What Happens After The Seahawks Have Another .500-ish Season?

In the last 9 years, the Seahawks have won the NFC West twice; they’ve made the playoffs six times, but failed to advance beyond the divisional round. In the last three seasons – the final one with an injured Russell Wilson, and the two with Geno Smith at the helm – we’ve gone a combined 25-26, including back-to-back 9-8 seasons.

That’s the nutshell of why Pete Carroll was fired. We’re hoping – with Mike Macdonald & Co. – to do significantly better than that.

Pete Carroll had a Win Forever mentality. That means no rebuilding, no tearing things down to build back better; rather, to maintain a consistent level of excellence, presumably to give yourself as many bites at the apple as possible. As we’ve seen from numerous middling-looking players and teams throughout the Super Bowl Era, all it takes is one hot stretch in the playoffs, and you too can be a champion, Joe Flacco! You too can be a Two-Time Champion, Eli Manning!

To some of us Seahawks fans, that feels like a Fantasyland of sorts. As we saw here, no team can win forever, not even one as lethally-constructed as the Legion Of Boom-era Seahawks. Contracts and egos and draft mistakes and compounding trade mistakes get in the way, and slowly, but surely, erode what you’ve built. You’re forced to make compromises, you get trapped into investing in the wrong position groups (so desperate to cling to the few stars you’ve managed to cultivate, even if it’s multiple safeties), until eventually you’re winning just enough to MAKE the playoffs, but you’re never good enough to do any real damage once you get there.

It’s the teams who tear down, who are able to fortify through high draft picks at key positions (quarterback, both sides of the line of scrimmage), they’re the ones who tend to pop more often than not. They’re the ones who get good and deep, who stay good for a while, before ultimately falling apart and needing to start the cycle all over again.

I would rather have THAT, than be Forever Mediocre, which is ultimately what the Pete Carroll system brought us. You’ll never become elite if you’re always drafting in the 20’s.

That’s all just a way of me saying: I think the Seahawks are going to be mediocre in 2024 once again.

Honestly? I don’t see any way it’s possible for these Seahawks to win fewer than 8 games. I don’t even care about the schedule; it doesn’t matter who we’re going up against. We have two decent, but not-great quarterbacks. Geno Smith has already proven he’s good enough to get us to 9 wins; he’s done it twice in a row! The drop-off from Smith to Sam Howell is negligible at best; there’s an argument to be made that the Seahawks might ultimately be better with Howell. Regardless, we won’t be worse.

The running back room is strong, the wide receiver room is strong, and the tight ends are fine (if unimportant to the passing game at large). The only way this offense takes a significant step back is if the offensive line is a total disaster, or if the offensive scheme is too much for these players to handle (or if our play-caller just isn’t ready for NFL adjustments). The thing is, the offensive line was already pretty bad last year, and a lot of the same pieces are returning (or similar-in-talent pieces to the guys we lost). I’ll be watching the OC closely, but given that he’s a former Husky – who presided over the best Husky offense we’ve ever seen – I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

As for the defense, the D-Line is as stacked as it’s been in years. We have talent at cornerback, so that’s the top two areas of need on any defense. We’re a little lacking in name recognition at linebacker and safety, but those are also two of the least-important position groups on any given team (and also the easiest to fill out with no-name players). Combined with Mike Macdonald being something of a defensive mastermind, I don’t expect this side of the ball to be any WORSE than it’s been the last few years (when it was down around 30th in the league in multiple areas).

The Seahawks have been 9-8 the last two years with a terrible defense and a Geno Smith-esque quarterback. Geno’s back, and the defense should be at least marginally improved, so I would expect nothing less than 8 or 9 wins this season.

With that being said, you might be wondering why I’m not asking what happens if the Seahawks are considerably better than expected? If, again, my floor is 8-9 wins, isn’t it at least possible that we win another 4 games and get to 12-13?

Sure, anything’s possible. But, again, this team has holes. The O-Line just isn’t there yet. Geno clearly has a ceiling that is going to prevent us from seriously competing against the very best teams in the league, and as long as we’ve got the 49ers and Rams in our own division, that dog just isn’t going to hunt. And, while I have the utmost confidence in our coaching staff, and believe we did a remarkable job wading through those waters in finding the correct hires this offseason, there’s always a learning curve that first season. There are growing pains, there are players who just won’t be good fits in our schemes, and there are players who will likely be resistant to change.

That’s my diplomatic way of saying: I don’t believe D.K. Metcalf will be long for this team.

All that put together, I’m expecting another 9-8 season in 2024. So, what happens when that ultimately transpires?

Well, I was discouraged to hear John Schneider – in some interview he gave recently – continue to espouse a version of that Win Forever mentality. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was a clunky way to avoid something that Pete Carroll either trademarked, or otherwise has his stink all over. Of course, what is an NFL GM going to say? They’re not going to tell us they WANT to have a shitty year or two, before rebounding and competing for a championship again. It just kinda has to come naturally, all while pretending you’re disappointed to be drafting in the Top 10 and getting a potential game-changing presence on your team.

This isn’t exclusive to the Seahawks, by the way. The Steelers seem to be a prime example of this philosophy. They haven’t seriously contended since 2016, when they lost in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots. Before that, it was 2010 when they lost in the Super Bowl to the Packers. Otherwise, you’re looking a nothing but early playoff exits and a whole lotta .500 ball or (slightly) better. I think this is precisely what the Seahawks want to be. Who’s more respected than the Steelers? They’ve had, like, 3 head coaches in the last 60 years or some shit. They’re rarely – if ever – truly bad; but outside of the Ben Roethlisberger era, they’re rarely great either. And, even in that Roethlisberger era, it was certainly front-loaded. For as talented as he was, later in his career, that team could never carry him over the finish line like the Broncos did with an elderly Peyton Manning.

