What’s Going To Happen With The Seahawks & Tyler Lockett?

There was always kind of a Big 4 when it came to Seahawks cuts this offseason, in order to maximize our cap room and set the stage for a new era in Seattle (maybe a Big 5, if you count Bryan Mone and his $5 million we freed up yesterday). The first three were knocked out right in a row: Diggs, Adams, Dissly. But, the final one was conspicuously missing, which leads me to wonder: what is Tyler Lockett’s fate?

People have talked about it so nonchalantly, it’s kind of shocking, if I’m being honest. Lockett has been such a mainstay since entering the league in 2015. He’s always in there, he’s always getting open, he’s consistently making big plays. There’s been no let-down in his 9 years in the league. I wouldn’t say he’s the greatest Seahawks receiver of all time, but I also don’t see how you can keep him out of the Top 5. Steve Largent is #1 by a mile. Then, I think you can make an argument for Brian Blades, Darrell Jackson, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett all in that next tier, with guys like D.K. Metcalf, Joey Galloway, and Bobby Engram not far behind. Indeed, Lockett is #2 in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns, so honestly if you rated Lockett #2, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape (though, I think I would still take Doug over him, if I just needed a guy who could do everything and could always get open when we’d need him the most).

Of course, I understand why Lockett is a cut candidate. His cap hit this year is almost $27 million; we could open up $7 million in space if we let him go. And that still might happen. There’s an outside chance that the team didn’t want to lump him with the other three guys we cut this week, to shine a light on all that he’s done with the Seahawks. But, it would seem to me, if you’re going to cut him, you’re going to do it early, to allow him to find his next home. If nothing else, he’s earned that courtesy.

Which leads me to wonder if there’s another way the team wants to go. I’m starting to hear more and more about the team wanting to restructure his deal. While there’s been no let-down in his productivity, I would say his 2023 season seems like the beginning of an inevitable decline. Prior to 2023, he was on four straight years of 1,000+ yards receiving; in 2023 that fell to 894. His yards per reception rate has fallen in the last two seasons, and he only accounted for 5 touchdowns, which is the fewest he’s had since 2017. Anecdotally, his number of explosives seems to have gone down, and his number of times seen breathing from an oxygen mask on the sideline has skyrocketed. That isn’t to denigrate him by any means; I think Lockett is a brilliant tactician out there and has been a joy to behold since his college days. I think he’s wise to get down before taking too many massive hits. And, if the oxygen helps him recover for the next drive, whatever it takes to play your best! But, you know, he’ll also be 32 years old this September, and it’s easy to project a further decline.

There’s two more years left on his deal. It seems hard to fathom that the Seahawks would play out as it’s currently constructed. Over $30 million of that is base salary that’s not guaranteed. With D.K. Metcalf earning what he’s earning, and with Jaxon Smith-Njigba being a first round draft pick last year, $30+ million just feels like a lot for someone who’s destined to be this team’s third receiver by the time his contract expires. There’s also the fact that he’s a pretty successful Real Estate (agent? mogul?) person who seemingly has gotten to this point in his career where he’s in good shape, has his wits about him, and has a bevy of interests outside of football that should carry him through the next chapters of his life. Does he really need to play into his mid-30’s?

The odds seem to be pointing to a restructure, but how does that even work? What does that look like? Presumably, you tear up the existing contract and write a brand new one. But, aren’t you still on the hook for all the dead money of the previous one? That’s a hair under $20 million that we’d have to eat this year. And, also presumably, he’s not going to come back just to play for the minimum. Maybe he’s not worth $15 million per year, but he’s also not worth $1 million. Maybe he gives you a bit of a discount, I still feel like we’d have to be in the $8-$10 million range. And, with that, you’re not getting any savings whatsoever on a one year deal. So, that means you’re signing him to a minimum of a 2-year deal, with the bulk of it likely front-loaded (with the expectation being: either we cut him after this year, he retires after this year, or we go year-to-year until he hangs ’em up).

Maybe that’s the play. Absorb the bulk of the financial hit this year – when we have this windfall of cash that we weren’t expecting (and that we aren’t necessarily expecting to continue at this rate going forward) – while making his eventual release/retirement much more palatable down the road, and allowing him to exit the team/league gracefully.

I’ll tell you what, that would be MY preference. I also don’t necessarily think the Seahawks are in any position to contend for championships in the next two years. So, while we’re on this youth kick, why not keep Lockett around as a mentor? As long as he’s still producing, as long as he’s still helping you convert third downs and whatnot. Seems like the best for all involved.

