Saturday, January 31, 2015

Diehard prediction: Seattle will blow out New England

Earlier this week, on Inside the NFL, Phil Simms--who normally makes sense--declared that a blowout in this Super Bowl would be "literally impossible,"

It appears that Simms literally does not know the meaning of "literally."

For Simms' growth as a user of the English language, here are a few examples of things that are in fact literally impossible:
1. Phil Simms playing in tomorrow's Super Bowl;
2. Bill Belichick or Tom Brady coming clean about Deflategate;
3. Katy Perry dressing modestly at any point during the halftime show;
4. Either team forfeiting; or
5. Both teams wearing pink tutus.

Most analysts side with Vegas in predicting a close game, and I can certainly see how that seems likely. I agree that the Patriots blowing out the Seahawks is extremely improbable, because Seattle's defense is so good, and because Carroll always seems to find a way to keep games close. But it's still possible.

The Diehard is going to edge out on a limb, defy the conventional wisdom and predict that the Seahawks will annihilate New England.

I get that this is unlikely. The Patriots have a good defense and great coaching that tends to keep games close.

But pretty much no one saw last year's Super Bowl blowout coming, either. The Broncos hadn't been dominated all year, until they encountered Seattle.

I think the Seahawks are going to come out hyped up again and ready to swoop down on the Patriots like a crazed cauldron of rabid raptors.

Tom Brady won't know what hit him, but likely names include Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Kevin Williams, Bruce Irvin and O'Brien Schofield.

Brady will complete more passes to the Legion of Boom than he does to Gronk.

Belicheat will learn that Seahawk defenders are too disciplined to fall for his unconventional formations.

And Darth Hoodie will discover that his defense has no answer for Beast Mode or for the dual threat that is DangeRuss.

Here is my rationale for predicting a blowout:

1. The Delfatriots are cheaters
OK, if anything, Belicheat’s penchant for cheateration gives the Patriots an advantage, but I couldn’t help pointing out once again that New England is dirty. Rob Krafty, Darth Hoodie and Tom Shady run a sinister program where low-character guys feel right at home, like…
1, Corey Dillon, serial wifebeater;
2. Rodney Harrison, twice voted the dirtiest player in the NFL;
3. Albert Haynesworth, the face-stomper who phoned it in after defrauding the Foreskins out of a $41 million signing bonus;
4. Aaron Hernandez, indicted and denied bail on triple murder charges; and
5. Randy Moss, who knocked down a lady cop with his car.

Every once in a while, karma kicks in and right prevails. It will happen tomorrow.

2. New England played a softer schedule

New England and Seattle both played the AFC West, but the Patriots actually did better (3-1, losing by a large margin to Kansas City), while Seattle split (2-2, losing both to Kansas City and San Diego).

The Patriots and Seahawks both went 3-1 against comparable divisions, the NFC North and East, respectively. New England lost a narrow contest to Green Bay, while Seattle let Dallas beat them at home.

The real difference emerges in divisional play. Seattle fought to the top of the NFC West, one of the league’s toughest divisions, while New England continued to dominate the sad AFC East. The NFC Best’s worst team is St. Louis, but the Rams lurked just below .500 while managing to beat solid teams like Denver, Santa Clara and Seattle. The AFC Least, on the other hand, remains a pitiful trio of subpar teams routinely surmounted by the Patriots. While Seattle went 5-1 in the NFC West, New England went 4-2, dropping games to Miami and Buffalo, and nearly getting beaten twice by the lowly New York Jets.

3. Seattle’s D can handle the Patriots
Seattle hasn’t yielded more than thirty points to any offense all year. It allowed 30 just twice, against San Diego and Dallas, early in the season. Each of those defeats was a cautionary tale with a moral relevant to Seattle’s chances in the Super Bowl. The Chargers demonstrated that a capable quarterback could beat us with a dominant tight end, and Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are certainly capable of replicating what Phillip Rivers and Antonio Gates did to us. Dallas showed that a good running back could gouge our defense, and LaGarrette Blount on a good day can run as well as DeMarco Murray on an average day. Fortunately, the Patriots’ O-line isn’t quite as formidable as the fantastic five that odious owner Jerry Jones drafted for the Cowboys.

However, those bad days against San Diego and Dallas came before the defensive resurgence that commenced with the midseason return to health of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and strong safety Kam Chancellor.

Jamaal Charles was the last runner to gouge Seattle for more than 100 yards; not coincidentally, the Chiefs were also the last team to beat the Seahawks, in Week 11. Since then, Seattle has won eight straight, while allowing no runner to gain more than the 73 yards hard-earned by Eddie Lacy last week. The Seahawks have stood their ground, despite even the loss of premier run-stuffer Brandon Mebane and his much-missed belly roll celebration.

Six tight ends have caught touchdowns against the Seahawks this season:
1. Antonio Gates with three for the Chargers in Week 2 (Seattle lost);
2. Jacob Tamme with one for the Broncos in Week 3 (Seattle won);
3. Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar with one each for the Cowboys in Week 6 (Seattle lost);
4. Lance Kendricks with one for the Rams in Week 7 (Seattle lost)
5. Mychal Rivera with two for the Raiders in Week 9 (Seattle won)

Of course, most of that happened when Kam was gimpy and when Wags was out of the lineup.

