Holler: Harvin a pain when not the focus

Percy Harvin was great with Brett Favre slinging to him, but when Harvin’s not the focus, he’s a handful.

On Friday afternoon after the open media access to the Seattle Seahawks was over, the team quietly announced that Percy Harvin had been traded to the Jets.

It didn’t stay quiet for long.

Seahawks fans got the same dose of reality that Vikings fans got in March 2013 when the team traded Harvin as he was ready to play the final year of his rookie deal.

They were asking why?

Here’s why.

At the time the Vikings traded Harvin, the organization was blasted by fans and media alike for getting rid of one of their most explosive playmakers. Nineteen months later, the Seahawks did the same thing and are getting a similar blowback from their fan base.

The biggest difference is that the Vikings were able to get a first-, third- and seventh-round picks from the Seahawks, who promptly signed him to a monster contract that included $25.5 million in guaranteed money and a $12 million signing bonus.

Now it looks as though Seattle is admitting to a very expensive mistake. All they’re getting in return from the Jets is a conditional mid-round draft pick, which, in NFL-speak typically means a fourth-rounder if he doesn’t play, a third-rounder if he plays well and a second-rounder if he sets New Jersey on fire.

As a rookie in 2009, Viking Update asked Harvin if he felt a little spoiled coming into the NFL and having Brett Favre as his quarterback. Favre took Harvin under his wing and helped develop the talented young star out of the University of Florida into a consummate playmaker.

But much of what Favre was able to do with Harvin was based on the gunslinger’s uncanny improvisational skills. By Harvin’s own admission, many of his receptions in 2009 were on plays in which he wasn’t the primary receiver, but Favre’s feathered a dart in between defenders to get him the ball. Once the ball was in his hands, Harvin did the rest.

From the time Favre got injured in 2010, it went downhill fast. Harvin had been feasting on low-hanging fruit courtesy of Favre. Post-Favre, the pickings weren’t nearly as lush. Harvin became an organizational headache because he wasn’t happy. As he confessed to VU, his anger wasn’t about his contract, it was about his role. He was willing and able to do more for the money he was being paid.

It wasn’t a typical diva receiver rant. Harvin genuinely wanted to be a bigger part of the offense. The problem was that slot receivers almost by their nature are part-time receiving threats. A band can only have one lead singer and, in the case of the Vikings, that player was Adrian Peterson. Harvin was the lead guitarist but wasn’t the front man.

The problems led to a closed-door blowup with typically even-keeled Leslie Frazier and it seemed to be marking the beginning of the end. Harvin was privately (and occasionally publicly) critical of Christian Ponder. Hindsight tends to agree with his assessment, but it was creating what could be termed a “schism” on the team. Harvin’s attitude soured and it became an infection for the organization.

After being weaned by a Hall of Famer at the start of his career, playing with pedestrian quarterbacks was a tough pill to swallow. The Vikings had to make the decision whether to invest big money in a part-time talent or cut while the price was right. Seattle made the same decision with much more egg dripping down their organizational face.

The reality of the current NFL is that players like Harvin are ideal complementary players but not go-to guys for an offense. Offensive game plans need to be changed to make a player like Harvin the focus. Favre could make that work, which is why he’s a Hall of Famer. Ponder couldn’t. Russell Wilson couldn’t. Geno Smith? Good luck.

Harvin might have a long career ahead of him and a bright future in the NFL. But his true destination may not come until he gets the choice of picking what team he wants to play for, which may come as soon as next spring.

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