Century Link Field, Seattle WA

Century Link Field, Seattle WA

Friday, January 31, 2014

Historical Perspective, and My Pick

I'm one of those rare people who got to live their dream.

And it sucked.

For 5 years I worked my ass off in school to get a degree in Broadcast Journalism, because I fancied myself a future Sportscenter star. (OK that's a lie.  Full disclosure, I'm old enough that when I was working in the field Sportscenter was in it's infancy, and kind of a joke.  This is a retroactive dream sequence).   Then I "made it," albeit in small markets.  I spent nearly 6 years as a TV Sports Anchor.

Sounds cool right?

It was lame, and here's why:

When you work in the business you can't be a fan, or at least you couldn't be back then when the concept of journalistic objectivity was still alive and well.  The ultimate dilemma is; you can get into any event you want to with a simple phone call, but you can't enjoy it.  You can't drink beer, yell at the refs, and openly root for your favorite team.  And you're usually working, which even puts a damper on High Fives. 

Fast forward to today, less than 48 hours away from my lifelong favorite team playing in the Super Bowl with more than a puncher's chance of winning their first Championship.  Thank God I can sit here and pour out my thoughts in script, while enjoying a glass of decent wine and listening to Richie Kotzen. 

But I digress.

The point of all that exposition was simply this:  I can't possibly be objective when it comes to the Seahawks.  I see everything through blue and green colored glasses.  I love this team so much, and even more importantly... I believe in them, that of course I'm going to look for ways to fortify my opinion that "we" are going to win.  Still, I wanted to dig for some history to back me up.  All week long the rhetoric has been that Peyton Manning is somehow destined to win this game.  That he has some sort of legacy to fulfill.  To hear many of the national guys tell it, you would think the Broncos went undefeated this year, that they're invincible because this is a "historically successful offense" and that the league has become one that's "offense-driven," (yes, I'm looking at you, Ron Jaworski.)

They said those same things about the Buffalo Bills from 1991 - 94.

Remember them?  If you're my age you do, because unless you had Kelly, Thomas, Reed, Lofton etc. on your fantasy football team, you were getting your ass kicked by someone who did.  They were innovative, complex, high-paced, no-huddle, and dominant.  What they did was still so new that they named it; the Run-And-Shoot.  Their overall offensive rankings during that run, in order, were #1, #2, #3, and #7.  They were ahead of their time, and in the dawn of the salary-cap era it got them to FOUR STRAIGHT SUPER BOWLS.

Of course you all know they lost all four.  Why?  Because they ran into extremely good defensive teams in each of their Super Bowl Trips.  Here's how it breaks down:

1991 vs. NY Giants: #12 overall defensively
1992 vs. Washington: #8
1993 vs. Dallas: #2
1994 vs. Dallas: #3

I see some stark parallels between the 93 & 94 matchups and the one we're about to see in SB XLVIII. The Bills were experienced and in the midst of a long run of success, with a veteran lineup that had been kept together for a number of years.  They did things differently than the other teams, with an innovative offense operating at a breakneck pace.  They had all the Super Bowl Experience, and they were hungry to cement their place in history. 

Meanwhile, the Cowboys were a young team on the rise.  Built mostly through the draft, but aided by a few shrewd free agent signings, this was the first dance for this version of the Cowboys.  They played great defense, ran the ball extremely well with Emmitt Smith, and passed with efficiency behind the still-young Troy Aikman.  Many felt they had no business beating the grizzled and motivated group from Buffalo. 

It was never close.  52-17 in 1993, 30-13 in 1994.  In both cases their organizational philosophy paid off.  They ran the ball, won the Time Of Possession battle, played great defense, and forced turnovers. 

I point this out just as a means of throwing some water on all the Manning love we've seen this week.  Am I saying the Seahawks are going to beat the Broncos because Buffalo lost their 4 Super Bowls over 2 decades ago?  Hell no.

But they are going to win.... and for some of the same reasons the Cowboys did. 

