July 31, 2011

"I'll bring us through this. As always. I'll carry you - kicking and screaming - and in the end you'll thank me."

I hate change. In my personal life, I crave routine and continuity- When I am knocked out of my comfort zone, I can barely continue functioning. For fuck's sake- A HUGE reason I am obsessed with the Seahawks is the thread of routine and continuity that they have provided to me since I was 8 years old.

So it is wrenching to me to see Hasselbeck basically sent away and Tatupu cut- I hate it. But do you know what I hate even more than change? Losing. Unfortunately, Tim Ruskell was a too much like me as a GM- Attached to veterans and taking half-measures in an attempt to extend the shelf life of the comfortable status quo. Like The Narrator in Fight Club, he, like myself, was a slave to the IKEA nesting instinct.

Then Mr. Allen hired Pete Carroll. In his first year one the job he made 300 roster moves, cut or traded multiple high-priced entrenched veterans, and along the way won a division title and a playoff game... To paraphrase a line from Fight Club: You had to give it to him: he had a plan. And it started to make sense, in a Pete Carroll sort of way. No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.

The team, as it previously existed, has been blown up. It hasn't been pleasant or pretty, but here we stand a year and a half into Carroll's reign with another banner waiting to be hung from the Seahawks Stadium rafters, and now better (and far younger) than we were before he came along and shook us out of our collective complacency.

I'm not thrilled that Matt Hasselbeck has been replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, but with the improved offensive talent surrounding him now, T-Jack doesn't have to be an All-Pro for the Seahawks to succeed. Really, he just needs to be as good (or a bit better) than Jon Kitna was with the Seahawks from 1997-2000. We don't have fond memories of Special K, but he WAS 18-15 as Seattle's starting QB. We just need T-Jack to be an average NFL QB- If he's any better than that, we'll certainly repeat as NFC West Champions.

I don't like seeing Lofa Tatupu leave either, but now Hawthorne gets to slide into the middle, where he excelled while Lofa was injured in 2009. We might not be done making moves at LB, but even if we are, I think we'll be alright with a starting trio of Curry/Heater/Hill.

Change is scary, but I have no doubt that at some point, we will look back and see this as the early days of a Seahawks golden age. These are exciting times to be a Twelve- Who knows what's next (hopefully a trade for Osi)? I for one can't wait to find out.

What do you think, sirs?

July 29, 2011

Matt Hasselbeck v Dave Krieg: The Post-Seattle Years

Matt Hasselbeck is now a Tennessee Titan, so I thought it would be a good time to step back and look at the post-Seattle career of the 2nd best QB in Seahawks history: Dave Krieg. There a lot of superficial parallels (like the fact that Beck went to Tennessee and that Krieg eventually landed in Tennessee as well at the very end of his career), but some key differences as well.

The biggest differences lie in how each QB left Seattle. In 1992, the Behring family was itching to get recent draft picks Kelly Stouffer and Dan McGwire out on the field. Coach Chuck Knox, particularly after lobbying hard for the Seahawks to draft Brett Favre rather than McGwire, was perfectly happy to let McGwire watch and learn behind 9-year starter Dave Krieg. When push came to shove, Knox's refusal to bench Krieg led to both being run out of Kirkland, with immediately ruinous results. The team tumbled to 2-14 and never truly recovered until Mike Holmgren came to town and acquired his franchise QB: Matthew Hasselbeck.

Hasselbeck's situation is a bit different. A new regime has ALREADY taken over, and Hasselbeck wasn't "their" guy. We aren't sure of every detail about Hasselbeck's departure- Was it a disagreement over the length of the deal? The guaranteed money? Or did Pete Carroll want to move on at the QB position no matter what terms Hasselbeck might have agreed to? The key contrast? Hasselbeck is 36 and coming off three sub-par seasons, and in 1992 Dave Krieg was only 33. Mudbone wasn't exactly tearing up the league in his last three Seahawks seasons, but his performance was clearly better than Beck's final years in Seattle.