I want to believe the Seahawks – upon finishing 9-8 again, or maybe even 10-7 and sneaking into a wild card spot – will cut ties with Geno Smith and make a serious push in the next year or two at drafting a quarterback of the future. Because how many of these mediocre finishes can we withstand? It’s the fucking WORST! I’d rather be fucking 3-14 than lose in the wild card round again.

But, I dunno. If Mike Macdonald is going to stick around here, he needs to do something great in the first couple years. Making a wild card as a rookie head coach might buy him a couple extra seasons, but will it also encourage this organization to stay the course? To put their faith in Geno Smith? To continue struggling to fill the O-Line because you can’t get any good linemen in the 20’s of the NFL draft?

It kinda feels like we’re in for another five years of this shit, until ultimately the entire house is swept away. Until the team is sold, Schneider is fired, and Macdonald is back coordinating defenses again. At which point, I’ll be pushing 50.

Good God, the passage of time is a cruel bitch.

The Mariners Lost Their Home Opener

We got a lot of information out of that first game. I don’t know if it was enough information to make an informed opinion about this Mariners team, but it was more information than we had from all the Spring Training games combined.

For starters, this is the first go-around for the rotation. Arms aren’t quite built up to mid-season form. There’s going to be a little ramping up period. So, I can’t say I’m totally shocked by Luis Castillo’s 5 innings/4 runs performance. To be honest, that’s almost exactly what I had him pegged for heading into yesterday.

The bottom of the bullpen isn’t anything special … yet. It’s gonna be a lot more fun to watch this team when Brash and Santos rejoin the squad.

Mitch Haniger has taken his hot hitting into the regular season. 2 for 3 with a walk and a homer. He’s always been a streaky guy, which is part of the reason why games that matter couldn’t arrive soon enough. Here’s hoping he can keep this going into April and beyond.

Polanco and Garver look like they can help. It was nice to see both of them get hits, including a double by Garver late.

Julio and Cal look like studs. We just need guys to get on base ahead of them.

Canzone came crashing down to Earth immediately in this one, with an 0 for 2 day at the plate, and a wildly misplayed ball in left field to let someone stretch a double into a triple. He was replaced by Dylan Moore, who promptly hit a 2-run bomb to center to pull the game to within a run in the 7th. I wonder if this is the Dylan Moore the team was expecting last year. Now that he’s fully healthy, maybe he’s ready to show what he can do.

Batting 8th, Ty France went 0 for 4. I didn’t get the sense that he was swinging at a lot of crap, but the results are the results. Today is another day.

J.P. seemed to get a little jobbed by the home plate umpire on balls & strikes, especially in his first at bat, when he should’ve earned a walk. Tough night at the plate, but he offered his usual excellence in the field.

Can’t say that for Luis Urias, who took over for Josh Rojas late, struck out, and misplayed a grounder so hard at third base that he not only didn’t tag the runner coming from second (who was standing practically an arm’s length away), but he took forever to throw it to first AND the throw was as soft and wobbly as any pass you would’ve seen from Peyton Manning in his final NFL season. What are we even doing with this guy?

Luke Raley ended our evening in the bottom of the 9th. He batted for Urias with two outs and Haniger standing at first, down 6-4. This wasn’t even remotely a competitive at bat, as he took a strike down the middle, then flailed wildly at the next two pitches (both in the zone). All were apparently cutters, 93-94 miles per hour. Not even a foul tip. Trading with the Rays seems like it’s always a fool’s errand. My guess is, we’re going to wish we had Caballero to handle third base for us, because I just don’t see a path for Raley to be successful here.

The Seahawks Have Been Very Seahawky In Free Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What If The Seahawks Take A Quarterback With The Fifth Pick?

This question feels like a waste of time. It feels like clickbait nonsense. When you read it from established journalists/pundits – as opposed to yours truly, who’s writing this in his pajamas in the middle of the afternoon while listening to some #FunkyDiscoHouse – it feels like they’re just parroting what unnamed agents/NFL front offices want them to “leak”, for financial/competitive gains.

When I read about the Seahawks showing interest in the quarterback position at the top of the draft, it seems very disingenuous. That’s what we WANT the rest of the league to believe, so the price to trade into our spot goes up. Or, so teams will leapfrog us, in hopes that one of the bigtime defensive line prospects falls to us. And/or to drive Geno Smith’s price down.

99.9% of me believes it’s bullshit that the Seahawks would select a quarterback with the fifth overall draft pick. I can’t say 100%, because nothing is 100% in the game of football. But, I’m saying it without saying it: the Seahawks are NOT drafting a quarterback fifth overall.

I say that as a fan of the Seahawks who has followed this organization VERY closely through the years.

Can you name the highest-drafted quarterback in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era? You should, because his name is Russell Wilson, and he was famously taken by us in the third round. We’ve taken exactly one other quarterback in the draft since 2010: Alex McGough in 2018, in the 7th round. That’s a 50% success rate, for those keeping track at home.

The Seahawks have largely been unconventional at the spot over the last 12+ years. The inherited Matt Hasselbeck, they traded for Charlie Whitehurst (a huge bust), they took on Tarvaris Jackson because he was familiar with Darrell Bevell’s system, they made a medium-sized splash on Matt Flynn, and they’ve run through a number of starting busts to sit behind Wilson until we got to Geno and Drew Lock last year battling it out. LOTTA crap there, up to and including Hasselbeck’s last year here (when he was over the hill), outside of hitting the lottery on Russell Wilson.