Seattle is coming into the game loose and relaxed, and frankly if I'm a Denver fan I'm a little concerned that the Broncos are taking this week a bit too seriously.  Seattle will run the ball successfully, in fact I think Marshawn Lynch could dominate.  They will win the turnover battle.  Russell Wilson will be efficient and hit a couple big plays along the way.  Percy Harvin will make his presence felt and open things up for our other receivers.

And the defense...........

The Seahawks defense will dominate.  They'll run faster, hit harder, play smarter, and put themselves squarely in the conversation of Best Defenses Of The Last 20 Years. They won't play perfect, there will be moments during the game that will give the Denver faithful hope.  But I believe they will play well enough to keep Manning from having the chance to deliver any late-game heroics. 

Most of the predictions out there are in the 3, 4 point range either way.  I see this as a fairly tight game most of the way, but one that we end up winning in relative comfort. 

I see it..... 31-21 Seahawks. 

For emotional perspective, see my previous post.  Today is all about making my call.  Tomorrow will feel like Christmas Eve, and I doubt I'll sleep much tomorrow night.  But Sunday, I expect to experience the ultimate sports fans exhilaration. 

And yeah... I'll probably cry.

See you all at the parade.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

So here we are, on the precipice of the Seahawks second-ever Super Bowl appearance.

But this one feels different.

In 2005-2006 it was all so new, so unexpected.  I just enjoyed the ride.  Every win was a celebration.  Losing to the Steelers tore me up, and I carried that around with me for weeks, but here's the difference.....
Back then it all seemed so easy.  I, like most other 12's at the time, thought we would just get back again the next year and win it, right?  Hell, that's what Lofa Tatupu told us was going to happen!!!  Why wouldn't we believe him?

But now I'm older (much older) and presumably wiser.  I have a greater understanding of how fleeting life can be and how it can change in an instant.  This team is in much better shape to make a sustained run then the aging, patchwork group of 8 years ago.  They're younger, stronger, faster.... better.  Much better.  But there's no guarantee that Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and their teammates will ever see another Super Bowl in Seahawk blue.  Injuries can happen, egos can expand, coaches leave for other opportunities.  And then there's this:  football is hard.  NFL football is REALLY hard, and the Seahawks now play in the toughest division in football.  The Cardinals won 10 games and missed the playoffs and the Rams are on the rise, armed with talent, a shrewd front office, and a crapload of high draft picks in their pocket.  Next year you could go 11-5 in the NFC West and not make the post-season.  Forget the dynasty talk, there are no guarantees.  It's easy to think that this is just the start of something for this group, the youngest in the league.  But potentially, it could just as likely be a last chance.

Do I believe that it will be?  No.... but I won't let that temper my enthusiasm for what lies ahead on Sunday.  I've been accused of taking my sports too seriously by some, and I suspect they are right.  It's become more than just a hobby, a fun affiliation, the excitement of the game day atmosphere.  Somewhere along the line it became a thirst.  Shortly after the Red Sox broke their championship drought in 2004, ESPN's Bill Simmons (a lifelong Sox fan) wrote that there was a certain lifetime relief getting that ONE title.  It didn't dampen his desire for more championships, he wrote, but knowing that he got to experience that one title by his beloved team, he could more easily handle any future disappointment any time the Red Sox came up short.  I thought about that column in 2006, and I've had it on my mind a lot this week as well.  Maybe that's why I'm at such a fever pitch.  I feel the do-or-die nature of this game.  I was 13 when the Sonics won their championship in 1979.  I remember sneaking into our den to listen to Game 7 on our old cabinet stereo (because it was after bedtime and my parents weren't big sports fans).  I remember the pure excitement I felt when "we" won, but it was fleeting.  When you're 13 you think it'll happen again, and again.  I thought there would be many more championship celebrations with the Sonics, Mariners and Seahawks.  How na├»ve I was.
I had hoped this would be the year I'd get back into my blog full time.  I was going to write about each and every game and have my artist buddy Omar create a cartoon for each matchup.  I KNEW this year had the potential to be special, and I wanted to document it in the event it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  But life got in the way.

So here we are.  A Seahawks loss puts us back at square one.  An offseason of "what if's" and draft picks and wringing our hands over free-agent gains and losses.  And then the grind begins.  Every week, every play, every game a fight in the bloodiest division in football.  Maybe we will get back again and finally take home the Lombardi Trophy in Glendale, AZ.  Maybe.

