Where do we start? The old cliché, of course is to start at the beginning. But where is that?
Ultimately, when discussing the Seahawks, that goes back to 1976. Or maybe it was earlier, when people originally brought up the idea of professional football in Seattle. Perhaps we should start at some specific milestone, a readily recognizable event that shaped team history. Maybe it was when Paul Allen bought the team and rescued it from relocation to California. Maybe it was when Mike Holmgren was hired, or when Tim Ruskell was brought on board. Who knows?
One thing is certain, though. We have not reached the end. Maybe that is the most important thing to remember. This may not be a beginning, but it certainly isn't the end.
The off season can be a difficult time for someone who doesn't have a real passion for scouting and drafting college kids, or signing free agents. Those who can dig into those subjects have my utmost respect, but I just can't do it. Call it a mental block of sorts.
Running a sports team is a continuous act. It involves a lot of little beginnings and ends, little individual stops and starts that add up to the continuum that is the life story of the team. Fans would be well to recognize this and learn to live with it.
Sports fans can be very moody creatures. Football is probably the worst sport for this, because the relatively small number of games in a season heightens the effect of anything that happens. When big news about one's team hits, it can set off all manner of hyperbolic reactions. Losing a Pro-bowler to another team in Free Agency can do that. The whole Steve Hutchinson situation played out like what is wrong with, and right with, professional sports these days.
The good side says that free market economics worked. Hutch got to shop around and get a great contract to play football.
The bad side says that free market economics worked. Another team was able to snatch one of our best players.
One could argue that the Seahawks haven't made very good use of those pesky tags designed into the collective bargaining agreement. A few years back, they promised not to tag Pete Kendall and he flew the coop to Arizona. Then came the Walter Jones saga, with consecutive use of the franchise tag over several years that kind of defined the Seahawks bargaining strategy during the time.
Franchising Shaun Alexander for the 2005 season seems to have worked, since he finally signed a long term deal this off season, but there were some disturbing quotes in the media during that saga that had fan support of Alexander and the team sharply divided.
The Seahawks tried the transition tag this time, and got bit by a team with a lot of cash and some creativity in writing contracts. Steve Hutchinson is now a Viking.
Fan reaction (as witnessed by the responses on Seahawks.net) seems to be reflective. Yes there are some who howled "He's the best guard in the NFL!" But after some cooling off time, most have responded with "Yes, but he is only a guard, after all." Purportedly, the voice of reason wins out. Steve was probably worth a $49 million contract, but not a guaranteed $49 million contract.
As usual, the exit interview casts some light on the move. Some are willing to give Hutch the benefit of the doubt about the 'poison pill' inserted into his offer sheet which required that he be the highest paid lineman on the team or the entire contract would be guaranteed. Not this writer. His agent works for him. When his agent does something, Hutch is at the very least complicit.
Like so many athletes these days, he parted with the ever popular, "They didn't like me enough" line. Balderdash. They may not have liked you enough to assuage your ego, but there was plenty of team and fan support. You'll get your money, but you'll be playing on a team with a rookie owner and a rookie head coach. Best wishes. Most teams in that situation take a year or two to gel.
Marquand Manuel went where he could probably start, and definitely will get more playing time. Joe Jurevicius went to play his last couple of seasons in his home town. You went for the money, Steve. Hey, for some people, it's all about the benjamins, right?
Meanwhile, without a lot of fanfare and league wide notice, the Seahawks have something pretty special going on. Three consecutive playoff appearances, including two consecutive division championships, and a conference championship, prove that the Seahawks are a team to be reckoned with in the NFC, and likely will be for a few more years. As fans, our outlook has changed. It is no longer a question of whether we will make the playoffs next year. We all pretty much expect that. The question these days is: how far will we go in the playoffs?
Yes, losing Steve Hutchinson is a small ending of a sort. However, the eternal optimist in me has to say it just might be a new beginning for the Seahawks. Not that we are really beginning anything. Really, we are just continuing on with our recent success.
That's the most important thing.
Steve Utz writes occasionally for Seahawks.NET. Send your feedback to Steve at: firstname.lastname@example.org