A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Seahawks Lose Bruce Irvin

I won’t be writing posts about every Seahawks player who signs with another team, but I feel exceptions should be made for a former first round pick (15th overall) who has been a regular contributor all four years and a starter for the last three (give or take).

This is just a simple case of Can’t Keep Everybody, plain and simple.  The Seahawks have so much money tied to players already on contract, with huge chunks going to our star players.  I mean, look at these cap hits for 2016:

  • Russell Wilson – over $18 million
  • Richard Sherman – over $14 million
  • Earl Thomas – nearly $10 million
  • Jimmy Graham – $9 million
  • Michael Bennett – $7 million (for now)

And so on and so forth.  When you add to that the fact that so many other teams have so much money to throw around, it’s plain to see that the Seahawks are going to be losing some guys.  Bruce Irvin is one of those unfortunate casualties.

I’m pretty high on Irvin; I have been for a long time.  He was noted as one of the best pure pass rushers coming out of the 2012 draft, and I believe that to be a fitting description.  He came out of the box with 8 sacks as a rookie, but he was a little undersized to play defensive end (see:  the loss to the Falcons in the playoffs in 2012, after we lost Chris Clemons to injury).  His 2013 season was one of transition as the team moved him to linebacker, but he re-hit his stride in 2014 and 2015 as a linebacker with heavy pass rushing responsibilities.  He’s athletic as all get-out, which is why the transition was such a success, and I feel like he’s got a long and fruitful career ahead of him.  Even if he ends up losing a step in his advancing years and/or puts on a little more weight, you can just put him back on the line as a defensive end, and he should be able to continue being awesome.

Now, you may be thinking, “Well, if he was so great, why didn’t the Seahawks find a way to keep him?”  And that’s valid.  The whole Can’t Keep Everybody thing is true, but if he was REALLY a priority for the Seahawks, they would’ve shuffled some other players out, shuffled some money around, and figured out a way to keep him here.  That’s just a fact.  If nothing else, they could have used their 5th Year Option on him before last season and at least guaranteed that he’d be here in 2016, allowing us an extra year to get a long-term deal done.

With Bruce Irvin, I’ll never use the word “bust” to describe him, because he was a talented and vital cog in our defense.  But, I think the team and the fans had different expectations for a guy drafted in the middle of the first round.  A guy being touted as the best pass rusher in the draft (or, at least one of the best 2 or 3 when he came out).  For starters, while the Seahawks were the ones touting him that high, the rest of the football universe saw Bruce Irvin as a reach.  Many had a 2nd round grade on him, but I don’t know if that was more for character concerns than actual talent levels.  Either way, as it started to come out that teams like the Jets and various others were thinking about either moving up to grab him, or take him if he fell to their spots in the first round, the sentiment on that draft choice started to slowly change.  And, when you factor in his 8 sacks as a rookie, it might have been reasonable to think we had a phenom on our hands.

Part of what I’m going to call his regression had to do with the Seahawks being stacked across the board in 2013.  They didn’t really have the time or the opportunity to bring him along slowly.  The Seahawks brought in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to join Chris Clemons as the team’s primary pass rushing defensive ends.  With Irvin’s limitations in the run game exposed as a rookie, the team obviously wasn’t going to give up on him, so they did what they thought was best for the team, and that was converting him to strong-side linebacker.  That obviously cut into his opportunities to get after the quarterback, and his sack totals suffered accordingly.  Not that he didn’t contribute in other ways, but when you draft a guy 15th overall as a defensive end/pass rusher, you expect more than the 6 sacks per year that he averaged over the last two years of his deal.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best years are still ahead of him.  I think good pass rushing defensive ends age like a fine wine as they gain more experience and learn different techniques to use against offensive linemen.  And, quite frankly, I think if Irvin had been given a chance to work out his craft exclusively as a defensive end, we would’ve seen better numbers out of him.  But, if that would’ve cost us someone like Avril or Bennett, or if it would’ve cost us our Super Bowl championship in 2013, obviously I’m going to agree with what the Seahawks decided to do.

By all accounts, the Oakland Raiders – with Ken Norton Jr. as their defensive coordinator – have brought him in on a huge deal (makes sense, since they had a ton of money to spend).  I think he’s going to be a good player for them for a good many years.  They may ultimately wind up winning the free agency period of this offseason with the moves they’re making.

As for the Seahawks, in keeping with the Can’t Keep Everybody philosophy, I’ll add one more:  you Can’t Pay All Your Linebackers.  Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are counting over $12 million against our cap this year combined.  Throwing a third big money linebacker into that stew would too closely resemble the travesty that were the later Tim Ruskell years, when he gave big money deals to Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill, and Julian Peterson.  It’s just unnecessary!  The Seahawks could re-sign Mike Morgan, pay him next to nothing, and put him right into the starting lineup without missing much of a beat.  We’ve still got KPL, who’s got the speed to play weakside linebacker, which could push K.J. Wright to the strong side.  And, we’ve got any number of draft picks to play around with.  You’re telling me we can’t find the next K.J. Wright in the 4th or 5th round this year?  Please!

Losing Bruce Irvin is the end of a fun era.  The sky was the limit as far as his potential was concerned, and it’s always fun to dream.  While he may not have lived up to our original expectations, I’m more impressed with the way he adapted and made the most out of a difficult situation.  He very easily could have taken that position-switch as a demotion and sulked about it forever.  He very easily could have simply never adjusted or been able to learn the position of linebacker, making him an athlete without a home.  But, he put in the work, he learned the position, and he played well enough to garner significant interest from across the league, parlaying that into a big money deal.  Best of all?  He’s in the AFC, and for the most part out of our hair.  The last thing I want to see is Bruce Irvin making us pay for not keeping him.

Still, though, it’s bittersweet.  That 2012 draft class will go down in history as the best ever for the Seahawks, despite what Bleacher Report thought at the time.  Bruce Irvin, first round, defensive end turned starting linebacker.  Bobby Wagner, second round, starting middle linebacker, All Pro.  Russell Wilson, third round, starting quarterback, Pro Bowler.  Robert Turbin, fourth round, backup running back.  Jaye Howard, fourth round, defensive tackle & productive starter for the Chiefs.  Jeremy Lane, sixth round, backup/nickel cornerback (potential starter starting this year).  J.R. Sweezy, seventh round, starting right guard all four years.

I want to come back, after all their new contracts get finalized, and see just how much money this class is going to be making on their second deals.  Aside from Turbin – who was truly a solid backup, but ultimately is nobody’s starter – we’re talking about six guys who should all make significant money!  In one draft class!  That’s fucking incredible!

And, unfortunately, a lot of those guys will be making that money for other teams.  End of an era indeed.

My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

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

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

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Day 3, Seahawks Draft Other Guys

There was a brief smattering of reports that the Seahawks might trade up to the very top of the fourth round.  It was an exciting way to kick off the final day of the NFL Draft, except when you looked at the fact that the Seahawks only had two possible picks they could’ve traded this year (one being that one at the end of the 4th), which would’ve meant that we would’ve had to give up a player and/or future picks.  Ultimately, nothing happened (thank Christ), and we stuck with the picks we had.

  • Terry Poole (4th Round, OL)
  • Mark Glowinski (4th Round, OL)
  • Tye Smith (5th Round, CB)
  • Obum Gwacham (6th Round, DE)
  • Kristjan Sokoli (6th Round, OL)
  • Ryan Smith-Murphy (7th Round, S)

Poole was a tackle in college who is being groomed to compete for our starting left guard position.  In theory, he can play any position – including center – so it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

Glowinski is a guard who could probably play either guard spot (or, again, maybe even center).  The Seahawks are going to give him a shot at competing for right guard (but, with Sweezy already pretty locked in there, it seems like Glowinski is being groomed to either be Sweezy’s replacement, or to be a general backup on the line).

Sokoli (if you’ll permit me to skip a few picks), was a defensive tackle in college.  He’s another convert a la Sweezy.  They’re going to try him out at center, but you gotta figure he could play any of the guard positions as well.

