Give Me Back XLIX

I don’t generally spend a lot of time responding to other blog posts I find on the Internet, but this one from Field Gulls was too good to pass up. It’s a great idea: which of the Seahawks’ two Super Bowl defeats would you rather have back?

It’s so good, because there are terrific arguments for both cases. I don’t know how to choose! It’s like you’ve got three kids: one of them has a genius-level IQ, calls you on the reg, is always being complimented by friends and strangers alike, and generally is just a joy to be around (Super Bowl XLVIII); then there are the two shitbirds. One of them has a drinking problem, is constantly borrowing money from you and never paying it back, and has 6 kids with 5 different women (Super Bowl XL); the other has ruined literally every single holiday by fighting with the relatives, has a racist and homophobic long-term, off-and-on boyfriend with a mullet and a vast collection of confederate flags, and she makes her living bilking old people out of their social security with a variety of telephone and e-mail scams (Super Bowl XLIX).

Just thinking about either of those two games makes me sick to my stomach. WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?!

My gut instinct is to take Super Bowl XL and turn that into a Seahawks victory. That game almost broke me, and not just because I managed to consume upwards of 18 Miller High Life’s (Lives?) throughout the day before passing out ass up and pajama pants down on the floor near my bedroom in West Seattle.

Yes, I said near my bedroom.

Everything about that game was FUCKING ANNOYING. Re-living it in that blog post back in 2014 was a waking nightmare. How do I count the ways? Steelers fans and the Pittsburgh Steelers in general. Ben Roethlisberger is somehow a 2-time Super Bowl Champion. Jerome Bettis. Hines Ward. The God-damned refs. Just, fucking kill me.

That game doesn’t have a ton in common with Super Bowl XLIX, but the one overriding theme between the two Seahawks Super Bowl defeats are all the self-imposed mistakes we committed. While the latter had the one big one at the end, the former had many throughout.

But, ultimately, I don’t know how good that 2005 Seahawks team was. Our offense was fine, but the defense was suspect. I’d like to know how that game would’ve turned had our secondary been healthy (and not starting a bunch of guys right off the street), but regardless I think that was a pretty mediocre defense, all things considered. With the offense prone to blunder after blunder, it was all too much to overcome.

As I sit with the question a little longer and give it some genuine thought, the loss to New England in XLIX was far more galling.

We were obviously coming off of our only world championship in franchise history, and we accomplished the seemingly-impossible: getting back to the big game while avoiding any sort of Super Bowl Hangover. The 2014 Seahawks were stacked, bringing back pretty much everyone from the year before, all in the primes of their careers.

Of course, those Patriots were great too, but the Seahawks were the superior team in this one. This was supposed to be the start of our big dynasty. Now, obviously, we’ll never know how different the subsequent few seasons would’ve been had the Seahawks prevailed at the end of XLIX, but back-to-back titles is so rare that we’d be talking about that era of Seahawks football much more highly than we do now (which is more of an air of What Could’ve Been). Instead, those Seahawks harken back to the Bears of the mid-80s, as a team that should’ve won a lot more than they ultimately did.

Fortunately, as long as Russell Wilson is around, if we ever do manage to get back to the Super Bowl, that Seahawks team will be lumped in with the L.O.B. era, just as the Patriots teams of this past decade are lumped in with those of the previous decade, thanks to Tom Brady’s participation. But, that’s neither here nor there.

The Seahawks gagging away XLIX – combined with the Falcons gagging away their huge lead – really turned the tide of sentiment in the Patriots’ favor. If you JUST gave the Seahawks the victory in this alternate universe, there’s an argument to be made that the Seahawks (and NOT the Patriots) would’ve been the Team of the 2010’s, in spite of the fact that the Pats still made it to more Super Bowls. The reason is: we’d both have the same number of titles, but they never beat us head to head, which is the ultimate decider.

Seahawks fans will always remember this team’s appearances in the big game, and we’ll always have that victory to hang our hats on. We can go back and re-watch the game over and over again if we want! Many teams have never even APPEARED in a Super Bowl, let alone won it! You think the Vikings or Bills fans wouldn’t trade places with us this instant?

But, I’m looking big picture here. If the Seahawks won Super Bowl XL and XLVIII, that’s a nice story. It boosts Mike Holmgren’s stature as a Hall of Fame head coach, and it makes us 2-1 in those games. But, those appearances are too far apart to have any lasting impact. On the flipside, winning XLVIII and XLIX – on top of what those teams were able to do in that 5-6 year stretch, particularly on defense, from 2012-2016 or so – that’s getting to legendary status.

Instead, as I mentioned above, there’s a lot of regret. Ultimately, we’re talking about upwards of anywhere from 5-8 hall of famers on those teams (Sherman, Wagner, Wilson, Thomas, and Chancellor for sure); with that collection of talent, how did we NOT win more championships? It also has a troubling effect on Pete Carroll’s chances to make the Hall of Fame. Two Super Bowl titles seem to be the bar you have to get over to make it a foregone conclusion. At this point, how many more chances will he get?

