stinks, but they’re so dynamic on offense that you could see them winning any game if things break right. The Chiefs are 10-6 and their receivers are hot garbage. The Eagles are 11-5 and their defense has regressed HARD. The Rams are 9-7, but they’re still well-coached and explosive enough (and veteran enough) on offense to beat anybody.

Which brings me to the Seahawks. They’re a consummate 7-seed type of team. But, unlike the Packers, Steelers, or either of the South divisions, the Seahawks don’t have any one thing they do extremely well. They just have a lot of things they’re okay at, with some VERY glaring weaknesses that hold them back.

It’s honestly pretty miserable watching the Seahawks closely. I wonder if these other fringe teams have the same type of disgruntled fans. There’s nothing you can hang your hat on, where you can say, “If THIS happens, we can pull it out.” Even in the post-L.O.B. era of Seahawks football with prime Russell Wilson at the helm, we could look at the team and say, “Well, if Russell Wilson plays out of his mind, maybe we can win three playoff games and get to the Super Bowl.” Of course, that never happened, and we now understand why it was foolish to think that way. But, at least there was a chance. Russell Wilson used to be magic, and sometimes he was all we needed to will ourselves to victories.

You can’t say that about Geno Smith. Russell Wilson could get by with a rancid offensive line. Geno Smith is like this delicate flower that needs a climate-controlled environment to flourish. I’m not talking about weather here; it’s sort of a terrible analogy. But, like, Geno needs very good O-Line play. He needs the defense to keep us in it. He can’t carry us on his back and will us to victory. Oh sure, if everything is just right, he can lead us to a late come-from-behind victory every now and then. But, you better not allow any pass rushers to get in his face! He’s not making those comebacks against the likes of the 49ers, Cowboys, or Steelers!

What’s the best thing Seattle has going for it? The easy answer is the wide receiver room, but that’s so dependant on your quarterback’s play, that I think I have to push them down a tier. I think the actual best thing Seattle has going for it is the running back room. The one-two punch of Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet is as good as it gets. Walker makes something out of nothing in a way I haven’t seen since Barry Sanders. I’m not saying he’s as good as Barry Sanders, but I’m saying the moves you see him put on people on the football field week-in and week-out are as electric and jaw-dropping as I’ve seen out of anyone since Sanders retired. Charbonnet, on the other hand, is just a solid and dynamic straight-ahead runner. Every time I see him play well, I wonder if he’s the future #1 on this team, but then Walker comes back and flashes those amazing cut-back moves, and I’m swayed in his direction. Either way, those two combined – with their tremendous blocking and pass-catching abilities – puts us at a level few teams are at in the NFL.

So, why don’t we feature it more? Why aren’t we scheming to highlight the run, rather than using it to complement a passing attack that’s … fine? Your guess is as good as mine. Seems to me, once again, we have the wrong offensive coordinator. He was brought in to try to appease a disgruntled Russell Wilson, we traded Wilson a year later, and now we’ve been trying to make it work. Sometimes, Waldron looks like one of the best OCs in football. But, too often – especially this season – he gets too one-track minded. He goes away from the run – mind-bogglingly – even though we’re in more games than we’re way behind. And less and less do we see guys schemed open. We were supposed to get the system that the Rams use to tremendous success. Lots of crossers, lots of different plays out of similar-looking personnel groupings. But, either Geno isn’t seeing them, or we’ve gone away from them. Regardless, this offense looks as dysfunctional as it was under Schotty and in the final years of Bevell.

Getting back to the receivers, I’ll tell you what this team doesn’t have; it doesn’t have Doug Baldwin, or a Doug Baldwin type. It doesn’t have that guy who can get open under any circumstance. It doesn’t have that guy you can go to on 3rd & Long, when you absolutely need a conversion to move the chains. Tyler Lockett sort of used to be that guy, but not really, and definitely not anymore. I don’t know what Lockett is nowadays, if I’m being honest. Either he’s trending towards being washed up, or we’re just not utilizing him like we should. More often than not, we’re going to D.K. when we need a big catch to move the chains. Don’t get me wrong, D.K. has been GREAT this year. But, he still has massive drops at the worst times, and you never know when he’s going to be that powderkeg that’s one bad taunt away from exploding.

The good news is: maybe Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be the next true heir apparent to Doug Baldwin. But, he’s still a rookie, he’s still developing that relationship with Geno, and while he’s much more productive now than he was at the beginning of the season, he’s not quite there yet. Hopefully in the next year or two, but that doesn’t help us out THIS season, now does it?

As far as the defense goes, write it off. There’s nothing elite about any of these position groups. Jamal Adams was shut down, having never fully recovered from his knee injury. He was getting beaten on the reg, and was less and less productive out in space near the line of scrimmage the more he played. Clearly, his body is broken, and it’s going to really suck if we’re stuck with him for another year.

As for the rest of the secondary, that was sort of our big hope, but it hasn’t come to fruition. I think the depth is there, but the top-end talent has been lacking. Which is interesting, because two of our three Pro Bowlers came from this group (Devon Witherspoon and Julian Love). Witherspoon looks as good as advertised, but he started the year banged up, and he’s ending the year banged up. When he’s been healthy out there, he’s been a game-changer. But, I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’re ever going to get a full season out of him. And I’m certainly dubious about getting a respectable second contract out of him. As for Love, he’s definitely come on late, but early this season he was a huge liability! The bar to climb over for Pro Bowl contention seems to be getting lower and lower nowadays.

You can’t deny Riq Woolen’s sophomore season has been anything but disappointing. Seems like he too is injured, but I don’t remember him ever being all that active in tackling near the line of scrimmage. That wasn’t a problem last year when he was making plays and generating turnovers; but this year, when he’s not doing that, he’s not really doing anything for you, is he? The rest of the guys – Diggs, Brown, Jackson, Burns, etc. – have all flashed some level of greatness, but have also totally disappeared for long stretches. As a result, this defense is getting increasingly shredded as the season goes along.

The linebackers have been okay against the run, but Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest weaknesses in the passing game in the entire NFL (he’s a Pro Bowler based on reputation only). Without Jordyn Brooks, the linebacker room is totally decimated (as we saw last week against the Steelers). It’s tough when you’re as thin as you are, and you’re forced to play Wagner at or near 100% of the snaps every week. Now we have to pay Brooks whatever the market rate is for a top-end interior linebacker? What are we doing with our money here?!

I think the interior of the defensive line has been the most productive unit on this team, especially with the addition of Leonard Williams. Between him, Jarran Reed, and Dre’Mont Jones, we’re as solid as you can get. But, when Nwosu went down, the edge has been kind of a wasteland. Frank Clark has hardly played, and I think has since been cut (or is on the verge of being cut). Darrell Taylor can’t set an edge to save his life. Boye Mafe has slowed down considerably the second half of this season. Derick Hall is also struggling to play his position properly (but he’s a rookie, so he gets a pass). So, when you talk defensive line as a whole, I think you have to give them a net-negative. They get sacks at a decent clip, but I would say overall pressure numbers are sub-par, and the run defense has actually gotten worse as the season has gone along.

Defensive coordinator might be our biggest weakness, so we’ll see where that goes this offseason.

That leaves the O-Line, which is middling at best. But, Abe Lucas has been banged up all year, and we’ve had a revolving door at most of our positions from week to week. So much so that we’ve had to emphasize getting the ball out incredibly quickly if we even WANT to have a passing game. Seems like that would be the time to try to pound the rock, but again, we’re not, because of Reasons.

All told, that adds up to a team – as I said in the title – that isn’t great at any one thing. They’re okay at some things, terrible at others, and that’s what adds up to an 8-8 record heading into the final week of the season. Which is why I’ve been saying – for however many weeks now – that I do NOT want these Seahawks in the playoffs. What good does it do to get in there and get your doors blown off in the first round? We did that last year; did it do anything to make the 2023 Seahawks even remotely better? Or, did it just give us worse draft positioning, while allowing us to delude ourselves into thinking we were closer to Super Bowl contention than we actually were?

The Seahawks only make significant changes when they fail to make the playoffs. Whenever we make the playoffs, we bring our coaching staff back, keep the majority of the veterans we’re able to keep, and try to fill in around the fringes with what little resources we have left over. We’ve never really committed to a true rebuild since the 2010 season, and it’s starting to feel like all those Mariners teams from 2004-2018. Close, but no cigar.