What happened to Dave Krieg after leaving Seattle? He signed with the Chiefs, and in 1992 he started all 16 games and led KC to the playoffs (while Seattle had the worst season in franchise history. Ouch). In 1993, the Chiefs traded for Joe Montana, so by '94 Krieg was off to Detroit.

1994 was Krieg's post-Seahawks peak- He took over at QB with the Lions at 4-5 and was scorching hot for the final seven games. 14 TDs, only 3 INTs, a 101.7 rating, and he led Detroit into the playoffs. Krieg parlayed that into a starting job in Arizona, and started all 16 games at age 37 in 1995- Unfortunately he threw a league-high 21 picks and the Cardinals only won 4 games. He rebounded a bit with the Bears in 1996, going 6-6 in 12 starts with 14 TDs v 12 picks; He ended his career backing up Steve McNair in Tennessee before finally retiring after the 1998 season at age 40.

Can we expect Matt Hasselbeck's post-Seahawks career to top Krieg's? He's got a tough challenge in the AFC South, where I see the Titans as, at best, the 3rd best team in the division. On top of that, unlike Krieg in KC, Detroit, Arizona, etc, Hasselbeck has the team's QB of the future sitting on the bench, waiting for an opportunity to get onto the field. If Matthew's level of play doesn't improve over last season, you'd have to think Titans fans will be chanting "LOCK-ER!"

Krieg played 7 more seasons after leaving Seattle, and led teams to the playoffs twice. I can't see Hasselbeck matching that, or even playing to age 40 like Krieg did. I'd love to see him play well in Tennessee, of course- I just don't see him making us rue the day we let him walk the way Dave Krieg did.

What do you think, sirs?

July 28, 2011

This guy? He's OURS now.

I'm out and about so this won't really be a proper blog post- but I'm still on a high from yesterday's signings of Robert Gallery and Sidney Rice, so I wanted to post SOMETHING. WOOOO!

I already miss Hasselbeck, but I LOVE these moves. If they can lock up Mebane, this will go down as an amazing FA period for the Seahawks (and I'll have to buy a Bane jersey, since I went on his twitter feed and promised I would if he re-signed with Seattle).

So how are you all feeling about the Seahawks today? Better than Tuesday, I hope!

July 26, 2011

3 QBs Enter, 1 QB Leaves!

"Sounds like shit. What else we gonna do, go home?" - Lt. Aldo Raine

I don't like the moves the Seahawks made today. I hate that they let Matt Hasselbeck walk, and I can't say that I love the signings of Matt Leinart OR Tavaris Jackson. I can't think of a SINGLE example of a 3-way QB battle in an NFL training camp, let alone such a battle that resulted in a team having a successful season.

Here's the thing, though- I also thought the Seahawks shouldn't have drafted Lofa Tatupu, and I thought we should have drafted Michael Crabtree. My point? I know fuck-all, when you get down to it. I HAVE TO have faith that the Seahawks front office knows better than I do, that they have a plan, and that they are competent. I have NO CHOICE if I want to maintain my sanity. So, here's my positive spin-

We still have PLENTY of money to go make big moves in free agency, and frankly, we have to spend a shit ton of money to reach our spending obligations under the new CBA. Hopefully, very soon, I'll be writing another post about the amazing free agents heading to Seattle.

I've never seen a 3-way QB derby like this before- That fact is scary, but also exciting. We are about to see perhaps the most compelling training camp in team history (Man, we REALLY should have been on Hard Knocks, huh?), and we're also about to see some of the most important preseason games in franchise history as well. The winner gets to start at San Francisco week 1, so we should see all three men giving their absolute best efforts over the next six weeks.

Pete Carroll is NOT trying to "Suck to Get Luck." I don't agree with this strategy, but I can see what he is trying to do, and hope like Hell that it works. He hopes competition will produce at least ONE QB that can keep Seattle competitive in 2011, if not 2 or 3.

I'm not happy. Frankly, I'm pretty fucking depressed right now. But I'm still in, Coach.

What do you think, sirs?

July 25, 2011

Happy V-L Day!

The lockout ends today. There will be no labor apocalypse for the NFL, and the America's most popular and successful professional sports league will now enjoy 10 years of labor peace. This is a day for celebration, my fellow Twelves.

