Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

When You Read WAY Too Much Into Something

So, as some of you might know, the new X-Men movie has come out, and, I am sure, good times will be had by all, until we all figure out that, yes, that is Kelsey Grammer playing Beast, and, yes, some main characters do die in this installment (or so all the previews say) (ed note: I wrote this before actually seeing the movie. What a piece of crap.).

Some would take this opportunity to wax nostalgic about the importance of heroes in our shaky modern times, or wonder about who would win.... Magneto or Global Warming (thank you, Al Gore, for your seminal work.).

But, no, John Hartl, a kick-ass film critic from MSNBC.com (we're the news channel that nobody watches!), decides that what people REALLY see when they watch X-Men is..... homosexuality.

In “The Last Stand,” which the producers emphasize is not the last installment in the series (after all, the first two collected $700 million worldwide), Iceman is completely “out” as a mutant. He uses his frosty charms to woo Rogue, who matches his ability to chill out.

Wow. You are a fantastic writer. By the way, are you a fan of Rogue choosing to lose her powers, as do a long line of mutants in the film?

“The Last Stand” makes the gay subtext of “X2” more explicit.

The gay subtext of X2? Because mutants aren't accepted?

While the mutants fear the development of a “cure” for their “disease,” Storm says “there’s nothing to cure.” Indeed, the series sees the mutants as a link to a higher form of humankind.

So, to continue your AWESOME analogy, homosexuality is a link to a higher form of humankind?

Listen, I don't want to get into a fight about gay marriage, homosexuality, etc. However, I'm a big X-Men fan, and this article is remarkably lame. You could use the exact same argument (outsider trying to fit in) into the movie "Elf" (very effemiate male discovers he doesn't quite fit into New York City), or "The Incredibles" (superheroes have to hide their powers because of a frightened public), or really ANY OTHER SUPERHERO MOVIE (Spiderman, for example). I'm just really steamed when individuals of any political stripe choose to make a movie THEIR movie (as conservatives did with the movie "Serenity" because it depicted a group of individuals that wanted less government and the perils of having too much government interference).

Anyhoo, random rant besides, the movie just sucked, so don't even watch it to learn the gay subtext for yourself. I was extremely depressed after it ended for the rest of the day, and now can't wait to go see the new Superman movie so that I can wipe the memory of a horrible superhero movie out of my memory banks.

By the way, hello. I had guests over for the past week (yippee!), and so have not had the capacity to blog, or really do anything. I haven't even been able to watch the Suns play in what has been a great series, while Raja Bell has climbed the ranks to become one of my favorite players, except when he pulls a Ginobli and uber-flops. The guy hustles constantly, hits the big shot (aka the 3 against the Clips in Game 5), plays stellar defense, and seems to lift the spirits of the guys around him.

Nor have I been able to watch the M's SUCK EGGS, though I was able to watch some of the absolute masterpiece of a game that was Sunday against Minnesota. Please, Bavasi, please fire Hargrove. Obviously our record is not all his fault. But it sure is partially his fault, and I'll believe that this entire season after watching that game.

Aaaaaaaand..... I have nothing else. Shoot. You would think I would have more after a whole week. Come back tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be back up to speed by then.

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:55 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ultimate Explosion!!

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day Weekend, preferably one that didn't include watching the Mariners play some of the worst professional baseball I've ever witnessed. I'm not going to elaborate on the terrific post over at USSM on how Mike Hargrove has decided to become the worst manager ever, but suffice it to say that I have rarely been so depressed after a game than on Sunday. I swear, I have never seen a team manage to lose so many close games before, and while I do agree that the manager normally has no impact on the game other than losing arguments with umpires and generally looking crotchety, Mad Mike Hargrove lost us this series against Minnesota. At least Joe Mauer's on my fantasy team. Please, for the love of all that's holy, fire him now. Read John McGrath's column where he chews Hargrove a new one.

I golfed again yesterday. It rained again yesterday. Ah yes, the joys of learning how to play golf in Seattle. Five times out, three rain games.

I missed most of the NBA playoffs over the weekend, mainly because there is always better pastimes than watching the NBA playoffs. I continue to be astounded at how bad the refs are. Is it humanly possible to miss so many calls? Also, at some point can we cut back on the whining? Watching grown men cry on EVERY call, regardless of its bearing, gets old. Dirk Nowitzki's seven feet huge, yet I think he's a pansy baby for the amount of tears he sheds on a nightly basis... and of course because of that whole David Hasselhoff thing. Scoop Jackson, who should only write about the NBA and comes off like an idiot on anything else, has a terrific article on the Detroit Pistons, who continue to play down to the opposition. They have lost that swagger, the bravado, that made them so appealing. Now they look slow and beatable, Rasheed Wallace has become Vladimir Radmanovic (shoot threes, avoid the post), no one can shoot well, and they can't make defensive stops. There is no fire. I would really prefer the Heat to lose, because I hate roto league rosters like the one Miami assembled. Detroit apparently isn't in the mood to play longer.

I am REALLY looking forward to the World Cup. Jeff has the long posts, but I'll probably write some more as the days approach. I will be watching/recording as many matches as possible. Viva US!

