Where Will L.J. Collier Rank Among All-Time Seahawks First Round Draft Busts?

If this sounds like I’m giving up on L.J. Collier … I kind of am.

The Seahawks, as you well know, don’t tend to pick in the first round of drafts very often under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Since 2010, they’ve made exactly seven first round picks in six NFL drafts, and after that first year, it’s a real Who’s Who of Utter Crap.

That’s not totally fair, but I’d say “underwhelming” is the general theme once you go past Russell Okung and Earl Thomas:

  • 2011 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • 2012 – Bruce Irvin (LB/DE)
  • 2016 – Germain Ifedi (OL)
  • 2018 – Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • 2019 – L.J. Collier (DE)

Woof. Bruce Irvin is clearly the best of THAT pitiful bunch, but even he hasn’t lived up to what you might expect from a pass rusher taken with the 15th overall pick.

There aren’t enough bad things to say about everyone else. James Carpenter was supposed to be a right tackle, but he struggled, had to move inside to guard, still struggled (though not as much), and ended up leaving after his rookie deal expired. Germain Ifedi was ALSO supposed to be a right tackle, but he too struggled, moved inside briefly before returning to tackle, and made moderate improvement (but, based on his overall body of work, it has since been determined that not only is he not worth a high-money contract, but he’s also not good enough to remain on the outside of the line) before leaving after his rookie deal expired. And, just the fact that the Seahawks took a running back AT ALL in the first round is enough for most fans to write off Rashaad Penny, though I would argue he has looked pretty good when healthy and in shape.

But, there’s no legitimate defense whatsoever for Collier. There are EXCUSES, sure. He sprained his ankle as a rookie and missed all of Training Camp last year. That set him back for the entire season, as he never fully got acclimated to the defense. Pro Football Reference has him at 152 snaps on the season; by comparison, Bobby Wagner led the entire defense with 1,054 snaps, and Jadeveon Clowney led the D-Line with 605 (and he missed three games).

I don’t care that Collier was such a low first round pick, he’s a first rounder and it’s inexcusable that he either wasn’t prepared enough or just plain wasn’t good enough to see the field more. This is on a defense, mind you, that was as bad as it gets in its pass rush. The sack leader on the 2019 Seahawks was Rasheem Green with 4.0. I mean, I don’t know what more to tell you; Collier was a first rounder and he couldn’t crack THAT rotation?! What a joke!

A lot of people want to write off his rookie campaign and believe he’ll be better in 2020. Well, he’d almost HAVE to be, right? How could you be any worse than that? Collier had three tackles and that’s it; that’s the entirety of his stat line. But, I can’t say I have any reasonable expectations of improvement. If you’re effectively healthy for the majority of the regular season – even as a rookie, even if you missed all of Training Camp – as a first round draft pick, there should be enough God-given ability for you to do LITERALLY ANYTHING.

Any hopes that Collier is going to be a future Pro Bowler or even a quality starter should probably be thrown out the window at this point. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong here, but I don’t think I am. The only reason this came to mind at all is because of what’s going on with this coronavirus ordeal. Collier’s struggles last year are largely attributed to his missing Training Camp; you know what he’s likely to also miss in 2020? Training Camp! EVERYONE is likely to miss Training Camp because we probably won’t be in any sort of condition as a country to allow for Training Camp, or any other large gatherings of people. Call it bad luck all you want – indeed, it’s quite unfortunate – but that doesn’t change the fact that Collier is likely to head into Season Two just as behind the 8-ball as he was in Season One.

So, in case you think I haven’t laid out a good-enough case for why Collier has really legitimate potential to be the worst first round draft pick of the Carroll/Schneider era, let me summarize:

  • Russell Okung – Great
  • Earl Thomas – Hall of Famer
  • James Carpenter – Competent Guard, mostly with the Jets
  • Bruce Irvin – Good
  • Germain Ifedi – Semi-Competent Tackle
  • Rashaad Penny – Okay
  • L.J. Collier – Probably Terrible

With that out of the way, how does my vision for Collier potentially rank among the all-time Seahawks first round draft busts? I won’t go through every single guy, but let’s talk about the worst of the worst (that I have at least limited knowledge about).

