Steven Hauschka and a Brief History of Seahawks Kickers

Lost among more exciting things like, you know, winning the Super Bowl, was a terrific year of kicking by Steven Hauschka.  It was, by my estimation, the greatest season of kicking in Seahawks history and one of the greatest in NFL history.  If this sounds like an overstatement to you, consider:

  • Hauschka made 33 of 35 field goals for 94% success rate.  Only four times has a kicker made more field goals and had a higher percentage.
  • He was 14 of 15 from long range (40 yards and up), three for three from long long range (50 yards and up), and his only “miss” was actually not a miss but a blocked kick.
  • He had two game-winning field goal attempts and made both of them (Houston and Tampa Bay).
  • He was a perfect eight for eight in the postseason, including three field goals against New Orleans in a wind storm, one of which was from 49 yards out.
  • Instead of trying a 52-yarder outdoors in the NFC Championship Game, he told Pete Carroll to go for it (what athlete does that?) and then watched as the Seahawks scored the go-ahead touchdown.

Like I said, it was a terrific year.  And it helped Hauschka get paid, as the ‘Hawks resigned him to a three-year deal worth roughly $9 million, $3 million of which is guaranteed.  This seems like a reasonable deal to me.  Hauschka deserves a raise — and he got one — but it wasn’t an overpay. Overpaying kickers is something stupid teams often have in common.*  Plus, as Nate Kaeding, Garrett Hartley, Billy Cundiff, and many others can tell you, kickers can go from hero to hated in the time it takes a liquored up idiot to send the ball 15 yards wide right.

A thing about kicking: If you’re team is really good at it, it is a legitimately big advantage.  Another thing about kicking: It’s almost impossible to predict if your team will be good at it or not.  The talent gap between the best and worst kickers in the NFL is so narrow that a lot of what we perceive to be ability in the kicking game is probably just random variance.  That’s how a guy like David Akers can go from an All NFLer in 2011 (85% FG Pct.) to the worst kicker in the league in 2012 (69% FG Pct.).  Nobody likes variance (luck, as it’s called in some circles) as an explanation for why athletes perform well or badly.  But sometimes it’s the only one that makes sense.

So the bottom line is, I’m fine with Hauschka getting paid, but we probably want to temper our expectations for him heading into the 2014 season.

Now, as part of my super fun offseason plan to drudge up random ghosts of Seahawks past, here is a brief history of Seattle kickers.

The first kicker in Seahawks history was a rookie named Don Bitterlich.  He lasted all of three games, getting the boot (get it?) after missing three field goals in a loss to the 49ers.  He was replaced by a veteran, John Leypoldt, who was nearly as inept as Bitterlich, missing half his field goal attempts on the season.

The following year the Seahawks decided if they couldn’t find a kicker who could actually kick the ball well, at least they could get one who had a cool, foreign-sounding name.  Since Garo Yepremian and Rolf Benirschke were already spoken for, they went with the Mexican sidewinder, Efren Herrera.  Herrera kicked four seasons in Seattle, making 70% of his field goals and 94% of his extra points.  This is interesting mostly in that it illustrates how much the standards of placekicking have increased in just one generation.  There is no way an NFL kicker could have those numbers over a single season today (missing 6% of one’s extra point attempts?!), let alone make a career of them.

After Herrera came the “great” Norm Johnson.  I use quotes because although he’s the starting kicker on the Seahawks “Dream Team”, he wasn’t all that good.  He was fine — serviceable is the correct adjective — nothing more.  In 1984, he was an All-NFL selection, but that was one of just two times he was in the top ten in field goal percentage in his nine years in Seattle.  He actually got much better later in his career, but by then he was kicking for Atlanta and Pittsburgh.  He currently ranks 12th all-time in field goals.

A left-footed rookie with a big leg named John Kasay replaced Johnson in 1991.  He didn’t leave the NFL until 2011, but he played just four seasons in Seattle.  He was pretty good with the Seahawks, except for 1992 when he missed eight of 22 field goals.  But it fit the theme of the ’92 ‘Hawks (not scoring points), so I’ll give him a pass for this.  Unfortunately for all you Kasayophiles out there, he can’t get a pass for his best-known moment in the NFL — a botched kickoff in Super Bowl XXXVIII that set up the game-winning field goal for the New England Patriots over his Carolina Panthers.

Next up was the underrated Todd Peterson.  In his five-year stint in Seattle, he made field goals at an 82% clip, a better rate than any of his predecessors.  And he went a perfect 177 for 177 on extra points to boot (get it?).  Also some random fans mistook a friend of mine for him once while my friend was visiting somebody in the Seahawks locker room after a game.  So, yeah … that’s something.

Peterson was accurate, but he didn’t have a strong leg, so in 2000 the ‘Hawks brought in rookie Rian Lindell who had a strong leg but wasn’t accurate.  I’ve held a grudge against Lindell ever since October 28, 2001.  On that day, he missed a 27-yard field goal with two minutes left in a 24-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins.  The Seahawks finished the year at 9-7, and had they won one more game, they would have made the playoffs.  Now, really Mike Holmgren is whom I should be holding the grudge against — what type of gutless coach attempts a field goal on 4th and 4, down 4 with 2:00 on the clock? — but I (correctly) reasoned that Holmgren would do some great things in Seattle and that Lindell would be gone in a few years later.  I was just being smart with my grudge-holding.