I predicted back in March that no regular season games would get wiped out, and I've rarely ever been happier to have a prediction proven right. It's been an ugly, messy, unpleasant process, but negotiations over BILLIONS of dollars of revenue are rarely neat and tidy. I want to thank Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith for getting their constituencies to step back from the brink, put aside their egos and hammer out a deal. For both Goodell and Smith, this 10-year CBA is their legacy, and it cements both not as dunderheaded nincompoops but as Responsible Stewards of the Game.

Our falls and winters will be filled with Seahawks football until 2021, with no possibility of a strike or a lockout. How sweet is that? I still think that the owners unnecessarily created this crisis, but I hold no ill will towards them now. How can I? There is a Seahawks game in SIXTEEN DAYS! WOOOOOOO!

Obviously, news is going to come fast a furious now- My twitter feed is a constant source of info and opinion for y'all, and of course I'll post here about the BIG news as it happens.

We Kept Calm and Carried On- Now let's watch some fuckin' football!

July 17, 2011

The Whitehurst Checkmate

My reputation among Seahawks fans who read this blog and/or my twitter feed is that of the eternal (and sometimes irrational) optimist. It's extremely rare that I go into any season without the belief that the Seahawks will be competitive. I've never picked any team other than the Seahawks to win the NFC West, and that won't change in 2011. When I look at the Seahawks, it is almost always through gun-metal blue and neon green glasses.

But there is one thing that would shatter my hopes of a successful 2011 campaign: Charlie Whitehurst being named Seattle's starting quarterback.

So what is The Whitehurst Checkmate? Imagine this scenario: During the 72-hour window to re-sign free agents next week, the Seahawks either fail to make Hasselbeck an offer or make him an offer he refuses in order to test the market in free agency. Efforts to trade for Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton fail. Then, we are left with Whitehurst, and possibly Matt Leinart or Tavaris Jackson competing with him for the starting job. THAT'S The Whitehurst Checkmate, and it scares the hell out of me (Jesus, just imagine that game against Arizona at Seahawks Stadium week 3- Worst case is we come in at 0-2 behind a very shaky Buddy Christ, and Arizona comes in led by... Matt Hasselbeck. I think I would cry).

Look- I don't HATE Charlie Whitehurst. I think he can be a solid back-up quarterback in the NFL, and can win games for you every once in a while (for example, the Rams game last year). What I can't see in him is the quarterback who will lead the Seahawks to another NFC West title this season... and guess what? That's ALL that matters to me. I don't care about our 2012 draft position, and I don't care about "seeing what we have" in Whitehurst. Yes, we are rebuilding- But why hobble yourself by not putting the best possible quarterback on the field?

I'm on record with my desire for the Seahawks to get Carson Palmer. I think he's a (somewhat) better quarterback than Matt Hasselbeck at this point in his career, and he's 4 years younger than #8. If we can get him for a low-round pick or two, Pete Carroll should leap at that opportunity. If Mike Brown continues to be a stubborn old wrinkly fucker, our next best plausible option is to bring back Matt Hasselbeck (side note: at this point I'm not counting Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton as "plausible" options, given the high cost of acquiring either player).

Yes, Hasselbeck isn't the player he was in 2007- But the arguments for choosing Whitehurst over Beck are, to be blunt, unpersuasive. Let's break them down:

1. "We spent a 3rd round pick and a bunch of money on Whitehurst- We need to "see what he can do" and/or "give him a chance."

First of all, Pete Carroll should be making this decision SOLELY based on who gives the Seahawks the best chance to win, NOT on the unrecoverable resources we've already spent on Whitehurst. Like I've said before, successful organizations do not let themselves become anchored to sunk costs- This situation is no exception.

Another weird notion is that Whitehurst should get a chance to "show what he can do." Why? If it's manifestly obvious that the Seahawks have better options at QB, why on Earth should we say "Fuck it! Let's just blindly hope Whitehurst will exceed expectations!" If Whitehurst couldn't earn the job in OTAs/training camp/preseason last year, and was at best OK in game action, why should he be handed the starting job in 2011?