What’s this team going to do as a 7-seed? Probably go to Dallas and lose by double digits. We already couldn’t stop them once – the week after Thanksgiving – what makes you think we can stop them now, when our talent is actually more depleted thanks to injury? We tried our best to keep up offensively – putting up 35 in a losing effort – but literally everything had to go right for that to happen, and I’m not buying that we can do that a second time.

And even IF we somehow, miraculously, beat the Cowboys in Dallas (because, at their heart, they love to choke in the playoffs), what is our reward? Playing the 1-seed 49ers after a week off (and after playing no one of consequence in Week 18). Just the worst case scenario of all scenarios; we haven’t come CLOSE to beating them for the last two years now.

So, no, I don’t want to see us in the playoffs. I don’t even want to see us winning this week! I want us 8-9. I want that LOSERS label to be firmly stamped all over this team. Pete Carroll and John Schneider aren’t going anywhere. But, maybe with a losing record, they’ll stumble into the correct coaching and personnel moves to turn this thing around before we’re all old and gray.

The Seahawks Got Their Improbable Victory Over The Eagles On Monday Night

I’m on the record as not necessarily wanting the Seahawks to win any more games. But, I was also on record as believing the Seahawks would win last night anyway, so I was more than a little tickled when Jaxon Smith-Njigba came down with that late TD with 28 seconds left in the game to go up 20-17. I was rather delighted when Julian Love came down with that game-clinching interception – his second of the game – to salt it away.

I will admit that it didn’t totally feel possible in the early going of that game. Once again, the Seahawks’ defense let an opponent march right down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. We gave up multiple easy third down conversions, and that’s not even counting all the times the Eagles easily Tush Pushed their way with a yard to go. There are two everlasting images I’ll have burned into my brain when it comes to the defense and this game: the behind-the-quarterback view of Hurts picking apart the middle of the field as Bobby Wagner stands there like a statue rather than follow the receiver in his vicinity, and Bobby Wagner jumping over the pile of bodies as Hurts converted multiple 3rd/4th & shorts, being swept away by his own momentum as if he were crowd-surfing at a rock concert.

Can you find the common thread in those two scenarios?

I’m not saying Bobby Wagner is the biggest problem with this team, or the only problem, but he is a problem. One of many.

I thought Hurts was pretty heroic in his effort last night, but I also thought he looked incredibly unwell. Even still, I don’t fully understand how the Eagles lost this game. I guess it just boils down to the two interceptions. The second one was a little understandable, given there wasn’t much time left and they needed to do something to get into field goal range. But, the first one was flat out uncalled for. First & 10 from Seattle’s 45 yard line, a deep ball to a receiver NOT named A.J. Brown or DeVonta Smith, and an underthrown one at that. That drive was easily going to end up being 3 points at a minimum. Instead, it ended up being the first turnover of a close game.

I’ll grant you that a more ticky-tack referee-ing crew might’ve called Love for a pass interference. I’m objectively of the opinion that it didn’t warrant a flag (but, I’m also a Seahawks fan, so can you really trust me?), but I also think it was a dumb decision in the first place. I know in the NFL, there’s this notion that you have to push the ball down the field and take chances deep. But, against a soft Seahawks defense that will give you ample opportunities underneath, if you just stick to the game plan that saw you take the opening drive 75 yards in 8 and a half minutes, you should have no trouble scoring a touchdown on every drive. Especially when you have the unstoppable weapon that is the Tush Push!

All that being said, what a cool game for Drew Lock. I came away mighty impressed with him, but also with a good amount of follow up questions. He finished 22/33 for 208 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs. He took 2 sacks that seemed pretty tough to avoid, try as he might. There were also a couple of out-routes that looked MIGHTY dangerous (to the point I was convinced a pick-six was in our future). I thought the plan to feature the run was crucial, and I found myself repeatedly annoyed when we went away from the run for no reason.

That doesn’t scream Franchise Quarterback to me. But, then you see this tweet about how he was 4/4 for 88 yards and a TD on 3rd & 10, and you can’t help but see the potential. That’s a great Eagles team, top 3 in the NFC and maybe top 5 in the entire NFL. We went into that final drive with under two minutes to go, one time out remaining, starting at our own 8 yard line, needing a touchdown (as we were down by 4). And Drew Lock orchestrated things beautifully, converting two of those aforementioned 3rd & 10’s. It was all on him; there wasn’t enough time to commit anything to the run, and he did it. With his arm.

But, then there are those other times in the game where Lock looks like any other backup. He had Tyler Lockett breaking away deep down field, but threw it too hard and on a line, not even giving him an opportunity to make a play on the ball (or draw a flag). Balls thrown into tight coverage, bouncing off of multiple arms before falling incomplete. Taking an intentional grounding penalty, looking a little flustered at times. Maybe that’s inexperience, and would get cleaned up with more consistent reps; or maybe that’s just who he is.

I was impressed by what I saw, but that’s in the context of having the absolute lowest expectations for Drew Lock. I still can’t say with any real certainty that he’s better than Geno Smith; I think Geno could’ve done the exact same things last night. Geno could’ve won us that game, for sure.

If I were to project what Drew Lock could potentially turn into, I keep coming back to someone like Ryan Tannehill. Put a great team around him, don’t force him to do too much, center things on a dominant running game, he could potentially put a team in the conference title game. But, a lot of things have to go right for that to work out, and even then, the ceiling isn’t super high.

It was cool to see Kenneth Walker bust out for 112 yards from scrimmage and a TD. D.K. Metcalf really came on late in the game after having a pretty quiet first half. And that catch by JSN at the end was a thing of beauty!

Defensively, Leonard Williams continues to be a beast in the middle. I loved what I saw from Michael Jackson – blowing up multiple wide receiver screens – and I thought Artie Burns had one of his best games. This made up for Devon Witherspoon being out injured, and Tariq Woolen being benched for large swaths of this game.

Of course, Julian Love was the superstar of this one, taking over for Jamal Adams (also out injured). My friend said it and I agree: we don’t win this game with Jamal Adams out there. We don’t win it with his stone hands dropping interceptions. In fact, he probably ends up giving up those reception yards, and the Eagles walk away in a blowout. That Adams injury sure seemed like a blessing, and I wouldn’t be totally against him being inactive for the rest of the year.

Shout out to Jason Myers for being perfect on the day, in really bad weather conditions. And a HUGE shout out to Michael Dickson, who was just nails punting the ball. He averaged 56 yards, with a long of only 59 on 5 punts. That’s consistent ass-kicking, when we absolutely needed to flip field position and force the Eagles into going long distances.

The win brings us to 7-7, and the 8th seed in the NFC, with three games to go. All of a sudden, the playoffs are not only a possibility, but I would argue very probable! Maybe if we ensure the 49ers are the #1 seed, we’ll have a chance to at least make it to the divisional round in an upset.

Let’s Talk About The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster 2023

The Seahawks cut their roster down to 53 players yesterday, following the end of the pre-season. That’s always mildly interesting to talk about, right?

We should probably get the big caveat out of the way now: this isn’t the be-all, end-all of the Seahawks roster. As early as later today, we should start seeing changes. Guys hitting the IR (because if they went on the IR prior to roster cutdown, they’d be lost for the season; whereas after, they only miss a few games), guys getting cut for other players we claim off of waivers or whatnot, possible trades for back-end draft picks/roster spots. Mildly interesting. Let’s get to it.

Quarterback

  • Geno Smith
  • Drew Lock

High floor, medium ceiling. There are certainly worse backups to have than Lock, but you can argue there are plenty of better starters than Geno. We’ll see, though. I would argue Geno’s in that 10-15 range among NFL quarterbacks; for him to take it to a higher level, he’s going to need improved offensive line play.

Running Back

  • Kenneth Walker
  • Zach Charbonnet
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Kenny McIntosh

Strong group, if they can stay healthy. I get the feeling Walker is being criminally overlooked, and I’m not sure I totally understand why. He’s got big play potential, he’s shifty, he can break tackles, he has a nose for the endzone, he’s not bad with his hands; he seems like the whole package. Yet, we draft Charbonnet in the second round, and everyone’s already On To The Next. I’m not sold on Charbonnet; I think he’s a solid #2, but I don’t know if he’s necessarily a starting-calibre, workhorse-type back. Dallas is the perfect #3/passing down back, good blocker, great hands, good route runner. McIntosh – if he isn’t already placed on the IR – figures to be inactive until the need arises for him to be called up.

