July 9, 2017

Your 2017 Seattle Seahawks Jersey Buying Guide


Hey y'all! I know many of you have been waiting for my annual report on which Seahawks jersey(s) you should buy (and which ones would provoke regret like a midnight trip to White Castle). First, an barely tangentially related rant!

About a year ago, I got a new full time job. Benefits! Health Insurance! (Relative) Job Security! The main function of the gig is essentially to teach people how to not be jerks to LGBTQ people (with a frequent deeper focus on trans and gender non-conforming people). It's important work, and I love doing it. The problem? Between that job and teaching part-time (gotta stack that paper!), I've had far too little free time to devote to blogging.

So what roused me from my creative slumber? A comment someone left on this blog. No, I didn't publish it. No, I won't publish it. This comment justified both the fact that I moderate the responses people send in AND the work that I do trying to educate people about trans folks.

Charmingly, the comment started out referring to me with the T-slur, and it was a rocket sled to Transphobistan from that point on, rambling on about how I want "special rights" (I have a feeling that brah was an enthusiast for I-552), and so on and so forth with the laziest, most predictable shit. Then this person had the gall to mix a dash of "we're all 12s" bullshit into his hate speech, apparently thinking that since we are both Seahawks fans, I should hug it out with him.

Umm. No. Fuck, no. We're not talking about a disagreement over budget priorities or tax rates. We're talking about a nationwide, organized effort to deny full personhood and citizenship to people like me. We're talking about an initiative that would have forced me into the men's room at Seahawks home games. How do you think that would go for me?

Not great, I'm thinking.



Even in Seattle, which is perhaps the city with the largest trans population per capita in the U.S., trans folks need to fight every day against a tsunami of hate, fear and ignorance. Sometimes that hate, fear, and ignorance is even exacerbated by local left-wing independent newspapers *cough* The Stranger *cough* (Here's a good account of and response to that whole sordid affair). So no, this is not something I can "agree to disagree" about, even with other 12s.

Thankfully that turd-encrusted abomination of an initiative effort once again failed to collect enough signatures to make it onto the fall ballot ("Just Want Privacy" is rapidly becoming the Buffalo Bills of Washington State politics), and my belief in the basic decency of the vast majority of Washingtonians was rewarded. But make no mistake. If you signed that petition, this blog is not for you. If you supported that effort, this blog is not for you. I'm sure there is no shortage of media outlets that will give you hot takes on the Seahawks that align with your curdled, malignant worldview. Go find them and leave the rest of us alone. 

Back to that original commenter for a moment. 

Asshole, the team is on MY side. Not yours. Look up the campaign contributions of Paul Allen and Pete Carroll. Google the political stances of the VAST majority of our players, including our squeaky-clean quarterback. This team is easily, and obviously, the most left-leaning squad in the NFL. Your hateful ass is the outsider, not me. You know that, probabilistically, the Seahawks likely have more transgender fans than any other NFL team, right? We're not going ANYWHERE.
Fuck you. You probably rooted for us to lose the 2010 regular season finale and miss the playoffs. You probably booed Matt Hasselbeck. Fuck you.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's talk Seahawks jerseys! 

Training Camp is mere weeks away, and I'm sure that a lucky handful of my readers will be attending practices at the VMAC -Which is a perfect opportunity to show off a new Hawks jersey. As usual, I'm here to help y'all make a crucial decision. 

As usual, let's start with the 1st Commandment of jersey ownership: NEVER PUT YOUR JERSEY IN THE DRYER! Dryers kill jerseys! Don't do it under any circumstances. If you abide by this decree your jersey(s) should hold up for a nice, long spell. If possible, wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water by themselves. I also feel strongly that there's no compelling reason to opt for the more opulent Nike models. The $100 replicas ("game" jerseys) are plenty expensive, and will look sharp for years with proper care. In my experience, the screen-printed numbers on the "game" jerseys actually hold up better and longer than the stitched-on ones adorning the more expensive Nike jerseys. Please note - If you are lucky enough to fit into a "youth" size, those are only about $70.

For the purposes of this guide, I'm setting aside throwbacks (though I'm hanging onto my gunmetal blue Hasselbeck jersey until the heat death of the universe), personalized jerseys, and #12 jerseys (I've changed my tune on the #12's over the years. I used to be dead-set against buying those jerseys, but given how precarious roster spots are under PCJS's rule, I can't blame a fan for playing it safe with such a substantial investment. I own a FAN jersey myself, frankly).