Aaron Curry and Lawrence Jackson always come immediately to mind when Seahawks fans talk about first round busts, but I would argue both of those guys are at least more competent than you remember. Lo-Jack had 19.5 sacks in his career! Is there any indication whatsoever that Collier could reach that level? Curry’s main problem is that he was – for some reason – taken with the fourth overall pick, so high expectations really tarnish his reputation in this scenario.

I’ll gloss over a lot of players before those guys, until we get to Chris McIntosh and Lamar King. King was famously Mike Holmgren’s first-ever pick as General Manager of the Seahawks when he came over from Green Bay. He was killed then, and continues to be killed now for taking King, but … 12.0 sacks in 57 games. Obviously not great, or even good, but not the absolute worst either. McIntosh, on the other hand, might give Collier a run for his money. He was taken 22nd overall and only played in 24 games across two seasons on the O-line before flaming out of the league.

Dan McGwire will always be on my shit list – through no fault of his own, really – for being the guy we selected ahead of Brett Favre in 1991. First-ever Seahawks draft pick – Steve Niehaus – also deserves recognition, for only making it into 39 games in his 4-year career (thee with the Seahawks) and accumulating exactly zero sacks (hard to say if they were counting that stat back then, but clearly he didn’t make much of an impact as the second-overall selection in 1976).

And, if you want to count Supplemental Draft first rounders, you’ve gotta throw The Boz in there, as well as someone named Gordon Hudson (who was a tight end taken in 1984, who only played one season, in 1986, but at least he caught 13 balls for 131 yards and a TD).

I’m throwing Collier into the Top 3 Worst Seahawks First Round Draft Picks with Dan McGwire and Chris McIntosh. Obviously, we’re only one season in, so he can EASILY get his name off of this list with just a minimal amount of production. But, you know what? Consider the challenge thrown down! Let’s turn this career around!

The Mediocre 90’s Ended With An Unlikely Seahawks Playoffs Apperance

I’ve been seriously negligent in my ongoing series of Seattle Playoff Futility, so thank you COVID-19 for killing sports and affording me the opportunity to wallow in the past. I’m effectively the human embodiment of this meme:

Also: I be shopping …

The 1990s were fucking HARD to be a Seahawks fan, especially for me. Which is a shame, because I was born in March of 1981, so they should’ve been smack dab in the epicenter of my wheelhouse. I was 7 years old in 1988 – the last time they made the playoffs before this year – and I remember very little about that time as a Seahawks fan, other than the fact that Steve Largent was my favorite professional athlete on the planet. But, he retired after the 1989 season, and it was all downhill from there (Largent would go on to a Congressional seat in Oklahoma by the time the Seahawks returned to the post-season in 1999).

Nevertheless, formative Steven A. Taylor caught the Seahawks bug coming out of the 80’s, which made the next ten years all the more tragic.

When you talk about the Worst People In Seattle Sports History, most others get overshadowed by the people involved in the Sonics going to OKC, but there’s a special wing in Sports Hell for Ken Behring (and owners of his ilk). He bought the team in 1988 – again, the last time the Seahawks made the playoffs – and he did everything to destroy this franchise from the inside out, so he could move them to Los Angeles in 1996.

It all started by disillusioning would-be Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Knox after the 1991 season, stripping personnel control away from the most-successful figurehead in franchise history to that point. Behring went on to hire Tom Flores, who had success with the Raiders in the early 80’s, but was well past his prime. It’s hard to tell who was more inept – the bumbling Flores, or the men he was charged with turning into professional football players – but the real losers were the fans, who had to watch the Seahawks from 1992-1994 go 14-34; including the absolute nadir in franchise history, when we went 2-14 in 1992 (as fate would have it, we weren’t even competent at LOSING, as we somehow managed to defeat the only other 2-14 team that season – the New England Patriots, IN Foxboro – to miss out on drafting Drew Bledsoe #1 overall, settling for the incomprehensibly-pedestrian Rick Mirer at #2).

