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?


paul said...

There’s a surprising difference between perception and reality here for me. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1999 and was there for all of Ricky’s 1999+ home games. And I remember being really annoyed by him. It was always Ricky Waters up the the middle for one yard. Ricky Watters up the middle for no gain. Incomplete on third and long. Punt, rinse, repeat. Me and my cabal of Hawk fans view the Ricky Watters era as a frustrating below average rushing slog. It’s actually come up a few times and we all remember it pretty much the same way.

And then, hey, look at those stats. Real facts. Ricky didn’t suck in Seattle. He was actually very good. The only thing I can think of is the average. He was always below 4 yards/attempt. But 3 straight 1200 yard seasons can’t be overlooked.

I understand the rest of the NFL ignoring Ricky in Seattle. But why do Hawks fans ignore him too? How does someone make 3 straight 1200 yard season boring and frustrating? I know Shaun casts a big shadow over Seahawk rushing history, but it shouldn’t be big enough to completely marginalize his predecessor.

Strange stuff.

rabidlemur said...

I think anti Seattle bias hurts, look what it did to Tez! Do you honestly think he would have had to wait as long if he played for New York, Dallas or anywhere else for that matter?

Geoff said...

I reameber Ricky as being hard running back with terrible feel for holes opening/closing up. He seemed to run into the pile for very few yards time after time. He also had NO top gear when he did get in the open and was often easily caught from behind.

From the second that Shaun Alexander began spelling him it was apparent he was on borrowed time. Shaun seemed like he was playing at a different speed than Ricky.

Also, Ricky was kind of a ball hogging dick. I don't think he has any place in Canton.

Richard Lester said...

I totally disagree with some of these evaluations Ricky Watters was one of my all time favorites and he played his ass off on some less than stellar teams I think people should really give him alot of respect for being a great Seahawk.