A Side of Rice

Is the value of Jerry Rice to the Seahawks partially in his ability to pass on his excellence to Seattle's young guns? .NET's Steve Utz investigates the mechanics of the deal that brought Rice to the Emerald City.

So here we are. The second week of the second quarter of the 2004 season. There has been some good, some bad, some wild and some weird.

Still, with 3 wins against 2 losses, we shouldn't think that the season is over. Far from it. In fact, that record projects out to a 9 or 10 win pace. While that probably isn't good enough to win the NFC West, it is still probably a playoff pace.

So, maybe it is not a good time to panic. Is it ever?

One thing we absolutely cannot afford to do is try to "protect" our current standing. We are in second place in our division now, and we need to go on the attack to regain the number one spot we squandered over the last two weeks.

Looking backward, it may have been a bad thing to blow the 49ers out like we did. It may have given our young team a false sense of their own skill level, and a false sense of how big of a lead is big enough. In fact, early celebration may have led to complacency and a loss of concentration, contributing to the meltdown against the Rams.

Last week, it would appear that the 10:00 am kickoff devil popped up and bit us again. Certainly, they started out slow and sluggish, and only started playing really well when it was too late. Once again, excuses are made, trends are analyzed, fingers are pointed. Most of that is happening in the press and among the fans. The team, as always, puts on a very businesslike face and says, "We'll fix this."

So here we are. Many people look at the past two games and see defensive collapses. Many people look at the recent surge in injuries on the defense. Chad Brown has yet to play in a game. Grant Wistrom and now Anthony Simmons will miss significant playing time. We have been burned by the big play several times the past two games, a problem that was a priority last off season. It appears that we may not have fixed that.

What gives?

And why did we trade for a wide receiver?

Things would seem to be a bit off kilter here, no?

Well, no.

First of all, Jerry Rice is hardly just another wide receiver. Some people point at this year's numbers and say that Rice is in the middle of the worst year of his career, statistically. From that, they opine that he is done. Fair enough.

Other people point out that the new offensive system Oakland is installing hardly complements or uses Rice's skill set to advantage. Jerry Rice was never a "run by you" vertical stretch wide receiver. Last season, he had over 60 catches and 800 yards receiving. This leads one to the opinion that the system did not allow Rice to do what he does best. He's not done, he was just left out.

So, is Rice done? Do we base our opinion on last season's numbers, or should we think that he has suddenly lost it? My money says he's got a lot left, that a few weeks back in the WCO and critics will be admitting that stories of Jerry Rice's demise were a bit premature.

And, of course, Jerry came in and dropped three passes in two days of practice this week. Could the "Seahawks disease" have infected the best wide receiver the NFL has ever known? Such thoughts will make one believe there really is a curse on our team. At least the legendary receiver didn't exempt himself from team mandatory pushups for dropping passes. Presumably, he won't do that in games.

So, is signing Jerry Rice an act of desperation by the team?

Maybe. It has been frustrating, over the past season and a third, to watch so many opportunities bounce uselessly off the FieldTurf. Nothing seems to have helped. Darrell Jackson has been good this season so far, but if his teammates won't catch on, will he continue or will he relapse? Coming off a two game losing streak, something needed to be done.

Hopefully, signing Jerry Rice will wake up our young wide receivers.

Koren Robinson is at the center of all this. Everybody knows this. Mike Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck have tried to be supportive, but the drops continue. How long could this go on without Koren being benched? While he is not the only receiver dropping balls, his numbers are alarming, and have contributed directly to the team's inability to close the deal in our two losses.

Mike Holmgren has already said that Rice will be sharing time with Robinson. So Jerry immediately steps in and becomes a more reliable pass catching receiver at the one position which has hurt the team the most. He won't be the deep threat Koren is, but it's a safe bet that if Hass hits him in the hands, the ball will stick there almost every time. Holmgren's comments are instructive: "My job is to not necessarily soothe feelings of everybody all the time, it's to win the doggone games."

That sounds like there's going to be some accountability, in that if a receiver doesn't catch the ball, he is going to lose opportunities to play. The team is going to do something to get someone on the field that will catch the ball.

That sounds good to me.

Seahawks 30 Cardinals 10

Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at wisecoyote1@cox.net.

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