Speaking of grudges: Josh Brown.  He came to the Seahawks in 2003 and gave them five solid years.  He was especially good from long range knocking down nearly 60% of his kicks from 50-yards and over.  Except, of course, when it mattered the most.  In Super Bowl XL, Brown missed his only two long attempts (50 and 54 yards).  We Seahawks fans love to whinge about the refs, but those missed field goals were just as bad as any wrong call in that game … except the Darrell Jackson OPI call … and the Sean Locklear holding call … and the Shaun Alexander horse collar tackle non-call … and the Matt Hasselbeck illegal block call …  Actually, on second thought, those shitty-ass calls were worse.  Much worse.

Olindo Mare is a great example why you shouldn’t put too much faith in an NFL placekicker.  In 2001, he led the NFL in field goal percentage (91%) and was rounding out a five year stretch in which he was one of the best booters in the biz.  The following year he began a five-year stretch in which he wasn’t.  In fact, he was quite poor.  Things got so bad for Mare that the Saints cut him after he missed seven of 17 field goals to open the 2006 season.  Seattle signed him the following year, and he was suddenly good again.  In three season with the ‘Hawks, he made 88% of his kicks.  That’s not just good, that’s very good.

But not has good as Hauschka.  In this three years with the team, he’s made over 89% of his kicks.  Overall, he’s the fourth most accurate kicker in NFL history.  Although his time in the Blue and Highlighter Green has been brief, his body of work — all things considered — is, in my opinion, better than that of any Seattle kicker ever.  I hereby declare Steven Hauschka the greatest placekicker in Seahawks history.

Just don’t be shocked if he sucks next year.

-DJG

*Check out this link.  Sebastian Janikowski, Dan Bailey, and Josh Scobee are three of the top five kickers by guaranteed money.  You could replace anyone one of these guys with an undrafted free agent, and it would hardly matter one way or the other.

This Week’s Super Bowl Tax Payment: Tate, Et al.

After a team wins the Super Bowl, a topic among people who talk about football is what said Super Bowl-winning team can and will do to keep their core talent.  The usual refrain is something along the lines of “they won’t be able to keep everybody”.  Of course this is true for every team every offseason, but it’s especially true for the Super Bowl winner because they usually have very good players (who in turn become very expensive players, if they’re not already) and because the value of their players goes up — if only superficially — due to the exposure and cache that comes with being a champion (think Joe Flacco, Dannell Ellerbe, and Paul Kruger last year).  There is a Super Bowl Tax.

The Seahawks are in better shape to deal with this tax than they could be because the thickest cream of their roster is still on team-friendly deals (Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, etc.).  But there is still a levy to be paid.  They ‘Hawks have already ponied up guys like Red Bryant and Sidney Rice.  And this week a few more payments were debited.

The biggest name was Golden Tate.  He was also the most obvious.  Yes, he made comments about being amenable to a hometown discount, but I think it was pretty clear that that was largely post-coitus pillow talk.  It would be a misallocation of resources for the ‘Hawks to give Golden Tate anything close to the $31 million ($13.25 million guaranteed) he got from Detroit.  And Tate would be a fool to not take the money now.  The NFL is cutthroat, and this could very well be Tate’s only chance at a big payday.  Nobody should pass up the opportunity to be set for life because they like the vibes in City A better than City B.  Staying in Seattle just didn’t make sense for Tate, and keeping him around just didn’t make sense for the Seahawks.  We have to chalk up this breakup to irreconcilable differences and move on amicably.  We will always have the Sean Lee hit.

The defensive line also took a sizable hit this week.  Chris Clemons was released.  The move makes sense salary cap-wise, but it still means the ‘Hawks lose a decent pass rusher.  Clinton McDonald was snatched away by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who quintupled his annual salary and locked him down for four years.  I was (selfishly) hoping he would fly under the radar, and the ‘Hawks could bring him back on the cheap.  But when the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Lead of Sports” writes articles extolling your virtues, you’re not exactly in stealth mode.  Also O’Brien Schofield was signed by the Giants for two-years / $8 million, which seems like a substantial overpay (more per year than McDonald) for a guy who didn’t take many defensive snaps last season.

So now the pertinent question is what the Seahawks will do in response to these subtractions.  At wide receiver there have been rumors of bringing Rice back, which makes a ton of sense if they can get him at a reasonable price.  I would be very much in favor of this move.  There is also talk of signing pass-catching tight end Jermichael Finley.  And I would be very much not in favor of this move (unless they could get him super cheap).  He’s an injury risk, and I don’t think was that good even when healthy.

The way I see it, the Seahawks do not absolutely have to do something at receiver.  Getting a guy like Rice would be nice, but if it doesn’t happen, rolling with Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Ricardo Lockette (with Zach Miller and Luke Willson at tight end) would be fine.  They wouldn’t be the 1980 San Diego Chargers, but the the ‘Hawks could move the ball with them.

The D-line, on the other hand, could use some bolstering.  Bringing back Tony McDaniel would be good as would developing Jordan Hill into useful rotational guy.  On the edge, Jared Allen would be perfect if there is any substance to the Allen-to-Seattle rumors.  If not, maybe the ‘Hawks look for a steal in the draft.  Michael Sam?  He would be intriguing at least.

-DJG

Against All (OK, Some) Odds ‘Hawks Resign Moses Beard

It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.  It takes a medium-sized man to admit when he’s kinda wrong.  I am just such a medium-sized man.  I admit that I was kinda wrong about Michael Bennett.  He shall return to the shores of Puget Sound.

I wasn’t completely wrong, because I was open to the fact X would come back.  I just didn’t think it was likely (hence the use of hedging phrases like “skeptical” and “probably won’t” and “I don’t think”).  But if you say something isn’t likely to happen, and then it happens, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were wrong.  It could just mean an unlikely event occurred.*  (Now if things continually happen that you said weren’t likely, then that’s a different story.)  So I wasn’t “wrong” about Bennett; it’s just not a data point in my favor.

