Finding The Silver Lining In The Latest Seahawks Blowout Victory

I’m as excited as anybody that the Seahawks won again, and that Russell Wilson is playing the best football of his life – and the best football in the entire NFL – these last few weeks, and even that the Seahawks are officially in the 5-seed and control their own destiny going forward, as far as at least making it into the post-season is concerned.  It sure does at least feel like this team is peaking at the right time.  But, I dunno.  I can’t help this feeling of melancholy at what this game against the Ravens took from us.

And before you start, it’s not JUST because I had Thomas Rawls in both of my fantasy leagues, and his loss greatly impacted my ability to reach or stay in the playoffs (but, I’ll admit, that’s part of it).  Not having him around for the rest of the season is a blow only mitigated by the fact that these next two games are against the most inept of opponents, so we probably shouldn’t NEED a quality running back to win those games.  But, I don’t have to tell you that this team is paper thin at most every single position group.  We expect Marshawn Lynch to come back in time for the post-season at least, but what happens if he doesn’t?  Or, if he comes back, but then injures something else?

Furthermore, this game outlined how fragile all of this really is.  We lost DeShawn Shead for a while with an ankle injury, only to be forced back into action once we lost Marcus Burley to his own ankle injury.  Then, we had Kam Chancellor’s bruised tailbone; he MIGHT be back for the game against Cleveland, but I’m thinking we should probably just give him the week off to rest.  Then, probably most frighteningly of all, Michael Bennett had to sit out a few plays for what’s being described as a jammed toe.

My fandom has been put on cruise control for a couple of reasons:  first, because the Seahawks have finally figured out their personnel and clipped off the dead weight (*cough* Cary *cough* Williams *cough*); and second, because the schedule is pretty light in the ol’ loafers, starting with this Ravens game and running through the end of the season (depending on how hard the Cards and Seahawks want to win a meaningless Week 17 game).  Wins against the Browns and Rams should be considered automatic, meaning the only thing I’m rooting for is NO ONE GETTING INJURED!  This is the time of year where these types of injuries hit hardest.  Players are worn out from playing almost a full season, the weather’s getting colder, making the ground harder (and those joints achier), and there isn’t a lot of time left for guys to get healthy in time to have an impact on the season (not that Rawls would’ve had a shot at returning, even if this injury happened in Week 1).  Furthermore, the pile of viable free agents is dwindling.  Teams all across the league are overflowing with IR’d players, and filling their rosters accordingly with the also-rans who were cut from teams at the end of the pre-season.  Now, we’re looking at the VERY bottom of the barrel for free agent running backs to get us through the next few weeks.

So, yeah, you guys try to chin up.  The Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin combination is looking more potent than Steve Young to Jerry Rice!  Our offensive line looks better than ever!  Richard Sherman somehow managed to keep all of his hair intact after getting yanked down by it after yesterday’s interception!

I’ll be over here, worriedly biting my fingernails, dreading the injury waiting for us in next week’s game.

Is Dustin Ackley The Most Disappointing Draft Pick In Seattle Sports History?

Right off the bat, don’t talk to me about the Sounders, the Storm, or any other lesser sport I don’t care as much about.  This is a Seahawks/Sonics/Mariners discussion, so LAY OFF!

Also, we’re talking straight draft picks.  Believe me, I’m well aware of all the bad trades and free agent signings, as well as the draft picks we’ve traded away, but this is a look at the most disappointing players we’ve seen drafted in this city for those three professional franchises.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.

Dustin Ackley was taken with the #2 overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  In 2008, the Seattle Mariners finished 61-101 for the right to pick #2 overall.  You may recall that, going into the final three games of the 2008 season, the Mariners were 58-101 and in line for the #1 overall pick.  The Washington Nationals, with three games to go, were 59-99.  So, what happened?  The Mariners swept the A’s and the Nationals got swept by the Phillies.  As such, the Nationals were graced with the #1 overall pick and the right to draft the hottest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens:  Stephen Strasburg.

You can say what you want about the injury-plagued start to Strasburg’s career, but you can’t deny he has elite stuff and you can’t deny he’s had three very good seasons from 2012-2014.  We don’t know where his career will take him – and obviously, with Mike Trout being selected by the Angels with the 25th overall pick, it’s not like he’s the best player in that draft – but one thing we do know is that he’s a HELLUVA lot better than Dustin Ackley will ever be.

We got screwed.  Dustin Ackley was supposed to be the clear best hitter and most Major League-ready player in that draft.  We were going to get an athletic guy who could play the outfield or various infield spots, and a mainstay in our lineup.  Your prototypical 2-hole hitter.  He was supposed to have a good eye, get on base at a fantastic clip, and even hit for a bit of power (mostly doubles, but the occasional homer), with just enough speed on the basepaths to keep everyone honest.

What we GOT was a guy with a poor eye at the plate, poor pitch selection, a noodle-arm, who rolls over on balls to the second or first baseman 80% of the time.  At a time (coming off of our attrocious 2008 season, continuing through our 2010 season where we were one of the worst offenses of all time), Ackley was supposed to breeze through the minors and give our lineup a boost.  Instead, he’s been spoken in the same breath as Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero WAY too often for comfort.

He sucks us in because he’s a #2-overall pick, and because he sometimes has these wonderful second halves to seasons that trick us into thinking he’s finally gotten everything figured out.  Then, he turns right back around the following spring and hits:

  • .200/.222/.341/.563, with 3 doubles, 3 homers, 7 RBI, and about 50,000 runners left on base in 30 games

This is his fifth year in the Major Leagues.  Here are his career numbers:  .243/.305/.365.  You have to wonder, if he doesn’t turn it around and I mean SOON, if this is his last chance with the Mariners.  I can’t imagine we go into 2016 with him as a starter, but I have to wonder if we go into 2016 with him even on the roster at all!

Does this make him the most disappointing draft pick in franchise history?  Well, let’s take a little look back.  Too soon to talk about Alex Jackson (2014) or D.J. Peterson (2013).  Mike Zunino was the 3rd overall pick in 2012; he’s been less than ideal at the plate.  But, he’s still probably too young (and at least hits for SOME power) to make a judgment.  Danny Hultzen was the 2nd overall pick in 2011 and has been severely injured for much of his career of late, so he has to be in the running, right?  Except, the thing is, he’s a pitcher, and the Mariners have been fairly flush with pitching in recent years since he was selected.  Hard to call him as much of a disappointment when we haven’t really needed to rely on him for anything.

Maybe we should take a look at what it means to be disappointing in a sports setting.  For starters, I feel like you have to be a first round pick.  These are the guys who – in theory – should be the closest to helping your team right away.  In baseball, you expect these guys to be on the fast track, to hit the Major Leagues in 2-4 years, depending on their development.  In football and basketball, depending on how deep your roster is, you expect these guys to contribute immediately, and in some instances even start for you immediately.  So, when they fail to live up to those reasonable expectations, they’re disappointments.  Obviously, the higher you draft them, the bigger the disappointments.

