"Random Damage"? What is it, and why? It's not a column, really – not about a specific subject each time. It's not a blog, as we're not planning to enter the already crowded market of "second-by-second training camp updates!" It's just a series of observations, published twice a week through the NFL season, from yours truly and other members of the Seahawks.NET writing staff. We'll be looking at interesting stories and stats, talking about as much human interest as possible, and turning our attention to unheralded players you should know more about.
Why "Random Damage"? Well, it speaks to the … erm … randomness of the content. It was also the stage name of Queensryche's keyboard player on the 1986 "Rage For Order" tour, giving us a cool, elitist, prog-metal vibe that would have been oh-so-bitchin' about twenty years ago. Oh, well – if the world could just turn the other way, we'd be ahead of our time.
Once a Punk, Now a Godfather?
I have to admit – when the Hall of Fame inductions speeches started last Saturday, I thought that I would have rather been locked in a hermetically sealed room with 15,000 fire ants than listen to a second of Michael Irvin's speech. I thought I knew what I'd get – fifteen minutes of preening, pompous, near-incomprehensible foo-foo from the Playmaker. For all his on-field greatness, I didn't think the man was capable of much more.
The mea culpa begins here.
I avoided the speech until after it was over and everybody began freaking out over the sheer honesty and emotional weight of it. I assumed that to top Charlie Sanders finally saying, "Hi. Mom!" to his long-departed mother, Gene Hickerson's teammates wheeling him up to the podium after his son spoke for him with dignity and humility, and Thurman Thomas asking his wife of 20 years to marry him all over again, Irvin would have had to come up with something special.
What Irvin did was something I was sure he was incapable of – he made his 25-minute speech about everybody BUT the public version of himself. He talked lovingly of his family, of his coaches and teammates, and the fans "who make the game what it is." And when he finally turned the lens on himself, it was with the utmost humility. What Michael Irvin was doing was asking the world, his sons, and his Lord, for forgiveness.
You know the Bible speaks of a healing place. It's called a threshing floor. The threshing floor is where you take your greatest fear and you pray for help from your great God. I want to share something with you today. I have two sons. Michael, he's 10, and Elijah, he's 8. Michael and Elijah, could you guys stand up for me. That's my heart right there. That's my heart. When I am on that threshing floor, I pray. I say, God, I have my struggles and I made some bad decisions, but whatever you do, whatever you do, don't let me mess this up.
I say, Please, help me raise them for some young lady so that they can be a better husband than I. Help me raise them for their kids so that they could be a better father than I. And I tell you guys to always do the right thing so you can be a better role model than dad. I sat right here where you are last year and I watched the Class of 2006: Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Harry Carson, Rayfield Wright, John Madden, and the late great Reggie White represented by his wife Sara White. And I said, Wow, that's what a Hall of Famer is.
Certainly I am not that. I doubted I would ever have the chance to stand before you today. So when I returned home, I spoke with Michael and Elijah . I said, That's how you do it, son. You do it like they did it. Michael asked, he said, Dad, do you ever think we will be there? And I didn't know how to answer that. And it returned me to that threshing floor. This time I was voiceless, but my heart cried out. God, why must I go through so many peaks and valleys?
I wanted to stand in front of my boys and say, Do it like your dad, like any proud dad would want to. Why must I go through so much?
At that moment a voice came over me and said, Look up, get up, and don't ever give up. You tell everyone or anyone that has ever doubted, thought they did not measure up or wanted to quit, you tell them to look up, get up and don't ever give up.
Thank you, and may God bless you.
I know it's easy to approach this with cynicism and wonder if it's the hollow sounds of yet another celebrity on a professional downslide trying to exploit the unsavory aspects of his past to climb the ladder back. And it may be. Certainly, if Irvin spends the next six months stumping for a gig on the NFL Network and throwing out the same "unprepared" speech over and over, we'll know that he's still the man many of us thought he was. But if and until that happens, I'll take the high, hopeful road and believe that a man who was once consumed with his own insatiable desire to own and abuse as much of the world as he possibly could has learned the wonder that can be gained in helping others.
Yes, even if it is Michael Irvin. After all, why NOT?
And Speaking of Dallas Receivers…
Reading Matt Mosley's "Hashmarks" blog on ESPN.com today got me thinking about one particular harbinger of future excellence for wide receivers. Apparently, Terrell Owens had an MRI on his sore back, which came back negative. Still, it's a cause for concern. And #2 man Terry Glenn might miss the entire preseason with a knee injury. Things could look bleak for those Cowboys receivers and Tony Romo, the quarterback who will have to throw to someone.
Here's something to look at, though – at FootballOutsiders.com, check out the DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, explained here) ratings for receivers with under 50 balls thrown in their area (throws, not catches). Dallas slot receiver Patrick Crayton led this list by a huge margin, and this has turned into a good way to find late-round fantasy sleeper talent. Here's what I wrote about Seattle receiver D.J. Hackett in Pro Football Prospectus 2007:
Perhaps you bought stock in D.J. Hackett, Inc. after he led the NFL in DPAR for receivers with less than 50 passes thrown to them in 2005. If so, Hackett’s 2006 should have been a pleasure. If not, belly up right now (and save some pennies for Patrick Crayton, LLC, since the Cowboys’ slot receiver led the NFL in that same category in 2006).