Or.... perhaps we win.  We dance in the streets.  We cry.  We get lifetime bragging rights. We get to buy the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COMMEORATIVE VIDEO!!!  It will be something we can hold onto for the rest of our lives.

I know there are a lot of 12's out there who are new to this, and I'll never be one of those who demeans or criticizes "new fans."  The more, the merrier.  But I'm old enough to have experienced a lifetime of sports disappointments:  Sonics leaving, Mariners collapse in 2001, Super Bowl loss in 2006, The Cougs........

Maybe I do place too much importance on sports.  Maybe I want this too much.  But I'm not apologizing to anyone for that.  My love for the Seahawks is not a choice at this point, it's part of who I am.

I can't wait for Sunday.

Go Hawks.

Friday, April 5, 2013

End Of An Era. Matt Flynn traded. Now what?

(Disclaimer:  I haven't written since.... well you can see the date of my last post.  THAT long.  I will not be held responsible for any rustiness, poor pacing, or just plain crappy writing that is about to follow.  Read at your own risk)

So we traded our backup quarterback.

The one who had one great game and made everyone in Seattle believe he was the next Tom Brady, or Earl Morrall or Kurt Warner... or whatever.

Seahawk fans every are freaking out.

We need to find some sort of All-Pro backup. 

If we don't,  disaster is certain to strike.

Everyone.... just..... chill.

At the time Flynn was signed I was like everyone else; hopeful that he could be the kind of solid, young-ish starting QB we needed to solidify the position for at least a few years.

(In fact, I called it well in advance. 

Matt Flynn, we hardly knew ya.
Best-case scenario was that he would end up being a Pro Bowler. He looked good enough in the preseason; efficient, technically sound, good decision maker.  But once it became obvious that Russell Wilson was a breakout star-in-the-making, Flynn's fate was sealed.  He was never going to be anything more than a backup with us. 

This is where it gets murky.  So much of how we perceive professional athletes is wrapped up in their compensation.  A backup point guard who wasn't drafted, gets a chance to play when the starter gets hurt, and averages 15 pts and 6 assists a game is valuable.  Solid.  A steal even.  But if that same player was a lottery pick and put up 15 & 6 he would invariably be labled a bust. And it wouldn't take long.

If Matt Flynn had come to us on a 2 year deal for 5 or 6 million bucks (backup money), this would have all been very neat and clean, and most fans would have seen it for what it really was.  But because he was paid starter money (or at least potential starter money), everyone's view of him changed.  And oh that one game!  Nevermind that it was against a Lions secondary that was donkey crap, when you throw for 6 TD's and 480 yard you raise a lot of eyebrows. 

And expectations.

And that's where it all went wrong, at least in the eyes of a great deal of less-than informed, simple-minded "fans."  Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I saw in my Twitter timeline: "How can we trade Flynn?  He's going to be elite.  He PROVED it in that ONE game!"
So....... I'd have some dollars.  But that's not really where it all went awry.  After all, Russell Wilson was so good that most fans see now it was the right move handing over the reigns to him as a rookie.  The ones that don't... well, they probably can't read this anyway.  But the real disconnect has shown itself in two ways since Flynn was dealt to the Raiders for two late-round draft picks last week.

  1. How could we give him away for so little?  He's worth SO much more! I mean, Alex Smith got a SECOND ROUNDER!!!!!
  2. What are we going to do now for a backup QB?  All the good ones are signed.  We're doomed!

Allow me to take these one by one..... slowly.