Going back, here are the rest of the Mariners’ top-10 draft picks through the years:

  • 2006 – Brandon Morrow (5)
  • 2005 – Jeff Clement (3)
  • 1995 – Jose Cruz Jr (3)
  • 1993 – Alex Rodriguez (1)
  • 1990 – Marc Newfield (6)
  • 1989 – Roger Salkeld (3)
  • 1987 – Ken Griffey Jr (1)
  • 1986 – Patrick Lennon (8)
  • 1985 – Mike Campbell (7)
  • 1984 – Bill Swift (2)
  • 1983 – Darrel Akerfelds (7)
  • 1981 – Mike Moore (1)
  • 1980 – Darnell Coles (6)
  • 1979 – Al Chambers (1)
  • 1978 – Tito Nanni (6)

Sure, Brandon Morrow was disappointing, but for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, we should’ve taken UW’s Tim Lincecum instead.  Second, we kept dicking around with Morrow by starting off his career in the bullpen.  Third, we probably gave up on him and traded him away too soon (for Brandon League, who was an all-around disaster).  Ackley still has Morrow beat in the disappointment department.

Clement was disappointing, but I think we were all more disappointed in our front office moreso than the player.  That 2005 draft was FUCKING STACKED; 6 of the first 7 players selected have been All Stars (with Clement being the only dud), and 8 of the first 12 have played in an All Star Game.  Bill Bavasi at his finest!

Jose Cruz Jr was solid when he was a Mariner, then we traded him away for two shitty relievers, then he got really bad, and then he was gone.  Again, more disappointed in our front office for giving up on a quality prospect too soon.

A-Rod was disappointing because he was a greedy scumbag & soon-to-be cheater.  But, his level of play on the field was unmatched, so there’s no way I’m calling him a bigger disappointment than Ackley (also, yes, I would have taken the money and played for the Rangers, so eat me, he’s still a greedy fuck).

Anyone before A-Rod is out of my wheelhouse (aside from Griffey, of course, who was the single greatest draft pick in franchise history).  You can post your reasons in the comments as to why you think some of those old timers might be more disappointing than Dustin Ackley, but for now, I’m saying this with full confidence:  Dustin Ackley is the most disappointing draft pick in Mariners history.

***

Let’s jump right into the Seattle Seahawks.  Who is their most disappointing first round draft pick?  Again, I’ll run through all the top 10 picks (even though I think we all have a pretty good idea who this is going to end up being):

  • 2010 – Russell Okung (6)
  • 2009 – Aaron Curry (4)
  • 2001 – Koren Robinson (9)
  • 1997 – Shawn Springs (3)
  • 1997 – Walter Jones (6)
  • 1995 – Joey Galloway (8)
  • 1994 – Sam Adams (8)
  • 1993 – Rick Mirer (2)
  • 1992 – Ray Roberts (10)
  • 1990 – Cortez Kennedy (3)
  • 1983 – Curt Warner (3)
  • 1982 – Jeff Bryant (6)
  • 1981 – Kenny Easley (4)
  • 1980 – Jacob Green (10)
  • 1978 – Keith Simpson (9)
  • 1976 – Steve Niehaus (2)

Not gonna lie to you, I’m not up on my Steve Niehaus or Keith Simpson knowledge, but let’s just assume they’re not the most disappointing draft picks in Seahawks history.  Green, Easley, and Bryant were mainstays of a dominant defense in the 1980s, so count them out.  Curt Warner was only disappointing because we didn’t use that pick to try to trade up for John Elway (or trade back to take one of the other amazing quarterbacks in that class).  Curt Warner the player was dynamic when he was healthy.

Cortez and Walter Jones are probably tied for the very best draft picks in Seahawks history, as both are Hall of Famers.  Ray Roberts was a solid offensive lineman in his career (if not specifically his Seahawks career).  Sam Adams was a fringe Hall of Famer for the Ravens, but had a nice and long career elsewhere (including Seattle for a few productive seasons).  Joey Galloway and Shawn Springs were studs who had their best years away from the northwest (but, again, were no slouches in a Seahawks uniform).  Okung has been a steady starter at left tackle (and a fine Walter Jones replacement when healthy) since he was a rookie.

For me, the disappointments come down to Aaron Curry, Koren Robinson, and Rick Mirer.  But, before I talk about this trio of Top 10 turds, let’s take a look at some honorable mentions from a little lower in the first round.

Lawrence Jackson was taken 28th overall.  He was supposed to come in and breathe life into our tepid pass rush.  Instead, he joined our team in 2008 as the franchise bottomed out, let Mike Holmgren walk, and eventually ushered in the Era of Good Feelings that has been Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  Oh yeah, and Jackson stunk the whole while and it wasn’t long before Carroll traded him away for scraps.

In 2006, the Seahawks selected Kelly Jennings with the 31st overall pick.  Coming off of our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, we were in desperate need of shoring up our secondary.  Kelly Jennings was no help in this regard.  While it’s hard to expect super-greatness out of your 31st overall draft pick, he was still a member of this team – and a starter at that – for far too long, leading us to suffer a barrage of long bombs over his outstretched midget arms.

In 2002, the Seahawks selected Jerramy Stevens 28th overall.  That’s all I need to say about this wretch.

In the 1987 NFL Supplemental Draft, the Seahawks took Brian Bosworth with what amounts to a first round draft pick.  He was subsequently given the largest contract in franchise history, and rewarded us with lackluster and often embarrassing play.  He was a better action movie star than a football player, and that’s REALLY not saying much.

But, let’s get back to our Top 3 disappointments from before.  I’m scratching off Koren Robinson, for starters.  Yes, he had the talent to be elite – and pissed it all away with addiction – but one has to wonder if he was even the right fit for this type of offense to begin with.  And, while he wasn’t spectacular, he was far from dreadful.  I’m giving him a pass.

This boils down to Aaron Curry and Rick Mirer.  You may recall with Aaron Curry, we were coming off of our dreadful 2008 season.  With the 4th overall pick, people were screaming for the Seahawks to take a quarterback.  With Matthew Stafford already off the board, and Mark Sanchez sitting there, the Seahawks opted to do the prudent thing:  take the “safest pick in the draft”.  Aaron Curry was an outside linebacker and – depending on who you talked to – was some mix of Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas.  We were going to pair him with Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to have the best linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Instead, he was slow to pick up the game mentally, slow to pick up the intricacies of his position, and just all-around slow on the field.  He did practically nothing for us, wound up being traded for a low-round draft pick, and was replaced on the field by a mid-round draft pick.  But, considering the Seahawks were bottoming out all over the roster, it’s hard to peg all of our troubles on Curry.  Even if he’d panned out as we’d hoped, he still would have been just a good player on a crappy team.

Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was supposed to save us.  In 1992, the Seahawks shared the worst record in the NFL with the New England Patriots at 2-14.  Thanks to our victory over those very same Patriots, they held the tie-breaker for the #1 overall pick.  As a result, they got to select the best quarterback of that class – Wazzu’s Drew Bledsoe – while we had to settle for Rick Mirer out of Notre Dame.

Mirer came out of the gate on fire, breaking many rookie quarterback records that would eventually be broken by Peyton Manning (the only time Rick Mirer should ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Peyton Manning, by the way).  He quickly either regressed or simply failed to develop, but either way, he SUUUUUUCKED thereafter.  Adding fuel to the fire of his disappointment, I recently was referred to this article (hat tip to Dave Krieg’s Strike Beard) that revealed there was an outside shot of the Seahawks getting Steve Young from the 49ers for the rights to allow the 49ers to draft Mirer to be Joe Montana’s heir apparent.  Isn’t THAT just the ultimate kick to the groin?  Doesn’t that make Rick Mirer the ultimate slam dunk most disappointing draft pick in Seahawks history?

I want to say yes, but RACING PAST THE PACK ON THE OUTSIDE, OUR DARK-HORSE CONTENDER:  1991’s 16th overall draft pick, Dan McGwire!

