Monday, September 24, 2018

Job Well Done-- Seahawks 24 Cowboys 13

The Seahawks won their 2018 home opener against Dallas by actually adhering to their own philosophy.  They committed to the run, they played stout defense, they protected the ball and forced turnovers.

Like the previous two games-- Seahawks found themselves up against another fierce defensive front. Dallas came into this game as one of the top rated defenses in the league, which could've very easily discouraged the Seahawks from running the football, but it didn't.

Chris Carson carried the rock an impressive 32 times yesterday.  He became the first Seahawk running back since Marshawn Lynch to rush for 100 yards in a game.  Everyone of Carson's 102 yards were hard fought.

More impressively, he earned those yards behind a patchwork offensive line.  Seattle was without their starting center and left guard. DJ Fluker was back at the right guard spot, but Sweezy filled in for Pocic at left guard and Joey Hunt assumed the duties at center.

Earl Thomas continued his impressive season by adding a pair of interceptions to his stat line.   On the second interception, Thomas ran toward the Cowboy bench before taking a bow, which resulted in a taunting penalty.

Where Earl finishes this season remains to be seen, but it's hard to view anyone other than the Seahawks of the benefactor of this peculiar situation.  They've continued to get excellent production from Thomas in spite of the noise and distractions.  As teams suffer critical losses in their secondaries across the league, you'd have to imagine that his trade value is only rising.

With each performance, the idea of keeping Earl sounds increasingly appetizing. However, it still appears evident to me that the Seahawks have no intentions of resigning to All Pro safety, so I continue to hope for a trade that could net Seattle draft picks that could put this team back into the Super Bowl discussion next season.

It feels great to get back into the win column.  The Seahawks have a reasonably favorable schedule for the next few weeks.  However, there is still a lot of work to do.

Now that the Seahawks have shown that they can establish a ground attack, they need to find ways to get their first round draft pick involved in their offense. Rashaad Penny and Mike Davis will need to see their touches increase going forward-- 32 rushing attempts from Carson is unsustainable.

Someone not named Marshall, Baldwin, Lockett or Dissley will need to emerge as a reliable weapon in the pass game.  That could be David Moore, Keenan Reynolds or maybe even someone not yet on the roster.  As this team awaits the return of it's leading receiver, someone other than Tyler Lockett has to earn the trust of the quarterback.

Hopefully, the Seahawks can find a road pass rush in Arizona next weekend.  It will be by far their least intimidating road environment they will have faced this season and it's possible they'll face rookie Josh Rosen in his very first NFL start. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Offense, Same Bad Ideas-- Seahawks 17 @ Bears 24

No Doug.  No Bobby.  No DJ. No KJ. 

Everyone was prepared to deal with that-- but no identity?

This team is lost offensively.

Seattle's offense was downright atrocious last night.  The frustrating thing is that it didn't need to be that way.  The Seahawks started the game exactly how they needed-- by pounding the rock with Chris Carson. Even as they picked up that first conversion on the ground, I had a feeling it was only a matter of time before they got antsy and abandoned the ground attack.

"Unfortunately, we wanted to do better in the 3rd quarter." Pete Carroll said in his post game press conference. "I got Shotty (Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenhiemer) to take a couple shots and look at a couple of things and it got them out of rhythm a little bit."

"It was my fault." Carroll added.  "I got them trying a little bit too hard, take a couple shots to see if we could bounce something back and get back into the game quickly and I shouldn't have done that."

I'm glad the coach was able to confirm my suspicions. 

If, like me, you've watched these first two Seahawks performances and come away feeling like the scheme and play calling do feel improved despite the statistical evidence suggesting otherwise-- this does provide some insight as to why we're feeling this way.

Wilson and Carroll are bringing bad habits from the previous regime into this new offense.

710 ESPN's Mike Salk made a comment in the wake of the loss to Denver that he did experience some De ja Bevell.  I think I've pinpointed what is causing this phenomenon.

Perhaps it's PTSD from the Bevell/Cable era, but in both of these games where Seattle had one-possession deficits with the ball in Wilson's hands late in the game, they've failed. 

