How Many Titles Can We Expect From The Seahawks & Russell Wilson?

The NBA has obviously been on a lot of minds recently, with the Michael Jordan documentary (still haven’t seen it, still probably won’t see it) coming to a conclusion. When you think about the greatest players in NBA history – Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Shaq – you’re talking about guys with multiple championships (somehow, of the guys on that list, Bird has the fewest titles with three). One guy in the NBA can change things SO DRAMATICALLY for a franchise; you look at these players with their careers spanning 13-20 years and it would be fascinating to go back in time and be able to tell those fanbases: with this guy, you’re going to witness anywhere from 3-6 championships during his career.

It obviously doesn’t work that way in the NFL. The most important player is obviously the quarterback, and of the best all-time (since the merger in 1970), there have only been four NFL quarterbacks who’ve won more than 2 titles: Tom Brady (6), Joe Montana (4), Terry Bradshaw (4), and Troy Aikman (3) (I don’t count Steve Young here, because he was only the starter for one of his three championships).

For what it’s worth, you see A LOT of guys with 2: Peyton Manning, John Elway, Roger Staubach, Ben Roethlisberger; A LOT of guys with 1: Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Ken Stabler, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees; and A LOT of guys with 0: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon, Philip Rivers.

In the middle of all of that, we have Russell Wilson with his one championship (the same number as Patrick Mahomes, probably the only quarterback most people would take over Russell Wilson if they had to start a franchise right now and could pick any player). Wilson is smack dab in the middle of his prime; he was the best he’s ever been in 2019, and we can expect right around that level of effectiveness for the next few years at least. He still hasn’t even surpassed 10 years in the league yet! And quarterbacks nowadays can play 20+ years.

But, it’s SO. FUCKING. HARD to win a championship in the NFL. Even for the very best players in the league! So much harder than it is for the very best NBA players. Which makes it reasonable to ask: how many more championships can we expect from Russell Wilson while he’s still in a Seahawks uniform? If Future Steven were to come back in time from 15 years down the line, how many Super Bowl titles would he be able to tell me I have to look forward to?

Odds are that number is ZERO! Odds are, I’ll have up to 15 more years with Russell Wilson (at the MOST; probably closer to only 10 more years) and I will see zero more championships for the Seattle Seahawks in that span. That feels just so damned demoralizing to think about, but that’s the nature of the beast. The Tom Bradys of the world are a once-in-a-generation breed. Wilson has played eight seasons; by this point in Brady’s career, he’d already won three championships. Montana had won twice. Bradshaw had also won twice and Aikman had nabbed all three of his. Wilson, again, just the one (and we’re all super-impressed that he’s already been to the Super Bowl a second time, but that fakakta play-call at the goalline obviously screwed the pooch).

I’m a firm believer that Russell Wilson will – when it’s all said and done – have a Hall of Fame career under his belt. That’s why I’m talking about him among these other all-time greats. I’m almost assuredly biased, but I think Wilson is a better player than all of those QBs I mentioned above who have one or fewer championships. I would like to think Wilson is among the elite level that Manning and Elway reached, which means I would HOPE he has at least one more title in him before he hangs ’em up.

If I’m right, then I think it’s reasonable to expect another Seahawks championship at some point in the next decade. Obviously, it’s unfair to put all of that on one guy; this is the NFL after all, there are 50+ other players on the team that need to pitch in to make this thing work. But, make no mistake, the quarterback gets all the credit and all the blame for a reason. The all-time greats find a way to come up big in the biggest moments. If Russell Wilson aims to be lumped in that category, then he’s going to need to find a way to take this team on his back and will them to victory.

I’ll say this: he’s on the right track. You can complain about play-calling and how the coaching staff is hamstringing him, but this is the organization we’ve got, and they’ve proven they can win in this league with their system. We’re not the Kansas City Chiefs, we’re not the New England Patriots; we’re the Seattle Fucking Seahawks, and Russell Wilson is being put in situations to succeed nearly every year. And, quite frankly, we haven’t been able to get it done in recent seasons. We haven’t been able to win enough regular season games to take the NFC West and lock down one of the top seeds in the conference, and we haven’t played our best on the road in these playoff games. At some point, we have to talk about Russell Wilson the way we talk about all of the other all-time greats, and stop making excuses. As everyone else needs to be better, so does Russell Wilson. Yes, he’s the best thing going for the Seahawks right now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be better!

All I know is, I don’t want to wake up this time in 2030 and see the same number of championships next to Russell Wilson’s name. The clock is ticking. Yes, the Seahawks need to take advantage of Wilson’s prime, but you know who else does? Russell Wilson.

The Definitive Mount Rushmore For Seattle Sports

That’s a bold proclamation, but I’m a bold individual.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers
Thursday:  Mariners, Supersonics, & Seahawks (past & present)

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

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of 80’s Heavy Metal Bands?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue, and come at me bro if you think I’m wrong because I’ll fight this whole fucking town!

Today, it’s all on my shoulders to select the Mount Rushmore for Seattle sports.  It’s a daunting task, to say the least.  Am I man enough for it?  I dunno, probably not, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

So, I suppose to do this right, there have to be some parameters.  Obviously, they have to be great at their sport; Hall of Fame level.  There’s an element beyond that, though; one that transcends their own personal greatness.  Popularity is certainly a part of it, not just in Seattle, but across America and around the world, but I’d be remiss if I put too much emphasis on their notoriety.  I think it matters not just that they were great on their respective teams, but great when compared to others in the history of the game and position they played.

For instance, Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time, and at the time of his retirement he was the best the game had ever seen.  But, now?  Largent is 18th in the NFL in total yards, surpassed by the likes of Henry Ellard (played 2 more seasons, is not in the HOF), Andre Johnson (who is good, but does he strike you as transcendant?), and Reggie Wayne (who had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning throwing to him; of COURSE he has more yards!).  I’m just saying that the greatness of the wide receiver position has been deminished in the wake of the NFL turning into a passing league.  I mean, Terrell Owens has the second-most receiving yards of all time (behind the great Jerry Rice) and he’s still struggling to make it into the HOF!  I don’t care about his reputation or his attitude or whatever; 20 years ago, if he’d retired with the most yards in NFL history, he would’ve been a first ballot enshrinee.

Also, look at someone like Felix Hernandez; my favorite player of all time.  Yeah, he’s great, and he’s in my Mariners Mount Rushmore, but compared to some of the greatest pitchers of all time, Felix is just another guy.  Maybe in another era, with the stuff he has, he would’ve put up numbers commensurate to some of the all timers, but he’s in the era he’s in, and it knocks him back accordingly.  You have to go above and beyond in these situations if you want to make my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

In an effort to make this easier on myself, let’s knock out a couple of really obvious ones.

At the top, in the pole position of my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Ken Griffey Jr.

Absolute no-brainer.  22 years in Major League Baseball, 13 years in Seattle, at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #1 overall draft pick by the Mariners in 1987, in his first 11 years with the organization he made the All Star team 10 times.  10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and was the American League MVP in 1997.  He hit 417 of his 630 home runs with the Mariners.  He took the team to its first two playoff appearances in the history of the franchise.  He led the A.L. in homers 4 times and in RBI once.  He’s in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, is the only actual Mariner to have his number retired, was a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and was the highest vote-getter in MLB Hall of Fame history in his first year of eligibility.  HE WAS THE MOST POPULAR ATHLETE ON THE PLANET!  He’s 6th on the all time home run list, and if you discount the cheaters that are Bonds and A-Rod, he’s truly in rare company (Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, are you KIDDING me?).

That’s what I mean.  Ken Griffey Jr. is the definition of a Mount Rushmore-type player.  He’s the greatest athlete the city of Seattle has ever seen and might be the greatest we will EVER see.  Anyone alive who got to see him play in his prime should thank their lucky stars.

At my #2 spot in my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Gary Payton.

Again, I think this one is a no-brainer.  18 seasons in the NBA, 13 seasons in Seattle, again at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #2 overall draft pick by the Supersonics in 1990, in his Seattle years he made the All Star team 9 times.  2 All-NBA first teams, 5 second teams, and 2 third teams.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the steals leader the same year.  He is 4th all time in NBA history in steals with 2,445 (behind Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, and a million miles behind John Stockton).  He’s also 8th all time in NBA history in assists with 8,966 (among the likes of Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic, Oscar, and Isiah).  When you’re talking true point guards, you’re talking the best of the best, and GP is right there.  He was always a defensive force, but his offense didn’t really start to take off until his fifth season in the league; yet he still managed to score 21,813 points, which is good for 31st all time, just ahead of Larry Bird, and just behind Clyde Drexler.

Again, we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever put on a jersey and play the game of basketball!  I don’t know if people necessarily think of GP the way they think of Griffey, because Griffey might be the best or second-best centerfielder of all time; whereas there are a bunch of great point guards who are as good or even better.  But, I’m here to tell you that there really aren’t that many.

Guys like Stockton and Kidd played great defense and dished it out like no one else, but their offensive games were largely lacking.  They couldn’t take over a game and back down an opposing guard like GP could.  Nash and Iverson were awesome scorers, but they weren’t as suffocating on defense as GP would be.  Honestly, I think the only people in Gary’s league are Magic, Isiah, and maybe Oscar (but, I’ll be honest here, all three of those guys were either a little or a lot before my time, and I didn’t get to see them play in their primes).  Anyway, I’m talking about COMPLETE point guards, guys who played on both sides of the ball and did it damn well on both ends.  Not to mention from 1995 through 2003, Gary averaged over 38 minutes per game.

The only shame of it all is that he played in the opposite conference from Michael Jordan, and only got to face off against MJ the one time in the NBA Finals.  I think if those guys were in the same division and had to go against one another 4 times a year plus every year in the playoffs, it would’ve been one of the truly great rivalries in NBA history.  As it stands, Gary really didn’t have anyone who was his direct rival.  He was already established when Kobe was a young pup.  Kidd and Stockton were never much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball, so they never really challenged him at that end.  All the best scoring guards during Gary’s prime were in the East, or they were past their primes when Gary was in his.  That Finals series in 1996 was one for the ages, though.  It’s just too bad it was the first for that group in Seattle; I think the severity of the situation got to them mentally.  For the Bulls, it was old hat; just another business trip.  I think if the Sonics had gotten theirs in 1994 (like they SHOULD have), by 1996 it would’ve been like two equally fierce titans going against one another.  What could have been.

***

With the easy half of our Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore out of the way, now we get to the more difficult decisions.

For starters, where are the Seahawks?  I’m pretty sure you can’t have one of these without throwing a Seahawk on there, so let’s get cracking.

