THE POINT AFTER

This category contains 8 posts

The Point After: Seattle Seahawks “Juiced on Noise” edition

Photo courtesy of Blacksportsonline.com

Photo courtesy of Blacksportsonline.com

Everyone who has lived has lost.  As self-evident as that statement might appear it leads to the next part of the equation; what we do with losses, how do we respond, and what does that response say about who we are.  Some losses are personal.  The failed job interview, the low score on a test we thought we were prepared to take, or the loss that we thought (perhaps fueled by hubris) we assumed would be a win.

And then there are team losses.  Most of us have been a part of a team, the level matters little when discussing this because team losses can stay with us, make us question, make us relive.  But unable to change the outcome after the fact, most people, over time, let things go.  In the immediate aftermath of a loss, “nice try” is a bad consolation prize.

As fans of the Seattle Seahawks we have experienced our share of losses.  That is a fact but that is not what this article is about. There are plenty of columns (even books) that detail the more painful chapters of this teams’ history.  Personally, I have a tough time with my team losing.  I am a passionate fan, and I care a great deal about this team.  But I’m also a pragmatist and I realize that in the end, this is a game. I would like to believe–and convince you too–that I handle Seattle losses well.  But I don’t, at least not until a few days have passed.

Over the years the Seahawks have lost some tough games.  The year following our loss in Seattle’s first ever Super Bowl appearance, hopes were high.  But that next season was not to go our way.  The reasons vary but after losses I employ a few rules.  Chief among them is this: Don’t reach for worthless excuses.  It is not always easy to practice but frustrated as I have been, I don’t reach.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of two 49ers fans after losing to the Seahawks this past Sunday in Seattle. The game was not close. After a week one offensive clinic against the Green Bay Packers many picked the 49ers to win in Seattle. The Seahawks read from a different script. Throughout the game Seattle disrupted San Francisco’s offense, creating turnovers, limiting their scoring to just three points, and dominating them in every meaningful statistic.  It was a great game.  It was a battle, even if the war still lies ahead. As always, Seattle’s 12th Man was there to offer their full-throated support.  Everything about the game was big.  The rivalry (which extends well beyond the two head coaches) the divisional aspect, and the fact that these two teams generally don’t much care for each other all made for a frenzied environment. It was loud!  In fact, we set a world record. It started loud and it stayed loud.  That is what we do here in Seattle.  That is what this team’s fans do.  And that is what they’ve always done.

This is not new.  The 12th Man has always been loud and even before the record for crowd noise in a stadium environment was broken this past Sunday, Seattle has always been considered a very difficult place for teams to play.  After the game, I was relieved.  I knew that it was only week two, but I also knew how important it was to hold serve at home.  We needed this win!  Following the game, Twitter and other social media outlets were crowded with stats, stories, and some very happy fans. Bay area social media participants were understandably not as thrilled.  As I went to bed late Sunday night, I knew there would be some bitterness in San Francisco.  If Seattle had lost, I know I would have felt the same way.  But then a story emerged; a letter to the Editor at SFGate.com. Sunday night had given way to desperation Monday.

130915_seahawks_crowdThe letter was written by a man and woman who, in looking to understand the loss of their team, employed a number of suspect arguments.

From the letter:

“Was anyone else appalled by the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Seattle Seahawks and their fans, juiced on noise, which surely creates as big an advantage over an opponent as any performance enhancing drug and which, to their shame, NFL officials turn the same blind eye they have to concussions and drugs.”

First, it is incredibly disingenuous to question the conduct of Seattle’s players in this game.  Seattle was on the receiving end of more than one 15-yard personal foul penalty committed by the 49ers.  But it gets worse. The loss was not a result of poor play on the part of their team.  Nope, it was the juiced on noise fans, the result of which was so detrimental to the 49ers that the noise was akin to a performance enhancing drug.  The Adderall issue again; never too tired to be framed as a shot, regardless of how weak the analogy.  Then there is the shame and duplicity of the NFL officials who, much to the annoyance of the authors, turned a blind eye to a rule (crowd noise) that is no longer enforced, just as they have similarly done with concussions and drugs.  Bad arguments are everywhere in print and in voice.  But this argument isn’t just bad, it’s desperate.  It groans under the strain of its own inability to lucidly connect any of the dots.  Allow me to help.

The 49ers lost because they played a bad game and Seattle played a better one.  It happens.  Seattle has played bad games (I still have road game nightmares that date back decades) but so does every fan base of every team in the NFL.  They played a bad game.  In interviews prior to the game 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick made it clear that last year’s loss in Seattle (a worse loss point-wise than this past Sunday by the way) was not due to the crowd noise.  He dismissed it.  The authors of the article picked it up, dusted it off, and employed it.  They employed an argument their own team had dismissed. Yes, and as I have covered, the crowd was loud–very loud–but no one from the stands was given a shot at playing starting running back that night.  No one from the club seats had a ticket that along with admission allowed them to call a play or take a turn at quarterback after Russell Wilson was tagged a few times.  The players played the game while the fans played a vital supporting role.

It’s worth pointing out too that typically a home crowd is loud when their defense is on the field.  This being the case, no explanation is offered by the authors about the other half of the equation.  If the crowd noise is to blame for San Francisco’s confused offense, how do the authors explain their defense?  In the past two games against the 49ers in Seattle the Seahawks have outscored the 49ers 71-16.  Their letter does not even attempt to justify or explain this. Instead the letter attacks the NFL for ignoring the news while comparing the issue to the very serious and often times tragic issue of concussed players.  That’s right, crowd noise is right up there with the terrible deaths of players like Dave Duerson and Junior Saeu, whose deaths were likely at least partially related to a career of being blasted in the head and body. The memories of those players (and all players who have suffered from concussion related health issues) deserve better than the rip current of this article.