The one commonality I've seen between this season and previous years is the sense of panic the play caller demonstrates in the middle quarters of games where they abandon not just the run game, but all sensible fundamental football in general, in favor of praying to God that number 3 can pull a miracle out in a single play.

It doesn't have to be like that.

When pressed about his decision to effectively give up on Chris Carson, Pete said he was gassed from having to play special teams more than expected due to the team's injury woes.  A lame excuse even if that were true, but Carson played less special teams reps last night than he did in the previous game in Denver.

The Seahawks need to have one back, be it Carson or Rashaad Penny, carry the ball 20+ times in a game.  Win or lose, run the fucking football.  They need to establish trust, build rapport and instill some confidence in this offensive line if there is any hope for success down the road with this group.

Seattle has had one of the worst offensive lines in the league for almost half a decade now. Don't you think the constituents of this line are aware of that?  They have social media.  They watch ESPN.  They hear the criticisms loud and clear.

It seems like the past 40 games have seen the Seahawks turn away from the run immediately in favor of Wilson running for his life.  Wilson is among the best at making scrambles into highlight reel plays-- but it's a horrible strategy to base your entire offense around.  Not to mention, it exhausts your linemen and I would imagine, even if those plays net success, there's little feeling of accomplishment from the pass protectors in those situations.

Pete's admitted meddling aside, Seattle lost this game because of, not in spite of, Russell Wilson.

Whatever the reasons may be, he's not getting the job done.  He's holding onto the ball for far too long, giving up sacks, fumbles and putting the team in unmanageable down and distances. Even worse, he's seemed to given up on breaking off big runs on his scrambles, instead opting to pat the ball until someone gets open before pirouetting right into the arms of a defensive pass rusher.

These problems are fixable.  Perhaps that's the most frustrating aspect of our recent struggles-- these problems are completely avoidable.  They can design plays that get the ball out of Wilson's hands in 3 seconds.  It wouldn't kill Russell to throw a pump fake in every now and again, just to keep the safeties honest. I'd like to see them try to convert Keenan Reynolds into a Bobby Engram-type slant receiver that can be relied upon in those 3rd and 5 situations.

But it all starts with committing to running the football.

Running the football wears down defenders.  It builds continuity and confidence in your offensive line.  It opens up the play action pass. Play action opens up the bootleg, where Russell shines.  When you give up on the run, it emboldens defenses. It encourages the pass rush and blitzing.  It works against everything the Seahawks are supposedly trying to accomplish.

The Seahawks are finally coming home this weekend to face Earl Thomas' beloved Cowboys.  If Pete dares to suggest at any point this week that Seattle is 'a run-first team' I hope that he immediately follows it up with 'and I'm going to completely stay out of the management of our offense and let Shotty do his job'.

The patchwork defense did a marvelous job in spite of everything going against them, but this offense still has to carry the load.  Any game that the offense doesn't score a minimum of 4 touchdowns is more than likely going to be a loss this year. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Sporadic & Erratic-- Seahawks 23 @ Broncos 27

The 2018 new-look Seahawks were expected to experience some growing pains.  This game was sure to test the fortitude of the young roster with KJ Wright recovering from knee treatment and Earl Thomas only joining up with the team a few days ahead of the trip to Denver.  Factor in the high altitude and scorching temperatures-- the Seahawks had their work cut out for them.

Even with all the challenges they were facing, this was a game the Seahawks absolutely should have won.  Alas, they did not.

I'm left with mixed emotions in the wake of the Seahawks opener.  For every issue that had be screaming at my television, I could find another that filled me with hope for the long season ahead. Still, you're only promised 16 games and when you drop one that you could've had, frustration lingers.

For all the struggles the Seahawks had, the one that bothers me the most was the late-game sacks that that Russell Wilson gave up on 3rd and short.  There were at least two in the final moments of the game where Russell inexplicably seemed to be looking down field, well beyond the first down
marker, only to give up a devastating loss of yards.