If it’s not that, then I suppose there’s always a chance of a restructure followed by a trade to a contending team who could use a veteran like Lockett. You’re telling me the Bills or Chiefs or Ravens couldn’t use him? Just not the 49ers, please. My heart can’t take it.

I’m fascinated to see how this all shakes out. Nothing will diminish Lockett’s esteem in my eyes, though. He’s one of the best to ever wear a Seahawks uniform, and we were exceedingly fortunate to get to watch him on a weekly basis display his cool and casual brand of excellence.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 2: My Top 10

You can check out Part 1 from yesterday.

For the record, this isn’t in any particular order. Though, I will say – spoiler alert – that the top five listed here comprise my favorite five, which I’ll get around to writing about tomorrow. Sorry to really drag out this flimsy concept!

My Top 10

  • King Felix
  • The Big Unit
  • Beastmode
  • Bam Bam Kam
  • The Reign Man
  • The Glove
  • Young Zeke
  • Tui
  • Reg-gie
  • Steve Largent

Look, not everyone can have a cool nickname or shorthand. But, for the first – I dunno – 25 to 30 years of my life, Steve Largent was my favorite athlete of all time. When you’re a kid just getting into sports, you gravitate towards the very best players. And, in the late 80’s, that guy was Largent for me. He had every wide receiver record at the time of his retirement (eventually surpassed by Jerry Rice, among others), but nothing’s ever going to top this sequence of events with Mike Harden. What’s insane is that Largent didn’t even miss a game after that cheap shot in week one! Talk about tough as nails.

I don’t know of a great way to rank all the amazing Husky wide receivers through the years, but anecdotally the first name that comes to my mind is Reggie Williams. He started playing with us a year after that magical 2000 season, and is sort of synonymous with my friends and I following the team religiously. There just wasn’t anyone like him. It seemed like every game he was good for at least a small handful of big plays. And, as it turns out, it was pretty much exclusively thanks to his natural-born ability, as he was never really able to parlay his college dominance into NFL success. I’ll save that for some bitter old-time Jags fans who were underwhelmed by him on a regular basis after being a top 10 pick in the NFL draft. But, as far as Huskies go, there were few better.

One of those guys would be Marques Tuiasosopo. All I need to talk about is 300/200. Against Stanford. 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing. For the longest time, he was on an all-time list of only his name, until very recently when Malik Cunningham did it with Louisville in 2021. Tui led us to an 11-1 record in 2000 and a Rose Bowl victory over Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers, and I still contend if we had a college football playoff system, that Husky team would’ve made some noise! Maybe even won it all! Just a fun guy to watch on a weekly basis though, especially when you consider how good the Pac-10 was back then, as well as how many times he pulled games out of his ass late.

Isaiah Thomas followed a succession of great Husky basketball players, but how could you not root for a guy of his size and ability? I’ll be honest, he’s on this list because of this, one of my top three favorite singular plays in Seattle sports history. I mean, it’s up there with The Tip and the Beastquake, but I’ll be honest, the one I keep coming back to and rewatching on YouTube is the Cold Blooded call from Gus Johnson in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament Championship Game. It’s just unfortunate that the program hasn’t even come close to getting back to that level of play.

The Supersonics were the model sports franchise in Seattle for the longest time. From the 70’s through the 90’s, they were consistent winners. Regularly in the playoffs. Made the finals three times – winning once in 1979 – and had our lone world championship until the Seahawks won it all in 2013. Clearly, there were a lot of tremendous players to wear that uniform, but none were better than Gary Payton. He was the heart and soul of all those 90s squads, and I’d put him up there with any Seattle sports all time great, Griffey, Largent, you name it. He made a name for himself with his unrivaled defensive ability, but over time he really developed a strong offensive game. He was one of the more potent post-up guards in the league, and eventually he even found his 3-point stroke. Things became a lot more challenging for him once he lost his partner in crime in Shawn Kemp, but he still did his best to keep this franchise afloat. Also, he makes this list for being one of the best shit-talkers in the history of mankind.

My Favorite Seattle-Based Athletes, Part 1

Ahh yes, we’re in one of those dead periods of the sports calendar (unless your team happens to be in the Super Bowl, or you’re super-jazzed by what they’re doing with the Pro Bowl nowadays); it’s a struggle to find things to write about. So, to kill some time, I thought I’d write about my favorite Seattle athletes, both college and pros.

These aren’t necessarily people who were born and/or raised in the Seattle area (although, they could be). These are people who played their respective sports – either in college or as professionals – in Seattle. We’re talking Seahawks, Mariners, Supersonics, and Huskies. For this exercise, I went through each team and picked my favorite five guys. I’ll write a little bit about each, then we’ll narrow it down to a top ten overall, then we’ll see if we’re able to rank those. I don’t expect this to be easy.