The authors then spend a paragraph of cyber real-estate arguing that the solution is simple.  Crowds (comprised of individuals who spend thousands of dollars to watch their team play live) will be regulated by the noise police.  If they fail to keep things quiet enough, they forfeit home field play, including playoff games!  It’s another terrible argument and not worth hyper-analyzing. The NFL is–before everything–a well crafted business.  Business suicide could be realized by the NFL PIO announcing that moving forward, fans will only be allowed to make a certain amount of noise.  Perhaps the announcement could include the following: “Folks, we know that your money is what sustains this business, but please, go with a movie theater approach–just keep it down.  “Project Shhhhhh” is now in effect.  Rome would fall.

Their letter closes with:

“At a time when the world seems sour, sports give us a place of joy, community and hope, and to have it spoiled is a bigger loss than it seems on the surface.”

The “world” is sour?  Really?  And then the final dart that misses wide the point; sports is about joy and community, and hope and those awful people in Seattle just ruined it.  Not just ruined it, but created a loss bigger than it seems on the surface.  Again, I’d like to help.

NFL football is an amazing sport and product.  There is joy and community found in the NFL and in particular, at home games played before a national audience.  And that joy and community is realized by giving all a fan can give to support his/her team.  We buy the jerseys (and then buy them again when that players is traded or cut) and we buy the tickets, sometimes at a mind-numbing cost. We take our sons and daughters to their first games, and we introduce a friend or family member to amazing time found in attending a NFL game.  We buy the beer, and food, and pay for parking.  We lose sleep and voice and we know that each time we head out, nothing is promised. Sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose. But there we sit (and in many places, stand) giving our team our very best.  And part of that best is found in the advantage of volume.  Eight times per year (at the minimum) we get that chance.  The rest of the time we cheer from home and hope that our team can make it work out on the road.  And here is perhaps the biggest issue I have with the letter: Every team’s fans have the same opportunity and chance that we have in Seattle.  Not happy with how loud it is in Seattle, be louder in San Francisco.  Not happy with crowd noise in general, score some points and work to silence them.  This option is a lot more productive than sending in an angry letter that lacks a certain volume of its own.

The authors of the letter have a right to write in to the editor and the editor obviously has a right to print opinions that vary in stance.  In no way am I advocating limiting that.  I am also not at all in favor of those who wrote the article being harassed beyond anything that is good natured and free of threats.

The point of their letter escapes me except to say that we all lose, and how we handle losing matters.  That is why this article is not directed at a fan base but specifically at those who authored the letter.  Their way of dealing with loss is to blame people who did not actually play in the game.  I find that to be silly and wrongheaded but it’s their stance and their voice.  They are allowed that.  But it won’t change the fact that each time a visiting team arrives in Seattle, a great team, and loyal following will be waiting.  We won’t be quiet and we don’t expect anyone will be quiet for us.  That is how it works.  It’s just too bad that the authors of the letter entirely miss the point.

Be loud Seattle and Go ‘Hawks!

Advertisements

Spiking Celebrations

After watching The Buffalo Bills’ Stevie Johnson pantomime Plexico Burress’ shooting himself in the leg as part of a TD celebration last week, followed by Seattle’s Golden Tate scoring a TD against the Redskins then falling to the ground in celebratory stupidity, I was annoyed.  Not just because Johnson’s penalty was followed by him dropping a couple of passes which would in the end play a huge part in the Bills losing to the Jets, or because Golden Tate gave the Redskins a short field (that was appreciated fully) but because in both cases it was an example of a player costing his team yards.

If football is in fact a game of inches, these two gave up a great deal during their celebrations.  But it goes deeper than Tate and Johnson.  We witness excessive celebrations multiple times a game and while I am quite sure that the feeling associated with making a huge play in an NFL football game comes with a fair amount of adreneline fueled post-play excitement, players today would do well to remember a few things.

First of all, is it just me or does it seem at times like some players today celebrate every play they are involved in?  I remember when former Seahawks LB Aaron Curry would make a decent NFL tackle only to get up and expend furious amounts of energy celebrating with a war cry.  In the end, Curry was traded to Oakland in part because he’ll be remembered more for his war cry then for his play. But Curry is far from the only one.  Sack a QB in the NFL today and you’re likely to see the defensive player involved shoot up, sprint ten yards downfield and chest bump/high five everyone but the trainer.  And I get it; sacks matter.  Sometimes, they determine the outcome of a game.  And when they do I don’t begrudge a guy his moment.  In fact, I hope it feels great.  But what I find amazing is how many of those types celebrations happen when the celebrating player’s team is losing; and sometimes badly.  Look, if you are down by 21 with 4:13 left in the 4th quarter and you do make a huge play, great!  But to engage in an obscene demonstration of ego as a result is far from inspiring and likely won’t change a fans perspective that celebrating on the verge of a loss is a tough thing for a fan to watch.  Individual play works well during contract years and there is nothing wrong with personal accomplishment.  But if you accomplish it, you won’t have to “show us” you made a great play; it will simply stand out.  Trust us, we won’t miss it.

And then there are the touchdown celebrations.  I have never scored an NFL touchdown.  Like many of you, I’ll never gain a single yard in the NFL.  So to some extent the joy and elation of scoring a touchdown at the highest level of professional football is something that will forever elude me, even if every Sunday I do a little vicarious living through those who get it.  But that does not mean that scoring has to rob a player of a certain sense of respect; if not for himself, then for his team.  When a player scores a touchdown it is almost never the result of just one player.  Even the tremendous efforts that look like one-man-shows are far more complicated than that.  Blocking at the point of the offensive attack springs a running back.  Great blocking up front allows the quarterback the opportunity to throw a deep pass.  Eleven guys all going after the same goal.  Every play can be blown up by just one guy missing his gap, his assignment, his guy going across the middle.  We see it all the time.  So when one guy scores a touchdown I think not only of him but of the other ten guys who made it happen.  When that same guy starts engaging in a ridiculous post touchdown dance or, as is many times the case, something that looks like a seizure, I want to call NFL Films and have Steve Sabol send me a bunch of film on a wide receiver named Steve Largent.  Steve was as competitive as anyone on the field, but he also understood that he was one guy on a team of fifty-three.  How many times did Steve score and just hand the ball to the referee?  How many times did Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders do the same thing?  Hall of Fame players each of them but they always carried themselves with something that felt like a deep respect for the other ten guys on the field after they scored.