A veteran QB, no matter how mobile, needs to have the cognition to know where the line to gain is and get the ball out of his hand quickly-- especially against a ferocious pass rush like we saw from Denver's defensive front.

With about 11 minutes left in the game, the Seahawks were down 6 with plenty of time to mount what should have been the game winning drive.  They found themselves in 3rd & 3 on their own 27 yard line. They hadn't ran the ball well enough to even consider handing off to get the yards.  The

Seahawks needed 3 yards.  They ended up losing 13 yards.

It ended up costing them the game.  It was a bad play call and worse decision making from #3. For those of you that were able to still stomach football after this loss and tuned in to the Sunday Night Football game, Aaron Rodgers hosted a clinic on getting the ball out of your hands early to disrupt an aggressive pass rush.

I hope the Seahawks were able to catch that game on the flight home.

Rodgers, on a bum knee, orchestrated a remarkable comeback after having been ruthlessly disrupted by a fierce Chicago defense for the entirety of the first half.  Rodgers returned calmly and picked apart the Bears defense.

Unlike Wilson, he didn't behave as though he had to make up the point disparity on every throw.  Rodgers got the ball out quick and methodically moved the chains. This put the Bears D on their heels, which opened up the run. Eventually, that opened things up for big plays in the passing game.

Sometimes, you have to take what the defense is giving you.  You also have to be mindful of not just your own limitations, but your team's limitations as well.  For years now, this concept seems to have been lost on both Carroll and Wilson. 

I could drone on about this for pages upon pages, especially knowing that we'll be facing those same Bears a week from today, but instead I'll just hit on a few positives and negatives from yesterday's game and then we'll adjust our focus to next week.

+ Positives +

  • Will Dissley alleviated our fears of lacking talent in the tight end group. Uncle Will was spectacular in his rookie debut.
  • It was difficult to see against a stout defense like Denver's, but it appears as though we have a competent stable of running backs on this team.
  • I think Brian Schottenheimer (offensive coordinator) is a major upgrade from Bevell.  You could see the offense make adjustments throughout the game. 
  • Michael Dickson kept this game much closer by winning the field position battle. 

- Negatives -

  • Rookie growing pains-- while not awful, Griffin, Flowers, Green - all rookies we're counting on to produce early & often, struggled mightily.
  • Once again, the run game was abandoned too soon.  
  • Seahawks pass rush was abysmal and I don't see it getting much better any time soon.
  • What pass catcher can Wilson count on?  Doug is hurt and Marshall is my age.  Tyler Lockett isn't set up to be a workhorse type and every other receiver was insignificant. 

I saw enough to have the hope that, if this team continues to develop young talent as they always have, this could very well be a playoff team. However, it is frustrating to no end when you lose a game, particularly on the road, where you had every opportunity to win. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Big Salty Tears and a Sneak Diss

Stop me if you've heard this one.

The NFL is a quarterback driven league.

Chances are, you've heard that phrase uttered ad nauseum.  Every coach, analyst, player, and talking-head alike has either used this phrase or is otherwise intimately familiar with it's sentiment.

It's a term so rudimentary, it's like saying 'life on earth is oxygen driven'.

No shit.

An article titled "The Dynasty That Never Was" came out today on that is causing a stir throughout the football community. The premise of the article is essentially that Russell Wilson, along with Pete Carroll and John Schneider's faith in his abilities, are the primary cause of the Seahawks recent woes and ultimate undoing.

That could not be further from the truth.

The article, which directly quotes several former and recently outgoing Seahawks players, makes
them come off as entitled crybabies. With several players suggesting that Wilson is treated differently than everyone else, they complain that they did not receive their share of the accolades of the team's success while Russell skirted responsibility for the teams struggles.

There were a few things in the article that I agreed with.  Darrell Bevell's play call, Russell Wilson's ill-advised pass, and Ricardo Lockette's piss-poor attempt to get his body in position to make the game-winning catch in Super Bowl XLIX will never be lived down-- nor should they.  The fact that Pete Carroll subsequently lost the locker room is hard to deny, even for those of us on the outside. I even agree that the Seahawks lost sight of their philosophy in the wake of that Super Bowl loss-- a sentiment I was extremely vocal about throughout the past few seasons.

