To hardcore and casual fans alike, NFL Draft weekend signifies the official beginning of the season. Most likely if you're reading this article, you're classified a hardcore. Or in other words, a geek.
The idea of wasting an entire sunny, spring weekend watching grown men choose other grown men, then discuss the grown men they selected, is beyond mental. Our wives, children, friends are correct in their confused frustration over this exercise. It's geeky.
All of us rightfully deserve a wedgie, nipple-twister or to become just plain ostracized. The only way I can accept my own preoccupation with the draft is by insuring that an adjacent weekend involves car wrecks, dead prostitutes, Bolivian marching dust, fistfights and at least one prison tattoo (I honored Adabizi this year).
For me personally, this years draft offered what can only be labeled a perfect storm. The wife and insta-kid were away for the entire weekend. Meaning, I had all night to compensate for the nerdiness spent watching the draft during the day. For the first time in my adult life, I could balance my inner dweeb and inner hooligan in real-time.
Knowing what Saturday offered me, a shamefully wasted existence glued to ESPN, I began to overcompensate early. Early meaning Friday, as soon as the "others" were out of the house.
Like I usually do, I checked in with the Seahawks.net message boards before bed, to get a bead on any new news swirling around Kirkland, the Seahawks headquarters. It was early Saturday morning, when I first happened across our startling news.
Isolated, and inebriated to the point of my mind being able to meld with whatever medium lied in front of it, is when I first read of the Darrell Jackson trade talk. The toxins streaming throughout my physical being already depress and subdue one's psyche as they wear off, this horrific news would only worsen the blow.
While the internet was buzzing at that time of night, with fans in denial saying the reassuring "it's not confirmed yet - it's only a rumor" the realists knew it was true.
The story had been barreling towards all Seahawks fans for sometime, the fact the trade was with division rival San Francisco 49ers only lending credibility. It was too bizarre to be untrue. Nope, Darrell Jackson was soon to be a 49er for the bargain basement price of a 4th rounder.
Helpless. Confused. Desperate. Defeated. Horrified. Shell-shocked. Sucker-punched. Cold-cocked. Heart-broken. Blind-sided. Anger. Grief. Rage. Desperation. Are all the emotions I felt over the next couple days.
And then finally, resignation and acceptance hit me about a week after the transaction.
While I'm still confused as to why, I can see Tim Ruskell's point. Chris Rock once said of OJ Simpson's alleged murder of Nicole Goldman "I'm not saying he should've killed her, but I understand"
And that's how I feel about the trade now. I'm not saying the Seahawks should've traded him, but I understand.
My delay in getting this piece written isn't due laziness, like most of my articles. I genuinely wanted some time to sit back and for once let my cooler head prevail. Even with that time, I'm still unsure how to fairly analyze the trade.
Darrell Jackson, the man and the player, means a lot to most Seahawks fans and me. In some odd way, he represents the face of our new winning Seahawks. Jackson was the first offensive gem Mike Holmgren plucked from the collegiate ranks. His first year in the league coincided with a new era for the Seahawks, that era being no more Kingdome.
I remember hearing John Clayton on KJR sing Jackson's praises during his initial mini-camp. From that point on, the Florida Gator raised above the stereotype that Gator WR's thud in the NFL. In doing so he made a name for himself and lent credibility to a rising offensive force in Seattle.
I could go on and on about what the great memories and moments Jackson has passed on to all of us in Seattle. I could fall back into my selfish ways and berate the fact I'm no longer able to sing "sorry Darrell Jackson this is for real?" (to the tune of Outkast's I'm Sorry Ms. Jackson) after every key Jackson grab. But, this article is to analyze the trade, keeping my emotionally charged bias in check.
Of course, I'm still a hack when it comes to this whole writing thing. So much of a hack, the only way I can truly analyze this trade is by using the journalistic equivalent of "training wheels". Of course I'm speaking to sub-headers.
- The discussions, questionings, and contractual grandstandings are over. While I never subscribed to the theory that Jackson's skipping of "voluntary" camps, over a contractual beef was a true distraction, some believed it to be. I based my assumption off of the comments of Holmgren and team leader Matt Hasselbeck, basically dismissing Jackson's absence as - not ideal but understandable. Obviously other fans, and more importantly Ruskell, felt it was a distraction. A distraction that is now securely in everyone's rearview.