But, at the same time, there haven’t been those huge swings you see out of most other franchises. Do you know who was the last quarterback we drafted in the first two rounds? The much-maligned Rick Mirer at number two overall, back in 1993. In fact, there’s only one other QB the Seahawks have taken in the first two rounds, and that was Dan McGwire at number 16 in 1991 (when Chuck Knox lobbied hard for Brett Favre). That’s a 0% success rate, for those keeping track at home.

Isn’t that interesting, though? When you think about the Seahawks, you don’t think about us being totally bereft of quarterback talent. But, we’ve been unorthodox at getting our guys. Jim Zorn was an undrafted free agent. Dave Krieg was as well. Warren Moon was a free agent, Matt Hasselbeck was a trade acquisition; those are all the big names, that comprise a significant chunk of the Pre-Wilson Seahawks history.

What’s also interesting – especially going from the Holmgren era through the John Schneider era (both with ties to the Green Bay Packers way of doing things) – is that this organization doesn’t even take a lot of draft fliers the way the Packers model themselves after. We get our franchise quarterback, and we throw whatever scrubs we find off the scrap heap behind him. Now, to be fair, what are we talking about? The Packers have made two high-profile draft picks of Aaron Rodgers (when Favre was still playing at a high level) and Jordan Love (when Rodgers was still playing at a high level); it’s not like they’re actually drafting a new quarterback every season.

But, that’s their reputation, and that’s also the reputation that was foisted upon John Schneider. I don’t know if he buys into that or not. Maybe that was an unfair allegation that was levied against him, since he came from Green Bay. But, regardless, it hasn’t been even remotely his practice since coming here. Not even when you consider this team really could’ve used a little more attention paid to the position!

There are those rumors that he was all in on Patrick Mahomes and/or Josh Allen. That if those guys would’ve fallen to us in their respective draft classes, we would’ve taken one of them even though that was smack in Wilson’s prime. Of course, we’ll never know; it’s easy to plant those stories to make yourself look smart. It’s also easy to plant those stories when you want to drive down the price of your own franchise quarterback in times of contract extension. But, it’s a great What If. What if we traded Wilson back in 2017 and acquired a ton of draft picks at that time? What if we used those picks to select (or trade up for) one of Mahomes or Allen? Wouldn’t that be exciting?!

That’s where you get to the 00.1% chance of the Seahawks taking a quarterback at five. Because to do that, they would have to be SO SURE this guy is the next superstar in this league. Which is what makes all the Anthony Richardson hullabaloo at the combine over the weekend all the more intriguing. He blew the collective minds of everyone watching, with his freakish athleticism, with his interviewing skills, and with his leadership traits. He also apparently had a very positive interview with Pete Carroll (who, as we all remember, had that crazy interaction with D.K. Metcalf before we later took him at the end of the second round).

Would I be excited if the Seahawks took a quarterback at five? You’re damn right I would be! Because I love a surprise out of left field. Because I don’t really want to overpay for Geno Smith’s services. And because I would have to 100% buy in on this guy, since the organization is taking such a huge risk. With our philosophy largely undermining the quarterback spot throughout the years, this would be a HUGE step in the other direction.

Naturally, it depends on who we take at five. I’ll say this, there’s no “sure thing” in this draft. Bryce Young is undersized and slight of frame. Also, I don’t know how much I buy Alabama quarterbacks, after the underwhelming showing of both Mac Jones and Tua (Hurts goes pretty far in turning that tide for me, but he also transferred out of there, and had to find a way to succeed without the crutch of being on the best roster college football has to offer). C.J. Stroud has great accuracy, but lacks a willingness to scramble, and if I don’t trust Bama quarterbacks, I REALLY don’t trust Buckeye QBs. He also had the luxury of being on an elite roster of players, and it’s impossible to tell how someone will react to the real world of the NFL, where there’s significantly more parity.

Richardson is naturally on everyone’s minds – and might excite me more than the other two guys, if only for his potential upside – but he has serious accuracy problems. He also didn’t play much at college and might be a little too reliant on his legs for success at the next level. I know it feels nitpicky – one guy runs too much, the other not enough, what is this a 3 Bears situation? – but that’s the nature of the beast with drafting a quarterback, especially in the upper half of the first round. For every Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, there are dozens of Blake Bortleses. You don’t often get those “sure things”. Most of the time, you get someone with flaws that you hope don’t usher him out of the league as a bust.

But, as I said, if the Seahawks take a quarterback at five, of course I’m going to be excited! What other choice do I have? That being said, if it’s not one of those three guys I just referenced, not only would it be a gargantuan shock, but it would be downright irresponsible. There’s just no one else worthy of that kind of attention.

When Seahawks fans speculate on the team taking a QB, it’s usually in the second or third round; MAYBE with the 20th overall pick (or trade down from 20 and take him later in the first). That feels a little more reasonable. It’s FAR less sexy, but it’s also probably the smarter play. Take a bigger project with less upside and hope to mold him over this season as he rides the pine behind Geno. But, can you imagine how much we’d lose our minds if we were one of those teams to take a quarterback in the top five?! What a thrill!

Pro Sports Should Get Rid Of Divisions & Conferences

This is a tough argument to make, because almost everyone has taken advantage of this at one point or another. The team that gets not only an automatic playoff berth, but home field/court advantage through the first round, in spite of its VERY mediocre record, only because they took advantage of an even-worse slate of divisional opponents.