I should point out – for frame of reference – that I didn’t really start getting into sports until 1987 or 1988, with the 90’s being my heyday. I got into the Seahawks first, then the Sonics in the early 90’s, then the Mariners in 1995, and it wasn’t until I started going to UW in the fall of 1999 when I truly became a Husky fan. This isn’t a ranking of the All Time Best Seattle Athletes. These are just MY favorites. If they’re not your favorites, I don’t care. Go start your own blog; they’re not too hard to make.

Mariners

  • Felix Hernandez
  • Randy Johnson
  • Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Ichiro
  • Alex Rodriguez

Spoiler alert: Felix and Randy are making my Top 10, so I’ll write more about them later. It feels corny as hell to have Griffey in my top five favorite Mariners, but I don’t know how you leave him off. He balled out in the outfield, making insane catches and throws, and he was one of the best home run hitters of all time. You couldn’t take your eyes off of him when he was doing whatever it was he was doing, even if it was just chuckling with teammates in the dugout. I would say over time, the bloom came off the rose with Ichiro, but those first few years, he was a force of nature. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing out of this magnetic little guy, with his cannon of an arm, and his ability to beat out seemingly-routine grounders. Eventually, he became a slap-hitting singles guy who never dove for balls and whose arm stopped being challenged by baserunners. But, for a while there, he was all we had. A common theme going forward is going to be how tough I had it trying to pick a fifth favorite. Edgar was just boringly amazing. Buhner was certainly a terrific personality. And there were plenty of quietly-excellent guys around the turn of the century. But, A-Rod was a guy who could do it all, at least as long as he wore a Mariners uniform. Power, speed, defense (at the most premium defensive spot on the team), great eye, great average. We somehow brought in a guy who could legitimately push Griffey as the best player on the team. Say what you will about his exit from Seattle, but even then, it was fun to root against him on other teams.

Seahawks

  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Steve Largent
  • Russell Wilson
  • Richard Sherman

Spoiler alert: Lynch, Kam, and Largent are all making my Top 10. The Seahawks were tough in a different way, because I could’ve gone 20 deep in this preliminary list; it was difficult to limit it to just five. Cortez Kennedy, Shaun Alexander, Matt Hasselbeck, Joey Galloway, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Ricky Watters, Brian Blades, Bobby Wagner, Michael Sinclair, Jacob Green, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones, Doug Baldwin. You could go on and on and on. But, in spite of recent schadenfreude, Russell Wilson was still a super fun quarterback to watch and root for on a weekly basis. In his prime, he would regularly pull our asses out of the fire late in games, and even late in plays as he’d avoid the pass rush in order to make some insane throw down field. Sherm ended up landing my fifth spot simply because of his personality. You could always tell what kind of shit he was talking even if he wasn’t mic’ed up on the field. If teams had the misfortune of trying to challenge him, they’d often find that plan thwarted real quick. Even later in his career – after quarterbacks by and large stopped throwing his way – it was always comforting knowing half the field was closed for business.

Supersonics

  • Shawn Kemp
  • Gary Payton
  • Detlef Schrempf
  • Sam Perkins
  • Nate McMillan

Spoiler alert: Kemp and Payton are in my Top 10. You’ll notice the top four listed here were the top four in minutes played in that amazing 1995/1996 season (and that all five were on that team in major roles). The fifth guy came down to Mac-10, Ray Allen, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, and Rashard Lewis, but I’ll always have a soft spot for Mr. Sonic. For a lot of reasons, but I’ll never forget how banged up he was in those Finals against the Bulls. Yet, he came back and played a critical role in our winning games four and five. I’ll always believe that a healthy Nate would’ve propelled us to the upset to end all upsets against those juggernaut Bulls. Detlef was a consummate pro and a perfect complement to Gary and Shawn’s theatrics. And Big Smooth – for that nickname alone – very nearly made my Top 10. Just a stud of a big man who drained threes like nobody’s business (at a time in league history where that was an extreme rarity, unlike today where it’s the norm).

Husky Basketball

  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Jon Brockman
  • Nate Robinson
  • Brandon Roy
  • Matisse Thybulle

Spoiler alert: only IT makes my Top 10 from here. If I had to pick a second, I’d go with Brockman, who was a great all-around forward under Romar. He got better every year in a complementary role, and as a senior really picked up and led this team in ways we wouldn’t have expected from him as a freshman. Nate Rob was super flashy and fun to watch. Roy probably had the best game of all of them, but was one of those boringly-excellent players (who, unfortunately, could never stay healthy as a pro). And Thybulle really got unlocked under Mike Hopkins, in probably the only good thing he’s done as a coach of the Huskies. Honorable mention goes to Terrell Brown, for being super fun to watch game-in and game-out last year.