As I wrote about yesterday, there are currently 4 Seahawks in the NFL Hall of Fame (with this year’s induction of Kenny Easley).  So, yeah, a lot to choose from here.  At the top, I talked about Steve Largent a little bit, and I still stand behind that.  I think his candidacy for this list is pretty lacking, when you consider his current place in NFL history, which I very much believe applies here.

When you look at the rest of the Hall of Famers, I think one name clearly stands out, and that name is Walter Jones, my third choice for the Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

There aren’t really a ton of stats I can sit here and pull up to show Big Walt’s greatness; it’s not like the NFL keeps track of “pancakes” as an official stat (BTW tho, they absolutely SHOULD).  Jones made 9 Pro Bowls, was First Team All Pro 4 times, and Second Team twice.  He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and has had his #71 retired by the Seahawks.

If you want to get a little deeper, in trying to compare him to the other greats in NFL history, that’s a little trickier.  Pro Football Reference has their “Approximate Value” stat that tries to equalize things across all positions, and gives your career a numerical value accordingly.  Across all positions, in the entirety of NFL history, Jones is currently tied for 150th, which – when you think about how many players there have been – is pretty astounding.  I did the research, and there are only 26 offensive linemen ahead of him on that list, but the vast majority of them are either guards or centers.  Among just the left tackles, there are only 6 ahead of Walter Jones:  Anthony Munoz, Lomas Brown, Willie Roaf, Mike Kenn, Gary Zimmerman, and Orlando Pace.  Four of those guys are Hall of Famers, and the other two (Brown and Kenn) just played forever.  So, yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Anecdotally, Walter Jones IS one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.  The combination of speed, size, technique, power, durability, raw talent; it’s something we probably will never see around here ever again.  It’s ultimately the durability issue that cost him the end of his career, as injuries and surgeries became too much and cut it short, but he’s also a guy who was able to play through a lot of pain and injuries and keep up his high level of play.  He may not be the force of nature, popularity-wise, that Griffey or even Payton were, but his talent and standing among the greats at his position relative to the history of the game more than makes up for it.  As such, Big Walt is my #3.

***

Which leads us to our Abraham Lincoln spot on the mountain.  Who is my #4?

The fact that this is far and away the most difficult choice for me ultimately leads me to believe that whoever I choose is not long for this spot.  I’m a firm believer in the Smell Test, or the Eyeball Test, or whatever you want to call it.  Is a guy a Hall of Famer?  That should be obvious; it shouldn’t take much more than 10 seconds to decide.  Either he is or he isn’t.  Obviously, there are people on the bubble who need arguments in their favor (*cough* EDGAR *cough*), but for me it’s a lot more simple.  Yes, Edgar is a Hall of Famer; NEXT!

But, I don’t really have a solid #4, which means my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is sitting atop a pretty shaky foundation.  There are certainly guys in the running.  Edgar Martinez, for instance, would be a fine choice; but can I include a guy who’s not even in the MLB Hall of Fame (yet)?  Same goes for someone like Jack Sikma (who absolutely should be a basketball hall of famer).  There are plenty of former Sonics and Seahawks who ARE in their respective halls of fame, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.  On top of that, can you rank any of these other guys as among the greatest at their positions all time?

My actual belief is that the #4 player on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks.  But, since his career hasn’t ended yet, is it really appropriate to put him on there now?  Frankly, I think we’re another 7 years of quality play out of Earl Thomas from him being the guy.  If he can keep it up, and manage to stay healthy, he will go down as one of the most talented and important free safeties in the history of the NFL, with this Seahawks defense going down as one of the elite defenses in the history of the NFL.  As I wrote about yesterday, he’s the straw that stirs the drink; others may come and go, play or be injured, but the constant is Earl Thomas.  And, most importantly, we got a clear and obvious look at what this defense is without him, in the final 5 regular season games and 2 playoff games last year:  it’s not pretty.

So, I WANT to put Earl in here, but I just can’t.  What if injuries plague him from here on out and cut his career short?  Well, that opens the door for Richard Sherman, who is already the greatest cornerback in franchise history and already has made a name for himself among the greatest to ever play the game.  He needs some longevity to go with that to be Mount Rushmore-worthy, and the biggest question here is:  will he play out the duration of his career in Seattle?  There are obvious, serious doubts there too.

Which takes me to Russell Wilson.  What if he plays another 15 years for Seattle, and leads us to another 2-3 Super Bowls?  Doesn’t he HAVE to be the #4 on my Mount Rushmore, simply for the fact that he’s the most popular, recognizable figure on this team, at its most important position?

So, you see the bind I’m in.  All three of those guys are worthy, but all three of them need to put on some more years before they can be taken seriously among the top three on this list.

Where do I go from here?  While I acknowledge all of the above is true, I refuse to put “Placeholder” as my #4, so I’ve gotta make a choice.  To me, I think it has to come down to a couple of names:  Cortez Kennedy and Ichiro.

The Tez falls a few points below Big Walt on the ol’ Approximate Value scale, but I’m not going to go through and count the number of defensive tackles ahead of him.  Here’s what I’ve got:  11 year career, all with Seattle.  First round draft pick, #3 overall.  8 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pros, 2 Second Teams.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.  NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  His number 96 is retired, and he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, he got saddled on a lot of bad and mediocre teams, so the 2-time College Football National Champion only made one NFL playoff appearance (losing in the Wild Card round).  In my estimation, Tez ranks among the best all time at what he did, which was an all-around defensive tackle who could both rush the passer and defend against the run.  His sack numbers are impressive – particularly when you consider the number of double-teams he had to face – but his total tackle numbers are even MORE impressive.  I mean, he had 3 seasons where he averaged over 70 tackles per year!  As a DT!  Those are linebacker and safety numbers!

Then, there’s Ichiro.  He’s not in the MLB Hall of Fame, but that’s only because he’s STILL playing, at the age of 43.  Here’s a guy who spent 9 years in Japan before coming over to Seattle.  From age 18-26 (where, for a lot of people, he’d be working his way through the minors and getting into his prime at the Major League level), his numbers are essentially rendered irrelevant by a lot of baseball fans.  He nevertheless, as a pro starting at the age of 27, has managed to get over 3,000 hits, 2,533 of which were in a Mariners uniform.

Let’s get into it:  he was with the Mariners for 12 seasons.  An All Star his first 10 years (including All Star Game MVP in 2007).  A Gold Glover his first 10 years.  A Silver Slugger 3 times.  A Fielding Bible Award winner 3 times.  American League batting champion twice.  In 2001, he was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the A.L.  He also led the league in stolen bases that year.  He also had over 200 hits in his first 10 years, and set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004.  Like Tez, Ichiro was saddled with some pretty bad Mariners teams after the 2003 season.  Yet, he stuck around and remained true to the organization long after he could’ve gone to any number of teams to play for a contender.

If you want to talk about popularity – particularly on a global scale – Ichiro sits up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.  Even across America, he was the face of the Seattle Mariners for a decade!  He was a dominant force at the top of the lineup, and he was equally as great at his defense in right field.  He stole bases, he kept the opposing team’s running game in check, and if he were in a better-run organization, he could’ve done even MORE with his offensive numbers.

Is he among the greatest outfielders of all time?  That’s a little tougher to nail down.  He wasn’t like a Griffey or a Mays; Ichiro’s game is speed and singles (among other things).  I think he ranks up there among the greats at his defense, and among the greatest all time leadoff hitters.  I think he’s the greatest Japanese-born baseball player of all time, which is not an insignificant feat.  And, I think when you tack on the fact that some of his prime years were spent in the inferior Japanese leagues, you have to wonder what could’ve been had he gotten to America sooner.

All of that considered, that’s why I’m making Ichiro my #4 on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

So, what do you think?  Griffey, Payton, Jones, Ichiro.  With a very strong likelihood that my future #4 will be someone on this current Seahawks team.  Maybe in another decade I’ll come back and write a new one of these for shits and giggles.

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

The situation:  Number 1 seed from Seattle in a do-or-die game against a bottom-feeder in the playoffs.

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

I won’t rehash the specifics, nor will I pull the iconic photo/video, as I’m sure any of you around at the time must be picturing the giant’s massive hands clutching the basketball while laying on the court, laughing maniacally.  I’ll just say this:  in 1994, the Seattle Supersonics were the consensus Best Team In The NBA (thanks to Michael Jordan “retiring”).  And, with that defeat, the Seattle Supersonics became the first Number 1 seed to ever lose to a Number 8 seed.  While that feat has happened a number of times since then, everyone will always remember the first time.  That’s just the way it works.  Dikembe Mutombo may or may not ever be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll always be remembered for this achievement.

The 1993/1994 Supersonics weren’t the best squad in team history, but you could argue that the 1994 playoffs were our best chance at winning an NBA title in my lifetime (dating back to 1981).  We had a 2-year window without Michael Jordan lurking in the Eastern Conference.  We blew year-one of that window in spectacular fashion.

As a fan of Seattle sports teams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my insecurities.  The Sonics teams from 1993 thru 1998 were some of the best teams in the league.  In the 1993 playoffs, we reached the Western Conference Finals as a 3-seed, only to get screwed out of our shot at a championship by the refs in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns.  In 1994, we had the best record in the NBA by five games over second place.  In 1995, we had the 4-seed and again lost in the first round (though, admittedly, that team was pretty flawed).  In 1996, we were back to being the best in the Western Conference, our regular season record only overshadowed by the record-setting Bulls who went 72-10.  We would go on to lose in the Finals that year to those very same Bulls, and I’ll go to my grave believing that was the greatest team in NBA history.  In 1997, the Sonics were a 2-seed in the West, losing to the Rockets in the semis, 4-3.  Finally, in 1998, the Sonics were again a 2-seed in the West, losing to Shaq and the Lakers in 5 games in the semis.

That was the entirety of our championship window.  It was a spectacular six seasons, with the Sonics going 357-135 (that’s an average record of 59.5-22.5 per season).  The Sonics fired George Karl after that 1997/1998 season and fell into a death spiral shortly after.  And, what did we have to show for it?  Two oustings in the first round, two defeats in the second round, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a meager six games in the NBA Finals (with only two Finals victories).  Until these Seahawks teams under Pete Carroll came around, those were the greatest teams I’d ever rooted for in my lifetime.  And, yet, a lot of flukey shit led to that championship window closing without a dent in the history books.

***

The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

The situation:  Team from Seattle with the best-ever regular season record in a do-or-die game against a team that won 21 fewer games that year.

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

The result:  A 12-3 defeat to lose the series in five games.