2. "The offense will be better/more balanced/stronger, so we can get by with Whitehurst"

Hey, if he ultimately IS the choice, I hope this is true. Doesn't the same reasoning apply to Hasselbeck, though? Wouldn't we also expect HIM to improve his play with better personnel around him? Doesn't he bring the added qualities of experience and veteran leadership, which Whitehurst lacks?

3. "The Seahawks are unlikely to be any good this year anyway, so let's try to get by with Whitehurst/tank the season to get Andrew Luck."

Hopefully y'all realize that if this is what you think, I'd like you to stop reading this blog, stop coming to Seahawks games, just go all the way and become a Titans fan, and perhaps walk into traffic. Fuck you.


Hasselbeck isn't my #1 choice for Seahawks QB either, but a lot of fans seem to VISCERALLY, PASSIONATELY want anybody other than Beck under center, and that's just stupid. Hasselbeck is obviously in decline, but I still see him improving on his 2010 performance as far more likely than Whitehurst giving Seattle equivalent production. And if I'm wrong? Guess what- The glorious untapped potential of Charlie Whitehurst will still be on the sideline, ready to step in if needed.

Maybe it's a matter of different perspectives on "knowns vs unknowns." For me, I know what we have in Hasselbeck, and as the Saints playoff game showed, he still has the ability to play outstanding football. I am comfortable gambling that we'll see more of that next year and less of the type of games he had against Atlanta or at San Francisco. I am far less comfortable gambling that we'll get a season of mostly "Week 17 against the Rams" or better from Charlie Whitehurst. He lacks the pedigree and the resume that would make me comfortable handing the team over to him.

Of course, it doesn't ultimately matter what I think- It matters what Pete Carroll thinks. If he picks Whitehurst, I will still cheer for the Seahawks until my voice gives out- But my expectations for, and excitement about, the 2011 season would plummet.

What do you think, sirs?

July 15, 2011

Pre-DKSB Flashback: Cleveland

Every once in a while, I reach back to the archives of my old personal blog to share with y'all some things I wrote about the Seahawks years ago. Given that I'll probably be going to my 3rd game at Cleveland Browns Stadium this fall, I thought I'd re-post what I wrote about my experience at the 2007 game. I've got no real beef with the Browns or their fans- We share a love of Mike Holmgren and a hatred of the Steelers. However, both in 2001 and 2007 I was treated like absolute sub-human garbage at games in Cleveland- If you are going to the game this October, be prepared for battle. Now, a look back- I wrote the following back in 2007.

This was the worst experience I’ve ever had at an NFL game, and not just because the Seahawks lost. I can say without a doubt that the fans at Cleveland Browns Stadium are the most ignorant, drunken bunch of shitheels I’ve ever been exposed to at a sporting event.

Before anyone says “it’s like that everywhere,” go to a game at Qwest Field and root for the other team. You’ll probably get intermittently yelled at, but you’ll never feel like you are personally in danger. You’ll notice that the Seahawks fans actually know when to be loud and when to be quiet (here’s a hint, Browns fans: When your team has the ball, shut the fuck up… Your players are telling you to be quiet for a reason). You might observe that Seattle has the loudest stadium in the NFL WITHOUT de-evolving into a gaggle of 66,000 fucktards.

When I went to the bathroom, someone threw a wadded up wet paper towel into the stall at me. After the Seahawks scored to go up 7-0, I cheered for my team, which motivated the guy in front of me to scream in my face “SIT DOWN AND SHUT THE FUCK UP! THIS IS CLEVELAND!”

Of course, my reply was “I paid for my ticket! Woooooo!” This got the whole section chanting “ASSHOLE!” at me; I gleefully joined in at the top of my lungs (Side note: I have no love for the self-proclaimed Seahawks “fans” around me who sat there silent during the whole game. Fucking suburbanite cowards).

Once it was clear I wasn’t going to be intimidated, they resorted to mockery, exaggeratedly cheering each time the Browns made a positive play. Um, we actually do that in Seattle.. You know, cheer when our team does good things. One guy walking past me shouted “Cleveland Rocks!” right in my face.. then said “You ever hear that one? What has Seattle ever done?” My reply: “Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam.”