Husky Football

  • Marques Tuiasosopo
  • Reggie Williams
  • John Ross
  • Budda Baker
  • Michael Penix

Spoiler alert: Tui and Reggie both made my Top 10. If there was a Top 11, John Ross would be in it. Nothing more fun than my friends and I screaming JOHN ROSS at the tops of our lungs whenever he corralled a 40+ yard bomb for a touchdown. My love for Budda Baker started when he flipped from the Ducks to the Huskies. Then, he proceeded to ball out for us for three of the best teams we’ve ever had, before becoming one of the pros I most wanted the Seahawks to draft. We let him go to the Cardinals and part of me has never forgiven them for it. Consider this the kiss of death for Penix’s 2023 season, as I’ve surely jinxed him. But, he might be the best and most pro-ready quarterback I’ve ever seen in a Husky uniform. As someone who stepped in right away this past season and led us to double-digit wins – including a bowl victory over the Longhorns – it’s a remarkable feat, even if he is a transfer. Penix obviously gets extra credit for choosing to return for a second season – when he easily could’ve gone pro and been at least a Day 2 draft pick, if not a sneaky first rounder – and of course for all the Big Penix Energy jokes my friends and I get to rattle off. If he parlays this into a conference title in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s able to sneak into my Top 10 by this time next year.

Tomorrow: my top 10.

The Seahawks Beat The 49ers, Stayed In The Three-Seed

I’m the kind of guy who’s more than happy to celebrate a divisional victory and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. But, there’s a part of me that can’t help but harp on the fact that had the Seahawks simply beaten the shithole Giants, we’d be 13-3 right now, with the top seed in the NFC and a BYE next week. The more I think about it, the more my blood boils; hence why I try to NOT think about it.

Of course, it seems counterintuitive because as a football fan and a Seahawks fan specifically, you’d think I’d be HAPPY that there are potentially more Seahawks games to watch. But, I’m me, and all I can focus on is the fact that there are potentially more opportunities for the Seahawks to lose.

If you assumed it’s a waking nightmare to live in my head, congratulations! Your suspicions are CON-FIRMED!

Yesterday’s game was enjoyable enough, I guess. But, at no point was I ever seriously tempted by the other two games going on concurrently. The Panthers tied the Saints in the first quarter at 7-7, but New Orleans would go on to win 33-7. The Bears were actually leading the Packers 10-7 partway through the second quarter; but the Packers went up by 8 at halftime and ultimately won 35-16. Indeed, had the Seahawks’ game not been going as quickly as it was, they might’ve realized much earlier that it was meaningless and started pulling some starters early.

This game was a snooze through the first half, with both teams trading field goals and punts. There was more of the same in the third quarter, as the 49ers took a 9-6 lead into the final frame. Then, once they mounted an 11-play touchdown drive to go up 16-6, this game officially became infuriating. Russell Wilson and the offense couldn’t do a damn thing! The running game was getting stuffed left and right, the pass rush bottled Wilson up pretty good, and apparently the coverage in the secondary was off the charts, as we had to throw the ball away countless times.

But, if you hung in there that long, you were rewarded by the Seahawks taking over in the fourth quarter with three unanswered touchdown drives to go up 26-16. The 49ers had a meaningless back-door cover to make it 26-23, but otherwise it was a fine Seahawks victory to wrap up a relatively successful 12-4 regular season. We’ve had two seasons at 13-3 (both years where we went to the Super Bowl), and two other seasons were we finished with 12 wins, making this one of the five most successful regular seasons in franchise history. Not too bad!

Russell Wilson finished with a mediocre 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, but again he had zero turnovers, and helped limit the 49ers to just 2 sacks. The running game ultimately got it going in the fourth quarter; as a team we finished with 121 yards on 27 carries, with an Alex Collins touchdown late. Tyler Lockett had a monster game with 12 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns.

We saw history in this one! Tyler Lockett became the first Seahawks receiver EVER to catch 100 passes in a season! The previous high in receptions was 94 (by Bobby Engram in 2007 and Doug Baldwin in 2016). He finished with exactly 100 for 1,054 yards and 10 TDs. This was the second time Lockett has gone over 1,000 yards, with his 1,057 last year. The other bit of history was D.K. Metcalf breaking Steve Largent’s single-season receiving yards record! Largent had 1,287 in 1985; Metcalf ended 2020 with 1,303 (on 83 receptions, with 10 TDs of his own). This is hands down the best season by a receiving duo in Seahawks history, which is pretty impressive.