Anyway … The deal is a very reasonable one for the Seahawks:  Four years, $28.5 million, $16 million guaranteed.  For a very-good-but-not-quite-great defensive lineman on the open market, that’s a very fair — even a bit team-friendly — contract.  As many are pointing out, it’s less than what Everson Griffen — a guy I had never heard of prior to a week ago — got from the Minnesota Vikings.

It seems strange to me that X didn’t test the market longer.  I now suspect he never intended to leave Seattle in the first place, and all the talk about “this isn’t Costco” and all the rumors linking him to other teams were maneuvers to give him more leverage in negotiations.  If Michael Bennett wanted to maximize his bottom line, I think he could have done better.  If he wanted to be between $15 and $30 million richer and play for the most dominant defense of the last decade — if that’s the case — then he absolutely nailed it.  And, you must admit, that sounds pretty sweet.

-DJG

*It’s like if a weatherperson says it will rain with 75% probability then he or she is not wrong if it doesn’t rain.  In fact, it should not rain 25% of the time.  If it rains every time, then their forecasting is off, the same way it would be wrong if it rained only 50% of the time.

NFL Hot Stove League: Seahawks Might But Probably Won’t Resign Michael X … Also Jeff Bryant

This week, the big news — and I’m really stretching the definition of big here — is the announcement by Michael Bennett (a.k.a., Michael X) that he will not resign will the ‘Hawks and will sample the free market.  This doesn’t mean he for sure will not be a Seahawk next season — as a free agent he can negotiate with any of the 32 teams in the NFL, and the Seahawks are one of these teams — but common sense dictates that the likelihood of Bennett returning is now significantly decreased.  It’s simple probability: 1 > 1 / 32.  Maybe 32 isn’t the correct denominator — not every team in the league will make a run at X — but one over one is still much bigger than, say, one over ten.

The key point is that the Seahawks will now have to outbid other teams, and I’m skeptical they will do so.  I don’t think the ‘Hawks want to overpay him, and an overpay seems to be in his future.  His team just won the Super Bowl, and he made many key plays to help their cause.  He had his best games at the best time.  Bennett’s regular season was pretty good, but it’s not like he’s Robert Quinn or J.J. Watt.  He’s a nice piece on a good defense; he’s not a transcendent talent.  If he had his exact same season, but with, say, the Bills instead of the champion Seahawks, I doubt he’d be garnering anything close to the attention he’s getting now.  Bennett is a college basketball player who hit some key shots in the tournament for the champion, and now he’s going to go ten places higher in the draft than he should.

And I don’t think it’s going to be the Seahawks to take him.  For one thing, they chose not to franchise him and pay him a premium for one year.  For another thing, they have yet to cut Chris Clemons, which leads me to believe Schneider & Co. think there’s a decent chance they’re not resigning Bennett, and so they don’t want to lose another pass rusher, even an aging one with a $6 million cap hit.  Plus, keep in mind, it only takes one team to make X a Godfather offer, and now that the cap is up to $133 million, it’s even more likely some team will do so.  As Seahawks fans, we might want to take some time to familiarize ourselves with O’Brien Schofield and Jordan Hill.  There’s a decent chance they’re getting some serious run next season.

Anyway, since it’s the offseason, and there’s nothing going on but meaningless speculation about where players will sign, I decided I’m going to start profiling random players from the Ghost of Seahawks Past.  Since we’ve been talking about Michael Bennett this entry, I decided to take a closer look at one of the best D-linemen in Seahawks history, Jeff Bryant.

Bryant was selected out of Clemson with the 6th overall pick in the 1982 draft.  You could say the ‘Hawks whiffed by not picking Mike Munchak or Marcus Allen, both of whom went just a few selections later.  But in every draft you can cherry pick a Hall of Famer or two who, in hindsight, should’ve gone higher.  Looking at the the draft overall, Seattle did pretty well in getting Bryant.  (He had a far superior career to the number one overall pick, a fellow defensive end named Kenneth Sims.)  I mean, if you tell NFL decision-makers that with the 6th pick, they’ll be getting a good-to-very-good starter for 11 years, I think they take it.

After a fine rookie showing, Bryant teamed up with Jacob Green and Joe Nash on a D-line that helped the ‘Hawks to the 1983 AFC Championship Game.  They dominated an Elway-less Broncos team in the wild card game and then kept Dan Marino in check in a divisional round upset before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion LA Raiders.

The following year was Bryant’s best as an individual — he recorded 14.5 sacks, intercepted the only pass of his career, and made the All-AFC Second Team.  And his best as part of a team — the Seahawks went 12-4, their best record in franchise history pre-Super Bowl XL.  In the playoffs, the Seahawks extracted revenge on the Raiders (in a game in which LA QB Jim Plunkett was sacked six times) and had revenged extracted on them by the eventual AFC champion Dolphins.

Bryant played in Seattle his entire career.  He rode the wave of slightly above mediocrity that was the Seahawks of the late-’80s and early-’90s, and then he retired in 1993 during the free fall of the Tom Flores Era.  He started all 16 games for the ’92 squad, the best defense in franchise history pre-2012.*  The D-line on that team was absolutely fearsome.  The great Jacob Green had already retired,** but Tony Woods was a pretty good fill-in opposite Bryant, and Joe Nash and Cortez Kennedy were blocks of granite on the inside.  ‘Tez in particular had a season like few D-tackles have ever had.  He led the team with 14 sacks and finished second with 92 tackles, absurdly absurd numbers for an interior lineman.  I guess that’s why he was named the Defensive Player of the Year and would eventually go on to be enshrined in Canton.