What’s the meaning of THIS?  Well, I’ll tell you:  the Seahawks brass was very high on the 6’8 towering suckferno, while Chuck Knox – easily our greatest head coach in franchise history to that point – wanted to select a little guy out of Southern Mississippi, the 6’2 Brett Favre.

Dan McGwire started all of five games with the Seahawks in four seasons.  Chuck Knox left the franchise after 1991, right before everything bottomed out in 1992.  As stated above, the Seahawks would use the #2 overall pick on yet another quarterback two years later, and the franchise overall would founder in mediocrity for a decade until Mike Holmgren turned things around.  All of this MAY have been avoided, if Chuck Knox had his way and we’d drafted a certain hall of famer who owns or owned just about every passing record in NFL history.

Most disappointing draft pick?  For all those reasons, I’m going with Dan McGwire by a nose over Rick Mirer (bottom line:  at least Mirer had ONE good season).

***

In an effort to prevent this post from going beyond the 5,000 word mark, I’m going to give the abbreviated version of the Sonics’ most disappointing draft pick:  it doesn’t compare to what the Seahawks and Mariners have stacked against them.  Purely for disappointment’s sake, it’s disappointing to see Scottie Pippen’s name as our #5 overall draft pick in 1987 (he would be traded to the Bulls and replaced by Olden Polynice, but again, this isn’t a post about trades), but at least Pippen’s departure eventually led to Shawn Kemp’s rise.

The fact of the matter is, the Sonics – for the most part, until the last decade or so – were a well-run and successful organization (crazy, I know).  Our first round draft picks were generally low in the round, if we had them at all.  The high ones tended to pan out (Payton, #2 overall; McKey, #9 overall; McDaniel, #4 overall).  And, since once again I’m not all that familiar with all the old-timers, I’m not even going to go there and you can hash it out in the comments.

In an effort to save time, let’s just say the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle Sonics history is Robert Swift (#12 overall in 2004, when we were in DESPERATE need of a big man; he would be the first of three consecutive first round draft pick duds – Petro & Sene to follow – that would ultimately cost this franchise dearly).  Now, let’s call it a day and everyone agree that Robert Swift is nowhere NEAR as disappointing as Dan McGwire or Dustin Ackley.

***

So, where do we land on all of this?  Is Dustin Ackley the most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history?

Welp, I’ve already discussed the cases for both he and Dan McGwire.  With Ackley, we’re still talking about an Incomplete.  We don’t know how his career is going to pan out, even if we have a pretty solid idea that he’s going to continue to be terrible.  With McGwire, we know how it panned out, and we know what we could’ve had with Favre.  McGwire FEELS like the more disappointing of the two, but before we give him the crown, we have to speculate on the ol’ butterfly effect.

Dan McGwire kept us from drafting Brett Favre (or, rather, the organization choosing to go with him over Knox’s preferred choice).  That’s the case, right in a nutshell.  So, we have to wonder:  how good could the Seahawks have been with Brett Favre at the helm?

Would Chuck Knox have stayed on past 1991?  Would the team have drafted appropriately around him?  It’s pretty safe to say that Brett Favre would’ve been great wherever he went, but how much of his career was molded by Mike Holmgren?  I wouldn’t call the Packers a bastion of a franchise when they traded for him, so it’s not like the team was great and then Favre appeared as the last piece of the puzzle.  He grew with that franchise to be one of the best in football.  Could that have rubbed off on the Seahawks?  Or, would our franchise bumbling have prevented Favre from being his very best?

I would argue that the Seahawks would’ve been rock solid throughout the 90s.  Much better than the string of .500 (or near-.500) records we were saddled with.  There was always talent on those 90s Seahawks teams, but we were ALWAYS missing out on the quarterback position.  Warren Moon had a couple good years, but that was at the tail end of his career, and he kept getting injured when we needed him most.  Every other quarterback we had in the 90s was terrible.

With Favre in Seattle, does Mike Holmgren become MIKE HOLMGREN in Green Bay?  Does he find another quarterback to mold and turn that franchise around?  I think it’s safe to say, Favre in Seattle means we never hire Holmgren later.  And, you have to wonder if we have the group in place that we have now.

Does Favre turn this franchise around before Ken Behring sells the team to Paul Allen?  Does he have a change of heart and decide to keep the Seahawks and keep them in Seattle?  Do we have what is now CenturyLink Field?  If Paul Allen isn’t the owner, we certainly don’t have our stadium in its current form; I’m sure it would look much different now.  And, I have to wonder if we have the Sounders either, for what it’s worth.

Ultimately, does Brett Favre lead the Seahawks to be world champions?  THAT, I’m not totally sure about.  It’s nice to think so, but you have to wonder how it happens.  How long does Chuck Knox stick around if we give him the quarterback he wants?  He was already getting up there in age by 1991; how many years does he stick around after that?  And, who becomes his replacement?  I would argue Tom Flores was the worst head coach we’ve ever had in Seahawks history; I don’t think he wins even with the mid-90s Cowboys.  Does he still replace Knox?  Do we grab someone else?

The point is:  there are SO MANY “what if’s” that go into the Brett Favre as a Seahawk scenario.  And, what I would argue is most important in all of this is:  if Brett Favre never leads us to a world championship (whether or not it’s his fault, or the fault of ownership, or just the players we saddled him with), then he is 100% not worth the trouble.  The way things actually happened – with the Seahawks winning it all in the 2013 season – made a lot of the previous suffering worth it.  That’s all that matters.

Now, if Brett Favre coming here means the Seahawks would’ve been a dynasty much earlier, then I think he is worth it and I think Dan McGwire wins the title of most disappointing draft pick.  Even if it means the team we have now (in this hypothetical universe) looks nothing like the team we have in our real, actual universe.

Ultimately, my gut tells me that even if the Seahawks had taken Brett Favre, and he’d turned into the franchise quarterback we waited SO LONG to get, I kinda doubt we ever would’ve won it all with him.  Too many variables.  We likely wouldn’t have had the type of hall of fame coaching staff that Holmgren assembled in Green Bay, and we likely wouldn’t have gotten the type of championship talent to put around Favre like they were able to do under Ron Wolf.  Let’s face it, for a lot of reasons, the Seahawks were just plain broken as a franchise in the 1990s.  It took all the tumult, the disaster of an owner, the mis-management of the general manager, the bumbling of the coaching staff, and the underperforming of the players to lead to Paul Allen, Mike Holmgren 2.0, Matt Hasselbeck and our success in the 2000s, the bottoming out in 2008 & 2009, and the foresight to bring in Pete Carroll and pairing him with John Schneider to finally turn this organization into a world-class sports franchise.

You COULD say that Dan McGwire was a big part in giving us all of this!  And, I must say, as a fan in my 30s, I’m certainly appreciating all of our good fortune MUCH more than I would have been as a fan in my teens in the 1990s.

Yes, Dustin Ackley is a disappointment.  Yes, there were truly great players taken after him (including the aforementioned Mike Trout).  And yes, he’s been a big part of all the sucking the Mariners have been a part of in his time in the Major Leagues.  He’s been given MANY more chances to start and play a huge part on this team, and he’s done JUST enough to keep earning those chances even though he’s never broken through to make good on all of his promise.  Dan McGwire, for as enraging as his selection was, was never much more than a longshot prospect.  His college career wasn’t some amazing slam dunk; we were picking him based on his size, his strong arm, and the fact that he “looked” like a starting quarterback.  These types of quarterbacks are selected in the first round every single year, and these types of quarterbacks end up falling well short of their potential every single year.