Thanks to the antics of players who turn the joy of scoring a touchdown into something we could all do without, the NFL has enacted rules to limit celebrations.  That is sad, but not for the obvious reasons.  It is sad because it had to be done in the first place.  Rules like that were imposed due to players turning in self-aggrandizing performances that had little to do with football and even less to do with their respective teams.  In looking up the rules for this article, rules that forbid a player from going to the ground during a celebration or engaging in a celebration that lasts too long I found myself missing the spike.  Even the most enthusiastic of spikes seemed appropriate.  It’s the exclamation on a great play.  It does not go too far.  It does not create a spectacle, and it does not make me roll my eyes, wondering if some of the guys engaged in the more elaborate celebrations spend as much time studying game film as they do rehearsing their next touchdown celebration.

I should make it clear that I love the fun and emotion of the game.  I love to see my team score touchdowns; often and in a variety of ways.  I love that players (especially young ones) are thrilled when they score.  They are living a dream made possible by the NFL and their dedication and sacrafice to the sport they love so much.  But the sport I love does not have to become watered down in order to be relevant.  NFL players don’t need to act like they are trying to make it to the big show.  They are in the show.  The NFL is not the Arena League, or the WWE.  The NFL does not have to be tamed to the point of fan boredom.  But it does not have to be a free-for-all either.  A player can celebrate a play without begging the cameras to follow him and costing his team yards.  Those who play in the NFL should always remember that, and in so doing, respect those who started it all and with grace, class, and dignity, delivered for us a game worth celebrating and loving.

Charlie Whitehurst, worst game ever?

The Seahawks are giving me how much? hahah...nice.

I’m not usually a post game wrap up guy, but talk of this game being historically bad is kind of melodramatic. Was it ugly? yes. Did the offensive performance feel more like a 1st pre season game? Yes. But when most fans say the game was ugly it’s a perspective thing. I for one thought our defense played beautifully considering they were on the field 40+ minutes. (One has to wonder how awkward the flight home was for offensive and defensive players who had to sit together..but I digress).

I was curious, so while I was up with my 3 month old daughter in the middle of the night,  I took a look back at our history to see if this was in fact, the worst game in Seahawks history. Or for the less melodramatic at least, the worse QB performance. What I found, not only chilled me to the bone, but it also left me in the fetal position, rocking back and forth mumbling incoherently for hours.. buckle up folks, Here’s just a few notably bad QB games, of about 30 I found.

Let’s start with a baseline for this research:

QB Charlie Whitehurst: 12-30, 97 yards and 1 interception in 6-3 loss to Browns

Now let’s take a look at some “historic” Seahawk QB performances to see how clipboard Jesus stacks up.

1977 Jim Zorn: 7-20 for 46 yards and 2 picks in a 44-7 beatdown to Oakland.

1977, Steve Myer: 5-23, 73 yards, and 4 picks in 31-0 loss to Patriots

1979, Jim Zorn: 2-17, 25 Yards in 24-0 Loss to Rams

Okay, too far back? Let’s fast forward a bit.

2004, Matt Hasselbeck 14-41, 187 Yards, 4 picks in 25-17 loss to Cardinals

2008, Senaca Wallace 12-23 71 yards, 1 pick in 20-10 loss to Bucs

2009, Matt Hasselbeck 10-29, 112 yards, 1 pick in 27-3 loss to Cardinals

2010, Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Hasselbeck combined 14-22, 84 yds in 38-15 loss to Bucs

It’s fairly obvious, that statistically speaking, we’ve had much worse QB play. But in retrospect, this Brown’s game wasn’t all Charlie. I’ll distribute blame using the state of the art Match Ups Zone “Blame Chart”.

Official Blame Chart, except no substitutes

It’s clear (because fancy charts like this are never wrong) that this wasn’t all Charlie Whitehurst. It just seemed that way. Our offense regressed big time, and because of that I can’t help but throw offensive coordinator Darell Bevell into the blame mix. The Browns ran the ball 44 times. Us? 15. Putting a well-known sub par QB in that position is a really bad idea.

But fear not Seahawks fans here’s the good news: All the Charlie Chanters can go away, and the next game is at home!

Bad News: The Josh Portis chanters are warming up.

Lord help us…..

The Point After: Good Fan/Bad Fan (part 1)

Watching the Seahawks beat the Cardinals last Sunday was fun. It was not a perfect game.  In fact the best play of the game came by way of a blown personal foul call on Kam Chancellor for blasting Todd Heap with a nastiness that we have not seen since the great Kenny Easley patrolled the Seahawks’ secondary in the 80s. The hit was more than Chancellor attempting to pave the way for Earl Thomas’ INT (also negated by a questionable interference penalty) it was a message.  It made clear that while our offense will at times experience the pain of growth, our defense will be inflicting the pain of being edgy if not a little angry.

But as the game was being played under schizophrenic Seattle skies a less entertaining game was being played out on my social network timeline.  Despite winning our first game of the season, two rather banal arguments played out between some Seahawks fans. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I have written elsewhere about my admiration and respect for Seattle sports fans; particularly Seahawks fans.  But as close as I generally feel for my fellow 12s, I can’t help but notice (and perhaps shaky seasons bring this out in greater measure than would the solid start of a stable team) that some fans cannot seem to pause from the avocation of being a “better” fan than their fellow 12s. Issue a critique of any kind and “glass always full” fans will beat you about the head with a stick all the while professing their optimism.  If your critique is sufficiently hostile you might even be accused of drinking “Hateorade”.  Drink a little too much of what Pete Carroll is selling while lending voice to thought and in will drop a brigade of fan-cynics who then proceed to excoriate the most accessible layer of positivity.  If anyone thinks my description an abuse of hyperbole I challenge you to watch a Twitter timeline during the next game and then get back to me.