Jeff Bryant is (obviously) not enshrined in Canton.  He’s not even in the Seahawks Ring of Honor, but it wouldn’t be weird if he was (although Joe Nash should go in first).  He wore number 77, and this is my favorite picture of him I found on-line.

BurnCenter

I figure it must have been taken Bryant’s rookie year, 1982***.    The ‘Hawks defense was pretty good that year; they only gave up 16 points a game, 5th best in the league.  But the team had an awful offense and a losing record.  Also, I guess the whole “Burn Center” thing never caught on, as this is the first I’ve ever heard of it.

Alright, I’m done rambling about Jeff Bryant.  I’ll let you go now.

-DJG

PS — I just noticed that the Seahawks resigned Lemuel Jeanpierre and Jeron Johnson for the 2014 season.  The appropriate response to this is somewhere between a sarcastic “Whoopie!” and an earnest “OK”.  Depth, I guess.

*And the worst offense in franchise history and arguably the worst passing offense in any franchise history.  Here’s a great stat: The wide receiver with most catches on the ’92 Seahawks was Tommy Kane with 27.

**Technically he was playing a final (bad) year with the 49ers, but he might as well have been retired.

***The other men in the picture are Jacob Green (79), Robert Hardy (75), and the great Seattle sports patriarch Manu Tuiasosopo (74).

Offseason Cuts Round One: Sidney Rice is Gone, Red Bryant Too

I would say Sidney Rice‘s ouster became evident after he went down with a torn ACL in the Monday night game against Rams last October, but that would be underselling the time frame.  Really, when the Seahawks signed Percy Harvin last offseason, the writing was on the wall for Rice, and it said, “Thanks for the game-winning catch against the Bears.  Best of luck to you.  Love, Seattle.”  This move was as predictable as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen winning a medal in the biathlon in Sochi.  And I’m assuming that was very predictable; I didn’t actually watch any of the Winter Olympics.

The Red Bryant cut wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but it was still pretty likely.  Bryant is a really good run stuffer*, but he doesn’t get to the quarterback.  And as the game evolves to being more pass-happy this type of guy is a luxury — a luxury a team that just won the Super Bowl can’t afford.  Too many other guys need to get paid.  To me, the most noteworthy thing about this transaction is that it wasn’t Chris Clemons.  I believe both cuts would’ve saved roughly the same amount of cap space (about $5.5 million), so it stands to reason that Carrol & Co. like Clemons better.  Although perhaps his day of reckoning with the ‘Hawks is coming as well.

In total, the Seahawks recoup about $12 million towards the cap in making these two cuts.  They currently have about $18 million to spend this offseason.  Other than releasing Clemons, there isn’t a whole lot else they can do to free up more money.  They could cut Zach Miller, but that would only yield $2.8 million.  My guess is that Clemons leaves and Miller stays.  That would give the ‘Hawks about $24 million of cap space — an OK chunk of loot, but with unrestricted free agents like Golden Tate, Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, and Walter Thurmond (oh, and don’t forget Steven Hauschka) some more “difficult decisions” are surely on the horizon.

*Supposedly.  I’m not going pretend like I’ve charted plays or anything like that.  I’m going completely by reputation.  As I’ve said before, I judge defensive linemen by two criteria: Is he fat?  Does he get to the quarterback?  So my personal evaluation of Red Braynt is yes and no.

NBA Hater: A Hater’s Manifesto

The NBA died on July 2, 2008.  It died to me, at least.  That’s the date the new ownership of the Seattle SuperSonics reached an agreement to move the team to Oklahoma City.  The circumstances behind the relocation are nebulous best, nefarious at worse.  The entire ordeal has been documented many times over by people more knowledgeable and passionate than me.  I’m not going to venture down that rabbit hole.  I never really did.  I haven’t read many articles on the subject; I never watched Sonicsgate; I never heckled Howard Schultz at a Costco; and I was measured almost to the point of indifference about the possibility of a Sonics return.  That’s just how I coped.  I declared the NBA dead to me and moved on.

I was devastated of course — the Sonics had been my team since the days of Dale Ellis and Tom Chambers — but I also felt weirdly relieved.  Relieved that it wasn’t the Seahawks or the Mariners.*  As much as I loved the Sonics, they had always been my third favorite Seattle sports team.  If I had to pick one to leave, it would have been them, and it wouldn’t have been a Sophie’s Choice.

Also, at the time of the move (ransacking), the NBA was mostly boring, and when it wasn’t boring, it was annoying.  The Jordan Era was fun (although I think of it as the Gary Payton Era), but in its immediate aftermath NBA basketball just wasn’t a very good product.  The ’98 lockout was a slap in the face to the fans; the talent was so unevenly dispersed that teams in the East were making the playoffs with fewer than 40 wins and the East champ was routinely getting crushed in the finals; the refereeing was shady, to say the least (when Ralph Nader gets involved you know something is fishy); guys like Rashard Lewis and Jerome James were getting paid like they were Bird and Kareem circa 1982 when they were playing like Bird and Kareem circa 2002; the postseason was interminable**; the gap between March Madness and the NBA playoffs had become a nearly uncrossable chasm; every time David Stern opened his mouth publicly he came off as a smarmy, petty dictator wannabe; and then there was an incident in which a player went into the stands and started pummeling a fan because a different fan threw a beer at him, and his teammates thought the best way to handle the situation was to join in the melee and throw haymakers willy-nilly.