  1. Matt Flynn only fetched a 6th round pick because that's what he was worth.  How is worth determined?  By the buying public.  YOU might think Matt Flynn was worth a 2nd round pick because had had that AWESOME game, but the rest of the league was either not interested in him, or only interested in him at that price.  What should that tell you?
  2. Great QB's don't grow on trees.  We know that here as well as any other NFL city right?  But solid backup QB's do.  The reports of the Seahawks liking Tyler Thigpen as RW's understudy are out there, and so is the fan reaction.  Most of you seem to think it's a horrible idea, seemingly because Thigpen "sucks."  Go watch some tape on him, look at his numbers, spend 5 minutes doing some actual research (I hear this thing called Google is a good place to look).   He's got some skills, has proven he can make plays, and has a skill set that matches what the Hawks are looking for in our offense.  And then there's the draft.  I think John Schneider and Pete Carroll have shown us they have great eyes for talent yes?  We go into this draft armed with a bunch of extra mid/late round picks.  We can find another solid QB talent.
Tyler Thigpen
And stop with the Josh Portis love.  Please.  He's not the answer, not even if the question is "Can he be passable as a backup?"

I know we live in a society now that's ruled by social media and a thirst for instant answers/analysis/solutions, but the overreaction to each and every move, or even rumor, is beyond annoying.  I want to offer you my final thoughts as a favor to you, to ease your mind.  Call it free therapy, if you will.

Matt Scott please
Look for the Hawks to sign a veteran AND draft a QB AND sign at least one other (vet or UDFA)before camp. If news breaks tomorrow that we've signed Thigpen, or Matt Leinhart, or Vince Young, take a deep breath.  It doesn't mean they believe he is THE guy to lead us in the event Wilson should get hurt.  It means they like his skill set and want to give him a chance to compete for that right.  Nothing more.

Besides... Wilson isn't going to get hurt. He's other-wordly.  An android possibly.

And if that isn't enough to appease you, maybe this well help.  Remember how freaked out we all were about our starting QB situation from 2010-2012?  All that panic and debate is now raging around who our BACKUP is. 

Think about that for a minute.

Go Hawks.

Friday, September 14, 2012

PREVIEW: Cowboys @ Hawks

After watching coaches tape of the Arizona game (thank you NFL Rewind!), I'm more encouraged than I was immediately afterwards.  But... isn't that always the case?  If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm an optimist; one who's often torn between the emotional reactions of a lifelong fan, and the football-geek, analytical part of me that wants to find answers.  Typically, emotion rules on gameday but by Monday I'm trying to find silver linings. 
The biggest frustration last week for me was the inability, or unwillingness, of the Hawks to work down the field.  Was it Darell Bevell taking it easy on his first-time-starting rookie QB?  Was it the rookie QB fighting nerves? Were our receivers failing to get separation? Or was it just the result of an aggressive, talented Cardinal defense playing well at home?
Most likely.... all of the above.
Initially I was cursing Bevell for completely ignoring the middle of the field  Of the 40 times Russell Wilson dropped back to throw, only 5 times did he throw the ball between the hashmarks.  But after watching the tape, I can't lay all the blame on the play-caller.  There were receivers open on virtually every play, many of them over the middle. Wilson either didn't see them, or didn't have time to see them.  Let's hope it was more of the latter.  Still, I'd like to see more crossing routes, slants, and use of the TE moving foward. 
There's enough evidence that Wilson is willing and able to throw the ball down the seam, so I'm not worried about any reluctance he may have had in Arizona.  It's one of the qualities I look for in young quarterbacks, and one that I think is a real strength of Wilson's game.  No matter how good we all think Wilson can be, the game still needs to slow down for him.  Seahawks play-by-play guy Steve Raible said Wilson watched the game tape twice during the 2.5 hour flight home.  He saw the open receivers.  He will adjust.
Last year when Seattle travelled to Dallas they lost 23-13.  Tarvaris Jackson threw 3 INT's, but if you recall...this is where Tom Cable's zone blocking scheme started to jell, and the running game kicked into a new gear.  Marshawn Lynch managed 135 yards on 23 carries, on his way to 941 yards over his last 9 games.  The Seahawks will need to do that to have a chance on Sunday against the Cowboys devastating pass rush.  Dallas racked up 3 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and a couple other pressures against the Giants in their opener.  They will attempt to harass Wilson and force mistakes.  To beat the Cowboys, however, Wilson will have to be efficient but can't afford to be too conservative.  He will need to take some shots down the field.  The Giants averaged 4.3 yards per rush against Dallas.  A similar output by the Hawks would go a long way towards setting up the play-action passing game. 
Meanwhile, Demarco Murray rushed for 139 yards against us last year, and the Seahawks rushing defense will have to stand up on Sunday and force Tony Romo and his talented group of receivers into 3rd and long situations.  Murray can be a load.  Long runs must be limited.
This is a huge test.  The Cowboys have significantly upgraded their defensive backfield, the most glaring weakness from a year ago.  Their front 7 is as disruptive as any in the league, and the skill position players on offense are unusually healthy.  And when they're healthy.... they are really good.    The Seahawks defense will be tested at every level, and they'll need to limit long drives and come up with a turnover or two to help our young quarterback.  The Cowboys interior offensive line had some struggles in New York, and C Phil Costa has missed practive time this week, that could present an opportunity for our front.  The 12th man needs to be exceptionally loud and make it tough on that Dallas O-line.  If we can get a short field once or twice, we could get this one.
If Dallas comes in here and wins, don't panic.  Yes, we are a team with playoff aspirations, but also one with a rookie QB.  This team is being built for the long-run, and will get better as the year moves forward. 
But.... if we can stand up and get this one, it would make a huge statement about where the ceiling is for this squad. 
Warming up my voice now....