Sidebar: Jersey colors, ranked - 

4. White
3. Action Green
2. Wolf Grey
1. College Navy 

Fight me.

Personally, I have a weird thing about wearing an injured player's jersey. I'm not a superstitious type, but I feel out of sorts if I'm wearing a player's jersey while he's hurt. Thus, I tend to shy away from players who have a history of injury problems. I'm also hesitant to buy a jersey of a rookie or a new free agent acquisition. What if they suck? Then you're wearing a big shroud of suck, aren't you?

So what jerseys should you avoid? Which ones are risky buys? Which ones are safe but predictable? Which ones are awesome, at least somewhat unique, and not likely to burn you a year from now? Let's break it down.

DON'T BUYS

As usual, I recommend leaving the jerseys of 2018 free agents-to-be on the rack. The most significant players this applies to are Kam Chancellor, Jimmy Graham, Eddie Lacy, Paul Richardson, Luke Willson, Justin Britt, Luke Joeckel, Blair Walsh, Cassius Marsh, and Deshawn Shead. Who are some other players you should steer clear of?

Frank Clark. Ugh. Just... Ugh. I'm not psyched that I have to root for this guy. I'm not even going to weakly defend our front office for employing him. Cheering him on makes me feel more than a little queasy, and I can't see any circumstance where someone would want to wear his jersey.

Jermaine Kearse. The former Husky has made some of the most important catches in franchise history. No one can ever take that away from him. But I feel like he might get his roster spot taken away from him this training camp, and even if he holds on, he's a UFA after the 2018 season.

The Entire Stable of Running Backs. I honestly think that the Hawks will have a dominant rushing attack this season, but that dominant attack will be executed by committee. Lacy, Rawls, Prosise, Collins, and others will split carries. In addition, Rawls and Prosise have injury-marred histories, and Lacy is a new free agent acquisition. Keep scrolling past these jerseys, so to speak.

Sidebar: Marshawn Lynch. 

I'm not going to begrudge the guy deciding he wants to continue working in his chosen profession, and to ply that trade in his hometown for the short time they'll still be in Oakland. But I'm not thrilled about this, either. I don't want him to fail. I don't want him to go out like Shaun Alexander did in DC, or fade away the way Curt Warner did in Anaheim. But I don't want him to go win a ring with the Raiders, either. 

The dream ending for this season would be walloping the Patriots in LII, obviously. My 2nd choice? Seahawks vs Raiders at U.S. Bank Stadium. Last play of the game. Seahawks up by 4. Raiders' ball at the 1. They do what millions will expect: The hand the ball to Shawn. But he gets stood up short of the goal line by Bobby Wagner. Shoulda called a pass, Musgrave. 

The Rookie Class. That's just on general principles. But if you have to go buy a rookie's jersey, I think your best bets are Malik McDowell or Shaquill Griffin.

HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD

Tyler Lockett. Our December loss to the Cardinals at home has stuck with me. My mind keeps wandering back to it in all the worst ways. Of all the nauseating moments in that game, the worst one was the horrific injury Lockett suffered hauling in a touchdown pass. By all accounts, his recovery is going well, and if he is indeed 100% this season, he could be an electrifying weapon for Seattle once again. But a leg injury to a player whose biggest edge is his blazing speed? That would give me pause.

Richard Sherman. Sherm is still he best corner in the game. He's a lock for both the Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, while I don't buy into those alarmist reports of his imminent departure that circulated earlier this offseason, his relationship with the coaching staff and front office is far from placid. A Sherm jersey is a good short term and long term investment. But in the medium term he might end up in someone else's colors ala Marshawn.

Earl Thomas. I almost put ETIII in the "safe, but uninspired" category that's coming next (spoilers!). The veteran Longhorn is locked into a trip to Canton and a Ring of Honor/Retired Jersey double dip down the line. His 2016 injury is the only thing that makes him the least bit risky as a jersey purchase, but I see him returning to form and leading the best defense in football in 2017.

Jeremy Lane. Right now, Lane is leading the competition to start at CB opposite Sherm. He's also under contract through the 2019 season. However, he might lose the battle with Shaquill Griffin in training camp or lose the starting job when Deshawn Shead returns from his ACL injury.