Simply put, the NBA sucked.  And even before I knew who Clay Bennett and Aubrey McClendon were, the league was barely hanging on with me.  When the Sonics ultimately were killed, it seemed to me as much a coup de grace as an act of murder.

Then things changed.  As the 20-aughts became the 2010s, the NBA actually started being halfway watchable again.  I was doing my best to ignore it, but as a sports fan in today’s everything-is-everywhere culture, it’s impossible to cut a major sport out of your life completely.  Heck, it’s impossible to cut non-major sport out of your life completely; I can tell you right now that Jimmie Johnson is the current Sprint Cup leader, and I don’t even like NASCAR.  So slowly the NBA started resurrecting itself in my life.  I found myself watching NBA highlights at the sports bar longer than just a random glance; I was reading Bill Simmons’ NBA articles and listening to his NBA podcasts; and occasionally I was sneaking a peek at the NBA standings.  It was just small things like that.  But in 2011, I broke down and actively turned on the radio to listen to the last few minutes of Game 6 of the NBA finals.  Afterward, I felt guilty, like I had relapsed, like I was Dennis Rodman downing kamikaze shots days after leaving rehab.

The unnerving truth is that the NBA is really good right now. With LeBron James ascending tantalizingly close to GOAT status, a new crop of exciting, fun stars like (groan) Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Paul George emerging seemingly every year, and old dogs like Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki still kicking around, things have been really tough on us haters recently.  We’ve had a few good moments — I immensely enjoyed the 2011 lockout, and the Chris Paul to the Lakers snafu was a treat — but overall the NBA hate landscape has mostly been barren.

For this reason, I’ve changed my hating strategy.  Instead of trying to stonewall the NBA completely, I now follow it from afar, and I pull for every team but Oklahoma City.  In all my other experiences as a sports fan I’ve always rooted for a team; this is the first time I’ve ever expressly rooted against a team.  It’s pretty fun.  And since the Zombie Sonics are actually good (really good) it’s exciting too.  Last season, the Russell Westbrook injury was a godsend (sorry, Russ, nothing personal) and two years ago LeBron saved the day at the last moment (it was Miami and Seattle against the world).  This year it’s shaping up to be just as dramatic as OKC currently has the best record in the NBA.  I can hardly wait for the playoffs to get here.  And the beauty of explicitly rooting against a team is that there is only one way you can be disappointed.  The odds are always in your favor.

If the Sonics ever do actually come back to Seattle, I’ll stop all this nonsense and return to being a banal causal NBA fan.  Until then, a hater I shall stay.

*Relocation rumors for each team abounded in the ’90s.  In 1992, we very nearly saw the advent of the Tampa Bay Mariners.  And the Seahawks actually did move to Los Angeles in 1996 (kind of).  In retrospect, it’s remarkable that the Seahawks and Mariners both survived some truly terrible owners (Jeff Smulyan and Ken Behring, respectively), while the Sonics were sold down the river by Howard Schultz.

**This Onion story (which coincidentally mentions the Sonics) hits the nail on the head.

The Grand Wrap 2013

Well, this is it.  This is officially the final post of the Seattle Seahawks 2013 Season.  From here on, all posts will be on other things, including, but not limited to, the Seahawks offseason, hating on the Oklahoma City basketball team, and possibly even crossword puzzles for people to ignore again — we will just have to see how it goes.  This is the Grand Wrap 2013.  Enjoy.

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Now that the Super Bowl is over — the Seahawks won, if you missed it — we can try to answer reflective, impossible-to-satisfactorily-answer questions like “What the fuck am I supposed to do with my Sunday now?” and “Where do the 2013 Seahawks fit in historically?”  To the former, here’s a link to the 2014 Arena Football League schedule*.  To the latter, here’s a link to a really good Football Outsiders article that ranks teams historically.  If you don’t want to read it, I’ll give you the broad strokes: By the author’s estimation, the 2013 Seahawks are the 13th greatest team ever**, the 6th greatest champion ever, and the 4th greatest Super Bowl winner ever.  That’s pretty damn good.  As Seattle sports fans, we final have an all-time great team.

A few other thoughts about the article.

  • The 2013 Seahawks are the 16th greatest defensive team ever.  It might seem strange at first that they rank higher overall than they do defensively, given how dominant their defense was, but when you see some of the teams they leapfrog when offense is included, it makes sense.  For instance, the 1974 Steelers and the 2002 Buccaneers rate higher defensively than the 2013 Seahawks, but their offenses were below average, unlike Seattle’s which was a top-10 unit.
  • The 2012 Seahawks crack the top-20 all-time as well (18th).  It’s easy to forget how good the team was last year and how if not for one bad half (and one last minute defensive lapse) in Atlanta this could have been a Super Bowl repeat.
  • The three Super Bowl winners ahead of the ’13 Seahawks are the ’91 Washington team, the ’85 Bears, and the ’96 Packers.  No real surprises, except possibly the ’96 Packers.  Rarely do they get mentioned among the all-time great teams, but they should.  Brett Favre was at his MVP-winning apex, and the defense dominated with guys like Reggie White, LeRoy Butler, and ex-Seahawk (and future Super Bowl Eve john) Eugene Robinson.
  • The ’92 Seahawks are the lowest ranking passing team ever.  Ev–er.  This surprises no one who watched them play.  I once referred to Stan Gelbaugh, Kelly Stouffer, and Dan McGwire as the “Unholy Trinity of putrid signal callers”.  It’s an apt characterization.