For ten straight games, no opposing tight end has caught a touchdown pass against the Seahawks.

Over the last nine games, Seattle hasn’t allowed any receiver to accumulate more than 100 yards worth of catches. (Odell Beckham of the Giants was the last to do so, in a Week 10 loss to the Seahawks.)

None of New England’s wide receivers can handle the Legion of Boom. Denver’s wideouts posed a greater challenge last year, and look what happened to them.

Peyton Manning couldn't handle our defense. Neither could Aaron Rodgers. And neither can Tom Shady.

4. DangeRuss is Clutch Incarnate

New England will entice Wilson to reprise his mistakes against Green Bay, but he's far too smart to fall for that again. Against the Packers, DangeRuss made some uncharacteristic mistakes. For a couple of hours, Wilson experienced life the way the rest of us fallible apes do. He made some bad decisions. He dug a hole for himself. 

And then he went back to walking on water. Wilson reverted to his normative baseline of Superclutchness and, with a lot of help from his teammates, won the game.

5. Marshawn Lynch's Mortal Kombat duel with Gronk will prove prophetic

If you haven't seen it, yet, you need to Google and view the Mortal Kombat bout between Beast Mode and Rob Gronkowski that aired on Conan earlier this week. It is hilarious, and epic, and awesome. I expect tomorrow's game to play out in a similar fashion.

Go, Hawks!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Carroll's simple schemes vs. the evil genius of Belicheat

Despite the depth and breadth of Super Bowl media coverage, analysis has generally focused on obvious themes like…

1. The contrasting personalities and coaching styles of Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, including the fact that the former replaced the latter in New England.

2. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson’s similarities (unheralded draft picks who have vastly exceeded expectations) and differences (aging hotshot old-school prototypical quarterback vs. humble upstart dual threat point guard).

3. Tom Brady vs. Richard Sherman, Canton-bound quarterback vs. the game's most dominant corner... U mad, bro?

4. Richard Sherman vs. Darrelle Revis: Who’s the ultimate shutdown corner?

5. The clash between the Legion of Boom and the NFL’s next-best defensive secondary: Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, ex-Seahawk Brandon Browner and whoever New England lines up at the other safety position.

6. Clash of the Titans: Seahawks enforcer Kam Chancellor vs. Patriots bruiser Rob Gronkowski (compelling because they’re both distinguished big men, even though Seattle typically defends tight ends with linebackers, not a strong safety)

7. Marshawn Lynch and LaGarrette Blount: Two powerful and relentless runners with thuggish reputations and bad attitudes that got each jettisoned from former teams despite great talent.

These are all worthy storylines, but I won't pursue any of them here.

As a recovering coach, I see this as the ultimate test of Pete Carroll’s defensive philosophy. For more than thirty years, Carroll has run a relatively simple scheme with little variation. On most downs, the offense knows exactly what to expect:
1. Four down linemen to pressure the quarterback and choke off run lanes;
2. Corners pressing man coverage on the outside;
3. A strong safety down in the box with the linebackers to stop the run; and
4. A single-high free safety, roaming deep.

We rarely blitz or play zone. There are few surprises. This simplicity, coupled with extensive film study, frees our defenders to read offenses fast, react decisively and fully exploit their speed and athleticism. Swarm to the ball, wrap up and pulverize your opponent. We’re betting that our men are more athletic than yours, and that we will execute better than you can.

Our defense is unsexy in the upside-down world of fantasy points (i.e., not that many sacks or interceptions), but clinically effective in real-world terms: we just permit fewer points and yards than everyone else, and that’s what wins games.

Many have tried to out-scheme Carroll’s defense. Few have succeeded. But Bill Belichick is an evil genius. If any coach could crack the code, it is he. If there are weaknesses, he will find and capitalize upon them. Darth Hoodie’s creative schemes have already stymied some good defenses (like Baltimore’s), while humiliating some decent ones, like Indianapolis.

If Belicheat can find the Achilles’ talon of the Seahawk defense, and if his athletes can execute, then the game might be close.

In three of Seattle's four losses, tight ends exposed our defense. Conveniently, Belichick's offense features tight ends, including one who is the best in the business.

Carroll's defense has kept tight ends under control during the current eight-game win streak, but Gronk presents the toughest challenge, yet. 

Seattle's offense is similarly simple. We're going to run the ball at you. You know this, so you're going to stack the box to try to corral Marshawn Lynch. We rarely deploy power formations, because our O-line and fullback aren't good enough to blast holes through you. We generally get more mileage from a read-option look, which forces defenses to spend men containing both Beast Mode and Russell Wilson.

Putting eight men in the box also makes it hard for the diminutive DangeRuss to find throwing lanes from the pocket, so he needs to roll out or drop deep. Our receivers don't always get open in the first few seconds, but once Wilson starts scrambling, they improvise routes and eventually elude defenders.

The blueprint for stopping our offense is in the public record. Five teams held Seattle under twenty points this season.