As we got to the Dennis Erickson era from 1995-1998, my interest in rooting for the Seahawks took a serious nosedive. Thankfully, Paul Allen stepped up in 1997 to save the franchise and help get a new stadium built. That nevertheless didn’t stop this team from an endless string of middling finishes during this period:

  • 1995: 8-8
  • 1996: 7-9
  • 1997: 8-8
  • 1998: 8-8

Woof. There were some interesting players on those teams – future Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy was wrecking fools on the D-Line, Joey Galloway was drafted and was easily the most-talented receiver we’d had since Largent, and Warren Moon was a gun-for-hire for those last two seasons at the tail-end of his career – but we were simply unable to put it all together for one reason or another (epitomized in a December game in 1998 against the Jets in Giants stadium, when Vinny Testaverde was clearly short of the goalline on a 4th down QB-sneak, yet the refs didn’t see him reach the ball over after the fact, resulting in the NFL re-instituting Instant Replay the next year; you could argue that lone play prevented us from making the playoffs and ultimately cost Erickson his job).

By the time 1999 rolled around, I was all but actively courting other NFL teams to root for (the Atlanta Falcons were a particular favorite of mine at the time). If it were easier (like today) to root for a team in another market, I’m sure I would’ve bailed long before. Paul Allen, to his credit, was quite a hands-off owner, but he knew when to step in at the right time. When it was clear that Mike Holmgren was available, Allen stepped in and hired him to be Head Coach and General Manager, unprecedented to that point in franchise history. And it worked! That move single-handedly kicked off the greatest run of Seahawks teams (until Allen turned around and hired Pete Carroll in 2010).

Even factoring in the disasterous Jim Mora season in 2009, from 1999 through 2019, the Seahawks made the playoffs 14 times in those 21 seasons (including 9 division championships, three Super Bowl appearances, and the one NFL championship I’ll never have to write about for this series).

What makes the 1999 season awkward to analyze is the fact that so many of the guys on this team were holdovers from the Erickson era (especially that 1998 team that came so close to breaking the futility streak). It’s brought into even starker perspective when you consider that first Holmgren draft was among the worst in franchise history (Lamar King, anyone?).

But, that team was weird in general. There were zero expectations heading in; we all figured there’d be at least ONE rebuilding season before Holmgren could tear everything down and build it back up again. Which made it all the more surprising when the 1999 Seahawks started out 8-2; they would go on to finish the season 9-7 and be improbable champions of the AFC West. Jon Kitna won the starting job and was a reasonably-capable Game Manager in his 15 games that season. Ricky Watters was an absolute stud for us at running back with over 1,200 yards rushing and another 387 yards receiving. Unfortunately, Joey Galloway – who should have THRIVED in a Mike Holmgren system – held out for half the season in a contract dispute and hardly made a dent that year when he did play (he would go on to be traded the next year for two first round picks, who would go on to be Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson).

Obviously, backing into the playoffs is never a good thing (we were tied with the Chiefs at 9-7, but held the head-to-head tiebreaker by defeating them twice, including a Must Win matchup in Week 16 in the Kingdome), but considering it had been over a decade since our last post-season berth, beggars can’t be choosers.

Our reward was the #3 seed and a home Wild Card matchup against the 9-7 Miami Dolphins. All things considered, that was EASILY the cushiest of matchups that we could’ve gotten, considering the Titans – who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Rams that year – were a 13-3 Wild Card team in the 4-seed, and the Bills were 11-5 as the 5-seed (Hello Music City Miracle!).

This was our first home playoff game since the 1984 season. It would also prove to be the last time Hall of Famer Dan Marino ever won a football game (the Dolphins would go on to be DESTROYED by the Jags the next week, 62-7).

