As one of the Seahawks.Net Message Board’s confirmed “Pie-Eyed Optimists”, one of the hardest things for me to do after joining the .Net Staff as a writer was to maintain at least some semblance of objectivity when dealing with my beloved Seahawks.
This offseason is a bit different for me, however. Last season was a crushing disappointment. The Seahawks were talented enough to make a deep postseason run. They had coaches who had won Super Bowls. They signed a big ticket DE in Grant Wistrom that had most of the football press corps buzzing about a Seattle Super Bowl. It was all right there. The pieces had finally come together and this year would be our year. But there has been a paradigm shift since the mid-1990’s, when marquee players led their teams to the Big Dance amongst great media fanfare. A small-market team with a core of good players who know their positions and play the game with intelligence and intensity has shown that “impact players” are no longer THE key to success. In fact, depending upon their salary structure, they may be a detriment. The New England Patriots have let players walk who wanted bling and not the ring. After each major defection, the press trumpeted the end for Bill Belichick and his Patriots. It began with the loss of Curtis Martin, and has continued through Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy.
This lesson was hard-learned by Seattle last year. Their commitment to raw talent over team spirit led to a team that came out of the gate like gangbusters, but folded in face of adversity and then limped into the postseason, confused and quarrelsome, like a beauty queen left jilted by a lover who had finally realized that, despite her beauty, she was a moron. As a fan, it was bewildering. Time and again, we watched guys who had not participated in off-season workouts go down with injures. We watched guys who were playing their guts out get stymied by the incompetence of others who couldn’t run the right routes, or make a tackle, or get the snap count right, or would just flat out blow a play. We wondered what the hell was wrong with this team.
Paul Allen would appear to have had the same questions. And his answer was decisive: the problem was the front office, and more specifically, Bob Whitsitt. One month after Whitsitt was canned, and without a successor in place, perennial holdout Walter Jones signed a 7 year deal. Coincidence? A week later, Matt Hasselbeck signed the long term deal that just couldn’t seem to get done over the course of the previous year. But the Seahawks weren’t just treading water. They were cutting bait, too. Anthony Simmons and Chris Terry, veteran players with talent that they seemed content to squander and who have repeatedly run afoul of the either the coaches or the law or both, were released regardless of the Salary Cap hit taken to do so. So far, neither player has found a new team. Ken Lucas was allowed to walk rather than pay him the crazy money that he was offered by Carolina. Chike Okeafor bolted for Arizona citing the Cardinals team spirit as the driving force behind his decision. “There is some heart [in Arizona] definitely. That is very important. You’ve got to believe in victory.” Some folks took this to be sour grapes, but for me, it was a statement of fact that helped explain why the Seahawks looked like a team sleepwalking their way through the season. When a team that has an even longer history of futility than the Seahawks can lure a player away from Seattle by demonstrating more togetherness and team spirit, there’s a serious serious problem with the program.
So what has been done to fill the vacancies and address the underlying problem? Well, Kelly Herndon has been recruited to fill the gap left by Lucas. A guy who has had to work hard to get where he is, and who, by all accounts from his former teammates, keeps his nose to grindstone to maintain his high level of play. Bryce Fisher was signed from the Rams (marking the 2nd consecutive year the Seahawks have raided their division rivals for D-Line help) who brings his team high 8 ½ sacks to the table. Linebacker Kevin Bentley and Defensive Tackle Chartric Darby have been signed not just to add depth, but to compete for a job. Hannam, Mili and Pork Chop have all re-upped with the Seahawks and Joe Jurevicius has signed on as well. Each one of these guys was recruited or resigned, not because the football press think they’re “premier players”, but because the coaches and front office think they are players who have a strong work ethic. Because they work hard and keep their noses clean. Because in the new era of NFL parity, having a team is more important than having a collection of star athletes and a bunch of scrubs.
This, of course, begs the question why, during this shift to dedication over dollars and intensity over individualism, perennial problem children Jerramy Stevens and Koren Robinson have been allowed to remain Seahawks. The answer became apparent in Clare Farnsworth’s March 22nd article in the Seattle P-I, in which he reported that Stevens and Robinson are both active participants in the team’s off-season programs FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER. Clearly, these two jokers have read the writing on the wall and realized that they can step up and participate or Ron Dayne themselves into obscurity. The onus is now on them. Their spots on the roster are not guaranteed. Here’s hoping they can pull themselves together, grow a set, strap on a helmet, get out there and help the team win.
And what of the stickiest wicket this offseason? After receiving the Franchise Tag, Shaun Alexander has been put on the trading block, due in large part, because of his apparent reticence to remain in Seattle. But the new front office isn’t just letting him walk away without something in return. I sincerely hope that the new and improved front office holds fast and doesn’t settle for a measly 2 nd round draft pick for the NFL’s most prolific TD machine over the last three years. And if Mr. Alexander wants to Galloway himself out of a season, I hope the Seahawks are content to let him sit.
So, here I sit, a former “Pie-Eyed Optimist” staring at a glass that is both half-full and half-empty. I’m glad that the Seattle front office has taken the high road this offseason, but it will be small consolation if the 2006 campaign doesn’t culminate in the team’s first Playoff victory in 21 years.
Dylan Johnson writes for Seahawks.NET. He's also well-known as "NJSeahawksFan" on our Fan Forums. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.