I’ll give you that this isn’t really apples to apples when compared to the heartbreak of having a #1 seed lose to a #8 seed; but, we’re talking about the greatest regular season record in MLB history!  116 wins!  The second place team in the AL West – Oakland – won over 100 games and was FOURTEEN games back in the standings!

The Mariners had a championship window from 1995-2003.  In that time, we had four playoff appearances, losing in the ALCS three times and losing in the ALDS once.  In this 9-year window, there were two losing seasons and three other winning seasons where the Mariners DIDN’T make the playoffs (including back-to-back 93-win seasons where we were nipped by superior Athletics teams).

Baseball’s a different beast than most other sports.  It requires enduring success through a too-long regular season, followed by a hot spurt through a large handful of post-season games.  In the NBA, the best team almost always wins it all, thanks to the sheer number of teams granted admission into the playoffs and the number of games they’re supposed to play in every round.  In baseball, all you have to do is make it in and let the chips fall where they may.  The best team DOESN’T always win in MLB, that’s what you gotta remember.

The 2001 Mariners were the best team in franchise history, hands down.  And yet, they were made into mincemeat by the Yankees, who were “built for the post-season”.

Like the Sonics before them, this championship window by the Mariners closed with a whimper.  There hasn’t been a playoff team for the Mariners SINCE 2001.  While many believe 2015 will be the beginning of another Mariners championship window, that still remains to be seen.  162 games need to be played, against some fierce AL West competition.  So, we’ll see.

***

The Seahawks play the Panthers on January 10, 2015.  The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, and a consensus favorite to reach the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots of the AFC.  The Panthers are just the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.  They defeated an injury-plagued Cardinals team in the first round.

Why am I worried about this game?  It’s the same reason why I SHOULD have been worried about the ’94 Nuggets and the 2001 Yankees.  Truth be told, that Nuggets series was my first real taste of the brutality that is being a sports fan.  There’s A LOT of heartache for not that much elation.  As a 13 year old basketball fan just starting to garner interest in the sport and follow it with some knowledge of the game, I was probably overwhelmingly confident in the Sonics going all the way.  Having the rug ripped out from under me was the start of a long, painful decline into the twisted wizard you see before you.  Until the Seahawks threw off the shackles I’d had wrapped around my mind in last year’s Super Bowl, I would go into these types of games EXPECTING to lose.  And, honestly, that feeling never really goes away.  I’m an abused pet living with new, kinder owners.  They’ve proven to be caring, loving people, but at the same time I still wince whenever an arm or a voice is raised.

The Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  If I were a more confident man, I’d go so far as to say the Seahawks WILL win this game.  In the entirety of the NFL playoff teams, the Panthers are the second-best option I’d choose for a Seahawks opponent (behind only the defeated Cardinals and their Lindley-esque shit offense).  While there is cause for real concern about this Panthers team (the defense is improved over the last month-plus, the rushing attack is improved with the return of Jonathan Stewart), it’s pretty obvious that this team is the most eminently beat-able in all of the NFC.  I was positively outraged at the notion that they’d go into Green Bay to play the Packers in the second round if Detroit had held on to beat Dallas last week.  Green Bay would throttle them by 40 points!  And WE’D have to battle a nasty defensive line of the Lions and a potentially explosive offense if they ever got their shit together.

As a quick aside:  don’t you think the #1 seed should be able to choose its opponent for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, pending the results of the Wild Card Round?  Why should we have to play an 11-5 Lions team (had they won) over a 7-8-1 Panthers team, simply because the Panthers were deemed to be a 4-seed while the superior Lions team a 6-seed?  When the NFL gets its own shit together and fixes the playoff system, maybe let’s make this a priority as well as never letting a team with a losing record host a playoff game, huh?

Anyway, getting back, my insecure fan-self is a little encouraged by the fact that there has already been a losing-record playoff team who defeated a playoff team with a superior record.  In fact, these loser teams are 2-1 in the playoffs, thanks to the 2010 Seahawks paving the way by defeating the Saints before going on to lose to the Bears in Chicago the following week.  BUT, what hasn’t happened – and what is rocking me to my very core as I sit and anxiously await tomorrow night’s game – is one of these loser teams going on the road and winning in the Divisional Round.

From the 1980s up until the Seahawks Super Bowl victory last year, there has been a bevy of reasons why Seattle sports teams have been laughingstocks.  Take, for instance, the first 20-or-so years of the Mariners playing professional baseball.  Or, the Seahawks almost moving to Los Angeles.  Or the Sonics signing Jim McIlvaine.  Or the Sonics drafting an endless string of worthless centers.  Or the Mariners getting crushed by the Yankees in the ALCS in back-to-back years.  Or the Seahawks getting referee’d to death in Super Bowl XL.  Or the Sonics being sold & uprooted after 40-some-odd years.  Or the best team in Seattle for the longest time being the women’s professional basketball team.  Or the Mariners plowing through a million managers over the last decade.  Or the fiasco with the Seahawks at the end of Holmgren’s tenure.  Or, the fact that all three franchises had – at one time or another – some of THE worst owners/general managers in all of professional sports (Ken Behring, Jeff Smulyan, Howard Schultz, Lincoln/Armstrong, Wally Walker, Tim Ruskell, Bill Bavasi).

I could go on and on with that list.  The 2013 Seahawks championship team has done the lord’s work in rectifying some of our past indiscretions.  But, a defeat to the Panthers a year later would do absolutely everything to undo all of that goodwill.

This current Seahawks unit is in the midst of a championship window that started in 2012 with a surprise late-season run into the playoffs.  When this window closes remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree it will be various degrees of open as long as Russell Wilson and the core is intact and still playing at a high level.  Whether that’s 5-10 years or more, the fact of the matter is:  these championship windows don’t grow on trees.  They can close in an instant and they may never reopen again in our lifetimes.  We can’t take these seasons for granted!

The Seahawks wrangled one championship and were 30-some-odd seconds away from fighting the 49ers for a second championship in the playoffs two years ago.  They currently sit poised in the catbird seat:  top seed in the NFC, with either Green Bay or Dallas being forced to come all the way out here in a potential NFC Championship showdown.  In spite of an early-season loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink, we match up really well against both of those teams.  More importantly, WE’RE different than we were back in October.  I’ll be a lot more confident if we can just get this Divisional Round game out of the way.

The thing with the Panthers is:  they match up pretty well with us.  Earlier this year, we scratched and clawed our way to a 13-9 victory.  It took a late 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown and pull it out.  In the 2013 season opener, we scratched and clawed our way to a 12-7 victory.  It took a 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; and a late 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  In 2012, we scratched and clawed our way to a 16-12 victory.  It took a late 3rd quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; a late 4th quarter goalline stand by our defense; and a later 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  Margin of victory for those three games:  4 1/3 points.  In the NFL, that’s nothing.

The notch in our belt is that all three of those games were on the road, in Carolina.  It’s notoriously difficult to win on the road, so you cherish any victory, even some ugly-ass shit like those games I just mentioned.  This game is in Seattle.  In the evening.  In front of what may be the rowdiest crowd we’ve seen all year (or, at least, since the week 1 showdown against the Packers).

Another notch in our belt is the level of competition the Panthers have beaten to get to this point.  The Panthers needed a 4-game winning streak to even make the playoffs.  If they would’ve lost any of these games, they would’ve been eliminated.  In those games, they faced the Saints, the Bucs, the Browns, and the Falcons.  The Saints had one of the worst defenses in football; they surrendered 41 points to the Panthers in New Orleans.  The Bucs were the very worst team in the NFL, earning the #1 draft pick in this year’s draft; they lost by 2 points to these very same Panthers.  The Browns were going with Johnny JamBoogie at quarterback, who left injured late in the first half; with Hoyer coming in in relief, the Browns would go on to lose by only 4 points to these very same Panthers.  The Falcons were just an absolute trainwreck on both sides of the football for most of this season, yet they would have made the playoffs with a win over the Panthers in week 17; they surrendered 34 points to the Panthers in Atlanta.  And, to top it all off, the Panthers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last week, taking full advantage of the Lindley-pocalypse (Apoca-Lindlypse?) to get to this point.

Not that the Seahawks had all that difficult of a road to hoe in getting the top seed the final six weeks of the season (only two playoff teams faced, and both of those teams were the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals), but I’d say we’ve looked MUCH more impressive in getting to this point.

Here’s the bottom line:  the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  Yes, we’re particularly good against the pass, but we’re also among the best against the run (indeed, we’re THE best against the run of the remaining playoff teams, but that’s neither here nor there).  If we can prevent the Panthers from gashing us in the run game, they should stand no chance.  On the flipside, while they have a good front seven, they’re not unstoppable.  We should be able to do what we want to do on the ground, while at the same time taking advantage of holes in their secondary.  An important thing to note is this game features the two very best middle linebackers in all of football with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.  Overall, though, the Seahawks have MUCH more talent from top to bottom than the Panthers.  In fact, the Seahawks hold a distinct advantage in nearly every position group.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton is a staggering bundle of injuries being held together by duct tape and painkillers.  There is ZERO reason why the Seahawks should lose this game.

And yet, it’s not entirely impossible.  There was zero reason why the 1994 Supersonics should lose to the Nuggets in five games.  There was zero reason why the 2001 Mariners should fail to make the World Series.  Sometimes, shit just happens.  Sometimes, a matchup materializes that goes against everything one team stands for.  Sometimes, players just have a bad day.

The Panthers have been a tough matchup for the Seahawks for the last three years now.  Regardless of the fact that those prior three games were all played in Carolina, we’re still talking about a mini version of ourselves.

  • Mobile quarterbacks
  • Unheralded offensive lines
  • Lack of game-breaking talent in the receiving corps
  • Tough, hard-nosed running backs
  • Underrated and stout defensive lines
  • Freakishly athletic linebackers
  • Mostly-conservative gameplans & coaches (in spite of Ron’s riverboat ways in 2013 and Pete’s alleged “big balls”)

In the NFL, it only takes one bad game to derail an entire season.  That in and of itself should be enough to terrify us to no end.  I don’t necessarily fear the Cowboys/Packers because I think we match up exceedingly well against them.  Their defenses aren’t anything special, and their offensive attacks play right into our L.O.B. hands.

But, the Panthers pose a tough matchup BECAUSE they’re so similar to us.  Because their defense can harass Russell Wilson and potentially knock him out of the game.  The Panthers – more than any other team remaining in these playoffs – have the capability to hold our offense in check.  And, if they do that, and it comes down to a battle of who wins the fourth quarter, then you’re looking at no better than a flip of a coin.

