My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

Revising My All-Time Seahawks Greats

The last time I did something like this, we were in the middle of the offseason in 2011.  In all likelihood, I was looking for some way to fill space in the dreadful month of March when all the other local sports are effectively shut down and you can only say so much about Spring Training.

You may recall at the time that we were just coming off Pete Carroll’s first year with the team.  We made the playoffs at 7-9 and upset the reigning champion Saints in the Beastquake Game.  It was all very fun, but built on a house of cards.  The roster was aging, as leftovers from the Holmgren Era clung for dear life.  We drafted some promising rookies before the 2010 season – including Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor – which may go down as the all-time greatest draft class in franchise history (and, indeed, probably ranks pretty high in NFL history as well).

To be fair, my list of the greatest Seahawks of all time was pretty solid for what it was.  But, it’s CLEARLY out of date now.  So, I thought I’d go back and compare what my list would be today vs. what it was nearly four full years ago.  Let’s go to town:

Quarterback

2011:  Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn
2014:  Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg

You’re going to see a pattern here as we go forward:  better players from the current era will be pushing down players from previous eras.  It’s difficult to compare someone like Wilson – who is working on his third year in the pros – against someone like Hasselbeck who played for us for so much longer.  But, in this case, I’m going to keep it nice and simple:  Russell Wilson led us to three playoff appearances, two division titles, two #1 seeds, and one Super Bowl title (pending what happens in this year’s playoffs).  Wilson is a winner, and he’s the guy who’s starting for me in my hypothetical Greatest Seahawks Team Of All Time.

Running Back

2011:  Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Ricky Watters
2014:  Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner

I opted to throw out the numbers here.  If I went strictly by numbers, Shaun Alexander would still be the clear starter for this team.  9,429 yards and 100 TDs with the Seahawks for Alexander against 5,930 yards and 54 TDs with the Seahawks for Lynch.  The numbers say it’s a no-brainer.  But, I’m going with my heart on this one, and my heart says BEASTMODE!

Wide Receiver

2011:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Paul Skansi
2014:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin

So, the thing is, it’s going to be VERY difficult to overtake the top three (and damn near impossible to overtake the top receiver on my list, because Largent is my favorite), what with how this offense is constructed and executed.  Furthermore, I realize Skansi was a reach, but I’m not sure I had a whole lot to work with.  Also, with Golden Tate playing for the Lions now, he’s obviously stuck where he is, with no chance for advancement unless he – by some miracle – returns to the Seahawks.  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, if he sticks it out long term, could be a quick riser.  We’ll see where we are in another 3-4 years.  I could see someone like Baldwin topping out in the top 2 or 3.

Tight End

2011:  Itula Mili, John Carlson, Christian Fauria
2014:  Zach Miller, Itula Mili, John Carlson

The tight end position for the Seahawks throughout history is a vast wasteland of sadness.  Numbers might say that Jerramy Stevens deserves to be in the top 3, but numbers can suck my dick because Jerramy Stevens can suck my dick.  Zach Miller is a lynchpin for this offense who’s equal parts offensive lineman and soft-hands-pass-catcher.  He’s adorbs and I hope he gets well soon and sticks around another couple years.  I also hope someone like Luke Willson improves his catching ability, because I could see him being a fast riser here too.  It’s pretty sad that someone like Carlson is still hanging around on this list, what with how short his time was with us.

Fullback

2011:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams
2014:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams

While the fullback position is going the way of the dodo bird, I still got love!  And, while I think the world of Michael Robinson as a leader, a special teams stalwart, and a powerful lead blocker for Beastmode in previous seasons (before being forced into retirement and a new career in the media), there’s just no way his impact surpassed what Mack Strong and John L. Williams were able to do.  And, not for nothing, but I think those two names are going to be 1 & 2 on this fullback list for the duration of my lifetime.

