Point: Marcus Tubbs versus Steven Jackson

<i>Glenn Geiss takes the high road in defending the Seattle Seahawks' decision to select their targeted player versus the much-touted running back who was practically sitting in their laps...</i>

For the first time in Mike Holmgren’s five-year history with the Seahawks, the team selected both the player they had targeted AND filled a need. The defensive tackle position was like a festering wound, patched with aging free agents, underachieving draftees, and injury-prone players. For years, draft prognosticators stated emphatically that the organization would be taking a first-round defensive tackle, only to be proved wrong over and over again.

Not this time.

Seattle hasn’t always taken the “best player available” approach, and when they strayed, it’s ended up hurting them more often than not. Seattle also heavily coveted Vince Wilfork, but were unable to swing a trade up that suited their definition of cost, and rated Marcus Tubbs almost as highly as Vince.

But no one (least of all the talking heads on ESPN) imagined that Steven Jackson, a highly-ranked running back out of Oregon State, was dropping down the draft boards to #23, as Seattle was on the clock. It seemed that after every team passed on Jackson, EPSN analysts would comment on Jackson’s stock and how far it was falling.

As I sat with many of our fellow fans in our Internet chatroom, depressed over not being able to pick up Jonathan Vilma, Kenechi Udeze or Vince Wilfork, I listened and wondered along with everyone else if the Seahawks would take Jackson or not. After all, he was (according to the talking heads) the best player available. Seattle also has a rather sticky situation with i’s current running back, Shaun Alexander, who is in the last year of his contract and is obviously going to be looking for a major payday in free agency next year. Couple that with the continuing (and tiring) Walter Jones drama, as well as a number of other big-ticket 2005 Free Agency players, you can see that there had to be some consideration for this acquisition.

Or maybe not.

Seattle is on the verge of greatness. Their offense last year set new team yardage records, had finally legitimately gotten into the playoffs and darn near beat the Packers in overtime. The defense, however, was decidedly average at best and while improved over 2002, still needed a ton of work to make the team a serious playoff contender. The Seahawks ensured that the offense remained essentially intact by resigning Darrell Jackson and franchising Jones (again!) this off-season, but the defense was hemorrhaging players left and right. Seattle has lost Shawn Springs (no big loss), Randall Godfrey, Reggie Tongue, Norman Hand, Chad Eaton and John Randle, creating gaping holes in our defensive line as well as our MLB and secondary. The signings of Grant Wistrom and Bobby Taylor helped, but still left Seattle three players short of filling in all the spots.

So, quite the puzzler. Take a legitimate starting running back to avert the eventual gaping hole NEXT year, or solve an immediate need THIS year?

When you look at it in those terms, the choice is quite obvious.

For all his supposed faults, Shaun Alexander is a fine running back. He makes plays. He scores touchdowns. He’s done fine during his tenure. He’s also going to have a monster year this year, to boost his perceived market value at the end of his contract. Do you really want the added distraction of drafting your heir apparent even before the fifth act?

The Saint Louis Rams didn’t have any problems giving away a fourth round pick trading up and snatching Steven Jackson as their first pick at #24, even though they have Marshall Faulk who still averaged nearly four yards per carry last year. It’s doubtful, however, that Stevens will have an immediate impact on the team, much like the same situation had he been drafted by Seattle. Marcus Tubbs, on the other hand, will most likely start, and make immediate contributions to the team.

Finally, Seattle has two fine back up running backs in Mo Morris and Kerry Carter and can cross the Alexander bridge at the end of the season when they get to it. Quality running backs can be had via trades, drafts, or free agency, Shaun Alexander can be replaced, but fixing immediate problems now is more important. The pressure for Holmgren and company to produce a winning championship caliber team is growing the longer it takes, and with only a few more years left on his current contract (which of course doesn’t mean a heck of a lot in the NFL) all eyes in the Pacific Northwest are fixated squarely on his broad shoulders. Marcus Tubbs and Michael Boulware were two players Seattle had targeted as key acquisitions in the draft. The team’s patience and bigpicture vision allowed them to not be tempted to take a future need while neglecting an urgent one.

There was no other choice.

Glenn Geiss writes a column for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to send him feedback at awpilot@wavecable.com.

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