Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dissecting the 35th Anniversary Seahawks Team

2015 will mark the 40th season for the Seattle Seahawks.

The occasion offers an opportunity to improve upon past efforts to compile a roster of the all-time greatest Seahawks.

Consider, for example, the 35th Anniversary team, reflecting fan voting on the franchise's official website (following each athlete's name is his tenure in Seattle):

WR Steve Largent (1976-89)
LT Walter Jones (1997-2008)
LG Steve Hutchinson (2001--05)
C Robbie Tobeck (2000-2006)
RG Bryan Millard (1984-1991)
RT Howard Ballard (1994-98)
TE John Carlson (2008-2011)
WR Bobby Engram (2001-08)
WR Brian Blades (1988-1998)
QB Matt Hasselbeck (2001-10)
RB Shaun Alexander (2000-07)
FB Mack Strong (1993-2007)

DE Jacob Green (1980-92)
DT Joe Nash (1982-96)
DT Cortez Kennedy (1990-2000)
DE Michael Sinclair (1991-2001)
OLB Chad Brown (1997-2004)
MLB Lofa Tatupu (2005-10)
ILB Fredd Young (1984-87)
OLB Rufus Porter (1988-94)
CB Marcus Trufant (2003-12)
CB Dave Brown (1976-86)
NB Shawn Springs (1997-2003)
SS Kenny Easley (1981-87)
FS Eugene Robinson (1985-95)

Special Teams
K Norm Johnsonv (1982-90)
P Rick Tuten (1991-97)
KOR Steve Broussard (1995-98)
PR Nate Burleson (2006-09)

The online poll evinced two deep flaws:

1. A predictable presentist bias; and
2. An alarming lack of depth.

Presentist Bias

To see how badly the presentist perspective of voters skewed the results, let's start by splitting up team history into four major coaching eras:

I. The Patera Era (1976-82; includes an '82 season under McCormick); 20%
II. The Age of Knox (1983-91)
II. The Flores & Erickson Errors (1992-1997)
IV. The Holmgren Era (1999-2008)

Now, consider the percentages of offensive, defensive and special teams players drawn from each era:

I. Patera  = 1/12 offensive players (8%), 1/13 defenders (8%), 0/4 special teamers (0%)
II. Knox = 1/12 offensive players (8%),  6/13 defenders (46%), 1/4 special teamers (25%)
III. Errors = 2/12 offensive players (17%), 2/13 defenders (15%), 2/4 special teamers (50%)
IV. Holmgren  = 8/12 offensive players (67%), 4/13 defenders (31%), 1/4 special teamers (25%)

It is hard to argue with the under-representation of Patera Era Seahawks. Although those years comprised 20% of the first 35 years of team history, Seattle was a pretty dreadful football team in those years, with a real dearth of talent.

While the '80s defense received due respect, voters seemed to have forgotten about the dynamic offensive production of Ground Chuck and Air Knox that contributed to the team's successes in its halcyon Silver Age. No love for Curt Warner? John L. Williams? Dave Krieg?

Voters got the Flores and Erickson Errors about right, except with regard to Steve Broussard. Bruiser was a good player, but his selection as the best kick returner in Seahawk history is explicable only as blatant homerism from Wazzu voters. (I didn't realize there were that many Husky grads with the time, patience and big hearts to help WSU alumni operate a PC, read and vote online.)

Obviously, the real problem is the gross over-representation of Seahawks from the Holmgren Era. Of course, Holmgren's decadelong tenure as Seattle's coach consumed 40% of the team's first 35 years. Moreover, those years included most of the best seasons in the team's history through 2010, and featured the most explosive offensive in team history.

So, some over-representation is understandable, especially on offense. But John Carlson as the best tight end in team history? Was that supposed to be some kind of joke? The kid could catch passes (and still can), but I've coached flag football 5th graders who block better than he did (and does).

Lack of Depth

I like depth on real teams and on all-star teams. Don't just name starters. Seattle has had enough great players to fill out an entire roster, including backups.

We can do better for the 40th Anniversary squad.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

By the skin of our beak

That was a huge victory, especially for the defense, which once again rode to the rescue of our sputtering offense by producing a preposterous series of game-saving plays.

Improbable interception by a prone defensive tackle? Check. (Nice grab, Jordan Hill.)

Big pick six? Check. (Bobby Wagner knocked the ball from the hands of Lance Kendricks before he could complete the catch or take possession, so when Bruce Irvin grabbed the ball and took it to the house, the statisticians coded it as an interception instead of a fumble recovery.)

Earl Thomas forcing a fumble at the goal line to snatch a turnover via touchback from the jaws of a near-touchdown? Check.

Some other good things happened.

Steven Hauschka recovered from his failures in Arizona and returned to his customary clutchness,

Paul Richardson had a breakout game as a receiver.

Seattle successfully established the run against a tough St. Louis defensive front. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin combined for more than 100 yards.

The Seahawk offense mounted one impressive touchdown drive.

But the pass blocking was horrible again, and Russell Wilson's decisionmaking was poorer than usual. On the interception, for example, he should have pulled down the ball and run--he only had one defender to beat for a first down--rather than force the ball into coverage.

Earning a bye and home field advantage is huge, but it was disappointing that the offense took a step backwards.

Go, Hawks!

Finish strong

Old Diehards remember the futility of the Patera Era (1976-82), the Behring Error (1989-1996) and the brief but painful Holmgren Fade (2008-9).