But, Seahawks fans old enough to remember January 9, 2000, obviously remember this as the Trace Armstrong game.

Trace Armstrong was a … good defensive end. He played from 1989-2003; in five of those seasons he had double-digit sacks (and one of those seasons he was a Pro Bowler, in 2000, when he had a career-high 16.5). Sometimes he was great, sometimes he was mediocre, and obviously – because this is football – sometimes he was injured.

On January 9, 2000, however, he was a fucking WORLD DESTROYER!

Of his three sacks in the game, two of them came on third down (resulting in punts). His final sack came late in the fourth quarter, on a drive that would result in a punt (it resulted in a punt, because on third down, he stopped Kitna for a 1-yard gain to force yet another punt). But, even that doesn’t do his day justice. He was in Kitna’s face ALL DAMN DAY. If he wasn’t getting the sack, he was wreaking so much havoc that the guy next to him got it (Kitna was sacked 6 times total, 3 times in the fourth quarter, including twice on that all-important next-to-final possession).

On the final possession of the game, Kitna was 1 for 7 for 17 yards. This game outlined in great detail the need for improved offensive line play, as well as at the quarterback position (within two years, the Seahawks would go get Trent Dilfer, Matt Hasselbeck, and Steve Hutchinson – on top of eventual MVP Shaun Alexander – to really solidify things on the offensive side of the ball).

The Seahawks had so many chances to win this game. They were up 10-3 at half, and then 17-10 midway through the third quarter after a kickoff return for a touchdown. The offense couldn’t do jack shit in the second half, though. Aside from that kickoff return, we went 3 & Out, 5 & Out, 6 & Out, 3 & Out, and that final 7-play drive that ended on Downs; we moved the ball a total of 27 yards of offense and another 22 yards of defensive pass interference on one play. That’s just never going to get the job done.

Jon Kitna was 14/30 for 162, 1 TD and 2 INTs; Dan Marino wasn’t much better (17/30 for 196, 1 TD and 0 INTs), but he was only sacked one time and obviously didn’t make the mistakes Kitna made. In the end, it was a workmanlike 20-17 victory for the Dolphins, in the final game the Seahawks would ever play in the Kingdome (indeed, the final event the Kingdome ever hosted!).

All of that turmoil being said, as you could see by the thrashing the Jaguars gave to the Dolphins the very next week, there’s no way in HELL the Seahawks would’ve advanced any further. So, would you rather lose in a semi-heartwarming way to a beloved figure like Dan Marino? Or, would you like to be murdered and have your corpse micturated upon by Hitler and The Devil after ass-fucking you for three consecutive hours? Kind of a harsh image to put on a team like the Jags, but you get the idea.

Better days would be ahead for the Mike Holmgren-led Seahawks, but of course, not before a few more instances of utter heartbreak.

The Biggest Blunders In Seattle Sports History

There’s always a reason to be disgruntled about what’s going on with sports in the Seattle area. We’re far from burdened with championship squads, unless the MLS or WNBA is your bag (which is fine if they are, but they’re just not mine). I don’t have a good handle on the breakdown, but essentially most sports fans complain about one of two things: something unfortunate happened to our team that’s outside of their control, or our team did something fucking stupid that effectively sabotaged all hope for success.

If we were talking about the former, I’d bring up something like Super Bowl XL (where I’ll go down to my dying breath contending we were jobbed by the refs at every turn), various good-looking trades that just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (Percy Harvin, Vin Baker, the deal to bring Cliff Lee in), or the countless injuries to promising young stars/prospects who could’ve been great had their bodies only held together (Franklin Gutierrez, Malik McDowell, Danny Hultzen, our entire secondary right before Super Bowl XL).

But, I’m talking about the blunders! The dumb-looking shit that was dumb-looking at the time and only proceeded to grow ever more mind-boggling with each passing year. It’s a rough sketch, but here are the top ten worst self-inflicted wounds I can think of in Seattle sports history.