So, yeah, give me XLIX. If for no other reason than we can all stop re-watching that fucking pass at the goalline every fucking year for the rest of our fucking lives.

Seahawks Death Week Starts Both Earlier & Later Than Expected

The Seahawks lost in the Wild Card round for the first time since the Holmgren administration, 24-22 to the Dallas Cowboys. Depending on your perspective, the season comes to a close either MUCH earlier or MUCH later than we’d all anticipated.

On the bright side, we all figured the Seahawks to be an 8-8 team heading into this season. If you dropped an 8-8 team into the 2019 NFL Draft, we would’ve been picking 18th. So, to win 10 games and the NFC’s top Wild Card slot is exceeding even our wildest expectations. And, as it is, with the way the rest of the Wild Card games shook out, we’re still drafting 21st (or, at least, have the 21st pick with which to trade back, to accumulate more draft picks in lower rounds), which is the best-case scenario, considering there were 20 teams who missed out on the playoffs.

On the dark side, once we saw what this Seahawks team morphed into as the season progressed, I think we all expected them to go into Dallas and come away victorious. As it stands, we would’ve earned a third game against a very beatable Rams team, with a very remote chance of hosting the NFC Championship Game still in play thanks to the Eagles upsetting the Bears yesterday.

Alas, what might’ve been …

All of the talk since the Seahawks biffed the onside kick – thus sealing our fate – has been directed towards the offense and the play-calling. Both sides are coming down hard. The anti-Schottenheimer crowd – forced into silence lo these last many weeks, as the team moved the ball and scored with the best of ’em – has come out in full force, with pitchforks and torches brandished, calling for heads to roll.

For starters, Schottenheimer isn’t going anywhere. He’s running the offense Pete Carroll is dictating, so if anything, you’re calling for Pete’s head, and he’s not going anywhere either. He just got a big, fat extension, so his status is secure.

Secondly, it was this same approach that led the Seahawks to 10 wins in 14 games. You can’t put the blame entirely on the coaching staff when there are players out there who failed in their charge. There were breakdowns across the board in the running game. It’s likely injuries hampered our O-Line to riddle them ineffective. Playing on the road obviously didn’t help. But, ultimately, the Cowboys’ front seven just out-played us, plain and simple.

All that having been said, there’s a SHIT-TON of defenders coming out of the woodwork, to counter the anti-Schotty throngs, and to you I just have to say this: the Seahawks’ offense absolutely should’ve fucking adjusted their play-calling.

It was 10-6 Dallas as the Seahawks punted deep and pinned them near their own goalline. The Seahawks’ defense forced a 3 & Out to give our offense the ball back with excellent field position. And it was 3 straight runs into the line for 5 yards before a miracle 4th down pass down the sideline to Baldwin for the conversion. From there, two more slugs into the line for 5 yards before Russell Wilson took over. He kept it on the zone read for a first down, then two plays later kept it again for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

That appeared to be the magic elixer: Russell Wilson running the ball. The Cowboys were clearly dedicated to stopping the run from our running backs, by loading the box and daring us to take advantage of one-on-ones with the receivers. But, they were also crashing down the line HARD, leaving wide open lanes for Russell to keep it and gash them for chunk plays. We should’ve kept going to that well once it gushed open, but instead we totally abandoned it the rest of the game.

I’ll also say this: with the way we play the game, penalties are a way of life. We’ve known this since Pete Carroll joined the team. So, there are going to be times where it’ll be 2nd & Long. We HAVE to find a way to convert at least SOME of these drives into first downs. Instead, we seemingly throw them away every single fucking time, with conservative rushes into stacked boxes, or conservative check-downs to guys standing at the line of scrimmage.

Tyler Lockett is a WEAPON, in case you haven’t noticed by his perfect rating with Wilson this year! Maybe, oh I dunno, THROW IT DEEP to him! Maybe he catches it, maybe he draws a flag for PI, maybe it lands incomplete and you have to punt anyway, or maybe it turns into a long INT which is as good as a punt anyway, BUT GOD DAMMIT TAKE A FUCKING SHOT!

But look, for the most part, I’m happy with how the offense looked. People are now saying it doesn’t make any sense to extend Russell Wilson the money he’s worth if we’re not going to use him like other teams use their elite quarterbacks, but I would argue the opposite. We NEED an elite guy to run this offense, because it’s his efficiency that makes this thing work. Without the threat of his deep ball, and his accuracy, and his overall clutchness, the running game wouldn’t be as effective as it is in the first place.

This Seahawks team was pretty flawed, and it was going to take a lot of Russell Wilson Wizardry to make a deep playoff run. Most of those flaws show up on the defensive side of the ball, however.