#2 overall Major League Baseball draft picks are supposed to be different.  At #2, you know you have the opportunity to draft that year’s very best pitcher or hitter.  In our case, we took the “best hitter”.  That guy isn’t supposed to continuously be as mediocre as Ackley has been.  Either he’s great, or he gets injured and we all sit around wondering “what if”.  Ackley has been nothing if not healthy, and he’s been sometimes intriguing, but most of all he’s been a complete failure.

The Mariners missed and missed big when they selected Dustin Ackley.  He not only prevented us from taking a better hitter, but he’s actively hurting us now with his sucking.  If he panned out – as the so-called best hitter in his class should have – we’d be looking at a monster lineup with him paired with Cano, Cruz, and Seager.  Instead, he’s one of our ever-growing cadre of black holes.  We can’t sit him, because we don’t have anyone better (depending on your opinion of Justin Ruggiano), we can’t trade him because we’ll get nothing in return, and we can’t cut him because – as I said before – we don’t have anyone better.  The bottom line in all of this is, while the Mariners are improving as a franchise, there are too many holes on this team for it to be a championship contender.  Dustin Ackley is a huge reason why there are as many holes as there are.  And, for that reason, I’m calling him our most disappointing draft pick in Seattle sports history.

The Key To Roster Building In The NFL

I’ll preface this by saying:  you can’t do anything without a quarterback.  That’s obvious.  Everyone knows it, so there’s really not even much point in bringing it up, except if you don’t bring it up, then wise-asses will come on here and tell me I forgot about the quarterback position.

There are all kinds of different types of quarterbacks that can win you a championship, as evidenced by the last decade or so of NFL champions.  Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady are going to go down as all-time greats.  Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger likely won’t.  Doesn’t mean they’re BAD; just means that no one is going to put them in their Top 10 All Time Greatest Quarterbacks list.

For the record, my picks:

  1. Joe Montana
  2. Tom Brady
  3. John Elway
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Dan Marino
  6. Steve Young
  7. Johnny Unitas
  8. Brett Favre
  9. Drew Brees
  10. Warren Moon

But, that’s neither here nor there.  The point is, the quarterback is crucial.  It’s too early to say where Russell Wilson will fall on that list, but I’d venture to say we’d still be ringless if he had to carry a team with an underperforming defense last season.

And that’s what the elite quarterback will afford you.  The elites – like Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Brees, etc. – can cover up for just a so-so defense.  Of course, the fact that all of those quarterbacks only have one championship apiece will tell you that a quarterback can’t do it by himself (and, truth be told, the years their respective teams won it all, their defenses weren’t that bad).

The more talent you have around your quarterback, the less perfect your quarterback has to be (hence why Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger both have two championships each).  But, the NFL has a salary cap, and teams have got to find a way to fit 53 players into that cap (plus a little extra to make up for injuries and such).  So, HOW you build around your quarterback is just about as important as the quarterback itself.

There isn’t exactly one specific way to run your team, but I’ll tell you this much:  you’re not going to get very far without a good defense.  That means one of two things:  elite pass rush, or elite secondary (or, ideally both).  Without really delving deep into things, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least half of NFL teams are pretty happy with their quarterbacks.  I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that at least half of the teams have a guy under center capable of winning it all (assuming everything breaks right and they have a good team around them).  So, you figure that at least half the time, your defense is going to face a pretty good quarterback.

Now, if you’re going to build a defense to combat all those pretty good-to-great quarterbacks, you’ve got to have one of the two aforementioned qualities:  an elite pass rush or an elite secondary.  It’s all about disrupting the quarterback’s timing and forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do.  If you’ve got the pass rush, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw early; if you’ve got the secondary, then odds are you’ll be able to force him to throw late (and hopefully give your adequate pass rush enough time to get home).  So, it would stand to reason that if you’re building your roster to win a championship, you’re going to focus the bulk of your defensive salary cap on edge rushers and/or the secondary.

What you DON’T want to do is start pumping a bunch of money down into your linebackers and interior linemen.  Unless that interior lineman is in the Cortez Kennedy/Warren Sapp mold, you’re probably overpaying.  You can find wide-bodies just about anywhere, on the cheap, no problem.  Ditto linebackers.  People will point to some of the quality guys like Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, and I will admit that those dudes are pretty awesome at what they do.  But, you know who else is pretty awesome?  Bobby Wagner.  He’s a second round pick making a fraction of what those guys are making and will make.  Bobby Wagner isn’t heralded in the least, but he’s still awesome.  And, I would venture that you can find a TON of Bobby Wagners in the draft, which will save you money in the long run over massive extensions for the Kuechlys of the world.

Take a look at the Seahawks.  We’ve pumped some serious money into Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, and soon we’ll devote a whole bunch more into Richard Sherman.  Pass rush & secondary.  Where are we finding savings?  How about three linebackers (Wagner, Wright, Smith) all drafted in the 2nd round or later, all still on rookie deals.  Now, the Seahawks MIGHT extend one or more of those guys when the time comes, but I bet they’ll be mid-range contracts that don’t kill our cap for years to come.

We’re also saving money on our interior line.  Brandon Mebane has a $5 million APY, and that leads the team on interior line spending.  Tony McDaniel is on a short-term, on-the-cheap deal, and the rest of our interior guys are on rookie contracts.

Of course, the Seahawks could always use a little more pass rush security.  Maybe Cliff Avril gets extended beyond this year.  Maybe we hit on someone in the draft.  Maybe we pick up another team’s cast-off.  Or, maybe we just try to hold the fort and steal another team’s outgoing free agent next year.

The point is:  pass rush & secondary = big money players.  Linebackers & interior linemen = savings.

On offense, the Seahawks have proven that a run-first model isn’t entirely out-dated.  Nevertheless, their spending in this area kinda sorta is.

Marshawn Lynch has the fourth-highest average per-year salary on the team (behind Harvin, Thomas, and Okung).  His contact runs out after the 2015 season.  Nobody really expects Lynch to see the final year of that deal as it’s currently configured, because nobody really expects Lynch to continue playing at the high level he’s been at the last three or four years.  Plus, there’s the whole issue with Russell Wilson getting his money after the 2014 season (when the team can negotiate an extension and finally pay him what he’s really worth).

As you can see from all the free agent deals for running backs this off-season, they’re not getting the kind of money they used to get even 10 years ago.  It sounds crazy when you think of someone like Chris Johnson, who can only get a 2-year deal; he was once the best runner in football and he’s NOT THAT OLD.  Same goes for these other guys.  What kind of a deal would Ben Tate have gotten even five years ago?  Now, he’s playing for peanuts, as is MJD, Darren McFadden, and every other running back who hits free agency.

Why is that?  Because teams are reluctant to go with the one-back system and instead opt for a By-Committee approach.  Because injuries are a son of a bitch.  And because all too often, a no-name guy from the back-end of the draft will enter the mix in the NFL and be just as good, if not better, than these over-paid mama’s boys (Trent Richardson) who somehow still get drafted high.

All of this tells me one thing:  you’re foolish if you’re pumping too much money into the running back position.

The Seahawks have the luxury of paying Marshawn Lynch a high salary because they’re paying next-to-nothing for Russell Wilson (and the quarterback position at large).  But, when Wilson’s commanding around $20 million per season, you’ve got to find ways to cut corners somewhere.  I would wager the Seahawks will pull some of that money out of the running back position (which is a shame, because everyone loves Marshawn Lynch with a passion).

