Saturday, May 25, 2013

Finally, a modicum of accountability

The Diehard appreciated Pete Carroll's apparently earnest public acknowledgement that his team's character issues are "real serious."

It was illuminating to hear the coach explain how the team addresses conduct issues. However, he missed an opportunity to concede that consistent character failures by Seahawk athletes constitute evidence that the team's methods require refinement.

Fortunately, the team's decision to cut Josh Portis after his DUI bust signaled that Seattle is starting to take a harder line against players guilty of inexplicable dumbassitude... at least when those players are expendable reserves who probably would not have made the team, anyway.

Now, Seattle should sign go ahead and sign Tyler Thigpen.

As for Carroll, now that he's getting on the right track with regard to player discipline, he should work on his grammar. The adverbial form in the English language is incredibly simple to execute. When a college-educated person consistently botches adverbs, that's "real serious."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A case where I hate being right

In my last post, I mused about the peril of loading your roster with character-challenged athletes.

Defensive end Bruce Irvin, Seattle's 2012 first round pick, was one of those guys, a high school dropout with a disorderly conduct arrest during college.

Now comes the news that Irvin must sit out the first four regular season games this year because he got busted for using a banned performance-enhancing drug.

It's a good thing the Seahawks have loaded their roster with D-linemen. We'll certainly need that depth now, at least during the season's first quarter.

To his credit, Irvin's public statements on the matter sound appropriately contrite. I'd like to interpret that as evidence of some component of personal accountability in the player's value system and perhaps also in Coach Carroll's team culture.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Talent vs. character

In terms of talent, I really like Seattle's offseason moves.

If Percy Harvin can stay healthy, then he could be the catalyst to upgrade our offense from decent to dominant.

Never in team history have the Seahawks had two great starting wide receivers line up on the field at the same time, but the reunion of ex-Vikings Harvin and Sidney Rice could change that. Rice's opportunities thus far in Seattle have been limited by frequent double coverage facilitated by the fact that defenses generally have not feared our other starting wide receiver. While neither Golden Tate nor Doug Baldwin would qualify as elite starting wideouts, they are unusually talented third and fourth receivers. For good measure, Seattle spent a fourth-round pick on Chris Harper, a big target who can also run and throw the ball, as he played quarterback in high school and for Oregon State before converting to wide receiver and finishing at Kansas State.

A stronger corps of wide receivers should strain opposing defenses and create more chances for tight ends Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy to catch the ball.

By drafting Texas A&M running back Christine Michael (2nd round) and LSU fullback Spencer Ware, the Seahawks added depth to the power running game. That gives Seattle three interchangeable battering rams at running back (All-Pro Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Michael) and two at fullback (Pro Bowler Michael Robinson, Ware). This unrelenting rotation of big, bruising backs with fresh legs will punish defensive fronts already thinned by the need to counter our enhanced receiving corps and contain our elusive quarterback. Meanwhile, the versatile Harvin can be the shifty change-of-pace running threat that Leon Washington never really managed to become for the Seahawks. (Although Washington is among the most feared returners in league history, he has begun to fade with age, and Harvin is at this point the more potent special teams threat.)

Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable continues to play a strong role in Seattle's draft strategy. Despite the strength of his position group, Seattle drafted two O-linemen to cultivate additional depth, including another 7th round conversion project. Last year, Cable successfully developed NC State defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy into a starting-calibre offensive guard. This year, he will attempt to transform NE Oklahoma State defensive tackle Michael Bowie into a backup center. I'm betting Bowie winds up on the practice squad, but I think I wrote that about Sweezy last year, too, and Cable proved me wrong.

On offense, my sole worry remains the backup quarterback position. I continue to believe that Seneca Wallace and Tyler Thigpen were better options than either Brady Quinn or Josh Portis. Quinn might have won the tryout, but Wallace and Thigpen have played respectably and have won games. Quinn hasn't. He is a choke machine. As for Portis, if he can't complete passes in preseason against scrubs, what will happen when he faces a real NFL starting defense?

Our roster is deep everywhere except behind Russell Wilson, our franchise quarterback. Is any other team in the league risking as precipitous a plunge in player quality at the position?

so much depends

a young
glazed with rain
beside his choke-prone
Thigpen remains a free agent. What would be the harm in inviting him to compete for the backup position?

Seattle also used the draft to fortify one of the NFL's strongest corps of defenders.

Although already loaded on the D-line, the Seahawks still picked up 2-3 defensive linemen. This confirms Seattle's preference for affordable young talent, and confirms that free agents Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are probably nothing more than short-term plugs at the position.

Analysts expected the Seahawks to load up on linebackers. At most, they took one. It's hard to classify Ty Powell, as he played safety, then linebacker and then defensive end at Division II Harding University in Arkansas. Seattle will probably deploy him as a pass rushing linebacker. The Seahawks seem content with the young talent they have developed in the linebacking corps. Though a serviceable starter, Leroy Hill will not be hard to replace. He never realized the promise of his Pro Bowl rookie season, but he amply fulfilled our worst fears regarding his character.

The Seahawks boast the league's strongest defensive secondary, but Seattle still drafted Tharold Simon out of LSU, a big cornerback who should be able to spell Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman on the outside.

Simon, who got arrested two days before the NFL draft, is one of many new Seahawks who bring considerable baggage with them in terms of character:

Percy Harvin clashed with his coaches and teammates in Minnesota. Believing himself underpaid, he threatened to quit the Vikings during the 2012 offseason. He openly questioned the ability of Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. He also tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in 2009.

Texas A&M coaches knocked Christine Michael for his laziness and bad attitude. He was benched early last season and did not play in the 2013 Cotton Bowl.

Simon was arrested two days before the draft for obnoxious behavior in his hometown on the eve of a day in his honor.

Ware was a disappointment at LSU, often out of shape, and got suspended for using synthetic marijuana as a sophomore.

One of GM John Schneider's bargain-hunting personnel strategies is to pursue players with character concerns or injury issues that deflate their draft value.

So far, Coach Pete Carroll has generally succeeded in eliciting good game performances from employees with past character problems, but off-the-field issues have ended Hill's career, created distractions for Sherman, cost Browner four games, may cause Lynch to miss some games this season, and have kept Cable from consideration as a head coach.

I worry. It's easier to redeem troubled athletes when most of the players on your team are high-character guys. A few projects are fine, but when you've got the Dirty Dozen (or two) on a 53-man roster, then that corrodes the culture of your team.

Despite Carroll and Schneider's apparent indifference to good citizenship, Seattle is fortunate to have team leaders of indisputably high character like Red Bryant, Michael Robinson and Russell Wilson. Since neither the front office nor the coaches evince much in the way of moral leadership, it will be up to them to mold this motley assortment of ethical athletes and talented misfits into something resembling a championship team.