Wide Receiver

  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  • Jake Bobo
  • Cody Thompson
  • Dareke Young

Elite! I think Smith-Njigba – right now – would be the very best receiver on a good number of teams, and at worse most teams’ #2. That’s as a rookie, and WITH the broken wrist! The fact that he’s our #3? It’s crazy. Also, count me in on the Bobo Hype Train 100%! All four of these guys are so different, so skilled, and bring something unique to the table, it’s going to be impossible for someone to not be open on every play. The last two guys are special teamers and/or injured, so we’ll see how that shakes out in the coming hours/days.

Tight End

  • Noah Fant
  • Will Dissly
  • Colby Parkinson

How cool is this? Two home grown guys on reasonable contracts, building their way up in this league, in this system. And Noah Fant – the big player prize in the Russell Wilson deal – who might get overlooked more than anyone on this team. Just solid studs who are good-to-great blockers, and valuable contributors in the receiving game. This is my ideal tight end room; lots of talent, with not a lot of dollars spent. Just some grinders putting in the work.

Offensive Line

  • Charles Cross (LT)
  • Damien Lewis (LG)
  • Evan Brown (C)
  • Phil Haynes (RG)
  • Abe Lucas (RT)
  • Stone Forsythe (T)
  • Jake Curhan (G/T)
  • Olu Oluwatimi (C)
  • Anthony Bradford (G)

Also, probably my ideal offensive line group. Everyone except for Brown is a homegrown guy, and he’s kind of a solid, cheap free agent center. We have the bookend tackles with the potential to be great in the years ahead, solid guards on the last year of their respective deals (so you know they’re looking to show out and get paid), and the two rookies who are ready to start pushing for playing time as early as this season. There are definitely questions about how good this group is right now, but I’m hopeful we’ll see some growth if not this year, then in the years ahead. Just, you know, let’s not see any injuries on the outside if we can avoid it.

Defensive Line

  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Jarran Reed
  • Mario Edwards
  • Mike Morris
  • Myles Adams
  • Cameron Young

This, uhh, looks less than impressive when you list them all together. We’re REALLY relying on Jones and Reed to carry the mail in this group. Edwards is just a guy. Adams is just a guy. Morris and Young are both rookies, but also injured I think? I don’t know WHAT we’re getting from this group, but it doesn’t look amazing. I, for one, can’t wait for Bryan Mone to come back.

Outside Linebacker

  • Uchenna Nwosu
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Boye Mafe
  • Derick Hall
  • Tyreke Smith

This feels a little more impressive, but also maybe a little top-heavy. We know what we’ve got with Nwosu. We think we know what we’ve got with Taylor. The rest still have to prove it on the football field, in regular season games, against opposing #1 offenses. Now, I think we’re all very high on Mafe and Hall, based on their bodies and what we’ve heard said about them in training camp and what we’ve seen in pre-season games. But, we all know how that goes. Whatever happened to Alton Robinson and Nick Reed?

Inside Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Devin Bush
  • Jon Rhattigan

This looks 1,000% better with Brooks back and playing. Is he fully healthy? We’ll find out. But, that takes pressure off of Bush to be superman, and that relieves all of us of watching Rhattigan make ankle tackles all game long. None of these units I’ve listed on the defensive side of the ball – by themselves – look all that great. But, with Bobby Wagner’s leadership and ability, he might be the glue that holds everything together and wills this group to great things. It’s our only hope, if I’m being honest!

Safety

  • Quandre Diggs
  • Julian Love
  • Jamal Adams
  • Jerrick Reed
  • Coby Bryant

Lots of versatility in this group; might be the most versatile we’ve ever seen. Adams figures to play more linebacker than actual safety. Bryant has shown an adeptness at both safety and nickel corner. I get the feeling that Love can play down in the box, but also isn’t a slouch in coverage. And Reed looked MIGHTY impressive in the pre-season; I’m happy with this group as a whole.

Cornerback

  • Riq Woolen
  • Devon Witherspoon
  • Michael Jackson
  • Tre Brown
  • Artie Burns

Pound for pound, maybe the most talented group on the team. Still, I can’t help but question Jackson’s level of play in the last two pre-season games. I thought Tre Brown looked much flashier, with bigger play potential. And you could do A LOT worse than either Burns or Bryant as your fifth corner. Teams have to be jealous of this unit.

Special Teams

  • Michael Dickson (P)
  • Jason Myers (K)
  • Chris Stoll (LS)
  • Nick Bellore

I’m tired of listing Bellore as a linebacker; he’s just a special teamer! He sure as shit isn’t a fullback; we never use one! Stoll is an undrafted rookie, so we’ll see how long he lasts. Otherwise, good group, solid all around.

Seahawks Death Week: Throw All The Free Agents In A Fucking Dumpster

I have chosen to just base this blog post on the list compiled over at Field Gulls, because I’m a lazy, lazy man. At least I linked over there; credit where it’s due and all that.

I want to say I read this in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport the day after the Seahawks’ season ended, hungover as all get-out after a Saturday night wedding that lasted until the wee hours of the very day we were supposed to return home to SeaTac. So, off the top of my head, I couldn’t possibly recount all the names from memory, but I remember my thoughts at the time revolved around: what a collection of trash!

Are any of these guys worth keeping or bringing back? I dunno, man. I guess you gotta have 53 guys on your roster – and 90 heading into Training Camp – so we’re bound to see some return names. But, I didn’t see a lot of tremendous impact from these players (save one very big and obvious name) that couldn’t be replaced with superior draft picks, free agents, and other guys from the scrap heaps of other teams.

Myles Adams is the only SOMEWHAT interesting name from the Exclusive Rights Free Agents list; that seems like a paltry amount to pay to bring back a depth/rotation defensive tackle. He always seems to flash in the pre season, anyway.

There’s usually more meat on the bone among the Restricted Free Agents, but I only see one guy worth bringing back – likely on a 2nd round tender – and that’s Ryan Neal. He played at a pretty high level at safety this year. He’s a quality backup at a position of need. Assuming Jamal Adams returns (as crazy as it sounds, we’re financially stuck with him through 2023 in all likelihood), safety is GOING to be a position of need. Because there’s no point in wondering IF Jamal Adams is going to get injured, but WHEN. Can he beat going down in the very first regular season game? Has anyone babyproofed his house lately?

Beyond that, I guess you could make a case for Mike Jackson, but I wouldn’t offer him anything higher than an original round tender. He’s not a surefire starter, in spite of all the starting he did in 2022; I’d take a 5th round draft pick for him, absolutely. No one else needs to be bothered with. Penny Hart and Tanner Muse are both fine special teams guys, but they can be had without going through the whole tender rigmarole.

Most of the guys you know and “love” are unrestricted free agents. I’ll save the quarterbacks for a separate post.

Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer are both up for contracts. Penny got a nice little payday before this past season, but clearly he’s not over his injury issues. Kenneth Walker has proven to be a starting running back in this league, and while every team needs backups, I don’t see the point in making Penny one of them. For a handful of games? Let him take his talents elsewhere. As for Homer, I thought he came into 2022 in much better shape, but he’s still Just A Guy; we could draft someone in the last couple rounds and more than make up for his lost production. We still have DeeJay Dallas, and I’d take him over Homer anyday.

Marquise Goodwin and Laquon Treadwell combine to just be okay (Goodwin is solid when healthy; Treadwell is a bust). We can do better, in spite of the fact that wide receiver is very much a position of need heading into 2023.

Austin Blythe, Kyle Fuller, and Phil Haynes are the offensive linemen we’re set to lose. I’d be fine bringing none of them back, though I do see Haynes as a solid rotational guy/backup. He might want to test the waters elsewhere. Blythe and Fuller can suck it, though. Go out in the draft and pick up a bona fide starting center!

Poona Ford, L.J. Collier, and Bruce Irvin are the defensive linemen on this list. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be okay losing Poona Ford, but he in no way, shape, or form lived up to his contract, having a particularly anonymous 2022 season. I don’t know if he’s cut out for the 3-4 defensive scheme. I also don’t know if Collier is cut out for the NFL period! Now that we have the XFL and the USFL, he should have no shortage of suitors. As for Bruce Irvin, I’d be okay bringing him back late in the pre-season as a depth piece. He shouldn’t be starting – like he was towards the end of 2022 – but as a rotational veteran, you could do a lot worse.

Fuck right off with Nick Bellore, Cody Barton, and BBK. I want upgrades at all linebacker spots on this roster – ideally through the draft – and if I never see these guys play defense for the Seahawks again, it’ll be too soon. Bring Bellore back as a special teamer if you must, but spare me this fullback playing linebacker.