Shaquill Griffin had probably the worst game I’ve ever seen out of him. Yeah, his ankle was bothering him from last week, to which I say: THEN SIT OUT! You’re hurting the team! You at 70% or whatever isn’t as good as your healthy backup, so let that guy start! But also, on the whole, Griffin clearly didn’t progress as you’d hope this team’s ostensible #1 cornerback would’ve. Tre Flowers was the rookie, but he made HUGE strides over this season; he was the guy with the target on his back, yet it was Griffin who the Cowboys chose to pick on ALL DAMN GAME. What does that say about who this team’s #1 cornerback REALLY is?

As I mentioned last week, proper tackling was one of the keys, and this game completely shit the bed in that arena. Dak converting a 3rd & 14 when we could’ve held them to a field goal – and a one-score game late – was just a back-breaker. The Cowboys ran for 164 yards on the day, which is inexcusable for a Pete Carroll-led defense.

So, yeah, there are a lot of areas to clean up for 2019.

I’m not gonna lie, this one hit pretty hard. If the Seahawks went into L.A. and got shellacked by the Rams next week, it would’ve been disappointing, but also kind of expected. Losing to Dallas, though, I mean they’re good, but they’re not better than us. Had we performed better, we would’ve taken this one. As per usual when the Seahawks lose, it’s the self-inflicted wounds that take us down.

Going forward, I’ll have my usual week-long in memoriam for the Seahawks’ season. There were more highs than lows this year, though I’d argue the outlook for the future isn’t necessarily as rosy as we’d once thought.

Paul Allen Passed Away

What makes a good owner?  Well, winning doesn’t hurt.  Paul Allen took over the Seahawks in 1997 and since then the team has only had 6 losing seasons.

Being decisive certainly helps.  In his two seasons with Dennis Erickson at the helm, the Seahawks finished 8-8 both years; not satisfied with mediocrity, he handed the keys to Mike Holmgren.

Patience is always a virtue.  Holmgren was allowed time to do his thing, build the team his way.  After an improbable wild card run in his first year, Holmgren was back in the playoffs – with HIS team – four years later.  That started off a run of five straight playoff appearances (including four consecutive division championships, and one Super Bowl appearance).

Making the right decisions, of course, is probably the most important.  Things got away from the team towards the end of Holmgren’s run.  Tim Ruskell infected this organization with his idiocy, which led to Holmgren’s ouster and the rise of Jim Mora Jr.  Holmgren’s final year was a 4-12 disaster and Mora’s lone year was a somehow-worse 5-11.  Not content with the direction of the team, Paul Allen cleaned house, brought in Pete Carroll and John Schneider, and before we knew it, this team was a world champion.

I think Paul Allen’s best attribute as an owner is all of those things … followed by staying out of the way and letting the football people HE hired make the football decisions.  Not meddling.  Not – like a certain Dallas Cowboys owner – making himself the fucking general manager and having his fingers in all the pies (seriously, thinking that HE’S smarter than Jimmy Johnson in his prime).  Paul Allen didn’t just hire splashy names – though at the time, Holmgren and Carroll were certainly that – but he hired people with visions.  With clear philosophies.  With plans for winning football and strategies to make that happen.  And if things went south, he didn’t overreact.  He let his people do their jobs.  And, most importantly, he always knew the perfect time to make a change.

It’s a stark contrast to the other owners we’ve had in Seattle through the years.  Obviously, the Seahawks before Paul Allen were owned by a monster, Ken Behring.  Before him, though, the Seahawks were run by the Nordstrom family, and their stability (and smart thinking in hiring Chuck Knox) led to a lot of success in the 80’s.

Or, consider the Seattle Mariners, whose decades upon decades of incompetence led to a brief 9-year window of semi-winning baseball.  Aside from that one brief period of bliss, that organization has been run by complete morons.  An owner who was never around.  An executive group prone to rash decisions, bad decisions, poor hires.  Letting general managers stick around too long, compound mistakes on top of more mistakes, while seemingly firing their field managers every other year!  You don’t get to be the team with the longest playoff drought in major North American sports unless you’re one of the very worst-run organizations of them all.  It’s been non-stop misery my whole life, and the saga continues.

And, don’t even get me started on the Supersonics.  As soon as the Ackerley family decided to sell, that was the end of professional basketball in Seattle.

See, the thing is, Seattle is Sports Hell for a reason, and more often than not that reason starts at the very top.  We had one good thing going for us, and that was Paul Allen’s involvement with the Seahawks.  He’d obviously been having a lot of health problems in recent years, and so we knew this day would come, but I still hoped we had more time.  He was only 65!  We should’ve had at LEAST another 20 years!  It’s obviously incomprehensibly sad for his family and friends, but it’s also a sad and uncertain time for Seahawks fans.  We don’t know what the plan is going forward, but it sure looks like the team is going to be sold.  At that point, we’re at the whim of some stranger.

One thing’s for certain, the new owner won’t be able to hold a candle to Paul Allen.  We had the best, now get ready for the rest.

Chuck Knox Passed Away

Sad news over the weekend, for Seahawks fans, and real hardcore NFL fans (as well as, obviously, his friends and family and former players and whatnot), as Chuck Knox passed away from complications related to dementia.