#10 – We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score

You gotta have stakes in this thing, so any individual event has to come in the playoffs at a minimum. This one happened in the Wild Card round of the 2003 season. It’s not JUST that the Seahawks won the coin flip heading into overtime and Matt Hasselbeck made that unfortunate guarantee (indeed, I thought it was cool then, and I would gladly welcome such bravado anytime), but combine that with the fateful call.

Let’s go back: remember, this was back when the first score of overtime wins, regardless; so all we needed to do was get into field goal range. We got a first down and had the ball at our own 45 yard line. A stuffed run and an incompletion made it 3rd & 11. And, for some reason, Mike Holmgren decided to call a 5-wide receiver set. For some reason on top of that, Hasselbeck decided to throw the ball to our 5th receiver, Alex Bannister. For some reason on top of THAT, it was an out-pass – the easiest one to undercut and run back for a pick-six – that the receiver didn’t even get beyond the 11 yards needed for the first down! And, of course, not for nothing, but the pass was simply terribly thrown. The rest is history, and so began our continued demise whenever we play a playoff game in Lambeau Field.

#9 – The Deal To Trade Cliff Lee Away

It was supposed to be the epitome of a no-brainer. Cliff Lee was heading into the final year of his deal in 2010. At the time, he already had a Cy Young Award under his belt and was probably the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game. The Mariners traded three nobodies to the Phillies to bring Lee to Seattle and the plan was simple. The M’s were coming off of a winning season in 2009, and Lee – paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez – was going to help push us over the top and back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately, Cliff Lee got injured in Spring Training, and didn’t make his first start until the last day of April. In spite of Lee going 7 shutout innings that day, the Mariners lost 2-0 to drop their record to 11-12 on the season. On July 9th, our record fell to 34-52, and it was clear no playoffs would be forthcoming. That’s okay! We had a backup plan if things fell apart in spectacular fashion (which they did, as we would go on to lose 101 games). Since Cliff Lee was so great – indeed, his numbers after two months with the Mariners were among the best of his entire career – his value should’ve been sky high for a pitching-needy team looking to cement their status as a championship contender.

But, we had Jackie Z at the helm, and our return – Justin Smoak and three other nobodies – was far from inspiring. This was supposed to jumpstart our big rebuild, and Smoak was supposed to be the centerpiece. Instead, we rode his wave of warning track power into mediocre season after mediocre season. You could throw any number of trades Jackie Z made for the Mariners on the list of greatest blunders, but I’m putting this one here because Cliff Lee was amazing, and we BLEW IT.

#8 – Steve Hutchinson Transition Tag

The Seahawks were riding high after their appearance in Super Bowl XL. The only thing we could do to screw it up was dick around with our best players.

Tim Ruskell’s seat in Hell is being kept warm for him by the resentment and hatred of thousands upon thousands of Seahawks fans. What a buffoon! The offensive line was not only the backbone of the Seahawks’ offense, but it was easily the best part of the entire team, anchored on the left side by two Hall of Famers: Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson. Through them, we had an MVP in running back Shaun Alexander. Through them, a sixth-round quarterback was able to play at a Pro Bowl level. We had the money, we had the desire, and indeed we had NO ANSWER for Hutch’s replacement when he eventually signed the Vikings’ Poison Pill contract!

The hit to the Seahawks was immediate and obvious. Bottom line was: the Seahawks were never the same again, and didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until the 2013 season (with an all-new regime and set of superstars at the helm).

#7 – The Erik Bedard Trade

There’s no need to clarify; we all know which Bedard trade I’m talking about. In February of 2008, we gave up Adam Jones (5-time All Star center fielder; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), Chris Tillman (an All Star starting pitcher who would go on to have a 38-16 record from 2012-2014; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), and George Sherrill (an All Star reliever who would save 52 games from 2008-2009; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), among two other stiffs.