Besides the asshole fans, it was a shitty overall atmosphere at the stadium. There were almost no updates of scores or stats around the league, and there were major problems with the lighting and sound systems. Hell, there were virtually no updates of the stats in the game we were attending.

When the game was over, one fan turned to say something to me.. I assumed it would be “nice game” or something like that… Nope.

“Sucks to be you, man.”

Ahh, Cleveland. Nothing but class.

After the Seahawks made the 2007 playoffs and the Browns fell jusssst short, I wrote the following:

Suck our giant, hairy, fertile nutsacks, Cleveland.

Prophecy, from November 2007:

Seattle will be playing in January. Cleveland most certainly will not.

I have friends who are Browns fans, some of which even read this blog. They are upstanding citizens, loyal Americans, good people, and punctual taxpayers. They might not want to read the rest of this entry.

As you may know, I’ve been to two Seahawks/Browns games in Cleveland, and they were by far the two worst experiences I’ve ever had at a sporting event.

Browns fans may whine “but we were 10-6 too! We were just unlucky to be in the AFC! And we beat you head-to-head! Arf! Arf! Ruff! Ruff!” All that may be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that every fucking piece of shit asstard who flipped me shit for 4 hours gets to watch the Seahawks play in the motherfucking NFL fucking playoffs, motherfuckers.

And where, oh where, are your precious Brownies? At home, jerking off thinking about that asinine elf mascot tossing Drew Carey’s salad in the Price is Right green room!
Add the 2007 Browns to your litany of failure and pain, Cleveland. May the memories of Derek Anderson’s four interceptions against Cincinnati (which cost your little replicant expansion team a wild card berth) haunt you in the same way MJ, Josh Beckett, Pedro Martinez, The Drive, The Fumble, Jose Mesa and Brian Sipe already do.

Ahh, if I could only see the guy who looked me in the eye and told me “sucks to be you” after that game in November… I wish I could have been there in whatever fleabag sports bar he was at last night, to just soak up his despair.. As the final kneeldown commenced in Indianapolis, he would have seen me… decked out in Seahawks gear with my Red Sox hat on… and, in what would have sounded like the booming voice of the Old Testament God, I would have bellowed:


Yup. I’m a class act.


July 13, 2011

Blue Ruin: My 2004 Seattle Seahawks Story

(Want to watch highlights of individual 2004 games? Here they are at NFL.com, kids!)

In March of 2004, my favorite movie of all time came out- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and I'm not alone in my adoration of the film). If you haven't seen it yet, you should- It's even available on Netflix Instant Streaming. This line from that AV Club "Best of the 00s" list nicely sums up why the film hit me (and others) so hard:

"Eternal Sunshine’s lovers' circular path brings them back together for an ending that’s ambiguous but guardedly hopeful about the possibility of a future not necessarily doomed to reprise the hurt of the past, though it also may well revisit the same mistakes. It’s the rare film that shows us who we are now and who we’re likely, for better or worse, forever to be."

Later that year, Seahawks fans would endure the most frustrating, maddening, painful 9-7 division-winning season any NFL team is likely to experience. Much of that year was a string of horrifying, gut-punch defeats that would be great targets for Lacuna's technology featured in Eternal Sunshine- But I'm here to tell you that this season gives us invaluable insight into the psyche of Seahawks fans. As much as those who lived through 2004 might like to erase it from our memories, it is a part of us, as much as 2005 or 1983.

The season started with high expectations- Despite the overtime Wild Card loss at Green Bay in January, optimism was high with the team coming off its first 10-win season since 1986. The Seahawks were a darkhorse Super Bowl contender, and after playing the mighty Rams tough in 2003, they seemed like a smart bet to at least win the NFC West in 2004.

I was fortunate enough to catch the season opener down in New Orleans, a relatively easy 21-7 win that seemed to confirm that the Hawks were heading in the right direction- It was a week 1 road win at 10 am pacific time (all historical trouble spots for Seattle)- Even against the mediocre Saints, it seemed like a great sign. Then came a gritty road win at Tampa, and a 34-0 garroting of the Niners at Seahawks Stadium... The Hawks looked primed for BIG things.