It’ll be difficult, for the Seahawks more than others, because we DO rely on the run so much to make our offense go.  The run sets up the play-action pass.  The run keeps defenses honest.  The run also reduces the risk of turnovers, because if we’re successfully running the ball, then we’re not throwing as much.  If we’re not throwing as much, then we’re not throwing as many interceptions.  Bing, bang, boom.  So, the Seahawks can’t throw just any ol’ scrub in the backfield and expect to succeed.

To do what I advocate, you have to draft wisely and you have to draft often.  Finding value in a guy like Christine Michael (if he does, indeed, turn out to be the elite runner we all expect) will set us up for a good long while.  Yet, even if we were saddled with only Robert Turbin and whoever else via draft, I’d be content.

Because as long as you put value and talent into your offensive line, it really shouldn’t matter who you have at running back.

Under my system – which incidentally is the one the Seahawks have been using – you’ve got to have a great left tackle.  Russell Okung fits that mold.  He’s not quite Walter Jones, but then again, who is?  You SHOULD be able to cut corners a little bit on the guard spots, as long as you’ve got a great center.  The Seahawks have Max Unger, who is pretty terrific.  I’d like to see a breakdown of the best centers and how often they’re involved in lengthy playoff runs, because I think they’re WAY more important than most people give them credit for.

Under almost no circumstances should you be paying elite money to a guard.  Unless you know you’re getting someone like Hutch in his prime.  At which point, you should probably find a value center and make due with a so-so right tackle.  Obviously, you can’t pay everyone, but you should probably have at least two guys who are worthy of high-paying contracts.

If you’re a bad team, get that left tackle with a high draft pick.  There is ALWAYS an elite left tackle coming out in the draft.  So, if you have a high draft pick, make that guy your first priority.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a wonderful coach like Tom Cable, so try to get yourselves one of those.

The model isn’t perfect, obviously.  The Seahawks had two great linemen and a bunch of injuries last year and really struggled to protect the quarterback.  That’s where your QB comes into play.  You can put a crappy QB behind an elite O-Line and make some hay.  You probably won’t win many championships, but you can consistently make the playoffs.  The worse your O-Line is, though, the better your quarterback must be.  Russell Wilson probably isn’t an elite QB just yet, but he was good enough to make up for all the injuries and inconsistencies we suffered last year.

And, of course, that leads us to the passing game.  You can run the football all you want, but unless you can throw the ball when it counts, you’re not going to go all the way.  Ask Adrian Peterson about that, I’m sure he’s got some stories to tell.

Like I said at the top, you need the quarterback, but it helps if he has talent to throw to.

Some quarterbacks – like Brees, Peyton Manning, etc. – will turn any receiver into a 1,000 yard threat.  Others – I’m looking at you Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, etc. – need their receivers to elevate their games.

Andy Dalton would be a poor man’s Kyle Orton if he didn’t have A.J. Green.  Kaepernick was God-awful last year without Crabtree!  And Jay Cutler’s a fucking mess WITH guys like Brandon Marshall, but just imagine how terrible he’d be without him.

Now, say what you will about our receivers, but I think they’ve been pretty great.  And, until Percy Harvin came along, they’ve been relatively cheap as well.

Again, a great quarterback will make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I have no doubt that someone like Russell Wilson makes someone like Jermaine Kearse a better football player.  It’s tough to say what Kearse’s ceiling would be in an offense that passes as much as New Orleans or Green Bay, but I bet it would be higher than you’d think if you had someone like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees throwing the ball around 35 times a game.

Our offense doesn’t need to over-spend at the wide receiver position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.  If you can get someone like Percy Harvin, you probably should do it.  If you draft someone and he turns out to be the next Calvin Johnson, then you should probably do whatever it takes to keep him.

This can be a little tricky, because if your #1 receiver is making top quarterback money, AND if you happen to have one of those top quarterbacks, then you can get into a situation like they’ve got down in Detroit.  The Lions should probably worry about pumping their resources into an offensive line, or a secondary, to round out their team (and not, for instance, over-pay for someone like Golden Tate, but you didn’t hear that from me).

There are talented receivers out there in the draft and among the undrafted free agents, but you gotta be smart about it.  I would more than be in favor of an A-B-C salary structure for your top three receivers.  Your A-player gets the lion’s share, your B-player gets a healthy mid-level contract, and your C-player is probably a rookie or a young guy on a cheap deal.

In short, on offense, you’re going to want to pump a lot of money into the quarterback and the offensive line.  Stay away from overpaying running backs and tight ends (unless you’ve got one like Jimmy Graham that plays more like a wide receiver anyway).  And, just be smart about paying your receivers.  If you’re only going to throw 20-25 times per game, maybe don’t throw all your eggs into the receiver basket.  But, don’t leave the cupboard completely barren either.

The point of all of this is to say that the Seahawks are doing it the right way.  If you root for another team, and they happen to be struggling, then follow the money.  Where are their big-money contracts going?  Would they be better off putting that money elsewhere?  Are they making the same mistakes over and over?  Then, you might be a redneck Mariners fan, and get out of my brain.

The Importance Of Drafting “The Right Quarterback”

I was reading something about the Vikings last week.  As you may or may not know, they cleaned house over the last few weeks and are now looking to start over.  The GM was in place, but the head coach is brand new, and it looks like the quarterback position is going to get a once-over.  In this article I read, it was mentioned that they “need to find the right quarterback”.  I don’t know why, but that particular phrase stood out to me.

What is the “right quarterback”?  I would suggest it’s the quarterback that takes you to – and hopefully WINS – the Super Bowl.  Now, does it matter how you get that quarterback?  Actually, it does.

This latest Super Bowl is one of those rare exceptions of a game that didn’t feature a matchup of quarterbacks who were drafted by their respective teams.  Russell Wilson was, but Peyton Manning wasn’t.  In looking backward, you’ll notice a trend; among Super Bowl participants, the overwhelming majority drafted “the right quarterback” and rode him all the way to the end.

  • Baltimore/San Francisco – Yes/Yes
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes (technically no, but he was traded on Draft Day by San Diego)/Yes
  • Green Bay/Pittsburgh – Yes/Yes
  • New Orleans/Indianapolis – No/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Arizona – Yes/No
  • NY Giants/New England – Yes/Yes
  • Indianapolis/Chicago – Yes/Yes
  • Pittsburgh/Seattle – Yes/No
  • New England/Philadelphia – Yes/Yes

In the last ten Super Bowls, you’re looking at only 4 teams who didn’t draft their quarterbacks.  Three of those teams – Denver, Arizona, and New Orleans – picked up future Hall of Famers via free agency (the 2005 Seahawks, of course, had Hasselbeck, who we picked up in trade from Green Bay, where he was drafted while Holmgren was still their head coach).

So, when Minnesota talks about “finding the right quarterback”, they mean “drafting the right quarterback”.  And, since there’s no time like the present, you can expect them to draft one this May, in the hopes that they will have found the next Russell Wilson or Joe Flacco or Aaron Rodgers.

Obviously, the quarterback doesn’t do it all.  But, it’s next-to-impossible to get where you want to go without one.  That’s why we REALLY need to sit back and appreciate just how rare of a find Russell Wilson is.  I’m not even talking about the fact that he’s a 3rd round pick (though, that is amazing in and of itself); I’m just talking about the fact that the Seahawks found a quarterback of his calibre at all!