I don’t like that.  And neither should you.  We JUST have to get past this one game and I’ll feel more at ease.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone’s taking this game seriously.  I know, for the most part, fans are already booking plans for the NFC Championship Game.  But, they’re going to feel pretty damn stupid if we reach the end of Saturday night, with the Panthers celebrating on our field like the Nuggets did on our court 20-some-odd years ago.

Here’s to hoping the Seahawks take this game a little more seriously than the 12th Man.  If they don’t, we’ll be looking at the absolute worst defeat in franchise history, and a defeat far surpassing those aforementioned Sonics & Mariners achievements of yore.  2014 will be just another drop in the bucket of Seattle being Sports Hell.

We’re The Best, Around: Seahawks Crush Cardinals

Come on, as if there was any doubt …

You may suck upon deez royal nutz ...

You may suck upon deez royal nutz …

It would be unfair to call Seattle’s offense strictly “one dimensional”.  But, you can’t deny they do one thing MUCH better than the other, and that’s run the football.  The problem with being one dimensional, of course, is that when the other team shuts down the one thing you do well, you’re at an extreme disadvantage.  When that one thing is rushing, you’re even more behind the 8-ball, as what are you going to do if you ever fall behind in a game AND you can’t run the ball?

Well, if you’re the Seattle Seahawks, not to worry, because the Seahawks are NOT one dimensional, but that’s neither here nor there, because why would you ever fear being down by two scores or more?

You can get some flawed analysis coming out of this game.  I know, in the moment, that was a FUN NIGHT.  And I know in the standings it looks like we have the same record as the Cardinals (overtaking them for the division thanks to the head-to-head tie-breaker).  But, the Cardinals right now are no where near our league.

I mean, what do you learn about a game where their fourth string quarterback threw for less than five yards per attempt?  The same quarterback who is yet to throw for a touchdown in over 200 career attempts, which is an NFL record.  Or, about a team that couldn’t run at full strength getting held to 29 yards?  Overall, we’re talking about an offensively-challenged team on its BEST day.  And, last night was far from that.

Yes, the Seahawks dominated, and surely would’ve dominated most teams – if not all teams – but a much lesser defensive unit could’ve done just as good of a job.

I’m more impressed by what the offense showed us.  Against a team that WAS a top 10 defense before last night, we generated 596 yards of total offense.  That’s on top of a ridiculous 97 yards in penalties by our three units.  We ran for 267 yards on 34 carries for a nearly 8-yard per carry average.  I hate doing this – because all the runs count – but if you take out Beastmode’s 79-yard touchdown run, you’re STILL talking about a Seahawks offense that averaged 5.7 yards per carry.  Want to further limit us by also taking out Russell Wilson’s 55 yard scamper?  The Seahawks STILL averaged over 4 yards per carry.

This is an Arizona defense built upon stopping the run – stopping the thing we do the best – and we absolutely manhandled them.  AND, on top of that, just to prove we’re not one dimensional, Russell Wilson went and threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, for a rating of 122.9.

The Seahawks are riding a 5-game winning streak now.  Who saw this team at 6-4 and thought, “This is a team that’s going to be playing for a #1 seed in the NFC”?  Because, I’m not gonna lie to you, I sure as shit didn’t.  You know how there are trap games, where you might overlook a bad team you’re playing this week because you know you’re going to face a really tough team the next week?  It’s almost like the Seahawks had seven straight weeks of trap games – from Washington thru Kansas City – simply looking ahead to the 6-game stretch to close the season.  I don’t know what switch was flipped, but this is a VASTLY different team than it was in the first half.

Let’s kick off our kudos this week on offense for a change.  Luke Willson had three monster catches.  Two for touchdowns, one to convert a 2nd & 20.  139 yards overall, 80 of them on his long TD.  He’s had an up and down year this year to say the least, but when we needed him the most last night (especially with Kearse going down early with a hamstring), he didn’t have a drop.

Doug Baldwin had as quiet of a 7 catch, 113 yard game as I’ve ever seen, but we really had to lean on him more than ever with the aforementioned Kearse injury.  Hopefully he’s not out for too long.

To top off Wilson’s brilliant passing day, he also ran for 88 yards and a garbage touchdown, to bring his season rushing total to 842, which is 15th in the NFL at the moment, ahead of MANY players who only run the ball for a living and will never throw a pass in their careers.  I’m told 842 rushing yards for a quarterback is 5th most in NFL history, but I’m too lazy to go and confirm that myself.

Defensively, we had four sacks.  One apiece for Bennett, Hill, Schofield, and newcomer David King.  Jordan Hill’s sack particularly stands out because it was on a nice little stunt move where Bennett bull rushed to the middle of the line – occupying two blockers – while Hill ran around for the easy pancake.  Schofield’s was notable for how absolutely swift and fierce the hit was, while still being legal, which for last night was a bit of a problem.

Also bringing the pain, while not necessarily lighting up the stat sheet, we have Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin.  They’re all so damn active and forcing opponents into making Business Decisions on a regular basis.

Richard Sherman not only got an interception – to give him 24 in his career, which is tied for the second-most in NFL history through the first four seasons in the league – but he got to outshine Patrick Peterson once again.  Before the game, there were stories about his chat with Bob Costas where Sherm got to clowning on him once again.  Then, fast forward to the game:  whenever they completed a pass on Sherman, it took the greatest throw combined with the greatest catch for it to be successful.  The Seahawks were able to throw pretty much at will on Peterson.  Sherman CAUGHT his INT; Peterson dropped his only chance.  Sherman was mixing it up in the run game, tackling guys at the line of scrimmage.  Peterson got posterized by Beastmode as he tried for the strip instead of the tackle, forever on the ass-end of one of the greatest runs in NFL history.  A run that will be replayed countless times throughout the year and through the end of time.

Best cornerback in the league?  You may say it’s not Richard Sherman, and you may be right (though, that wouldn’t be MY opinion); but one thing’s for certain:  the best cornerback is NOT Patrick Peterson.  Case closed, bitches.

Finally, you knew we’re closing with Beastmode.  Marshawn Lynch started the day with some sort of stomach virus and didn’t show up for much of the first quarter.  But, once he was finally able, he made the most of his touches:  10 carries, 113 yards, two touchdowns.  I’m putting that performance up there with Michael Jordan’s flu game in the Finals and there’s not a God damn thing you can do to stop me!  To not only play football with that kind of nausea, but to play it at the very highest level you can possibly play, with as physical as he does it?  I mean, are you kidding me?  When I’m that sick, I have to sit on the toilet with a bucket in my lap so I don’t shit my pants while I’m throwing up.

And now you know a little something more about me.  I’m pretty much the catch of the century, ladies …

Looking Ahead To YOUR 2014 Seattle Seahawks

This was me last year.  I predicted the Seahawks would go 13-3, take the #1 seed in the NFC, and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Last year’s NFL season was so easy to predict, I actually managed to correctly guess 2 of the Seahawks’ 3 losses (Indy & at SF, with my lone boner being the Atlanta game).  Of course, when you’re predicting the fortunes of a team this good, it’s hard to be wrong.  Just pick the Seahawks to win every game and you’re bound to be mostly right!

These Seahawks aren’t too different from the 2013 Seahawks.  Off the top of my head (so, forgive me if I forget a few), here are the players no longer on the roster, who had at least a minor impact on last year’s championship squad:

  • Golden Tate (#1 receiver)
  • Michael Robinson (fullback)
  • Paul McQuistan (guard/tackle)
  • Breno Giacomini (starting right tackle)
  • Kellen Davis (3rd tight end)
  • Sidney Rice (receiver)
  • Michael Bowie (guard/tackle depth)
  • Chris Clemons (starting LEO defensive end)
  • Red Bryant (starting 5-tech defensive end)
  • Brandon Browner (starting cornerback)
  • Walter Thurmond (nickel cornerback)
  • Clinton McDonald (backup defensive tackle)
  • Chris Maragos (backup safety)
  • Heath Farwell (IR) (backup linebacker)

On paper, that looks like a lot.  But, it’s pretty easy to spot which players were REALLY important to our success in 2013, and which players were sort of along for the ride.

Golden Tate is obviously the biggest blow.  He was our top receiver and punt returner.  He’s playing for Detroit now and should put up monster numbers while playing alongside Calvin Johnson.  His loss is mitigated somewhat by having a fully healthy Percy Harvin.  If Harvin can play all or the majority of games in 2014, it’s pretty easy to make the argument that our passing game (and offense as a whole) should actually IMPROVE.  Yes, Tate is a good player, but Harvin is on a completely different level of greatness.

Our offensive line depth took some big hits, and that’s going to be a concern.  No doubt about it.  I’d go out on a limb and say losing Paul McQuistan is addition by subtraction, though.  He’s getting up there in age and probably shouldn’t be an everyday starter going forward.  His best position is guard, but he was also our backup left tackle last year when Okung went down.  As a tackle, McQuistan is THE WORST.  So, not having him around to tempt the coaches into starting him when Okung ultimately gets hurt again is probably for the best.

Michael Bowie was always a depth guy last year, who got some serious playing time with all the injuries we suffered.  He was going to contend for the starting right tackle spot this year – and many had penciled him in as the favorite coming into Training Camp.  But, what no one expected was Bowie coming into camp overweight and/or out of shape, as well as injured.  He was ultimately released and the starting right tackle job has been given to rookie 2nd rounder Justin Britt.  In the long run, going with Britt now hopefully will prove to be the smart choice.  But, in the short term, we’re probably going to feel the sting of losing Giacomini.  I really liked him and thought he was solid when healthy.  But, again, you can’t afford to pay everyone, and you’ve got to get younger whenever possible to keep the roster fresh and vibrant (and to be able to afford expensive extensions to your stars).  I think by season’s end, Britt will have made us all forget about Giacomini’s reign of terror.  But, in the early going, it could be rough.

No one is worried about losing Sidney Rice, because he never really impacted this roster to the extent his contract would have dictated.  Jermaine Kearse is more than capable of picking up the slack.  Michael Robinson was on his last legs, plus fullback isn’t an important position.  Ditto the third tight end spot.  So, that rounds out the losses to our offense.

Defensively, our line took a big hit.  Clemons and Bryant were both starters and were both critical to stopping opposing offenses from running the ball.  McDonald was a pleasant surprise, capable of generating good pressure on the quarterback with our second unit.  Being able to interchange our linemen so frequently ultimately helped keep everyone fresh and healthy when it came time to make our playoff run.

In their place, Michael Bennett was extended; he’ll play a bigger role.  Cliff Avril will move into the starting LEO spot.  Kevin Williams was signed as a free agent.  In his prime, Williams was one of the best defensive tackles in the league.  He’s older now, but with reduced snaps – and playing alongside the elite talent we’ve got – he should prove to at least be as effective as McDonald.