He’s currently the 2nd-winningest head coach in Seahawks history (behind Mike Holmgren, and just ahead of Pete Carroll, who should pass both of them in 2018, if he can just get us to 8-8), and the 10th-winningest head coach in NFL history.  There were lots of stories about how tough his teams were, and how he won at all three stops he made in his tenure in the league, but the story as it relates to Seahawks fans has to do with all those teams in the 80s that captivated the Pacific Northwest, in ways having only been surpassed (at the time) by the Supersonics of the late 70s and the Husky football teams since the dawn of time.

The 1983 Seahawks went 9-7, secured one of the two wild card spots, and went all the way to the AFC Championship on the back of a couple upset victories against the John Elway-led Broncos and the Dan Marino-led Dolphins in Miami, before falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Raiders.

We parlayed that into a 12-4 season the very next year, another wild card berth (thanks to the fucking Broncos going 13-3), and some revenge over those Raiders in the wild card round, before falling to the Dolphins in Miami (who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the 49ers, in Dan Marino’s only appearance in the big game).

It’s a testament to Chuck Knox and the physicality of his Seahawks teams that we were able to do so much with some pretty average quarterbacks.  Jim Zorn and later Dave Krieg were really propped up by an elite running game and a hall of famer at wide receiver, Steve Largent (the best receiver to have ever played the game until Jerry Rice entered the league).

I didn’t really become a Seahawks fan until after those glory years, sometime around 1986, 1987, and especially 1988 (as I was 5, 6, and 7 years old, respectively).  So, the bulk of my Seahawks memories were forged in the Ken Behring years.  My memories of Chuck Knox were ones of respecting the man, but frustrated at all the losing and mediocrity.  I would later learn, that had this franchise been run by someone halfway competent – and not someone who just wanted to run this team out of town – we could’ve drafted Brett Favre when he came out of college.  The 1990s might’ve looked VERY different had that been the case.

For one thing, you figure Knox would’ve stuck around beyond the 1991 season.  I believe he was so disenchanted with the whole organization that he couldn’t stick around, which is what led to us bottoming out in 1992 under Tom Flores, followed by us drafting Rick Mirer and continuing to be the height of disappointment for the rest of the decade until Mike Holmgren came around.

Can you imagine, though?  The Seahawks with a different owner?  Drafting Brett Favre?  With Chuck Knox sticking around another 6-7 years or more?  Maybe winning a Super Bowl or two, with his great running games and defenses anchoring a hall of famer at quarterback?

I’ll tell you what I believe:  I believe we’d be talking about a hall of fame head coach in Chuck Knox and one of the top 4 or 5 winningest head coaches in NFL history!  Mike Holmgren might never have become Mike Holmgren without Favre in Green Bay; maybe he would’ve ended up at another team.  And, you figure when the 90s came to a close, and Knox was ready to hang ’em up, he probably would’ve had some unknown protege all lined up to succeed him.  WHO KNOWS WHERE THE SEAHAWKS WOULD BE TODAY?  Or, more importantly, how successful we could’ve become.

Chuck Knox was really one of the good ones.  He’ll be missed by all longtime Seahawks fans.

The Seahawks Have A Lot Of Work To Do, Starting With This Year’s Draft

Before we get too far into this, just know that I’m not doing any sort of mock draft or any of that nonsense.  These are just going to be some of my general thoughts surrounding what the Seahawks should do later this week.

First, let’s look at the list of picks the Seahawks currently own as of this writing:

  • 1st Round (18th)
  • 4th Round (20th)
  • 5th Round (4th)
  • 5th Round (9th)
  • 5th Round (31st)
  • 7th Round (8th)
  • 7th Round (30th)
  • 7th Round (32nd)

There’s a lot of bad information out on the Internet, so as best as I can tell the Seahawks have those 8 picks at the moment.  Not for nothing, but that’s quite the Mike Holmgrenian stack of picks, as this team squandered some real value picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown.  It’s assumed that the Seahawks are looking to get back into the 2nd & 3rd rounds, which is either going to cost them their first round pick or Earl Thomas.

I’ve been waffling all offseason on this thing, but I’m finally ready to make a decision:  I DON’T want the Seahawks to trade down from the 18th pick in the draft (unless it’s a very minor move – 2-3 spots maybe – that still allows them to get their guy).  I want the Seahawks to pick in the top 20 in the first round if at all possible, because I believe there’s an impact player in that range.  With all the teams we figure will take quarterbacks in the top half of the first round, some real studs are bound to fall!  I want the Seahawks to grab one of these studs and have him start right away.

I also, not for nothing, DON’T want that pick to be on the offensive line.  This team has proven countless times that it doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing in this area, so stop wasting high picks!  Select a guy at a position they’re more in tune with, and again, let him start right away.  Something else I’ve gleaned in recent years is that offensive linemen aren’t good right away.  It takes a year or two to get used to the NFL way of playing O-Line (unless you’re one of the very best in the draft, which are usually in the top 10 or 15 of the first round, where the Seahawks never get to pick anymore), and quite frankly it takes a year or two to get strong enough to deal with these massive D-Linemen.  So, fuck it.  I want a guy we can see a lot of production from right away.

