Saturday, May 7, 2011

Uncompetitive disadvantage

Lots of NFL players are working out on their own during this prolonged lockout.

Athletes on teams that really want to win have been getting together for informal practices.

Several Houston Texans are working out at Rice University.

Tony Romo has convened Cowboys practices.

Eli Manning is taking snaps and throwing passes to Giants teammates in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Giants quarterbacks Eli Manning and Sage Rosenfels brave the rain to practice the Sailors' Hornpipe.

Why aren't any Seahawks getting together to practice?

Location is not an issue. Many players don't live in Seattle in the offseason, but nothing says the practices have to take place in our emerald Eden by the Sound.

LaDainian Tomlinson and Dirty Sanchez have led Jets workouts in sunny California.

The lack of veteran leadership certainly contributes to the dereliction of voluntarist duty on the part of our players. Seattle's two veteran offensive leaders--Matt Hasselbeck and center Chris Spencer--are both free agents who may not be back.

In Lofa Tatupu, we have a credible defensive leader, but the other teams' informal practices seem to have consisted primarily of quarterbacks throwing to backs and receivers.

A lack of veteran offensive leadership does not necessarily prevent players from holding informal practices. For example, Bengals backup Jordan Palmer has assembled his team's wideouts in California for some workouts.

Charlie Whitehurst could advance his case as a prospective starter by organizing some practices.

Our athletes' inaction has surrendered the initiative to our rivals in the league and in the division.

Last week, in Arizona, All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald led several fellow Cardinals through workouts with Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb, a Phoenix resident who may be auditioning with prospective teammates for a role with his hometown pro franchise.

The future in Arizona?

As long as league owners continue to dawdle, it is up to the players to salvage their team's prospects for the regular season by convening their own practices. Football is a team sport. Unless you're a world-class badass like Walter Jones, you can't get ready to play by working out all alone.

Seahawks players need to come together and make something happen.

A Seahawks Diehard exclusive photo of informal practices held by Seattle players thus far during the lockout.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Great Collaborators now a power trio

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

Last year, Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider dubbed themselves the Great Collaborators, working together on drafting talent for the Seahawks. Musical analog: Simon & Garfunkel.

Simon & Garfunkel, feeling groovy

This year, they heavily involved a third man: assistant head coach and O-Line guru Tom Cable.

Tom Cable, former Raiders head coach

Now that the Great Collaborators have incorporated a third member, their new musical analog is Rush!

When you listen to Canada's premier prog rock power trio, Neil Peart's thunderous drumming and literate lyrics leap out at you. He establishes both the beat and the thematic content of each song.

Neil Peart, Rush drummer and lyricist

In determining Seattle's first two picks, Cable assumed the Neil Peart role. He set the rhythm and the theme: In this draft, more than anything else, the Seahawks moved to shore up the offensive line. Since that unit--once the strongest in the NFL--has become our Achilles' heel in recent years, that emphasis seemed entirely appropriate to me.

Most rock bands write songs about love and sex. Neil Peart rejects such tired themes, even if they are tried and true and timeless. Instead, he writes lyrics about atheism ("Free Will," "Faithless"), intolerance ("Witch Hunt"), and Dungeons & Dragons ("By-Tor and the Snow Dog" and "The Necromancer"). His magnum opus was 2112, a science fiction concept album channeling the philosophy of Ayn Rand. (Note: That was back in 1976. Unlike most Randroids, his thinking has matured and evolved since then.)

Similarly, Tom Cable evidently bucks conventional wisdom when it comes to the draft. Most analysts regard our first two picks as reaches, as offensive linemen who might have been good picks if taken a round later. However, Carroll and Cable claim that the road graders Seattle selected--tackle James Carpenter of Bama and guard John Moffitt of the false UW (Wisconsin)--were the two linemen that Cable most coveted from all of college football.

Of course, they might just be blowing smoke after the fact in an effort to justify risky picks.

Bama offensive tackle James Carpenter, Seattle's top draft pick

However, our O-Line selections clearly reflect the team's strong faith in Cable's ability to size up talent at his position of expertise. Certainly, he has had great success as a position coach, assembling effective front fives everywhere he has worked. In Oakland, he took Robert Gallery--for years a hopeless and bitterly disappointing draft bust--and built him into a valued and viable player, and now a coveted free agent.

On the other hand, one fears that Cable might have picked up some bad draft habits from Raiders owner Al Davis. Once a gifted talent scout, the Crypt Keeper seems to have lost his touch since joining the ranks of the undead. (Evidently, lichdom isn't all it's cracked up to be.) Analysts who trash our draft are already lumping us in with Oakland as losers. (See

Oakland Raiders Al Davis (left) and his doppleganger, the Crypt Keeper (right).

However, Rush fans forgave Neil Peart's youthful fascination with Ayn Rand because 2112 rocked, and because the concept album told a story that's compelling even if you reject Objectivist philosophy.

Similarly, I can tolerate Tom Cable's quirky draft selections if Carpenter and Moffitt quickly become strong cogs in a dominant offensive line.

After Peart writes Rush's lyrics, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson develop fitting musical accompaniment for them.

In much the same way, after letting Cable grab two O-linemen, Carroll and Schneider took over the rest of the draft.

Geddy Lee tends to dominate the sound of Rush, with bombastic basslines and helium-fueled banshee wails of awesome nasal power, reflecting routing through one of the world's most prominent proboscises.

Rush bassist and banshee, Geddy Lee.

Likewise, Carroll seems the stronger partner in his collaboration with Schneider. The rest of the draft reflected Pete's infatuation with big wideouts, big D-linemen, and big, fast corners who can press.

Conventional critics condemned Seattle for its failure to draft a quarterback. I laud the team for refusing to reach and squander a pick at that position. Re-signing Matt Hasselbeck is the right solution. Failing that, we have made a substantial investment in Charlie Whitehurst, and he performed well in the one high-stakes contest where we customized the game plan for him. If we need backup insurance, it's a buyer's market for capable free agent quarterbacks.

Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle's best bets at quarterback next year

Rush isn't for everyone. Music critics have never liked the band, and Rush songs have rarely dented the charts, but the power trio has thrived for more than three decades by continuing to please a substantial niche audience.

By the same token, the Great Collaborators don't need to please draft pundits or impress a national audience of football fans in their selections of college talent. They just need to serve the Seahawks faithful by assembling a team that can maintain Seattle's traditional dominance of the NFC West.

Occasionally, it takes time for a Rush album to grow on you. Intially, I didn't like Grace under Pressure or Test for Echo, but over time, I came to appreciate their subtle and considerable virtues.

In a similar vein, I expressed skepticism regarding many of the personnel changes Carroll and Schneider made last year, but in retrospect, their overhaul effort basically succeeded.

Like almost every band, Rush has released uninspired albums. No matter how many times you listen to it, Vapor Trails is a bad trip. (The flatulent implications of its title should have served as ample warning.)

Rush's nadir, Vapor Trails

But I don't think this was a Vapor Trails draft.

After last year, the Great Collaborators have earned a modicum of faith from Seahawks diehards.

Wisconsin guard John Moffitt, now a Seahawk.