What we got back in return was a starter in Bedard who – like Lee before him – was brought in to be paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez, coming off of a winning 2007 season. Instead, we got a guy who could never really stay healthy, whose style constantly saw his pitch counts inflated early in games, which meant you could only count on him for about 5 innings per start at best. On top of that, there were rumors abound about how he didn’t really give a shit about baseball or winning and was just in it for the paycheck (more power to you, I guess). He sucked so hard, the Mariners couldn’t even flip him for any semblance of value, which meant Bedard had to go down with the sinking ship that is our Mariners existence. On the plus side, this was the final straw to getting Bill Bavasi fired (on the down side, see: Jackie Z)

#6 – The Lowe/Varitek Trade

Woody Woodward stumbled into a lot of success in his tenure as GM of the Mariners. To our dismay, he had no idea what to do with this team once we started reaching those heights.

The 1997 Mariners were a fun bunch. Tons of heavy hitters all up and down the lineup. Led by Randy Johnson, the starting pitching was good enough to take us all the way, assuming the hitters hit and the relievers didn’t totally shit the bed.

As you might have guessed, there was A LOT of bed shitting in 1997; worst year for bed shitting I’ve ever seen, if I’m being honest! Woody Woodward, not knowing what he was doing or how he could rectify the problem, made two of the worst panic-deals for three of the worst relief pitchers I can imagine. The absolute worst was sending Derek Lowe (a 2-time All Star who would go on to win 176 games in his 17-year career) and Jason Varitek (a 3-time All Star catcher for the Red Sox over 15 seasons) for Heathcliff Slocumb (a turd).

Like most of these deals, this one wasn’t helpful in the short term (the M’s would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs) and it was an outright disaster in the long-term (we either could’ve had two great players for the next decade, or at least flipped them for better players/prospects).

#5 – Jim McIlvaine Signing

Really the beginning of the end of the great run of Supersonics teams of the 90’s. Almost immediately following our hard-fought defeat in the NBA Finals to the greatest team of all time in six games, the Sonics looked like a team that could easily run it back and re-join the Bulls the very next year. You could argue center was our weakest spot on a team riddled with strengths all the way up and down the roster. So, enter Jim McIlvaine – a guy who had done NOTHING to that point – on a 7-year, $33.6 million deal (which was a lot at the time, trust me). He had a whopping TWO years under his belt at that point, as a reserve on the Washington Bullets, where his big claim to fame was averaging a hair over 2 blocks per game the year before in just under 15 minutes per.

This ungodly amount of money – for a guy who’d proven nothing in his brief pro career – obviously angered a lot of players on the Sonics, particularly Shawn Kemp, who effectively forced his way off the team in a deal that would bring in Vin Baker. Now, you can argue both Kemp and Baker – particularly after the strike season – did a lot to damage their own careers as we headed into the new Willennium, so who’s to say what would’ve happened to the Sonics had we gone in a different direction?

All I know is, McIlvaine instantly became entrenched in the starting lineup his first year with us, averaging 18 of the most worthless minutes of each and every game he was in, bringing NOTHING to the table. He actively made the team worse with his play alone, regardless of what happened to the chemistry in the locker room (which is exceedingly important in the NBA, with how long the season is, and how many games they have to play). We ended up losing in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals, and that was as good as it got for the rest of the decade.

#4 – Randy Johnson Trade

I did a deep dive on this a few years ago that you can check out (as chance would have it, a lot of these other blunders find their way into this piece!), but the bottom line is this: the Mariners were cheap, and Randy Johnson’s best years were still AHEAD of him.

Moreover, I would argue that while the value looked pretty good at the time – indeed, two starting pitchers and a starting infielder isn’t a bad return – the very best Mariners teams of 2000 & 2001 were in such desperate need for a true #1 ace, that Randy Johnson would’ve been perfect for those teams. I’m sorry, I like Freddy Garcia as much as the next guy, but he’s no Randy. Randy who would go on to win four Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 (again, the years where the Mariners were playing the very best ball in franchise history); you don’t think he could’ve helped those teams get over the hump, and maybe even win a World Series title?