Artie Burns, Justin Coleman, Josh Jones … Teez Tabor? What the fuck’s a Teez Tabor? They can all go.

Jason Myers is quite an interesting topic of conversation, actually. He came here on a 4 year, $15+ million deal and saw it through to the end. It’s kind of absurd how up and down he’s been in his career. In 2018, he was a Pro Bowler with the Jets. He signed with the Seahawks and wasn’t super great, hitting 82% of his field goals and 90% of his PATs. But, in 2020, he hit all of his field goals and 92% of his PATs. In 2021, he was downright bad, hitting only 74% of his field goals. At that point, I think every Seahawks fan was ready to wash their hands of him. However, in 2022, he jumped back up to 92% field goals made, with a high of 97% of his PATs made.

So, I don’t know what to tell ya. Based on this, he’s due to suck again in 2023. Does he deserve a raise for having another great year in a contract season? Does he deserve a reduction in pay thanks to how bad his 2021 was? Does he deserve the exact same deal? You like to think field goal kickers are easy to find, but they’re really not. Ask any team that’s struggled in this area. They’d probably back the Brinks truck up to bring in Jason Myers. I would say he’s probably worth the going rate of kickers in the top 10 in the league, but I also wouldn’t be broken up about losing him and finding a cheaper option elsewhere.

If I’m being honest, heading into this post, I was ready to declare Tyler Ott the most important Seahawks free agent of the bunch. But, I just remembered he was injured this year and didn’t play a regular season snap. So, maybe Carson Tinker is the way to go? Or maybe any ol’ fucking guy because long-snappers are a dime a dozen. Sign me to be your long-snapper! I’ve got flag football experience, I’m ready to go!

The Discourse Around Russell Wilson Makes Me Uncomfortable

Right off the bat, I’d like to point out that I’m as guilty of it as anyone. I’m no scold; I’ll own up to it: I’m delighting in the struggles of Russell Wilson.

This goes beyond rooting against the Broncos because we have their top two picks next year, though that plays a HUGE part in it. But, there’s something about Russell Wilson that rubs me the wrong way. So, I’m sort of relishing in the numbers being thrown around on Twitter, I’m laughing at the mocking of the front he puts on for the media and his weird videos/commercials, and I’m even a little smug about his injury issues (as if I could see it coming and I’m saying to no one “I told you so”).

Russell Wilson is kind of a fascinating character (and I say that intentionally; I think he’s playing a character in front of everyone, at least when it comes to his professional and public self), because there’s so much awkward weird robotic-ness that we can see, there are so many stories bandied about him behind the scenes, there are even more whispers about him that are maybe-rumors/maybe-lies/maybe-truths, and then there’s just so much that we absolutely don’t know. We don’t know what he’s like behind closed doors, with close friends and family (and advisors and agents and lawyers and hangers on). This could just be who he is with everyone, and everyone puts up with it because he makes them a lot of money. Or, he could be a total 180 of a person in his private life.

We also don’t know what it’s like to be in Russell Wilson’s head. He’s had this persona drilled into him from such a young age, it might be impossible to ever know the difference. Maybe there’s a little internal Russ that was proverbially beaten out of him at a young age, to the point where he just doesn’t know how to interact with human beings. He’s seen video of humans interacting. He’s watched others around him. He can sort of emulate human actions, human speech, human emotions. But, the driven part of his personality – the overwhelming majority of the internal Russell Wilson – just absorbs everything.

He sounds insufferable. It also sounds exhausting to be him. Not just from a workout perspective, but from a lifestyle perspective. He can’t just be a regular dude in his down time. He’s gotta be Russell Wilson, Professional Professional.

At the same time, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy. Now, who knows, right? There could be plenty of sinister skeletons in his closet featuring a bevy of alleged crimes. But, really, he seems like an okay person. He visits kids in children’s hospitals. Granted, that’s part of this persona he concocted; he’s not just the wannabe NFL Hall of Famer, but he’s the Children’s Hospital Guy. Nevertheless, he does it! He follows through. To a lot of fanfare at first, and then to little-to-no fanfare after a while. Week-in and week-out. Presumably; I’m not the keeper of Russell Wilson’s schedule. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary though.

He reminds me a lot of Michael Jackson, minus all the alleged diddling. But, we’re talking about guys who never really got to have childhoods, who were conditioned from a very young age to be in front of cameras and to be in front of thousands of adoring fans. We’re talking about people who reached the heights of their professions, who have the drive to be the very best, but at an obvious personal price. Obviously, Michael Jackson came out much more fucked up than Russell Wilson, but I would argue there’s real damage to Wilson’s development. You gotta wonder: does he have childhood friends? Or, was he always more emotionally attuned to being around adults? Was he the kid who was better friends with his coaches and teachers than his fellow players and students? Or worse, did he used to have a bunch of childhood friends and maintained a lot of normal relationships growing up, only to eschew them once he advanced through college and into the pros? I don’t know what’s sadder, but I would give almost any amount of money to get a sit-down with his ex-wife and listen to her tell stories for three hours.

Part of me feels bad for him, but like I keep saying, I don’t know him at all. He could be a colossal dick for all I know! Regardless, he doesn’t seem to be very grounded. There are plenty of mega-celebs out there who can make themselves look very down to earth and “everyman”. Russell Wilson is not one of them.

I don’t hate Russell Wilson. I don’t even dislike him. I’m pretty neutral on the persona he throws out there, and even if he is a phony, he still does enough good things (or, at least, not-bad things) to make himself likable. Okay, so he doesn’t get along or even try to associate with teammates. Okay, so his personality rubs some media people the wrong way. He’s not Opinionated Aaron Rodgers. He’s not Folksy Peyton Manning. He’s not Unfiltered Charles Barkley. Hell, he’s not even Tom Brady (who’s about as guarded as it gets, yet can still be charming as all get-out when he wants to be). That doesn’t make him a villain.

And oh, by the way, he also helped lead the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl championship (and two of their three appearances). Was he the be-all/end-all of quarterbacks? No, but he’s still the best we’ve ever had. Was the single-handedly the reason why those teams were good and we won all those games? Of course not, there were a lot of future Hall of Famers on those teams (and otherwise very good players) who gave us the magic elixir to win at such a high rate. But, I will say that we couldn’t have swapped Russell Wilson out for just anyone. We still needed his very specific magic to pull off what we were able to pull off. I refuse to discount everything he’s ever done to bring the Seahawks to greatness just because he’s been on the downslide of his career for the last few seasons.

I agree wholeheartedly with the decision to trade Russell Wilson. I think the Seahawks are in a much better place now. If I’m being honest, I think the rebuild started maybe a year or two too late. I also – not for nothing – probably would’ve gotten over it if we’d never offered him that third contract. If we had been able to draft a Josh Allen or a Patrick Mahomes, I would’ve gladly moved on way back when. I was worried about Russell Wilson being a potential problem back when he was on his rookie deal. I wish I could pull it, because I remember specifically writing about how all of these guys become me-first divas. They start worrying more about their stats and their legacy than they do about winning. Russell Wilson was never going to be the game manager Pete Carroll wanted him to be. He wasn’t even a game manager back when the Seahawks were competing for Super Bowls, but he was also much more willing to play within the conservative system we’d set up around him. Starting with 2015 and beyond, it became more about his quest for MVP votes. And, unfortunately for him, you can’t buy those, and you can’t win them in a popularity contest. You have to earn them on the field. And, more often than not, it was Russell Wilson’s own failing that prevented him from taking that next step.

That being said, for the most part, I relished every minute that Russell Wilson was a Seattle Seahawk. He was fun as hell to watch! The way he was able to elude pressure and generate huge plays down field will be something I never forget. He might not be an MVP, he might not even make the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done, but he has a Hall of Fame highlight reel that you could put up against any of the all-time greats. I’m not kidding. There’s never been a Seahawk with a better set of highlights. There might not be anyone else in the NFL today who can top Russ. Maybe Mahomes, but I would argue the variety of plays we’ve seen out of Wilson is unmatched. Not just in blowouts, not just in random Sunday afternoon home games, but in the biggest moments, on the biggest stages, with the whole world watching.

So, why do I have such schadenfreude towards him?

It’s a real primal reaction, I should say that. There’s very little logic to it, given the way I’ve laid it out today. I imagine it’s the way one would feel about an ex who’s moved on. Maybe you didn’t part on the best of terms, but it also wasn’t the messiest divorce either. Nevertheless, there’s an animal inside of you who wants them to be forever suffering with regret for shunning you the way they did.