- Over the past two years, Jackson's perpetual hokey-pokey in and out of the starting line-up over injury, has wreaked havoc with the WR corp's continuity. Or, at least you can deduce. There have always been murmurs and grumbling that Ruskell, and others within the Seahawks organization, felt Jackson's injuries were a sign of more to come and not a blip on the radar. So with that, you can assume this move signals to the Seahawks WR corp., you'll now know your roles from mini-camp on. Hopefully, that leads to more production.
- With the emergence of DJ Hackett as the best 4th/5th WR in the NFL and the coinciding tender offered to him, it was time for the Seahawks to see what they really have. Is Hackett only good matched up against nickel corners or safeties? Or, will his numbers further translate if given a starting opportunity? We shall see.
- It's time for Ruskell's anointed #1 receiver, Deion Branch, to show what he can do. While in a prior article I questioned the swap of a first-rounder for Branch's services its hard to question his abilities. In his nubile year in Holmgren's complex West Coast Offense, Branch was impressive in nabbing 53 receptions for over 750 yards. Most receivers, even veterans like Branch, take a few years to grasp the offense. Hopefully last year was just the tip of the iceberg.
- As much as it pains me to acknowledge this, as I don't believe it to be true, there are some fans that mistook Jackson's aloofness for a winning or team indifference. Many fans harped on Jackson for giving a nudge to former teammate Alex Brown during last years playoff contest vs. the Chicago Bears. Many confused his business decision to skip voluntary camps, as an "I" first attitude. To me, being one who's been misunderstood, I can identify it as Jackson just being a bit left of normal. He's just a different "cat". To the others, his actions embodied what's wrong with sports and the NFL. While this type of personality leaving the city isn't a "pro", not having to hear how awful it is from unknowledgeable fans, is.
- The first and easiest "con" is Jackson's new team, the 49ers. Not only are the 49ers a division rival, the 49ers are THE division rival. The Cardinals are still one year away from challenging for the NFC West crown and the Rams still have Linehan as a coach, leaving the 49ers as the only threat in the division. To worsen matters, the 49ers lone weakness last year, at least offensively, was a lack of WR talent. Oh, and this is a team that beat the Seahawks like Bakersfield chimps last year. Not only beat the Seahawks, but embarrassed them, one time on national television.
- There's an apparent double standard brewing within the Seahawks front office. In defense of the Branch trade Ruskell pontificated over the percentage of players, selected between slot 22 and 32, that actually had fruitful NFL careers. In his mind, since that percentage was so low, getting a surefire player of Branch's magnitude for that pick was a no-brainer. So, why couldn't the inverse rationale be used for the Jackson trade? What percentage of players selected in the 4th round end up having fruitful careers? Or even careers that would match Jackson's output for the next three years? Also, in year one Ruskell brought a culture of accountability and hard work through competition. Players were routinely brought into to push back-up's and starters alike. Everyone had to earn his spot. So, why wouldn't the same be allowed for the Seahawks WR corp.? Why not allow Jackson to compete for playing time amongst the deep WR group? If he didn't cut it, or was slowed by injuries, then cut him. Isn't that what worked in 2005?
- This has to signal to Holmgren that his dream of riding out on top, is second to Ruskell's need to prove a point or further put his stamp on this team. Jackson is Holmgren's hand-selected project. Arguably Holmgren's best draft pick during his GM tenure. The one WR on the Seahawks roster that has proven to be truly dynamic, given his skill set and experience. And he's thrown aside for no other reason than Ruskell didn't understand or appreciate Jackson's contractual issues. I'm sure Holmgren would love to have him, oft injured or not, for his final two years. Just in case, ya' know? Besides, the price was right. Jackson's contract's a bargain in today's cap-rich NFL marketplace. This, added to the Hutchinson fiasco, has insured 2007 will be Holmgren's last year in Seattle.
- Where's the loyalty?
Specifically the loyalty to basically an original "new era" Seahawk?
I know loyalty is a forgotten word in today's NFL or sports world, but I for
one would like for it to come back. Players like Jackson and Hamlin deserve
better, if for no other reason than being here through the lean years. I know
I'm dreaming, who knows maybe the toxins from last weekend haven't fully worn
off, but I get sick to my stomach when players that have been through the
lean times are cast away during the heydays.