Offensive Line

2011:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard
2014:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard

So, the thing here is:  I’ve made a conscious decision to list a man for every spot along the line (as opposed to, say, listing the five best linemen regardless of where they played along the line).  That having been said, if I felt like cheating (or, if I had the power of some sort of god), I’d probably look to put Russell Okung in at right tackle (because, let’s face it, he nor anyone else will be supplanting hall of famer Walter Jones).  Max Unger is a curious omission, but quite frankly, he’s been too injured in his stint as this team’s starting center to get serious consideration.  An interesting case will be J.R. Sweezy.  If he sticks around and continues his trajectory of improvement, we could be looking at a switch at right guard.  But, for now, Sweezy’s a little too loose in pass protection to take over that spot.

Defensive End

2011:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Phillip Daniels
2014:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Michael Bennett

Chris Clemons gets an honorable mention here.  I’ve split these up by first and second team.  Green & Sinclair are the clear 1 & 2 in Seahawks history and will be for the foreseeable future.  Michael Bennett jumps up into the second team because he’s been a force since his return and can pretty much do it all.  I opted to put him in with the ends because, to be honest, there are too many good defensive tackles, which you will see shortly.

Defensive Tackle

2011:  Cortez Kennedy, Joe Nash / Rocky Bernard, Sam Adams, John Randle
2014:  Cortez Kennedy, Brandon Mebane / Joe Nash, Rocky Bernard

The only reason Mebane was left off of my 2011 list is because he hadn’t quite played long enough, and because there was a question about whether he’d be sticking around long term.  Luckily for us, Carroll & Schneider saw fit to extend him, which has been a boon to our line.  You get a great sense of his value with him out of the lineup, as there are many things we just can’t do without him.  It has taken a rotation of 3-4 guys to try to make up for Mebane’s absence, which is about as impressive as it gets.

Also, can you IMAGINE what a defensive line would look like with a healthy Mebane in at nose tackle and an in-his-prime Cortez playing right alongside him?  Partner those two up with literally any of the defensive ends I’ve listed above and you’re talking about a powerhouse line on par with some of the best in the history of the NFL!

And, for the record, I understand going with a 3-man second team in 2011 was a total cop out.  Glad Mebane is here on this list to clean up my mess.

Linebacker

2011:  Chad Brown, Lofa Tutupu, Rufus Porter
2014:  Chad Brown, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright

So, yeah.  In my hypothetical defense here, I’m sticking with just the lone middle linebacker, but I’ve opted to essentially interchange who plays at outside linebacker.  In other words, I haven’t differentiated between strongside and weakside.  K.J. Wright’s primary position is weakside, but I THINK that’s where Brown played as well.  What puts Wright ahead of most other linebackers in Seahawks history is his versatility.  He can play all three spots, he’s been a stud since he joined the team, and he was just extended long term.  For the record, if I was picking linebackers regardless of position, Lofa certainly makes this list.  But, Bobby Wagner is lethal and should be for many more years than Tatupu.

Cornerback

2011:  Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant, Shawn Springs
2014:  Richard Sherman, Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant

This one is kind of irritating.  Right off the bat, Richard Sherman is the greatest cornerback we’ve ever had, full stop.  Dave Brown is a Ring Of Honor member and a VERY good corner in his own right.  Before Sherm came along, it was Dave Brown and everyone else a distant second.  Now, if I’m going by any cornerback who has ever put on a Seahawks uniform, then I’m looking at either Brandon Browner or Byron Maxwell over Trufant in a heartbeat (gun to my head:  I probably pick Maxwell because he can play inside and outside corner spots).  BUT, Trufant had a Ring Of Honor career in his own right, and Maxwell will only have a year and change as a starter before he moves on to another team (as the Seahawks surely won’t be able to afford to extend him).  And, not for nothing, but Trufant in his prime was as good as any other corner, so I don’t feel SO bad putting him third on this list.  Nevertheless, if the Seahawks do somehow find a way to squeeze blood from a stone and extend Maxwell, I’m coming back to this page and revising it immediately!

Safety

2011:  Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson
2014:  Earl Thomas, Kenny Easley, Kam Chancellor

If I’m being 100% honest, I’m probably not splitting up Earl & Kam if I’m starting up this team.  But, I know I’m not the only one who wonders just what it would look like if Earl played alongside Kenny in his prime.  SICK!