Once again, the defense showed up in a big way in this game. The only reason why the 49ers had as much success in the second half of this one is simply because the Seahawks’ offense couldn’t do ANYTHING. We had three sacks, including 2 by Benson Mayowa, to give him 6 on the year. Last year, Rasheem Green led the Seahawks with 4 sacks; this year we had FIVE guys either match or surpass that number! As a team, we finished with 46 sacks on the season, which was good for seventh in the league; if you had the Seahawks anywhere near the top twenty at the beginning of the season, you are a liar!

Of course, we did give up the 11th-most total yards, and the 2nd-most passing yards in all of football; the late-season turnaround wasn’t enough to make up for that abysmal first half.

Anyway, we didn’t get out of this game unscathed. Jamal Adams hurt his shoulder. Apparently it’s NOT the shoulder he hurt earlier this season, which means he now has two bum shoulders. I don’t know what the outlook is for him playing this upcoming Saturday, but I guess we’ll find out later today.

We’re set to host the Rams in the afternoon, which isn’t ideal, but is pretty much in line with what I was expecting. I’m sure I’ll have more later in the week, but for now we close the book on the regular season and get to the part that REALLY matters!

Breaking my heart in the most wrenching fashion possible.

Looking At The Best Seahawks Wide Receiver Duos Of All Time

In reading through the Seattle Times sports section last week, I came upon an interesting question in one of the mailbag articles asking something to the effect of, “Is D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett the greatest wide receiver duo in Seahawks history?” That’s a bold statement (in the form of a question) after just a year and five games, but I think it’s worth exploring more fully.

I think, without question, the potential is there for this duo to be the best and it not even being all that close. The greatest Seahawks receiver of all time is Steve Largent; he’s a hall of famer and once held every significant receiving record in NFL history before Jerry Rice broke them all. Based on athleticism, you could argue Joey Galloway was the most talented receiver the Seahawks have ever had. But, I don’t think he will ever make the NFL Hall of Fame, and he only played in Seattle for five years before being traded away.

Regardless, based on the whole package, on top of his rapport with Russell Wilson (it always helps to have a future Hall of Famer throwing to you in both of your primes), I think D.K. Metcalf could blow away any and all wide receivers the Seahawks have ever employed. When you factor in Tyler Lockett’s all-around versatility – deep threat, short and intermediate god, great hands, great coordination with his feet near the out-of-bounds lines, can play outside or in the slot, durable, consistent – I mean, this is a monster pair! This is, like, Randy Moss/Wes Welker!

Anyway, let’s go backwards and look at all the great Seahawks duos and see how they match up.

Immediately preceeding this one, we have Lockett and Doug Baldwin (who was the consensus #2 best Seahawks receiver all time, until Metcalf overtakes him); they played together from 2015-2018. I would argue Lockett didn’t really make a leap until 2018, which coincides with an injury-plagued final year for Baldwin, so that’s a tough hang.

One that gets a little overlooked is Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Boy those were the good ol’ days! They played together from 2011-2013, but Tate didn’t do much in 2011, and Baldwin was largely injured in 2012. However, that magical 2013 season was something to behold! From a talent standpoint, both players were pretty elite and fit our scheme and quarterback perfectly. They’d be pretty high on my list.

I was discouraged – when I read the Times article – that Bobby Engram was nowhere to be found. His time with the Seahawks was quietly pretty special! In 8 years, he put up nearly 5,000 yards, largely out of the slot, and for some really good Seahawks teams. Nate Burleson overlapped with Engram from 2006-2008, with the 2007 season being their peak as a duo. Darrell Jackson, though, overlapped with Engram from 2001-2006, which is really THE duo from the Mike Holmgren era. D-Jack had three seasons over 1,000 yards, plus another 956 in 2006. Engram was largely a complementary player in those seasons, but no one was more of a go-to on third down. I rank D-Jack and Engram pretty high as well (and don’t even talk to me about Deion Branch, because I’m pretending he never existed).

I guess you also have to include Koren Robinson and D-Jack, who overlapped from 2001-2004 (with 2002-2003 being particularly elite), but Robinson had D.K.’s level of talent, only unrealized due to substance-abuse issues. There’s less of a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart for this duo.

If you want to talk about a forgotten blast from the past, look no further than Sean Dawkins and Derrick Mayes! They were the guys for just two years, from 1999-2000, but we rung in Y2K with a combined 1,821 yards between them!

What I’m finding is, through the 90’s and much of the 80’s, there were a lot of good 2-season runs (Joey Galloway with some guy, Brian Blades before him with some other guy, and so on) but no really great extended run for any particular duos. Also, to be fair, the Seahawks were largely terrible for the 90’s, but that’s neither here nor there. Even through the 80’s and the Largent years, it was mostly a one-receiver show. You’d be hard-pressed to find a good second option until you get to Sam McCullum, who overlapped with Largent from 1976-1981. McCullum had a couple of decent years where he caught over 700 yards apiece, but Largent was really doing the heavy lifting in this tenure.