It’s absolutely no coincidence that the Seahawks finally won their first Super Bowl only after they found their franchise quarterback.  Dating back to the 1992 season (where free agency coalesced into the free agency we more-or-less know today), there have been only six Super Bowl winning teams that did NOT draft their quarterback:

  • 1994 49ers
  • 1996 Packers
  • 1999 Rams
  • 2000 Ravens
  • 2002 Bucs
  • 2009 Saints

Again, you’re talking about four of those teams who managed to pick up current or future Hall of Famers (Steve Young, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, & Drew Brees), with the other two teams featuring a couple of the best defenses of the last generation.  Literally anyone, living or dead, could have quarterbacked those 2000 Ravens to a Championship.

But, look at that!  16 of the last 22 NFL Champions somehow lucked into their quarterback via the draft.  And, just because I’m a glutton for punishment, I went back and checked out every single Super Bowl winner.  Of the 48 NFL Champions, 36 drafted their quarterbacks.  Among the notable champions who weren’t drafted by their Super Bowl-winning teams are Len Dawson and Johnny Unitas (both originally drafted by the Steelers of all teams), Jim Plunkett (twice a champion for the Raiders), Joe Theismann and Doug Williams (both champions with the Redskins).

I don’t know what the point of this post is, other than to emphasize how much of a crapshoot it all is.  When you’ve tried and failed to craft a championship football team for decades upon decades, it can really feel hopeless.  You tend to question every single move your team has ever made and every single move they make going forward.  Then, in an instant, all of that changes.  You don’t know it right away, of course; think back to where you were when Russell Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in April of 2012.  You surely didn’t think, “That’s it!  We’re going to win a Super Bowl within two years!”

Yet, here we are.  And, the best part?  When you win so early, there are always opportunities for multiple.  In looking back at past winners, you’ll notice a lot of repeating names:

  • Starr
  • Staubach
  • Griese
  • Bradshaw
  • Montana
  • Aikman
  • Elway
  • Brady
  • Roethlisberger
  • Eli Manning

Those ten quarterbacks account for over half (26) of the 48 Super Bowl champions.  Only Jim Plunkett has managed to win more than one Super Bowl while not being drafted by the team that won them.  I think that says a lot.  About how lucky the Seahawks are, for starters.  And about how important it is to find your guy and cultivate him from Day 1.  The right quarterback can immediately turn around a franchise.  That means recognizing what you have and not giving him away.  That means building around him to put him in the best position to succeed.

And that means, if you’re currently a franchise in need, don’t try to go for the quick fix by picking up some doofus off the street.  I can all but guarantee the Chiefs, for instance, will never win a championship with Alex Smith at the helm.  That says nothing of Smith’s abilities.  That’s just playing the percentages.  The only chance you have to succeed through free agency is to obtain a future Hall of Famer, and what are the odds of that?  As I said before, if you’re smart, you hang onto those guys for dear life.  So, in reality, you have to be EXTREMELY lucky.  Even luckier than you have to be to just draft the right guy in the first place.

Seattle Sports Hell NFL Power Rankings, Vol. 9

Steve Young comparisons.  You know I love ’em!

Actually, no, no I don’t.  See, Steve Young is, for some reason, considered The Greatest Running Quarterback of All Time.  Not necessarily because he was the greatest RUNNER, but because he was the greatest QUARTERBACK who also happened to run a lot.  He’s the quarterback all these other guys – Cam Newton, RGIII, Vince Young, Michael Vick, Russell Wilson – are compared to.  And it’s all fucking bogus.

It’s idiotic to call Steve Young a running quarterback, first of all, because he wasn’t.  He was a quarterback, first and foremost.  He’s 25th all time in passing yards with 33,124.  You generally don’t pass for those kinds of yards if your primary weapon is your legs; it just doesn’t happen.

What I think is a better indicator of a quarterback’s abilities is Completion Percentage.  Steve Young ranks 7th all time, with 64.3% of his passes completed.  He led the league in completion percentage in 5 of his 15 years!  He had the 4th highest all time single-season completion percentage back in 1994 with 70.3%.  He has two of the top ten single-game performances with regard to completion percentage.

You wouldn’t call Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger or Brett Favre “running quarterbacks”.  Yet, this is the company Steve Young keeps.  Among the all time greats up and down the list of stats for quarterbacks.  You name it, he’s up there.

As far as his running is concerned, he only had one season where he ran for over 500 yards.  That season (1992) only ranks 22nd on the all time list for quarterbacks.  He averaged less than 300 rushing yards per season.  Maybe compared to some stiffs like Dan Marino or Peyton Manning that sounds like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, 300 yards in a season isn’t something you’re basing an offense around.  Other teams weren’t game-planning around stopping Steve Young the rusher.  They wanted to see if there was some way to slow down his ability to hit open receivers in stride!

I assure you, his offensive coordinators weren’t developing running plays for Steve Young to carry the load.  Not like they’ve done for Vick or Newton or RGIII.  My hunch is, most of Young’s yards came when a play broke down and he had a wide-open running lane.  In that sense, yeah, it’s nice to have a Steve Young back there:  a guy who will throw for over 30,000 yards in his career, but also someone who can run for the occasional first down if need be.

That doesn’t make him a running quarterback, though!  Not by the definition these other running quarterbacks are defined.  No one is calling John Elway a “running quarterback”, when in reality he ran for less than 1,000 yards LESS than Steve Young over his career.  Tell me those two guys aren’t similar in a lot of ways.

Do I want Russell Wilson to be the next Steve Young?  Hell yes!  But, not because I think his 300 rushing yards per year will be all that spectacular.  I want him to be the next Steve Young in the sense that I want him to throw for between 30,000 and 40,000 yards and make the Hall of Fame!  I don’t need a guy who can run the Read Option.  I need a guy who can throw a 25-yard seam route.