To be fair, there’s very little logic to being a fan of sports teams period! So, this falls right in line with that. You don’t want to play for the Seahawks anymore? Then fuck you, I hope you’re miserable for the rest of your days.

There’s also part of me that relishes in being right. Everyone has to pick a side in any argument nowadays, and I staked my claim pretty publicly that I think the Seahawks are in the right – sticking with Pete and John – and I’d rather head into a rebuild with those two guys making the calls, over a new front office catering to Russell Wilson’s every whim. I wanted no part in a Russell Wilson contract that saw him earning upwards of $50 million a year. I wanted no part in another protracted negotiating year of back-and-forth leaked sniping to the media ahead of an inevitable contract extension. And I wanted no part of an older, slower, less accurate Russell Wilson in the twilight of his career.

Really, I was done with the whole online discourse. The chicken or the egg argument of who’s at fault, Pete Carroll for holding Russ back, or Russell Wilson for not playing within our offensive system. A system, mind you, that he personally vouched for and approved, in bringing over Shane Waldron from the Rams. Let’s just be done with it and find out once and for all.

And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but at this early juncture it seems like the right moves were made. Get rid of Russell Wilson, acquire lots of draft picks, and use all your draft picks to bolster the rest of this roster ahead of the next great Seahawks quarterback.

The only question that remains is: will that Next Great Seahawks Quarterback be someone who’s been here all along – Geno Smith – or will it be whoever we look to draft next year? I think that’s a legitimate question that will only get murkier in the coming months.

One answer to a question no one asked – who is better, Russell Wilson or Geno Smith – appears to be answered before our very eyes. I’ve seen plenty of Wilson in a Broncos jersey to date this season, and both my eyes and the numbers bear it out: Geno Smith in a landslide. Not that I’m the biggest Geno Believer or anything, but that’s pretty cool to see.

It’s fun to be a Seahawks fan again. I wasn’t able to say that all the time in recent years. And, if you base fun on a team’s ability to compete at a championship level, then this team hasn’t been fun since 2015 (not that we’re a potential championship team this year, but that’s just illustrative of long we’ve been waning in this league). We were always in it for the playoffs and the division (until 2021), but we never felt like a legitimate contender in all those years since. It felt more like we needed an unsustainable amount of Russell Wilson wizardry pulling our asses out of the fire for things to go our way.

Lo and behold, all that time, we never realized how much Russell Wilson was actually putting us INTO those fires he tried so desperately to then pull us out of. Was he doing it intentionally? Was he that psycho mom who poisons her child, just so they have to depend on her nursing them back to health? Maybe not consciously, but I’m sure he didn’t hate being the hero to pull everyone to safety, while at the same time being falsely modest afterwards. I’m willing to believe Russell Wilson is a pretty big narcissist; him being humble is part of the act I just don’t buy. He might not feel comfortable talking himself up, but I bet he loves it when everyone else does.

Well, no one’s talking him up now. Quite the contrary. Everyone’s all too happily digging his grave. At some point, it’ll come around to being sad again. But now? This year? Let’s bury the motherfucker. The Seahawks could use a top 5 draft pick, and they’re sure as shit not going to get there with their own draft placement!

The Last Great Mariners Rebuild

The Seattle Mariners played their first season in 1977.  From 1977 through 1994, the Mariners were varying degrees of terrible.  Sometimes Two times, “terrible” came with a winning record (1991 & 1993), but no post-season appearance.  Then, in 1995, the Mariners broke on through with an AL West title and a legend was made.  People still talk about those 1995 Mariners in a reverential tone and for good reason.  Baseball fans in the northwest starving for the sweet taste of success finally had something to hang their hats on.

From 1995 through 2003, the Mariners were varying degrees of successful.  Those nine seasons saw the Mariners make the playoffs four times, winning three division titles.  Seven of those nine seasons saw the Mariners with winning records.  Two insanely good A’s teams prevented two 93-win Mariners teams from going to the playoffs four straight years from 2000-2003.  These were the good times.  Everything abruptly fell apart in 2004 and the team was blown up.

From 2004 through present day, the Mariners have returned to their varying degrees of terrible.  In the nine full seasons from 2004-2012, the Mariners have had a winning record twice.  They’ve finished last in the AL West seven times.  It’s been one rebuild after another, with no end in sight.  Just a continuation of the cycle of losing, ad infinitum.

Of course, if the Mariners could do it once, SURELY the Mariners can do it again.  It took until their 19th year of existence before the Mariners made the playoffs; if it feels hopeless now, just imagine what it must have felt like for Mariners fans in the early 1990s.  They say something about learning from history or being doomed to repeat it, but what if in this case we take a look at something that went RIGHT for the Mariners in their history and seeing if we can repeat THAT?

As fans, we have to believe that a turnaround is right around the corner.  I know I’m on here quite a bit, bitching about how nothing is ever going to get any better (because why would we think that?  What is trending well enough for us to deserve the luxury of hope?), but if I truly felt that way, why would I continue to follow this team?  I’m not a baseball fan, per se; I’m a Mariners fan.  I don’t sit around watching random baseball games in my spare time; I watch Mariners games.  If the Mariners moved to Oklahoma City, I would stop watching baseball, the same as I have stopped watching professional basketball.  If the Mariners had never existed, I never would have started watching baseball in the first place (you get the idea).  So, since it’s been established that I’m a Mariners fan, it should also be established that yes, I do hope they’re able to turn things around sooner rather than later.  I’m not 100% cynical.  I’m just beaten down and broken, but all that can change if a few things fucking broke right for the Mariners for once!

The one thing Jackie Z has done right in his tenure as general manager is:  he’s re-stocked the farm system with an abundance of talented prospects.  Of course, none of that talent (save Kyle Seager and a couple bullpen arms) has panned out at the Major League level, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

There is no “right way” to rebuild.  It’s a combination of youth and veterans.  It’s a combination of draft picks, trades, and free agent signings.  It’s a combination of luck, strategy, and luck again.  In an ideal world, your Major League roster would be riddled with your own draft picks still playing on rookie deals.  Every trade you made would work out splendidly for you and would tank for your trade partner.  Every free agent signing would be a “buy-low” situation where they immediately turned their careers around.

Or, if you like concrete examples:  every draft pick would be Ken Griffey Jr., every trade would net you Jay Buhner in return, and every free agent would be Bret Boone circa 2000/2001.

So, in an attempt to try and forget the miseries of our present-day situation, I’d like to go back to a simpler time where a team comprised of a mix of youth and veterans shocked the world by winning their very first division title in the most dramatic of fashions.  How was THAT team built?  What can we learn from how that team did what it did?  And how did that team evolve into the greatest regular season team in baseball history?

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1995 Seattle Mariners

Rebuilds don’t happen overnight.  A lot of these guys were brought into the fold well before everything magically came together in 1995.  I’m not going to get into every single player, but I’ll go over the highlights.

Dan Wilson (catcher) was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1990 in the first round.  That was the same year Lou Pinella signed on to manage those very same Reds.  That was also the same year the Reds won the World Series and wrote Lou’s ticket as an elite baseball manager for the next couple decades.  Sweet Lou hitched his wagon to the Seattle Mariners in 1993 with the task of turning around the worst franchise in baseball.  Dan Wilson got his first taste of the majors in a September cup of coffee in 1992.  Wilson got some more playing time in 1993, but was then traded along with Bobby Ayala to be reunited with Pinella before the 1994 season.  Wilson played considerably in ’94, earned the starting job in ’95, and never looked back.

Tino Martinez (first base) was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1988 in the first round.  He received his cup of coffee in 1990 and didn’t play a whole lot in the Majors through 1991.  Martinez was mediocre (but played a lot more) from 1992-1994, then finally had his breakout season in 1995 (.293/.369/.551).

Joey Cora (second base) was drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1985 in the first round.  Cora didn’t start earning regular playing time until after he’d been traded to the White Sox in 1991.  His numbers weren’t particularly impressive, but he was improving as he played regularly through the 1994 season.  Then, in April of 1995, Cora signed as a free agent with the Mariners.  In spite of what we choose to remember about Little Joey Cora, I think many of us forget just how productive he was as a Mariner.  From 1995 through August of 1998, Cora had a slash line of .293/.355/.406.  He was traded at the August trade deadline in 1998, then abruptly retired to go into coaching after the end of the season.