Although, I wonder, has this team ever gone on to win it all? No one comes instantly to mind. There have certainly been a number of wild card teams who’ve gotten hot late and rode that wave to the promised land. But, what happens with that crappy division winner? Usually a first-round exit. Once in a while – like the Seahawks in 2010 – they win an exciting first round matchup before succumbing to their rightful fate. But, at this point, in 2022, it’s just silly.

It’s silly that the NFC South winner this year (currently Tampa leads with a 6-7 record) should be a 4-seed and host a first round game, while a team like Dallas or Minnesota (favorites for the 5th seed, currently with identical 10-3 records). That’s a 4-game difference! And Dallas has that record in spite of being in a division where all the teams are currently slated to make the playoffs!

It’s incredibly stupid that a 101-win Mets team should be a lower seeded team than a 93-win Cardinals team, just because they had the good fortune of being in a trash division. You could go on and on with these egregious examples.

Why do we have conferences and divisions? Well, because it’s always made more sense for teams – geographically speaking – to play the bulk of their games together. But, is that really necessary anymore? And is it worth the backlash of penalizing great teams and rewarding inferior teams in the post-season? Why is winning your terrible division more important than winning FOUR MORE NFL GAMES, against better opponents?

Also, who cares about all the travel? Major League Baseball is starting to make moves towards eliminating divisions and conferences. For the first time in the modern era, in 2023 every MLB team will play every other MLB team at least once. As a result, the number of divisional games will decrease from 19 games per opponent, down to 13 games. That’s not nothing. I say why stop there, though? Split it up evenly (or as evenly as possible) across the board, play every team the same number of games, and then take the top 12 teams regardless of “conference” or “division”. Give the top 4 teams first round BYEs, let the other 8 teams fight it out in a wild card round, and go from there.

It’s a little trickier with the NFL, given there are fewer games played than there are teams in the league. But, you could still set it up based on the previous year’s records; they have computers to figure this shit out!

I’m just saying, these teams fly in the lap of luxury. They’re already flying to other countries and whatnot; clearly if the money is there, these guys are going to roll with the punches. It just seems to me that conferences and divisions are antiquated notions from bygone eras.

You’ll hear critics lament the loss of rivalries, but who cares? The Packers and Bears supposedly have the greatest rivalry of all time, but when was the last time these two teams were relevant simultaneously? If one team is great and one team is shitty for 50 years, who cares that they play twice a year?

The Seahawks went from the AFC West to the NFC West in 2002, losing 25 years of history as a “rival” with the Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers. You know what happened? We got lumped in with the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals and started all new rivalries!

If you want those old traditional rivalries to continue, then that can still happen. You both just have to play at the same-enough level to continue being scheduled against one another! Until then, tough titty for the team that’s vastly inferior; you need to earn the right to continue playing the team that stays great!

Who was the greatest rival of the Patriots for the majority of the Tom Brady era? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t the Bills, Jets, or Dolphins! It was the Colts and Broncos with Peyton Manning. It was the Ravens under John Harbaugh. It was the Steelers with Roethlisberger. Occasionally, it was the Chargers with Rivers. It was the GOOD teams of the AFC, and those teams – year in and year out – weren’t playing with them in the AFC East.

Of course, the easy fix is to just not reward the shitty division winners with home field/court advantages in the playoffs. But, I would also argue that a lot of these division winners have it too easy for too long. Speaking of those Patriots, how many times could they coast to the top seed because their division sucked? How many times recently have the Packers dominated simply because they lucked into the easiest schedule in football? It’s boring! Great teams sometimes only have a small handful of tough games per year, and the rest of the time they’re feasting on the dregs of their own division and conference.

Anyway, thank you for listening to my Hot Take TED Talk.

The Discourse Around Russell Wilson Makes Me Uncomfortable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, why do I have such schadenfreude towards him?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Are The Elite Quarterbacks?

Maybe I’m just not paying attention; I’ll grant you that. But, you don’t see a lot of NFL hot takes this hot coming from a television partner of the NFL, even if it is ESPN and it’s one of their talking head hot take shows.

For starters, I have to come out and say that the above link is all that I’ve seen. I don’t have the full context of their conversation at my disposal. That annoys me, because I feel like you could cut out an 85-second clip of any conversation and stumble upon something outrageous. Something that – IN context – might not be so inflammatory.

Anyway, my initial reaction is to shrug my shoulders and say, “He’s not wrong.” Even as – when I listen to it – I feel that fanatic urge to defend my team’s guy. The guy I’ve been rooting for since he came into the league in 2012. It really did feel like he crossed a line when he compared Russell Wilson to Big Ben … but, when you really consider it, is he out of line?

I have to take a step back here and ask myself: why is that an insult? Taking off-the-field incidents out of the equation, what’s wrong with Big Ben? He’s a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and almost certainly a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As it stands now, Big Ben is better than Russell Wilson, with the caveat being that – in an ideal world – Wilson will have another decade to try to catch and surpass him.

Then, I have to ask why a guy like Big Ben isn’t elite, in the eyes of Ryan Clark. If Big Ben isn’t elite, then who IS?

He talks about needing an elite defense and running game as crutches, as if every quarterback ever hasn’t needed such things. My main question, then, has to do with what makes an all-time great quarterback?

Is it Super Bowls? Is it playoff appearances? Is it the counting stats? Is it carrying your team on your back and having the entire offense run through your arm? As we’ve seen with Kansas City the last couple seasons, even the biggest talent we’ve probably ever seen in Patrick Mahomes can be slowed down as defenses adjust. And, as we’ve seen with Aaron Rodgers’ entire career, you can only carry a team so far without the requisite defense and running game to help balance things out en route to a Super Bowl championship.

So, what are we talking about? If we’re talking about winning games and making the playoffs, who has been better than Russell Wilson at that through their first ten seasons?