  1. Houston Texans (8-1):  That’s a very good Chicago team they just beat.  The NFC might have gotten more muddied this past weekend, but the AFC appears to be a 1-horse race as long as certain quarterbacks and running backs stay healthy.  (Last Week:  2)
  2. Atlanta Falcons (8-1):  They lost, on the road, to a divisional opponent, against a Hall of Fame quarterback still in his prime.  And they BARELY lost at that.  The Falcons are still the class of the NFC so far, but registration is filling up fast.  (Last Week:  1)
  3. Chicago Bears (7-2):  The Bears lose, but they stay the 3rd best team in the NFL.  Their stock should plummet, however, if Cutler is forced to miss time.  (Last Week:  3)
  4. San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1):  Yikes.  A loss at home to the Rams could’ve opened up the floodgates.  As it stands, a tie puts a crimp in their chances for a First Round BYE.  I like this team to right the ship, but if Alex Smith is forced to miss significant time, that opens the door wide open for the Seahawks.  Who saw that sentence coming before last season?  (Last Week:  4)
  5. Green Bay Packers (6-3):  Four of their last seven games are on the road.  All of those games are against tough opponents (Det, NYG, Chi, Min).  They’ll likely need to win out at home with one more road win to nab a playoff spot.  I don’t see why they couldn’t do that.  (Last Week:  6)
  6. Baltimore Ravens (7-2):  Oh, you killed the Oakland Raiders?  That must make you a rough-and-tumble band of misfits.  I am SO not buying the Ravens to do anything better than 2nd seed in the playoffs followed by a quick exit.  (Last Week:  7)
  7. New England Patriots (6-3):  This defense is really pathetic.  I mean REALLY pathetic!  They were supposed to destroy Buffalo and they barely squeaked out of there.  This team will continue to win as long as it can score 35+ points a game, but does anyone see this team being able to do that every week in the playoffs?  (Last Week:  8)
  8. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3):  Quarterbacks dropping like flies this weekend!  Enjoy your Top 10 ranking while you can, Steelers, because as long as Big Ben is out, you can kiss that and playoff certainty goodbye.  (Last Week:  9)
  9. Denver Broncos (6-3):  Is there any doubt about why Manning chose Denver over seemingly every other suitor?  Look at the second half of this schedule!!!  The final 8 games:  @Car, SD, @KC, Tam, @Oak, @Bal, Cle, KC.  Is there anyway Denver DOESN’T go 7-1 in those games?  Holy crap will the hype machine be on overdrive come playoff time.  (Last Week:  10)
  10. New York Giants (6-4):  That’s right, it’s all going according to plan.  Start out red hot, lose two games going into the BYE week, have everyone killing themselves as they jump off the bandwagon, tread water by going 2-2 out of the BYE, then turn it on the final two weeks to end up 10-6 and practically assured you never have to step foot in your home stadium come playoff time after the Wild Card round.  Excellent … (Last Week:  5)
  11. Seattle Seahawks (6-4):  We could be as good as 9-1 (having blown those games against Arizona, St. Louis, and Detroit), or we could be as bad as 3-7 (had things shaken out differently against Carolina, New England, and Green Bay).  Personally, I couldn’t be happier with our 6-4 start.  We’re a half game behind Green Bay for the 5-seed and we’re not that far off the division lead.  I really like our chances for making the playoffs.  (Last Week:  11)
  12. Indianapolis Colts (6-3):  Look, this isn’t a good team, all right?  This is an OK team that is currently on a 4-game winning streak because they’ve played four consecutive shitty teams (Cle, Ten, Mia, Jax).  Obviously, you can’t discount them entirely, because they did beat Green Bay.  Due to their good fortune of being in a cupcake division (minus Houston, obvs), it’s highly likely they’ll at least contend for that final playoff spot.  Considering they don’t play Houston until week 15, with a rematch in week 17, you have to wonder:  will Houston be playing for ANYTHING at that point?  Something to consider as you pencil in your playoff predictions.  (Last Week:  12)
  13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4):  Boy, would I like to see this team play New England this season!  They might surpass 100 points combined and break the sound barrier doing so.  (Last Week:  14)
  14. Minnesota Vikings (6-4):  How jealous do you think Vikings fans are of Seahawks fans right now?  We’ve only got one front-running team in our division.  The Vikings have two AND they’ve lost head-to-head matchups against Seattle & Tampa.  This could be the most meaningless 6-4 team you’ve ever seen unless they figure out a way to win their final six games.  (Last Week:  16)
  15. Dallas Cowboys (4-5):  Welp, they won a game they had to win, and killed the Eagles franchise in the process.  Pretty good week to be a Cowboys fan.  (Last Week:  17)
  16. Cincinnati Bengals (4-5):  Welp, they won a game they had to win, and knocked the Giants back a peg or two.  Pretty good week to be a Cowboys fan.  (Last Week:  19)
  17. New Orleans (4-5):  Welp, they won a game they had to win, and removed Atlanta from the ranks of the unbeatens.  Pretty good week to be a 1972 Dolphins fan.  (Last Week:  23)
  18. Miami Dolphins (4-5):  A red-hot, 4-3 Dolphins team has lost two straight, most recently to a VERY inept Titans team.  Looks like the Dolphins might be who we thought they were, it just took a little longer to recognize that fact.  (Last Week:  13)
  19. Detroit Lions (4-5):  Dribbling that game against the Vikings away after their 2-game winning streak has all-but-destroyed their playoff chances.  With their brutal schedule going forward (2 against GB, Hou, Atl, Chi), consider the Lions frisky but done.  (Last Week:  15)
  20. Washington Redskins (3-6):  I have absolutely nothing to say about the Redskins.  (Last Week:  18)
  21. San Diego Chargers (4-5):  Remember when Philip Rivers was awesome and Chargers fans were convinced they’d won that trade with the Giants?  And then remember how Eli won two Super Bowls and Philip Rivers became a turnover machine?  (Last Week:  20)
  22. St. Louis Rams (3-5-1):  You had so many chances to win that game!  SO MANY CHANCES!  Now you’ve got a tie that will all but guarantee you last place in the NFC West.  Congrats.  (Last Week:  21)
  23. Tennessee Titans (4-6):  Yeah, you beat the Dolphins, BFD.  (Last Week:  27)
  24. Arizona Cardinals (4-5):  Four of their final seven are on the road.  They might have the toughest remaining schedule in the league (Atl, StL, Jets, Sea, Det, Chi, SF).  It’s POSSIBLE they become the first team in history to win their first four games and go on to lose their final 12.  (Last Week:  22)
  25. Oakland Raiders (3-6):  Just a mess.  Just an absolute mess.  (Last Week:  24)
  26. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6):  Ditto.  (Last Week:  25)
  27. Buffalo Bills (3-6):   Ditto again.  (Last Week:  28)
  28. Cleveland Browns (27):  Ditto once more.  (Last Week:  26)
  29. New York Jets (3-6):  Ye gods!  (Last Week:  29)
  30. Carolina Panthers (2-7):  What happened???  (Last Week:  30)
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8):  One pitiful performance on Thursday night.  I would watch the MLS full time before I became a fan of this team.  (Last Week:  31)
  32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-8):  Well, you came ever-so-close to beating the Steelers last night.  Then again, you knocked out Big Ben and couldn’t figure out a way to beat Byron Leftwich?  You deserve your ranking.  (Last Week:  32)

#24 – Marcus Trufant

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2012, click here.

I’m going to feel pretty stupid about this list when Marcus Trufant is waived before the regular season (or goes down with a season-ending injury before the end of September), but I’m like only 30% confident that’s going to happen.

So, I’m trying REALLY hard to temper my expectations about this season.  I want so bad for the Seahawks to be amazing, mostly because I’m being spoonfed a daily dose of mayonnaise-flavored salt water that is the Seattle Mariners.  Partly because it’s been so damn long since I’ve looked forward to a season where I could realistically expect something in the way of playoff success.  Not that I’m necessarily expecting playoff success THIS upcoming season, but I want to expect it.  Really fucking badly!

This team is young.  It’s impossibly young.  Teams this young don’t just blindly make the leap from 7-9 to 12-4 overnight.  Teams this young suffer growing pains.  Especially when you’re looking at a quarterback position that’s so up-in-the-air.  My nausea that Tarvaris Jackson will win the starting job in Training Camp is bordering on outright psychosis.  At least with Flynn, I can hope and dream of a competent leader taking us to heretofore unexpected heights.  With Tarvar, I know EXACTLY what I can expect:  a 7-9 season and a gun in my mouth.

But, that’s neither here nor there.  Even if Flynn wins the job, I have to realize that 2012 PROBABLY isn’t going to be our year.  Best-case scenario, if everything goes right, then Flynn gets us into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, we win our first playoff game on the road, then we go into Green Bay or New York and get totally shut down.  That might sound like a bit of a disappointment, but really it’s the most logical step.  Teams on the rise – especially young teams on the rise – tend to get shut down on their initial quest for Super Bowl Glory.  The Holmgren Seahawks lost in back-to-back years to the Packers and Rams before finally making the jump in the 2005 season.  In fact, most prominent teams – from the Manning-led Colts to the Young-led 49ers to the Favre-led Packers – suffered early playoff defeats before making the push to the summit.  I would expect no different from this Carroll-led Seahawks team, no matter who’s at quarterback.  If they’re meant to go to the Super Bowl, then they’re going to have to take their lumps.  If they could get a jumpstart on those lumps by making it to the Divisional Round in 2012, all the better.