Thus, we appreciate how great it is that the Seahawks are playing a meaningful game in the regular season.

It doesn't get much more meaningful than a chance to win a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Beating St. Louis today would almost certainly win pole position for Seattle. The nightmare scenario is relatively unlikely: a Dallas victory (plausible) plus a Detroit-Green Bay tie (extremely improbable).

Of course, beating the Rams ceased to be easy once Jeff Fisher took over. The man is an evil genius with a knack for winning divisional matchups. We played them tough in St. Louis only to lose thanks to special teams trickeration.

The Rams defense has grown tougher in recent weeks.

Russell Wilson will face pressure from an intimidating pass rush. Our O-line, coming off its best performance of the year, must establish the run.

The St. Louis offense doesn't scare anyone.

But last week Seattle scared the world with both our offense and defense. Today's contest is a chance to build on that offensive explosion and strike terror into the hearts of teams that may need to visit Seahawks Stadium in the playoffs.

Given that one of our likely playoff opponents is Dallas, which already beat us at home, the need to revive that sense of doom is critical.

Go, Hawks!

Some other great plays last week

Marshawn Lynch's epic 79-yard run has gotten all of the love it deserves, but unfortunately that has come at the expense of some other extraordinary plays in last week's triumphant trampling of the Cardinals.

Luke Willson's 80-yard touchdown catch: Most of the Cardinals buy the fake handoff to Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson rolls left and forgoes an easy short pass to Doug Baldwin because he sees Willson get open deep behind the defense. DangeRuss hits the tight end in stride with a nice 40-yard pass. Willson displays impressive speed in his sprint to the end zone. Safety Rashad Johnson dives for his ankles and takes a heel to the head that knocks off his helmet and bloodies his nose. The game in a nutshell, really.

Russell Wilson's long runs. Arizona's defense generally provided good outside containment, but that left gaps in the middle, which DangeRuss mercilessly exploited.

Richard Sherman's interception. What I really loved about this play was how fluidly the defense shifted into attack mode, with defenders turning into blockers to set up a 50-yard return. It is clear that Seattle not only practices getting turnovers, but also capitalizing on them. "We want the ball, and we're gonna score" is not a normal defensive attitude.

Russell Wilson's 6-yard touchdown run: Most of Arizona's defenders bit hard on the fake handoff to Marshawn Lynch, but linebacker Alex Okafor recognized Russell Wilson's bootleg to the left and moved to meet the quarterback nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. But it is not easy to pull off an open-field tackle on an athletic quarterback. DangeRuss victimized Okafor with a stutter step and a stiffarm takedown that left Okafor--five inches taller and more than 50 pounds heavier than Wilson--lying prone while the quarterback ran for the goal line. All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie is there to defend the corner of the end zone, but it didnn't matter. DangeRuss juked him and ran untouched into the end zone.

More on last week's epic run

The play call was 17 Power--the same run play called for the Beast Quake against the Saints. In that playoff game three years ago, imperfect blocking forced Marshawn Lynch to make his own hole.

This time, Seattle's blockers executed effectively at the point of attack. From the Seattle 21-yard line, center Patrick Lewis snapped the ball and exploded into defensive tackle Dan Williams, driving him two steps outside before left guard Richard Carpenter piled on to complete a superfluous double-team. Meanwhile, backup left tackle Alvin Bailey wrestled Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell aside, while tight end Luke Willson held off linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, opening a wide hole in the C-gap between Bailey and Willson.

Cooper Helfet, a second tight end, lined up outside of Willson, but looped inside to run interference in the hole with linebacker Glenn Carson. Helfet made no effort to block Carson, but the linebacker made perfunctory contact presumably intended to disrupt the route of an eligible receiver.

Right guard JR Sweezy pulled, sprinting left to hit the hole just ahead of Lynch, who had taken the handoff. Sweezy found no one new to block, but needed to clean up some unfinished business. Campbell shed Bailey's block and shoved Carson toward Lynch. Sweezy peeled back and shot out both arms, repelling Campbell with his left while using his right to redirect Carson's dive from a viable angle to a futile grab at the ball carrier's ankles.

The wideouts made their blocks on the second level. Paul Richardson hooked safety Tony Jefferson and drove him to the turf as the Beast burst from the hole. When Rashad Johnson--Arizona's other safety--ran up to meet Lynch, Ricardo Lockette's slant route ran right into him, allowing the Beast to cut back toward the right sideline.

Trailing Lockette in coverage put All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson in good position to make the play, but he overran Lynch's cutback.

Now it was a footrace. Johnson fought off Lockette's block and ran with Peterson after Lynch, with the Rocket in hot pursuit.

As the Beast crossed the 30-yard line, Peterson took a good angle, and used his superior speed to meet Lynch outside the numbers at the Seattle 43-yard line. After hand-fighting for a few steps, Peterson stepped in front of Lynch and grabbed at his outside shoulder, but the Beast just flung him off the field with his free arm.

This encounter slowed Lynch, allowing Johnson and Lockette to catch up with him at the Arizona 45-yard line. Lynch and Lockette shoved the safety to the ground out of bounds. Still trying to make a play from the sidelines, Peterson hurdled his prone teammate, but Lockette ran off the field and blocked him. The Rocket then ran back on the field in search of someone else to block.

At the Arizona 20-yard line, linebacker Alex Okafor face-planted while diving ineffectually for Lynch's ankles.