*This is a joke, but once, during a particularly unbusy part of my life, I was in such a state of ennui after the NFL season ended that I decided to get really into arena football.  This lasted all of one half of one game.  Substituting the Arena League for the NFL is like trying to stave off a heroin addiction by eating poppy seed muffins.

**”Ever” in this case means since 1950, which is a reasonable approximation for ever, given how different the game is now from then.

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This is pretty good.  The commentary is lame — I believe it’s catered to a less American football-savvy British audience — but the choreography is excellent.  Spot on.  They even get Malcolm Smith‘s non-dunk over the crossbars right.  Well done, chappies; well done indeed.

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Like most Seahawks fans, I laughed at the picture of Marshawn Lynch reaching for a bottle of whiskey from The Duck.  But then I thought — What if Lynch actually has a problem with alcohol?  Then it’s not too funny.  He does have a pending DUI charge, after all.  I’m not saying he is an alcoholic — it sounds like he wasn’t even really drunk when he got that DUI — but I am saying that sometimes we chuckle at goofy behavior, and then we look back on it and realize we were laughing at something pretty serious.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it was just a few years ago when we thought it was funny when a player stumbled around the field after getting “jacked up” or getting his “bell rung”.  And then we learned what chronic traumatic encephalopathy is and felt guilty.  I don’t want something similar to happen when news breaks ten years down the road that a beloved football player has had his life ruined by substance abuse.

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Michael Sam is soon to be the first openly gay NFL player, and Seattle is being mentioned as a place where he could thrive.  This doesn’t mean anything other than the Seahawks organization is perceived as being stable (winning the Super Bowl will do that), and they could use another serviceable pass-rusher (who couldn’t?).  But it did make me ponder the possibility of Sam being drafted by the Seahawks.  It would be very cool, in my opinion.  The only potential downside is that it would create the opportunity for an athlete I respect to do or say something anti-gay; thus putting me in that awful sports fan bind of trying to justify rooting for somebody on-the-field while simultaneously disapproving of their personality off-the-field.  You can call it the Jerramy Stevens Conundrum (or if you’re into movies, you can replace Jerramy Stevens with Woody Allen).  My favorite football player as a kid long ago revealed himself as a homophobe (bigotry in the guise of “family values” or religious conviction is still bigotry); I’d rather not add another Steve Largent to my “athlete doublethink list”.

And by the way, to all the people posting comments on the Internet (yes, I know, it’s my fault for actually reading them) to the effect of Sam “just needs to shut up and play instead of stirring up a story in the media.”  You are wrong.  Michael Sam should not just shut up.  He is doing a very noble thing by coming out.  If every closeted American came out tomorrow, their combine gayness would overwhelm the remaining vestiges of homophobia in this country.  Everybody would have an openly gay loved one, and when you have an openly gay loved one, it’s a lot harder to treat gays as inferior citizens.

And to the people claiming “this isn’t even a story”.  You are also wrong. This is a story.  It shouldn’t be, but it is.  And I find it ironic (in a very loathsome way) that so many of the people now so annoyed by Sam “pointlessly creating a story” are the same people who helped bring about this story in the first place by fostering an anti-gay environment in which it took until 2014 (2014!) for an NFL player or prospect come out.  It’s no longer socially acceptable to outwardly denigrate gay people (except in Kansas), so a hater’s recourse is to try to marginalize and ignore them.  Don’t be a hater.  I hate haters.

OK, I’m dismounting my soap box now.  Did I stick the landing?

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Another thing I notice a lot while reading online comments (again, I know, bad idea) is how people posting pro-Seahawks sentiments often get accused of being fair-weather fans.  I find this quite ridiculous.  For one thing, it’s absurd to post a comment about somebody’s personality when you don’t even know that person.  This is especially true about a ‘Hawks fan.  The Seahawks franchise retired the number 12 in honor of the 12th man in 1984.  They’ve had (and continue to have) an incredibly loyal fanbase for over 30 years, despite not being consistently good until relatively recently.  If any random fan is not likely to be a fair-weather fan, it’s a Seattle fan.

For another thing, why is being a fair-weather fan so bad?  Being a frontrunner, jumping from winning team to winning team, is pretty lame, but most fair-weather fans don’t do that.  Most have one team they follow closely when they’re good and not so closely when they aren’t.  That’s not being a bad fan; that’s having a life.  Plus fair-weather fans are a good thing for a franchise, because they provide ownership an incentive to put out a quality product.  If all fans are diehards and all games are sellouts, no matter what, what financial motivation is there to win?

For another other thing, the whole concept of a “right way” to enjoy something is pretty absurd, if you think about it.  I used to love The Simpsons, then it started being consistently unfunny so I stop watching.  Every now and then if the previews for an episode look good, I’ll watch it again.  Am I a fair-weather The Simpsons fan?  Or do I just not want to waste my time watching bad TV?  What about if you only eat oranges while they’re in season, does that make you a fair-weather fruit fan?

My feeling on the matter is people can like something however they want to like it.  I’ve been a die-hard Seahawks fan since the 1983 AFC Championship Game.  I follow the team whether they go 12-4, 8-8, or 4-12.  That’s me.  If you only want to hop on the ‘Hawks bandwagon every ten years when they’re a Super Bowl contender, be my guest.  You can dust off your ’05 NFC Champions hat; throw on your Richard Sherman jersey; and meet me at the sports bar.  I’ll buy you a drink.

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Lastly, here is my top-5 list of free agents I’d most like to see resigned by the Seahawks next season, in order from most to least.