To be clear, this is not all fans; not even the majority of them.  Unfortunately what they lack in numbers they more than make up for in unfiltered volume.  And this divide, this all or nothing concept of being a fan is amazing for being both unique and wrong.  In almost no other den of life does absolutism pass even the most generous of BS tests.  If a fellow 12 and I both see the same movie and leave the movie a fan, there is no expectation that either of us like it completely.  We can debate the plot, the acting, and ending without worrying about offending the other.  Moreover, it does not occur to us to expect perfect cinematic fandom. Absolutism in any form is always a little scary, and often comes off as a road taken in an effort to feel superior to another.  This we do not need.  Season records and games end in absolutes but should not extend to our judgement of each other as fans. I can almost hear the response now–“But we don’t feel about a movie the way we feel about a team that we love, it’s different.”  But it’s not.  Take a friend you’ve known for many years.  You love him or her but do you really expect everyone else in the world to feel exactly the same, to the same level?  And this is not about liking or loving the Seahawks.  This isn’t about that.  It is about the need some have to make others feel like their way of showing support is lacking in one way or another.

Consider if you would the two most polarizing debates going on right now; debates that are leading to some fairly ugly exchanges between fans of the same team.

1. It’s all about Luck:  Andrew Luck is the highly touted QB prospect from Standford.  He’s been evaluated as being the best QB prospect since John Elway and Dan Marino by more than a few of the top scouts. He’s next years’ can’t miss prospect.  Whoever gets him will immediately be made a great deal better; the fortunes of the team who draft him increased dramatically.  Because of Lucks’ skills now it is easy to bet on him for the NFL.  And as Seahawks fans most of us can agree that we need a long-term franchise QB; and soon.  This fact, coupled with a slow start with a young line and a modestly skilled signal caller in Tarvaris Jackson (and his backup, Charlie Whitehurst) have led some Seattle fans to embrace as a grand strategy the tanking of this season so that we may draft Luck first in 2012.  I’m not talking here about people who don’t want the season to tank but who won’t mind getting Luck if it happens.  No, here I am talking about people who are actually hoping the Seahawks lose.

Their argument goes like this: Seattle isn’t going to be that good this year so we really haven’t got a whole lot to win for.  Let’s take our medicine this year knowing sometimes medicine tastes bad, but knowing too that in the end, we’ll be a whole lot better next year, and on our way.  How can anyone not see the greater good in this–a real fan looks big picture!

This argument causes some Seahawks fans near seizure levels of anger and frustration.  As a result we are sometimes treated to a vitriolic response.

Those opposed–their argument goes something like this: What!? No one claiming to be a true fan could hope for Seattle to lose games, just to get a draft pick. A real fan would see the idiocy of this; hell a newborn chimp could see the idiocy of this.  That is NOT being a real fan.

I have not fallen victim to exaggeration or over-dramatization in my handling of those two arguments.  I’ve seen both (almost word for word) many times over the past few months.  What I find interesting about them however is not in the way they disagree but rather in the way that, in the end, both groups would answer the same to the following question:  What do you want the Seahawks to do in the coming years?  Super Bowl wins–right?  But in that each side wants the same ending, they miss almost entirely the points that the other make while inflating their own.

Despite their wanting the best long-term solution to the most vital of NFL positions, supporters of the “All in for Luck” are missing some things. First, Andrew Luck is not a sure thing and has never suited up or thrown a single pass in the NFL.  Struggling with that a little?  Well here are a few names you might remember, in no particular order–WR Charles Rogers, DL Dewayne Robertson, QB David Carr, DL Courtney Brown, QB Akili Smith, RB Ki-Jana Carter, Rick Mirer (thought by none other than the late Bill Walsh to be the next Joe Montana) and the list just keeps going.  I am not suggesting here that Andrew Luck will become a member of this list.  I am however suggesting that none of the teams or coaches of the teams that took the guys on this list thought their guy would wind up there either.  And even if Luck is every bit as good as we’re being told, there are so many things one cannot account for in the NFL; especially injury.  In fact, a number of the names on the list above suffered injuries that significantly affected their careers.  But it is worse than that.  Any team that purposefully tanked games (even if the goal was to get better as a result) would be guilty of committing a fraud on those paying to watch them play now.  And the stench of tanking; well, it might just linger longer than most might think.  We have to measure not just the acquisition but the methods used in acquiring players.

As for those who think less of those fans who want Andrew Luck for the next 15 years at the cost of this year might do well to remember that Andrew Luck might just be everything they say he is.  He might be the guy to take us to the big show and allow us to come away with a win.  Since I casually drifted into the land of “what if” as it relates to those who want Andrew Luck at the cost of a season in order to show the potential pitfalls of such thinking, what about the alternative what if?  What if Andrew Luck led a great Seattle team to two Super Bowls in the next five years, winning both.  Would you trade this year, with all of the growing pains, rookie mistakes, and average QB play for that? Even if you publicly kept up the support, is there no chance that privately you’d drift a little; perhaps even to a point of quietly hoping that the means would justify the ends?  Even if you wouldn’t, is it really about those who would being “traitors” to the cause of being a fan?  Do traitorous Seattle Seahawks fans generally want Super Bowl wins for the team?

Both sides of this are also joined by where I (and I suspect many of you) sit.  We want the Seahawks to in this year, all year, every game.  But if they cannot win, if they try but still lose, and out of that came the chance to draft a great QB, I’d be beyond thrilled.  What this gets down to is being able to see the points the other side is trying to make, even if you disagree with the road they think best traveled to get there.

In part 2 of God Fan/Bad Fan we’ll be taking a look at another controversy, this one more real-world and immediate; Jackson or Whitehurst?

