Let's travel back in time about 12 months. Ready? Okay. Here's what yours truly had to say about Shaun Alexander:
Let him walk.
Fast-forward to real-time and it makes me cringe to even consider the notion of letting Shaun Alexander go today.
Granted, last year, Shaun was a little bit country where he's a whole lotta rock-n-roll this year. Selfish comments that overshadowed the team's first NFC division championship, a severe lack of pass blocking ability and getting the tough yards when needed the most (remember when 3rd and 1 was hardly a guarantee?), it's not a stretch to say that the Shaun Alexander of 2005 doesn't even compare to the Shaun Alexander of 2004.
Not even close.
For every critique fans hurdled – rightfully so – against Shaun last year, he has answered with profound exclamation this year. His pass blocking has improved exponentially, he no longer shies away from contact and he has actually – dare I say – found crucial yards by lowering his helmet, pounding up the middle in authoritative fashion and bruising opponents in his wake.
The most prolific Seattle Seahawk since Steve Largent isn't just putting on a one-time performance.
This show is annual. And it's getting better with age.
During the off season, Shaun had a golden opportunity to create turmoil with team chemistry by refusing to sign the one-year tender offered, subsequently refusing to report to training camp which would be the understood, anticipated and assumed summer distraction.
Instead, surprising everyone, he signed the tender with the stipulation that the team could not slap the franchise tag on him after the 2005 season, effectively allowing Shaun to become an unrestricted free agent in the event that terms of a new deal could not be reached before the spring of 2006.
In that strategic move by both sides, Shaun has been able to focus on the one thing he cares about most:
In dimly-lit bars and on message boards across the country, fans could be heard weighing the pros and cons of Shaun Alexander. Despite what the media had to say, regardless of what the fans felt, Shaun always remained vigilant within his position that Seattle was the city where he wanted to continue raising his family, and the Seahawks were the team he wanted to help get to the Super Bowl.
With each franchise and NFL record a certain expectation is realized. Certainly, Shaun isn't ignorant to the business side of the league, nor does he pretend to be. Yet, he insists all he's after is far market value for his services. Neither his agents nor the team can seem to agree upon the finer details of what both sides are after. Despite his penchant for remaining injury-free at this point in his career, a feat that is rare among NFL running backs, approaching thirty years of age is always a red flag in any NFL negotiation.
Yet there comes a time when one must discard the suffocating demands of the insurance policy and let that rip cord fly, especially when the one doing the jumping is the best in the world.
Clearly there are several factors involved that can't be decided on a whim. Fiscal matters govern the NFL and have crippled teams foolish enough to underestimate them. Owner Paul Allen's billions make for great story but do little to dilute the demands of the salary cap. Even the richest men in the world have to play by the rules.
So the dance continues. Inch-by-inch, dollar-by-dollar, both sides offer suggestions of compatibility. How many years do we guarantee? How many millions in the signing bonus? When you're dealing in multi-millions, it seems silly that deals can be sealed – or lost – on a million or two here or there, but it happens, and is usually the number one factor in stalled negotiations.
As we stand inside the doorway of destiny, one thing seems crystal clear to this author.
Pay the man.
He's worth every single penny they are asking.
You've locked up Walter Jones and Matt Hasselbeck. Two pillars of what may be the mightiest offense the NFL has seen in years. To let Shaun Alexander go at this point would be foolish and that's being kind.
My colleagues and fellow diehards tend to be smarter than me when it comes to stats and the X's and O's of the game. I admit my passion for Seahawks Football remains in the obvious realms…First downs and touchdowns on offense, 3rd and outs or stops of any kind on defense and not screwing up too badly on special teams.
And of course, ending up with more points at the end of the game than the opponent.
So I don't claim to calculate stats or contemplate which schemes are most effective with one player's attributes. At the end of the day, I use one tool and one tool only to measure the worth of a player on the team I love:
Am I entertained?
After all, money doesn't grow on any trees that I am aware of and the only reason I part with every hard-earned penny each year on season tickets is to be entertained. The Seattle Seahawks have entertained us all this year and one of the main reasons for that is Shaun Alexander.
Not that Shaun holds sole possession of my entertainment factor on game day. Truly it is a collective effort which I am thankful for but I would be performing a disservice to myself and to Shaun if I didn't admit that the anticipation of how many yards he is going to run or touchdowns he is going to score this time is a primary factor of my enjoyment these days as a Seahawks fan.
And that should be good enough for the Seahawks.
The one sure-fire method to insure sold-out games and high season ticket numbers is offering a winning product. Nothing is more entertaining than winning.
And nobody knows more about winning – and entertaining – than Shaun Alexander.
Pay the man.
Just like this season, it's a win-win situation for both sides.
Todd Breda is the Owner and Creative Director of Seahawks.Net. If you would like to e-mail Todd, send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.