Mike Blowers (third base) was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1984 but did not sign.  He would go on to be drafted three more times before he finally signed with the Montreal Expos in 1986.  He would be traded to the Yankees in August of 1989, then traded to the Mariners in May of 1991.  Blowers originally broke into the Majors with the Yankees in 1989, but he wouldn’t become a starter in the Majors until 1993 with the Mariners.  He would go on to be traded by the Mariners after that historic 1995 season, but would later come back on one-year free agent deals in 1997 and again in 1999 before retiring after that 1999 season.

Ken Griffey Jr. (center field) was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the #1 overall pick in the 1987 draft.  He would become a starter in the 1989 season and would not look back.  In February of 2000, the Mariners would trade him to the Reds.  They brought him back as a free agent in February of 2009 before he retired in June of 2010.

Jay Buhner (right field) was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in January of 1984.  In December of that very same year, Buhner was traded to the Yankees.  Buhner got his cup of coffee with the Yankees in September of 1987, played a bit more in 1988, then was traded at that year’s deadline to the Seattle Mariners for Ken Phelps.  Buhner became an everyday player in 1991 and was a core piece of the Mariners’ offense for the next decade.

Edgar Martinez (designated hitter) signed as an amateur free agent with the Seattle Mariners in December of 1982.  He didn’t break into the Majors until 1987 and didn’t become an everyday player until 1990.  He would go on to become the greatest designated hitter in baseball history.

Randy Johnson (starting pitcher) was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1985 in the second round.  The Big Unit got his cup of coffee in September of 1988, making four starts.  He was traded in May of 1989 to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston.  He became an immediate starter for the Mariners and progressively got better until he broke out in 1993, coming in second in the AL Cy Young race.  Johnson would go on to win that award in 1995, leading the Mariners to their best playoff finish in franchise history.  He would go on to be dealt to the Astros at the 1998 trade deadline and never return.

I’ll spare you Tim Belcher‘s long history for the most part:  he was drafted in 1984 and kicked around with four different teams before he signed with the Reds in May of 1995, where he was promptly traded to the Mariners two weeks later without ever throwing a pitch for the Reds that season.  Belcher made 28 starts for the Mariners that season, going 10-12.  He would not be retained by the Mariners beyond 1995.

Chris Bosio (starting pitcher) was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982 in the second round.  He had a good career with the Brewers over 7 seasons, then signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in December of 1992.  In 1993, Bosio pitched the second-ever Mariners no-hitter.  In 1995, Bosio started 31 games and went 10-8.  He hung around to start the 1996 season, struggled mightily, and retired at season’s end.

The Mariners traded for Andy Benes from the San Diego Padres at the July deadline in 1995.  He would go on to make 12 starts down the stretch, going 7-2.  He would sign a free agent deal with St. Louis before the 1996 season and would never be heard from again.

The bullpen was a piece of work, anchored by Bobby Ayala (came over in the Dan Wilson trade in 1993), who appeared in 63 games.  Norm Charlton was originally traded by the Reds to the Mariners prior to the 1993 season, but he would be injured, lose all of the 1994 season to injury, and eventually sign with the Phillies in 1995.  He was released by the Phillies in July of 1995 and signed on with the Mariners four days later.  Jeff Nelson was originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1984, but then was drafted by the Mariners from the Dodgers in something called a “minor league draft” in 1986.  He became a regular reliever in 1992 and was consistently productive thereafter.

That, more or less, is the 1995 Mariners.  Obviously, there were lots of bench players and fill-ins (Rich Amaral & Alex Diaz filling in admirably for an injured Junior), and a lot of players who were tried out as starters in the rotation, but the players I listed comprised the core.  Seven guys brought over in trade, three free agents, and four guys who were drafted by the Mariners (well, three guys and Edgar, who was an amateur free agent and played his entire career under the same organization).

1996 Seattle Mariners

With the base already in place, I shouldn’t have to keep re-hashing the core group that remains.  The first big misstep in what would become a long line of soul-crushing missteps by the organization came on December 7, 1995, when the Mariners traded Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the New York Yankees.  In return, they received a starting third baseman in Russ Davis, and a starting pitcher in Sterling Hitchcock.

Davis was the most error-prone third baseman I’ve ever seen.  He was supposed to make up for that with his bat, but in the four years he wore a Mariners uniform, he never surpassed 21 homers in a season, with a Mariners career slash line of .256/.309/.446.  Tino Martinez would go on to have an outstanding career with the Yankees, hitting 175 homers and 180 doubles over the next six seasons.  Jeff Nelson would go on to be a fabulous bullpen presence for the Yankees over the next five seasons, before returning as a free agent to the Mariners prior to the 2001 season.  Sterling Hitchcock, meanwhile, lasted one season with the Mariners (1996) where he sucked.  Then, he was traded to the Padres for Scott Sanders, who also sucked.  Sanders lasted one season with the Mariners (1997) before being traded for two guys who did nothing.  Suffice it to say, the Mariners lost the SHIT out of this trade.

All was not totally lost for this 1996 team, though.  The Mariners signed Paul Sorrento (first base) as a free agent before the season started.  Sorrento was an okay veteran who had played in 7 regular seasons with two different teams before coming to the Kingdome where he would mash the hell out of the ball for the 1996 and 1997 seasons.  We let him go after 1997 and he signed with Tampa Bay where he would finish out his career.

Alex Rodriguez (short stop) was drafted with the #1 overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in 1993.  He got his cup of coffee in 1994, and mostly rode the pine in 1995 before earning the everyday short stop job in 1996.  He would put up MVP-type numbers in this season, yet be denied his rightful honor thanks to the idiots who voted for the MVP award that season (they picked Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers who had a markedly inferior season).  A-Rod would be a Mariners favorite from 1996 through the 2000 season before taking the money and running to the Rangers in 2001.

Rich Amaral (left field) was signed as a free agent before the 1991 season before ever playing a game in the Majors.  Amaral earned a lot of playing time in 1995 after Griffey went down with injury that cost him a majority of the season.  As a reward for doing such a good job, Amaral earned the left field job in 1996.  He would go on to stick around (mostly as a bench player) through the 1998 season before signing as a free agent with the Orioles and ending his career in Baltimore.

So, the ’96 lineup had new additions Sorrento & Davis with holdovers in Amaral, A-Rod, Wilson, Cora, Griffey, Buhner, and Edgar.  Pretty fucking good … until you get to the pitching staff …

Hitchcock became the de facto pitching ace for this team after Randy Johnson went down in May with his back injury.  He would return in August as a reliever and never started a game for the Mariners the rest of the season.

Bob Wolcott was a Mariners draft pick from 1992 in the second round.  He made his first starts in the Majors in 1995 in August and earned himself a playoff roster spot that netted him the start in Game 1 of the ALCS (as the rotation had been spent just trying to get past the Yankees in five games of the ALDS).  From that ALCS victory, Wolcott earned himself a rotation spot in 1996.  He mostly underwhelmed.  He played one more season in Seattle (1997) and was lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the expansion draft of 1997.

Jamie Moyer was drafted back in 1984 by the Chicago Cubs.  He had played in 10 Major League seasons with five different teams (Cubs, Rangers, Cardinals, Orioles, Red Sox) before he was traded by the Red Sox to the Mariners at the 1996 deadline.  Moyer would go on to play 11 years with the Mariners and end up one of the best pitchers in team history.

Terry Mulholland, on the other hand, would NOT go down as one of the best pitchers in team history.  The 1996 Mariners were enjoying unprecedented offensive success, but injuries had throttled their pitching staff.  Mulholland, like Moyer, was a veteran of a million other teams before he was traded to the Mariners at the 1996 deadline.  He came in and did okay, but it would prove to be a fruitless endeavor as the Mariners – while above .500 – failed to make the playoffs.  Mulholland would never pitch for the Mariners beyond this season.

The primary bullpen addition (with Charlton and Ayala leading the way for the most part) was Michael Jackson.  He was another longtime vet who the Mariners brought in on a 1-year deal prior to the 1996 season.  He had pitched with the Mariners early in the 90s and was a quality arm in the bullpen who locked down the 8th inning and didn’t get nearly enough save opportunities.