Friday, September 7, 2012

PREVIEW: Hawks at Cardinals

That deafening buzz you hear emanating from the Puget Sound region these days is a growing sentiment among Seahawk fans (both loyal and bandwagon-ish) that there's something good on the horizon for the home team.  After enduring over 500 player transactions during the first 3 offseasons of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider regime, the Hawks have amassed one of the more dynamic young talent cores in the NFL, and appears poised to make a run at a playoff spot.

But much of that buzz earned it's momentum via the mercurial performance of diminutive rookie QB Russell Wilson, so it needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of reality.  No matter how gifted they are, rookie quarterbacks will struggle.  Remember John Elway's 7/14 TD/INT ratio as a rookie? How about Peyton Manning throwing 28 picks his first year?

Mark it down.... Wilson will have bad games, and there will certainly be times when a restless fan base desperate for a winner will call out for Matt Flynn to get his shot.  But Carroll has an intense belief in Wilson and his special attributes, primarily his ability to lead in the face of adversity.  He'll let him fail, and give him a chance to respond. 

As I look ahead to this week's opener at Arizona, however, I'm not even thinking about the risks of pitting a rookie QB starting his first regular season game against a defense that should rank among the more troublesome in the league.  Maybe it's because I believe our running game will control the clock and allow Wilson to sustain long drives.  Or maybe I just believe Wilson is that good, and between his mobility and play-action, he'll hit on enough chunk plays to keep the Cardinals on their heels.

But mostly, it's because I see this Sunday as a coronation of sorts; a culmination of a 3 year construction project on defense.  The Cardinals offense is a mess, with both starting tackles on IR and a quarterback that didn't win the QB job as much as he was deemed the lesser of two evils.  Arizona isn't going to be able to run against the Seahawks, and John Skelton is going to struggle trying to make plays downfield with Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Jason Jones, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner breathing down his neck.  Seattle's big, physical secondary will take rookie Michael Floyd out of the game, and while Larry Fitzgerald will make a play or two, he'll mostly be a non-factor. 

This will be a coming-out party for the Seahawks defense.  They gave us a glimpse of what they could be during the second half of the 2011 season, but Sunday they will send a message to the Cardinals, as well as the 49ers and the rest of the league, that their playoff hopes are much more than a pipe dream. 

Expectations still need to be tempered; the early schedule is daunting.  But we get the Cowboys, Packers and Patriots at home during that stretch, and this defense is going to be good enough to keep us in every game.  Even a 2-4 or 3-3 start shouldn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm, as I believe this team will improve as the year advances.  There are questions on offense, with Wilson's learning curve and the unsettled receiving corps chief among them, but what better way to allow that offense to develop than having a defensive unit that can control a game?

It's been a long time since I felt this confident going into a Seahawks opener.

This is going to be a fun year.

Seahawks 31, Cardinals 13

Friday, March 16, 2012

Did Buffalo Do The Seahawks A Favor By Signing Mario Williams?