And that’s pretty much it! So, outside of D.K. and Lockett, here are my rankings:

  1. Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin
  2. Darrell Jackson & Bobby Engram
  3. Steve Largent & Sam McCullum
  4. Doug Baldwin & Tyler Lockett
  5. Sean Dawkins & Derrick Mayes
  6. Bobby Engram & Nate Burleson
  7. Joey Galloway & Whoever
  8. Brian Blades & Whoever
  9. Koren Robinson & Darrell Jackson

If I had to place D.K. Metcalf & Tyler Lockett in that list right this minute, I’d probably put them fourth and bump everyone else down a peg. But, give me another year and a half and you could EASILY see this duo in the #1 spot! I can’t wait to see every minute of them together!

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

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

Also: I be shopping …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

King Felix Steps Away From The Mariners

Long live the King …

I’ve been dreading this for so long. I’ve dreaded this season, I dreaded this game, and the last thing I ever wanted to do is write this blog post. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. And yet, it couldn’t have ended more appropriately for this team and this icon.

I was on Twitter the instant the Mariners first announced the final King’s Court of the season. I knew this day was coming, and I kinda hoped it would land on a Friday or Saturday, but it’s probably better it was on a Thursday. Fewer fair-weather fans whose only goal is to bro it up in The Pen. To go to this game, you had to be a real die-hard Felix fan; save the posers for Oktoberfest Night on Saturday (of which I am absolutely one, and will be in attendance for that as well).

Without blinking, I clicked the link and bought two tickets, not sure if I’d find anyone else who’d be free to go. I had seats 1 & 2 in Row 6 of one of the two original King’s Court sections (closest to home plate) before they expanded it to a quarter of the stadium. I’ve been in the King’s Court only a small handful of times, including one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen in person (click that link for more). I was at the Supreme Court which followed his perfect game, and I was at the most recent Turn Ahead The Clock Night when I walked away with a sweet red & silver t-shirt and K-card. Every time it’s been an unbelievably fun and memorable experience, but last night really topped them all.

My emotions were already all over the place before I even got to the stadium. I’d done my best in the days since I got the tickets to not think about it too much; denial is one of my greatest weapons in life. So, when the time came to leave work and mosey on over to Sluggers for some pre-game food and tallboys, it took every fiber of my being to not continuously blubber my way through the next few hours.

A few years back, in the King’s prime, I bought a t-shirt with his giant face on it. I’d never worn it for a variety of reasons: for a while there, I’d simply out-grown it through weight gain, plus it’s a white t-shirt and I generally don’t like to wear them very often as they tend to get dingy pretty fast. Plus, I mean, it’s a weird shirt! It’s got a giant head on it; it’s not like I can wear it many places without getting curious looks, and I’m not the kind of guy who likes to attract attention from strangers. I didn’t intend to save it for a special occasion, but when this came up, I dug it out from the back of my closet and wore it with pride last night.

We got to our seats at about 6:50pm, in plenty of time for the first of many standing ovations for our King. I’d noticed in recent years that the fans in the King’s Court were less inclined to stand and chant compared to when it was brand new. The whole point of being in the King’s Court is that it’s like a football atmosphere; most baseball games are stuffy and quiet, only erupting when something great happens. But, in the Court, we also erupt with the anticipation of something great happening; you know, like football crowds getting loud when the defense is on the field before every play. Thankfully, last night, everybody was really into it. We stood for the entire first inning! And, we had no qualms jumping out of our seats whenever the count got to two strikes. It hasn’t felt like that since the early days of the King’s Court (part of that is performance-based – Felix hasn’t been his usual dominant self in recent seasons – but part of that, I think, has to do with the fans, either being too jaded or over it or otherwise taking it all for granted).

In a cruel twist of fate, Angel Hernandez was behind the plate for this one, and believe you me, he heard it from us after every single non-strike call. He’s terrible anyway, so wearing it from the crowd was entirely justified. I don’t actually know how bad the umpiring was, but come on man, read the fucking room!

Anyway, the outing was far from ideal. Felix struggled through the first, but the damage was limited to one run after a bunch of pitches. He got tagged with a 2-run homer in the second (where apparently the guy who walked ahead of him should’ve been called out on his check-swing, but what else is new?), but settled down after that. The Mariners did have a couple errors on the night (at least one the King had to work around; I don’t remember when the other one happened), but he also benefitted by some truly outstanding plays behind him (including a diving catch by Dylan Moore in left field that surely would’ve been a bases-clearing double in the fifth).