1997 Seattle Mariners

The batting lineup was almost exactly the same in 1997.  Rich Amaral even enjoyed his usual 89 games of stellar fill-in duty.  The only major change in this year was the tantalizing tease that was Jose Cruz Jr.  He was drafted by the Mariners with the #3 overall pick in the 1995 draft and was brought up by the Mariners in 1997 to start in left field effective May 31st.  In his 49 games, Cruz had 12 homers and 12 doubles.  Along with Griffey and A-Rod, he was looking like another can’t-miss first round prospect who would go on to have a Hall of Fame type career.

Of course, this Mariners team couldn’t afford to live with their Pie in the Sky dreams of future glory; they had to strike NOW, while the iron was hot!  This was a good baseball team, with another massively impressive offense, and little in the way of pitching (especially bullpen pitching).

So, at the trade deadline, the Mariners made the two trades that will forever be a black mark on this organization.  On the same day, the Mariners sent Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek (two minor leaguers with incredible promise) to the Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb.  Slocumb was immediately inserted into the closer’s role because Norm Charlton had officially hit the wall in his career.  The other trade was one Jose Cruz Jr., who was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric.  Both of those two were inserted into the regular bullpen rotation.  Timlin was okay, Spoljaric was a lefty and not that good.  This mishmash of a bullpen, with a surprising resurgence by Bobby Ayala, managed to get the job done enough to get the Mariners into the playoffs, but it was a hefty price to pay that ultimately never did pay off in a World Series Championship as intended.

Lost in the shuffle of the 1997 season was actually one of the better trades in Mariners history.  In October of 1996, the Mariners traded a bunch of scrubs to the Expos for Jeff Fassero.  He fit in quite nicely with our rotation stalwarts of Randy Johnson (back and better than ever from his injury-plagued 1996 season) and Jamie Moyer.  Fassero rounded out our Big Three for the 1997 & 1998 seasons before falling off the cliff in 1999 and being traded away to the Rangers.

The Mariners plugged in some draft picks (Lowe, pre-trade, and Ken Cloude) as well as some veterans (Dennis Martinez, signed as a free agent; and Omar Olivares, who was brought over when the team dealt Scott Sanders to the Tigers) into the back-end of their rotation, but no one really stuck.  For this season or long-term.

1998 Seattle Mariners

The primary addition to the starting lineup was David Segui (first base) who was signed as a free agent.  The team had let Paul Sorrento walk and needed some kind of production.  Segui was a solid, if unspectacular contributor who had a nice year and a half with the Mariners before being traded at the 1999 deadline.

The 1998 Mariners continued their revolving door at left field, with no one of import taking the bull by the horns.

The ’98 Mariners had what amounted to a stable starting rotation, shock of shocks.  After the Big Three, Ken Cloude was granted one of the final two spots.  He was drafted by the Mariners in the sixth round in 1993 and made his first Major League start in 1997.  He would start 30 games in 1998, but his ERA would be over 6 and he would go only 8-10.  Cloude was primarily a bullpen pitcher, with a few spot starts here and there in 1999, then his career would be over.

Grabbing the final rotation spot was veteran Bill Swift.  Swifty was drafted by the Mariners in the first round in 1984, but was traded away in 1991 and bounced around for a while before signing as a free agent in February of 1998.  He would go 11-9 with a 5.85 ERA in 1998 and then he would retire.

The 1998 Mariners were the first team of this era to end the season with a losing record.  I’ll be damned if I know how that’s possible with an offense this stacked, but let’s go ahead and start with Randy Johnson.  This was a contract year for him and he was pretty much blowing it.  He was 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA in his 23 starts before the trade deadline.  The Mariners as an organization had balked at the notion of re-signing him to a long-term extension, citing the 1996 season and his back injury as a reason to be cautious.  Tensions grew from there and by the trade deadline, the team knew it wasn’t going to be able to retain him beyond the season.  They felt they had to trade him to get some kind of value back in return.  So, he was dealt to the Astros (where he proceeded to dominate the shit out of the National League with a 10-1 record and a sub-2 ERA) for prospects.

One could also blame the 1998 misfortunes on the bullpen.  They managed only 31 saves as a unit, with Bobby Ayala returning to his absolute nadir (a 1-10 record with a 7.29 ERA and more blown saves – 9 – than regular saves – 8).  Ayala would be traded prior to the 1999 season and we would never have to see his punk-ass again.  Mike Timlin did an admirable job stepping up and doing what he could, but everyone else from Spoljaric to Slocumb to Bob Wells on down all stunk the joint up.  Our five primary bullpen guys went a combined 12-26; take from that what you will.  At least no more major trades were made that could blow up in our faces later.

1999 Seattle Mariners

A bit of a lineup shake-up here, with Joey Cora moving on and being replaced by David Bell (second base) who we received for Cora in a 1998 trade deadline deal with the Indians.  Bell would never wow you with his bat, but he was a solid infield glove man who would go on in subsequent seasons to lock down third base (and give us all a break from Russ Davis’ stone hands).

Of course, in 1999, Davis was still around.  As was Wilson, Segui, A-Rod, Griffey, Buhner, and Martinez.  The left field circus continued with Brian Hunter, who we received in trade from the Tigers for a couple of nobodies.  Hunter stunk at the plate, but stole 44 bases, so whatever.

The real shakedown happened, of course, with the pitching staff.  Freddy Garcia and John Halama, who we received in the Randy Johnson Trade, made their debuts with the organization in 1999.  Garcia, in fact, made his Major League debut with the Mariners.  Garcia was still a little raw as a rookie, but he was rock solid and would quickly go on to be this team’s ace.  Halama was another soft-tossing lefty in the Jamie Moyer mold.  He was okay in 1999 and would go on to be no better than okay going forward.

As I mentioned before, Jeff Fassero fell apart this season and was dealt away.  Gil Meche rounded out the rotation.  He was drafted in the first round in 1996 and immediately made an impression upon his first start that July.  Yes, it was a loss, and yes, his numbers weren’t very good.  But, he showed a live fastball, a wicked curve, and a whole lotta promise.  People were much higher on Meche than they were on Garcia, but either way, this looked like the beginning of a long run of quality starting baseball from our rotation.

The bullpen was re-tooled prior to the 1999 season, with Jose Mesa being signed on as the closer.  He would play two seasons in Seattle and would not be missed when he left.  Jose Paniagua was signed off of waivers in 1998, where he played in 18 games for the Mariners.  He got the bulk of the 8th inning work in 1999 and was a solid, live-arm guy who would never mature into a closer.

These Mariners also suffered through a sub-.500 season, with growing pains in the rotation (Meche, Halama, and Garcia all in their first full seasons) and Fassero completely losing it.  There just wasn’t enough pitching to hold together this team with all its hitting prowess.

2000 Seattle Mariners

While the first great Mariners rebuild came to fruition in the 1995 season, the last great Mariners rebuild reached its apex in 2000 and 2001.

The core players from that 1995 team that remained on the 2000 Mariners were:  Dan Wilson (catcher), Jay Buhner (right field), and Edgar Martinez (designated hitter).  Yes, A-Rod was on that ’95 team, but he was not a regular.  There’s been quite a bit of turnover leading us up to what would be the zenith for this franchise in 2000 and 2001.

John Olerud was a longtime veteran who signed prior to the 2000 season to replace David Segui (who replaced Paul Sorrento, who replaced Tino Martinez).  Olerud finished his career as a starter in a Mariners uniform, seeing his release in the middle of the 2004 crater of a season.  Olerud would finish his career as a part-time player with the Yankees and Red Sox.

Mark McLemore was another longtime veteran who signed prior to the 2000 season to be a utility player.  He found a home as a second baseman and caught fire as a super utility player in 2001, bouncing around from left field to third base to wherever else they needed him to play to give others days off.  McLemore stuck around through the 2003 season before leaving in free agency to play one final year in Oakland before retiring.

Mike Cameron (center field) was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 1991 draft.  He played in all or parts of four seasons with the White Sox before being traded to the Cincinnati Reds in November of 1998 for Paul Konerko.  He started for one season with the Reds before Ken Griffey Jr. demanded to be traded to Cincinnati and only Cincinnati after the 1999 season.  In return, the Mariners received Cameron (because they no longer needed a center fielder, thanks to Griffey being there), Brett Tomko, and two other guys.  Or, I guess you could say the Mariners received Cameron and three other guys, but that’s neither here nor there.