Special Teams

2011:  Norm Johnson (Kicker), Rick Tuten (Punter), Steve Broussard (KR), Nate Burleson (PR)
2014:  Steven Hauschka (Kicker), Jon Ryan (Punter), Leon Washington (KR), Nate Burlson (PR)

I hope I’m not totally jinxing things, but I’m taking Hauschka as my all-time kicker.  Jon Ryan is sort of a no-brainer (he is, after all, the MVP of our hearts).  Leon Washington, while short in his time with us, made a HUGE impact (plus, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t have a long and storied history with kickoff returners; also, Percy Harvin can suck it).  And the challengers to Nate Burleson’s throne never quite did enough (in this case, Joey Galloway – who didn’t last long as a return man – and Golden Tate – who was awesome, but is no longer with us, and wasn’t quite as dynamic).

So, there you have it.  A blog post for Thursday.  Giddyup.

What If This Is It For The Seahawks’ Defensive Line?

I’m of the opinion that the most important aspect of a defense is its secondary.  If you would’ve asked me this five years ago, I would’ve given you a different answer, but after seeing what this secondary is capable of – after witnessing the football genius that is the Legion of Boom – I’m convinced that as long as you’ve got a top-notch secondary, you can fake it everywhere else and at least have a passable defensive effort.

Now, obviously, the secondary’s job is made a lot more difficult if you’re not getting pressure on the quarterback.  The two phases really do go hand in hand.  The quicker you’re able to make the quarterback throw the ball, the less time your corners and linebackers have to cover their receivers and tight ends.  Of course, on the flipside, the longer you’re able to hang with those receivers, the better chance your line has of eventually getting home.  And, of course, if you’re able to generate that pressure with only four guys (and if you’re able to keep the rushing attack at bay), that means you’ve got seven guys out covering the rest of the field (with, at best, five receivers to throw to).

If I had to choose one over the other – an elite secondary with a pedestrian line, or an elite line with a pedestrian secondary – I’m choosing the elite secondary every time.  That’s all there is to it.

In 2013, the Seahawks were blessed like they’ve never been blessed before.  This defense was the best we’ve ever seen in franchise history.  Better than 2005, better than 1984.  Better than most defenses in the history of the NFL!  The 2013 defense had the aforementioned Legion of Boom in all of its glory – a unit that will go down in history as probably the greatest secondary ever.  And, they also had a D-Line that did more than its share of the damage (saying nothing of our linebacking corps, which is as fast and underrated as it gets).

The Seahawks have been more or less blessed on the defensive line for as far back as I can remember.  Jacob Green, Joe Nash, and Jeff Bryant took care of business in the 80s.  Cortez Kennedy, Michael Sinclair, Rufus Porter, and a young Sam Adams held down the 90s.  Rocky Bernard and a bunch of hired guns – John Randle, Patrick Kerney for a season, and Grant Wistrom for a few games in his three years here – did the lion’s share of the work in the 2000’s.  But, by the time Holmgren’s tenure ended, there was a real deficiency in the D-Line.  A lot of those Holmgren teams were lucky to have one guy who could effectively get pressure on the quarterback.  By the time Pete Carroll took over, though, the cupboard was bare.  He immediately went out and traded for Chris Clemons to be our starting LEO defensive end (and primary pass rusher), and that’s who we had for a while.

Knowing the importance of an effective defensive line – and knowing that we already had the secondary on lockdown with L.O.B. – in the offseason prior to the 2013 season, the Seahawks went out and picked up Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.  We’ve talked about it a million times, but it’s no less amazing how we got those guys at the prices we paid.  With Clemons coming off of an ACL tear in the playoffs the previous season, the pass rush was a real concern, and we needed as many guys as we could get.  Had the Seahawks JUST gotten one or the other of the Avril/Bennett duo, I think the fans would’ve been happy.  But, we managed to get both, and a whole new day in Seahawks football came to light.