Cuts, Waivers, and the 53.

 

“Coach needs to see you—-and you’ll need to bring your playbook.”

If you are a professional football player that is the sentence you work, sacrifice, and fight like hell to avoid hearing. Anyone who is meet with those words is about to be fired. That means that the numbers aren’t working; that there is not enough room. It might be because the player did not perform well (more on that later) or because the system is not a great fit. But regardless of the specific reason, I cannot imagine how badly that sentence stings. It comes down to math and the math is frightening.  Over past weekend all 32 NFL teams were required to trim their rosters to 53 players.  With no adjustments that is more than 700 guys looking for work.  Some players will find work, picked up by other teams who have a specific need, but many won’t.  Making the final roster of any NFL team is about pressure, performance, and attrition. The pressure this year was even more significant due to the lockout and the lack of OTAs and mini-camps.  Draft picks struggled (e.g., rookie members of Seattle’s O-Line) and as is usually the case, defenses around the league experienced unit cohesion much quicker than offenses.

The Seahawks did not escape a slow (and at times disorganized) start, and much has been written about our early preseason troubles.  Only after the last preseason game against the Oakland Raiders (a game that saw our offensive line and starting quarterback enjoy some modest success) did some of the preseason angst dissipate, and then, only slightly. Although the game assuaged some of the more apocalyptic panic about the upcoming 16 games there is no doubt that this is going to be season with some growing pains; some steps forward, followed by some steps back.  As the final seconds of the fourth quarter expired last Friday, like most, I spent some time speculating about which guys had made the team and which had just played their final game in a Seahawks uniform.  We celebrate and look forward to watching those who made the cut. Our 53–our team is beginning to come into clearer focus.  For an excellent analysis of both sides of the ball you’ll find some great reading here and here.

Through a long offseason and a hurried and intense training camp some key players made it through camp without the pressure of fate that the final cut-down day brings.  Most players however experienced no such comfort.  A fixture at middle linebacker for years in Seattle, Lofa Tatupu chose to walk away after he refused to restructure the remaining years of his contract.  At this point it is unclear whether Tatupu will be suiting up anywhere this season.

Some (one could argue most) of the cuts Seattle settled on were fairly predictable. Some of the decisions coaches had to make involved guys like RB Thomas Clayton who at times flashed big but in the end was a victim of teams having to get to 53.  But having tough decisions to make when it is time to cut players is the sign of a program getting stronger. If cuts were simple, if the choices were really obvious that would point to a team in some trouble. Pete Carroll practices and demands that the players live each of the slogans that now dominate camp, practices, and games.  And that starts with competition.  Competing has become the backdrop of the team mentality.  And because of that, there are specific things that Carroll (and the front office) look for.  Those guys who don’t have “it” don’t stay.  That is the reality.

The reality for those who are cut is a tough one.  Over the past week I lost count of how many Twitter messages I read from players who were released. When Seahawks OT Will Robinson Tweeted that he’d been released, I responded wishing him well. In the context of that day it meant next to nothing, but it was sincere.  Some veteran players like former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck sent out a few messages encouraging guys to hang in there.  Matt knew what he was talking about; he’s been there.

That got me thinking about the guys who didn’t make it as part of the team.  First, I would wager a significant amount that the vast majority of them would recoil angrily to being shown pity.  Men who get to an NFL training camp don’t get there by feeling sorry for themselves when things don’t go right.  Most are tough, dedicated, and special players–and that includes those who get cut.

Consider the road from high school to the NFL:

From the NCAA Web site:

*Approximately 5.8 percent, or less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play football at a NCAA member institution.

*Approximately one in 50, or 1.8 percent of NCAA senior football players will get drafted by a National Football League (NFL) team.

*Eight in 10,000, or approximately 0.08 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will eventually be drafted by an NFL team.

Those statistics are pretty sobering and yet despite the odds (and despite a number of players not even falling into the category of being drafted) players leave home and family behind to show up in the heat and humidity of the summer to make a living out of a dream. Some players realize their goal of making the team. WR Doug Baldwin was an undrafted free agent out of Stanford who did not blink during training camp and the preseason and earned himself a spot on the 53 man roster.

But even the first guy let go–the first guy asked to leave camp is a phenomenal athlete and a remarkable football player. It is easy to forget that when they are coupled with and playing against the very best the NFL has to offer, but the result of the time they spend in camp does not change the fact that they are quite talented.

I suppose it would be easy to conclude that I’m making a sentimental argument out of a necessary business decision. But beyond being wrong, it would also miss the point.  I am excited and ready for the start of the regular season.  Soon, my gameday rituals will begin. I’ll be ready well before the game starts, talk with other 12s as we get closer to kickoff, and cheer like hell for us every time we take the field. In other words, I want the best players on this team, and I want the Seahawks to win; always. Letting guys go who are not as good as the ones you keep is the only way to win.  I accept that, and I will always want what is best for the ‘Hawks as a team.

But before we kick off the regular season, our team here at The Match Ups Zone would like to extend a sincere thank you to those who came to camp and despite being let go, can walk away knowing that they gave it everything they had.  If they are soon forgotten they should first be respected for competing and making us a better team.  They should walk away proud, knowing that they crushed the odds and in so doing achieved (even if only temporarily) something that most will never realize.

Good luck to each of them.