All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie had slowed to a jog in mid-play, assuming that Peterson and Johnson could tackle Lynch on the sideline, but when he saw the Beast escape, he resumed sprinting. As Lynch neared the goal line, Lockette rocketed downfield and blocked Cromartie to ensure that the Beast could complete his glorious run with an inglorious crotch grab.

Lockette's hustle provided the perfect counterpoint to the Beast's epic run. In the course of Lynch's 79-yard run, the Rocket ran farther and faster, throwing four blocks on three players, two of whom were All-Pros.

Ricardo Lockette is a badass.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Another close parallel for Sunday's big run

I sensed that Marshawn Lynch was going to break a big run on Sunday. When the TV crew announced that the Beast wasn't starting because he had an upset stomach, I nodded and declared, "That's lucky."

My long-suffering partner rarely pays attention to my football games or to me when I'm watching them, but she noted my comment and judged it odd.

I do not generally regard nausea as beneficial for athletic performance. Intestinal distress is fortunate only in one specific case: when the ailing player is a Seahawk running back playing in Arizona.

I know this because I've seen it before. In 2005, I was in Sun Devil stadium when Shaun Alexander overcame a "tummy ache" and ran for 173 yards.

Alexander's ailment contributed to his struggles in the first half. He said, "Every time I got tackled, I felt like I was going to throw up or go the other way." (The latter would have been unfortunate in Seattle's all-white visiting uniforms.). 

After making some halftime adjustments, Alexander told a teammate, "Hey, I feel a little lighter now. Watch me break the first run." And he did, taking the initial handoff of the third quarter 88 yards to the house. There was no Beast Mode in that sprint, and no need for it. Alexander shot through a nice hole opened by his all-world O-Line and then outran everyone to the end zone.

So, I knew that once Beast Mode conquered his own tummy ache, he was gonna go off and make Arizona nauseous.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Don't call it "Beast Quake II"

Marshawn Lynch's long touchdown run Sunday night ranks among the season's most exciting NFL highlights and rates among the greatest plays in Seahawk history.

Many have likened Lynch's 79-yard rampage to the Beast Quake run four seasons ago. 

Certainly, the two plays share many parallels. Both clinched crucial, high-stakes games with big playoff implications. In both cases, Lynch carried the ball, broke free from early contact, produced an impressive burst of sustained speed, deployed a mean stiffarm, and benefited when from clutch downfield blocks thrown by hustling teammates. Both runs ended with Lynch falling backwards into the end zone, cradling the pigskin in one arm while his other hand clutched his crotch in crude defiance of the defenders he had just dominated.

For these reasons, some have lazily dubbed last night's run Beast Quake II.

That is a misnomer, because no real seismic activity registered in Arizona on Sunday night. The original Beast Quake was an authentic tremor caused by 66,000 fans rocking Seahawks Stadium by jumping up and down in celebration of Lynch's epic 67-yard run. There were plenty of Seattle fans in Glendale that night, but not enough to shake the stadium.

To compound the foolishness, one Seattle newspaper set up an online poll asking readers which run was better; the original Beast Quake, or Beast Quake II?

Of course, it's no contest. Sunday night's run was magnificent, but the original Beast Quake featured more broken tackles, a more vicious stiffarm and a better team effort from a convoy of Seahawks blocking downfield to help usher Lynch into the end zone. Moreover, it took place on a bigger stage and in a more heroic underdog context: the only losing team in history to win a division, host a playoff game and eliminate the defending Super Bowl champions.

So, we need a better name for Sunday night's run. I invite suggestions from the teeming legion of Diehard readers. In the meantime, my own proposal draws inspiration from Michael Bennett, who said, "That's the best run I've ever seen. It looked like he was running for his freedom."

Thus, I propose "The Jailbreak."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tougher test tonight

Arizona is undefeated at home this year. Bruce Arians has clearly earned coach of the year honors for consistently fielding a competitive team despite a crippling epidemic of injuries to key players.

Yet, Vegas and most analysts give the Cardinals little chance of winning tonight. They fixate on Arizona's dire quarterback situation while ignoring the team's relentlessly excellent defense and increasingly credible run game.

Seattle's defense can probably handle Arizona. The Sea-fence has rounded into championship form in recent weeks, and should be able to stack the box to stymie Cardinal run efforts and dare Ryan Lindley to throw at the Legion of Boom.

It would be lazy to label Lindley as untested; the fact is that he has faced few tests and flunked most of them. His stat line is truly dreadful: one win vs. five losses as a starter, zero touchdowns and seven interceptions.

But all of that happened when injuries pressed him prematurely into service as a rookie 6th-round draft pick back in 2012. Presumably, two years of work as an understudy have yielded some improvement. Arians knows how to coach quarterbacks and how to get the most out of his offense. 

Last week, in the first half, Colin Kaepernick had some limited success throwing against Seattle, completing several crossing routes against Richard Sherman and other defenders. It will be interesting to see if Arizona is bold enough to try to exploit the same apparent weakness, and equally interesting to see how the Seahawks react. Against the 49ers, our defense responded primarily by intensifying the pass rush.

Winning tonight will require another superhuman performance from the Sea-fence to compensate for Seattle's faltering offense. The team's defensive resurgence has helped to mask a dramatic decline in offensive production. After averaging 28 points per game through week 10, the Seahawks have posted just 20 points per contest since then.

Optimists characterize this as Seattle reverting to its roots as a run-first offense paired with a solid defense, an old-school team playing smash-mouth football on both sides of the ball. There is some truth to that, but I would be more comfortable with the small ball approach if it were built on a more solid foundation.