This was before I knew about Owens' and Glenn's current situations (and we don't know how this will or won't affect their regular seasons), but both players are getting up there – Glenn just turned 33, and Owens will be 34 in December. It's possible that they could trend out like Issac Bruce to have Tim Brown-like productivity into their late 30s, but this is about the age where we'll find out whether they will or won't. In any case, that "under-50" list was the first beacon for Hackett, and Crayton could be the next surprise receiver. Just something to keep in mind when you're in the 10 th round of your fantasy draft, and you're looking for the Super Sleeper…
Since we've mentioned Pro Football Prospectus 2007, this is as good a time as any for a quick plug. Yours sincerely wrote the chapters and team comments about all four NFC West teams, as well as a research essay on the Competition Committee. It's an amazing book overall, chock full of the stats and commentary that FootballOutsiders.com is famous for.
In today's Monday Morning Quarterback column, SI.com's Peter King gave the book a big mention:
First, words of praise for Pro Football Prospectus 2007, the terrific, insightful 515-page tome I've been spending far too much time with over the past six days since one of the men who wrote it, good buddy Will Carroll, handed me a copy at Colts camp last Tuesday. The research, done by Aaron Schatz and his crew at footballoutsiders.com, is exhaustive, enlightening, surprising in many cases and an absolute must-read if you like the NFL.
Second: Dwight Freeney is getting worked up over the fact that so many people question how good a year he actually had in '06, when he had an unusually low 5.5 sacks. The Colts agree, and say his pressures were a big part of any success they had on defense. (Which, until late in the season, was pretty limited.) The Prospectus charted pressures at all NFL games last year, and from this research, it appears Freeney might have a point. How they rank the top 10 players in the league in quarterback pressures in 2006:
1. Dwight Freeney, Ind., 33
2. Julius Peppers, Car., 32
3. Kyle Vanden Bosch , Tenn., 29
4. Leonard Little, St. Louis, 26
4. Aaron Schobel, Buffalo, 26
6. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas, 25
7. Aaron Kampman, GB, 24
8. Charles Grant, NO, 21
8. Jason Taylor, Miami, 21
10. Rosevelt Colvin, NE, 20
Interestingly, Prospectus also charted the league leaders in QB knockdowns (Kampman, 35) and the top quarterbacks in being knocked down (Jon Kitna, 94). Insightful stuff.
Thanks in part to Mr. King's mention, the PFP book shot up to #53 on the Amazon.com bestseller list today, We're much obliged.
On the local level, John Morgan of the Field Gulls blog has a new PFP book review up, and a Q & A about the NFC West with me in the near future.
The Moose is Loose…
Great story from Marinerland, adeptly chronicled by Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times. Apparently the M's weren't quite satisfied with embarrassing themselves in a 9-2 Sunday afternoon loss to the Red Sox – they had to go and have their mascot, a large and (seemingly) friendly moose, buzz Boston outfielder Coco Crisp with his all-terrain vehicle.
"Why do crazy things like that always happen to me that you people always want to talk about?" Crisp asked.
Before the bottom of the fifth, he was jogging, head down, out of the dugout when the Moose's ATV rumbled in front of the Boston bench.
"I was told it looked like something from 'Naked Gun,' " said manager Terry Francona, who was in the clubhouse at the time.
Crisp was clipped on the knee by the cart and staggered for a second, but didn't fall. Instead of getting mad, or even, Crisp played along with the gag, faking like he was going to throw his glove at the offending Moose, before running out to center.
"I'm not an angry person," Crisp said. "I'm not going to run over and go clothesline the guy. It was an accident. I'm sure he didn't mean to try and take me out. I was fortunate enough to react fast enough to get out of the way. There was no damage."
Crisp even said he gladly would dine with The Moose on his next trip to Seattle.
"Maybe I'll have some moose jerky," he said.
This could be the best field-related story since Vince Coleman got eaten by a tarp before Game 4 of the 1985 NLCS. Bonus points, obviously, that it happened to a guy named Coco Crisp.
This got me thinking – if Seahawks mascot Blitz had half a head going and a Three-Wheeler of Death under his power, wouldn't it be wonderful if Rams defensive end Leonard Little got a taste of his own vehicular shenanigans?
Of course it would.
Seahawks News & Notes
After a week of training camp and one scrimmage, a few things have become evident for the defending NFC West champs:
1. Third-round pick Brandon Mebane, the DT from Cal, has already made a huge impact. All accounts have him shooting through guards and making plays. Whether he's up to taking on the run-stopping chores once held by Marcus Tubbs if Tubbs can’t recover from microfracture surgery - or needs to be used in more of a rotation - remains to be seen (he may be more of an aggressive 3-tech type pure pass rusher, despite his size), but the initial reports are very encouraging. Seattle's front line got gashed all over the place in Tubbs' absence last season.
2. Matt Hasselbeck and Mike Holmgren have by no means designated a #1 receiver, and the more I look at the situation, the more I think we'll see more of a "1 and 1a" thing between Deion Branch and the aforementioned Hackett. Hackett's sort of the incumbent potential playmaker with Darrell Jackson gone, and Branch is still working to find the same sort of rhythm with Hasselbeck that he once enjoyed with Tom Brady. If Bobby Engram can stay healthy, don't be surprised to see big numbers out of the slot from him – this offense of Seattle's depends more on who can make the route right with the quarterback than who can zig and zag 30 yards downfield, and nobody has a stronger bond with Hasselbeck than Engram.
3. Those warm, fuzzy feelings we all had about Rob Sims at left guard when he finally got the starting nod late in the regular season? They're not going away. Anything but. Seattle might have a strong left side to look forward to again.
And those readers who have enjoyed the first "Random Damage" will have another to look forward to later this week. Until then, Zut Alors!
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET, a staff writer for Football Outsiders, and a frequent contributor to FoxSports.com. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.