This day went HEAVY on the heavy guys.  That’s pretty good to see.  Okung is still around, but he’s a free agent after the 2015 season.  Same thing for Sweezy.  At the moment, we’ve got Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre battling for the center position, so it’s always nice to have more competition in the ranks.  Alvin Bailey is a career backup who will be competing exclusively for the left guard spot.  You don’t want to just hand over the position to someone without at least kicking the tires on a few others.

The point is, the Seahawks were quite thin along the offensive line.  Many projected it to be our greatest need coming into the draft.  Many were disappointed we didn’t go after someone on the second day of the draft, but it is what it is.  The Seahawks picked up three freakishly athletic guys who will be able to compete right away for starting jobs.  The Seahawks also got three guys who should be able to move around along the line.  If Okung gets injured, Bailey or Poole could kick outside and we should be fine.  If Sweezy goes down, Poole or Glow or Bailey could line up over there.  That’s something you gotta have, because when was the last time the Seahawks had the same offensive line for a full season without any injuries?  2005?  It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Tye Smith fills a need at the cornerback slot.  With Jeremy Lane injured (and probably set to miss extensive time in the regular season), and with Byron Maxwell now playing for the Eagles, the Seahawks have some real work to do.  Cary Williams was picked up in free agency, so at least we’ve got some veteran experience opposite of Sherman.  We also still have Tharold Simon who will be in his third year.  If he’s going to make the jump to everyday starter, this will be the year.  Marcus Burley is still around as a nickel guy.  Tye Smith figures to get a chance at being an outside corner, but failing that we could still see him in on some nickel packages.  He’s a good press corner – which is what we do in this defense – so here’s to hoping he proves his worth quickly and we don’t get stuck relying on Cary Williams too much.

Obum Gwacham (pronounced O-Boom) is the consummate raw project.  As a rookie, he probably tops out as a special teamer.  But, with his speed, his height, and his tools, if he picks up the game and runs with it, he could be an effective pass rusher at some point down the line.  If I had to guess, he either lands on the Practice Squad and/or the Injured Reserve for the first two years of his career.  If he makes the team any earlier than that, then you have to figure we might just have something great on our hands.

Ryan Smith-Murphy is a 6’3 Safety out of Oregon State.  We picked him late in the 7th round because it was always going to be difficult for this team to sign a quality safety as an undrafted free agent.  That’s what these 7th round picks are for.  We do have room for another backup safety, so he’ll go in there to compete, but it’s hard to really project anything on a 7th rounder.  Still, every year there’s at least a couple undrafted guys who make the team.  If he’s special, he’ll find a way to stick.  If he’s REALLY special, we may have found another Kam Chancellor-type.

The Seahawks filled a lot of needs in this draft.  Pass rush, wide receiver, and offensive line being the top three.  Of course, we won’t know how to properly grade this draft for at least a couple years, but this one feels like the best draft we’ve had since 2012, which comes just in the nick of time.  If Clark stays out of trouble, he could be a great one.  I already expect Lockett to be a solid receiver for us for a long time.  Our offensive line needs were addressed by guys who Tom Cable should have ready to start right away if need be.  We picked up a corner who this team should be able to coach up.  And, we got some athletic prospects towards the bottom who have high ceilings if everything breaks right.

When you’re the Seahawks, and you’re constantly drafting near the bottom of every round, you’ve got to take chances to stand out.  Tim Ruskell’s Seahawks would’ve selected the guys with the fewest red flags.  He would’ve made the safest picks, the guys with low ceilings but higher floors, ultimately spinning the wheels of mediocrity.  John Schneider takes chances because he wants to find greatness in the later rounds.  Sure, some of his picks might flame out spectacularly, but when he hits on guys, they tend to hit pretty big.  If you can find players late in rounds who are capable of cracking THIS roster – which is already at an elite level – then you know you’ve done your job.

I’m starting to get really excited for Training Camp again.  Good work, Seahawks.

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

The situation:  Number 1 seed from Seattle in a do-or-die game against a bottom-feeder in the playoffs.

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

I won’t rehash the specifics, nor will I pull the iconic photo/video, as I’m sure any of you around at the time must be picturing the giant’s massive hands clutching the basketball while laying on the court, laughing maniacally.  I’ll just say this:  in 1994, the Seattle Supersonics were the consensus Best Team In The NBA (thanks to Michael Jordan “retiring”).  And, with that defeat, the Seattle Supersonics became the first Number 1 seed to ever lose to a Number 8 seed.  While that feat has happened a number of times since then, everyone will always remember the first time.  That’s just the way it works.  Dikembe Mutombo may or may not ever be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll always be remembered for this achievement.

The 1993/1994 Supersonics weren’t the best squad in team history, but you could argue that the 1994 playoffs were our best chance at winning an NBA title in my lifetime (dating back to 1981).  We had a 2-year window without Michael Jordan lurking in the Eastern Conference.  We blew year-one of that window in spectacular fashion.

As a fan of Seattle sports teams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my insecurities.  The Sonics teams from 1993 thru 1998 were some of the best teams in the league.  In the 1993 playoffs, we reached the Western Conference Finals as a 3-seed, only to get screwed out of our shot at a championship by the refs in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns.  In 1994, we had the best record in the NBA by five games over second place.  In 1995, we had the 4-seed and again lost in the first round (though, admittedly, that team was pretty flawed).  In 1996, we were back to being the best in the Western Conference, our regular season record only overshadowed by the record-setting Bulls who went 72-10.  We would go on to lose in the Finals that year to those very same Bulls, and I’ll go to my grave believing that was the greatest team in NBA history.  In 1997, the Sonics were a 2-seed in the West, losing to the Rockets in the semis, 4-3.  Finally, in 1998, the Sonics were again a 2-seed in the West, losing to Shaq and the Lakers in 5 games in the semis.

That was the entirety of our championship window.  It was a spectacular six seasons, with the Sonics going 357-135 (that’s an average record of 59.5-22.5 per season).  The Sonics fired George Karl after that 1997/1998 season and fell into a death spiral shortly after.  And, what did we have to show for it?  Two oustings in the first round, two defeats in the second round, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a meager six games in the NBA Finals (with only two Finals victories).  Until these Seahawks teams under Pete Carroll came around, those were the greatest teams I’d ever rooted for in my lifetime.  And, yet, a lot of flukey shit led to that championship window closing without a dent in the history books.

***

The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

The situation:  Team from Seattle with the best-ever regular season record in a do-or-die game against a team that won 21 fewer games that year.

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

The result:  A 12-3 defeat to lose the series in five games.

I’ll give you that this isn’t really apples to apples when compared to the heartbreak of having a #1 seed lose to a #8 seed; but, we’re talking about the greatest regular season record in MLB history!  116 wins!  The second place team in the AL West – Oakland – won over 100 games and was FOURTEEN games back in the standings!

The Mariners had a championship window from 1995-2003.  In that time, we had four playoff appearances, losing in the ALCS three times and losing in the ALDS once.  In this 9-year window, there were two losing seasons and three other winning seasons where the Mariners DIDN’T make the playoffs (including back-to-back 93-win seasons where we were nipped by superior Athletics teams).

Baseball’s a different beast than most other sports.  It requires enduring success through a too-long regular season, followed by a hot spurt through a large handful of post-season games.  In the NBA, the best team almost always wins it all, thanks to the sheer number of teams granted admission into the playoffs and the number of games they’re supposed to play in every round.  In baseball, all you have to do is make it in and let the chips fall where they may.  The best team DOESN’T always win in MLB, that’s what you gotta remember.

The 2001 Mariners were the best team in franchise history, hands down.  And yet, they were made into mincemeat by the Yankees, who were “built for the post-season”.

Like the Sonics before them, this championship window by the Mariners closed with a whimper.  There hasn’t been a playoff team for the Mariners SINCE 2001.  While many believe 2015 will be the beginning of another Mariners championship window, that still remains to be seen.  162 games need to be played, against some fierce AL West competition.  So, we’ll see.

***

The Seahawks play the Panthers on January 10, 2015.  The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, and a consensus favorite to reach the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots of the AFC.  The Panthers are just the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.  They defeated an injury-plagued Cardinals team in the first round.