SAFE, BUT UNINSPIRED

Russell Wilson. This isn't a dig at the WolfBadger. He's my favorite player. I have a Wilson jersey, and you probably do as well. I think he's going to bounce back big-time from an injury-filled 2016 and make an incontrovertible case that he's one of the very best QBs in the game. Also, kid seems to be loosening up a bit. He's started to make baby steps toward more overt political stances in the vein of his more vocal teammates, and that Nike ad was pretty damn cool. But at this point, if you don't already have a Wilson jersey, you likely don't really want one.

THE TOP 5 (WITH A BONUS PUNTER) 

6. Jon Ryan. My love and devotion for the Regina Rocket is well-known. But did you know he's married to stand-up comedian and comedy writer Sarah Colonna now? Fun fact: She's a few months older than me, so Ryan digs older women. Respect.

5. K.J. Wright: The former Mississippi State standout had the best campaign of his career in 2016, racking up 126 tackles and making it to the first Pro Bowl of his career. Wright isn't a household name, but he is a great player on the verge of stardom. Why isn't he ranked higher? He's a UFA after the 2018 season.

4. Cliff Avril: Like Wright, he had the best season of his career in 2016, notching 11.5 sacks. He also is building houses for folks in Haiti, which is about as unalloyed of a good deed as I can imagine. The only debits? He's a UFA after the 2018 season, and he's 31, which means he might be closer to a drop-off in production than any of us would like to see.

3. Doug Baldwin: Not gonna bullshit here - I fucking LOVE Doug Baldwin. He's one of the leaders of this team, he's an endlessly fascinating public figure, and he's evolving into a latter-day west coast version of future Hall of Fame WR Steve Smith (maybe even a different Steve.. *gasp* Largent?). He's also under team control contract-wise through the 2020 season. The only reason he isn't ranked higher? He topped this list two out of the last three years already. Did I mention that I love this guy?

2. Michael Bennett: Last year Black Santa landed on the "Don't Buy" list, but with a new contract that has him staying in Seattle through the 2020 season, he rides up to number two on this year's list. He's entertaining. socially conscious, and a goddamn one-man slaughterhouse out on the pitch. His only demerit, like Cliff Avril's, is his age (31). You can't really go wrong sporting #72, though.

And at number one....

1. Bobby Wagner: Seattle's 27-year-old All-World middle linebacker stacked up opposing ballcarriers like cordword last season - 167 tackles (FUCK!) and 4.5 sacks. The Handsome Slayer of Enemy Drives was named All-Pro for the second time in three seasons, and is staying in Seattle through at least the 2019 season. Unlike Wilson or any member of the L.O.B., Bwagz hasn't yet reached saturation levels within the 12 Army - So this is the moment to go snag a #54 jersey and pop that sucker on.

What do y'all think? Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know in the comments or on twitter.

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January 16, 2017

Ranking the Squads: #10 (2016)


10. 2016
Record: 10-5-1
Offensive Rank: 18th out of 32 teams
Defensive Rank: 3rd out of 32
Turnover Ratio Rank: 16th out of 32
Team MVP: Bobby Wagner
High Point: Seahawks 31, Patriots 24 
Low Point: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 31


Over the last 33 years, I've watched 572 Seahawks games. I have no specific recollection of the vast majority of those contests. For a good chunk of them, if you gave me some sort of prompt, it might shake a half-remembered collage of plays out of a dusty corner of my brainpan. In any given season, a handful of games might stick in my memory forever, as will a smattering of plays. When I reflect upon 2016 years from now, what will I remember? 

I don't think I'll soon shake the nauseous feeling I got when Earl Thomas went down after colliding with Kam Chancellor on SNF in early December, or the dawning horror when ETIII (prematurely) tweeted about his possible retirement. As valiantly as the team fought on after that gut-churning moment, they were fundamentally hobbled without the former Longhorn patrolling "Area 29" and quarterbacking the defense. 

Oddly, that gives me a little bit of mental cushion when it comes to the other negative memories of 2016. If I really wanted to torture myself, I could dwell upon the fact that a tiny handful of plays in two games against Arizona kept us from hosting the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. What if Hauschka made that short kick in OT down in Glendale? What if he had made that extra point at home against Arians' minions in December? And so on... 