Unfortunately, our offensive line is still a wreck, the team's undisputed Achilles heel. When healthy, they are a serviceable crew, but they are rarely healthy. The chief cornerstones--center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung--will not play tonight. Guards Richard Carpenter and JR Sweezy are banged-up and underperforming. Rookie second-round pick Justin Britt is one of the worst right tackles in the league. Alvin Bailey looked bad in relief of Okung last week. The return of backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre is the sole bright spot in this picture.

With the O-line in shambles, Seattle's offense continues to rely on the superhuman talents of Beast Mode and DangeRuss. The offensive line provides sporadically decent run blocking, but Marshawn Lynch can always grind out a few yards by making his own holes.

The greatest concern is the O-line's inept pass protection. Every week, Russell Wilson faces more pressure than any other quarterback in the league. As the 21st century's answer to Harry Houdini, DangeRuss eludes most pass rushers and takes relatively few big hits, but it is only a matter of time before he takes an unlucky shot and we get to see what our offense looks like with a mere mortal under center. Tarvaris Jackson is serviceable backup, but anyone other than Wilson would get sacked twice or thrice as often under the pressure our offensive line permits.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and O-line coach Tom Cable have their work cut out for them.

Go, Hawks!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Choke out Oakland

Oakland is a bad team, but they're playing better under interim head coach Tony Sparano.

The Seahawks are so wracked with injuries that any opponent would pose a challenge at this point. Consistent chemistry has eluded Seattle on offense, defense and special teams.

Seattle needs to exorcise the demons of our home loss to the Cowboys and restore the fear to Seahawks Stadium.

Old School Diehards remember when playing the Raiders were our most hated division rivals. Still, inspiration should be no problem today. Seattle honors Marysville pregame and inducts Big Walt into the Ring of Honor at halftime.

Carolina off my mind

Seattle savored a sweet victory after a relatively ugly game last week.

Carolina is not a great team, but everyone in the NFL is a threat every week, and western teams always struggle in the eastern time zone. Seattle came in banged up and underperforming on offense, defense and special teams.

There was no shortage of motivation to win. Seattle badly needed to snap a two-game losing streak. to keep their beaks above water (.500), stay alive for playoff contention, and keep clawing up from third place in the NFC West.

The Seahawks needed no extra motivation, but Cam Newton's antics provided plenty of it.

The Diehard can accept a certain level of celebration in football, but remains uncomfortable with narcissistic displays like Cam Newton's "I am Superman" nonsense.

I knew to expect that. What I didn't expect is that Cam Newton celebrates every single first down.

 First down celebrations are OK when you're a back or receiver who gets only a few touches per game, but when you're the quarterback, celebrating every single first down is.... excessive, to say the least.

Cam Newton has a great smile, but Seahawk defenders must have got tired of seeing his pearly whites.

So Bruce Irvin handled the situation.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gut check time

In St. Louis last Sunday, Seattle got outcoached and outplayed for the second consecutive week.

There was no shame in falling for that brilliant fake punt return... I have never seen anything like that in my life. St. Louis deserved to reap the benefits of incredible film study, diabolical design and epic execution.

But I saw that fake punt coming at the end of the game. I was yelling "Watch the fake!" at my TV in the seconds before the play. At the snap, all of the Seahawks turned and ran downfield to set up the return. I couldn't believe it.

Russell Wilson returned to greatness in the second half. If it were possible for one man to carry a team to victory, Wilson would have done it.

It will be easier to fix the problems with the offense and special teams than it will be to fix the defense. The chemistry is gone. We made a Rams reserve look like Tom Brady last week.

There are personnel issues. Loss of depth on the D-line, Bobby Wagner sidelined, a rotating cast of #2 cornerbacks, Kam Chancellor hobbled but playing with heart....

Good teams overcome these kinds of setbacks.

But our opponents have figured out our scheme. They have figured out how to use tempo to hinder our defensive line rotations, even as lack of depth has forced us to keep exhausted starters on the field too long. They have worked out how to game-plan around Richard Sherman. It was encouraging to see Sherman leave his side of the field to match up with the Rams' #1 wideout in a few key situations.

Players and coaches need to step up. Leaders need to lead.

At .500, it's time to channel the spirit of Jim Mora the Elder. This is no longer about repeating as Super Bowl champions. It is no longer about winning the division or qualifying for the postseason. ("Playoffs?") It is not even, with all due respect to Jim Mora, about just winning a game. As I used to tell my players, thinking about winning the game is a distraction, for the most part.

Football is always about executing your assignment and winning the current play. And then the next one. And the next one. Until the game is over, by which time the score and the winning and losing take care of themselves.

Carolina is having a bad year, but St. Louis was slumping, too.

The only sense in which our Super Bowl ring is relevant on the field is the fact that everyone wants to give us their best shot so they can say they beat the defending Super Bowl champions.

Feed the Beast. Sack Cam. Go, Hawks!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lord have mercy, we cut Percy

I still can't believe we lost to Dallas. At home.

The recipe for a Seattle loss is clear: Fail to feed the Beast, and let the opposing offense hold the ball twice as long as your offense.

I can't believe Darrell Bevell couldn't figure out how to integrate Percy Harvin into the offense. As a coach, I never had the problem of too many weapons, but it seems like it would have been a nice problem to have. For example, when Dallas showed they would swarm Harvin every time he touched the ball, I would have used him as a decoy while feeding the Beast and other playmakers until the defense adjusts.

