For Ray, It Pays to Stay

In today's potpourri of NFL news, Seahawks.NET's Ryan Davis looks at the man behind Seattle's secondary, Pickett's charge in Houston, and a Bush who will keep the IRS happy.

The Defensive Back Guru

While the national media continues to lazily focus on the loss of Steve Hutchinson, Joe Jurevicius, and the addition of Steve Smith’s new “Alvin Harper”, responsible media and knowledgeable fans know the truth. Heading into the 2006 season, the kink in the Seahawks’ armor is the defensive secondary.

There are concerns with Ken Hamlin’s comeback from a near fatal strike with a street sign, Kelly Herndon’s small frame and occasional lapses in judgment, Kelly Jennings’ rookie status, Michael Boulware’s off-season injuries, and so on. While all of this is disconcerting, there’s one reason to remain positive and trust in our players. That reason is the (formerly) much-maligned Ray Rhodes.

For unknown reasons, the always sure-fire Ray Rhodes approach to defense never took in Seattle. Two of his three years without a top ten defense, happened right here in the Pacific Northwest. The only bright spot under his tutelage was the play of the defensive backfield, which not surprisingly, is where he played and began his foray into coaching with.

Think back to Ray Rhodes’ first year in Seattle, 2003. In Ray’s maiden season, the lone defensive standouts that year were two impact rookies in the backfield: Ken Hamlin and Marcus Trufant. Hamlin gave the Seahawks an intimidating and exciting presence in the middle, unseen since Tom Catlin barked out the defensive assignments. Marcus Trufant silently asserted himself as a top-tier corner in year one, an almost unheard of accomplishment. To many, these two were strokes of genius by whoever drafted them. To me, it was yet another example of Ray Rhodes’ mastery of DBs.

In 1981, Ray Rhodes received his first opportunity to coach in the NFL, being hired as the 49ers defensive backfield assistant. That year, he coached three starting defensive back rookies: Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, and Carlton Williamson. All three were instrumental in the 49ers securing their first of many Super Bowl Trophies. Two years later, Rhodes was promoted to Defensive Backs Coach, a title that he held until 1991. In that tenure, Ray Rhodes provided the Pro-Bowl with an astounding 16 defensive backfield participants.

In 1992, Ray Rhodes joined our own lovable Mike Holmgren in Green Bay as his defensive coordinator. In his first year as coordinator, Ray Rhodes coached Safety Chuck Cecil to his first and only pro-bowl nod. In his next and last year in Green Bay, Rhodes oversaw the first of four trips to Honolulu by Leroy Butler.

During his one-year stint as the 49ers Defensive Coordinator in 1994, Ray Rhodes brilliantly coached three defensive back pro-bowlers on a Super Bowl Champion team: Deion Sanders, Merton Hanks, and Tim McDonald. That performance, coupled with his already stellar resume, earned his first of two head coaching jobs in the NFL.

During his four-year tenure as Philadelphia’s Head Coach, Ray provided zero defensive backfield participants to the pro-bowl. However, that’s not a true reflection of the players he molded there. Those teams provided NFL fans with DB household names like Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Brian Dawkins, and Alan Rossum, none of which had a name, reputation, or presence before Ray Rhodes arrived.

Before finally landing in Seattle in 2003, Ray proved his mastery of the defensive backfield in Washington and Denver by sending more great and unknown names to Honolulu each year. Whether it was Champ Bailey or Deltha O’Neal, he continually proved he knew the defensive backfield.

For the Seahawks and their fans’ sake, let’s hope his new title of Special Projects/Defense is coach-speak for “Defensive Back Guru”.

Pickett Rides to Houston

Very rarely should anyone, even a Husky homer like myself, ever concern themselves with a fourth-string QB being swapped to another team. But the Houston Texans’ swapping of a seventh round pick for Cody Pickett has me very intrigued for many reasons.

First off, Cody Pickett was an absolute pleasure to watch in his college career. His arm strength and athleticism signified he was fit for Sundays. The gritty, tough guile he demonstrated by playing half of the 2001 and 2002 seasons with a severely separated shoulder only furthered beliefs that he was fit for the NFL. Unfortunately for him, forcing himself to play through the separated shoulder produced poor throwing mechanics, which lead to being drafted in the seventh round by the 49ers.

Once arriving in San Francisco, he only furthered his tall-tale prowess by making the team as the fourth-string QB and special teamer. Not a special teams player who punts, kicks, or holds, but by being a gunner and/or tackler. The absurdity of this peaked during a game last year when Cody made a tackle on a punt, went to the sidelines to swap from assassin to QB helmet, and then trotted out to lead the offense on consecutive plays. This feat was both laughable and heroic at the same time, but pure “Cody”.

This off-season, Mike Nolan tried desperately to find a place to keep Cody Pickett, given the ridiculous number of quarterbacks on the 49er roster. He even dabbled with putting Pickett at wide receiver. It was obvious; Mike Nolan saw that Cody Pickett was a special football player, regardless of position. But, eventually, Nolan ran out of options and shipped Cody to Houston to back up David Carr.

Something tells me that there’s more to this story than Houston needing a backup. Gary Kubiak, the Texans' new head coach, is a very gifted offensive coordinator and QB coach. I think he sees what others and I see in Cody…something special. More specifically, an athletically gifted, strong armed, tough QB whose leadership and style is custom-made for Kubiaks’ version of the West Coast Offense.

Stay tuned.

The IRS gets theirs

An exhale of relief could be heard in Ogden, Utah as Reggie Bush finally signed with the New Orleans Saints. Finally, the IRS is assured payment on any tax evasion charges Reggie or his parents are found guilty of. Thank your God for this one; the IRS would’ve been faced many with hardships…the government left penniless until or unless payment was received.

I could also be heard letting go of a breath I had been “waiting to exhale” once the Heisman winner signed. The thought of watching this man play has me more excited and delirious than a drunken Mel Gibson. If you haven’t seen or don’t recall Reggie in action, do yourself a favor and get a hold of the USC vs. Fresno State video from last year. It’s the most unbelievable single-game effort I’ve ever seen in a football game, including the neighbor kids’ use of Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl. It’s beyond words, really.

Unlike a lot of the media or fans, I’m not going to harangue the kid for his recent off-the-field troubles. He’s a 21 year-old who had the weight of one of the richest and most powerful alumni bases on his back, the task of insuring his parents remain out of any legal trouble, has every media outlet in the world asking him about it, and suddenly became what George Bush would consider his base (wealthy).

Could you have handled all of that? I know I couldn’t have.

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