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell runs hot and cold. When he's in the zone, his playcalling is inspired and inventive, and keeps the defense off balance. But sometimes he assists the defense with pedantic predictability.

At his best, Bevell can match wits with Darth Hoodie. But if we get the vanilla version of Bevell, then Belicheat's defense will severely limit our offense.

Next up: The Diehard prediction

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Bill Belicheat, Tom Shady & the Deflatriots

It isn't cheating when the Patriots deploy legal but unorthodox formations. I did it with some regularity when I coached, because few high school kids understand that only backs and uncovered ends are eligible receivers. I had no idea that cheap tricks like that could work in the NFL, and it's amusing when when the Baltimore Ravens complained that it was unfair when Bill Belichick exploited their ignorance of rules that have held true since they played Pop Warner.

But Spygate and Deflategate were real instances of cheating.

The only thing sadder than the cheating is the staunch defense of cheating by many coaches, athletes and sports fans. Recall the way the NFL community condemned Eric Mangini for calling out the Patriots on Spygate. Consider how many quarterbacks are supporting the fiction that they'd have no idea if a ball were underinflated by two or more pounds per square inch. (It's obvious even to a layperson, and infinitely moreso by an NFL quarterback; master craftsmen can detect even minute irregularities when working with the tools of their trade.)

Strong evidence suggests that the Patriots may have been doing this for several seasons, and that they have derived a powerful competitive advantage from doing so:

It is impossible to believe that Tom Brady would be oblivious to the underinflation of footballs.

The sad thing is that New England is a talented and well-coached team. They would be reasonably successful even if they didn't cheat. But they might not be playing in their third Super Bowl of the decade.

Yesterday, Patriots owner Rob Kraft had the gall to demand an apology if the Patriots are exonerated.

I expect New England to stonewall and deny accountability. I expect the league to go gutless and decline to discipline the Patriots for this obvious breach.

But I suspect the NFL will develop procedures to prevent similar kinds of cheating going forward.

I get that the Seahawks don't want to give the Patriots any bulletin board material, but the fact of that matter is that every fan who believes in playing by the rules needs to be pulling for Seattle in this Super Bowl.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

best-laid plans...

So... I still haven't seen Sunday's game.

I know that's not very Diehard of me.

Here's what happened: My family took a road trip over MLK weekend, from the Bay Area down to L.A. and then over to Tucson, the town where our son was born. Of course, I carefully planned the itinerary to ensure that I would be able to see the game at the Skeptical Chymist, a Seahawks bar in Scottsdale. (I wanted no repeat of the 2010 NFC divisional round when I watched Chicago crush Seattle in the bar next to my Tucson hotel, which happened to be a Bears-themed joint.)

My partner didn't have time to look at the itinerary, so she booked a salon appointment along the way, and this triggered a cascade of dominoes that put us behind schedule and made my worst nightmare a reality: We had to hit the road on Sunday morning.

As my lovely partner and beautiful boy dozed, I sped demonically down I-10 eastbound, making extraordinarily good time. I pulled off in Palm Springs with time to spare before kickoff. While stopped at a red light, I wondered... could there be a Seahawks bar here? Yes, indeed: Google pointed my iPhone to Beer Hunter (love the Bob & Doug McKenzie reference).

I tried to sell my partner on the idea of depositing me at Beer Hunter for a few hours while she and our son enjoyed lunch, shopped and hit the playground. This did not go well. She wisely pointed out that a long delay like that would make for a very late night and derail our plans for Monday.

So, we bolted a quick lunch at Taco Asado (great Mexican hole in the wall in Palm Springs) while I scanned the radio dial until I found the game broadcaset. Then, we used Waze to find a good playground for our sun while listening to the dispiriting end of the first half. We let our son run around on the playground until imminent sunburn threatened his paleness (and mine), and then we piled in the car.

I thought we were bound for the interstate again, but I learned that there are more important things than the Seahawks and making Tucson by nightfall. Specifically, my partner needed to hit the Anthropologie in Palm Desert to find something fashionable to wear the following day.

My partner and I rather heatedly debated the priorities involved while I obediently drove her there and tried to listen to the game while our toddler son screamed in his car seat. The futility of Seattle's efforts at that stage of the third quarter threw me into overload, and I had to turn off the game to maintain my sanity.

I played with my son for a long time while my partner painstakingly scrutinized every garment in the store.

Finally, we left Anthropologie and hit the road again.

I was too broken to turn on the game, but my partner, to her infinite credit, insisted that we do so. We listened on the radio while Seattle drove for its second touchdown, scored an improbable 2-point conversion, recovered an impossible onside kick, and held Green Bay to a field goal to put the game into overtime. My partner and I shouted for joy. Our son seemed perplexed that the Seahawks could score a touchdown when the TV wasn't on. She doesn't like the sport, but she said she enjoyed football more on the radio.

We pulled off in a godforsaken stretch of desert somewhere between Palm Springs and Blythe so my partner could rummage around in the luggage to find something for the baby. In this desolate place, with a fading radio signal, we heard about Russell Wilson airing it out to Jermaine Kearse for the game-winning touchdown. I smiled and turned off the radio.