Of course, the offensive coordinator is not to blame for Harvin's attitude problem. Picking fights with fellow receivers and your quarterback is bad enough, but refusing to enter the game in the 4th quarter was beyond the pale. Pussy Harvin now gets what he deserves: exile to a program of perennial losers, the dysfunctional New York Jets.

Bevell still has his work cut out for him. Future defenses will follow Dallas in modifying their pass rush and deploying a spy to contain Russell Wilson in the pocket. We need an answer for that, and it must involve 1) running the ball well and 2) receivers getting open. Neither task is easy, given the injuries to Pro Bowl center Max Unger and our top two tight ends, Zach Miller and Luke Willson. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse need to establish that they are credible starting NFL wideouts.

We can't blame Harvin or Bevell for Seattle's defensive struggles. We're giving up too many yards and too many points, generating too few turnovers, and giving opponents too much time of possession.

We have generally stopped the run (except against Dallas), but the pass rush needs to put more pressure and punishment on opposing quarterbacks.

Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas continue to play reasonably well, but otherwise, the secondary has become the Legion of Meh. We've been unlucky with injuries at nickelback and the other cornerback position. At strong safety, Kam Chancellor is playing hurt and it shows. I generally doubt that hurt starters can outperform healthy reserves.

It's gut check time. We're 3-2, just one win above mediocrity, holding third place in a four-team division. We can't afford to drop our first division game. The Rams are having another bad year, but under Jeff Fisher they generally put a good fight, especially at home.

Seattle needs to make a statement to exorcise the demons of last week's loss, get the season back on track, and remind the Rams that we still own them.

Go, Hawks!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Keep Ricardo Lockette!

I feel bad about having hate against Ricardo Lockette as the top story on this blog during its many months of dormancy.

Lockette was cleared of legal wrongdoing, though consorting with Colin Kaepernick still constitutes ethical misconduct in my book.

But Ricardo Rocket has won my heart. He is the most imposing gunner I have ever seen, the way he flies downfield like a molten bullet on punt coverage. It no longer seems possible for Jon Ryan to outkick his coverage because Ricardo Rocket runs so unbelievably fast. Opposing punt returners are quick to call for a fair catch because they've seen Lockette unload with Kam Chancellor-like brutality on the hapless fools who fail to seize that lifeline. (He runs hard on kickoffs, too, but Stephen Hauschka rarely kicks it shallow enough for the returner to catch the ball in the field of play.)

I appreciated the good personnel decisions the team made in the offseason. Losing Red Bryant was sad, but understandable. It was disappointing that the low-stakes Terrell Pryor gamble didn't pay off. I rued our failure to draft more O-linemen, and was really bummed about the injuries to Lemuel Jeanpierre and Michael Bowie and the latter's loss to Cleveland.

The O-line seemed improved through the first three games, but their play last week was disgraceful, and the loss of Max Unger hurts. Expect Dallas to try to confound the backup center Schilling with bizarre shifts, stunts and blitz packages.

Still, the first quarter of the season went well, marred only by the loss to San Diego.

Our run defense has improved, but the pass rush and the secondary haven't quite rounded into form. The potent Cowboy offense should pose a challenge, but the 12th Man might amp up the Legion of Boom and turn this into a repeat of the season opener where we made Green Bay's great offense look lame.

Future posts will likely continue to be sporadic. Personal and professional pressures have left me with very little time for anything. Not that it matters. Seattle is so good now that there is no shortage of coverage from local and national publications and blogs. I used to read almost everything published on the Seahawks, but my available my time and energy have dwindled as Seattle football coverage has exploded. I can't keep up with it. I barely find time to watch the games anymore. I certainly don't feel informed enough to attempt original commentary, even if I had time to do so.

I really appreciate everyone who used to read the blog sometimes, especially JB, who was kind enough to post comments on several occasions.

But when your mom is a hardcore Seahawks Diehard and even she won't read your blog, it is probably wise to conclude that you're wasting your time.

Go, Hawks!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cut Ricardo Lockette

Consorting with Colin Kaepernick would be grounds enough to part ways with this marginal reserve, but given the creepiness of the situation Lockette allowed in his Miami apartment, I'm disappointed the Seahawks haven't already released him.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An embarrassment of roster riches

The conventional wisdom is that Seattle needs to keep the team together to repeat as Super Bowl champions. That is neither possible nor desirable. The goal is to retain enough players to maintain chemistry while integrating upgraded talent.

The Seahawks soar into free agency and the draft in an enviable personnel situation. Let us count the ways:

1) We just won a Super Bowl with the league's deepest roster. Our only real weakness is the offensive line.

2) Because Seattle just won a Super Bowl, players will take less money to stay with or to join our team, in the hopes of winning a championship.
3) The Great Collaborators (Coach Carroll and GM John Schneider) evidently intend to exploit the rookie salary cap by grooming young talent to make players expendable when they reach free agency and demand too much money. Our roster is so deep on defense that there are no must-keep free agents. Smart personnel moves and great coaching have apparently created an inexhaustible pipeline of young, fast and interchangeable defensive backs, linebackers and D-linemen. Michael Bennett is a great football player, and it would be great to keep him, but if the market bids up his price to an unreasonable level, we'll be fine without him. We could get by without drafting any defensive players, but watch us draft a bunch of them, anyway. (Prediction: Bruce Irvin gets cut or traded.)