The next week the Rams came to town. You younger fans may not really understand the depth of our hatred of the guys from St. Louis back then- A huge part of that animosity came from the fact that the Rams adopted the smug arrogance of their head coach: The detestable, face-punchable Mike Martz. It wasn't just that the Rams had recently been to and won Super Bowls. It wasn't that they had beaten up on us that badly (from 2000-2003 Seattle was 2-3 against the Rams- They weren't getting dominated). They were on top, and they were PRICKS about it, all but gleefully smelling their own farts. It was maddening.

For 54 minutes, the Seahawks dominated St. Louis. They led 27-10. Shaun Alexander shredded the Rams defense for 150 yards and the defense forced three Marc Bulger interceptions. Then, it was like a switch got flipped- Seattle's offense became a 3-and-out machine, and the defense absolutely could not stop St. Louis' air attack. 27-10 became 27-17, 27-24 and then 27-27 before millions of stunned Twelves could comprehend what was happening. In overtime, Shaun McDonald hauled in a 52-yard Bulger TD and the implosion was complete. This is how Isaac Fucking Bruce celebrated:

My reaction was more like a panic attack than anything else. I was 29 years old, and decades removed from crying after Seahawks losses- But I simply collapsed into sobs after that game, into a deep, inescapable despair. At that time in my life, I was DEEP into my graduate studies, and there's no way to sugar-coat this: I was fucking miserable. I had spent 5 years in an elite PhD program, and the main effects of the experience were the destruction of my imagination and the near-obliteration my ability to feel joy. I depended even more than usual upon my Seahawks (and my Red Sox) to be an oasis of good feelings and happiness- That Rams game just seemed to punctuate the darkness in my life at that time.

The 2004 team never REALLY recovered from that game- They'd fall to 3-3 before recovering JUST enough to beat the 1-5 Panthers and 1-6 Niners. A loss at St. Louis came next, and all that kept Seattle's season from a shattering 4-game losing streak was a Michael Boulware pick-6 in the final minute to beat the (wait for it) 1-win Dolphins.

It was during this time that the Hawks picked up Jerry Rice. While most of his half-season in Seattle was fairly uneventful, he had one last great game in him, and he saved it for the Dallas Cowboys and Monday Night Football. Unfortunately, the Seahawks defense and the officials conspired to turn this one into another soul-battering Seattle loss.

Undoubtedly, this was a highly entertaining game for the casual fan- But for Twelves, it was a puke-inducing roller-coaster that ultimately left us passed out in our own barf. The Seahawks lead 14-3! Yay! Oh no, The Seahawks trail 29-14! Look! We're up 39-29 with only minutes left! Fuck yeah! A late Alexander TD seemed to seal it- This was catharsis; This was the turning point for the 2004 Seahawks! XXXIX or bust!

Then the officials gave us a grim reprise of the 2003 game at Baltimore/a terrible preview of Super Bowl XL: Keyshawn Johnson CLEARLY failed to get two feet down on a 34-yard "touchdown," and since it was under 2 minutes, it was up to a booth review... Which never happened. Jason Witten recovered the onside kick, and with 32 seconds left Julius Jones (yes, that fuckin' guy) delivered the killing blow. Was it as bad as the St. Louis collapse in October? No, but it was damn close.

The only truly, unabashedly joyous moment of 2004 came the next week, when the Seahawks pulled off a huge, season-saving upset in Minnesota. Darrell Jackson, playing only hours after his father's death, had the best game of his career, and Michael Boulware intercepted a Randy Moss pass (WTF?) in the final minutes to seal a 27-23 win. One of the craziest things about the '04s? They were OK on the road (4-4), and only 5-4 at Seahawks Stadium- Weird, huh?