Why am I worried about this game?  It’s the same reason why I SHOULD have been worried about the ’94 Nuggets and the 2001 Yankees.  Truth be told, that Nuggets series was my first real taste of the brutality that is being a sports fan.  There’s A LOT of heartache for not that much elation.  As a 13 year old basketball fan just starting to garner interest in the sport and follow it with some knowledge of the game, I was probably overwhelmingly confident in the Sonics going all the way.  Having the rug ripped out from under me was the start of a long, painful decline into the twisted wizard you see before you.  Until the Seahawks threw off the shackles I’d had wrapped around my mind in last year’s Super Bowl, I would go into these types of games EXPECTING to lose.  And, honestly, that feeling never really goes away.  I’m an abused pet living with new, kinder owners.  They’ve proven to be caring, loving people, but at the same time I still wince whenever an arm or a voice is raised.

The Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  If I were a more confident man, I’d go so far as to say the Seahawks WILL win this game.  In the entirety of the NFL playoff teams, the Panthers are the second-best option I’d choose for a Seahawks opponent (behind only the defeated Cardinals and their Lindley-esque shit offense).  While there is cause for real concern about this Panthers team (the defense is improved over the last month-plus, the rushing attack is improved with the return of Jonathan Stewart), it’s pretty obvious that this team is the most eminently beat-able in all of the NFC.  I was positively outraged at the notion that they’d go into Green Bay to play the Packers in the second round if Detroit had held on to beat Dallas last week.  Green Bay would throttle them by 40 points!  And WE’D have to battle a nasty defensive line of the Lions and a potentially explosive offense if they ever got their shit together.

As a quick aside:  don’t you think the #1 seed should be able to choose its opponent for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, pending the results of the Wild Card Round?  Why should we have to play an 11-5 Lions team (had they won) over a 7-8-1 Panthers team, simply because the Panthers were deemed to be a 4-seed while the superior Lions team a 6-seed?  When the NFL gets its own shit together and fixes the playoff system, maybe let’s make this a priority as well as never letting a team with a losing record host a playoff game, huh?

Anyway, getting back, my insecure fan-self is a little encouraged by the fact that there has already been a losing-record playoff team who defeated a playoff team with a superior record.  In fact, these loser teams are 2-1 in the playoffs, thanks to the 2010 Seahawks paving the way by defeating the Saints before going on to lose to the Bears in Chicago the following week.  BUT, what hasn’t happened – and what is rocking me to my very core as I sit and anxiously await tomorrow night’s game – is one of these loser teams going on the road and winning in the Divisional Round.

From the 1980s up until the Seahawks Super Bowl victory last year, there has been a bevy of reasons why Seattle sports teams have been laughingstocks.  Take, for instance, the first 20-or-so years of the Mariners playing professional baseball.  Or, the Seahawks almost moving to Los Angeles.  Or the Sonics signing Jim McIlvaine.  Or the Sonics drafting an endless string of worthless centers.  Or the Mariners getting crushed by the Yankees in the ALCS in back-to-back years.  Or the Seahawks getting referee’d to death in Super Bowl XL.  Or the Sonics being sold & uprooted after 40-some-odd years.  Or the best team in Seattle for the longest time being the women’s professional basketball team.  Or the Mariners plowing through a million managers over the last decade.  Or the fiasco with the Seahawks at the end of Holmgren’s tenure.  Or, the fact that all three franchises had – at one time or another – some of THE worst owners/general managers in all of professional sports (Ken Behring, Jeff Smulyan, Howard Schultz, Lincoln/Armstrong, Wally Walker, Tim Ruskell, Bill Bavasi).

I could go on and on with that list.  The 2013 Seahawks championship team has done the lord’s work in rectifying some of our past indiscretions.  But, a defeat to the Panthers a year later would do absolutely everything to undo all of that goodwill.

This current Seahawks unit is in the midst of a championship window that started in 2012 with a surprise late-season run into the playoffs.  When this window closes remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree it will be various degrees of open as long as Russell Wilson and the core is intact and still playing at a high level.  Whether that’s 5-10 years or more, the fact of the matter is:  these championship windows don’t grow on trees.  They can close in an instant and they may never reopen again in our lifetimes.  We can’t take these seasons for granted!

The Seahawks wrangled one championship and were 30-some-odd seconds away from fighting the 49ers for a second championship in the playoffs two years ago.  They currently sit poised in the catbird seat:  top seed in the NFC, with either Green Bay or Dallas being forced to come all the way out here in a potential NFC Championship showdown.  In spite of an early-season loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink, we match up really well against both of those teams.  More importantly, WE’RE different than we were back in October.  I’ll be a lot more confident if we can just get this Divisional Round game out of the way.

The thing with the Panthers is:  they match up pretty well with us.  Earlier this year, we scratched and clawed our way to a 13-9 victory.  It took a late 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown and pull it out.  In the 2013 season opener, we scratched and clawed our way to a 12-7 victory.  It took a 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; and a late 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  In 2012, we scratched and clawed our way to a 16-12 victory.  It took a late 3rd quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; a late 4th quarter goalline stand by our defense; and a later 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  Margin of victory for those three games:  4 1/3 points.  In the NFL, that’s nothing.

The notch in our belt is that all three of those games were on the road, in Carolina.  It’s notoriously difficult to win on the road, so you cherish any victory, even some ugly-ass shit like those games I just mentioned.  This game is in Seattle.  In the evening.  In front of what may be the rowdiest crowd we’ve seen all year (or, at least, since the week 1 showdown against the Packers).

Another notch in our belt is the level of competition the Panthers have beaten to get to this point.  The Panthers needed a 4-game winning streak to even make the playoffs.  If they would’ve lost any of these games, they would’ve been eliminated.  In those games, they faced the Saints, the Bucs, the Browns, and the Falcons.  The Saints had one of the worst defenses in football; they surrendered 41 points to the Panthers in New Orleans.  The Bucs were the very worst team in the NFL, earning the #1 draft pick in this year’s draft; they lost by 2 points to these very same Panthers.  The Browns were going with Johnny JamBoogie at quarterback, who left injured late in the first half; with Hoyer coming in in relief, the Browns would go on to lose by only 4 points to these very same Panthers.  The Falcons were just an absolute trainwreck on both sides of the football for most of this season, yet they would have made the playoffs with a win over the Panthers in week 17; they surrendered 34 points to the Panthers in Atlanta.  And, to top it all off, the Panthers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last week, taking full advantage of the Lindley-pocalypse (Apoca-Lindlypse?) to get to this point.

Not that the Seahawks had all that difficult of a road to hoe in getting the top seed the final six weeks of the season (only two playoff teams faced, and both of those teams were the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals), but I’d say we’ve looked MUCH more impressive in getting to this point.

Here’s the bottom line:  the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  Yes, we’re particularly good against the pass, but we’re also among the best against the run (indeed, we’re THE best against the run of the remaining playoff teams, but that’s neither here nor there).  If we can prevent the Panthers from gashing us in the run game, they should stand no chance.  On the flipside, while they have a good front seven, they’re not unstoppable.  We should be able to do what we want to do on the ground, while at the same time taking advantage of holes in their secondary.  An important thing to note is this game features the two very best middle linebackers in all of football with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.  Overall, though, the Seahawks have MUCH more talent from top to bottom than the Panthers.  In fact, the Seahawks hold a distinct advantage in nearly every position group.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton is a staggering bundle of injuries being held together by duct tape and painkillers.  There is ZERO reason why the Seahawks should lose this game.

And yet, it’s not entirely impossible.  There was zero reason why the 1994 Supersonics should lose to the Nuggets in five games.  There was zero reason why the 2001 Mariners should fail to make the World Series.  Sometimes, shit just happens.  Sometimes, a matchup materializes that goes against everything one team stands for.  Sometimes, players just have a bad day.

The Panthers have been a tough matchup for the Seahawks for the last three years now.  Regardless of the fact that those prior three games were all played in Carolina, we’re still talking about a mini version of ourselves.