I encourage you to read the article for yourself, but here are some excerpts I personally took umbrage with:

Tony McDaniel, Richard Sherman and Cliff Avril were all on the record, along with anonymous sources, bitching about Russell Wilson getting preferential treatment. They claimed that Russell Wilson was never called out by the coaches in the media.

“We talked about that,” says Tony McDaniel, a defensive tackle with Seattle in 2013, ’14 and ’16. “Russell had his f----ups; he never got called out. If I was Pete Carroll, I’d tell Russell, I have to call you out in front of the team so there won’t be any problems.”

That might be a valid complaint if you can point to a single incident of Carroll calling out any of his players.  That's just not who Pete is.  He has consistently been shown to use optimism as his coaching method, never throwing a player under the bus no matter how deserving they might be.

The players go on to contend that Wilson was too 'emotionally fragile' to be held to the same standards as the others-- just before they whine about Russell not interacting enough with them at the company holiday party. 

Russell's work ethic has been well-documented in the press.  Yet, these bitter ex-teammates have the audacity to suggest that Russell is too focused on his business and charitable efforts, "prioritizing his business efforts over football". That sentiment reeks of jealousy, if you ask me.

These guys go on to gripe about Russell being asked to be interviewed after the 2014 Championship Game victory, in which the Seahawks came back to defeat the Packers in spite of Wilson's four interceptions-- as if to suggest Pete Carroll should have yanked his ass off the podium as punishment for his turnovers.

Guys, if you don't understand that this is a QB driven league by now-- I don't know what to tell you.  Maybe you should've learned how to throw a football.

The most infuriating line from this article is the following, referencing the play call that cost the Seahawks a championship repeat:

"Many who lamented how Wilson was treated differently now believed, truly believed, that Carroll had called a pass play to give Wilson a better chance to win the Super Bowl MVP award and decrease Marshawn Lynch’s chances"

To suggest that thoughts of who might be the MVP recipient was anywhere close to the mind of Pete Carroll in that instance is profoundly ignorant. Astonishingly and embarrassingly ignorant.

That play will never be forgotten.  Those responsible (Wilson, Bevell, Lockette, Carroll) should never live it down.  It should motivate them every day for the rest of their lives.  That decision, as well as several subsequent moves the organization made, did fly in the face of Pete's mantra of being a run-first/defensively-stout team.  But it wasn't the fault of one specific person any more than it was a premeditation decision to get Wilson an MVP.

I completely understand how that move might have lost the trust of some people in the organization. Hell, I spent the better part of the following season questioning the response of Carroll and company.  I still don't think that the team responded properly, but after reading this article, I feel that no response would satisfy some of these salty veterans who came off as petulant.

“That one play changed the whole locker room,” McDaniel says. “When Pete would give a speech or try for a heart-to-heart, people just stopped responding. They didn’t know who to trust anymore.”
Like any good team that faces adversity, you have to learn to put this shit behind you and focus on the next game, the next season.  From the sounds of things, guys like McDaniel, Avril, Bennett and Sherman folded their arms and turned up their noses at Carroll's attempts to get past XLIX. I'm sure there are things that could've been handled differently by Carroll and his staff, but I'm not convinced in the slightest that those who felt spurned would have been receptive to any of it.
 The quarterback took members of the offense and defense to Hawaii for a retreat before that season, to, according to sources, repair any lingering issues. But some lingered. “A lot of people felt like he was doing that to save face,” says one player who was there. “We were like, What is thisWhy are we here? He was disingenuous."
Prime example right here.  Russell showed leadership by footing the bill to take the team to Hawaii to resolve past issues and move forward to the next opportunity.  Evidently, it wasn't enough for some.

