June 26, 2012
Is Anti-South Alaska Bias Keeping Ricky Watters Out of Canton?
Last night I went to a Columbus Clippers game (They're Cleveland's AAA affiliate), and I showed off my new Nike Marshawn Lynch Seahawks jersey. Everyone who reacted to it seemed to share two attributes: A) They were young and B) They LOVED it. Multiple times dudes yelled "BEAST MODE!" at me, and one guy simply said "fucking SWEET" as I walked by. You are correct, random bro: It IS fucking sweet. I'm convinced that if the Seahawks are any good this year, those new Nike jerseys are going to FLY off the shelves... but that's not why I'm blogging today. I saw an amazing sight at the game- Another Seahawks fan, in a loved-to-death Ricky Watters jersey (Hell, it could have been MY jersey. I sold my Watters on eBay a decade ago). Here we are...
Meeting that Twelve made me think about Ricky Watters, his Seahawks years and his larger NFL legacy. Go take a look at his career stats on Pro Football Reference, and you'll have the same question that has been gnawing at me: Why is this guy not even SNIFFING the Hall of Fame?
To the casual NFL fan, if they remember Ricky Watters, they remember one of two things: His role with the XXIX Champion 49ers, and/or his infamous "For who? For what" comment when asked about not laying out over the middle to make a catch while playing for the Eagles. To those folks, the idea of Watters having a bust in Canton largely seems ridiculous.
Go back to PFR and look at his numbers: 5 Pro Bowls, 8 thousand-yard seasons, 91 career touchdowns, and almost 15,000 yards from scrimmage. Of the 10 players that PFR records as having careers "similar" to Watters, 6 are in the Hall of Fame (and the other four are Tiki Barber, John L. Williams, Roger Craig, and Fred Taylor). He was one of the most dangerous offensive weapons of the 1990s, and yet his name never seems to seriously come up in Hall of Fame discussions (you can't even pull that "he never won a ring" shit with him either). Why?
You could argue that his reputation as a selfish player hurts his candidacy, but there are ALL manner of reprobates enshrined in the Hall of Fame. No. Watters' greatest crime against the game? He chose to take his talents to South Alaska. It didn't matter that he was playing some of the best football of his career- Once he moved to Seattle (and to a team that appeared in one playoff game in his four Seattle seasons), he may as well have signed with the Mars Greenskins. To the NFL intelligentsia, he disappeared for good.
Watters' three full seasons with the Seahawks were all among the five best statistical efforts of his decade-long career, but he wasn't chosen for the Pro Bowl in 1998, 1999 or 2000. Somehow, better seasons than he had in Philadelphia or San Francisco were discounted because he was wearing blue, green and silver. Imagine that Watters finished his career that strongly playing for the Chicago Bears or the New York Giants- Do you really think he'd still be waiting for his bust? Nope. Me either.
Watters was pushed out of the starting line-up by a young Shaun Alexander, who just happened to be the greatest running back in franchise history- Before that, he had what was arguably the best 3-year performance by a Seattle running back before Alexander's 2003-2005 rampage. He's part of a proud history of Seahawks running backs/fullbacks: Curt Warner, John L. Williams, Chris Warren, Mack Strong, Alexander and Marshawn Lynch. His place in our franchise's history should be secure- it's just sad that choosing to play for Seattle probably cost him greater NFL immortality.
What do you think, sirs?