What we hoped was a turning point once again evaporated- This time in a blowout loss to the Jets out on the east coast. Thankfully, the Seahawks' last two games were at home- The bad news was that Matt Hasselbeck wouldn't be able to play against Arizona. Alexander had ANOTHER huge game: 154 yards and three touchdowns, and the Hawks led 24-7 midway through the 4th. Then Seattle's secondary realized it was late in the game and started making Josh McCown look like Neil Goddamn Lomax- Quickly, it was 24-21, and it took a Trent Dilfer 3rd down scramble to finally put the game (and a playoff spot) away.

With a win in the season finale (or a Rams loss to the Jets), Seattle would win its first NFC West title. I was at the game, and with the playoff-bound Falcons treating it like a glorified preseason game, I loved our chances.

But this was 2004- and this team was determined to torture their fans. They fell behind 17-7 before clawing back into a 21-20 4th quarter lead. Matt Hasselbeck scored on a QB sneak to make it 28-20 in the waning minutes (oh, we'll come back to that), but the Falcons marched right back down to the Hawks' Nest to get within a two-point conversion of OT... But then a draw play- Dunn struggling for the goal line- and he is stopped short! Wooooo! NFC West Champions! Bring on those St. Louis fuckers!!!!

Hold those positive vibes, though. In a post-game interview, Shaun Alexander accused Coach Holmgren of "stabbing him in the back" when he called for that QB sneak, rather than handing it to #37. It turned out that Alexander was one yard short of winning the NFL rushing title, and was also acutely aware of that fact. Holmgren either didn't know or (more likely) didn't care, and suddenly the story wasn't Seattle's division title and upcoming home playoff game- It was Alexander's outburst, which ultimately gave unlimited ammunition to Seahawks fans already predisposed to dislike him for his less-than-hard-nosed running style. Ugh.

After all we endured, here was the chance for redemption. Just think about 2010- What we will forever remember is the Beastquake and slaying the Saints- Not the blowout losses that littered the regular season. The 2004 team had a similar opportunity- Beat the Rams, and beat them in the playoffs, and the season would be redeemed. The collapses against STL and Dallas would become trivia. This was their defining moment.

The Hawks came out oddly flat and fell behind 14-3. Shaun Alexander disappeared, only scratching out 40 yards on the ground, but Hasselbeck and Jackson were magnificent- Matthew scorched the Rams for 341 yards passing, 128 of which were snagged by D-Jack. Once again, the Seahawks would fight back and lead 20-17 in the final quarter. Once again, the defense would squander that lead. Hasselbeck, Jackson and the rest of the Seahawks sprinted downfield on a desperate final drive, trailing 27-20. They'd reach the St. Louis 5-yard-line before stalling. 4th Down. Hasselbeck would avoid pressure and chuck a little sidearm toss at Bobby Engram. It wasn't the easiest catch to make, but it was one you have to make in the playoffs.

Engram didn't. Game over. Season over.

You could argue that this was just the prelude to the glorious 2005 campaign. That might work if Leavy and his gang hadn't fucked us out of a fair chance to win XL. If we had won it all next the next year, the 2004 Seahawks would have been like the 2003 Red Sox: One last spasm of trauma before final, glorious victory. But that's not how it happened.

The 2005 Seahawks were an sparkling, spectacular aberration- As maddening as the 2004 season was, it was like the entire history of the franchise compressed into a single season- A lot of mediocrity, a good dose of weirdness and bad luck, a dash of questionable officiating, deafening noise, stunned silence, and outbursts of unexpected joy.

We ARE the 2004 Seahawks, for better or worse. The good news? For a long time, the Red Sox WERE 1967-1975-1978-1986-2003. That changed, didn't it? And it changed forever. Someday, we will no longer be defined by seasons like 2004- But for those of us who lived through '04, those memories make us the fans we are, and I'd never want to lose them.

What do you think, sirs? Your thoughts on 2004?

July 8, 2011

The Legacy of Matthew Hasselbeck

Until the lockout finally gets settled (hopefully in the next few days), speculation will fly about where Matt Hasselbeck will play this fall- If you've followed my twitter feed at all, you've also seen robust debate about whether Hasselbeck's return to Seattle is a great idea, a horrible idea, or perhaps simply the best of bad options (My official position? I'd like to see the Seahawks acquire Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton or even Kevin Kolb via trade- But if they can't swing any of those deals, I VASTLY prefer they retain Hasselbeck than roll the dice on the remote prospect of Charlie Whitehurst leading Seattle to another NFC West title in 2011).

