On the flip side, NFL fans must be fairly masochistic to follow the same teams, year after year, that wallow in the realms of mediocrity. Much like the parents that teach their kids the slug bug game. Sure, it’s pretty cute to have their little fists pounding you at eight, but once they get into their teens, it can be jarring enough to make you spill your latte. You only have yourself to blame, after all, you created that little monster.
The one drawback of NFL parity is that teams stuck in the middle seem to always be stuck in the middle. Only the very bad or very good ever seem to become successful at any given time. The reasons why are fairly subtle, but real nevertheless.
Teams that struggle year after year with records of 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7 end up with average first round picks simply because year after year they’re stuck at the middle of the draft and unless they do something really creative like making trades to move up, are doomed to stay there.
Welcome to NFL parity.
Lightning does seem to strike occasionally, as last year’s feeding frenzy (due to the Viking’s gaffe and the Seahawks picking up a top-10 pick in Marcus Trufant) showed, but barring divine intervention, a middle of the road team gets middle of the road draft picks. They are then stuck with trying to build a contender through free agency, but as time has shown, free agency can quickly turn a team into a cash strapped organization, with little to show for it.
Then, when teams do show a glimmer of success, they are saddled the very next year with poorer draft picks, more difficult schedules, and ballooning salaries in the FA market.
Such has been the case for the Seattle Seahawks, for nearly 20 years. Oh, sure, other factors played a part. Ken Behring’s threat to move the team to California (http://www.atg.wa.gov/trust/trustdocs/behring.html), dropping Chuck Knox for Tom Flores, retirement of Steve Largent, Brian Bosworth – ask any Seattle Seahawks fan and they can give you a blow by bloody blow account of their suffering. But, the real culprit of their decades old decline was Free Agency and the Salary Cap instituted in the early 1990s.
So teams like the Seahawks are stuck with few choices. They can continue to fight against Free Agency and hope to rebuild through the draft, but with mid-tier picks the chances of finding the hidden nuggets of gold among the dirt is iffy. They can also blow it all in a desperate attempt to buy a championship forgoing fiscal responsibility in the future. Lastly, they can blow it all up, and start over with sound cap management, excellent draft scouting, and solid coaching.
Now, the Seahawks have wisely decided to pursue the last option, at the expense of playoff success. Since Mike Holmgren has taken over the team there has been almost a complete turnover in the roster and coaching staff, as well as many new front office additions. They have slashed their cap woes, and finally have some players worth the salaries they are paying them. Sure, there has been some real busts in the past five years, including some questionable draft picks, but there has been enough gold panned to see a glimmer of hope for the fans that perhaps yes, this year their team can be real contenders for the crown.
And this Saturday, sitting at the 23rd pick of the first round, Seattle can only hope that a couple of shiny flakes can fall their way. It’s also a dangerous, precarious position they find themselves in. They still need several holes filled at DT, MLB and Safety, and little chance of picking up an immediate impact player at the spot they’re in. Seattle has always tried to pick the best player available. The times they have picked for need they have been burned, so don’t be surprised if a completely unexpected player is chosen on Saturday. Last year they picked a cornerback when every draft pundit had them picking up a defensive tackle.
So, the next time your 8 year old’s bony knuckles slam into your bicep as they gleefully shout “slug bug!” just take solace in the fact that there are some fans out there that have had to put up with that sadistic behavior for decades.
Glenn Geiss writes a
column for Seahawks.NET every Thursday. Feel free to send him feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.