Mariners fans were a little salty about the whole Griffey thing, especially coming on the heels of the whole Randy Johnson thing (which, if you believe certain reports, is what caused Griffey to sour on the organization in the first place, since the Mariners were not taking care of the veterans who brought them all this success).  Mike Cameron helped fans get over Griffey by being a wizard in the field and not a total disaster at the plate.  He was actually quite productive in his four years with the Mariners.  Cameron left for greener pastures after the 2003 season, signing as a free agent with the Mets, but he will always be accepted as a Mariner for Life thanks to his efforts in Seattle.

The starting rotation featued a combination of six guys.  Aaron Sele signed as a free agent before the season and won 17 games.  Paul Abbott originally signed as a free agent with the Mariners before the 1997 season.  He was primarily a reliever with some spot-start duties.  In 2000, he was forced into action and produced admirably.  John Halama and Freddy Garcia (again, from the Randy Johnson trade) got their share of starts.  Jamie Moyer, the longest-tenured holdover from that trade in 1996, had an injury-plagued 2000 season.  And Gil Meche started off the season in the rotation before leaving with a dead arm in early July.  He would not pitch again in the Majors until the 2003 season.

Kaz Sasaki signed as a free agent from Japan prior to the season, immediately started closing, and won the Rookie of the Year award.  He was the first of back-to-back Japanese Rookies of the Year the Mariners would sign.  Sasaki played in four seasons, went to 2 All Star Games, saved 129 games (the franchise leader), and totally fell apart in 2003.  He would retire after that season and never played in the Majors again.

Jose Mesa and Jose Paniagua stuck on as middle relievers, but the biggest addition (arguably) was Arthur Rhodes, who signed as a free agent before the season.  In his initial tenure with the Mariners, across four seasons, he appeared in 276 games (never fewer than 66 appearances in a season) and had a 3.07 ERA.  He was the left-handed reliever we’d been looking for since 1995 and aside from a couple of nasty innings in the 2000 and 2001 American League Championship Series’ against the Yankees, he was arguably the best reliever this team has ever seen.

With that kind of turnover, the Mariners found the mysterious answer to the equation of how to make the playoffs.  The core had dwindled from what it was in 1995, but with pieces like Olerud, Cameron, Garcia, Rhodes, Moyer, and Sasaki, they had managed to climb that mountain once again.

2001 Seattle Mariners

In 2001, it would only get better.  116 wins, unheard of in the modern era.  There wasn’t a tremendous amount of turnover, but there were two very big names involved that would change the organization forever.

First, there was A-Rod accepting a 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers.  He would go on to use steroids and become the most hated former Mariner the world has ever known.  In his place, the team started Carlos Guillen at short stop, who was another gem in what was a surprisingly decent trade for Randy Johnson.  How amazing is it that every piece we got back for Randy in 1998 ended up starting for the Mariners by 2001?  I would argue it’s pretty unheard of.

The other big move was signing Ichiro from Japan and making him our everyday right fielder.  By this point in his career, Jay Buhner was simply a part-time player and he graciously gave way to the incoming Ichiro, who set the world on fire in his rookie season, winning the ROY as well as the MVP award.

A little more under the radar was the Bret Boone signing.  We got him for pennies on the dollar and made him our second baseman.  In return, we got a near-MVP season out of him, and a stud second baseman through 2003 before starting his inevitable decline in 2004 and being traded away in the middle of the 2005 season.

Dan Wilson and Edgar Martinez were the only two holdovers from that 1995 team now, with David Bell continuing to man third base, and Mark McLemore platooning with Bell at third and with Al Martin in left field.  Al Martin was supposed to be our big deadline deal in July of 2000 to help bolster our outfield hitting.  He did no such thing and was a total bust.

Freddy Garcia finally made that next step as the ace of the staff in 2001.  Aaron Sele was still oddly productive (in the win/loss department, if not in the actual pitching department) as was Paul Abbott.  Jamie Moyer won 20 games to lead the team.  Our rotation was rounded out with Halama and Joel Pineiro, who was a 12th round draft pick by the Mariners in 1997.  Pineiro would earn full time starting duty in 2002, but would never pan out as we’d hoped.

The bullpen was almost exactly the same as in 2000, except we replaced the dud that was Jose Mesa with the newly signed Jeff Nelson, who was still awesome.  Norm Charlton even made a comeback and was somehow good again; I’m telling you, these 2001 Mariners could do no wrong!  Until the playoffs, that is.

2002 Seattle Mariners

The 2002 Mariners traded David Bell prior to the season because they had previously traded for the hot-hitting Jeff Cirillo from the Colorado Rockies for Jose Paniagua and others.  The hot-hitting Jeff Cirillo never showed up, though.  Instead, his nothing-hitting twin brother showed up and sucked my will to live.  Cirillo played two mediocre seasons before being dumped on the Padres prior to the 2004 season for batting donuts.

Other than the Cirillo hubbub, the starting lineup was pretty much intact, with McLemore earning the starting left field job.

The rotation took some hits, with Halama and Abbott stinking up the joint, when they managed to stay healthy.  Moyer, Garcia, and Pineiro locked down the top three spots, with James Baldwin – a veteran free agent signing – totally crapping the bed.  The rest of the starts were spread out over a bunch of different pitchers, no one of note worth mentioning.

Sasaki, Rhodes, and Nelson locked down the best three-man late innings bullpen unit in baseball, with Shigetoshi Hasegawa signing in free agency to make a good bullpen even better (picking up the slack from losing Paniagua).

As I said before, this team would win 93 games, but it actually managed to finish THIRD in the AL West, with Oakland winning 103 games and Anaheim winning 99 and taking the Wild Card.  That’s just a crusher any way you slice it; 93 games in most years would be enough to get you there!  Not in 2002.

2003 Seattle Mariners

After the 2002 season, Lou Pinella left for another opportunity, this time in Tampa, where he made his offseason home.  The Mariners signed on Bob Melvin and tried to keep the train a-rollin’ with most of the same crew attached.

Same infield:  Wilson, Olerud, Boone, Guillen, Cirillo.  Cammy and Ichiro were still here, along with Edgar Martinez.  New addition:  Randy Winn (left field) who was traded to us by Tampa.  Winn played two and a half years with the Mariners, and they were quality seasons for him, but ultimately he’s a forgotten man for a couple reasons.  He came on too late, without a playoff appearance to his name.  Also, let’s face it, we were spoiled as Mariners fans.  We’d been blessed with this cavalcade of elite power hitters and Winn was anything but.  He was a nice piece, but ultimately not enough to push us over the edge into the post-season.

2003 came with it the oddity of having the same five pitchers start all the games that season.  Again, we had Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, and Joel Pineiro.  Gil Meche returned from the wilderness of Injuryland to grab one of the final spots, with Ryan Franklin bringing up the rear.  Franklin was drafted by the Mariners in 1992, but didn’t sign until May of 1993.  He had his cup of coffee in 1999, then didn’t return to the Majors until 2001 out of the bullpen.  He had a few starts in 2002 and must have shown enough in Spring Training to win a job in 2003, because there he was.  Franklin was never what I would call “good” …

For as steady as our starting rotation was, the bullpen was a bit of a mess.  Sasaki became way too hittable and lost his closer’s job.  Rhodes was losing a bit on his fastball and his ERA suffered for it.  Nelson was still rock solid, and Hasegawa was dy-no-mite as the eventual closer replacement.  Julio Mateo was a bullpen regular with the Mariners after signing as an amateur free agent back in 1996 as a 19 year old, as was Rafael Soriano (also signed in 1996 as an amateur, though as a 16 year old).

In 2003, the A’s again won the AL West, though they only bested the Mariners by 3 games, winning 96.  The Mariners were 2 measly games back of Boston for the Wild Card, so once again they were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The 2004 Mariners, I think seeing the writing on the wall, tried to reload by signing Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio, and Rich Aurilia, but it wouldn’t be enough.  Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, and John Olerud all fell apart.  Dan Wilson was getting up there.  And the young pitching core of Garcia, Meche, Pineiro, and Franklin just weren’t panning out the way we’d all hoped.  The 2004 Mariners bottomed out with 63 wins and it was time to start all over again.

The only piece that would stick long term would be Ichiro, as even Jamie Moyer was traded in the middle of 2006 so he could go to a winner before he retired.  It’s been non-stop rebuilding ever since, and nothing thus far has worked for more than a season before falling apart again.  The 2013 Mariners are well on their way to a fourth place finish with the current regime led by Jackie Z on very thin ice.

What will the next great Mariners rebuild look like?  I haven’t a clue, but I doubt it looks very much like the team we’re watching right now.  Here’s to hoping the mojo returns soon, for the sake of my sanity and yours.