Because in 2013, we had guys coming from everywhere.  Avril and Bennett, of course.  But, Chris Clemons also came back and played the bulk of the year.  Bruce Irvin was converted to a strong-side linebacker for another element.  Bobby Wagner didn’t rush a lot, but when he did he seemed to always wreak havoc.  Clinton McDonald was a revelation on the interior.  Tony McDaniel was another free agent signing who was a manimal at times.  Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant were their usual massive, immovable selves.  When you put them all together, I’m sorry to say, it’s probably the best defensive line rotation we’re ever going to see ’round these parts.  Every man had a role, and every man played his role to the hilt.  And, without a clear weak link, we were able to rotate guys constantly to keep them fresh not only during games, but throughout the season.  They were just as disruptive in Game 19 as they were in Game 1.  Simply amazing.

As all good things do, of course, this incarnation of the defensive line had to come to an end.  Red Bryant and Chris Clemons were let go for obvious cap-related reasons (and for not-so-obvious age-related reasons).  Clinton McDonald found more money elsewhere.  That’s two key pass rushers and three key guys against the run, playing for other teams.  In their places … we don’t know yet.  Michael Bennett is back long-term, and Tony McDaniel is back shorter-term.  But, there are still a couple openings to fill.

As has been the case in this free agency period, the Seahawks are seemingly tied to just about everyone.  I wouldn’t think the Seahawks are finished adding to this roster, but it’s pretty clear – with Jared Allen coming off the board – there aren’t a lot of major upgrade options out there on the free market.  I can’t imagine there’s a guy left who’s worthy of a major long-term extension.  You’ve got a couple of over-30 types in Will Smith (who missed all of 2013) and Shaun Phillips, and you’ve got Anthony Spencer, who’s never been all that great and ALSO missed most of 2013.  These guys can and should be had for a small fraction of what it would’ve taken to get Jared Allen (and for good reason, because they’re not as good, nor as reliably healthy).

So, maybe the Seahawks grab one (or more) of these guys, or maybe they get someone else we’ve never heard of.  OR, maybe they stand pat and look to draft some linemen.  Let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that what you see is pretty much what you’re going to get in 2014.

Well, if that’s the case, I would direct you not to the 2013 Seahawks, but the 2012 Seahawks.  Remember that team?  The one without Avril and Bennett?  The one that was pretty much just Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin (whenever he wasn’t getting lost in the shuffle for long stretches of season)?  That defense was built a lot like this hypothetical 2014 defense is shaping up to look like, and they did all right for themselves.  Number 1 in scoring defense, number 4 in total yards.  11-5 record overall and 30 seconds away from the NFC Championship Game and a possible Super Bowl appearance.  WITHOUT Bennett and Avril, that defense was pretty fucking good.

I would argue that, on paper, this 2014 defensive line as it sits right now is superior to the one in 2012 that did so well on its own.  And you KNOW we’re not actually done, but if we were, I don’t think there’s all that much to worry about.

When you look at that 2013 defensive line, you saw Clemons, Avril, and Bennett all working together to destroy opposing offensive lines.  Well, we lost Clemons, but the other two are still here.  I would argue that Clemons is due to start declining any time now (if he hasn’t already, considering his diminished output in 2013 as he recovered from ACL surgery).  I would also argue that, when we traded for Clemons, he was a relative unknown in the NFL.  When he came to Seattle and started playing within our system, THAT’S when he broke out as an 11-sack-a-year guy.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  I think the Seahawks saw in Clemons the type of guy who fit their LEO defensive end quite well.  That braintrust didn’t automatically start drinking Stupid Juice once they won the Super Bowl.  They can find another relative unknown to replace their last relative unknown and be just fine.  They haven’t done that yet because they thought they’d take some fliers out on guys like Jared Allen and Co.  Why not?  If you can get a proven stud for a fraction of his worth, why wouldn’t you at least try?  It didn’t work out this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck.  It just means the guy we DO bring in will be far less heralded (yet, I’m sure, no less effective).

So, in conclusion, I want you to remember two things:  if this is it for the Seahawks’ defensive line, we’re still in very good shape.  But, since this is likely NOT it for the Seahawks’ defensive line, just remember who’s running the show.  The Seahawks will be fine in 2014.  The only thing that can stop us is a slew of injuries at key positions (and even then, you have to think the depth we’ve still got will be enough to carry us through).