  • Mobile quarterbacks
  • Unheralded offensive lines
  • Lack of game-breaking talent in the receiving corps
  • Tough, hard-nosed running backs
  • Underrated and stout defensive lines
  • Freakishly athletic linebackers
  • Mostly-conservative gameplans & coaches (in spite of Ron’s riverboat ways in 2013 and Pete’s alleged “big balls”)

In the NFL, it only takes one bad game to derail an entire season.  That in and of itself should be enough to terrify us to no end.  I don’t necessarily fear the Cowboys/Packers because I think we match up exceedingly well against them.  Their defenses aren’t anything special, and their offensive attacks play right into our L.O.B. hands.

But, the Panthers pose a tough matchup BECAUSE they’re so similar to us.  Because their defense can harass Russell Wilson and potentially knock him out of the game.  The Panthers – more than any other team remaining in these playoffs – have the capability to hold our offense in check.  And, if they do that, and it comes down to a battle of who wins the fourth quarter, then you’re looking at no better than a flip of a coin.

I don’t like that.  And neither should you.  We JUST have to get past this one game and I’ll feel more at ease.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone’s taking this game seriously.  I know, for the most part, fans are already booking plans for the NFC Championship Game.  But, they’re going to feel pretty damn stupid if we reach the end of Saturday night, with the Panthers celebrating on our field like the Nuggets did on our court 20-some-odd years ago.

Here’s to hoping the Seahawks take this game a little more seriously than the 12th Man.  If they don’t, we’ll be looking at the absolute worst defeat in franchise history, and a defeat far surpassing those aforementioned Sonics & Mariners achievements of yore.  2014 will be just another drop in the bucket of Seattle being Sports Hell.

Futzing Around With Seahawks Top 10 Lists

I just saw this, while killing some time.  It’s a cool take on the whole “Top Ten Seahawks Of All Time” list idea.  And, as you may or may not know, I’m a total SUCKER for LISTS!

Terry’s rules for this list were:  no current players, and they must have played at least 5 seasons with the Seahawks.  That leaves us with a good chunk of players.  He was provided 29 different names by fans in their own lists they sent to him.  Of those 29 players listed, here is my Top 10:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Cortez Kennedy
  3. Steve Largent
  4. Shaun Alexander
  5. Jacob Green
  6. Kenny Easley
  7. Matt Hasselbeck
  8. Dave Brown
  9. Steve Hutchinson
  10. Lofa Tatupu

For starters, we have the three NFL Hall of Famers in the top three spots, because that’s just what has to be done.  I organized these three by their place in NFL history.  Walter Jones has gone down as one of the greatest left tackles in all of NFL history (if not THE greatest).  There aren’t enough superlatives, so let’s just move on.

Cortez, I believe, has to be on everyone’s Top 10 list for defensive tackles (at least in the modern era, if not all time).  He doesn’t get the credit he deserves, since he played for Seattle (and played on a bunch of awful teams by a terribly-run organization), but he was truly a monster force in the middle.

If my 10 year old self could see what I’m writing now, he’d call me a fucking idiot for putting Steve Largent at #3, when he’s so obviously the greatest wide receiver of all time.  Except, in the 23 years since then, about a thousand receivers have passed Largent and broken all of his records.  He’s great, and in his time he was the greatest, but now he’s long-forgotten, and you legitimately have to question whether he’d make the Hall of Fame if he had his same exact stats, but retired today instead of at the end of the 1989 season.

Henry Ellard has Largent beat by almost 700 yards, but he’s not in the HOF.  Tim Brown has almost 2,000 more yards and the same number of receiving touchdowns and hasn’t made the HOF yet.  When Largent retired, he was #1 in both yards and touchdowns for a receiver; now he’s 14th and tied for 7th, respectively.  More receivers are breaking his records every year, with still more right on his heels.  Andre Johnson and Steve Smith are both one good year away from passing him in yards (within 1,000 of the Seahawks legend).  Larry Fitzgerald is a year or two away, and if Anquan Boldin’s creaky old bones can cling to life, he’s probably two or three years away.  Going forward, Calvin Johnson is practically a shoo-in to be in the top 10 in yards; and Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant will likely pass Largent as well.  Granted, it’s a different style of NFL play now than it was in the 70s & 80s, but that’s not going to make it any easier going forward for any more of those fringe old-timers to make the HOF.  Largent’s lucky he retired when he did.

After the top three of Jones, Tez, and Largent, I found the next five to be pretty easy.  Alexander is the best running back in franchise history, was an MVP, and led us to our first Super Bowl appearance.  He won’t be a HOFer, but he’s still one of the best Seahawks ever, so his slot at #4 is well-deserved.

Jacob Green is another one of those guys who isn’t quite a HOFer, but he’s tops in the Seahawks’ book.  Green, ranking #1 in franchise history in sacks with 97.5, ranks tied for 32nd in NFL history.  The magic number for sack-artists to get into the HOF is apparently 125, so Green was a ways off.  Nevertheless, he was solid for us.

Kenny Easley kinda makes this list on talent and potential over longevity which is QUITE hypocritical considering I left Curt Warner off my list because he couldn’t stay healthy.  But still, Easley is hands down the best member of the Seahawks secondary in franchise history (not counting the current members of the L.O.B.).

Matt Hasselbeck – the franchise’s best quarterback – comes in at #7.  That’s a testament to the quality of players ahead of him on my list, as well as the lack of really elite quarterbacks in franchise history.  Hasselbeck is also kinda like those other near-HOF types, except he’s pushed way down that list; I mean, you can KINDA make a case for Shaun Alexander to be in the HOF, but you’ll be laughed out of the country if you try to make a case for Hasselbeck!

Rounding out the last of my easy choices, Dave Brown was the best cornerback in franchise history (again, not including those in the L.O.B.).  After him, I had a really tough time choosing the last two.  I eventually narrowed it down to six players:  Curt Warner, John L. Williams, Brian Blades, Hutch, Lofa, and Eugene Robinson.  I couldn’t decide between the two running backs, so as a compromise, I decided to leave them both out.  Blades was a tough one to cut out; he’s certainly my #11 pick on this list.  And, Eugene gets docked because he did a lot of his best playing after he left the Seahawks.

Which, again, reveals my blatant hypocrisy, because I gave Hutch the #9 slot.  Losing him right smack dab in the middle of his prime definitely hurts his ranking on my list (had he been a career Seahawk, it’s pretty easy to see him in my top three or four), but I can’t deny his elite talent level.  Granted, Joey Galloway also had elite talent, and his end with the team was similarly acrimonious, and yet he wasn’t even an honorable mention!  To that, I don’t know what to tell you.  I’ll always be kind of annoyed with Hutch and his dickhead agent, and to a lesser extent the Vikings (even though we just won a Super Bowl with a bunch of their players), but the real villain in that whole deal was Tim Ruskell, leaving me the opportunity to (for the most part) feel good about Hutch’s time here.

The last spot goes to Lofa.  He was truly great from the moment he was selected by this team, and he’s a big reason why our defense was able to cobble together enough yards & points prevention to lead this team to a #1 seed and a Super Bowl appearance in 2005/2006.  Lofa’s career ended prematurely due to injury, otherwise it’s possible his all time ranking could’ve been higher as well.  He was a tackling machine who – had he not worn down so fast – might have made a play for the HOF, with the way he was racking them up in his first few years.

***

Now that I’ve given you my Top 10 list of Seahawks not currently on the team, why don’t I give you my Top 10 list of only Seahawks who ARE currently on the team?  Here we go:

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Marshawn Lynch
  4. Richard Sherman
  5. Kam Chancellor
  6. Russell Okung
  7. Brandon Mebane
  8. Bobby Wagner
  9. Michael Bennett
  10. Doug Baldwin

Before I get started, I have to point out that Percy Harvin is left off because he’s played in all of three games in a Seahawks uniform.  I’m going to need at least a season or two out of him before I start putting him among the all time leaders.