That December loss was the 2016 Seahawks in miniature. The offensive line couldn't open running lanes or protect Russell Wilson. The defense, without Earl Thomas, was suddenly vulnerable to big plays. The special teams, which has for so long been a point of pride for this franchise, collapsed like a termite-rotted gazebo. But somehow, down 31-18 late in the 4th quarter, Russell Wilson conjured up some legitimate magic. All of the sudden, Baldwin, Graham, and Richardson were getting free and the Wolfbadger was finding them for big gains and touchdowns. Wilson's late TD to Preach filled every 12's heart with elation - This was classic Pete Carroll Seahawks late-game drama. They once again, somehow, found a way to steal a victory. The #2 seed and a first-round bye beckoned...

Then that errant extra point attempt... then one last infuriating defensive meltdown... and it was gone. That championship mettle hadn't dissolved, but the injuries and mistakes piled up too high to be overcome. 

We saw the Seahawks do things that felt like they had been poorly copied from the most aggravating days of the Holmgren era, like the return of a stark divide between the team's performance at home (8-1) versus on the road (3-5-1, with only one victory against a team that finished with more than five wins). Distressingly, we saw the offense held to 10 points or less four times, and we saw the defense allow more than 34 points three times. The turnover ratio? Just plus one, good enough to land Seattle exactly in the middle of the pack in 2016. 

If you wanted to be a clarion of doom, these Seahawks gave you plenty of ammunition. The core players on defense are aging and spending more time rehabbing from injuries than they ever have in the Carroll era. Russell Wilson posted the lowest single-season passer rating of his career, and threw more interceptions than he did in his rookie campaign. The running game disappeared for long stretches of the season, and the offensive line often appeared to be falling far short of basic competence, let alone any standard of Super-Bowl-level excellence. If you wanted to pen a hot take about Seattle heading straight for the jagged rocks at the bottom of the ravine, I bet you could get that shit to go live on Bleacher Report and get an assload of clicks. 

That doesn't make it true, though. These Seahawks gave us (all too brief) glimpses of what could be an incandescent future. At Foxboro in November, with the team operating at something resembling full strength, they handed Tom Brady his only defeat of the season thus far. The defense was a swarm of unchecked fury. Russell Wilson outplayed Brady. C.J. Prosise did his best peak Ricky Watters impression. New England couldn't cover Doug Baldwin. That defense? They made one of the most impressive goal-line stands you'll ever see to secure the victory. THAT could be the future of this team, and I'd argue it's more likely than Januarys on the couch watching the Rams, Niners, or Cardinals host playoff games. 

The bright spots weren't limited to one night in Massachusetts, though. Bobby Wagner was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender. Jimmy Graham fully recovered from his horrific 2015 injury to reassert his status as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in football. Frank Clark began filling his great potential, as did Paul Richardson. Cliff Avril had the best season of his distinguished career. Thomas Rawls proved that, when healthy, he is a worthy successor to Marshawn Lynch. 
The Hawks bullied the Lions to reach the Divisional Round for the 5th consecutive season. They had a dramatic, entertaining win over the Bills on MNF. Victories over playoff teams from Miami and Atlanta went down to the dying seconds, with Seattle prevailing with flair. 

The core talent of this team is locked down at least for the next couple of years, and the team's cap situation is favorable. Despite an injury-marred 2016, the Hawks are fortunate to have found a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson who will keep them in the Super Bowl conversation for the next decade or so. They sit atop a division with two teams in utter disarray, and another with a cornerstone QB near the end of his shelf-life. 
Take a quick look at the rankings below... How many of the top 10 seasons in franchise history have happened on Pete Carroll's watch? Five. Look around the league, too. Outside of whatever deal Belichick, Brady and that crew have made with Lucifer, it's VERY DIFFICULT to win consistently in this league. The fact that our expectations have shifted to making it to (and winning) Super Bowls, away from merely having a winning record and sneaking into the postseason, tells how how fortunate we are to be rooting for this team and enjoying this historical moment. 

I've been doing this ranking the squads thing for nine years now... Here's the updated list, with links to the original articles I wrote. I'm eager to hear what y'all think. Once again, thanks for reading this season. I'll be posting sporadically during the offseason whenever I get a good idea for a blog post. Until then, GO HAWKS! 