Which brings me to the other main point:  I’m okay with trading Earl Thomas to get 2nd and/or 3rd round picks.  Look, we’ve had him at his best.  He’s never going to be any better than he’s been in a Seahawks uniform.  Yes, he was very good in 2017, and he very well may continue to be very good for the next few years, but eventually he WILL start to slip, and I don’t think I want to take the risk.  The risk being:  him slipping sooner than we all anticipate.  I’m not comfortable giving him top safety money if we’re only going to get 2-3 years of elite play before the slide.  And, let’s not forget what just happened to Kam.  One wrong hit – considering how Earl has played the game since entering the league – could end his career.  He’s taken quite a pounding since 2010; let some other team worry about that.  The flipside is that he learns to play safer, but do you want to watch Earl not playing Earl-type football?  Avoiding the impact hits in favor of a safer ankle tackle, while giving up additional yards in the process?

Sorry, I’m out.  Earl Thomas is a Hall of Famer, and I’ll always appreciate what he did for the Seahawks, but this is a rebuilding year and sacrifices need to be made.  Get those picks, save that money, get the cap right for 2019 and beyond, and let’s get back into championship mode by next year.

If it works out the way I want it to, we could be in for a very fun and entertaining draft.  The Seahawks have needs up and down the roster; for my money, this is the order of importance:

  1. Running Back
  2. Defensive Line
  3. Safety (assuming Earl is traded)
  4. Cornerback
  5. Tight End
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Linebacker
  8. Offensive Line
  9. Quarterback
  10. Punter/Kicker

If I had my druthers, the Seahawks would use that first round pick on either the best running back available, or the best free safety available (again, assuming Earl is traded).  Chris Carson is a nice hedge, but if there’s another Leonard Fournette or Ezekiel Elliott-type back that falls to us, I hope we pounce.  Those guys are such game-changers for their teams (obviously, I don’t want dudes with sketchy pasts, but from a pure talent standpoint, you get the idea).  Either that, or if there’s another speed freak at safety we can plug back there for LOB 2.0 (with Shaq and whoever we end up with on the opposite side).

If I had to guess, though, I think the Seahawks will draft the best pass rusher available with their first pick.  It’s what they do!  I won’t hate it, but I’ll admit a little variety goes a long way in my book, and picking a stud running back or safety would be right up my alley.

I do think getting another diamond in the rough cornerback in the 3rd/4th round range would be ideal, to pit him opposite Shaq (with Coleman roaming the slot).  And, while I don’t think this will be picked high, if there’s a freakish linebacker that falls into the 2nd/3rd round range, I wouldn’t be shocked to see that move made.  More likely they’ll use one of the 5th rounders to pick up another linebacker project, with the hopes that he’d take K.J.’s place after this year.

As for tight end, I just think they need bodies, but I don’t think they need highly-drafted bodies.  I also don’t know if the draft is littered with amazing tight ends, so probably better to dumpster dive this spot.  Nevertheless, the Seahawks DO need a long term solution, so let’s hope they’ve done their homework here.  Wide receiver, on the other hand, is always a good idea to look into.  Again, I doubt it would be picked high, but it’d be interesting if they found a stud in the second round that they liked.  Tyler Lockett might move on at the end of his deal, so we’re going to need SOMEONE to pair opposite Doug.

It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Seahawks are going to look into getting a real, legitimate backup quarterback, so I really wonder how long they’re committed to waiting out the draft.  One would assume this hypothetical QB will be a late-draft project, but I guess you never know.  Teams seem to be particularly quarterback-crazy this year, so you have to wonder what will be left over after the good meat has been picked off the bone.  And, finally, while I don’t want them to draft these positions, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into some of the top undrafted punters and kickers.  Something tells me that WON’T happen, but I can dream, can’t I?

The point is, everywhere.  There’s a need at every single spot, including offensive line, which I didn’t talk about, because I’m sick of talking about it.  So, the Seahawks can do what they do best:  stockpile picks, and take the best players available when it’s on them.  We should have a lot to talk about later this week; I’m looking forward to it.

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.

We Lost The Tez

Respect …

Seattle has been hit pretty hard over the last week.  First, we lost Chris Cornell, who was an absolute titan of my youth, as superfans of the 90’s Seattle music scene don’t get much bigger than me, and now we’ve lost Cortez Kennedy, who died of unknown causes at the age of 48.

I’ll withhold any sort of rant until we get more information, but it doesn’t look good that Tez was complaining of headaches in the days leading up to his death.  The more this happens, the worse it’s ultimately going to be for the game of football.  I mean, we can’t have our superstars dying before the age of 50!  Everyone always says they were gone too soon whenever someone dies, but it actually means something when you’re only 48 years old.