Where we’re really going to be tested is in our depth.  Last year, our second-unit defensive line featured Bennett and Avril (it was truly an embarrassment of riches).  This year, they’re starting, and we’ve got to find replacements.  Cassius Marsh is a promising rookie out of the 4th round who can play on the end and on the inside.  But, he’s been dinged up quite a bit in the pre-season, so durability is in question.  Greg Scruggs is back and healthy this year, but he didn’t show a whole helluva lot in the pre-season.  It looks like he can play both outside & inside as well, but I don’t know if he’s any good at either.  O’Brien Schofield was one of the biggest surprises in camp, as he fought off Benson Mayowa for one of the final roster spots.  Schofield was on the team last year, but didn’t get a whole lot of playing time (and didn’t really deserve a whole lot of playing time, considering the talent around him).  He was signed away by the Giants in the offseason, but they ended up backing out of the deal, worried about possible injuries.  So, the Seahawks swooped in and re-signed him to a small number; he could be the steal of the off-season!  I have to imagine he’s the backup LEO behind Avril at this point, with the potential to join our NASCAR defense and play on the same line as Avril, Bennett, and either Marsh or Williams, with Irvin coming from the linebacker spot.

No, we’re not as deep as we were last year, but it could be close enough if Schofield shows up to play.

We have similar depth issues with our secondary as well.  We ultimately lost Browner and Thurmond for long stretches late in the season last year, but we found that Byron Maxwell was more than up to the task of being the starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman.  Maxwell is back – on the last year of his deal – so we should be okay there.  But, again, the depth has taken a hit.

With Thurmond gone, Jeremy Lane steps up.  I like Lane and think he has the potential to be as good or better than Thurmond; but, right now Lane is injured, so that’s troubling.  Tharold Simon was a rookie last year and never played thanks to injuries.  He looks to be back and healthy now (though, like Lane, he’s suffering through some nagging something or other at the moment), and he also looks capable of being another in a long line of productive outside cornerbacks.  Where we’re light is in the nickel corner spot, which is why we recently traded for Marcus Burley for a 6th round pick in next year’s draft.  I know pretty much nothing about him, but apparently he had a pretty good camp this year.  And, apparently he’s pretty fast and super athletic.

I’m less inclined to worry about the secondary than the D-Line, because our starters are intact.  And our backup safeties are top-notch, with DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson.  Shead, especially, can play both the safety and corner spots, so in a pinch we can totally put Shead in the nickel and be fine.

With our linebackers healthy and peaking at the right time, we should be just fine on defense.  Yes, we lost Farwell – who was our special teams captain – but we picked up Brock Coyle, an undrafted rookie, who could be Farwell 2.0.

***

So, those were the primary changes between 2013 and 2014.  Next, we’ll look at what’s the same.

When I was younger, I would’ve taken the position that:  if you’ve got a championship team, just keep that team together for as long as possible.  Indeed, the 95/96 Supersonics were a championship-calibre team (they just ran into the buzz-saw that was the greatest team of all time, with those Jordan/Pippen/Rodman 72-win Chicago Bulls).  If the 96/97 Sonics wouldn’t have tinkered so much (like signing Jim McIlvaine to a monster contract), they could’ve made serious runs at a title for the next 2-3 years.  Same goes for the 1995 Mariners.  Just keep that team together and make some moderate improvements to the pitching staff.  DON’T trade Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson to the fucking Yankees and hand them a million championships!

But, there’s one main difference between the NBA/MLB and the NFL:  keeping the team intact for too long will ultimately kill your franchise in football.  The shelf life for good-to-great baskeball and baseball players is WAY longer than it is in football.  In the NFL, if you’re approaching 30, you’re approaching retirement.  The ideal scenario in the NFL is to get young, coach those young players into being stars, and then constantly churn about 20% of your roster every year, where you’re shipping off the older players and infusing with young talent through the draft (or among the undrafted).

Could the Seahawks have retained Golden Tate, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Breno Giacomini?  Yeah, I think I can envision a scenario where we make it all work for at least one more year.  But, then we wouldn’t have gotten the team-friendly extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Doug Baldwin.  We wouldn’t be in a position to make Russell Wilson one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league next year.  Getting those guys done early (not counting Bennett, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time) is supremely important (as you can see by the subsequent cornerback deals for Patrick Peterson and the like, which were higher than what we ended up giving Sherman).

Yes, there were some losses to the roster.  There will always be losses to the roster.  Teams have to make important decisions each and every year.  Next year, we’re looking at the possibility of not having Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, James Carpenter, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Cliff Avril around.  I would anticipate at least a few of those players WILL be here, but that’s life in the NFL.  You never know.

Most importantly to the Seahawks chances in 2014 will be who is still around.  This is still a MONSTER of a lineup:

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Marshawn Lynch (RB)
  • Percy Harvin (WR)
  • Doug Baldwin (WR)
  • Jermaine Kearse (WR)
  • Zach Miller (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Christine Michael (RB)

And those are just the skill position players!  Our offensive line is 4/5 intact (and looking MUCH improved at the guard positions, with Carpenter in the “best shape of his life” and with Sweezy having bulked up while still retaining his athleticism).  And, we’ve got a couple rookie receivers who may not make much of an impact this season, but who should prove to be important for many years to come.

Then, on defense, you’re looking at:

  • Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
  • Cliff Avril (DE)
  • Brandon Mebane (NT)
  • Tony McDaniel (DT/DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (MLB)
  • K.J. Wright (OLB)
  • Bruce Irvin (OLB
  • Malcolm Smith (OLB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)

I’d still put that defense up against any other defense in the NFL.  Depth will be an issue, but depth is an issue pretty much everywhere, every year.  This is still a Top 5 defense unless we just get absolutely crushed with injuries.

***

Now, it’s time for my favorite part of any preview post:  predicting the schedule results.

Week 1, vs. Green Bay, 5:30pm (Thursday Game)

I go back and forth on this one.  Like, 85% of me believes this will be a comfortable Seahawks victory.  14% of me believes this will be a nailbiter of a Seahawks victory.  And, that last 1% seems to think that Green Bay can come in here, withstand all the craziness, and pull off a huge upset.

Are you kidding?  A week’s worth of build-up.  The city shutting down large areas of SoDo and Pioneer Square.  A pre-game concert.  THE UNVEILING OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER!  All of that alone would be enough to have the loudest 12th Man presence in the history of the world, but I expect there to be a hidden edge to this game.  The NFL cursed us with this game being the only home game played at night.  They’d have you believe that’s just the way it shook out, but I’m CONVINCED it’s because we keep crushing our opponents whenever we have a night game at home, and they’re tired of televising blowouts.  With this being our only chance to shine on a national stage (unless we somehow have one of our late-season games flexed), I think the 12th Man is going to take it to another level.  Look for this to be somewhere in the range of 38-17, Seahawks.

Week 2, at San Diego, 1:05pm

The schedule this year will be famous for the difficult first three games and the difficult final five games.  This has “Trap Game” written all over it.  Hangover from our season-opening win, combined with a rematch of the Super Bowl NEXT week back at home.  Considering the Chargers should be plenty good this year, I’m not calling this one a walk-over by any stretch.  In fact, I could see this being pretty high-scoring.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are able to do just enough to pull out a 33-30 victory.

Week 3, vs. Denver, 1:25pm

No chance.  No way, no how we lose this game.  I do think we’re looking at a closer contest, but that’s only because I think the Broncos’ defense has improved enough to warrant it.  Losing Wes Welker to suspension certainly hurts the Broncos.  Indeed, I think they’ll try to lean on their running game like they did in the pre-season.  How our defense responds will be key.  The Seahawks still win, but we’re looking at a 24-20 type game.

Week 4 – BYE

Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  I would’ve rather had the alternate NFL schedule that put the Seahawks on the road for three straight weeks over having a BYE in September.  For the record, NO team should have a BYE week in September.  They should all be clustered in late October and early November, to make it fair for everyone.  Either that, or break down and give every team two BYE weeks per year, because this shit is ridiculous.

Week 5, at Washington, 5:30pm (Monday Night)

If the NFL didn’t want to televise blowout Seahawks victories, they probably shouldn’t have put this game on the schedule.  Indeed, there appears to be a lot of dogs when it comes to the Monday Night slate this year; don’t know how that worked itself out, but I’d be pissed if I ran ESPN.  The Redskins don’t have a defense that can anywhere REMOTELY hang with our speed.  44-10, Seahawks victory.

Week 6, vs. Dallas, 1:25pm

This game is my wet dream.  A pass-first offense without a bona fide slot receiver and a shaky quarterback who takes too many chances?  If Richard Sherman doesn’t get his hands on at least 8 balls (interceptions, tips, etc.), I’ll be shocked.  35-17 Seahawks (and that’s only because it’s going to be 28-3 at halftime and we end up running out the clock in the second half; we could probably drop 50 on them if we tried for the full game).

Week 7, at St. Louis, 10am

The League did do us one favor with the schedule:  we’ve only got three 10am starts this year.  This is the first one.  No Sam Bradford, no win for the Rams.  Last year, we were lucky to come away from this game with a victory, needing a last-second goalline stop to preserve it.  This year, I’m expecting more of an easier go.  We’re not going to be perfect; they do still have a solid defensive line.  But, 27-13 is in order.

Week 8, at Carolina, 10am

Back to back road games starting at 10am Pacific time.  I’m already on record as saying that I think Carolina is going to struggle mightily this year.  But, this is still a road game on the East Coast, so a victory won’t come easy.  I’m looking at something like 19-9, with a LOT of field goals.  Seahawks improve to 7-0.

Week 9, vs. Oakland, 1:25pm

I like catching Oakland here.  Derek Carr will have had some bumps in the road by now, so his confidence will likely be shaken.  Their veterans on defense will be wearing down and/or injured by this point.  I’m expecting an easy victory, if maybe a sloppy one.  Still, we should take it going way, 27-6.

Week 10, vs. NY Giants, 1:25pm

Give me Eli, give me a nothing defense, and give me no weapons on offense.  Is it possible to shut out a team in back-to-back years?  I think so!  44-0, Seahawks.

Week 11, at Kansas City, 10am

Final morning game.  Kansas City is sure to come back to Earth this year, as their defense is worse and they still did nothing to improve the offense around Jamaal Charles.  Nevertheless, I got a feeling this one will be closer.  I’m looking at a 34-28 victory for the Seahawks.

Week 12, vs. Arizona, 1:05pm

There will be no repeat of last year’s fluke Cardinals victory in Seattle.  The defense is remarkably worse and Carson Palmer is remarkably a year older.  I’m sensing a 33-7 Seahawks victory.