1. 2013

2. 2014

3. 2005
4. 1984
5. 1983
6. 2012
7. 2007
8. 1986
9. 2015
10. 2016
11. 2003
12. 2006
13. 1988
14. 1987
15. 2010
16. 1979
17. 1990
18. 1978
19. 2001
20. 1999
21. 2004
22. 1998
23. 1985
24. 1997
25. 1995
26. 2011
27. 2002
28. 1991
29. 1996
30. 1989
31. 1982
32. 1977
33. 1981
34. 1993
35. 1994
36. 2000
37. 2008
38. 1980
39. 1976
40. 1992
41. 2009

January 8, 2017

Seahawks 26, Lions 6


2016 seemed like a bizarre inversion of the regular seasons we've grown accustomed to seeing from the CarrollHawks. In 2012, 2014, and 2015, the Seahawks started slow before delivering lethal finishing kicks into the playoffs in November/December. This season, Seattle started 7-2-1, including wins over Atlanta and New England. The offense seemed to find a punishing and explosive groove, and the defense displayed its typical bludgeoning dominance. Over the final six weeks of the season, injuries piled up and the offensive line regressed into rank incompetence. Future Hall of Famer Earl Thomas was lost for the season, and later on so was the incendiary talent of Tyler Lockett. 

The struggling offensive line couldn't open running lanes or give Russell Wilson time to throw. Wilson himself seemed mis-calibrated on his passes and no longer quite fast enough to escape from the grasp of enemy defenders. The defense became wildly inconsistent, giving up 14, 7, 38, 3, 34, and 23 points over the last six frames of the regular season. Seattle secured the 3rd seed in the NFC playoffs, but the downward trajectory late in the campaign made 2016 feel more like 1999 or 2004 than 2013. The fading Lions seemed like a team even these Hawks should beat, but given Seattle's ragged December, allowing Detroit its first road playoff win since the Eisenhower Administration felt all too possible. 

The hallmarks of playoff football for the Seahawks under Pete Carroll have been a punishing running game, a suffocating defense, and, frankly, bizarre shit and huge performances from seemingly random players. After disappearing for most of the season, the ground game re-emerged for Seattle. Thomas Rawls erupted for a franchise-playoff-record 161 rushing yards, including nine carries for 52 yards on the Seahawks' first TD drive. In all, the Hawks gained 177 yards on 38 running plays behind an offensive line that tore open jagged gashes in Detroit's defense. If Seattle keeps running the ball like this, they can win it all, even without Marshawn Lynch. 

The Hawks defense held Detroit to a season-low 231 yards of offense. Defensive Player of the Year candidate Bobby Wagner wrestled Lions ball-carriers to the ground 10 times, Cliff Avril notched a pair of sacks, and Richard Sherman erased a third of the field for Matthew Stafford. DeShawn Shead chipped in with three passes defensed and no completions allowed on eight targets. The best run defense in football held the Lions to a minuscule 49 yards on the ground. If the defense keeps playing like this, they can win it all, even without Earl Thomas.  

Paul Richardson has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but Tyler Lockett's injury against Arizona gave him a new opportunity to prove his quality. On a 4th down and goal play in the second quarter, Preach made one of the most unbelievable catches you will ever see, reaching around a Lions defender to catch a touchdown with one mitt while being violently interfered with. He'd go on to make two more spectacular Largent-esque catches, and Doug Baldwin contributed one of his own, pinning the ball against his own ass to keep it from hitting the ground. Angry Doug would haul in ten more catches, including the theft of a TD pass intended for Jermaine Kearse. If Seahawks receivers keep balling out like this, they can win it all, even without Tyler Lockett. 

It was a total team effort to snuff out the Lions, and they'll have to play even better to defeat the Falcons next Saturday. Four years ago, the Seahawks went to Atlanta and left after one of the most painful defeats in franchise history. Our old friend Dan Quinn and his charges think they are a Super Bowl caliber team. Unfortunately for them, so are the Seahawks. They are battle-hardened and itching to prove that their championship window is still wide-open. 

They also have a quarterback who is used to playing superlatively and winning on the biggest of stages. Matt Ryan is an excellent quarterback, but he's also only 1-4 in the playoffs, while Russell Wilson is 8-3. Seattle will be underdogs next week, but they will surprise the football world and emerge victorious. If the Packers upset Dallas, they'll have to come out to Seattle for another NFC Championship tilt. If that goes down, I'll be in the house to watch our boys punch their 4th Super Bowl ticket. 

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