I’ve been having a hard time keeping it together as I read all the tributes and well-wishes to him and his family the last day or so.  I’ll generally always root for guys who play for my team, but it’s nice to know that someone so great at football was also such a great person in life.  There are so many stupid fucking dickheads in the world, I forget sometimes that there’s a lot of goodness and kindness in the world too.

Growing up, Steve Largent was my favorite football player of all-time, but Cortez Kennedy quickly became my #2.  I was looking through the 1990 NFL Draft, wondering whatever became of the guys drafted around Tez (who was picked third by the Seahawks).  Jeff George was picked first by Indy, and he ended up being an explosive bust.  Kind of like a poor man’s Jay Cutler.  But, you know, you can understand why they grabbed him #1 overall.  Then, the Jets picked running back Blair Thomas with the second overall pick, and I had to laugh.  Thomas was out of the NFL by the end of the 1995 season, and you could argue he was part bust (injury-related) and part bust (coaching-related).  I mean, who drafts a running back #2 overall, then puts him in a 4-running back rotation?  That’s insane to me.

So far, there have been three other Hall of Famers to come out of the 1990 draft:  Junior Seau at #5 to the Chargers (also lost too soon, due to football-related brain issues), Emmitt Smith at #17 to the Cowboys, and Shannon Sharpe WAAAAY down at the second-to-last pick of the seventh round to the Broncos.  It’s pretty crazy that you could make a very good argument that Tez was the greatest 3-Tech Defensive Tackle of all time, Seau was the greatest Middle Linebacker of all time, Emmitt Smith was the greatest Running Back of all time, and Sharpe was the greatest Tight End of all time, all coming out in the same draft.

What was good for the NFL was also good for the Seahawks in that 1990 NFL Draft.  On top of Tez, the Seahawks got Terry Wooden, a starting outside linebacker, in the second round; Robert Blackmon, a starting strong safety, also in the second round; and Chris Warren, a starting running back, in the fourth round.  On top of some of the holdover talent, it’s mind-blowing that the Seahawks would be a 2-win team only two years later, but I guess that’s what happens when you neglect the quarterback position for so long.

Tez was truly in his prime from 1991-1996, when he made the Pro Bowl each of those six years, and was First Team All Pro in three of those years (from 1992-1994).  He had his 1997 season cut short due to injury, but bounced back for two more Pro Bowl seasons in 1998 & 1999.  He was more of a rotational guy under Mike Holmgren, particularly in his final year in 2000, and he only got to enjoy one playoff appearance (in 1999, in a loss to Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins), but he was a Seahawk through and through.  For most of the 1990s, Tez was literally the only reason to ever watch a Seahawks game.  I take great pride – and I know he takes great pride – in the fact that he was a career Seahawk, even though he had multiple offers to play elsewhere as his career came to a close.

The best part of Tez’s game was that he wasn’t just a sacks guy.  He was a complete, all-around defensive tackle.  Yes, he got his share of sacks (14 in 1992, when he was Defensive Player of the Year), but I don’t remember EVER seeing an interior defensive lineman with the number of tackles that he’d get.  73 tackles in 1991, 92 (!) tackles in 1992, 77 tackes in 1993.  I mean, how do you even do that?  That’s on top of the fact that he was almost constantly double-teamed, because if you didn’t double-team him, he’d absolutely blow up every single play.  And, that’s on top of the fact that he rarely left the field.

A 3-down interior lineman with high sack totals AND high tackle numbers?  And you want to try to argue with me that he’s not one of the best 3-Tech DTs of all time?  Get the fuck off my planet!

I didn’t know the man, I was never lucky enough to meet him in person, but one of my favorite stories about him is the reason why Tez wore the number 99 in his DPOY season of 1992.  Earlier that year, his best friend (and fellow University of Miami alum) Jerome Brown died in a car crash.  Brown was drafted by the Eagles in 1987 and was also an interior defensive lineman.  He started off his career a bit slower than Tez, but in 1990 and 1991, he was First Team All Pro, and on the path towards the Hall of Fame.  Jerome Brown wore the number 99, so in honor of him, Tez wore that number for the 1992 season, when he absolutely tore apart the National Football League.  That’s the type of friend Tez was; that’s the type of person the world lost yesterday.

It wasn’t a given that the Tez would make the Hall of Fame, but it damn well should’ve been.  He had to wait a few years before he got his crack, and you could tell no one would appreciate it more than him.  I was beyond thrilled the day it was announced (the only way I could ever be happier is if Edgar makes it), because no one was more deserving of such accolades.  I’m just happy he was alive to experience it.

I’m beyond bummed out right now.  I encourage anyone reading this to go down a YouTube rabbit hole of Tez highlights.  You won’t be disappointed.

My favorite pic …

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.

Seahawks @ Rams Preview

I hate the fuckin’ Rams like The Dude hates the fuckin’ Eagles.  Just this bitter, resigned exasperation, like, “Really?  We’re doing this shit again?”

I hate the Rams and I really shouldn’t, is what I’m getting at.  The Rams have been mediocre-to-terrible for over a decade now, with no end in sight if I’m being honest.  And yet, they’ve beaten the Seahawks an alarming number of times, dating back to the Holmgren years.