What happens next, however, is unlikely to fundamentally change Matt Hasselbeck's place in Seahawks' franchise history- There are really only two scenarios that would:

A) He goes to division rival Arizona, plays extremely well there for a number of years, beats the Seahawks regularly, and complicates his Seattle legacy.

B) He stays with the Seahawks, and enjoys a shocking resurgence, leading Seattle to a deep playoff run or even a Super Bowl title- If this happens, he goes from "top 5 player" in team history to perhaps the very top.

Everything else in between- from him going somewhere like Tennessee for a couple of years, or staying with Seattle and declining further- doesn't really alter the basic narrative of Hasselbeck's career. What is that narrative? Let's take a step back and look at Hasselbeck's body of work.

Hasselbeck came to the Seahawks via trade in 2001, and didn't immediately justify the cost of acquiring him. He was mediocre at best in 2001 before getting injured and replaced by Trent Dilfer, who led Seattle to the precipice of a playoff appearance. Dilfer returned in 2002, but along with the rest of the team, he got off to a terrible start. The team was 1-5 going into a game at Dallas (The "Emmitt Smith breaks the record" game), and that day Dilfer's popped Achilles' tendon gave Hasselbeck an opportunity to win back the starting QB job- He lead Seattle to an upset win that day, and went on to have a BLISTERING performance over the last 10 games of the 2002 season- The team went 6-4, and he threw for over 3000 yards (including a career-high 475 427 yards in a furious near-comeback down in San Francisco).

Since then, with a few injury interruptions aside, Matt Hasselbeck has been the unquestioned on-field leader of the Seahawks franchise. There is no real debate about his status as the best QB in team history- No QB has won more games for the Seahawks, led the team to more playoff wins and divisional titles, completed more passes or thrown for more yards than Hasselbeck (Yes, Dave Krieg's rating is a tenth of a point higher than Hasselbeck's, and he threw for more TDs, but on balance even a Krieg fanboy like me has to give Beck the nod here). He has played through injuries, and while he has always had that tendency to make rookie mistakes, he also plays with an amount of passion I wish all 53 guys on the roster also possessed.

Beyond his status in Seahawks history, he has a legitimate claim to being one of the NFL's best QBs over the past decade- Is he a Hall of Famer? No. Is he on the same level as Brady-Manning-Rodgers-Brees? No. But his body of work is that of a very good, near-elite quarterback. If you look at some of the players Hasselbeck is "similar" to on Pro Football Reference, you'll see names like Archie Manning, Neil Lomax, Danny White, etc- and that's about right- All these guys, like Hasselbeck, were very good QBs who at times looked elite, but could never QUITE get their team all the way to a championship.

Hasselbeck isn't a (mostly) beloved figure among Twelves simply because of his on-field accomplishments, though. He has always been entertaining, engaging, and relatable off the field (I truly think he can be a great broadcaster if he wanted to do that after he retires); I also think part of the reason I like him so much is that unlike a lot of NFL QBs, he comes off not as an alpha-male jock but as, frankly, a bit of a dork. To me at least, that's a very endearing quality. He also put down deep roots in the Seattle area, and has been extremely active in the community. That all adds up to make him one of the most popular Seahawks ever, in addition to one of the best.

Where does he rank? I'd put him down as the 5th greatest Seahawk, behind Walter Jones, Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Kenny Easley. No matter what happens between today and his eventual retirement, he should SWIFTLY join the Seahawks Ring of Honor once leaves the game. One of the hundreds of reasons I am still so embittered about XL is the impact it had on Hasselbeck's legacy. If the officials had not incompetently tipped the scales in Pittsburgh's favor, Matt Hasselbeck would probably have a Super Bowl title and a Super Bowl MVP award on his resume- Those things rocket him from "very good quarterback" to "borderline Hall of Famer."

That's my take on Hasselbeck's legacy. What's yours?