 

 

The Point After: Football and Myth of the Vocal Critic

Written by Drew Bales

Why do I sometimes yell at the TV when the Seahawks are playing? To clarify, it’s not always a yell. Sometimes it’s a heavy sigh. Other times, it’s a jaw dropping, “What the hell was that?” Back in the day, when the Seahawks were playing in the AFC West and would travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs and the great Derrick Thomas, it was just a groan; a combination of terror and panic; just hoping that Dave Krieg would survive the day. But even during those games, I would yell. Once, in a fit of mind numbing boredom (and intellectual vapidity) I tried to label my yelling at the ‘Hawks as the supportive act of a vocal critic. Turns out my attempts were not only pretty lame, but at times resulted in making me look like an idiot. The vocal critic is reasonable and proper. Vocal critics watch golf. Football on the other hand has fans—fanatics; and we yell, cheer, clap, complain, whine, hope, nurse hangovers, get up early, watch pre-game, and feel duty bound to observe the truest of game day rituals.
I love the Seahawks. I have been a fan since 1979. I don’t have a second favorite professional football team. I root against anything that hurts the Seahawks and for anything outcome that favors them. I’ve only one NFL loyalty; the Seattle Seahawks. So how do I square my love for the team, with my yelling at them during games? Well, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t. I’m no better (or worse) a fan for it, but I don’t need to rationalize my “rooting for” and “yelling at” the ‘Hawks. I don’t because both are honest emotions. Yelling at them is cathartic and it keeps me from strangling the cat when something goes wrong between 1:00 PM and 4:30 PM on a Sunday afternoon. And much can (and does) go wrong. And sometimes what goes wrong is paid for with games and even seasons. So when does it all go south? When is frustration taken too far, and when is complaining not only unproductive but also wrong? Is there a line? In a word, yes. But as you can already tell (from my own admission to yelling at the ‘Hawks) that line is often skated.

The reasons are fairly common and the justifications pretty worn. Still, they range from the absurd to the rational (depending on how they are deployed) and go something like this:

1. “I have a constitutional right to complain about the Seahawks because the Bill of Rights offers me first amendment protection.” Response: If you are honestly using the Bill of Rights as a justification for complaining about or yelling at the Seahawks then my most sincere hope in life is that I don’t wind up stuck next to you on even the shortest of flights. If the constitution is really the source of your justification for complaining loudly about a NFL team then please seek help immediately because you my friend have de-railed. Most don’t reach that far because no one has to. Since birth we’ve complained based first on our ability to hurl spoons of baby food at things that angered us, and later by simply stringing together a few words/sentences. But that doesn’t mean your complaints and/or fits of yelling are correct. Having a right and being right are two very different things.

2. “I have a right to yell at them when they do something “stupid” because they get paid millions of dollars to play a game!” Response: Professional athletes do make a lot of money. Some make an incredible amount. I understand the argument that ends with money being the prescription for fan frustration. In fact, to some extent I agree with it. Most of us go to work and making far less and are expected to deliver, or risk losing our jobs. I am however a little confused as to why some don’t feel that it works the same way in the NFL? Ask the guys who are about to be cut if they have to show up and perform? And when they get to work, performing “well” just doesn’t cut it. They have to perform at a world class level. Most of us are expected to be competent and good at what we do but how many can honestly say that they have to be one of the best in the world at what they do each day?

3.“I have a right to yell at them when a player does something that costs us a game.” Response: I think that argument is the epitome of going after low hanging fruit. We all drop the ball on occasion but generally not in front of tens of thousands of people hoping you’ll catch it. And when a player (any player) drops or overthrows the winning touchdown do you really believe that he doesn’t already feel like hell? Is there anyone out there who really believes that this will serve to inspire and promote? When a player blows a game the player knows he’s blown the game. Adding to the fun he’ll get to go sit in film study the following day and watch it—again, and again, and again. Kicking a man when he’s down takes no talent and no skill.

4. “I pay their salaries when I buy tickets to their games and the multiple jerseys hanging in my closet.” Response: Well, actually, no you don’t. But even if you alone did, I’ve never purchased a jersey with a mail-in-rebate good for yelling at the Seahawks for failure to perform. Some will vehemently disagree with me on this point, but before you do so, please finish reading.

5. “I yell at them because any idiot could have seen that safety standing there; hell, I could have (insert NFL skill here) better than (insert starting NFL player name here). Response: If you really believe that, then shouldn’t I see your name on the back of a Seahawks jersey turning the game on its head and making all the big easy plays? If you could, you would. If you could throw a football in the NFL better than worst starting NFL QB then you’d be an NFL QB. If you think you can do what they do then I’d encourage you to give it a go.

So, by now you know at least two things about me as a fan. First, that I’m generally not impressed by the lazy and wrongheaded reasons people give for yelling at their team. And second, that I’m absolutely guilty of having used all but the first of the reasons I listed. I included the first one because I’ve heard it used. No, I’m not kidding. I can honestly say that today I don’t resort to four of the five reasons I just listed. But there was a time when I used to believe that I had a right bordering on a duty to yell at the TV.

As I admitted at the start of this article, I still yell and I still get frustrated. But today, the yell is different. It’s calmer, and it’s a more informed frustration. You see, I know today what I did not know back then. I know today that many times, I simply don’t know. Professional football is beyond complex. The X’s and O’s are terrifying, and that’s before you involve that guy from New England who wears a gray hood over his head. Vince Lombardi once lectured for eight hours on one play. Eight hours. One play. Think about that for a moment. How many of us could intelligently discuss a single play for an hour without embarrassing ourselves? How many of us could sit in a film room with Manning or Montana and recognize defenses as accurately as those two greats? How many of us really understand the game beyond the obvious?

I’m not suggesting that we are all inadequate because we are not NFL coaches. I don’t think you need to understand the game like Don Shula or Bill Walsh did to be a fan. But I do think that fans need to recognize that sometimes a deep ball completed over the head of Kelly Jennings might have more to do with the safety failing to provide over the top coverage than with Jennings getting burned!

The Seattle Seahawks have the best fans in the NFL. At times we’ve had to endure some pretty long roads. This year might not be much of an exception. There will be moments of complete frustration. I know I’ll feel them, and I imagine that many of you will too. And there will be the temptation to turn to a Blog, Twitter, Facebook etc…, and rant. Being frustrated with the team or even a specific player for a bad game is natural; all of us are capable of thoughts of frustration. Lending voice to those thoughts however is a choice.