Week 13, at San Francisco, 5:30pm (Thanksgiving)

The Seahawks will be the talk of the nation coming into this game, as their 11-0 record is the best in football.  However, their relatively tame schedule to this point (highlighted by poor seasons out of the teams they’ve played in recent weeks) will give pundits cause for concern:  is this team really as good as their record?

It will be at this point that I will give just about anything to steal a win in Santa Clara.  EVERY YEAR I keep thinking:  this will be the time.  And every year, the 49ers end up finding a way to pull it out.  I can’t remember the last time we won down there, but I’m sure it was the best day of my life.

Unfortunately, this year will be no different (prove me wrong, Seahawks!), as the underwhelming 49ers find a way to pull it out.  I’m thinking 28-24, Seahawks lose to go to 11-1.

Week 14, at Philadelphia, 1:25pm

Many pundits are eyeballing this as a defeat for the Seahawks.  The Eagles were pretty good last year; their offense is and was on point.  Could be looking at another Trap Game, as this one is sandwiched between the two games against the 49ers on our regular season schedule.

I don’t see it, though.  I think the Seahawks’ offense is the story of this game.  I’m looking at something around 44-34, Seahawks win.

Week 15, vs. San Francisco, 1:25pm

And here is the game where we kill the 49ers, like we do every time they come to town.  Nothing fancy, just making Kaepernick our bitch.  31-13, Seahawks.

Week 16, at Arizona, 5:30pm (Sunday Night)

By this point, I’m expecting to see the Cardinals in full give-up mode.  Carson Palmer will be either benched or injured, and their backup will be some lame-ass.  Their defense will still be terrible and the Seahawks will roll, 38-10.

Week 17, vs. St. Louis, 1:25pm

At this point, we’ll be 14-1 and we will have wrapped up home field advantage.  So, it’ll come down to a couple things:  how long will our starters play in this game, and how well will our backups hold the fort?

For the record, I DO think our starters will get at least some play.  My guess is, anywhere from 1 to 2 quarters.  Yes, Seahawks fans will lose their God damn minds (as, again, the Rams have the best defensive line in football, and the last thing we need is for Russell Wilson to take unnecessary hits).  I don’t think we’ll be necessarily all that sharp though.

In the end, the backups come in and they’ll get pushed around a little bit.  The Rams will make a late-game comeback, and the Seahawks will lose.  Something like 24-17.

The Seahawks will be 14-2, and in spite of the final-week defeat, will be on fire as a football team heading into the playoffs.  I think ultimately the schedule will prove to be easier than last year’s, as a lot of the teams we THINK will be good are ultimately not.  I think the 49ers start to decline, even though they’ve got enough talent to still be pretty okay.  In the end, I think the Seahawks are just too good.  They’re too talented, they’re strong at every position group, and they’ll have enough depth to push through and overcome any injuries in their way (except for the quarterback position, of course).

Yes, repeating as world champions is one of the most difficult things to do.  Hell, just winning ONE championship is one of the most difficult things to do!  But, we’re in a once-in-a-lifetime window here where the Seahawks are the best team in football.  Now, it’s time to go out and show the world just how great we truly are.

Richard Sherman, Best Cornerback In The Game, Signs 4-Year Extension

I’m less interested in the fact that Richard Sherman is the highest-paid cornerback in football, because that’s all temporary.  I care more about what it has taken for Richard Sherman go GET that deal (4 years, 50-something million, $40 million guaranteed), which is his being the best cornerback in the game.

Mostly, I just care about the fact that Richard Sherman is going to be with the Seahawks at least through the 2018 season.

Richard Sherman has a lot of haters.  He’s brash, he’s arrogant, he talks a mountain of shit.  While he’s not necessarily a “me-first” type of player, he certainly encourages all the attention anyone is willing to give him.  Plus, he plays on the Seattle Seahawks.  Which means he’s NOT playing for 31 of the NFL’s 32 teams.  He’s the consummate player you love if he’s on your team, and the player you love to hate if he’s not.

As such, people love making the argument that he’s NOT the greatest cornerback in the game.  As if it’s so easy to do what he does.

Here’s what we know:  primarily, Richard plays on one side of the field.  Which means for the most part, he’s not following the other team’s best receiver all around the field.  As if this is some sort of skill he lacks (I’d ask Anquan Boldin in week 2 of last year how he liked having Richard Sherman in his back pocket all day long).  Apparently, if you’re not constantly shutting down the other team’s best receiver (or, at least holding him at bay), then you’re lacking.  Let’s not forget, Richard Sherman has absolutely put a wall on his side of the field.  You’d think that would count for something.

Furthermore, every team that plays the Seahawks knows what they’re going to do on defense.  They know exactly where Richard Sherman is going to be at all times.  They can counter this by putting their weakest receiver on his side and essentially “neutralize” Sherman.  With all of this a matter of public record, isn’t it even MORE amazing that Richard Sherman was able to lead the league in interceptions last year, with 8?  Or that he’s been among the league leaders in his first three years with 20 interceptions total?  Or that he led the league in passes defended?

Opposing offenses KNOW they can just avoid his side, and yet he’s still the most productive cornerback in the game!  I’d like to see Patrick Peterson do that (oh, that’s right, he’s got all of 12 interceptions in the last three years).

Another knock on Richard Sherman is the fact that he’s on the best defense in football.  This somehow discounts the fact that Richard Sherman is one of the primary reasons WHY the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  Richard Sherman has Earl Thomas to his right, and Earl Thomas is the key to the whole fucking thing.  Not to mention the most underrated linebacking corps in the game, and a ruthless defensive line.  We’re stacked!  There’s no denying this.  As such, it has to make Sherman’s job a whole lot easier.

But, do you ever hear anyone knock Michael Jordan for being on some of the best teams of all time in the mid-90s?  He had Pippen and Rodman and Kerr and a number of other dynamite role players on that team who all fit together perfectly.  Michael Jordan was the best basketball player of all time, yet nobody knocks him for having some of the most talented players of all time around him!  They didn’t expect Jordan to put up 50 shots a game, because he didn’t HAVE to put up 50 shots a game.  He just needed to do his thing, play within the offense, and the wins would take care of themselves.

So, why are you asking Richard Sherman to move all around the field with the other team’s best receiver if he doesn’t have to?  I would understand it if our other cornerbacks were terrible, and we didn’t have the safeties we have.  But, we’ve got the BEST safeties and a bunch of other really good corners.  So, why put unnecessary pressure on Sherm?  Let him play his game, let him lock down his side, and let opposing offenses try to work around him.

I’ll take Richard Sherman over any other corner in football.  You can call it blind homerism if you want, but I’ve watched the man work.  I’ve seen nearly every game he’s been involved with in the pros.  As a rookie, he flashed amazing potential.  In 2012, he was really coming on and starting to make a name for himself.  From 2012 through 2013, he brought all the attention upon himself, by punking Tom Brady, by arguing over Twitter with Darrelle Revis.  When 2013 started, Richard Sherman had the biggest target on his back of any player in the league.  What did he do?  Did he crumble under the self-inflicted pressure?  Hell no!  He went out and kicked even MORE ass, culminating with that tipped pass to Malcolm Smith in the NFC Championship Game (aka the REAL Super Bowl XLVIII).

Richard Sherman IS the greatest.  Take it from someone who has just written the single-greatest argument as to WHY he’s the greatest.

I SO HAPPY: Seahawks Beat Up 49ers, Go To Super Bowl

I don’t have a lot in me right now.  It’s been a LONG day, with the craziest highs and lows I can possibly imagine.  I just want to put on record how great this feels.  Not just to go to the Super Bowl, but to do so after beating the fucking 49ers.  It’s unreal.

I’ve got a lot of things rolling around in my head, which I’m hoping to put out into the world tomorrow.  But, there’s one thing I’d like to mention right now.

This is the greatest I’ve felt since 1996.  The Supersonics beating the Utah Jazz has to go down as one of the greatest sporting days (as a fan) of my life.  It strikes me that this Seahawks team reminds me a great deal of those Sonics.  In the Super Bowl, the two best teams in the league are going to face one another:  the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  In 1996, the two best teams in the league faced one another:  the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle Supersonics.  All along, I thought that this would be the matchup we’d get in the Super Bowl, and all along, I’ve  been rooting for both of these teams to make it.  Maybe rooting along the Broncos was a foolish way to think, because Beware What You Wish For.

Those Bulls were the greatest single-season team in NBA history.  Had the 1996 Sonics played literally ANY other team, we would have won the championship that year.

These Broncos aren’t necessarily the greatest single-season team in NFL history, but they have the best offense in NFL history.  It’s strength against strength:  their offense vs. our defense.  #1 vs #1.  Titan against titan.  To be the best, you have to beat the best, and in this case, the Seahawks have gotten exactly what they deserve.

Those Sonics were a young team on the rise, against a Bulls team that would only have a couple more runs left before their superstar retired in Michael Jordan.  These Seahawks are a young team on the rise, against a Broncos team that likely only has a couple more runs with Peyton Manning before he hangs ’em up.

The last thing I want to see is a repeat of those 1996 NBA Finals.

But, that’s something to think about later.  For the record, I think these Seahawks are better than those Sonics were, respectively.  Either way, this is a day to celebrate.  I’m going to go collapse into my bed and sleep for a week.

The 2013 Seahawks Season: Do You Feel Lucky?

If you’re a long-suffering Seattle sports fan like myself, then you know all kinds of different types of heartache.  There are the obvious biggies:  the Sonics moving, the Mariners never making it to a World Series, the Sonics making it to the Finals only to lose to a rejuvinated Michael Jordan team that won an NBA-best 72 of 82 regular season games, the Seahawks making it to only one Super Bowl and gagging it away thanks to uncharacteristic mistakes, secondary injuries, and horrible calls by the officials.  We’ve been blessed with a small amount of success, but we’ve never been able to see our teams go all the way (save one Sonics team that won it all before I was even born).

Seattle fans are constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Yes, the 2001 Mariners won a record 116 games, but they had weaknesses that were exploited by the Yankees in the ALCS.  In any other year, the 95/96 Sonics probably would have won a championship, but they were faced with the impossible task of going up against the greatest team of all time.  The 2005 Seahawks were a pleasant surprise, but they had a relatively easy path to the Super Bowl and lacked the experience and depth to make that one last push.

Since then, it’s been one long, slow, continuous slide back into mediocrity for all of our professional teams.  That is, until last year, where the Seahawks found their franchise quarterback and went on one of the best runs any Seahawks team has ever accomplished.  Going into the 2013 season, the Seahawks are officially among the frontrunners.  Vegas odds have the Seahawks as the favorite to win it all.  Never in my lifetime have I experienced this feeling, until now.