  1. Michael Bennett — He says he wants to come back, but he also says (in a very humorous) manner that he’s not taking a discount to resign (“This isn’t Costco.”). So basically he wants to be paid top dollar to return to the best defense in the NFL. Well, yeah, wouldn’t you?  Bennett took a one-year “prove it” contract, and prove it he did.  My hunch is he leaves.  I suspect Schneider & Co. are going to prioritize other players and look for the next Michael X in free agency or the draft (Michael Sam?).
  2. Golden Tate — Unlike Bennett, he said he will take a hometown discount.  Of course, he said that in the afterglow of a glorious Super Bowl victory.  That’s like telling your date you want to marry them when you’re at a party high on ecstasy.  Let’s see how things are in the morning when you’re stone sober, and your date starts asking you about looking at venues.  Golden Tate‘s is a situation in which my heart and head are in disconcert.  I want Tate to come back, but unless he’s really serious about that discount, it’s probably not worth it.  With Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, and Jermaine Kearse already in the fold, spending a bunch of money on a wide receiver, even a good one, probably isn’t financially prudent.
  3. Clinton McDonald — I think this dude is underrated.  From what I can tell, he can really play, and he probably won’t be too expensive.  5.5 sacks from an interior lineman is nothing to sneeze at.
  4. Tony McDaniel — The other McDTackle.  It seemed to me like McDonald was more impactful, but McDaniel was clearly higher on the depth chart, so I don’t know who’s actually better.  If the ‘Hawks can get both of them signed on the cheap and keep the fearsome rotation going, that obviously would be ideal.
  5. Breno Giacomini — Unless you really know how to break down tape (and you’re willing to take the time to do it), judging an offensive lineman is a fool’s errand.  With that said, the baby with one eyebrow won me over this year, as it seemed like the o-line was markedly better when he was suiting up.  If somebody who really knows X’s and O’s wants to tell me otherwise, I’m not going to put up a fight.

Well, that’ll do it.  This has been the Grand Wrap 2013.

-DJG

Post-Super Bowl Olio: The 19 Most Impactful Plays of the Seahawks Season

The Seahawks just won the Super Bowl.  I can still say this, can’t I?  It’s still okay to use the adverb “just” here, right?  I think so.  It seems to me a “just” window of at least two weeks is warranted when your team wins the Super Bowl for the first time ever.

Whatever the case may be, I’m not ready to move on yet.  The Seahawks either won or just won the Super Bowl, and I’m not done living vicariously through it yet.  So for fun I decided to look back through each game and single out the biggest play.  Here “biggest play” is defined as the play that most increased the Seahawks win probability in wins or most decreased their win probability in losses.  In a sense, these are the Seahawks most impactful plays of the season.

1.  Earl Thomas causes DeAngelo Williams to fumble: +26%.
This ended a potential go-ahead drive for the Panthers deep in Seahawks territory with under six minutes in the game.  The ‘Hawks were subsequently able to run out the clock.

2.  Doug Baldwin burns the 49ers for a 51-yard gain: +14%
I don’t remember this play, but Doug Baldwin also had a 51-yarder against the Niners in the NFC championship game.

3.  Seahawks show up for game against the Jaguars: +100%
After this 45-17 beatdown, we thought the Jags might be historically bad; turns out they were the far more banal normal bad.

4.  Richard Sherman pick-sixes Matt Schaub: +51%
We all remember it.  It took the Texans from a 99.8% chance of winning to essentially a coin toss (which the Seahawks won after losing a literal coin toss to start overtime).  So the Seahawks comeback wasn’t quite a 1-in-1000 shot; it was a 2-in-1000 shot.

5.  Colts return block field goal for touchdown: -23%
This turned a 15-7 lead into a 12-14 deficit.

6.  Beast Mode and DangeRuss connect for 55-yard gain against Titans: +16%
Surprisingly this game was tied going into the 4th quarter.  But on the first play of the quarter, Marshawn Lynch caught a big pass from Russell Wilson to set up the go-ahead score.

7.  Carson Palmer sacked by Tony McDaniel for 14-yard loss: +7%
No single play in this game was huge, but the biggest was an early sack of Palmer.

8.  D stuffs Daryl Richardson at the goal line: +41%
This was a weird game — the one in which Robert Quinn utterly dominated everybody and Wilson was sacked seven times, but the Seahawks still won 14-9.  The weirdest thing about it might have been that on the final drive, Kellen Clemens drove the Rams 96 yards to the Seahawks 1-yard line before failing to score.  Interestingly, the biggest play of the game was not the final play (an incomplete pass by Clemens on 4th down), but the play right before it.  On 3rd-and-goal from the 1, the Rams had a 52% chance of winning; after Richardson was stopped for no gain, it dropped all the way to 11%.

9.  Jermaine Kearse catches 27-yard pass to Tampa Bay 3-yard line: +29%
Another weird game.  This is an example in which win probability delta isn’t the best metric for bigness, as the Kearse catch increased the Seahawks probability by 29%, but on the very next play it dropped by 49% when Wilson threw an INT in the end zone.  The Kearse reception was a big play in name only.

10. Golden Tate catches 31-yarder against Falcons: +9%
Too much of an ass-kicking from the get-go for there to be any really big plays.

11. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Christian Ponder: 7%
Early Avril strip-stack I.

12. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Drew Brees, Michael Bennett scores: +11%
Early Avril strip-sack II.  This one was even returned for a touchdown.

13. Frank Gore escapes for 51-yard run: -31%
Worst play of the season, literally.  Earl Thomas takes a rare bad angle.  It sets the Niners up for the game-winning field goal.