Professional analysis is one thing. I enjoy reading good articles about the Seahawks even when the article is critical as long as the article does not attack a man personally. Attacking or going after a player on a personal level is an act that quite simply belongs to fans of a lesser class. Sadly, I witnessed some of that yesterday after Kelly Jennings was traded. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennings as a CB, but I don’t know him as a man. And because I don’t, I have no right to run to Twitter to say about a man what I’m unwilling to say to a man.

The truth is, I yell today for the same reason I cheer; because I’m a loyal fan who cares. I yell and get frustrated and sigh, and ring my hands because I love my team and I hate it when they are losing. I rant when they are struggling because I love to win. I rant after a huge loss because I need my anger to mask my hurt. Being a Seahawks fan is not a hobby for me, nor is it for many of you. We do pay a lot of money to support our team, and we do expect highly paid players to perform, and we do relate. We relate because whether we want to admit it or not, we often live through that which we admire. We try to imagine what it felt like to break all of those tackles, score the winning touchdown, and set off a small earthquake that sent the world champion Saints on a long flight home. We jump up and down and scream, and high-five people we’ve never met because of our shared love of our team. And when they lose, when they don’t perform well, and when they look flat—we sometimes lash out. We know that it’s a game, and we know that in the order of things it is not the most pressing issue facing mankind. And that’s part of why we love it so purely. We love it because it is an escape from all of the things that do have real consequence, which do truly play a role in altering our lives. We love it because while we have some banners up now, we have room for more. We love it because no matter what anyone else thinks, we believe the Lombardi Trophy would look damn good in Seattle for a while. We want to experience what it feels like to win a Super Bowl. And not just for ourselves alone.

We want it for the players who sacrifice so much chasing greatness. We want it for the team, for what they go through just to get to a Super Bowl, and for Seattle. And we want it for every 12th man and woman outside of Seattle, because they represent our team in enemy territory. We want it for every 12th man and woman out there sick of the jokes, insults, and cracks about the team we support so passionately. We want to rub it in a little. We want to own the world of sports for just a moment. We want to feel that chill, and that emotion that comes with that huge win no one saw coming. We feel a part of the team. We feel part of something. We are part of something shared; something special.

When it comes to football, the vocal critic is a myth. We are football fans, and when things don’t fall our way we get upset. We want what is best, and we dream of what is possible. Let’s just make sure we stick together when things are tough so that we can celebrate our best moments having yelled some, but cheered a whole lot more.

The Point After. Pre-Season Week 2 Edition

The Point After By Drew Bales

What does NFL Preseason really mean, and does it really matter?

A question that creates a decent amount of discussion this time of year is the obligatory; does preseason really matter?  Some argue that preseason does not matter.  They reason that no one remembers preseason and that after four games everyone is 0-0 again, so in the end, while preseason might be fun, it does not really matter.  Others argue that preseason games do matter; that what happens in preseason creates momentum; that winning (or losing) in preseason sets a tone.    After watching and then reviewing the first two preseason games played by the Seahawks, it is easy to feel like both arguments contain elements of truth.  When I see something I really like, preseason suddenly matters.  When I see a receiver tip a catchable ball into the arms of a waiting DB who then returns it for a TD I am content to mutter: “Whew, it’s only preseason.”

The truth is–preseason does matter.  The question, properly phrased really becomes which parts of preseason matter and how much we should read into the record of our favorite team? Taking a look at the preseason from the standpoint of win/loss, there is little correlation between success in the preseason and success in the regular season.  Consider the 2009 Seattle Seahawks’ 4-0 preseason record.  Expectations were high going into that season but the 5-11 finish was depressing, even if it was a one game win improvement from the previous year.

And a few more interesting stats courtesy of SportsDelve.com:

Since 2000, only 45% of teams that went undefeated in the preseason went on to have a winning record during the regular season.

Since 2000, 48% of teams that went undefeated in the preseason, finished the regular season with a losing record.

Only seven teams have gone from an undefeated preseason to a win a Super Bowl in the same year: 1967 Packers, 1969 Chiefs, 1971 Cowboys, 1974 Steelers, 1990 Giants, 2000 Ravens, and the 2003 Patriots.

Only the 1982 Redskins went winless in the preseason only to win a Super Bowl that same year.

It seems pretty clear that there is certainly the potential for letdown if one believes that preseason serves as a good predictor of the regular season.  It is nice to be hopeful and I believe in momentum as much as the next person when it comes to football, but the preseason and the regular season are just two different seasons as it relates to scores and team win/loss totals.

So if preseason performances don’t promise success (or even a winning record) how does preseason matter?

DT Joe Nash, Undrafted out of Boston College played 218 Games as a Seattle Seahawk

Preseason gives guys a chance to make a team.  Most guys who make it to the NFL are living a dream they’ve been pursuing for many years.  Most have sacrificed a great deal, worked harder than they’ve ever worked and committed to a dream that so few will ever realize.  Preseason in the NFL is like the playoffs for undrafted free agents or guys looking to earn a second chance in the league.  Ask Mike Williams if preseason (and training camp) matter. Ask Doug Baldwin or Josh Portis.  Preseason is where guys try out their dream of playing in the NFL.  Considering teams have to cut down to a 53 man roster, every player who is not locked in has the short window of preseason to fight for a spot.  To those guys, to the guys who will get asked to grab their playbooks and follow a guy to an office where they’ll be told that they are going to be cut; preseason absolutely matters. And it mattered to guys over the years who earned roster spots though undrafted, guys like: Dave Krieg, Mike Tice, Joe Nash, Jim Zorn, and eventual Seahawks QB, Warren Moon.  What would our history look like without camp and preseason?  Think of the moments and games that would have been different without those players.  Yes, preseason matters.

