Behind Enemy Lines: Seahawks/Chargers, Pt. 3

In Part Three of our pre-game series, Seahawks NET's Doug Farrar fields five final questions from SDBoltReport's Michael Lombardo. Among the subjects: Nate Burleson's ever-shifting value, Shaun Alexander's contract, the Holmgren conundrum, and the name of the most underrated Seahawk.

Michael Lombardo, SDBoltReport.com: During the offseason, the Seahawks thought Nate Burleson was worth $7 million a year. Now, his contributions are coming mostly on special teams. What went wrong?

Doug Farrar, Seahawks.NET: Well, the Burleson deal, ostensibly inked for $49 million over seven years, was, in fact, a pointed response to the “poison pill” offer sheet that the Vikings used to steal Steve Hutchinson away after Seattle made the mistake of transitioning instead of franchising him. In truth, Burleson’s contract contains enough voidable clauses to put it somewhere in the neighborhood of four years and $14.5 million.

Burleson was dropping a lot of passes early in the season, and when the Seahawks traded their 2007 first-round pick for former New England receiver Deion Branch, the writing was on the wall. Burleson has been a great addition on special teams, but you shouldn’t have to give your best return man the same money you’d give a B-level receiver. The Seahawks may have gambled and lost on Nate – there’s no other way to put it when they still felt the need to make the Branch deal happen – but at least they’re using him in a way that helps the team as opposed to putting him in the doghouse and leaving him there.


Michael Lombardo: How many years does Mike Holmgren have left and is the pressure beginning to build?

Doug Farrar: He signed a two-year extension (through 2008) in the off-season, and 2006 is his eighth year with the Seahawks. I can see him coaching this team through 2008 and perhaps retiring. There were whispers that he might have an interest in a team that would allow him the dual role of coach/general manager that he enjoyed here from ’99 through 2002. Holmgren knows that, despite the difficulties this season, he’s got a decent shot at becoming the first coach to win a Super Bowl with two different teams.

I don’t think there’s pressure on him, per se – with the possible exceptions of Mike Shanahan and Bill Cowher, there isn’t a coach in the NFL right now with more job security.


Michael Lombardo: What can Seattle expect in the future – if anything – from Marcus Tubbs?

Doug Farrar: Evidently, a frustrating combination of injuries and stellar on-field performance. Tubbs is the Seahawks’ only real big man in the interior defensive line rotation, and his loss to the injured reserve list on November 11. In his three NFL seasons, he’s played in 29 out of a possible 48 regular-season games, and there’s going to be a time when the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere for consistent run-stopping production inside. That time might even be the 2007 draft. If Tubbs can stay healthy, he has elite potential … but that “if” is a bit too big for a team that’s been giving up far too much yardage on the ground.


Michael Lombardo: Does Seattle now regret giving such a massive extension to Shaun Alexander?

Doug Farrar: I don’t think so. If there was any hesitation on the part of Seattle’s front office, I didn’t sense it. Beyond his own productivity (no back rushed for more yards than Alexander from 2001-2005), the idea of letting the NFL MVP walk away AND losing Steve Hutchinson would have caused a few riots in Seattle.

And it’s not Alexander’s fault that Arizona cornerback Antrel Rolle is a flat-out dirty player who can bring opposing players down with uncalled blatant horse-collar tackles and get fined a few grand for his trouble AFTER the Competition Committee allegedly “focused” in on that infraction. That Week Two tackle is the incident that Alexander blames for the broken bone in his foot that caused him to miss six weeks and curtailed his productivity early in the season.

However, there are reasons for concern what charting Alexander’s future potential. Running backs tend to decline after the age of 28, and Shaun’s hit that mark. According to comprehensive research by Football Outsiders, backs who carry the ball 370 times or more in the regular season have an increased tendency to break down early in their careers, especially if playoff carries are added in.

In 2005, Alexander took the ball 370 times in the regular season, and 60 more times from the divisional playoffs to the Super Bowl. In studies here and here, Football Outsiders writers have discussed the hazards of single-season overload. Add in the fact that the Seahawks’ offensive line stands to undergo a great deal of change over the next few years, and Alexander’s next five seasons could be a shadow if his last five. If that isn’t the case, he’ll be beating the odds.


Michael Lombardo: Who is the most important Seahawk that the average fan doesn’t know about?

Doug Farrar: This season, I’d say it’s been kicker Josh Brown. You know your team has had a strange year when the kicker can legitimately be considered the squad MVP, but Brown has won four games with late or game-ending field goals this season. Three of his six misses (blocks) were caused by protection breakdowns early in the season, and it’s very strange that he hasn’t even attempted a field goal in the last two games. The Seahawks sent four players to the Pro Bowl, and Brown wasn’t one of them.

Sad to see, because he was the most deserving of any Seahawk, and more deserving than Chicago’s Robbie Gould. Especially when your offense can’t seem to convert third-and-anything, getting a kicker of Brown’s ability on the field as much as possible is a great idea. And if the Seahawks have a chance for their game against the Chargers to be decided by Brown’s foot, they’ll be doing much better than I expected. Seeing Brown on the field will be a good sign in many ways!


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