His final line in a Mariners uniform: 5.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts. We didn’t get as many K’s as we would’ve liked, but when they came, the roar from the crowd – combined with the King turning toward us and acknowledging our adoration – was practically a religious experience. When he got out of the fifth on that diving catch, lingering on the field to give some love to Moore for his play, he was already over that 100-pitch mark. I started to well up then and there, knowing that was likely his final inning for the Mariners. I figured Scott would let him warm up for the sixth and then give him a final curtain call before seeing another batter, but he let him go up against one more. Robbie Grossman is the final batter King Felix saw as a member of the Seattle Mariners; he lined out to center on an 82mph change up.

Then, Scott came out of the dugout to a round of boos, but we quickly shifted to an explosion of gratitude. I’m literally STILL crying just thinking about it. I took dozens of pictures that I’ll hang onto, but I also tried to just be in the moment and soak it all up.

For what it’s worth, I know there’s the argument that they should’ve just let Felix stay out there for as long as he wanted, but in hindsight it’s better this way. It’s been pretty ugly for Felix the last few seasons, the last thing you want to do is have his final game end that way too. I’ll tell you what, though, if he’d ended his night with a strikeout, we’d be sitting around today talking about Beastquake 2.0.

I’ve written about Felix Hernandez more than anyone else since I started this blog (unofficially) back in 2008. I grew up as a child idolizing Steve Largent as my all-time favorite athlete, but King Felix has blown past the hall of fame wide receiver like he wasn’t even there. I’ve said it before and I’ll gladly say it again: I’m not a Mariners fan, I’m a Felix fan. He’s been – more times than is remotely appropriate – the only good thing about following this franchise in the years since he came up. I love Felix like he’s a member of my family, which is what makes this moment so heartbreaking for me. He’s been such a constant in my life – ever dependable and dominant and delightful – that I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself now that he’ll be finishing his career elsewhere.

It wasn’t supposed to go down this way. Well, that’s not totally true; for a while there it looked like it WAS supposed to end prematurely, but then he decided to sign an extension with the Mariners through the bulk of his career, and from then on I was convinced he’d always be ours. Spending your entire career in one city is so rare in this day and age, but it really felt like he was going to do it. I don’t want to sour this post by talking about the hardships of the last few years, but it sucks, you know? He was supposed to settle into a Bartolo Colon role in his mid-to-late 30’s, and he very well still might! But, it’ll have to be in another organization, which is depressing as all get out.

Of course, the worst part of all of this is that he’s still never tasted the post-season. All he’s wanted to do since he got here was win, and all the Mariners rewarded him with was mediocrity, with a few tantalizingly-close contending seasons sprinkled in. Sure, the organization let us all down with their poor drafting, poor trades, and poor player development, but it feels worse that they let HIM down. He was so fucking good for so fucking long, and he never got to showcase his greatness in the game’s brightest stage. He might catch on somewhere for a playoff run next year, and I hope he gets to see that drought eliminated, but he won’t get to do it with his filthy stuff of old. He’ll have to get crafty with it, and I hope he has it in him.

I know that eventually I’ll move on. There are some promising young players coming through the system who will turn into stars for the Mariners relatively soon. But, I don’t know if anyone will ever be as beloved as The King. He’s one of a kind. I’ll miss him. It won’t be the same when we don’t get to greet each other with “Happy Felix Day” every fifth game. The stadium will be that much less raucous without the court behind him. But, we’ll have our memories. I’ll be able to tell anyone who asks that I got to see one of the best pitchers of my generation playing for my hometown team. For that, I can only say to Felix …

The Seahawks Released Doug Baldwin & Kam Chancellor

The Kam news was expected. It wasn’t a matter of If, but When. Kam was never going to play football again, and after 2019 there’s no more dead money associated with his contract due to injury guarantees, so the team could finally move on from the future Ring of Honor safety.

The Doug news was somewhat expected, but much more startling. I thought we might’ve had more time, maybe letting things sit until Training Camp. See how he recovers from his latest treatment and if that comes with a possible change of heart. Sure, the reports – from both league sources and the team itself – sounded pretty definitive. And, sure, the Seahawks went out and drafted three new receivers to add to the pile – including John Ursua in the 7th round (who looks to be the type of receiver we’d bring in to take Doug’s place in the slot) – which was a clear indicator that the team was readying itself to move on. But, there was always the hope that Doug might come back at some point. Miracles do happen. Athletes of his calibre tend to heal much faster than mortal men; and the sheer will of Doug’s determination could see him taking the field for one more go-around.