They momentarily shift the focus of their vitriol from Wilson to the team's personnel decisions. They complain about the decisions to move on from players like Red Bryant (career quickly fizzled out after leaving Seattle), Bruce Irvin (couldn't afford to keep him, you know, because of all the Pro Bowl players on the defense already eating a handsome portion of the salary cap), Malcom Smith (Super Bowl MVP that has yet to be healthy for 16 games since leaving here) and Tony McDaniel, who was eventually lured out of unemployment to return to the team.

McDaniel was eventually brought back, in 2016, finding himself in a time-share with other players whom he argues he was outperforming. “I was one of the guys who came in, put my hat on and went to work. Didn’t complain, didn’t say much,” he says.
Well, he didn't complain until this article came out, anyway.
“Everything they preached about competition stopped being true,” says one former Seahawk. “It wasn’t like that anymore. The Kasen Williams move was one. The way they treated the running back situation for years, the offensive line. They would draft offensive lineman high and tell them, You’re a leader now. No, you earn that. It all became artificial.”
It's important to keep in perspective, Kasen Williams couldn't win a spot on the Cleveland Browns roster.  Yes, the same Cleveland Browns that have won one more NFL game than I personally have in the past two seasons.

We all saw this tension unfold throughout the past season.  Changes were going to need to be made.  The players knew it, the staff knew it, and even the fans could see it coming.

There were quite a few foolish opinions in that piece, but this might be the stupidest excerpt from that article:

In December, during what he thought was a private moment with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett after a game against Dallas, Thomas was caught on camera telling the coach, “If y’all got the chance to come get me, come get me.”

Now, I've been openly critical of Earl Thomas' perceived intellect, but even I was taken aback to read that he sincerely believed that his dumb ass, blatantly disrespectful decision to chase Jason Garrett through the back hallways of AT&T Stadium like a schoolgirl during Beatlemania was in any way 'a private moment'.

They say that it's never a good idea to meet your heroes.  Too often, you'll find out they're not as extraordinary as you'd held them up in your mind to be. This article proved just that-- these Seahawks players that are no longer part of the plan moving forward, but significant pieces of cherished past memories, are just as flawed as you and I.

I will always be bitter about XLIX.  Every Seahawks employee, player and fan that gives a shit should be.  But what matters most is how you handle that bitterness.  I'd like to think that I would align more with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll.  Understanding that there is absolutely no benefit in holding on to anger, frustration and bitterness of the past and that letting go and moving forward is the only path to getting better.

I would certainly share the feelings expressed by the contributors of this article, but I wouldn't hold on to them as fervently as they have. I'm trying to put myself in their shoes.  For many of them, that may well have been their last shot at winning it all.  Something they'll never get back. Something, as a fan, I will never understand that feeling. 

However, they need to understand that they are not coaches and general managers with a multitude of responsibilities to delicately juggle.  Tony McDaniel criticizing the Seahawks personnel decisions is almost as absurd as me criticizing his personal training regimen.  Neither of us have any experience dealing with those subjects.

It's not surprising to hear the criticism of Wilson. He plays the most criticized position in professional sports, he's a Charlie-Church/Bookworm kind of guy, and he has the one thing those guys will never have again-- youth and his best years ahead of him.

However, it is upsetting the cowardly manner they chose to air their grievances.  Real cool waiting until you're off the team and just two days before the regular season to release your sneak diss track.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Earl Thomas is a Liability

After holding out through the entire offseason program, Earl Thomas finally reported to Seahawks headquarters.

On paper, it seems a headline worth celebrating.  The reality isn't so rosy.

Earl's reporting to the team isn't indicative of some sort of resolution.  Thomas still doesn't want to be here.  The Seahawks aren't any more interested in signing him to a long-time deal today than they have been in the past few months.  There still doesn't appear to be a market or a willing trade partner for his services.

The only reason he reported is because he doesn't want to lose any more money.
By holding out all of the offseason, Earl Thomas has incurred over $1.3 million in fines-- all of which are levied at the team's discretion.  This means that the Seahawks can forgive or enforce these fines as they see fit.  I've heard that the team has decided not to enforce these fines now that he's reported, a decision I personally do not agree with.