#3 – Not Drafting Brett Favre

Chuck Knox ran the Seahawks efficiently and to the best of his abilities from 1983-1991. You could argue he got more than anyone could’ve expected him to out of a bunch of ragtag guys, especially with at best a mediocre quarterback in Dave Krieg. When it finally came time to move on, Knox had one man in mind in the 1991 NFL Draft: Brett Favre. Ownership, however, refused to see it, and refused to listen to their legendary head coach, opting to go with Dan McGwire with the 16th overall pick (Favre would fall to the Falcons in the second round).

See, McGwire was 6’8. You know, that insanely crazy height that no NFL teams want, because it’s too damn tall to be an effective quarterback? If you don’t remember McGwire, you’re lucky; he was trash. Knox would leave the Seahawks following the 1991 season, and immediately we’d fall to such lows that we’d have to draft yet another dud in 1993 (Rick Mirer, with the #2 overall pick, after losing an opportunity to draft Drew Bledsoe). That went on to cost us the rest of the 90’s, before Mike Holmgren came to town and properly revived this franchise. Had we had Brett Favre? Who knows?! There’s an alternate universe out there where the Seahawks were one of the great teams of the 1990’s.

By that same token, there’s an alternate universe out there where we had to deal with Favre constantly threatening to retire, then return, then retire, and so on. So, maybe we lucked out in the long run?

#2 – Not Properly Renovating Key Arena

By the early 1990’s, the Seattle Center Coliseum was in shambles. Teams around the league were updating their own arenas and it was time for Seattle to join in. Unfortunately – even though this was set up prior to the Kingdome implosion being a twinkle in any of our eyes – the city and county ultimately went the cheap, tight-ass route in renovating the arena. By the time it re-opened in 1995 – while it was a fine place to enjoy a basketball game, from a fan perspective – it was already out-of-date by NBA standards, and apparently impossible to derive any sort of profit from, again by NBA standards.

Say what you will about the league, or about tax payers funding sports venues, but you can’t deny the fact that the Sonics were the first in this city to start the trend of venue renovations, and they fucking blew it HARD. By the time subsequent ownership groups demanded the funds for a proper NBA facility, the Seahawks and Mariners had already gotten brand new stadia. Considering it had been such a short time since the opening of Key Arena, combined with public fatigue over the matter, it’s not shocking in the slightest that the Sonics were shot down.

You could obviously argue the biggest blunder was selling the Sonics to Howard Schultz, or the Schultz Group buying the load of horseshit from the OKC people. But, all of that stems from the inferior building that was presented to the world ahead of the 1995 season. Had we just gotten THAT right, everything else would’ve fallen into proper order, and we’d still have our fucking basketball team. Instead, 25+ years later, we’re finally getting around to doing what we should’ve done then, and for our troubles we get the NHL instead. An okay consolation prize, but obviously not what I’d prefer.

#1 – Slant At The Goalline

It’s hard to top losing a fucking NBA franchise on the list of biggest sports blunders, but costing your team a championship in the most demoralizing way possible? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

I would hope, by now, that consensus has found its head when it comes to the decision to throw in that scenario. The Seahawks had one time out remaining, it was second down. Run it and fail, and we’ve got zero time outs and they know we’re throwing two consecutive times (considering how that play ended up, you can’t tell me it wasn’t on the docket for at least one of those possible attempts).

Long story short: throwing was the correct call. Throwing a fucking SLANT at the goalline, to a fourth receiver in Ricardo Lockette (shades of the Bannister play up top), was absolutely the biggest blunder in Seattle sports history.

If you’re going to throw a slant, throw it to Baldwin or Kearse! But, no, DON’T THROW A SLANT! Throw literally anything else! Throw a fade to Chris Matthews – who, to that point, had been carving up the Patriots’ defense – or shit, just throw the ball 30 yards out of bounds! Anything but that!

Okay, that’s all. I have to go lay down now. Where’s my fainting couch?!

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 …