All Time Seahawks Greats Part II

Again, for your information, I’m robbing this idea from Seahawks.com.  I thought a fan-voted poll was interesting and was curious how spot-on they were.  I also wanted to see if I could pick a Blue & Green Dream Second Team … but eventually lost interest in trying to find the NEXT five best offensive linemen.

Also, for your information, I’m getting all forthcoming stats and information from this site.  Right or wrong, LEROY JENKINS!

The fans certainly got our Devensive Ends correct.  Jacob Green had 97.5 official sacks (though, unofficially he had well over 100, since sacks weren’t an official stat until 1982).  Michael Sinclair is Number 2 on our list with 73.5 sacks.  Sinclair played for some tremendous defenses who racked up an ungodly amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

After those two, if I were putting together a Second team, long-time Jacob Green teammate Jeff Bryant would be first on my list.  He had 63 sacks, good for #3 on the list.  After that, I’d have to bypass all the DTs and OLBs on our total sacks list.  I’d also bypass the HELL out of Patrick Kerney and probably go with Sinclair teammate Phillip Daniels.  He was here for a brief period (not NEARLY as brief and injury-plagued as Kerney), but he was a beast opposite Sinclair.  Mostly, he was a casualty of the salary cap; he got a better deal from the Chicago Bears and continued with a solid NFL career.

Defensive Tackle is probably our best overall position on the team.  Should-be Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy (and reason why our defense changed from the 3-4 we had throughout the 80s to the 4-3 we’ve employed to this day) is paired up with longtime fan-favorite (and ultimate field goal blocking specialist) Joe Nash.  I can’t say ENOUGH good things about these two guys.  If Largent is my favorite all-time football player, then Cortez is my favorite all-time defensive player.  I’ve loved that guy since the moment he joined this team; cemented by his Defensive Player Of The Year Award in 1992 (the only bright spot in our very worst season as a franchise).  Tez ended up 4th on our all-time sacks list with 58, in SPITE of constant double and sometimes triple-teams!  If he played anywhere else, he’d be in the Hall of Fame by now.  Since he played for the Seahawks (and since we were so bad in that stretch from 1990 to 2000), he’s finding it a struggle.  The NFL should be ashamed if this class act doesn’t get in, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Not for nothin’, but Joe Nash is 6th on our sacks list.  He played from 1982 thru 1996 and somewhere in that stretch he had the team record for consecutive games played (since broken by steady offensive lineman Chris Gray).

As for the Second Team, I couldn’t have more quality guys to choose from.  Don’t forget who drafted Sam Adams before he went on to glory in Baltimore.  Don’t forget John Randle made an immediate impact in his brief stint with the team.  Don’t forget about Rocky Bernard, who was absolutely INTEGRAL in our Super Bowl run!  And I know it’s early, but if Mebane re-signs, we’re likely to see him as well climb this ladder of elite DTs.  I know I have to choose two here, and I’m telling you right now, Rocky Bernard IS one of them!  That brings us to Adams and Randle.  I know we had Randle at the tail-end of his Hall of Fame career, but he was still playing at a very high level.  Then again, Sam Adams would REALLY be the stout, run-stuffing nose tackle type my Second Team would need.  Fuck, this is hard.  And, I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s kinda bullshit!  I mean, hell, what NFL team doesn’t have at LEAST a 3-man Defensive Tackle rotation?  I’ll keep Adams and Bernard in there on 1st down; then swap out Adams for Randle on 3rd down when we need QB pressure!  Done and done.

OK, so Linebacker is where things are getting a little hairy.  The Website picked 4 linebackers, I guess a nod to the 3-4 defense we used to play.  If I were going to pick just 3 linebackers, then I’d have to say the fans are right on with their choices of Lofa Tatupu, Chad Brown, and Rufus Porter.  Lofa’s a born leader and a destructive influence in the middle for other teams.  Rufus, remember, was a sack master coming off the edge for us.  And Chad Brown, surprise surprise, is our leading overall tackler at the position.*

* I should point out here that Pro Football Reference for some reason didn’t keep good track of tackle numbers.  For instance, the 4th linebacker fans chose – Fredd Young, who played with us from ’84 – ’87 – doesn’t have ANY tackles.  I find that hard to believe.