4) We have barely tapped into the potential of our 2013 rookies. They were a talented group, but because our veteran roster was so good and so deep, the younglings had trouble making the team and competing to earn playing time. Injuries at tight end pressed 5th rounder Luke Willson into service. Attrition on the O-line gave 7th rounder Michael Bowie some playing time. Our top draft pick--2nd round running back Christine Michael--was inactive most games, and when active, he rarely played, getting just a few chances to run the ball in garbage time. 3rd round defensive tackle Jordan Hill played sparingly in just 3 games. Several Seahawk rookies--5th round defensive tackle Jesse Williams, 5th round cornerback Tharold Simon and 6th round running back Spencer Ware--were placed on injured reserve, probably less for health reasons than to ensure that other teams could not steal them. Rival teams did in fact scavenge two players from our practice squad: the Packers jacked 4th round wideout Chris Harper, and the 49ers jumped our claim to 7th round guard Ryan Seymour. The only draftee we cut--7th round defensive end Ty Powell--caught on with the Bills. The 2013 rookies who remain with the team will return to vie for roster spots next year against other incumbents and against new free agents and the 2014 draft class.

5) We are set at running back. There's little point in bringing in more competition when we won't be able to keep all of our incumbents. Beast Mode is a given, but Robert Turbin's role as his backup will be contested by Christine Michael. The Aggie already runs better than Turbo, but he played sparingly, due to his shortcomings as a blocker. Presumably, Michael will have had plenty of time to learn pass protection and should be more of a factor next year. We could wind up keeping all three again.

6) We are also set at fullback. In fact, it's a serious logjam. When all three are healthy, it will be fascinating to see which two fullbacks survive the competition among veteran team leader Michael Robinson ("the Real Rob"), Derrick "Deaf Jam" Coleman and "Drunk Drivin'" Spencer Ware. Ware could still be stashed on the practice squad if he is odd man out, and if he can stay on the straight and narrow. I'd like to see Rob make the team again, if for no other reason than to keep alive my fantasy that our offense will install a fullback pass trick play for the ex-Penn State quarterback.

7) We have the most enviable quarterback situation in the league. Russell Wilson is a unique talent, an elite quarterback, and by far the the league's best bargain with a modest contract befitting his status as a projected 3rd round rookie backup. Tarvaris Jackson's respectable background as a starter makes him one of the league's best backups. Practice squad passer B.J. Daniels is a DangeRuss clone in terms of height, speed and monster college numbers, but it remains to be seen if he can make a similarly successful transition to the pro game and push T-Jack for the backup job. It wouldn't hurt to add a late-round draft pick or free agent rookie quarterback to the mix, but neither is it essential to do so, except to have extra throwing arms in training camp.

8) Anthony McCoy's return from injury means we shall have talent to spare at the tight end position. Seattle uses starter Zach Miller primarily as a blocker, failing to capitalize on his established capacity as an elite receiving tight end. Unfortunately, in all likelihood it's time for Miller to head elsewhere, unless he's willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. Seattle would be OK with McCoy, blocking specialist Kellen Davis and Luke Willson, a decent blocker who has shown dynamic potential as a receiver. However, we also have Cooper Heifet stashed on the practice squad, and Seattle recently signed Travis Beckum, free agent blocking tight end.

9) We are better off at wide receiver than the conventional wisdom would have it. Percy Harvin will dominate when healthy.Sidney Rice should have accepted a massive pay cut to stay in Seattle. He owes us. Rice has contributed when healthy, but the team has had to carry him while he missed much of the 2011 and 2013 seasons with injuries. It's hard to imagine another team paying much for an injury-prone receiver who has missed multiple games in 3 of his last 4 seasons. The impending release of Rice means we're in the market for a tall wideout to replace him, and that might be the 6'5" Chris Matthews, a Winnipeg Blue Bomber and 2012 Canadian Football League rookie of the year, who's coming off an injury-marred 2013 season. Golden Tate should settle for a reasonable salary with Seattle, because he's unlikely to develop the chemistry he has with DangeRuss anywhere else, and because he may not start if he stays. (His natural role is as a slot receiver, not a wideout.) Dawg alum Jermaine Kearse and the "Philippine Dream" Doug Baldwin add depth with starting potential. If we find great receiving talent in the draft, we could use it, but we don't need it.

10) Given that we're OK everywhere else, we can afford to devote this draft to shoring up the offensive line. Center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung are the only Pro Bowlers and absolute keepers. O-line coach Tom Cable did a great job of getting decent play out of the other modest talents on this injury-wracked unit, but it's time for a literal ton of upgraded talent (that's about 6 linemen). If, in any round of the draft, there is good O-line talent available, Seattle should grab it. The only thing standing between our team and offensive greatness is the play of our offensive line. If we could build an elite O-line, then DangeRuss would post monster passing numbers like Drew Brees and Beast Mode could break the single season NFL rushing record. (If Skittles can run for 1200-1600 yards behind a good-to-average line, then he could easily beastify 2000+ yards if we could complement Okung and Unger with comparable talent.) Right tackle Breno Giacomini is a decent player who has learned to master his nasty attitude, but he needs to take a pay cut or get out of town. Right guard J.R. Sweezy is functional but not dominant. Paul McQuistan is a versatile and capable backup, but as long as he's starting, we won't have an elite O-line. James Carpenter was a first round bust at tackle and isn't very good at guard, either. He needs to step up or get cut. 2013 rookies Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie showed flashes of potential. On the bright side, Lemuel Jeanpierre is a clutch backup who filled in admirably at center when Unger was out with injury. He can play guard in a pinch as well.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


It was great to see the 12th Man take over the stadium and elicit the safety suffered by Denver on the game's first offensive snap.