If we’re differentiating between “elite” and “all-time great”, I think that’s dumb. You shouldn’t make “all-time great” arguments until a player has officially retired. You need to take a look at their career in total. What’s the difference between John Elway and Dan Marino? Both were considered elite in their time. But, John Elway only became an all-time great when he closed out his career with back-to-back Super Bowl victories. And he only got those when he had an elite running back and a top-notch defense to rely on.

So, again, what are we talking about here? I’m sorry, but they can’t all be Tom Brady. If you’re comparing every single quarterback to Tom Brady, then congratulations, no one else is an all-time great. No one is elite if they have to match Brady’s lofty heights. At some point, we have to give him his own category, then we have to move on to have reasonable debates about everyone else.

I will reiterate that I don’t think Ryan Clark is wrong when he talks about Wilson needing a quality running game and defense to succeed. I also don’t think he’s wrong when he says you can’t just plug Wilson into any other team and expect them to be a Super Bowl team. But, I would argue the same could’ve been said for Tom Brady. He went to one of the few teams – superb talent on offense, outstanding young defense – that was capable of winning immediately.

But, that’s why Clark’s argument is flawed. There are levels of greatness when it comes to quarterbacks, and if “all-time great” is the peak, then it should be really difficult to get there. That should be reserved for the best-of-the-best-of-the-best. The problem is, I think that’s only reserved for guys who have won three or more Super Bowls. If you want to weed out the Eli Mannings and Ben Roethlisbergers of the world (who, I agree, are not the best-of-the-best), then there’s your mark. Except, that also weeds out Peyton Manning, who many would consider one of those all-time greats, even though he failed more often than not when it came to reaching and winning the Super Bowl. And, when he did win – especially his second one – it had everything to do with having a rock-solid defense.

So, I dunno. No one is elite, and everyone is chasing Tom Brady, is my point. Or, maybe this is a dumb argument, because we don’t know what Wilson’s second act is going to look like. As we’ve seen from countless quarterbacks, just because you’ve already hit your peak, doesn’t mean you’re going to immediately fall off a cliff. It’s a slow, steady descent. He’s going to be an effective quarterback for many more years. He’s going to have plenty of opportunities to prove his value to whatever organization he’s on.

In the end, Ryan Clark will almost certainly be proven right. It’s an easy argument to defend, because it’s all subjective. If Wilson never makes it back to the Super Bowl, he won’t be an all-time great. If he never wins a second title, he won’t be an all-time great. Those are facts. Even if he does, Clark could always move the criteria around to continue making his case. You need a third title, you need 70,000 passing yards, you need this or that or the other. Something will prevent Wilson from being an all-time great; if you will it, Dude, it is no dream.

And, I couldn’t be more excited. Because if you think this video won’t be on Wilson’s radar, you’re crazy. If you think this won’t motivate him every single day for the rest of his life, you’ve got another thing coming. I don’t know if it’ll work or not, but if it does, Clark is going to have these words thrown back in his face time and time again.

If Wilson sticks around Seattle, it could be a whole lotta fun to watch. Clark might not EVER live it down! I can only hope.

Nobody Wants To Hear About My Fantasy Team 2021: Mac & Me

I’m in a little text thread with two of the other guys slated to play in the Consolation Bracket this season. They’re both pretty disgruntled with the new Dynasty format, and have been since the very beginning. I turned out to be one of the swing votes, in that in the past I had always voted against hard change in the league. But, after slowly building things to where we went – to four keepers per year – it finally felt like it was time to make good on a long-ago dream. If you weren’t in a Dynasty League mindset by now, you were never going to get there. I got there, and I’m all in.

I love the Dynasty League! And I’m in absolute last place, with no real hope of climbing out before the end of the season. Spoiler alert: Snoopy & Prickly Pete lost to Toot Cannons 191.85 to 164.35; meanwhile, Korky Butchek won his matchup against The Lance Petemans (the two I referenced in the above text chain) to all but guarantee his avoidance of the Toilet Trophy. Oddly enough, had I won, there would’ve been a three-way tie at the bottom (all 4-9 records) with Korky and my upcoming opponent, Sloane N Steady, which would’ve created a legitimate Toilet Bowl scenario, where – depending on the outcomes – any of the three of us could’ve taken the trophy. As it is, I think it’s mine for sure.

Anyway, my point is, as the worst team in the league, I have the most right to be disgruntled with the new format, but I’m all in. Because I’ve spent the last few years cultivating this mindset. Patience. Playing for the future. Acquiring future keepers either via free agency or trades. It helps that Javonte Williams has gone off the last two weeks (including scoring 29.8 points this past week, when he was given full starter’s reps), shoring up one of my running back spots. I feel like I’m ALMOST there. It’s not a perfect team, that’s obvious. It might not even be a good team next year. But, I should see improvement. I should avoid last place at the very least! Between what I’ve done this year, and how I set my team up going forward with the next year’s draft, there could be a nice little shake-up! We’ll see.

The key to it all is, was, and always has been finding at least one viable quarterback in 2021. Ideally two. But, one for sure. Granted, this is something I’ve been looking for since I can’t even remember anymore. Forever, probably. I thought I had something good with a rookie Carson Wentz. I lost my mind last year when I was able to nab Tua off free agency before he was handed the starter’s job. But, I’ve always kind of half-assed it. I was trying to have it both ways, develop an elite quarterback of the future, while trying to also win. I succeeded in doing neither. This year, it’s been all about the QB position. I’ve had up to six QBs on my roster at any given moment; right now, I have four, including Jordan Love as a lottery ticket. Love is my option if no one else asserts themselves in the next few weeks (or in offseason workouts).

I think I have the one, though. Mac Jones. There’s a lot to like there. He’s in a good system, with a good coaching staff. He’s got good players around him. He’s careful with the football. He’s got some skills and put up some nice fantasy numbers as a rookie. He looks like, at the moment, the best quarterback of this rookie class. We’ll see if that translates to future fantasy success, but he’s the best quarterback I’ve got at the moment.

Well, technically Taylor Heinicke has the most fantasy points on the year, but that’s as underwhelming of a dynasty quarterback as you can get. With that noodle arm? He’d have to be the next Peyton Manning, and I don’t think he is. For me, it’s down to either Justin Fields or Jordan Love as my second QB option heading into next year, but I’m pretty well convinced that I will need to address this position again in the draft next year.

But, I can’t throw away a second season trying to chase down the quarterback position. I need to figure it out next year. Which means I need to be right on Mac Jones. If I have him already in place, then I’m in pretty good shape. There’s hope that he’ll take a step forward in his second season, and then we’ll be off and running.

Unfortunately, I needed him this past week, and he failed to deliver. As noted, Toot Cannons came to play. The return of Kyler Murray buried me in a pretty deep hole. But, Diontae Johnson put up 30.5 to go with Williams’ high score, and the rest of my team did just enough to get me to within 28 points of winning. I had Mac Jones going against Buffalo on Monday Night Football. 28 points isn’t outlandish! An elite quarterback should be able to give you that in a pinch. Of course, Mac Jones has only reached that lofty target a few times this year, so we really needed him to give it all he had. It turns out, I got next-to-nothing from him, as the Patriots threw the ball only three times in their 14-10 victory over the Bills. Mac Jones had zero turnovers and was healthy for the entire game, yet he came away with 0.65 points. That’s not inspiring a ton of confidence heading into next year. (of course, the weather was a mess, with wind gusts up to 55 mph, but that’s neither here nor there).

This is it, the last week of the regular season. I’m 3-10, going up against the 4-9 Sloane N Steady. I would need to win, have Korky Butchek lose to Beasts, and outscore Korky by 59.02 points to avoid the Toilet Trophy. It ain’t happening. You hate to see it. Here’s my team:

  • Taylor Heinicke (QB) vs. DAL
  • Justin Fields (QB) @ GB
  • CeeDee Lamb (WR) @ WAS
  • Diontae Johnson (WR) @ MIN
  • Javonte Williams (RB) vs. DET
  • Alexander Mattison (RB) vs. PIT
  • TBD (TE)
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR) @ HOU
  • Ryan Succup (K) vs. BUF
  • L.A. Rams (DEF) @ ARI

Mac Jones is on a BYE, as is tight end Mike Gesicki. I’m going to try to pick up another tight end to keep on my roster the rest of the season, but we’ll see how it goes. At some point, I’m going to have a roster decision to make, because I can only abuse the IR slot so much. Right now, Jordan Love is on COVID IR, which should only work for a day or two (since he’s truly vaccinated and not just immunized). I’ve been trying to shore up my running back position heading into this offseason, but I’d like to keep some options open depending on what happens going into next year. I’ve got some choice backups on my roster I’d love to hold onto, but my team is just too damn healthy at the moment! I might end up dropping a kicker for a little bit until things get less hairy.

Here’s what Sloane N Steady has to work with (he’s another future Consolation Bracket foe I might have to contend with again in the near future):

  • Derek Carr (QB) @ KC
  • Aaron Rodgers (QB) vs. CHI
  • Mike Evans (WR) vs. BUF
  • Chase Claypool (WR) @ MIN
  • Nick Chubb (RB) vs. BAL
  • Darrel Williams (RB) vs. LV
  • Kyle Pitts (TE) @ CAR
  • Mark Ingram (RB) @ NYJ
  • TBD (K)
  • TBD (DEF)

My boy got swallowed up pretty good with the BYEs this week. He’s gonna have to make some moves to fill out his roster; I’m sure there will be ample opportunities out there for him. He also has a number of players that I’m going with in other leagues, so I would love for those guys to play really well (you know who you are).

Splinter League Round-Up!

BUCK FUTTER had the week all wrapped up before Monday, so we didn’t need Mac Jones to do anything (thank Christ!). The win leapfrogged me over Eddie’s team, into second place at 9-4. I’m one game behind Beer Thirty at 10-3, with two weeks to go. I’m not locked into a playoff spot yet, but with one more win I’m all but guaranteed. I have the second-most points in the league (50 behind Beer Thirty), which is appropriate. I just need to not fall apart over the next two games and I should be all right! Then, it’s playoff time, and we let the chips fall where they may. Shout out to Chris Godwin, Matthew Stafford, and the Indy defense for really carrying me last week!

Chicken Or Egg: Can A Dominant Secondary Prop Up A Middling Pass Rush?

The consensus opinion is that the most important aspect of a dominant defense is its pass rush. Boiling it down to its root: the goal of a defense is to give the ball back to its offense without allowing the other team to score. The best way to do that is to force a turnover; otherwise, forcing them to punt or turn it over on downs will suffice. When it comes to defending the pass, harassing the quarterback seems to be the best way to either generate turnovers or put opposing offenses behind the chains, usually resulting in punts. The sack is obviously ideal; it’s a negative play for the offense that can sometimes result in fumbles. But, just getting in the quarterback’s face – forcing him “off his spot” or otherwise messing with his timing – can lead to interceptions, incompletions, or harmless check-downs that gain little-to-no yards on that play.

The Seahawks – as has been the lament all off-season – are projected to have one of the worst – if not THE worst – pass rushes in the NFL. This is a travesty because as it stood in 2019, the defense was already pretty mediocre; this is also a travesty because we have Russell Wilson in his prime and we seem to be wasting those years by losing in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds of the playoffs.

But, the thing is, the Seahawks clearly haven’t done NOTHING. They’ve tried to mitigate the loss of Jadeveon Clowney by picking up multiple lesser individuals – in free agency and the draft – and they’re hoping that young holdovers from previous seasons make a leap in their development. They’ve also done a remarkable job shoring things up at the linebacker and secondary levels over the last two years, picking up multiple speedy linebackers in the draft, as well as trading for two phenomenal safeties and one troubled-but-excellent cornerback. We’ll see if it plays out as such, but an argument could be made that the Seahawks have the best secondary and the best group of linebackers from top to bottom in the entire league. They certainly have the highest-rated linebacker in Bobby Wagner, and a total superstar in Jamal Adams.

So, my question is: can all of that compensate for a sub-par (or even flat-out BAD) pass rush?

We always talk about how great pass rushes make up for mediocre secondaries; guys don’t have to cover wide receivers as long, because the quarterback has to make his decisions much quicker. But, whenever we talk about the opposite – great secondaries blanketing receivers, allowing the D-Line time to get home – we just dismiss it as a “coverage sack”. As if, A) they don’t count as much as a regular sack, and B) it’s some sort of fluke that never happens. I’d love to know the numbers, but I would argue if coverage sacks are so rare, maybe that’s because teams spend all their resources focused so much on the D-Line and hardly any of their resources on their secondaries.

Around Seattle, we love to talk about the Legion of Boom, and for good reason. That collection of individuals was freaky talented, and from top to bottom the best I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls with that group leading the way, winning one. Yes, that group also had a pretty great D-Line – helmed by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – but they were VASTLY overshadowed by the L.O.B. And, not for nothing, but the main reason why we lost that second Super Bowl isn’t because Russell Wilson tried to throw a slant in heavy traffic at the goalline, but rather because the ENTIRE Legion of Boom suffered catastrophic injuries either in the lead-up to or in the middle of that game. Don’t forget the Seahawks had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, before Tom Brady & Co. marched up and down the field at will. Had we rushed Marshawn Lynch and scored a touchdown on that second down play, they still would’ve had somewhere around 20 seconds or so to get into field goal range (which, the way the Patriots were moving, seemed inevitable).

Which leads me to ask: where was our supposedly-dominant pass rush THEN?! Why weren’t they able to pick up the slack when the L.O.B. was out of commission?!

Now, obviously it’s a stretch to say this seconary is as good as the L.O.B. But, for this incarnation of the NFL, it’s pretty fucking elite. With a couple of lockdown cornerbacks, and a couple of playmaking safeties, I think the Seahawks can provide enough pressure on the back-end of the defense to allow the front-line workers an opportunity to get in the quarterback’s face and do some real damage, regardless of who we’ve got up there.

I don’t know how to do a lot of this research, so a lot of what I’m about to say is pretty anecdotal. But, how many passing plays result in a sack? Not a very high percentage, I’d say. How many plays result in pressure on the quarterback? Obviously, a little higher, but there’s a lot of variables at play: how good is the O-Line? How good is the quarterback? How quick can the quarterback make a decision to get rid of the football? Is the offense set up for the quarterback to make quick, short throws, rendering even the BEST defensive lines inadequate? There’s a reason why more offenses are turning into some version of the college spread offense, and it’s to neutralize the opposing pass rush! Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White; he’ll be an automatic first-ballot hall of famer. And yet, it’s not like he’s getting to the quarterback on every single play, no matter how it may seem (especially as a Seahawks fan, watching this miserable offensive line over the years).

The Seahawks, in the early days of this era, were lauded for zagging while the rest of the league zigged. We targeted tall, bruising players in the secondary before everyone else, essentially starting that trend by proving the tactic is viable. We opted to hand the offense to a short quarterback who runs a lot when the VAST majority of teams still thought they had to be 6’5 white statues in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady mold. We’ve featured a punishing running game when the league was clearly going towards a pass-first model, and have won the second-most games in all of football, behind only the New England Patriots.

So, why are we automatically dismissive of the Seahawks zagging once again?

If the rest of football is moving towards a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush aspect, then doesn’t it make sense to bolster your secondary, so you can get up on those receivers, and force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer? Everyone talks about how difficult that is, and how much strain it puts on a coverage to follow those receivers around, but it also puts a lot of strain on an offensive line! I don’t care how great you are, it’s hard to block ANY defensive line for 5+ seconds per play!

And even if you discount the quick-passing game, the very best quarterbacks – those same guys you see year-in and year-out in the playoffs – are almost always able to get rid of the football and make plays in the face of even the very best stampeding pass rush. BUT, if you show those guys a mediocre defensive front, they might relax a bit more, and in trying to wait out a hole appearing in the secondary, and that’s when guys like Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin are able to shine. Because, they’ll get there eventually. They might not take over games like Clowney or Donald, but they’re not so incompetent that they’re totally worthless.

There’s no single blueprint to build a champion. Often, it’s the teams doing things a little differently who manage to make the leap, leading a very reactionary NFL to follow their example, instead of setting out on their own courses. Yes, it’s a copycat league, but those ALWAYS come with diminishing returns. Because, while everyone is trying to copy the hot, new trend, everyone ELSE is trying to figure out how to stifle that hot new trend! First it was offenses throwing more than rushing, which led to the meteoric rise in bolstering pass rush as a counter-measure. Then, offenses morphed into throwing quick, short passes, and getting the ball out to playmakers in space, hoping they make plays. I would argue the only natural counter to this method is to have VERY fast linebackers and VERY elite secondary players, to limit that open space as much as possible. This should lead to either the quarterback holding the ball longer than intended, or following through on their game plans, with those plays resulting in short gains or incompletions.