Now, that’s BEST case scenario.  Obviously, this team could very well finish 7-9, or they could finish 4-12.  You just never know.  Injuries could happen.  Their schedule could end up being brutally hard (who expected the Bengals last year to be a playoff team?).  Matt Flynn could be a total and complete bust.

But, one thing I think we’re all pretty confident about is the defense.  It’s young, it’s hungry, it’s coming off of a 2011 season where they made some waves.  And now, the core is back, a year older, a year wiser, and ready to leap to the fore of the NFL.

Our strongest element going into 2012 is our secondary.  We probably haven’t been able to say that ’round these parts since the mid-80s with Kenny Easley, Dave Brown & Eugene Robinson at the helm.  This year, we have Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Brandon Browner.  All are very talented, all are very young, and all have amazing size at a position normally lacking.  Whereas most teams counter the likes of Larry Fitzgerald with 5’11, 185 pound weaklings; we can throw 6’3, 200 pound grown-ass men his way!

Of course, the secondary wouldn’t be our strongest element without depth.  Leading the depth charge (zing!) is one Marcus Trufant.  An erstwhile starter just last year at this time (before his injury gave us the revelation that is Sherman and Browner), Trufant may be on the downside of his career, but I don’t think he’s done.  In fact, as a nickel/reserve type cornerback, I think he probably still has 2-3 good years left.  You don’t want him as your every-down corner, but in spot duty, in third down situations, I think he’s perfect.  He’s a leader, he’s got smarts that will compensate for any steps he may have lost in the speed department, and I think he’s still hungry.  I think he’s got something to prove and I think he wants to show the fans, the coaching staff, his teammates and himself that he can still do this at an elite level.

Good young teams on the rise need guys like Marcus Trufant.  You can’t go all young all the time.  You need veterans on your roster who will not only produce – so they can be taken seriously by the younger guys trying to take their jobs – but will provide stability and calm in those intense situations.  Late in the fourth quarter, you absolutely MUST get a stop, the other team is driving … players like Marcus Trufant, that’s when they have to step up and take some of the load off.  A crucial interception, a timely forced fumble, a hard tackle short of the first down line.

While I’m trying to temper my expectations, it’s hard to, because this team seemingly has all the pieces.  A young, hungry defense with JUST ENOUGH veteran leadership to keep us honest.  An All Pro running back running behind an offensive line with a genius as its coach in Tom Cable.  A receiving corps when, if healthy, could honestly surprise a lot of teams.  A talented, heady young QB who is ready to grab hold of a starting job after being a backup for so long.  A GM and head coach with winning pedigrees.  It would be nice to see that best-case scenario take hold.  So we can go into NEXT season with a very real, honest expectation to go back to the Super Bowl.

For that to happen, guys like Marcus Trufant need to keep up their part of the bargain.  Help the young guys improve, and take on some of the burden of holding this team afloat in a season of transition.  Considering secondary seems to be the most frustratingly injury-prone position on our team each and every season (see:  2012, Walter Thurmond), I don’t think it’s possible to have ENOUGH depth.  If that depth turns out to be of quality thanks to Trufant, all the better.

What Should The Seahawks Draft? – Quarterback

This one is a tricky one for me to wrap my head around.  I’d almost rather we totally tank, get the number one pick for NEXT year’s draft, and take the Andrew Luck Train all the way to multiple championships.  In which case, my previous point about bolstering the offensive line is pretty apt; better to have the solid O-line in place for the new quarterback than to get the new quarterback and watch him get killed season after season while you try to piecemeal some protection around his fragile, inexperienced body.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID, really, we REALLY can’t keep putting this off.  REALLY!  Good teams have succession plans in place, so they can seamlessly transition from over-the-hill veteran to rising superstar tenderfoot.  Green Bay has been the NFL’s how-to manual in this regard with their Favre to Rodgers switch.  New England also hit the jackpot in going from Bledsoe to Brady.  San Francisco may have had the best quarterback hierarchy in history going from Montana to Young.

Of course, those teams are in the extreme minority.  Most of the time, teams wait too long with their veteran quarterbacks.  The more Hall of Fame-worthy they are, the longer they’re forced to wait for their legend to retire.  Oftentimes, the retirement comes all at once, with no plan whatsoever in place (see:  Elway, Marino, Esiason, Jim Kelly).  Those teams, for all intents and purposes, have never recovered from their all pro field generals; they’re still waiting for the quarterback transition to gain traction where the new guys start leading the teams to victory again.  Sometimes this takes many, many tries.

So, yeah, we can’t keep putting this off or else we’ll lose Hasselbeck and won’t have anyone good to replace him!  We’ll struggle to .500 records like we did all through the 90s, maybe we’ll take a flier on a hall of fame vet on his very last legs (like we did with Warren Moon), we’ll stick with an underachiever for too long because – in comparison to all the other stiffs we draft in that time – he looks the best (like we did with Jon Kitna).  I don’t want to go through the 90s again with my football team.  Because I don’t have the 90s Sonics to fall back on when NFL standings get me down.

That’s the immovable object in this whole equation.  Now, onto the unstoppable force:

Drafting a quarterback might as well be like playing the Lotto!  How could you possibly know which guy is the right guy?  Who could’ve seen Tom Brady coming?  What made Donovan McNabb a success while Akili Smith was a bust?  Why is Eli Manning a Super Bowl calibre guy while Joey Harrington is a flag football calibre guy?  Who’s going to be the huge talent with the biggest gun while simultaneously being the biggest headcase with a huge appetite for donuts?

I hate this.  I hate drafting quarterbacks higher than the 4th round.  The higher the round, the more expectations.  If they don’t come out of the box on fire, then fans get antsy and the quarterbacks themselves start to press and struggle.  If you go to all the trouble of drafting a quarterback in the first round, AND they suck, there’s always going to be incentive to keep giving them chance after chance after chance.  Hell, look at the professional arc of Ryan Leaf’s career; that’s really all you need to know.

On the plus side, teams seem to be getting better at drafting their higher end QBs.  Guys like Flacco, Ryan, Stafford, and Bradford are starting right out of the gate and producing at a high level.  Rookies are making playoff appearances and getting wins!

This begs the question, though:  did they just get lucky, or are teams REALLY drafting better?  We’ll find out this year.  It’s looking like a supremely DOWN year at the position.  I’m not buying Cam Newton for one buttfucking second.  Jake Locker is looking an awful lot like a faster version of Charlie Whitehurst.  The other guys all have their flaws and I think this year’s draft will be lucky to see one team actually get its “Quarterback of the Future” and have that future be anything but ass-sucking.

We draft at spot number 25.  Granted:  that’s right around where Rodgers went.  Will the next Aaron Rodgers fall in this year’s draft like he did in his?  If so, then In Schneider I Trust.  If not, this is NOT the year to start reaching for a “project”.  I’ve seen too damn many projects in my day.  Ever since Dave Krieg went down for the count, I’ve seen nothing but projects, game managers, and Matt Hasselbeck!  I want more!  And dammit, I DESERVE more!