It was even better to see the Seahawks deliver the beatdown of Denver I dreamt of in my last post.

We original diehards have been waiting for this moment since 1976.

Let us enjoy our championship and temper the talk about repeating. We have a target on our backs going forward, we remain in the toughest division in the tougher conference, and we have our work cut out for us in terms of retaining and improving this tremendous team.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The odium that is Denver

It's a great day to be a Seahawks fan.

Last night we received confirmation that Walter Jones will be a first-ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining fellow Seahawks Steve Largent and Cortez Kennedy. Big Walt was not only the greatest Seahawk in team history, he was the best offensive tackle ever to play the game. .

Tonight, Seattle faces Denver in the Super Bowl.

Thanks to the appeal of Peyton Manning and the notoriety of Richard Sherman, the Broncos appear to be America's sentimental favorite to win this game. According to a survey of social media, Denver fans outnumber Seattle fans 4-to-1.

Social Super Bowl Map

On the other hand, more people seem to be shopping for Seahawks gear...


These results may seem contradictory, but they are actually reconcilable: Seattle supporters are probably genuine fans who would be more motivated to buy team merchandise. The Broncos have genuine fans, too, but most of their support is probably soft--that is, people rooting for Denver because they want to see Richard Sherman receive his comeuppance, or because Peyton Manning is a charming pitchman with a comeback story that tugs at the heartstrings. Soft supporters typically don't buy team merchandise.

Fortunately, fan opinion doesn't decide football games. Most of the country was rooting for San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, but it was the athletes on the field and the 12th Man in the stands who determined the outcome, from Beast Mode to Doug Baldwin's superclutchness to our suffocating defense causing Colin Kaepernick to melt down and choke the game away in the 4th quarter.

Fan opinion won't decide the Super Bowl tonight, either. It was sweet to stab a figurative talon in the eyes of all of those Niner fans two weeks ago, and it will be equally sweet to do the same to all of the misguided Bronco fans today.

Everyone seems to think this will be a close game, and they may be right. This battle pits not just the best offense versus the best defense in 2013, but possibly the best offense and defense in the history of the National Football League.

But this should not be close. Denver deserves nothing less than total humiliation tonight.

That may seem harsh. Peyton seems like a good guy, but he neither needs nor deserves this win, neither to secure his legacy nor for any other reason.

The fact is that Manning has a history of working for evil men.

In Indianapolis, he served the Irsays, the clan of scoundrels who stole the Colts from Baltimore in the dark of night. It wasn't his fault that Indianapolis drafted him, but he didn't have to stay with that tainted franchise as long as he did.

When the Colts jettisoned him, Manning had an opportunity to be a Seahawk.

Instead, he chose to work for this odious villain:

John Elway Talks About Denver

Latecomers to the Seattle bandwagon may find this hard to understand, but John Elway is our nemesis.

The Seahawks shared a division with Denver from 1977-2001. As the Bronco's quarterback for most of that span (1983-99), Elway was the equine face of that rivalry.

When Chuck Knox and Dave Krieg led the team, it was a real rivalry. The Seahawks split the series with the Broncos in those years, tormenting Elway as much as he tormented us. However, when Ken Behring wrecked the team, Denver dominated us, and we wasted a misspent decade watching his hideous horseface grin with gloating glee twice a year after the Broncos trampled our hapless Hawks.

Elway is now the Broncos executive credited with reviving the team's fortunes.

We will never have an opportunity to sack or intercept him on the field, but we can begin to exact karmic equivalence by treating Manning as if he were an Elway voodoo doll.

I want the 12th Man to take over the stadium.

I want the Legion of Boom to brutalize the Bronco receiving corps and set a Super Bowl record for pick sixes.

I want our front seven to blow through their vaunted offensive line to flatten Manning and school Knowshon Moreno.

I want our O-Line to step up and take over the game.

I want Beast Mode cranked up to maximum Skittles.

I want Percy Harvin to earn a year's pay in one day.

I want the rest of our reviled receiving corps to show that they are legitimate NFL starters.

I want DangeRuss to shred the Denver D with his fleet feet and his big arm.

Send the Broncos to the glue factory.

Go, Hawks!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


A lot of people are picking the 49ers to win today because they're riding an impressive 8-game winning streak.

And because the Seahawks have been fading. After starting 11-1, we have dropped two of our last five games, one of them in San Francisco, and the other a demoralizing home loss to Arizona. Last week, Seattle almost let the Saints come back late in the game.

Our offense is the problem. The Sea-fence stifles our opponents so reliably that we should dominate time of possession, but we seldom do, due to our inability to sustain drives and score points when we have the ball. Consequently, our defenders get worn down. Against New Orleans, after shutting down the league's most potent passing attack for three full quarters, our defense got tired and started yielding yards and points.

It starts with coaching. The team's recent offensive slump probably doomed Darrell Bevell as a head coaching candidate this year, and with good reason. Last month, the 49ers figured out our offense. They showed how a good defense could load the box, limit our run game, play zone to smother our receivers and deploy a spy to neutralize Russell Wilson. Subsequent opponents have tried to replicate that formula. Arizona had the defensive talent to pull it off and humiliate us at home. New Orleans nearly did it, too: the Saints consistently shut down our passing attack, but they could not stop BeastQuake II.

Remarkably, Bevell has so far failed to rise to this challenge as offensive coordinator.