So, the question is:  when is the other shoe going to drop?

The talent on this team is at an all-time high.  The depth has never been stronger.  On paper, not only COULD this team do the impossible, but this team SHOULD do the impossible.  At this point, the table is set; the only thing that can stop us now is a rash of bad luck.

This can come in any number of ways.  A blown call by a ref that costs us a pivotal game.  An uncharacteristic fumble by a sure-handed offensive player costing us a chance to score.  A dropped interception at a critical juncture allowing the other team to score a go-ahead touchdown.  And, of course the seemingly inevitable:  injuries and suspensions.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think it has already begun.  It started with Chris Clemons tearing his ACL in last season’s playoff game against the Redskins.  Odds are, he will make a full recovery, but I’m not 100% secure with whatever those odds are.  In all likelihood, he will start the season on the PUP list, which will take him out of the first six games of the season.  As a result, the team did what it knew it had to do:  go out and sign some defensive ends in free agency.  Will Avril and Bennett be able to pick up the production that was lost when Clemons went down?  That remains to be seen.  It’s hard to be too confident about the calibre of players we were able to sign considering we were able to get them relatively cheap.

The bad luck has continued with Greg Scruggs tearing his ACL, which will most likely cost him the entire 2013 season.  Scruggs was a rookie last year who didn’t play a whole lot, and he only ended up with 2 sacks on the season, so it’s hard to consider that a huge loss for this team.  Nevertheless, he represents part of that all-important depth I was talking about earlier.  Injuries are inevitable, they happen to all teams.  How your backups are able to step up will dictate how well your team will play in any given season.  Greg Scruggs might not have been a starter, he might not have made much of an impact even if he was at full strength this year.  But, he’s a second year player who the team obviously likes.  You would think they like him because they see the potential for him to get better.  We won’t know how much better he can be for at least another year.  That, in itself, is a huge disappointment.

I should point out that while injuries are a part of the game and every team suffers from them, not every team is DECIMATED by them.  The Seahawks were very fortunate in that area in 2012.  It’s one of the reasons why they were able to win so many games and come together as a team.  Sustaining that kind of low injury rate isn’t something you can count on going forward.  Obviously, just because the Seahawks were relatively healthy last year, that doesn’t mean they’re destined to see half the team in the infirmary THIS year.  These things are completely arbitrary and luck-based, which is why it’s not crazy to live in fear of this plague hitting our team, especially when we’re projected to go so far this year.

One thing you seemingly CAN control is whether or not you are suspended for performance enhancing drugs.  Adderall.  Again.

I want to support these guys.  I don’t like being someone who immediately comes down on someone for making a mistake.  But, I mean, COME ON BRUCE IRVIN!  You are KILLING ME!  You know the fucking rules!  You made a choice to put something into your body that’s against those fucking rules.  It’s hard to see this as a “mistake” when you knowingly did the wrong thing.

And it’s not like you couldn’t see something like this coming!  We JUST had one player suspended (Browner) and another player facing that same suspension before he was acquitted on what many believe is a technicality (Sherman).  This should have been FRESH in your mind, and I’m sure it was.  And yet, you did it anyway.  You don’t want people to lecture you like some old fogey?  Then don’t be a fucking retard and start doing the right thing only AFTER you’ve been caught!

Now, obviously, I don’t think we can place 100% of the blame on Bruce Irvin.  At this point, it should be clear to everyone that it isn’t JUST the people who are getting caught who are abusing Adderall.  This shit is being abused league-wide by a very high percentage of football players.  Apparently, they have some quick-acting Adderall that runs through your system in just a few hours.  And, I would have to assume, there are some quality masking agents preventing even MORE people from getting caught on a regular basis.  That having been said, it’s still no excuse.  This season is too important, and to fuck up this bad is inexcusable.

So far, it’s only three people.  I would hardly call that an epidemic.  One is lost for the season, one is lost for the first four games, and one is likely to be lost for at least six games, and COULD be lost for almost all of the season (yeah, Clemons will recover and be on the field again, but for how long?  I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have rushed back after an ACL injury only to be lost again quickly after their return).  What makes this worse is that all three play the same position:  defensive end.  You never want to see injuries, but you REALLY never want to see injuries mount up among the same position group.  That’s a good way to relinquish all the depth you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.

Finally, I need to point out that the first four games of the season are PRETTY important.  Two of them are against teams in the NFC, with one of those teams being the San Francisco 49ers.  There’s also a road game in Houston that might not be a Must Win or anything, but it’s going to be pretty fucking difficult to sneak out of there with a W if we’re nursing a bunch of wounded players.

I have a bad feeling.  It starts out with a couple guys missing a fraction of the season (and the complete loss of a rotation lineman), but it could easily spiral out of control with more important players being lost.  I won’t go into any names right now, but you know the players I’m talking about.

While we proceed to evaluate this team as the offseason progresses, I would remind everyone to keep an eye out on the luck factor that can and probably will bite us in the ass and prevent us from winning what we so desperately need to win.  We’ve seen disappointment before as Seattle fans, but we’ve yet to see the kind of disappointment where one of our elite, frontrunning teams slowly but surely gets eaten alive by that bitch known as the Injury Bug.

The Lorenzo Romar Debate Rages On

As this season progresses, the discontent with the Husky basketball program is only going to intensify.  That’s the way it is.  Husky fans have grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  Hell, the Husky PROGRAM has grown accustomed to a certain level of success.  So, losing all these games (to sub-standard programs both in and non-conference), as well as losing all these games in a ROW (after a 4-game winning streak to start conference play), has to be eating away at the psyche of both the players, the coaching staff, the Athletic Department, and the fans at large.

I get it.  Everyone’s pissed off.  Or, at the very least, mildly annoyed.  We’re all ticked because the team is not living up to their regular level of success, and THAT’S making us even angrier because we feel even THAT level of success isn’t good enough.  It’s not enough just to live up to what we’ve seen from other Romar-led Husky teams, it’s a point of contention that:  why can’t we be even BETTER?

The biggest monkey on Lorenzo Romar’s back is:  not getting past the Sweet 16.  For that, I have no defense for the man.  In the Nate Rob/B-Roy years, we had some electric teams.  That 2004/2005 season where we had a #1 seed in the Tourney is particularly galling, because of its rarity around these parts to have a 1-seed college basketball team, and because of the way we ended up losing (in the Sweet 16 round, to the 4-seed Louisville Cardinals).

I’m not here to blindly defend the man willy-nilly, in spite of some of my posts on the subject.  But, I’m also not going to sit around and go along with the crowd who wants to run the guy out of town after one bad season in the last five years.

Someone ran across my last post on the subject and wrote a thoughtful retort; I would recommend reading it even though he takes me to task for some of my sloppier assertions.  Since this is such a dead period in local sports, I’ve opted to reserve my response to his response for a brand new post (content generation, ho!).

I’ll start with this, apropos of nothing:  I don’t think Lorenzo Romar is the perfect coach.  I don’t think he’s the best coach in college basketball.  I think there are plenty of things you could question about the man’s in-game decision-making.  For instance:  why was Desmond Simmons riding so much pine last night, especially at the end of the game, and especially when he’s your best overall defender (who can cover guys inside and on the perimeter)?  Why risk letting Aziz get hacked and put at the line (where he missed two crucial late free throws), or God forbid jacking up a desperation 3-point ball from the corner on an inbound play?

I would also question his preference to have senior guards constantly taking the final shots in games over more-talented younger guys.  How many times did we see Game Overton blasting through the lane, throwing up some wild and crazy shot when it would’ve been more appropriate for someone like I.T. (only a junior) to have the rock with the clock ticking down.  Yes, we all remember COLD BLOODED against Arizona, but really give that season some thought and harken back.  The same goes for Abdul Gaddy this year; Romar needs to have him cede immediately to the younger and more vital Andrews and let him show what he can do.

There are countless other examples of things you COULD question, but for the most part you can see the logic.  Here’s the thing:  I understand being loyal to your upperclassmen.  But, if you’re going to be a top-notch program, you’re going to have to deal with the certainty that you’ll have one-and-done players.  Those players are one-and-done for a reason:  they’re the best of the best (usually).  Put the ball in THEIR hands, if you’re so fortunate to have them, when the game is on the line.

Abdul Gaddy is a real point of contention.  A point made by the aforementioned commenter:  “… I don’t know if Romar is at fault for the poor development of Gaddy and Suggs, but it’s frustrating no less.”

It’s a good point.  We DON’T know who’s at fault for Gaddy not living up to his billing.  I’ll leave Suggs alone, because I think Suggs is what he is, damn his rating coming out of high school.  He’s a spot-up long-range shooter and that’s all he ever was going to be.  Which is fine, if you’ve got the proper guards at point who will drive the lane, draw in defenders, and kick out.  Scott Suggs should be NOBODY’S primary or secondary offensive option (unless he’s playing for some lesser, Sun Belt-ish conference).  But, on a well-balanced team, he wouldn’t be a bad fourth or fifth option, preferably off the bench.

Gaddy, however, is a completely different ball of wax.  I said it last night (when he biffed that alley-oop pass at the end of the game) and I’ll say it again:  Abdul Gaddy is quickly becoming my least-favorite Husky.  He was supposed to be great.  He was our big catch of the 2009 Freshman class.  We may never know what would’ve been had he not injured his ACL at such a critical period of his development in his Sophomore year, but from what we’ve seen since his return, even if he could’ve gotten that medical redshirt, it’s unlikely he’d be any better next year than what he is right now.  Which is a semi-dependable ball-handler who makes WAY too many mistakes with the ball for a guy in his Senior season.  A guy who has never had even a remotely decent jump shot.  A guy who’s an average defender at best (but who will frequently be beaten by shorter, quicker guards).  And a guy who has little-to-no ability to penetrate a defense and finish at the rim.

So, who’s to blame?  Was it Romar not coaching him up, taking his high school talent for granted?  Was it all those sites who rank prep athletes for dropping the ball?  Let’s face it, we had a pretty good idea pretty early on that Gaddy would be a likely 4-year player in college.  With Gaddy supposedly being in the top-2 of incoming point guards that year nationally, you’d think at the most he would’ve been here 1-2 seasons, had he reached the potential everyone thought he’d reach.  Even if those sites DID drop the ball, if you’re Lorenzo Romar, you have to be BETTER than those sites.  As a talent evaluator, you have to know what you’re getting into with a major recruit.