Byron Maxwell was left off because I had a really hard time putting four LOB members on my list.  But, talent-wise, he probably deserves it.  At the very least, he’d be my #11 pick (and, by the end of 2014, could see his ranking go up even higher).  Zach Miller was left off because, while I appreciate all that he does, it still feels like we could do what we do without him.  Max Unger was left off due to an inconsistent (and injury-riddled) 2013 season.  Cliff Avril was another honorable mention.

In going down my list, I knew the other three members of the LOB would be there and be ranked high, but it was just a matter of where they’d rank.  I have Earl Thomas at #1 because I think he’s far and away the best safety in the game today.  Richard Sherman has some competition for best corner, but I think he’s #1 with a bunch of other guys right on his heels.  That’s the difference between the two.

Nevertheless, I had to put Russell Wilson at #2 because he is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to what we do on offense.  He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been dreaming of since Seattle was given a franchise!  He and Earl Thomas are the perfect bookends for this team, from their elite talent level, to how they prepare, to their desire to win above all else, to their abilities to make those around them insanely better.

Marshawn Lynch gets the #3 spot because he’s the workhorse.  He’s also in the Top 3 when it comes to NFL running backs today.  While that sounds odd to say, knowing that I put Richard Sherman at the #4 spot (and I consider him to be the best corner in football), I will say that there are way more elite cornerbacks than there are elite running backs.  That’s just the way it goes.

Kam gets into my Top 5 because he’s Kam.  He’s the baddest, hardest hitting motherfucker in this league and he was certainly deserving of being the MVP of the Super Bowl over Malcolm Smith.  In the national spotlight, Kam gets lost a little bit because of Sherman’s outspokenness and Earl’s on-field flashiness, but on almost any other team, he’d be the best player on that defense and it wouldn’t even be close.

Okung gets his spot on the list based on talent and potential, though he certainly gets knocked down for his inability to stay healthy.  Brandon Mebane is almost the opposite.  He does nothing BUT stay healthy.  He doesn’t have the highest pedigree.  He isn’t an animal in the middle like Cortez was.  But, Mebane has been a ROCK on that D-Line since he got here in 2007.  And, from what I’ve read, his 2013 season was arguably his best year in the league.  That’s unbelievably impressive, especially when you consider he plays a spot on the line that’s difficult to keep healthy.  Seems like whenever a nose tackle gets injured, it’s only a matter of time before his career fizzles out.

I had to pick a linebacker, because we’ve got three good ones, so I went with the best.  Bobby Wagner is the guy – if we’re only able to keep one for salary cap purposes – that I’d most want to retain.  He plays middle linebacker, which is the most important spot of the three, and he plays it at a high level (either as well, or if not, very close to the level of Luke Kuechly).  The best part:  he’s played at this level since day 1, and could very well see even MORE improvement.

There’s a reason why we decided to bring back Michael Bennett and let key leaders Red Bryant and Chris Clemons go.  Bennett can do everything on the defensive line and do it all well.

Finally, what can I say about Doug Baldwin that hasn’t already been said?  I feel MUCH more secure about this team and its offense when I know I have Doug Baldwin on the field.

***

Now, the real point of all of this:  when I was reading the above Terry Blount post, and I read that current players were to be left off for the purposes of this exercise, I got to wondering:  how many current players would – right now – make the Top 10 in franchise history?

You’d have to think quite a few, considering the Super Bowl is fresh on our minds, and that’s something no other Seahawks team has ever accomplished.  Fans would rabidly vote for today’s players, because it’s all about that action, boss.

I’m going to try to set emotion aside on this one and try to be rational about it.  Essentially, since a lot of these guys are fairly new, I have to go by what they’ve done as well as what they could potentially do, if they can stay reasonably healthy.  Anyway, here’s my list:

  1. Walter Jones
  2. Earl Thomas
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson
  5. Cortez Kennedy
  6. Steve Largent
  7. Shaun Alexander
  8. Kam Chancellor
  9. Marshawn Lynch
  10. Jacob Green

As you’ll notice, both Sherm and Kam passed Lynch on this list.  That’s because, when all is said and done, I expect both of those guys to surpass Lynch’s output – which projects to end after the 2014 season.  You’ll also notice that Sherm passes Wilson on this list, because in the end I think Sherman will be a greater cornerback (on the all time NFL list) than Wilson will be a quarterback (on the all time NFL list).  Nevertheless, I expect both of them, as well as Earl, to make the HOF (giving us six total Seahawks, and counting).  Shaun Alexander still gets the nod over Lynch because there’s no way Lynch is passing him in total output.  I know most people like Lynch more, but I won’t discount Alexander’s overall talents.  Jacob Green nabs down that 10-spot, because he’s awesome.  Of the current players who could someday crack the top ten that I don’t have in there right now, I’d look at Wagner and maybe Baldwin.

So, that’s five current players in the All Time Top 10.  I never would have thought you could have ANY sort of Seahawks Top 10 without Matt Hasselbeck, but there you have it.  What’s more impressive is, I have three current players in the top 5.  I don’t know if I’ll ever see a player on the level of Walter Jones, but if anyone has a chance to pass him, it’s most likely Earl Thomas.

Then again, if Russell Wilson leads us to five Super Bowl championships, that may be the ultimate decider.

8 Down, 15 To Go: Injury-Plagued Seahawks Steal A Win In Houston

After a win like that – where the Seahawks came back from a 20-3 halftime deficit to win in overtime 23-20 – the impulse is to scream out from the rooftops, “THAT WAS THE GREATEST GAME EVER!”  But, of course, that’s not true.  Maybe it was the greatest ending to a game, or the greatest HALF ever, but if you want to be in the running for greatest game ever, don’t make me feel fucking miserable for 30 football minutes.

I don’t know what happened!  Houston got the ball first and we quickly forced a punt.  Then, we came right down the field and got ourselves a three-point lead.  That’s followed by a Houston drive ending with an interception and we were all on cloud nine.  How does it go from that to the Texans generating 20 straight points while we can’t do a God damn thing?

The first-half defense left a lot to be desired, no doubt about that.  Had that continued through the whole game, it would’ve been a blowout and we would have tumbled pretty far down the national power rankings (not that that’s something altogether important, but still).  There would have been a lot of questions about this team.  Is this REALLY a Super Bowl team?  Will this team ever consistently win on the road at 10am?  Does the coaching staff have control of its players?

You know, all the usual bullshit.  Sports writers trying to put their spin on things the only way they know how:  by dredging up the same inane topics whenever a good team has a bad game.

Here’s what we know from what we saw yesterday:  the defense really couldn’t stop the run for the longest time.  The defense had the wrong people covering their tight ends, who were catching everything in sight.  The defense – after those first couple of drives – didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback for the longest time.  There are plenty of things to get to, so let’s start at the top.

Houston is a very good rushing team.  Arian Foster, when healthy, is one of the top five running backs in the league.  Ben Tate might be the best backup running back in football.  This is a team, like the Seahawks, that is dedicated to the run.  Therefore, their offensive linemen are geared to run block.  It’s going to take quite the feat to shut them down with your front four.  The Seahawks, unfortunately, don’t have their world-beater front four that clogs up running lanes like they did in 2011.  Even with Red Bryant still on the end, the line is a little more finesse, a little more interested in pressuring the quarterback.  Stopping the run in 2013 involves more linebacker contributions.  And, truth be told, yesterday the linebackers weren’t the greatest.

As you could plainly see whenever K.J. Wright or Malcolm Smith got beat by Owen Daniels or Garrett Graham.  Those two guys accounted for 11 receptions, 141 yards, and a touchdown.  They were open all damn DAY!  Finally, towards the end of the game, it looked like we were throwing Kam Chancellor and Byron Maxwell on them, so at least we know the coaches are paying attention and actually made an adjustment.

The most damning thing for this team was the fact that we couldn’t get a man anywhere near Matt Schaub.  It looked like we were a little in-between for most of the second and third quarters, concerned about the run (which was really gashing us) and still trying to get in Schaub’s face.  Our front four isn’t quite good enough to allow us to have our cake and eat it too, so thankfully we ratcheted up the blitzes when it mattered most.  Many of the great quarterbacks in the NFL flourish under pressure.  A defensive blitz is an opportunity for a quarterback to take advantage for a big gain.  Not for Matt Schaub.