Seahawk fans wanted Mario Williams.  He was their Prince Fielder. 

"I don't care how much money it takes! We NEED Mario Williams or we will never win again!"

It gets old, but that's just the typical fan mentality.  So be it. I submit that the Buffalo Bills did us a HUGE favor by signing Williams.

Prior to the move, Buffalo was going to take a DE in the draft.  All the mocks had Quinton Coples, Melvin Ingram or *gasp* Courtney Upshaw going there, all possible targets of the Seahawks who have openly discussed their desire to bolster the pass rush through this year's draft class.  Upshaw...Upshaw...Upshaw...Upshawwwwww.....

Now, who knows where the Bills go in the draft, but they probably won't be taking one of those guys, leaving more options for Seattle at #12.  Upshaw!

(One of the more intriguing options for the Bills now is Ryan Tannehill, but that's another subject for another post...... like the one I just wrote for NFL Mocks at http://nflmocks.com/2012/03/16/seahawks-angling-for-tannehill/)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Case For Peyton Manning (aka: I Can't Believe What I'm About To Write)

For months we've been hearing that Peyton Manning could be a free agent this Spring, and for months we've had to endure Seahawk fans clamoring for him to resume his career in the Pacific Northwest. 

I heard the cries, and I tuned them out.  Hell, I HATED the idea.

No way, would Peyton Manning want to come to Seattle.

No way, would Pete Carroll and John Schneider shelve their rebuilding plan to hitch their wagon to a guy who's too old, too expensive, and too much of an injury risk.

No way, did I want him.

But I'm here to tell you I'm coming around. 

Fuck that, I'm all in.

What changed my mind?  First of all, some of the sports writers I respect the most are saying they have knowledge of the Seahawks legitimate interest in Manning.  Secondly..... I'm a lifelong Seahawks fan, and I want to win. 

And.... it's Peyton Freaking Manning!!!!

For those of you who don't know me, or haven't read my stuff, you know that I'm usually a big-picture kind of guy.  Don't sell the farm, don't bet the house, don't eschew long-term sustained success for short-term gain born out of panic or impatience. 

It's now my opinion that signing Manning would NOT be a sign that Carroll and Schneider are doing any of that.  I believe they thought it would take longer to reshape the roster the way they wanted to; younger, bigger, faster, stronger, more physical.  They're ahead of schedule.  So much so, that the stage could be perfectly set for Manning to A) Succeed in Seattle and B) Want to come here.

The defense is young, and well on it's way to being one of the league's best.  The offensive line was reshaped last year and looked like a solid unit the last 8 games of 2011, and together with Marshawn Lynch can provide something Manning has never enjoyed in his storied career, a bruising running game. There are weapons at WR and TE.  But most of all I believe that once Manning has done his research on potential landing spots (and does anyone think for a minute that he hasn't already?) that he'll see a rising, young General Manager who is proving himself to be a premier finder of talent. 

Are you ready for me Seattle?
And that might just be the factor that turned me around on this issue as I tried to wrap my head around the reality of it all.  Would a Peyton Manning contract be seen as a potential albatross by some?  Of course it will, but it shouldn't be.  Franchise QB's cost money, lots of it, but the Seahawks under Schneider have proven they can find talent anywhere; late rounds of the draft, off the streets, Canada.  It would be crucial for any team signing Manning to be sure they also identify and acquire a young QB to groom as a successor should his career end prematurely, but as for the rest of the roster, the Seahawks have depth, balance, and talented youth.  They have an owner willing and capable of spending whatever is needed to win, and they're smart, extremely smart in how they structure contracts and manage their salary structure.  Worst case scenario is Manning comes here, isn't 100%, doesn't take us to a Super Bowl, and we have to move on.  But I am convinced the rest of our roster would still be in great shape even if that were to happen. 

We can talk later about other scenarios; what to do if we sign him and he doesn't pan out, how to back him up if he does, or Plan B if we take a shot at him and he goes elsewhere. 

For today, I'm going to entertain the possibility that Manning to Seattle really could happen, tune out the cynics and the naysayers, and just sit back and watch it all unfold.