Hell, they haven’t won more than 8 games in the regular season since 2003!

But, I’ll be God damned if they don’t have our number, and it starts right up there at their defensive line.  Like that idiot owner in fantasy who loads up at one position, to the detriment of the rest of his team, the Rams have stockpiled a ridiculous number of elite defensive linemen, while neglecting things like – oh, I dunno – quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebackers, the secondary, tight end … pretty much anything that isn’t the defensive line or Todd Gurley.

If this were the 1930s, I’m sure the Rams would be the cock of the walk, and I’m sure Jeff Fisher would seem like a genius.  But, this is now, the Rams are fucking terrible, and Jeff Fisher can only seem to beat Pete Carroll, which is a neat parlor trick to show off to your friends, but it isn’t going to keep you gainfully employed.

(as a quick aside, I’ve been laboring under the impression that they’d already given Fisher an extension beyond this season, but apparently all those reports were of a deal being “imminent”.  Which I assume means, “just as soon as he beats the Seahawks”.  I’m still sticking to my guns that this is going to be his final year there, extension or no extension, because come on)

And so here we are, another year older, another couple of Rams games on the schedule.  The first one is this weekend, and it’s the first regular season game back in Los Angeles since whenever they moved away last.  There will be 90,000 die hards in attendance, of which I want to say half will be corporate or celebrity, which is another way of saying it’ll have a Super Bowl atmosphere without the stakes.  I’m sure it’ll be loud in the early going, but once we get into this thing, I can’t imagine the crowd is going to have that much of an impact.

Key to this game will, of course, be Russell Wilson and how well he’s able to move in and around the pocket.  Last Sunday, after the Suh hit, it didn’t look like he could take more than a couple steps.  I would assume he’ll be better today, but I think it’s a longshot that we’ll see him as an active runner on read-option plays.  My hope is, if he can handle it, to tuck and run with the ball early, to at least show the defense he’s okay (even if he’s not totally 100%).  That should mitigate things a bit, and hopefully open things up for the running backs.

Thomas Rawls will return to his starting role, which I think is appropriate, and not just because I have him on my fantasy team.  He’s the more complete back, and he should be getting the bulk of the carries.  I still like Christine Michael, but I think I like him more as a change of pace back.  Pick your spots and let him do his thing.  But, I still don’t know if I trust him to hold down the starter’s job full time.

The offensive line is what everyone will be focused on, of course.  They’re going up against a D-Line even better than an already-good one in Miami.  On the plus side, they’ve had an extra week to work with J’Marcus Webb at right guard, so hopefully they’ll be able to gel a little bit, and we won’t see so many breakdowns from the right side of the line.

Still, this is a game you just have to grit your teeth and hope for the best.  The Seahawks most certainly won’t be able to move the ball all that well.  Even in the second half of last year, when Russell Wilson was putting up God-like numbers, we laid an egg at home to the Rams in Week 16.  If that’s the case, there’s no good reason for us to expect the Seahawks’ offense to produce this time around.

The defense, as always, will have to run the show.  Take a look at what the 49ers did on Monday Night, and do that.  Do exactly that.  I want constant pressure on their quarterback, I want Gurley’s ass to be dumped in the backfield on the reg, and I want their receivers stuffed short of the line to gain.  No more breakdowns, no more tight ends running free down the field, no more missed tackles, and so help me God, you BETTER force some turnovers!  I’m not kidding!  If the Rams are going to throw our offense around like a ragdoll, I want our defense to be twice as vicious!

And, for the love of all that is holy, stop falling for their special teams tricks!  Is it too much to ask to fucking FOCUS on the shit that keeps repeatedly beating us?

As for a prediction, I don’t even know how to start.  I know what this game SHOULD look like:  it should be a bloodbath where the Seahawks win 27-7, and the Rams only get that TD late in the 4th quarter after we’ve inserted our subs.  What WILL it look like?  Oh, probably more of the same horseshit.  If I’m feeling optimistic, maybe something like a 16-13 Seahawks victory.  If I’m feeling realistic, probably a 24-18 Rams drubbing.

This game has Huge Embarrassing Failure written all over it.  Once again, we’ll be pointing to games like this as the reason why the Seahawks failed to get the seeding they wanted in the playoffs.  I almost don’t even want to watch this catastrophe.

Should The Seahawks Undervalue Offensive Linemen?

It’s something I brought up in yesterday’s post, that got to gnawing at me a little bit today.  Value over quality.  Instead of keeping your offensive line intact for a long period of time – by handing out contract extensions once their rookie deals lapse – just reloading with fresh, young rookies and hoping for the best.

Is that the best way to go?

Obviously, this gets back to the realm of Can’t Pay Everybody.  Would you rather have quality linemen at most or all of the offensive line spots?  Or, would you rather have a franchise quarterback, All Pros/Pro Bowlers at Safety, Cornerback, Linebacker, Defensive End, and so on?  Something’s gotta give, and the Seahawks have decided that something is the O-Line, the running back position, the interior defensive line, and to a lesser extent the wide receivers.