Look, I don’t remember much, if anything, of Fredd Young’s Seahawks career.  I remember his 1988 Topps football card, and I remember him going to the Indianapolis Colts that very same year.  Apparently, he was a Pro Bowler; I dunno.  He IS a name I recognize, which is more than I can say for the slim pickin’s I have for Second Team Linebacker.

Off the bat, my instincts tell me Terry Wooden is a guy I should have.  I remember him as a steady, non-flashy kind of guy who wouldn’t miss many tackles (indeed, he’s #5 on our all-time list).  On the other side, I guess we’d have to look at #6, Tony Woods.  He played fewer seasons, but managed to put up some decent numbers.  And, if I had to go MLB, I guess I’d look at Dave Wyman?  #14 on all-time tackles list, I guess he’s a warm body.  Honorable Mention to Julian Peterson, who was a casualty of a regime change and a first round draft pick.  If memory serves, he was just cut by the Lions, which has to be a slap to the face of a very good career.  But, I wasn’t all that broken up about his leaving in the first place; he did little to really WOW us here.  Few more sacks couldn’t have hurt.

As for the Cornerbacks, I have nothing to add here.  Marcus Trufant and Dave Brown are our starters, with Shawn Springs as a nickel back.  I won’t dignify this position with selecting a second team.

Same kinda goes for Safeties; how am I EVER going to get anywhere NEAR the quality of Strong Safety Kenny Easley and Free Safety Eugene Robinson?  I guess Robert Blackmon should probably get an honorable mention here, but I can’t even remember if he was a Safety or a Corner and I’m too lazy and indifferent to look online and confirm!

Rounding off our All Time Seahawks Team, we have the Special Teams.

Kicker – Norm Johnson, Punter – Rick Tuten, Kick-Off Returner Steve Broussard, Punt Returner Nate Burleson.

Can’t argue with ol’ Norm, so I’ll make my Second Team choice Josh Brown over Todd Peterson.  Brown was Mr. Automatic while he was here, and the only reason we despise him so much for going to a division rival is because he’s the best kicker in the division.

You know what’s cool about the Kicker position, though?  We’ve almost NEVER had a bad kicker in my lifetime.  We had Norm from ’82 thru ’90, then an all-NFL great John Kasay from ’91 thru ’94 (before he decided to play closer to home in Carolina), then Peterson from ’95 thru ’99, then just a bit of a down spell with Rian Lindell from 2000 thru ’02, then back with Josh Brown from ’03 thru ’07 and Olindo Mare’s prowess ever since.  All in all, a very strong position for us.

Rick Bootin’ Tuten is by FAR our best punter, during a period where all we DID was punt!  I’ll take the ageless wonder Jeff Feagles for my Second Team.

Indeed, Steve Broussard DID have the most kickoff return yards in franchise history, but I’m going another direction here altogether:  Leon Washington.  Yes yes, I know, how can I have a problem with John Carlson being the Top Tight End having been here only 3 seasons, while saying Leon is our best kickoff returner after just 1?  Well, I’ll tell ya!  Do you know what our franchise record was for most kickoff returns for a touchdown was before 2010?  1, a record tied by 8 other guys.  INCLUDING Mr. Broussard over his 165 returns in four seasons.  Leon had 3, all in one year!  And, among guys with 50 or more returns, Leon is tops in average yards per return with 25.6 (Broussard, meanwhile, averaged 2 yards fewer per return).

And yes, Nate has our record for most punt return yardage, but there are a couple guys I like more.  Charlie Rogers is #3 on our list, but he had a higher per-return average.  I think, though, if I’m picking MY Second Team, then I’m going with Joey Galloway.  He has our team record of 4 punt return touchdowns and was ALWAYS a huge threat to take it to the house.  Anyone who saw his return against Jacksonville will testify that Galloway was an absolute monster in the open field.

Overall, though, I think the fans did a good job on this list.  11 guys from the New Era of great Seahawks teams in the ’00s, 15 guys from the Golden Age of good Seahawks teams in the ’80s, and 3 guys from our underachieving ’90s teams.