I saw the highlights that night in our Tucson hotel, but I can't wait to see the whole game when I get home.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


What happens when the NFL's best defense meets the league's most potent offense? The 12th Man takes control.

Green Bay is a dangerous team. A hobbled Aaron Rodgers is still better than most of the quarterbacks who've ever played, including several with busts in Canton.

Eddie Lacey is a bruising runner, and Seattle has struggled with run defense since losing Brandon Mebane's bulk in the middle of the line.

The Packers field a terrifying trio of wideouts. During the regular season, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb caught 98 and 91 balls for 1,519 and 1,287 yards, respectively. Rookie reserve Davante Adams caught as many passes (38) as Seahawk starter Jermaine Kearse.

This triple threat will test the depth of Seattle's secondary. Byron Maxwell will be tested repeatedly. Tharold Simon, who is better than last week's repeated torchings implied, has missed some practice due to illness. It would hurt if he were unable to go. Backup safety Jeron Johnson is still recovering from a dislocated elbow. Jeremy Lane and Marcus Burley figure to see significant action.

Fortunately, Rodgers was roundly shamed for refusing to throw at Richard Sherman last time; he seems chastened and honor-bound to throw at Optimus Prime. So we have that going for us.

I say we blitz Rodgers mercilessly until he cries uncle and Matt Flynn is forced into action.

Green Bay's run defense has improved dramatically since moving Clay Matthews inside. Seattle had trouble running against Carolina last week. The O-line needs to take control and unleash Beast Mode.

Of course, Russell Wilson shredded the Panthers through the air, but getting the ground game going is even more important when time of possession means keeping the ball away from the league's best offense.

Much depends on Darrell Bevell. If he's in the zone calling plays, Seattle's offense should be hard to stop.

Is anyone else excited about the activation of reserve quarterback B.J. Daniels from the practice squad? One of the saddest failures of Mike Holmgren's coaching tenure was wasting the talents of Seneca Wallace for years as an inactive third quarterback when he should have been returning kicks and lining up as a wideout, which is apparently what Pete Carroll plans for Daniels. I don't know if B.J. Daniels is anything like the freakish athlete Wallace was, but I can't wait to find out.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Jerry Jones? Seriously?

The Pro Football Writers of America just named Jerry Jones as their Executive of the Year.

Did he pay them?

They make a decent case for Jones:

Certainly, ending the Dallas playoff drought deserves some consideration, but the Cowboys were really never bad, just average. Recent awardees--Kansas City's John Dorsey in 2013, Ryan Grigson of Indianapolis in 2012 and San Francisco's Trent Baalke in 2011--won for turning terrible teams into good ones in a short span.

I'm sure there were worthier candidates. I think a better case could be made for John Schneider, who has worked with Pete Carroll to build a great roster to maintain excellence over three years running. I'm sure there are other worthy alternatives.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Green Bay vs. Seattle on the airwaves

So... The Lake 94.5, an FM rock station in Milwaukee, is showing solidarity with the Packers this week by banning Emerald City bands from their playlists. That means "no Heart, no Nirvana, no Pearl Jam, no songs from any band that calls Seattle home."


No one would ever notice if Seattle radio stations retaliated in kind. No one would miss Bon Iver, the Violent Femmes, Killdozer, Bongzilla or all of the great Wisconsin polka acts of the 19th and 20th centuries.

On the other hand, Cheeseheads will be denying themselves not just Heart, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but also Jimi Hendrix, the Fleetwoods, Bing Crosby, Queensryche, Sir Mix-a-Lot, the Posies, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters, the Presidents of the United States of America and Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis.

Not only is our team better than yours, so is our culture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Freude und Schadenfreude

Man, what a great weekend.

The only bummer was seeing Justin Forsett's season end with the Baltimore Ravens.

The Carolina-Seattle contest was closer than I would have liked. Cam Newton exceeded expectations and made it a game for the first three quarters, but once he had to throw every down, you knew the Legion of Boom was going to bust out some neon lime Kryptonite and make him pay for his temerity.

Although I was looking forward to a chance to wreak revenge on the Cowboys, it was still fun to watch Green Bay demolish Dallas. The bottom line is that Jerry's Cowpokes weren't good enough to earn a ticket to Seattle. We'll take a rain check until the regular season and see them in the Jones Mahal.

Finally, it was wonderful to see John Elway fail in his quest for the white whale of a third Lombardi Trophy. There's a great article on Elway in last week's Sports Illustrated. Despite some sad stuff in there about the death of his dad and his twin sister, for which any human must feel great sympathy, the article mostly confirms the longstanding impression that Elway is a psychocompetitive moral vacuum who had his sisters write his term papers in college and threatened to stop throwing passes to a Bronco receiver unless he agreed to forfeit a trivia game to his quarterback. The article depicts an Elway obsessed with evening the score, balancing his three Super Bowl defeats as a player with his two late-career wins, plus at least one more as a GM.

In an imbecilic tantrum yesterday, Elway burned Coach John Fox after he won four straight division titles--including one with Tim Tebow as quarterback--plus last year's conference championship.