Well, to figure out the right way to build a roster, it’s kind of simple, actually.  Just factor in that position at a Pro Bowl level and compare it to a “replacement level” player.

If you start at quarterback, it’s clear as day.  Look around the league, at the teams making the playoffs every year.  The best teams generally have a top-level quarterback.  The mediocre teams and the bad teams are generally employing (or are forced to use, due to injuries) replacement level quarterbacks.  Nobodies.  The Brian Hoyers of the world.

Going down the line, what’s the difference between Earl Thomas and Brian Russell?  Pretty huge difference there, right?  What’s the difference between Ricahrd Sherman and Kelly Jennings?  Again, pretty huge.  Bobby Wagner vs. David Hawthorne?  Michael Bennett vs. Grant Wistrom?  I could go on and on, just comparing quality Seahawks on the roster now vs. mediocre ex-Seahawks who brought this franchise to its knees with their bumbling.

Now, what’s the difference between Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls?  I know we’re talking about a REALLY small sample size, but as a rookie the Seahawks were able to find a player in Rawls who averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.  This wasn’t just a third down back hitting on some big runs; this is a guy who got significant action, in a starting role, before that ankle injury cut short his season.

What’s the difference between Doug Baldwin and someone like Alshon Jeffery (random example, I know).  Jeffery is considered to be a significant upgrade in talent – a true #1 receiver who’s able to win a lot of jump balls and really be a force on offense.  But, their career yards per catch are within a yard of one another, and Jeffery never had a season where he caught 14 touchdowns like Baldwin did last year, under a relatively modest salary.  A guy like Jeffery on the open market would command top dollar; a guy like Baldwin might still be had for a bargain, considering his overall production value.  Should the Seahawks break the bank on a guy like Jeffery, or should they extend a guy like Baldwin for a modest sum and get just as good production, if not better in certain areas?

If I may slide around to the point of the post:  what’s the difference between Russell Okung and Garry Gilliam?  I have no idea.  Based on his play at right tackle last year, you could argue Gilliam is a big dropoff.  But, the left side is his more natural side, and he’s had a whole offseason to bulk up and work on technique, so you’d hope there will be some improvement gained by health and experience alone.  If Gilliam can be a league-average left tackle, that’s not so much of a drop-off from Okung.

If you compare the rest of our offensive line to, say, the Cowboys (who are touted as doing it “the right way”, by investing heavily at all spots along the offensive line), what is the drop-off?  Well, let’s look at the 2015 regular season.

  • In rushing, the Seahawks were third in the league, with 2,268 yards; Dallas was ninth with 1,890.
  • In pass protection, the Seahawks gave up 46 sacks, good for 6th-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up 33, tied for 11th-best.
  • In QB hits, it’s even worse.  The Seahawks gave up 114 hits, 3rd-worst in the NFL; Dallas gave up only 67, 5th-best.

So, yeah, the pass protection half of the O-Line’s duties is pretty dire.  If we’re unable to get those numbers way down to at least league average, it’s only a matter of time before Russell Wilson gets injured and we lose a season to backup quarterback play.  But, it is only half the battle, as the Seahawks play it pretty close to 50/50 in the run/pass department.  We’re getting good run production, which is a big help, compared to teams throwing the ball 2/3 of the time and increasing the risk to their quarterbacks that way.

The thing that everyone talks about regarding offensive line play is continuity.  You need your linemen to be healthy, and you ideally want them playing together for a long time.  It’s why a Seahawks line as bad as it was in Week 1 last year can improve the way it did, to where it WAS a league-average unit by Week 17.  Those same five guys, for the most part, played together every week, and experienced a bump in productivity as a result.  Imagine what that would look like if you could have the same line playing together over the course of YEARS!

Well, you don’t have to think too hard, because you can look at those O-Lines we had in Seattle during Holmgren’s peak years.  Doesn’t hurt that those lines had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, but they were also veterans who had played together a bunch (until it was unceremoniously broken up in the Poison Pill fiasco).

The key to the whole thing is just getting a league average unit.  If the Seahawks can do that by paying guys peanuts, I believe it’s entirely worth their while.  Because you can get by with league average offensive line play; whereas you can’t get by with league average quarterbacks, or league average secondaries, or a league average pass rush.

Yeah, continuity is great, and pumping a lot of resources into the O-Line is fantastic if you can afford it.  But, no team is immune from the injury bug.  And just one or two injuries to key offensive linemen can completely dismantle the whole thing, leaving you not only over-paying for a position that’s on the IR, but stuck with replacement players anyway who are thrust into starting spots they’re not ready for.

In my book, with the right coaching, some smart drafting, and a little luck, you can skimp on the O-Line – like you can at running back, defensive tackle, and so on – and still get good-enough value to make your team a championship contender.

I’m not worried about the Seahawks’ O-Line.  Then again, I haven’t seen them play, so check back with me again in August.