Preseason also matters because while game losses reset and are wiped clean when the regular season begins, injuries do not.  Coming away from a preseason game with a losing score of 42-0 is less painful than coming away with a star player seriously injured.  I won’t comment one word about the Seahawks as it relates to injuries because I refuse to jinx us, but if you want to see injury decimation, take a look at the New York Giants.  So far in this preseason they’ve lost DT Marvin Austin for the season with a Pectoral injury. DBs Brian Witherspoon (knee); Prince Amukamara (foot, out until early October); Bruce Johnson (Achilles’); and Chad Jones (Leg) are out for the season.  The cost of preseason (whether on the field for a game or for during training camp) can be high.

Finally, preseason matters to me because I love football.  I love watching my Seahawks play regardless of whether the game “officially” counts or not because I enjoy the game, enjoy the energy, and enjoy watching up and coming players get a shot at their dream.  I enjoy seeing how draft picks are working out, and I enjoy seeing the veterans get some time; a preview of the great things to come in the regular season.

In some respects, preseason could not matter less.  The scores don’t count and once regular season begins, no one cares about the preseason record.  But preseason does carry with it the hopes and dreams of guys trying to make a team, and the very real and career changing injuries that can (and do) occur; sometimes in biggest games, and sometimes in the most meaningless.

Preseason is a necessary risk.  It is good for fans as well as for the majority of players.  I watch every year and will continue to do so as long as preseason games are played. Not because it gives me a preview of the upcoming year, but because I love football, and a game that doesn’t count is still far better than a game un-played.

Josh Portis and the Rebound Effect

At The Matchups Zone our goal is to provide a variety of Seahawks related content for our 12th man! We are dedicated to finding ways to offer a little something for everyone. With that goal serving as our motivation, beginning this week we’ll be offering up a segment called:The Point AfterThe Point After will address a specific aspect of a player (or player related event) and offer up a perspective that might otherwise get lost in a general game recap. As with all things in The Matchups Zone, we hope you enjoy. We know there are a lot of great places to read about our ‘Hawks; we just hope that we’ll soon become one of your favorites!

 

The Point After  —  Preseason; Game 1: Josh Portis and the Rebound Effect by Drew Bales

Josh Portis (Ramon Broadway)

    Whether you are relieved and choreographing a new version of the happy dance, drowning in your own personal pool of despair, or entirely indifferent to his having left, Matt Hasselbeck’s departure as the Seahawks quarterback has significantly changed the look and foundation of the ‘Hawks.  For the past decade Hasselbeck was a near constant figure as our quarterback.  Now our fixture is wearing a new uniform and throwing passes in a zip code  several  thousand miles to our southeast.

      When relationships end (and this point holds true even when relationships need to end) there is often a visceral and almost reflexive move to find a replacement; to find a rebound to help soften the landing. In this case some Seahawks fans are looking to 15 minutes of play (against second and third string defensive personnel) as a preview of the next decade; wishfully trying to make an 8 out of a 13.  Seattle, meet Josh Portis.

     I get it; I really do. Like most fans, I want that longshot genius player who no one saw coming.  We don’t just want him to play for the ‘Hawks, but we want the rest of the league to know just how wrong they were for not taking a chance on him.  We want him to be “the guy” the future of our team, the one that everyone else overlooked.  It is easy to want Josh Portis to be that guy.  At 6’3” he’s got prototypical size for the position, and no one is questioning his raw athletic abilities.  In the Seahawks first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers Portis was 5 of 9 for 69 yards and a touchdown which earned him a QB rating of 117.4. After enduring a case of early jitters Portis relaxed and began to throw accurately while showing good mobility and an overall awareness that at the very least made him look competent and in control of the offense.  Put simply; he looked comfortable.  At this stage however, that is all it takes for some fans to start asking a thousand questions about Portis that begin with: what if?  What if he’s destined to be great?  What if he is really given a chance?  What if he’s our quarterback of the future?  And on and on it goes….

     The more pressing and appropriate “what if” questions are rarely asked by those who so badly want to champion an underdog longshot like Portis: what if he had been playing against a first rate defensive line?  What if he’d been throwing against a first team secondary?  What if some of the guys he threw against were soon going to be looking for jobs?  Those in on the Josh Portis rebound wave off those questions with sly smile.  They know he’s the guy.

     They know because they know Hasselbeck isn’t coming back until his number is hoisted into the Ring of Honor.  They know because they have watched Tarvaris Jackson maintain little more than average for years now, and they know because while they might think Charlie Whitehurst a good guy, they simply cannot picture him hoisting a Lombardi Trophy over his head. They know because others have come from obscurity to become incredibly good NFL players.  They know about undrafted RB Ryan Grant, LB Bart Scott, LB London Fletcher, DT Pat Williams, K Adam Vinatieri, and Seahawks QB Dave Krieg who played for 19 seasons in the NFL.

     And that is part of the reason that the Portis rebound is possible and why it is at the same time unhealthy. It’s the not knowing about him that allows the dream to unfold. Even with very real flaws, his potential seems so very real.  And it is easy to fall for that.  But rebounds can quickly turn to letdowns when the weight of expectation becomes too much for sincere hope to handle. We should be pleased that Josh Portis is in camp.  We should be pleased that he’s working with energetic and passionate coaches, and that he has some real targets to throw to.  We should be encouraged by his physical gifts and his apparent passion for the game.  There are lots of reasons to be happy that Josh Portis is a Seahawk, but few reasons to let that happiness morph into an unhealthy expectation that he’s going to step in and make us forget about Matt Hasselbeck.  To expect more of him than what is reasonable is to miss the opportunity to watch him develop in a meaningful and realistic way and to realize what and who he is instead of who we so badly want him to be.

     If you really want to cheer for and get behind Josh Portis, don’t expect more than is fair of a young guy trying to learn how to play with the best football players in the world.  I’m content to cheer for the guy without abusing reality.  In the meantime, welcome to Seattle Josh. There is no place in the NFL like Seattle, and no fans in the world quite like us.

%d bloggers like this: