Mudbone: The Franchise QB Nobody Wanted

It was a seemingly typical Seahawk Sunday, that November 11th of 1990. The Seahawks were battling the Chiefs in Arrowhead, playing a familiar tune. Their on-field performance was just enough to hold you there, within reach. We remained adhered to the game, listening to our hearts over our minds.

Sure, they had caught a meteorological break; it was a frigid and bright day, the absolute best you could forecast for our indoor warriors. Defensively, the Hawks had played well, forcing KC into more punting than offensive yards. And yeah, the offense was playing mostly mistake-free Fox News ball; protecting and holding field position. And I guess, they were technically only down six going into the fourth…but come on. This was the Seahawks, playing a game in KC - they never won, instead always finding new ways to lose.

Typical of those bastions of humiliating mediocrity, the loss wasn’t going to be enough of a dagger. Nope, Seahawk wounds always need a twist or two from the fatal instrument.

This day, the twist came in the form of a 6’3” 250 pound freak of football and nature from Alabama, one Derrick Thomas. Derrick had turned the Seahawks’ offensive backfield into his personal sandbox. Burying, toppling, and squashing any and all linemen and running backs in his way like sandcastles. All of which stood as laughable roadblocks to the ultimate prize, a helpless Dave Krieg.

Specifically, Derrick had emasculated the Seahawks by jarring Krieg seven times, a new NFL record. That performance would be yet another badge of shame I’d have to proudly defend amongst my peers. That being said, this new badge would look peachy next to my “Roger Clemens treated the ’86 M’s like the Gimp” badge already brazening my lapel. Surely, I’d be able to weave a self-deprecating, pain-deflecting, amusing tribute to both badges the next day at Canyon Park Junior High. I was beginning to develop such anecdotes in my head, when the unthinkable occurred.

The Seahawks were driving the ball, finally reaching the 25-yard line of the Chiefs, with a few ticks of the clock remaining. They had one last chance to win the game; despite the scientific law that is “The Seahawks can never win in KC”. Surely there would be no Bartkowski-to-White Shoes moment for my Hawks; Alcoa would have to wait another week for a new “Fantastic Finish”, things like that never happened for Seattle or me. It was set in stone and meant to be; Derrick Thomas’s unprecedented molestation of our backfield would forever be a verbal dart thrown by opposing fans.

The masochist in me fixed my eyes on the television, to watch the final, and surely heartbreaking, play.
Typical of the man from Milton, his jaunt to the line of scrimmage was uneventful. Krieg looked more like your neighbor, father, uncle, or buddy than he did a professional QB. His body language oozed humility, with the slumped-forward shoulders and undetermined calmness in his walk. Everything about him pointed to “everyman”, and not him being one of the 28 out of billions of men on the planet, fit to play quarterback the hardest position in all of professional athletics.

After unassumingly arriving under center, barking out the standard line of scrimmage nonsense, Krieg began his awkward backpedaling descent into the pocket. Then, from the left, came an all-too-familiar sight; a blown blocking assignment, which gave Mr. Thomas an unevaded path to Kreig’s blindside. The game would end in perfect Seahawk manner, one more embarrassing sack by Derrick Thomas.

Grimacing as I watched, Krieg, as he had done so many times before, coerced an inaudible yelp of achievement, as he successfully guided Derrick off his back and found the original Bobby Engram, Paul Skansi, in the end zone, securing the Hawks first win in KC since the Reagan Administration.

That day, those circumstances, that outcome, is the best way you can describe Dave “Mudbone” Krieg.

Against all odds, in the face of Murphy’s Law, despite little in the way of a supporting cast, he found a way to persevere and do what he was meant to do, quarterback.

All of it without fanfare, or self-aggrandizing gestures like we see today. More importantly he did it with class…could you imagine the whiny, snotty, womanly display we’d witness if Peyton Manning or Dan Marino had been dealt the same embarrassing circumstances by Derrick Thomas?

As Seahawks fans, were all too quick in our dismissal of #17 and his accomplishments.

In 1984, Mudbone threw for 32 TDs. Spiraling at least one TD dart in every game, leading the Hawks to what was, until last year, the best record in franchise history and attending his one of many February trips to Honolulu.

The following year he threw for over 3600 yards and 27 TDs, despite being sacked a NFL-high 52 times.

Or in 1988 when he unmercifully dismantled the Oakland/San Jose/LA/San Diego/Irwindale Raiders for 410 yards, and 4 TDs, securing a division title.

I could continue with a recap of every year or specific games, but I’m disgusted with the notion of having to, honestly. Bottom line, every year he produced and gave the Seahawks a chance to win. The fact that I feel the need to sell or defend this notion speaks to our city’s ungrateful nature, and not the man himself.

This is a man who threw for over 26,000 yards, 195 touchdowns, won 80 games, engineered the original “Whammy in Miami”, guided numerous trips to the postseason, and provided us weekly highlights and more often than not, wins, for our franchise.

Yet, mentioning his name usually gets rolled eyes, and looks of frustration, and defamation of his accomplishments by the foolhardy “fans”.

Too often I’m reminded of Mudbone’s fumbles, when expressing my adoration for our original Franchise Quarterback. Sure, Krieg fumbled, but if you bother to look at his company amongst the all-time fumble leader board, you’d soon drop that tone. I doubt fans in Houston or Denver chastise Moon or Elway for doing the same.

In fairness to some Seattle fans, Krieg was also the Rodney Dangerfield of his own team. How many times did we hear rumblings of a QB search from front office and coaching staff during his run? Gale Gilbert, Sean Salisbury, Jeff Kemp, Bobby Hebert were all lined up and perched as possible dethronees of the man from Iona, Wisconsin…but no one could. At least on the field.

Local sports radio personality Dave Grosby speaks to a “decade of despair” immediately shadowing the “vamoosing” of any franchise’s superstar. And a decade of despair is exactly what the town and franchise rightfully received after the long awaited ushering of Krieg elsewhere, via Plan B free agency, in 1992.

Of course, Krieg just kept doing what he always did, win and impress under the radar.

He was the only QB in the NFL to take every snap for his new team, ironically the Kansas City Chiefs, in 1992. Amassing over 3000 yards, leading the Chiefs to the postseason. Typical of his career, the next off-season the front office brought in another QB to supplant him…ignoring the fact their coach was the issue and not Mudbone. He remained in Kansas City one more year, before being signed by Detroit.

In Detroit, Krieg made the most of his opportunity. He took over starting duties from Scott Mitchell on November 6th, revitalizing a stagnant Detroit offense. During those last seven games, Krieg was 5-2 as a starter, threw 122 straight passes without an interception, and lead a 4th quarter under two-minute march to the endzone in the first round of wild-card play against Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay Packers. Ironically, that go-ahead TD strike to Herman Moore was ruled incomplete, under all-too-familiarly questionable circumstances.

That questionable call lead to Krieg again being jettisoned for someone else. This time he landed in Arizona, where he again just did what he did. Throwing for over 3500 yards, compiling four 300+ yard games. In one season he had lifted the Arizona Cardinals from a sure “win” on the schedule to a hesitant upcoming game.

He followed those successful runs with an uneventful, yet productive, starting year in Chicago, before becoming a back-up to Steve McNair in Tennessee. Ironically the team he ended with, and the only one where he was the unequivocal back-up for, may’ve been the best team he ever was on.

After all was said and done, the franchise QB nobody wanted sat in the top ten of every major career passing category. Quite an accomplishment for a man whose alma mater went bankrupt, is 5’11”, hardly ever played behind a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, constantly looked to be replaced, played 10+ years under a running coach, and was shunned by the city he led further than anyone before him.

The city went a ways in righting the injustice that is history’s take on this great QB on 9/26/04 by raising Krieg into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor. The only thing left to do is make a concerted effort to get the most underrated QB of our time where he belongs, Canton.

Being he was a child hood hero of mine, I’m sure there are some James Frye liberties I took. Saying something negative about Mr. Krieg is right up there with defaming my mother(s), father(s), or wive(s). But that doesn’t dispel the facts, his numbers, and memories he gave us all.

I’ll leave with a quote from Dave Krieg, uttered a few hours before boarding a plane for Miami—en route to shocking the world and beating Shula’s Dolphins;

"I know they have Dan Marino!" he shouted. "But I'm Dave Krieg and I think we can win!"

Even then he had to remind us who he was and what he could do.

Known very well to friend and foe as "pehawk" in our fan forums, Ryan Davis will be providing a fresh voice on the Seahawks, Seattle sports in general, and life in a nutshell. Feel free to send your thoughts, recriminations and mule sniffs to Ryan here. Top Stories