Aside from a few plays designed for Percy Harvin, there have been no discernible changes in our offensive schemes. Harvin provided a brief spark, but he's out again today.

Russell Wilson is in the worst slump of his life. He hasn't played a good game in more than six weeks. Once clutch, calm, accurate and decisive, Wilson now seems tentative, and with good reason. Our schemes don't work, and he knows it. His receivers can't get open. Our offensive line remains porous on passing downs, and the run blocking isn't great, either. (Tom Cable won't be a head coach this year, either.)

Beast Mode took the offense on his shoulders last week, and he'll try to do so again, but that won't be easy against San Francisco's solid defensive line and all-world linebacking corps.

Darrell Bevell could help by designing an offensive game plan to frustrate San Francisco's assumptions. We know their secondary can normally shut down our present complement of wideouts, but can their linebackers divide their attention between their expected duties (shutting down Lynch and spying on Wilson) and some unanticipated ones (e.g., covering tight ends, running backs and perhaps an eligible tackle on pass routes out of run formations)? A few unexpected wrinkles can throw a defense off balance, bolster your team's confidence and help even your bread-and-butter offensive plays work better.

Our special teams also need work. The 49ers blocked a punt in each of its two regular season games against Seattle. The Seahawks can't let that happen today, nor can we allow another successful onside kick, as we did against New Orleans last week.

The defense remains the strength of our team. With help from the 12th Man, they should be able to limit the 49ers.

Seattle needs to win this game. Championship opportunities are rare, and this team has an opportunity to surpass the 2005 Seahawks as the best in franchise history.

It's also important to piss off the world. The Washington Post ran this map of the United States showing the percentage of Facebook users in each county that support the Seahawks vs. the 49ers:

The map shows strong support for Seattle in only five states: Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. The other 45 states are rooting for San Francisco. Every single one of those other states needs their eyes torn out by our talons.

Everyone is predicting a close game, but I hope they're wrong.

I want another beatdown.

I want BeastQuake III.

I want DangeRuss to get his groove back.

I want Michael Robinson to show Navarro Bowman what a hard hit feels like.

I want Zach Miller to become again the dominant receiving tight end he once was.

I want Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse to break out.

I want Golden Tate to take a punt return to the house.

I want Frank Gore to discover the real Inconvenient Truth: opponents can't run the ball in Seahawks Stadium.

I want the 12th Man to keep confusing quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

I want the Legion of Boom will abuse his receivers and pick off his passes.

I want Big Red Bryant to flatten leadfooted left guard Mike Iupati and toss his QB like a rag doll.

I want Jim Harbaugh to wonder what our deal is.

Kap will not kiss his biceps, but he will eat FieldTurf.

Go, Hawks!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saints vs. Seahawks

For the fifth time in seven weeks, the Seahawks have to deal with some saints.

It began with blowing out the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football back on December 2nd.

The following week, Seattle lost narrowly to San Francisco.

In the season finale, the Seahawks humiliated St. Louis.

During the first-round postseason bye, Jude--patron saint of the impossible--evidently worked a miracle cure for Percy Harvin.

This afternoon, of course, the New Orleans Saints return to Seahawks Stadium, the scene of serial prime time crimes, the epicenter of the 2011 BeastQuake that buried the defending Super Bowl champions, and the field on which Seattle thoroughly dominated them just last month.

This time, the Saints get to face the Beast and Legion of Boom in broad daylight, but presumably the 12th Man will be just as loud. (An NFL Network teaser last night promised that this morning's pregame coverage would show "How the Saints can silence the 12th Man." I didn't tune in to watch, because I assume New Orleans lacks the medical manpower to anesthetize 67,000 fans and excise their larynges.

The Saints arrive emboldened by their road win over the Eagles last week and determined to avenge their earlier humiliation at our hands (talons?). Presumably, New Orleans will put up a better fight today. Even nonaligned fans must salivate at the prospect of a rematch between the all-world Saints offense and the all-world Seattle defense.

Our failure to handle Arizona at home last month should inoculate the Seahawks against a letdown today. With the cathartic beatdown of St. Louis in Week 17, Seattle made a good start toward restoring our reputation for invincibility at home, but a loss today would all but erase that small beginning.

The win over the Rams did not prove that the Seahawk offense is back on track. In those two December defeats, San Francisco and Arizona figured out how to stay safe from DangeRuss and keep Marshawn in Least Mode. Of course, subsequent opponents will try to use the same schemes to stymie our offense  St. Louis lacked the secondary talent and the team discipline to execute those schemes, so Seattle moved the ball well enough against the Rams. Unfortunately, New Orleans has good corners and safeties, and Rob Ryan has the Saints playing good, disciplined defense.

Hopefully, with rest and self-scouting during the bye week, plus Percy Harvin, our offense will return to form.

Go, Hawks!

When the Saints go down in flames

[To the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In"]

Oh, when the Saints go down in flames
Oh, when the Saints go down in flames
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh, when their ears begin to bleed
Oh, when their ears begin to bleed
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh, when Drew Brees gets sacked and picked
Oh, when Drew Brees gets sacked and picked
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh, when Big Kam earholes Jim Graham
Oh, when Big Kam earholes Jim Graham
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh when Wilson is DangeRuss
Oh when Wilson is DangeRuss
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh, when the state feels the BeastQuake
Oh, when the state feels the BeastQuake
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames

Oh, when the Saints go down in flames
Oh, when the Saints go down in flames
How I wish I were with the 12th Man
When the Saints go down in flames