Had Earl continued his holdout into the regular season, he would then be forfeiting game checks.  There is no way to recoup that money, which in Earl's case, is over half a million per game.

Ultimately, this suggests that the Seahawks 'won' this battle against Earl.  He's in no better bargaining position than he was when this holdout started.  In fact, his position is arguably worse. However, the Seahawks aren't in a much better position in spite of having their star safety back in the building.

For starters, they now have a disgruntled, cancerous personality in the locker room.  This is a locker room filled with young players and a team searching for a new identity.

“I worked my whole life for this,” Earl wrote. “I’ve never let me teammates, city or fans down as long as I’ve lived and don’t plan on starting this weekend. With that being said, the disrespect has been well noted and will not be forgotten. Father Time may have an undefeated record but best believe I plan on taking him into triple overtime when it comes to my career.”

That doesn't strike me as the thoughts of a player that will do all he can to help his team win. That sounds like a selfish player that is only looking out for themselves. He doesn't have any interest in helping the young players around him get better.

When Earl made the erroneous decision to chase Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett down the back hallways of AT&T Stadium, he was essentially telling his teammates, Seahawks fans, and the entire world that he cares only about himself.

What exactly makes you think that he's not going to pull something similar when the Seahawks host the Cowboys for the home opener this season?

Just in case you can't discern my tone in this article-- I'm pissed off at Earl.  I'm angrier with Earl than I am with Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett or any other former Seahawk that now calls another city home-- and Earl is still on our team!

Number 29 is irrefutably one of the greatest players to ever put on a Seahawks uniform.  He changed the landscape of the franchise and helped bring home our first Lombardi trophy. I will never dispute his contributions to this team's success.

I'm angry because Earl is damaging his own legacy. Not only is he voluntarily ruining his legacy here in Seattle, but he's doing so to no benefit of his own-- or anyone, really.

I had begun preparing for a post-Earl Seahawks team ever since that incident in Dallas.  I was prepared to move on while holding tight the many fond memories of Earl's time here in Seattle. Just as I have with Sherman and Bennett, who will be donning opposing uniforms this season, and with players like Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, whose departures were unanticipated.

The selfish tantrums of Earl Thomas will not get him the long-term contract extension that is the supposed motivation for his behavior this offseason. I can't believe that is sincere.  If it were truly a long term extension with the Seattle Seahawks that he was after-- there are a million better ways to have gone about that.

Earl doesn't want to be here anymore.  And, you know what, that's totally fine with me.  He has every right to feel that way.

However, if he feels that way, I don't want him around. When this team inevitably faces adversity this season, I don't want Earl's selfishness on display.  I want guys like KJ Wright and Frank Clark, both of whom are in the exact same predicament as Earl in the final year of their deals, that are willing to put the work in and bet on themselves to lead by example.

I don't mean to suggest that Earl would stoop to espionage or otherwise half-ass it against his beloved Cowboys, but I've reached a point where I have accepted that this team is likely to experience a step backward defensively this season.  Maybe this team's future starting Free Safety isn't currently on the roster, but the interim replacement for Earl Thomas is.  I'd much rather get them reps and experience that could prove valuable down the stretch should the Seahawks find their way into the postseason, than trot out a disgruntled future hall-of-famer that might be more focused on his next employer more than his current one.

I don't believe that we're getting a final season of All Pro play from Earl. He will not be the guy that recklessly flies around the field, torpedoing into opponents twice his size.  Believe me, he'll be protecting his body, hoping his old film is enough to motivate his next team to pony up the dough for a rich, third contract.

So the Seahawk have to consider their next move.  Do you let Earl play out his contract, risking the development of your team and it's young players and be content with the 2020 3rd Round compensatory pick we'll likely get once he signs with a new team?

Or do you cut your losses, trade him to any team willing to pay at least a 3rd round selection? Or whatever Dallas is willing to pay, but after we face off in week three?

This could potentially be a defining moment for Pete Carroll and John Schneider.  I'm very curious to see how this plays out.  I just hope that, when all is said and done, my love of Earl Thomas isn't completely tarnished.