It’s interesting.  This game went from being all about the Texans and how they are a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl to Matt Schaub and what are they going to do with him?

I don’t know how Schaub threw that pick-six to Richard Sherman, but I’m glad he did it.  If you go back and re-watch the game, you’ll see a hyper-confident Matt Schaub early on, when the Texans were moving the ball with ease.  Then, take a look at him in the fourth quarter, especially after that interception.  He looked like a broken and defeated man – and that interception only TIED the game.  You could tell right there that unless there was some flukey play or ill-timed penalty by our defense, we were going to win that game.

When you think of quarterbacks, you think of three types:  the greats, the game-managers, and the awfuls.  It’s pretty easy to see where just about every quarterback fits.  But, when you look at someone like Matt Schaub, you come to the realization that there is a fourth type.  An in-betweener.  Not quite great, but not just a simple game-manager.  The team doesn’t just rely on him to “limit mistakes” and let the team around him win games.  Sometimes, they have to hop on and let Schaub carry them to victory.  AND, sometimes he succeeds!  But, he fails just enough to drive everyone crazy.  Fans will never fully believe that he’s the guy to give them a championship, in the same way that Cowboys fans will never fully believe in Tony Romo.  The same way that Chargers fans don’t believe in Philip Rivers.  Probably in the same way that Bengals fans (in a few years) will feel about Andy Dalton.  I don’t know what you call these types of quarterbacks, but they’ve got to be some of the most frustrating to have.  They’re good, so you can’t just dump them at the drop of a hat, but they’re not good enough to take you all the way.  I hate to say it at a time where we’re celebrating a 4-0 start, but Matt Hasselbeck was probably one of those guys.

Luckily, we’ve got Russell Wilson now, and the man is a straight-up winner.

I keep thinking that there is no way Wilson can impress me more.  His leadership, his poise, his talent level, his grit and determination, his elusiveness.  It’s all been on display for a year and a quarter now, but yesterday might be his most impressive effort to date.  And that’s not just hyperbole based on the newness of this win!  Our offensive line looked like 2009-levels of bad.  You remember that year, right?  We’d lost Walter Jones and Tim Ruskell refused to replenish the line through the draft, so we were left scrambling.  I don’t know how we EVER sustained a drive yesterday, except maybe the Texans got tired from getting free runs at the quarterback all the time.

Russell Okung, who has been lost since the 49ers game and won’t be back until late this season, was a pretty big loss.  Breno Giacomini, our right tackle, who got injured in last week’s game, made our job that much tougher, because we were playing with two replacement tackles instead of just the one.  But, Max Unger ALSO going down last week really took the cake.

For the most part, all five of our linemen looked like they’d never played football before.  Pancakes Carpenter looked absolutely miserable at times in pass protection.  The Texans were employing your most basic of stunts and our guys didn’t know WHO they should block, so they did the prudent thing and blocked no one.  Russell Wilson had, like, negative three seconds per pass attempt to try to throw the ball.  And, what’s worse:  it looked like the coaching staff didn’t anticipate this would be coming!

The Texans blitz something like 80% of the time.  They’re one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL, with one of the best players in the NFL in J.J. Watt.  We were coming into the game with one guy on the line playing in the same position he started the season with (J.R. Sweezy).  What did we counter this with?  Giving Kellen Davis an inordinate amount of playing time so he could lead both teams in penalties.

Why wouldn’t your immediate thought going into this game be:  let’s reintroduce the zone read and slow down their aggression by having Russell Wilson run the ball?  That should have been Day 1, Item 1 of the game planning this week!  What, you’re worried about Russell Wilson taking hits?  If you’re worried about Russell Wilson taking hits, how about don’t put him in a pocket protected by a paper mache line???  The guy was going to take hits either way.  But, if you wanted any semblance of a passing game, you needed to make their ends worry about contain, instead of trying to take someone’s head off.

This game was, if nothing else, the greatest test of our depth.  Whenever you can lose some very-important starters – especially along your offensive line – and still come away with the win while getting some younger guys valuable experience:  that’s the ultimate high.  But, I wouldn’t recommend making this a trend if we want to go anywhere in the playoffs this year.

Normally, I’d be pretty thrilled with having the final BYE week of the NFL season.  But, this year, I dunno.  Seems like we could use a week off to get guys healthy sooner rather than later.

I’ll close with my Individual Game Balls, a new feature that I’ll probably forget about after this week.

First up, Doug Baldwin for his sideline tippy-toe catch for 24 yards on third down at our own 5 yard line.  If either foot is an inch closer to the sideline, that’s an incomplete pass and we’re probably punting away the game.

Next:  Russell Wilson, for somehow staying alive, but also for that 4-yard scramble on 4th and 3 near the Houston goalline to convert a first down.  One play later, we scored a touchdown to bring the game to within 7 points.

Then, there’s Marshawn Lynch, for making chicken salad all day against another elite front seven.  I keep expecting this team to run into some easier defenses, but will we see one before we face the New York Giants in week 15?

Of course, who could forget Richard Sherman?  He dropped a sure pick in the endzone earlier in the game.  But, in the fourth quarter, with less than three minutes to go in the game while still down a touchdown, Sherman jumped in front of a pass intended for Owen Daniels (solid strategy to start putting cornerbacks on their tight ends, considering the linebackers weren’t doing dick) and brought the rock back to the house 58 yards.  It single-handedly tied the game and saved my fantasy football bacon all in one move.

Finally, my co-players of the game:  Steven Hauschka, for nailing the game winner in a hostile environment (when he, along with everyone else, expected their coach to “ice the kicker”), and Kareem Jackson, the Texans DB who unnecessarily roughed Doug Baldwin on that final drive to put us down to Houston’s 36 yard line to set up that game-winning field goal.  Without their combined efforts, we may never have won that game.  We might currently be sitting *shudder* 3-0-1.  Ties … ties are the WORST!  What is this, soccer?

#8 – Marshawn Lynch

To see the full list of the 30 most important Seahawks in 2013, click here.

Beastmode is our best running back.  Let’s start there.  Last year, he showed up at #3 on the list, so what gives?

Well, for starters, I like what this team has as far as depth is concerned.  If they do indeed opt to go with the five running backs, then we’re as loaded as it gets.  Lynch is a Top 5 league-wide running back.  Robert Turbin is no slouch.  Christine Michael is the future at the position.  And, Spencer Ware is the banger we haven’t had since Leonard Weaver.  Remember when Tim Ruskell went out and signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett to give us some of that Fire & Ice bullshit certain teams love to do?  Well, Michael and Ware is like the GOOD version of that theory.

As such, if we lose Lynch for an extended stretch, I think we’ll be okay.  At this point, the offensive line is a well-oiled machine.  If they’re capable of ANYTHING, it’s opening up holes in the running game.  So, regardless of who we’ve got handling the rock, I think our running game will be okay.

Where we will hurt if Lynch goes down is, oddly enough, in the passing game.  Lynch is the best pass-protection running back on the team and it’s not even close.  Michael is going to be inactive for much of the season (or, at least, not playing any offensive snaps) because he’s not good yet in blitz pickup.  Russell Wilson’s main area of improvement will need to come on timing routes.  We need to see Wilson stand in the pocket and hit that receiver as soon as he’s completed his drop.  To do that, we’re going to have to make him comfortable in the pocket.  To do THAT, our O-Line needs to do its job, and our backs need to do their jobs.

For this team to succeed, they’re going to need Marshawn Lynch to do what he does.  But, there are other more important players on this team who will have to do what THEY do as well.

Things That Interest & Don’t Interest Me About The Seahawks’ OTAs

That title is awkward, but this is Don’t Give A Care Friday and it’s time to be moving on.

You can’t always focus on the negatives without at least acknowledging some of the positives.  Like, for instance, Red Bryant is fully healthy for the first time in a year.  He had plantar fasciitis last year that REALLY cut into his being productive.  Yes, he played in all the games, but more often than not he was just taking up space as opposed to wreaking havoc like he was in 2011.  I’m also told that with the hire of Dan Quinn as D-Coordinator, they’re going to shift Red back to a role that’ll have him in the backfield more, disrupting running plays and all-around getting in the quarterback’s face.  It’s all very technical, and I don’t want to go back and research the specifics, but he’ll be lined up in a different gap than he was in 2012 and therefore – with his newfound foot health – he should kick more ass.  I’m amazing with words, I know.