But, this move effectively puts that to bed.

Which makes sense. There’s no point in carrying his contract on our cap, when we’re talking about someone who might be hanging it up. I won’t rule out a Marshawn Lynchian return somewhere else, after a year off to heal up I’d imagine, but it certainly won’t be with the Seahawks.

It’s a tough blow we all saw coming. The Seahawks are seriously going to miss him. Doug Baldwin truly is the best receiver this team has had since Steve Largent retired. No, the numbers won’t get him anywhere near the Hall of Fame, but as usual the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Doug Baldwin was one of the five best receivers in the league, period. His hands, his route running, his ability to shake off defenders and get open, his intuition with Russell Wilson; we always call our quarterback a wizard, but I would argue Doug made just as many mind-blowing plays. Having him on the field during crucial third downs and in the fourth quarter was the ultimate security blanket. Our offense has suffered immensely when he’s been out; there’s no way we’ll be able to replace him in 2019. The most we can hope for is one of the young guys panning out, but even that’s a lot to ask.

It’s a hard day for Seahawks fans. More and more, the holdovers from our Super Bowl teams are dwindling. I’d always hoped for Doug and Russ to be this team’s version of Rice and Young, or Irvin and Aikman. While they certainly had that kind of rapport, we’re most likely not even halfway through Wilson’s career and he’ll be looking for his next Go-To Target.

Maybe that’s Lockett, but I just can’t see his role changing all that much. Lockett is an outside receiver and our primary speed/deep threat. While he’ll figure to get the lion’s share of targets going forward, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he just slides into the slot and we move on. It’s going to be a true team effort to replace Baldwin; here’s hoping we have the guys to get it done.

Coming To Terms With Felix Hernandez

In my continuing “Coming To Terms” series (we’ll see how long it goes, depending on how many more Mariners players emerge to disappoint), I’m taking a sad look at King Felix. Like Seager, Felix has gotten worse over the last few seasons:

  • 2015: 18-9, 3.53 ERA, 201.2 innings, 4.4 WAR, 8.52 K/9, .682 opposing OPS
  • 2016: 11-8, 3.82 ERA, 153.1 innings, 1.6 WAR, 7.16 K/9, .718 OPS
  • 2017: 6-5, 4.36 ERA, 86.2 innings, 0.8 WAR, 8.10 K/9, .791 OPS
  • 2018: 8-14, 5.55 ERA, 155.2 innings, -1.2 WAR, 7.23 K/9, .798 OPS

I mean, Jesus, there’s no sugarcoating this decline. He’s 33 years old in April and he’s heading into the final year of his contract, which accounts for over $27 million.

I can’t even begin to describe how much all of this bums me out. King Felix is far and away my favorite Seattle athlete and that’s REALLY saying something, because we’ve had some true greats. Steve Largent, Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Marshawn Lynch, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones, Randy Johnson, Detlef Schrempf, Kam Chancellor, Ichiro. I would argue that Felix was just as great as any of those guys in his prime, plus the fact that he was loyal to this city when he had ABSOLUTELY no obligation just puts him over the top. The fact that he’s going to go his entire career in a Mariners uniform having never played in the post-season is really just too much. If there was ever a year for the Mariners to not totally Mariners things up, 2018 was it. That was his last – and really ONLY – chance, and we couldn’t give it to him.

I get the sense that most Mariners fans are done with him, which makes me sad. At this point, with the team not really contending for anything (and, indeed, a worse record only helps our draft prospects next year), this is when you WANT Felix here. He’s not capable of really carrying this team like he was in his prime, so I say hand him the ball every fifth day and take whatever comes. If it’s a rare good day, then relish it, as you never know when you’ll see his last quality start; if it’s a usual clunker, then that’s just another loss in the column toward a higher draft slot.

Given the way his career has gone, it feels impossible to hope for any sort of turnaround. If that was in him, we probably would’ve seen it by now. Just getting him through the whole season without a DL stint (or, I guess an IL stint?) would probably be the most we should hope for. I’ll never totally shut the door on some sort of Bartolo Colon-esque resurgence, but even then, you figure if the M’s have an opportunity to trade him to a contender for a late-season playoff push (with Felix’s blessing, of course), they’ll probably jump at it (taking on most of his salary nonetheless, because no team would pay much more than the minimum for his services). That’ll be a dark day for Seattle sports, but then again, you rarely see your superstars play exclusively for only one franchise anymore.

After this year, I suspect he’ll get a spring training invite elsewhere (the Marlins maybe?), while we sit around and squabble about his Hall of Fame prospects. Short of a dramatic career turnaround, those chances also seem pretty slim.

Chuck Knox Passed Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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