14. Eli Manning intercepted by Byron Maxwell (the first time): +8%
One of five on the day.

15. Carson Palmer hits Malcolm Floyd for a touchdown: -31%
Second worst play of the season.  The Cardinals were in good position to take the lead with a field goal; a touchdown really put the ‘Hawks behind the eight ball.

16. Malcolm Smith pick-sixes Kellen Clemens: +11%
Here it is.  Amazingly this is number three on Malcolm Smith’s “Top INTs of the Season” list, and he was mostly a reserve linebacker for the season.

17. Michael Bennett forces Mark Ingram fumble: +7%
The beauty of this play is that Michael Bennett both forces and recovers the fumble.

18. Cliff Avril strip-sacks Colin Kaepernick: +21%
This barely edges out the Sherman tip as the biggest play of the game.

19. Russell Wilson hits Doug Baldwin for 37 yards: +11%
It doesn’t even make NFL.com’s top-5 list, but it was a big play, because the game was still close when it occurred.  This is the play where Wilson lofted it toward the sideline to Baldwin who was running a quasi-wheel route on 3rd-and-5 from just inside Broncos territory.  The result was a first down inside the 10.  It was the biggest play of the Super Bowl.

-DJG

NFC Championship Game Revisited: The “Fix” was Most Definitely In

So, you might have seen the YouTube video that’s been floating around claiming that the NFC Championship Game was fixed in the Seahawks’ favor by the NFL.  If you haven’t, you can find it easily enough.  I’m not going to link to it here, because … why?

I’m only mentioning it to give context to the video below. I think it’s funny, but if you don’t, it’s okay. You can still enjoy the old-school Alice & Chains. Or you can just watch the gifs of all your favorite Seahawks — Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Malcolm Smith, Michael Bennett, and Colin Kaepernick … uh … wait, scratch that last one.

Super Bowl: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 — Imagine That

Imagine, if you will, that the Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl.  Given the events of last night, this probably sounds like an inane request, but I want you to imagine a different Super Bowl in a different season.  In this season, the Seahawks go 10-6 to win a mediocre NFC West.  They catch some breaks in the playoffs; they make some plays at the right time; they win a couple of games; and then they eke out a victory over an equally good-but-not-great Super Bowl opponent.  Basically they do what the past three Super Bowl winners (Baltimore, NY Giants, Green Bay) have done.  If that hypothetical scenario played out this year, every Seattle fan takes it.  And it’s all still glorious.  The Pacific Northwest still erupts with merriment.  Grown men are still moved to tears.  Idiots in the U District still light shit on fire.  It’s still the first major championship most Seattle fans know.

Now look at what actually happened, because it’s way better.  The Seahawks were the best team in the NFL in the regular season by a significant margin and probably one of the best five or so teams of (at least) the last quarter century — their defense arguably a top two or three unit over this time frame.  In the playoffs they handily beat a very good Saints team and then vanquished their arch-rival 49ers in dramatic fashion — a 49ers team, I might add, that many pundints* were touting as being the best in the league at the time.  Then in the Super Bowl, they played one of the greatest offensive teams ever, led by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, fresh off his greatest season ever, and they housed them.  They held them to eight total points and those points only came after the score was 36-0.

Not all champions are created equal.  To really endure as the decades go by, a Super Bowl winner has to either be part of a dynasty or do something truly special for one season.  I do believe the Seahawks just did the latter.  Hopefully the former is coming next.

Seven other thoughts.

  • Michael Bennett said the Seahawks D is the best since the ’85 Bears, and given their performance from stem to stern, and given what they did in the biggest game of the year against a historically great offense, it’s not a crazy statement.  The ’00 Ravens and ’02 Bucs were awesome, but neither Kerry Collins nor Rich Gannon is Peyton Mannning.
  • Somehow I didn’t know until today that Malcolm Smith is the brother of “the other” Steve Smith.  Huh.  Anyway, I didn’t have a problem with him winning Super Bowl MVP.  Yeah, his big plays weren’t really “made” by him; he was mostly in the right place at the right time.  But there’s something to be said for being Johnny-on-the-spot.  Plus he outran a running back (Knowshon Moreno) on his pick-six.  Also, he doesn’t get enough credit for his game-sealing INT against the 49ers (solid ball-hawking hustle play).  I know that doesn’t count toward Super Bowl MVP, and yet somehow it does, cosmically.
  • My prediction of a big game from Russell Wilson was half true.  But I’m still claiming victory, because the ‘Hawks only needed it to be half true.  I feel like Wilson could’ve had a big game, but the score was 29-0 before he started his third drive.
  • I know it’s been said many times, but the job Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done assembling this team, largely from mid-to-late round draft picks and undrafted free agents is truly remarkable.  They won’t be able to keep it together very long, because no NFL team can keep this many good players together for very long (vert few NFL teams ever have this many good players together, so it’s mostly a moot point).  But the ‘Hawks have them all now, and they will have most of them next year.  That’s better than every other team in the league.
  • Cris Carter must not have been paying attention to the advance stats when he called the Seahawks receivers “appetizers”.  By DYAR Doug Baldwin was more productive than Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, and Wes Welker.  On a per-play basis he was better than every receiver in the league with more than 50 targets.  Jermaine Kearse didn’t get thrown the ball as much (38 targets), but on a per-play basis he was as good as Demaryius Thomas.
  • Is 43-8 the strangest final score in Super Bowl history?  I think so.
  • The Seahawks won the Super Bowl.  This is fucking awesome.

-DJG

*Yes, I know it should be pundits.  But somebody, perhaps Richard Sherman, once said “pundint” in an interview, and I’ve adopted it as a good half-pejorative term for a pundit.  It’s similar to talking head.