I’m ready to believe in this tactic. If it works, the Seahawks might once again be at the forefront of a new trend the rest of the league chooses to copy in 2021 and beyond.

Of course, if it doesn’t work, everyone will get to say, “I told you so,” and the Seahawks will be made to look the FOOLS! You know what? We’re all just trying to do our best with what we have, and I’m okay with that.

You Know, We Don’t Really NEED Athletes To Say ANYTHING

A lot of people are wondering what sports are going to look like as we come out of this COVID-19 epidemic, and just generally in the years/decades to come.

The Match II was a popular thing that happened recently. If you don’t know what that is, it was this round of golf played by Tiger Woods against Phil Mickelson; their partners, respectively, were Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They apparently raised a lot of money for … people who were affected by the virus, I guess. Obviously, with social distancing and all that, it was a golf match with no fans, no caddies, and a limited number of crew people around to broadcast the whole thing. To compensate for this, all four players were mic’d up and wearing earpieces, so they could chat with the announcers and any other celebs who called in and wanted to chat. It was very charming and a fun way to spend an otherwise sportsless afternoon.

I was listening to the Brock & Salk podcast after The Match II, and they interviewed one of the announcers, who talked about the experience, and it was his opinion that this could be a wave of the future, not just for golf but for all major sports. The XFL dabbled in a lot of live, on-field interviews where their sideline reporters had to run around and find players who just did something exciting to ask them about it in real-time (as opposed to after the game, which is what would happen under normal circumstances). I’ve probably talked about that before, but really, WHO IS THIS FOR?! I would argue, only people IN the media enjoy this shit.

Do you know why The Match II was such a rousing success, with respect to the live interactions between media & athletes? Because you had four of the biggest, most famous, most articulate athletes in modern sports history. Tiger and Phil and Peyton and Tom? OF COURSE they’re going to be engaging and interesting to interact with!

Do you know what the VAST MAJORITY of athletes sound like on a regular basis? Dumb as rocks. Boring as dirt. Bland cliche machines who have been programmed over their entire lives in how to “game” the media. Saying something while never really saying anything. It is, by and large, BRUTAL to listen to an athlete being interviewed, whether it’s in the moment or after they’ve had hours and hours to craft a pre-packaged response.

I mean, as you can see from Drew Brees’ recent comments – before he walked them back, of course – you can give an athlete YEARS to come up with an opinion, and he’ll still sound like he has no idea what he’s talking about!

The wave of the future, I’m sad to say, is headed in the direction of more media interactions with players, and it’s going to be to all of our detriment. I dunno, unless I’m just an old man now; that’s possible too. Maybe to keep the younger generations engaged in sports, you need to offer this horseshit to continue to grow and prosper your sport. I would guess that’s probably closer to reality, since there’s so much money involved in this enterprise, it’s not like they haven’t done TONS of market research on the topic.

The thing I can’t tell is: who’s pushing for this? Is it the leagues? Do they like it when their players put their feet in their own mouths? Is any publicity good publicity, as they say? Or, are the players pushing for this, in an attempt to grow their individual brands and introduce new market streams during and after their athletic careers? I’m sure both could be true, I suppose. But, I just keep coming back to the sports media complex trying to create a market for something where there’s really no demand for it!

Athletes saying dumb shit can generate countless clicks and views and scoops and editorials for days on end! You’ve got the dumb shit they say, you’ve got the immediate backlash, you’ve got follow-up stories from other sports people commenting on it, you’ve got talking heads voicing their VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, you’ve got sports radio hosts being handed hours upon hours of content to regurgitate. Then, you’ve got the same athlete apologizing for the dumb shit they said, the immediate backlash to that, the continued follow-up stories, the ever-growing VERY LOUD opinions on sports chat shows, and another full day’s worth of sports radio fodder … until some other athlete says something else dumb and the Baby Huey that is our collective sports media consciousness proceeds to waddle over to the next outrage where he plops his ass down to obsess over the next round of nonsense.

You don’t get ANY of that without constant media/athlete interactions. And, sure, you have to wade through an endless stream of cliches and rote, banal responses. But, once you unearth that little nugget of gold, you’re on easy street for at least another week.

Now, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here. This isn’t a “Stick To Sports” rant. This is a “Stick To What You’re Good At” rant.

When LeBron James or Richard Sherman or Michael Bennett or Gregg Popovich or any number of intelligent, thoughtful people give an opinion on an issue of the day, I’m more than happy to listen. Or, even if it’s just X’s & O’s talk! Deshaun Watson gives some of the best postgame interviews about certain critical plays that happened during his games! Even Bill Belichick, when he wants to be, can be engaging and insightful on a bevy of different topics.

But, I would argue these people are the exceptions, and you REALLY have to suffer through a lot of mindlessness in the meantime. Not EVERYONE needs to make their voices heard. Sometimes, it’s okay just to shut the fuck up and let the adults have a fucking conversation. If you’ve got nothing interesting or worthwhile to say, then maybe just do us all a favor and keep quiet. You’ll save us a lot of wasted time, and you’ll potentially save yourself a lot of agony by not having to scramble to make up for some faux pas that got out in some interview you didn’t prepare for and didn’t think would come to light to a worldwide audience.

Again, I’m mostly talking to Drew Brees here, but this goes for a lot of you!