Who would want to work for Elway now?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Kam Quake!!!

It was like the Second Coming of Kenny Easley, in more ways than one.

First, Kam Chancellor played like Easley, blasting ball carriers with bone-jarring hits before grabbing an interception and taking it the house. (I'm not sure Easley could have hurdled linemen like Chancellor did two plays in a row.)

Second, Easley was actually in Seahawks Stadium. Kam Chancellor's postgame Tweet showed proper filial piety to his forbear from the Knox-era Legion of Boom: "Great team win. Special to make big plays with original LOB Kenny Easley in attendance." #EasleyforHOF@Seahawks

In his postgame comments, Richard Sherman reiterated that Chancellor plays "in a dark place," and added, "Kam Chancellor damages people's souls."

Chancellor declined to be take the mantle of Superman from Cam Newton.

"Cam can have Superman," Kam said. "I am the Dark Knight."

Props to the 12th Man for rocking the earth again.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cam is not Superman

No hate for Carolina limping into the playoffs with a losing record. That was us a few years back. If you win your division, you qualify for the tournament, and you get to host a playoff game. Win that one, and you earn a modicum of respect, plus a road trip to the 12th Man's House of Pain.

I try hard to like Cam Newton, but his lack of humility makes it hard. I felt bad for him when his car got T-boned and he got hurt. While rooting for him to recover, I was hoping he'd grow from the experience, but he's back to the old Superman routine.

Dude, you're not Superman.

Why? Because you already look like a superhero. You are an impressive physical specimen at 6'5" with 245 pounds of pure muscle.

You can only be Superman if you can disappear into a Clark Kent persona.

Cam: No 3-piece suit could conceal the fact that you are a freak of nature. In fact, you're already wearing a superhero costume. That helmet, that armor, that uniform already make you look like a badass.

You pulling open your jersey to reveal the imaginary "S" would be like Bruce Wayne tearing off his Batman shirt to reveal a Spider-Man costume underneath. It's stupid.

You know who could pass as Superman? Marc Bulger. That dude looks like an accountant. If you saw him on the street, you'd never believe that he was an elite starting NFL quarterback. Slap some eyeshoes on his face, put him in a monkey suit, and you've got Clark Kent.

But Bulger's been out of the league for years.

Do you know who the NFL's real Superman is? This guy:

Put a suit on him and he looks like an average guy with average height and an average build. Put some glasses on him and he's an ethnic version of Clark Kent.

Turn him loose on a football field and you've got Superman.

Faster than a speeding linebacker! With a stiffarm more powerful than a locomotive! Able to juke tall defensive linemen with a single head fake.

Look, down on the field! It's Russell! It's Wilson! It's DangeRuss!

Yes, it's DangeRuss, strange visitor from another planet, who came to Seattle with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, who can decipher defenses with his X-Ray vision, elude the fiercest pass rush, shred defenders with his ability to throw on the run, and who, disguised as Russell Wilson, mild-mannered quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way to rip the faces off the Carolina Panthers.

This is our chance to strike fear into the hearts of whoever survives tomorrow's Ice Bowl redux. If the Legion of Boom puts in a merely average effort, that should be sufficient to suffocate the offense of Mike Shula and Cam Newton. The real test is for the offense. With the return of Max Unger, we need to establish the run against a tough Carolina defense and shred them with some explosive plays on the ground and through the air. The Diehard demands a fortyburger. I want T-Jack and Christine Michael mopping up in the fourth quarter. Make it happen.

Go, Hawks!

Getting to and beyond .500

Seattle's all time regular season record stands now at 305-307.

Seattle dug a deep hole for itself with 2-12 and 5-9 in 1976 and 1977. They began digging out with 9-7 records in 1978 and 1979, only to slip back by posting 4-12 and 6-10 records in 1980 and 1981, and starting 0-2 in 1982. Jack Patera finished 35-59 (.372) as head coach. His interim replacement John McCormack eked out a 4-3 record during the balance of that strike-shortened season, leaving Seattle at 39-62 after 7 years, a .386 record with no playoff appearances.

Matters improved considerably under Chuck Knox. During his nine-year tenure (1983-91), Seattle posted six winning records, one .500 campaign, and two (barely) losing seasons (9-7, 12-4, 8-8, 10-6, 9-6, 9-7, 7-9, 9-7 and 7-9). Knox went 80-63 (.559), almost bringing Seattle up to .500 all time (119-125 = .488). 

Seattle also won the AFC West once (1988), made the playoffs four times ('83, '84, '87, '88) and went 3-4 (.428) in the postseason with Knox.

Then Ken Behring ran the team into the ground. Tom Flores went 2-14 in 1992 and then 6-10 in 1993 and 1994 for an overall record of 14-34 (.291), making him the least successful coach in franchise history, and depressing Seattle's all-time winning percentage from .488 to .455 (133-159).

Dennis Erickson managed mediocrity, which felt remarkably good after Flores' failure. From 1995-1998, Erickson went 8-8, 7-9, 8-8 and 8-8 for a total record of 31-33 (.484), barely budging Seattle's all-time winning percentage from .455 to .460 (164-192).

Paul Allen demanded better, so he hired Mike Holmgren. The Big Show's nine-year tenure matched Knox's, but he fared slightly worse than his predecessor in the regular season (86-78=.524 vs. .559 for Knox). This welcome return to winning improved Seattle's all-time record to 250-270 and brought up our win percentage to .481, almost entirely reversing the damage that Flores had inflicted upon the team, but still short of the all-time highs reached under Knox.

However, Holmgren superseded his predecessor when it came to the playoffs, partly because Knox competed in a tough AFC West in the '80s while Holmgren dominated a weak NFC West in the Aughts. Thus, the Big Show made six playoff appearances to just four for Knox. Ground Chuck won just one division title, while Holmgren hoisted five such banners (AFC West in 1999, NFC West in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007).

While Holmgren's overall record in the playoffs (4-6, .400) fell short of Knox's (3-4, .428), Holmgren did win a conference championship and appear in a Super Bowl. This brought Seattle's all-time playoff performance to 7-10 (.418, or better than Circle K).

In his only year as head coach, Jim Mora the Younger went just 5-11 (.313), which was unfortunate, but better than Tom Flores.

In just five years as head coach, Pete Carroll has made a case to be considered the greatest coach in Seattle history. The Seahawks have gone 60-30 (.667) in the regular season with Carroll (7-9, 7-9, 11-5, 13-3, and 12-4), significantly better than both Knox and Holmgren. This consistent winning has improved the franchise's all-time to 305-307 (.498). If Seattle remains strong, sometime next fall we should inch above .500 all-time.

Carroll has also outperformed Knox and Holmgren in the playoffs, making three playoff appearances in just five years, all by winning division titles (2010, 2013, 2014), and going 5-2 in the postseason (.714--even better than his regular season record) , including last year's Super Bowl title.

That brought Seattle's all-time postseason record up to 12-12. A win today would put us over .500 all-time in the playoffs.

Go, Hawks!

Thoughts on the Wild Card round

I was sort of pulling for Detroit to beat Dallas last week, for lots of reasons.

First, on principle, I want the Cowboys to lose every week until everyone starts calling them the franchise formerly known as America's Team.

Second, Jerry Jones is evil and I love to see him fail.

Third, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a traitor to his people. The Jets and the Giants play in his state, but he's watching the game as the personal guest and hug-buddy of the Dallas owner? Real New Jerseyans either root for the New York teams, or they're Philadelphia fans. If folks who live in the Garden State are going to support any team other than the Eagles, Jets and Giants, then the only moral choice is to be a Seahawks fan.

And guess what, Chris? Texas still won't vote for you in the primary.

No, I like Detroit because its an underdog team representing an underdog town, and because they recruit former Seahawks so consistently that I have dubbed them the Sea Lions.

Currently, there are four former Seahawks with Detroit: Defensive end Darryl Tapp, tight end Kellen Davis, and two starters: left guard Rob Sims and wideout Golden Tate.

I was right to rue the departure of Rob Sims back in 2010. Seattle has struggled to find a good left guard since Steve Hutchinson left in 2006. Big Rob is no Hutch, but he has been a steady starter for five solid years in Detroit while Seattle has experimented with a rotating cast of underperforming and oft-injured offensive linemen, especially at the left guard position.

I was wrong, however, to shrug at Golden Tate's departure. If I had known that friction between Percy Harvin and Tate had contributed to Seattle's decision to jettison the latter, I still would have supported the decision, because I was so excited about Harvin's potential contributions to the offense. I failed to foresee that Harvin would be a locker room cancer who clashed with multiple teammates, including Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, and that the Seahawks would struggle to integrate Harvin's talents into our offensive scheme. (Given Darrell Bevell's failure to manage Percy Harvin, or to consistently put points on the board, why is he on anyone's radar as a head coach at this point?)

More than anything else, I failed to understand that Tate had big-time potential as a starting NFL wide receiver. I thought he could replace Nate Burleson as a credible complement to Calvin Johnson, but who would have guessed that the Top Pot Bandit would outperform Megatron in 2014, recording more catches (99 to 71) for more yards (1,331 to 1.077) than one of the league's most dominant wideouts? (Yes, injuries sidelined Johnson for three games, and limited his production in others, but still...!)

And Little Man Tate can still throw a pretty brutal block.

So, I'm sorry Golden Tate III. I was wrong. I wish we had kept you.

Only two things dampened my enthusiasm for the Lions last week.

First, Ndamukong Suh is dirty. The NFL should have upheld his suspension for stomping on Aaron Rodgers. In fact, they should have extended the suspension because it injured Rodgers. Some complain that Suh got singled out because he hurt a marquee quarterback; linemen get stomped on all the time, without repercussions. The answer to this is not to let people stomp on quarterbacks; it's to start disciplining any player who stomps on any other player or otherwise commits acts of gratuitous violence outside of the rules or after the whistle.

Second, Detroit needs to stop crying about that pass interference non-call. Seahawks fans know better than anyone else how it feels to have referees rob you in a game, but last week's Detroit-Dallas game was not like Super Bowl XL.

The officials were right to pick up that flag for pass interference. There was some contact between Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens and Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and the referees conceded that Hitchens faceguarded Pettigrew, but that's not a penalty in the NFL. Moreover, the contact included the receiver briefly grabbing the defender's facemask, which made it more difficult for Hitchens to get his head around, and increased the probability of continued incidental contact between the two players.

I was also kind of looking forward to seeing Detroit come to Seattle, because it would have been our only chance to play the Lions this year, and that would have been a good game--Megatron vs. Optimus Prime, DangeRuss and Beast Mode vs. Ndamukong Suh, Byron Maxwell vs. Golden Tate, Kam Chancellor vs. Reggie Bush, etc.

Of course, that would have given Green Bay an easier game this week, and that's no good. Strategically, it is much better for Seattle to host Carolina while the undefeated road warriors of Dallas venture into the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to face the Packers, undefeated at home. If Seattle wins tonight, I'll be rooting for the Cowboys tomorrow because I want the Seahawks to avenge our disgraceful loss to Dallas earlier this season. Besides, we already dominated Green Bay in the season opener.

Speaking of love for former Seahawks, I'm really happy for Justin Forsett. Diehards remember Forsett as Seattle's most effective running back in the lean years between Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch. Although small and not particularly fast, Forsett has good vision and grasped the zone blocking scheme that chumps like Julius Jones never seemed to fathom. Unfortunately, the hopelessness of our O-line forced Seattle to load up on big backs who can bull their own holes through the lines. Enter Beast Mode, Turbo and Christine Michael, exeunt Forsett.

After a year in Houston and an injury-marred half-season in Jacksonville, Forsett caught on with Baltimore as a third-string running back. The suspension of Ray Rice and injuries to his backup thrust Forsett into the starting role, where he has excelled. When Rice's original backup Bernard Pierce recovered from his injury, he fell in line behind Forsett on the depth chart. Forsett finished as the league's fifth leading rusher, just behind Marshawn Lynch, whom he backed up both in Seattle and in college at UC-Berkeley.

So, I'm pulling for Justin Forsett and the Baltimore Ravens this afternoon. And rooting against Tom Brady and the Patriots, even though they're probably the best team in the conference and the AFC's best chance for winning the Super Bowl this year.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Seahawks All-Time All-Awards Team

In choosing a 40th Anniversary Seahawks squad, it is wise to consider what Seattle players earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and which ones entered the hallowed spaces of the Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, these considerations need to be confined to honors earned as a Seahawk, or else we will find our all-star roster populated with Hall of Famers like Carl Eller, Franco Harris and Jerry Rice, who achieved greatness elsewhere before making brief and undistinguished drive-bys in Seattle en route to retirement. Or with athletes like Kevin Mawae or Michael Bates, who began their careers here, but became great after leaving.

Let us begin with the embarrassment of riches in the Seattle backfield.

Dave Krieg (3x Pro Bowl 1984, 1988-89, Ring of Honor) 
Matt Hasselbeck (3x Pro Bowl 2003, 2005, 2007)
Russell Wilson (2x Pro Bowl 2012-13)
Warren Moon (Pro Bowl 1997, Hall of Fame)
Jim Zorn (Ring of Honor)

Like cream, Krieg, Hasselbeck and Wilson float to the top here. I'm paranoid, so I like to keep three quarterbacks on the active roster, but ranking this great trio on a depth chart would pose a real dilemma. Moon's tenure in Seattle was too brief to warrant consideration, and Zorn, while a sentimental favorite, makes the cut not as a player, but as perhaps the most distinguished quarterback coach in Seahawks history (2001-07).

Marshawn Lynch (2x All-Pro 2012, 2014; 4x Pro Bowl 2011-14), 
Shaun Alexander (All-Pro 2005, 3x Pro Bowl 2003-05; ‘00s All-Decade), 
Curt Warner (3x Pro Bowl 1983, 1986-87; Ring of Honor), 
Chris Warren (3x Pro Bowl 1993-95)

Again, the top three candidates are so strong that one is forced to cut someone great... Chris Warren, in this case. The depth chart is easier this time: Lynch's ability to thrive without good blocking vaults him to the top. When your stable of running backs is so good that Ricky Watters hardly merits a mention, your team is in pretty good shape. Original Seahawk Sherman Smith makes the cut as a running back coach.

Mack Strong (All-Pro 2005, Pro Bowl 2005-06), 
John L. Williams (2x Pro Bowl 1990-91), 
Michael Robinson (Pro Bowl 2011)

You can't really justify keeping more than two fullbacks on your roster, so the Real Rob gets cut. I give the starting role to John L. Williams, because he was a real rushing and receiving threat in addition to being a devastating blocker.

Steve Largent (All-Pro 1985; 7x Pro Bowl 1978-9, 1981, 1984-7; ‘80s All-Decade; Ring of Honor; Hall of Fame)
Brian Blades (Pro Bowl 1989)

And now we come down to earth. The Seahawks all-stars are thin at wideout, with no backups behind Largent and Blades.