Also healthy:  James Pancakes Carpenter.  The team is giving this 2011 first round pick every opportunity to win that Left Guard spot and, at least in the early going, it looks like he deserves it.

It would be SO HUGE for our running game if we can keep this guy healthy for a full season.  I mean, if he lives up to his potential, he could be the best run-blocking guard in football!  He’ll be pancaking his way through the NFL like it was an I-Hop all-you-can-eat buffet!  And, not for nothing, but if he can lock down the left guard position, that makes it a 3-man contest for right guard with Sweezy, Moffitt, and McQuistan.  I think each one of those guys has their flaws, but you gotta like our odds if we’re forced to only play ONE of the three as opposed to two of the three.

On the flipside of the ball, we’ve got Walter Thurmond back and better than ever.  They are absolutely RAVING about this guy in the early going of the off-season; some are even saying that he’ll take snaps away from newly-signed nickel corner, Antoine Winfield.  Others are saying that Thurmond could even push Browner for a starting cornerback spot!  Now, I don’t necessarily think that’ll happen, and I think this team would be wise to ease him back into the gameplan when the shit starts getting real – it would be terrible to count on him to play starter’s minutes, then have to lose him for the season in his first or second game.  But, if he IS back, and he CAN stay healthy, then this just boosts our secondary depth tenfold.  Essentially, we will have four quality, starting-calibre cornerbacks on this team to go with two Pro Bowl/All Pro-calibre safeties.  Are you KIDDING me?  Eight years ago, I would have killed for just ONE Pro Bowl/All Pro-calibre member of our secondary!

Thurmond could be a difference-maker.  If he becomes what I think he can become, he could turn into a replacement for Browner when he eventually signs with another team because we can’t afford to pay him the kind of money he’ll be looking for.

The biggest question mark – and area of need – on this team is the pass rush.  Which is why it would be nice for Chris Clemons to make a miraculous comeback from his ACL surgery.  Well, this week, there’s been talk about Clemons being ahead of schedule.  There’s been talk of him possibly being ready to go in Week 1.  Granted, this is what they were saying about Pancakes last season, and look at what eventually happened.  Still, it’s better to hear this than to hear about how he’s behind schedule, or that he’s had a setback, or that doctors are confused as to what’s still wrong.

I refuse to go into this season with the expectation that we’re going to get significant production out of Clemons.  My own personal best-case-scenario bar is set mighty low.  I’d like for him to continue rehabbing while on the PUP list, then I’d like for him to be reintroduced to the game slowly; maybe sit on the Inactive List for a couple of games while he practices with the team.  Then, maybe around week 9 or 10, we get him into some games, playing about 20% of the snaps he played last year.  Finally, over the last six games of the year, we build him back up to being a full-time starter for this team, just as it’s hitting its stride and entering the playoffs as the #1 seed in the NFC.  If I were God, this is how I’d wield my magical powers.  In the Super Bowl, Clemons will come around the edge and blind-side Peyton Manning for the game-clinching fumble with less than two minutes to go in the game.

Finally, this doesn’t have to do with a guy recovering from injury, per se, but it’s injury-related-adjacent.  With Anthony McCoy going down, there’s been grumbling by myself (and maybe others) about our tight end situation.  As Barney from The Simpsons said (in English):

I’m worried about the beer supply.  After this case, and the other case, there’s only one case left!

On the one hand, yeah, we’ve still got a high-quality tight end starting for us in Zach Miller.  But, on the other hand, we’ve got nothing but unproven rookies and near-rookies to carry the load in the event that Miller goes down with a significant injury.

Everyone is tapping the speedy Luke Willson – this year’s tall, athletic rookie project – to supplant McCoy as the backup.  Well, not so fast.  While I’m sure he’ll find a way onto this team, I’m reading about one:  Sean McGrath.  He could be JUST the guy we’re looking for.  Big and bruising, a blocking tight end with the potential and soft hands to make an impact in the red zone.  Keep this guy on your radar.  He looked solid last year in the pre season and he should only get better from there after a year in the league.

***

Now, for the things people are talking about where I DON’T give two shits.

Like, for instance, Marshawn Lynch “not being there”.  First of all, WHY do we need him there?  He’s our starting running back!  This has been established!  No running back on this team right now is better than Lynch.  Hell, aside from Adrian Peterson, no running back in the NFL is better than Lynch right now!

He’s not being lazy, he’s working out on his own.  These are VOLUNTARY practices that he’s missing.  This isn’t some hold-out for more money or some message he’s trying to send to the team.  Would we like to have him there?  Sure, fine, whatever.  But, do we NEED him there?  Of course not!  In fact, if you want my opinion, I’d rather he NOT be there.

Think about it, every voluntary practice is another opportunity for the guy to injure himself.  Why is that of my concern?  Because I’m a worrier.  And because his back issues aren’t going away any time soon.  He’s missed a game here and there because of his back, and it would be nice to know that one of these young rushers can pick up the slack.

How are we going to find out if they can handle it unless they get a lot of reps in these practices Lynch is skipping?

Also, not for nothing, but remember how we all lionize Walter Jones for all those pre-seasons where he skipped camp because we Franchise Tagged him?  Remember all those stories about how he was pulling cars to get in shape for pushing around defensive linemen?  Remember how we like all those stories?  Especially when he came back to the team a week before the first game and it was like he was never gone?

How about we stop fussing over who’s not there and trust that he’s going to be just fine when we get to the regular season, mmmkay?

I also don’t give a fuck about all the stories coming out about this team being “out of control”.  Guys getting arrested, guys being suspended, adderall adderall adderall!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day, I used to bash the shit out of the Bengals for all their legal transgressions as an organization out of control.  So, you can either call me a homer (which is your right), or you can say that I’ve grown more wise in the years since.  After all, you don’t really understand something until it happens to you.

In this case, you don’t really understand that – hey, a team can’t control every single person on a football team at all hours of all days.  At this point in the off-season, there are a whopping 90 guys on the team!  I’m sure the coaching staff and the organization as a whole is doing everything it can to stem the tide of bad-boy behavior.  But, sometimes, players are going to do selfish things.  That’s the risk you take.  Don’t like it?  Hire Tim Ruskell and let him build through character over talent.

Of course, my apathy for these topics of discussion doesn’t make the John Moffitt public urination thing any less funny.  It’s just like an episode of Seinfeld!

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part III

We continue from Saturday’s post on all the hated Seahawks, which was continued from Friday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Supersonics

A lot of real obvious candidates here.  It’s just a matter of organizing them in the proper order.

I, along with many of you, have Howard Schultz smack dab at the top of this list.  In fact, I would have to say – even though it’s been nearly five years since the team moved, and even though it’s been nearly seven years since he sold the team to those OKC goons – that Howard Schultz is Public Enemy Number 1 (regardless of sport) in the Most Hated Seattle Sports Figure list.

Really quick, my top 5 looks like this:  1. Schultz, 2. Behring, 3. Lincoln & Armstrong, 4. Bennett, 5. Bavasi

Easy, right?  For the record, Lincoln & Armstrong are a package deal; they have morphed into this singular blob of incompetence.  Also for the record, Ruskell is a close 6th on that list.  My most hated PLAYER is and might always be Richie Sexson, because I’m irrational like that.

Anyway, getting back, I think it should be obvious why Schultz heads this list.  He’s the worst.  THE.  WORST.  First, let’s just get this out of the way:  he had NO BUSINESS getting involved with the NBA.  He should have just stuck with his season tickets and his corporate sponsorships and been happy with that.  He didn’t have the stomach to properly run the organization; instead, he tried to run it like a business.  This isn’t Starbucks, this is sports.  It’s a completely different ballgame (so to speak).  If your goal is to buy a team and try to turn a profit every year, then congratulations, you’re the Seattle Mariners.  You go forever without winning, you scale back payroll, you trade away your superstars for nothing, and you do just enough to turn a small profit every year (which, hey, beats losing money).