But, there’s the other side of the argument, which is:  did Abdul Gaddy do enough work on his own to better his game?  Did he practice his shot enough?  Did he keep himself in good enough shape?  Did he work out with other players to better his dribble-penetration game?  Or, is he just lazy and thought he could coast on talent alone through his college career, with no real ambition to go on to the next level aside from a hazy, far-off dream?

Or, did he just not have it to begin with, and everyone fucked up, from the scouts to Romar to Gaddy himself?  I’m apt to believe this over anything else.  He could’ve been the Michael Jordan of practicing, working on his game, and having a relentless drive to be the best, but if he just didn’t have the talent to succeed and grow as a player, then it’s pointless trying to spread the blame around.

But, to say that Romar doesn’t get the best out of his players – which the above-referenced commenter, Taylor, noted – means you simply haven’t been watching his teams very closely.  I’m not interested as much in how guys rate coming out of high school.  There are plenty of blue-chippers who go on to fail.  But, I get it, the more blue-chippers you bring in, the better your odds are of having some dominating teams.  I’m more concerned with how guys look in Year 1 vs. how guys look in Years 3 and 4.

Look at Jon Brockman, as one example.  He didn’t come out of the womb an All-Conference player.  In his first season, he averaged 8.4 (points) and 6.5 (rebounds).  But, he consistently worked on refining his game to where he averaged 18/12 as a Junior before giving way to I.T. in his senior season.  Look at a guy like MBA, who averaged 4 and 3 in his first year.  By his senior season, he was up to 15/8!  How about Q-Pon?  From what I remember (and I could be wrong), he was fairly highly rated coming out of high school.  Remember what he was like early in his college career?  VERY inconsistent.  We kept waiting for his breakout that seemingly would never come.  In his first season, he averaged 11 and 4.  By his last year, he was up to 19 and 8 and led this team to an impromptu Sweet 16 run.

I could go on, but let’s just call it what it is:  Romar has coached up his share of guys.

The big theory in college athletics goes like this:  as a new coach, you do your best to bring in as many good players as possible.  You coach them up, you find some modicum of success in the post-season, and that begets even better recruits, which begets more winning, and so on and so forth.  Taylor’s main point, from what I gather, is that Romar has reached a wall, or a plateau of sorts.  He makes a very good point in his section about the other top-tier schools I listed.  I’m going to save myself the time and take his word for it:  those other coaches had more success, and quicker than Romar’s first 11 years with the Dawgs.  In a lot of cases, those coaches took nothing programs, caught lightning in a bottle, and went on to monster success.

So location has nothing to do with it.  I don’t know if I lamented our location as much (I don’t feel like re-reading my whole previous post to find out), but if I did then I was pretty erroneous on that mark.  However, I will say this:  just because it’s taken Romar 11 years to get where we’ve gotten (which isn’t all that impressive, in the grand scheme of things) doesn’t mean this is as good as it gets and it’s only downhill from here.  He’s a fairly young guy, and if you hear the man speak in person, you can tell he has a good rapport with the younger generation, so if he was given a free pass to coach here as long as he desired, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for him to turn this program into a national power.  Really, it just takes one class, one team, to catch that lightning in a bottle.  Generate a surprise Final Four run and before you know it, those blue-chippers we keep losing to Kentucky and Louisville and Arizona and UCLA are now coming here.

Which is why I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand his ability to recruit and build NBA players.  Some guys, like Ross and Wroten, and Roy and Nate-Rob and Hawes, were going to be NBA draft picks regardless.  But, Q-Pon was no guarantee.  Brockman was CERTAINLY no guarantee (an under-sized power forward or a slow small forward, depending on where you think he fits on an NBA team).  I.T.  was another sub-6 foot point guard who ended up being the last pick in the draft.  Yet, he was showcased by Romar on some quality (though not elite) Husky basketball teams, and he made it.  Bringing in blue chippers who leave early is just as important as building NBA-calibre players out of nothing, like he did with the likes of Brockman.  Because it sets an example that you don’t HAVE to go to those other elite schools to get noticed.  You can come here, play for a program everyone respects, and still find success as a pro.

But, I’ll walk this argument back:  Romar hasn’t caught that lightning in a bottle.  His best teams have been disappointments in that regard; they haven’t gone very far in the Tourney.  And his other Tourney teams have lost too quickly to generate much of anything in the way of national buzz.  So, we’re NOT on the level of an Arizona or a UCLA.  We’re in that meaty 2nd tear of the Pac-12, with Cal and Stanford and now, I guess, Oregon (God, just seriously fuck Oregon already!).

So, I get the frustration, I really do.  And Taylor’s point about Romar’s lack of success in non-conference games (especially on the road in non-conference games) is valid.  On the one hand, I’m sitting here telling you that Romar gets the best of his players, that often his players improve from season to season (and during individual seasons, when they’re playing much better towards the end than they are in the beginning), but on the other hand, why can’t Romar have them ready from the beginning?  Why do the Huskies constantly underachieve in their non-conference games?

What’s worse:  the non-conference schedule has only gotten EASIER since Romar’s early days as a Husky coach.  I don’t have an answer for that either.

But, I trust the man’s judgment.  If he feels his teams aren’t ready for elite competition in the first month of the season, then that probably means they aren’t ready for elite competition.  What do I read every year?  Romar’s defense is difficult for guys to learn.  It takes some of them a while to figure it out, which ultimately costs them playing time early in their careers.  I’ll counter Taylor’s point about Terrence Ross:  he WASN’T good as a Freshman until very late in the season.  If he was, he would’ve played a lot from the first game.  Instead, he got very sporadic minutes until he finally figured it all out come conference tournament time.  He certainly didn’t get the kind of minutes that Wroten got as a Freshman, but that’s another story.

What I think Romar gets the least credit for is how he turned this program around.  Taylor felt like belittling me on this point.  Yes, the Huskies are in the Top 15 all time for most college basketball wins.  That’s quite impressive.  They have well over 1,600 wins, which, I mean WOW, right?  Except, the Huskies have been around for 110 fucking years!  They’re tied for the 14th-longest running basketball program in the nation; of COURSE they’re going to have a lot of wins!  Truth be told, though, the Huskies – in those 110 seasons, have exactly 20 conference titles (hardly a “substantial amount”).  A whopping 12 of those were won by teams coached by Hec Edmundson; you know, the guy they named the arena after.  Yeah, Hec Ed had some GREAT teams in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  Maybe I’ll go back to college, become a history major, and read all about it.

You know who doesn’t give two shits about how good the teams were in the pre-Korean War days?  Everyone born after the Korean War!

Throw your historical winning percentage around all you want.  Keep telling everyone how the Washington Huskies have the winningest home arena in college basketball.  No one gives a shit.  In the 49 seasons before Lorenzo Romar became the Huskies’ head coach, the Huskies won exactly 2 regular season conference championships.  Or, you know, the same number Romar has won in his 11 seasons.  I’m not necessarily saying 2 conference championships is acceptable, but don’t tell me that he was inheriting some program of ANY historical significance.  It’s only significant to Husky alums as a way to talk trash to our Pac-12 brethren.

I’ll close with Taylor’s closing point.  Romar has, indeed, lost a lot of confidence in Husky fans.  To have two first round draft picks last year and only manage to make it to the N.I.T. Final Four is kind of a travesty.  But, the year before that he led a VERY young team into the second round of the Tourney, and the year before that we were in the Sweet 16 with a team that essentially only had two scorers!

I ask again:  is a guy not allowed to have a down year?  I disagree with Taylor’s argument that the Huskies are destined to be terrible again next year.  First of all, with Gaddy leaving, we’re talking about addition by subtraction.  I think any game now, we’re going to find out that Andrew Andrews is something special and a solid foundation piece in the seasons to come.  I agree wholeheartedly with Taylor’s point about rather winning a national championship with 15 guys who never set foot in the NBA over having a bunch of lottery picks and losing in the first round, but that’s neither here nor there.  When do you EVER see that?  Inevitably, with college basketball, you need a good mix and some luck.  You need a couple blue chippers, but you also need those four-year veterans who know the system, who lead by example, and who can chip in as complementary players on both ends of the court.

This year, we kind of got caught with our pants down.  We’re very young AND we’re lacking in any blue chippers (unless you count Gaddy, but I don’t with the way he’s played his whole career).  Our veteran presence – Suggs, Aziz, Gaddy, and Wilcox as a Junior – isn’t enough, because they’re not talented enough to carry the mail.  But, they’re forced to carry the mail, and that’s why you see games like we had last night.  We can contend with some of the best Pac-12 teams, but ultimately we’re going to come short this season because the talent just isn’t there.

But, that doesn’t mean we won’t have the talent NEXT year.  Darin Johnson and Nigel Williams-Goss look like a one-two punch at guard to be reckoned with.  I don’t know if both will play next season, but you’re talking about 3-4 star players.  If we DO somehow land Aaron Gordon (which, I don’t think we should get our hopes up too high on that end, but what a coup that would be!), then the sky is the limit for the 2013/2014 season (especially if we’re fortunate enough to have Wilcox stay for his senior season, where he isn’t necessarily the ONLY offensive option and doesn’t constantly draw the other team’s best defender all game long).

Truth be told, even if we don’t get Gordon, all hope isn’t lost.  There have to be players in the JC ranks out there for Romar to poach.  I think he would be well-served to tap into that well again.  We keep getting our panties in a bunch over these 4-star high school guys, but there are effective JC transfers out there just WAITING for the chance to shine for a program desperately seeking a big man or two.

I’ll actually finish (seriously this time) by 100% agreeing with Taylor’s closing statements.  Yes, if attendance keeps falling, Romar probably won’t stand a chance.  It’s a shame, but that’s the reality in today’s major college sports.  I would hope that Romar has at least earned one more season on top of this one, regardless of how far attendance numbers plummet.  If we get these new recruits for next season and the team STILL struggles to find its way, then I might just be there with everyone else, leading the charge to run the guy out of town.

But, I don’t think this is a Tyrone Willingham situation.  I don’t think we’d be doing more harm than good to give the guy at least one more season.  Honestly, I think we’d be well-served to give Romar at least the next TWO seasons.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that just because you haven’t made a Final Four in your first decade, that means you’re destined to never be elite.  I won’t do the research at this time, but there HAVE to be late bloomers out there, who might’ve struggled or been middling in their first decade as a major-conference head coach, only to turn it on later in their careers.  I just don’t see why Romar can’t be one of them.

Taylor and I agree on one final point as well:  it would be foolish to make a change just to make a change.  The University of Washington has a ton of money.  If you absolutely HAVE to pull the trigger, don’t go out and hire the next Paul Wulff (or whoever the basketball-equivalent would be).  Go out there and make a big fucking splash!  Bring in one of the big dogs, give him free reign over the program, and get the fuck out of his way!