Other considerations: Sam McCullum, Joey Galloway, Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson, Bobby Engram, Doug Baldwin


That's right. No Seattle tight end has ever earned any award of any kind.

Considerations: Mike Tice, Christian Fauria, Itula Mili, Jerramy Stevens, John Carlson, Zach Miller

LT: Walter Jones (4x All-Pro 2001, 2004-5, 2007; 9x Pro Bowl 1999, 2001-8; ‘00s All-Decade; Ring of Honor; Hall of Fame)
LG: Steve Hutchinson (2x All-Pro 2003, 2005; 3x Pro Bowl 2003-5; ‘00s All-Decade)
C: Max Unger (All-Pro 2012; 2x Pro Bowl 2012-3), Robbie Tobeck (Pro Bowl 2005)
RG: Bryan Millard (1988 UPI 2nd team All-Conference guard)
RT: Russell Okung (Pro Bowl 2012)

We're pretty thin on the O-Line, too. Note how I had to dig deep to find an award for Bryan Millard. (I did that digging a few years back when I wrote the Wikipedia article on Millard.)

I also had to flip Okung over to right tackle. Tobeck can back up at center or guard, but we need more depth than that.

Other considerations:
Tackle: Steve August, Ron Essink, Howard Ballard, Sean Locklear
Guard: Tom Lynch, Edwin Bailey, Bob Cryder, Pete Kendall, Chris Gray
Center: John Yarno, Blair Bush, Kevin Mawae

Jacob Green (2x Pro Bowl 1986-87; Ring of Honor)
Michael Sinclair (3x Pro Bowl 1996-8)
Patrick Kerney (All-Pro & Pro Bowl 2007)

Cortez Kennedy (3x All-Pro 1992-4; 8x Pro Bowl 1991-9; ‘90s All-Decade; Ring of Honor; Hall of Fame)
Joe Nash (All-Pro & Pro Bowl 1984)
John Randle (Pro Bowl 2001; Hall of Fame)

Seattle is in much better shape on the D-Line, needing just a little more depth.

Other considerations:
Ends: Jeff Bryant, Grant Wistrom
Tackles: Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett

Julian Peterson (3x Pro Bowl 2006-8)
Chad Brown (All-Pro 1998; 2x Pro Bowl 1998-9)
Rufus Porter (2x Pro Bowl 1988-9)

Fredd Young (All-Pro 1987; 4x Pro Bowl 1984-7)
Lofa Tatupu (All-Pro 2005; 3x Pro Bowl 2003-5)
Bobby Wagner (All-Pro & Pro Bowl 2014)

Seattle is similarly stacked at linebacker.

Other considerations:
Outside linebackers: Keith Butler, Michael Jackson, K. J. Wright, Bruce Irvin
Inside/middle linebackers: Terry Beeson, Dave Wyman, David "Heater" Hawthorne

Richard Sherman (3x All-Pro 2012-14; 2x Pro Bowl 2013-14)
Dave Brown (Pro Bowl 1984; Ring of Honor)
Brandon Browner (Pro Bowl 2011)
Marcus Trufant (Pro Bowl 2007)
Shawn Springs (Pro Bowl 1998)

Kenny Easley (3x All-Pro 1983-5; 5x Pro Bowl 1982-85, 1987; ‘80s All-Decade; Ring of Honor)
Kam Chancellor (All-Pro 2014; 3x Pro Bowl 2011, 2013-14)

Earl Thomas (4x All-Pro & Pro Bowl 2011-14)
Eugene Robinson (2x Pro Bowl 1992-93)
Darryl Williams (Pro Bowl 1997)

Um... this secondary doesn't need much help.

Honorable mentions: John Harris, Jordan "Big Play Babs" Babineaux

K: Norm Johnson (All-Pro & Pro Bowl 1984)
P: Rick Tuten (Pro Bowl 1994)
KR: Leon Washington (Pro Bowl 2012)
PR: Bobby Joe Edmonds (All-Pro & Pro Bowl 1986)
ST: Alex Bannister (Pro Bowl 2003)

Given his long tenure, Norm seems a shoe-in (!), but Todd Peterson, Josh Brown, Olindo Mare and Steven Hauschka also deserve mention.

Jon Ryan is on course to overtake Tuten as the best punter in team history.

Other notable punt returners include Leon Washington, Nate Burleson, Charlie Rogers and Joey Galloway, who owns the Seahawk record with four punt return TDs.

The only competition for Leon Washington at kick returner is Josh Wilson, but Washington's team record four touchdowns (Wilson had one) settles it in his favor.

Head Coach: 
Chuck Knox (NFL Coach of the Year 1984; 2x UPI AFC Coach of the Year 1983-4; Ring of Honor)
Jack Patera (NFL Coach of the Year 1978)

Few remember that Patera won this honor for leading Seattle to a 9-7 record in the franchise's third year. (He repeated the feat in 1979 before tanking to 4-12 in 1980, 6-10 in 1981, and 0-2 before getting fired in 1982.) 

Mike Holmgren and Pete Carroll need to be in the conversation.

Comments and suggestions welcome on any of the foregoing.