If your goal is to run a winning franchise, then guess what?  You can’t be all-consumed by the money coming in.  Turning a profit can’t be goal #1.  It’s got to be a residual from sustained success.

The Seattle Supersonics, as far back as I can remember, were a well-oiled machine.  Yeah, they’d have some down years, but they’d bounce right back and be contenders in short order.  That includes a lot of the 70s, most of the 80s, and most of the 90s.  Then, Howard Schultz bought the team in January of 2001.  In the five full seasons the Sonics were owned by Schultz, they made the playoffs twice:  once as a 7th seed and once as a 3-seed.  Both times, they lost to a far superior franchise, the San Antonio Spurs.  In the other seasons, the Sonics ended up 10th, 11th, and 12th in the West.

Schultz was involved with a controversial trade of Gary Payton.  He also let head coach (and Mr. Sonic) Nate McMillan walk (over to Portland where he coached the hell out of a mostly-mediocre team).  He did battle with the local & state governments over getting financing for a new arena, but once that failed he essentially threw up his hands and gave up.

Schultz had no interest in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.  If he had, he wouldn’t have sold them to a group that so clearly wanted to move the team out of state.  He can sit there and pretend he had “no idea”; he can cry out about how they “misrepresented” themselves when they purchased the team; but if he’s being honest then he’s the biggest fucking moron the world has ever known.

Here’s the thing:  Schultz isn’t being honest when he gripes about how he was duped (along with the rest of Seattle).  I’d like to point out that from the moment this deal was made, I knew those fucks from OKC would do everything in their power to move this team.  If I know that, and I’m just some yahoo fan with a pottymouth, then Howard Schultz sure as shit knew that too.  He just didn’t care.  All he cared about was receiving $350 million for a team he paid $200 million to acquire five and a half years earlier.

And that’s all you need to know about the Howard Schultz Era.  He was a greedy old man who let the Sonics move away.  He ran the team like a business, but not like a business he gave two shits about.  He ran this team like Ken Lay ran Enron.  Schultz may not have faced decades in prison, but he probably should.  If I had it my way, he’d be rotting in prison until the Sonics return to Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there.

If we’re jumping on the whole Sonics leaving Seattle saga, I’d rank former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels number two on this list.  That spineless weasel forced an agreement down our throats letting those OKC fucks take the team while the city received $45 million in return for the last two years of the KeyArena lease.  Had we forced them to honor those final two years, who’s to say what might have happened?  But, he was never officially a member of the Sonics organization, so fuck Greg Nickels.

Truth be told, I hate Clay Bennett’s puppetmaster – David Stern – far more than Mr. Bennett himself, but we’re sticking with a theme here of people specifically related to the Sonics organization.  Clay Bennett’s a rat bastard, to be sure, and when all is said and done I’d like to know what kind of buttfucking arrangement he has with Stern to make them so buddy-buddy; his blowjobs must be SOMETHING ELSE.  As such, now he does whatever David Stern says, essentially making them both one and the same.

It takes a lot of work to keep up a lie for so long.  Bennett bought the team in July of 2006.  Nearly two years went by before we finally got the official word that his intentions all along were to move the team to OKC; and even then, “official word” came in the form of e-mails to his cronies that were uncovered in the days & weeks leading up to the team leaving.  To the bitter end, Bennett affirmed his bullshit, and he has been rewarded with one of the best and most exciting teams in the NBA today.  There is no justice in this world if that team ever wins a championship.

From what I’ve been told, Wally Walker has been instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the team back to Seattle.  Also, from what I’ve been told, Wally Walker was dead-set against selling to those OKC fucks in the first place.  Nevertheless, Wally Walker appears on this list, because his tenure as GM of the Sonics was rocky at best.  You can’t have a Most Hated list without having a few GMs appear first.

For the record, yeah, Walker has been instrumental in working with Hansen & Ballmer, but he was also instrumental in getting Howard Schultz to be our primary owner in the first place to start this whole fucking mess.  It’s complicated with Wally Walker; he tries his fucking best, but God bless him, in the end he’s just a fuck up who can’t seem to ever get things right.

He joined the Sonics in 1994, right as this team was on its rise to the elite of the NBA.  In 1996, the Sonics were in the Finals, losing to the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Chicago Bulls.  From that moment, this franchise started on its long, slow decline to mediocrity, and it all starts with the next name on this list:  Jim McIlvaine.

Jim McIlvaine was signed to a 7-year, $33.6 million deal in July of 1996.  To that point, Jim McIlvaine had been a worthless pile of crap.  He would go on to continue being a worthless pile of crap.  So, not only was he overpaid and useless, but he also served as a reminder that this ownership group – and this general manager in particular – would rather reward potential from outside the organization than reward the superstars already IN this organization.  Shawn Kemp was resentful and rightly demanded a new contract.  He was denied, so less than a year after signing McIlvaine, Kemp demanded a trade.  Just before the 1997/1998 season, Shawn Kemp was traded for the NEXT name on this list:  Vin Baker.

One could argue that the Sonics dodged a bullet by trading away Shawn Kemp.  He went on to Cleveland, sat on his ass during the Lockout, got fat, and was never the same.  One could also argue that had the Sonics rewarded their budding superstar, he would’ve been kept in shape and kept in line by team leader, Gary Payton.  In Cleveland, Kemp was the big kahuna, and nobody was going to tell him what to do.  There was veteran leadership in Seattle that could’ve prevented such a fate.

Oh yeah, by the way, don’t forget that Vin Baker also sat on his ass during the Lockout, also got fat, and was a huge drunk to boot.  So, why didn’t this veteran leadership keep HIM in line like I’m saying they would’ve kept Kemp in line?  I dunno, probably because you can’t rationalize with a fucking alcoholic!  Also, probably because you have to have the Want To in order to succeed.  Vin Baker lacked that passion, that drive.  He took his solace in a bottle and that’s all there is to it.

Mind you, this chain of events all started with Wally Walker meddling with a good thing, then bungling things away.  More often than not, Walker made moves just to make moves.  Sometimes, you just need to let a team settle and grow on its own.  You don’t have to keep adding and subtracting to make things JUST RIGHT.  Just leave it be and hope things shake out as best as they can!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it!

Any number of bumbling big man buffoons could also make this Most Hated list (Calvin Booth, Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene), but that would ignore the real problem with the Sonics at the turn of the century:  Rick Sund.  Remember him?  God, I wish I didn’t.  Rick Sund took over for Wally Walker (as Walker was promoted to president or some damn thing) in 2001 and proceeded over one of the longest stretches of ineptitude in team history.

Seemingly every year, this team needed a big man.  Seemingly every year, this team went after a big man, either spending an ungodly amount of money in free agency, or by squandering a high draft pick.  Seemingly every year, this team failed to bring in a big man of any quality, and so seemingly every year this team struggled under Rick Sund.

Finally, there’s a name on this list I won’t ever forget.  Kendall Gill.  Back when Bob Whitsitt was still in charge, he traded a number of quality supporting players (Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson) to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill.  In his previous two years, Gill averaged 20.5 and 16.9 points per game.  We brought him in to be our starting shooting guard next to Gary Payton.  As chance would have it, he arrived on the scene in 1993/1994, as the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference.  We would go on to lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets.  The very next season, this team would make the playoffs again, and once again it would lose in the first round.

I’m not blaming it ALL on Kendall Gill, but he sure as shit was not a good fit for this team.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that as soon as he was traded (back to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in June of 1995), the Sonics would go on to make a run to the NBA Championship.

Gill didn’t get along with coaches or teammates.  He was a ballhog who shot too much.  Oh yeah, and he SUCKED DICK.  He immediately saw a dip in his scoring average (14.1 and 13.7 points per game in a Sonics uniform).  His pissy attitude didn’t endear him to Seattle fans either.  In short, Kendall Gill was a worthless dickhole and I can’t believe he managed to have such a sustained NBA career, considering what a joke he was.