Random football note from Seth Wickersham's blog:

"If it's up to Rich Gannon -- who is working in some sort of coaching fashion with the Bucs -- Chris Simms will be running a lot more in 2006."

Basically, Rich Gannon wants Chris Simms to die. Simms is not mobile, he is a fumbler (as Texas fans horribly recall). This is a quick way for Tampa Bay to become a disappointment next season. In other words, I'm all for it.

posted by Gavin @ 4:38 PM  0 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yahtzee! (cont.)

So our journey across the scope of soccer here in the States continues with the midfielders. Who makes my list? DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Bobby Convey (Reading FC), Claudio "Capitán" Reyna (Manchester City) and Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado Rapids).

Beasley and Donovan were the stars of our team 4 years ago. They are the future of US soccer and that, to me, makes it bright. Both are quick, but that is Beasley's trademark. He's a bit of a beanpole, but I'm sure he's lifting weights and what's a few fouls earned for being knocked down in front of the goal, eh? Seriously, he'll be a marked man now that some good games at PSV have earned him some exposure. Donovan is a bit of a different story (see next paragraph). His movement on the ball is becoming even better and I see his touch as more natural than most lads on our national team in the past. What do I mean? Just watch him with the ball this summer, his presence and his field of vision (pun somewhat intended). I'm talking him up a bit, but I just hope his time in the MLS hasn't decreased his stock.

So why did Convey, the obvious "less-experienced-one" of the group make my list? Honestly, because he plays for a real team, not languishing somewhere in the MLS (Reading earned their spot in the Premiership just weeks ago). But Donovan and el Pablo play in that league!, you sarcastically snide, and to that I say "Whatever." Mastroeni is a fearless defender who continues to impress me with his big-man presence despite only being 5'10" and 170#s (basically me after hitting the holidays pretty hard). Why is he a mid. on our World Cup squad? Heck if I know! He can distribute the ball well, but I don't see him attacking much. He hasn't scored for the USMNT yet in 46 games (thanks ussoccer.com, where I get all of these stats), and why should that change much? No matter...what our team needs are tough-as-nails enforcers to work hard at earning our respect as a team. Pablo does that and as he cuts down opposing midfielders and the occasional striker erroneously making their way past him, we can gain control of the very important middle of the field. Finally, look for him to start in our matches this summer or at least get a bunch of minutes. I include him here not because I respect the fact he's been with the Colorado Rapids for years, but more for the fact that I see him being an actual force to be reckoned with in every USMNT game I've seen him in. Keep up the good, hard work el Pablo.

Last but certainly still important is Reyna. He's seen a lot of soccer and frankly I'm surprised to see him playing this year. He was definitely overshadowed 4 years ago by our other up and coming midfielders but as I wrote in the roster post, he's a steady presence of leadership and experience that is absolutely necessary this summer. Now, whether or not he'll be leading from the bench is a valid topic of discussion but at least right now it doesn't look like his hammy pull in the Morocco match is anything to lose sleep over before we conquer the Czech on June 12th. Just having him in World Cup training is a count in our favor. I hope he remains a stabilizer in the middle of the field as in the past and although he may not get the spotlight much, he can be that mysterious momentum the broadcasters talk about when crisp passing the smart play begin to develop. May this be a great Cup for Claudio to ride out into the national team sunset--that is my wish.

Onto the strikers, the worthy ones who play little defense and get all the attention. Ok, that's my growing up as a defender talking here (and now I'm trying all the time to play as a forward, so I can't cut down the front men too much..but I don't promise that will go away completely). Anyway, the highlights here are Brian McBride (Fulham FC), Josh Wolff (Kansas City Wizards) and Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards).

McBride is our resident airman, delivering the "mail" into the back of the net via flying headers and remaining a "tall presence with his back to the goal. He did quite well with Fulham this year and he shouldn't dissapoint this summer. Again, I'm calling out some Eddie Lewis and Donovan crosses from the left side to connect with McB.

Wolff continues his slow progression towards becoming a consistent forward. Translation: I've not heard much from him lately and hope to be pleasantly surprised by his impact this summer. He did well in the Gold Cup as well as Korea/Japan 2002, but I really have no bearing on his potential. If we play one up front, I see Wolff as more of the 5th attacking midfielder instead of the point man up top yet he knows well enough how to be in the right place at the right time. C'mon Josh, give me good reason to devote a whole post to you this summer!

Finally, but not really, there's Eddie Johnson. All I remember reading about him was the hat trick he tallied up as a substitute against Panama. That got my attention (especially as it only took him 25 minutes. Also, you gotta give props to a guy who gets a goal in his first cap with the USMNT. Heck, 9 goals in 15 games played with the national team is incredible. Sure, he'll come off the bench in Germany, but watch closely when he does. He's my boom or bust player of the tournament, meaning he may disappear or may explode onto the international screen. At only 22, all is not lost if he sticks to the former. But watch with anticipation anyway...

So I'll be the third (fourth or maybe even fifth) person to proclaim the US excells as a midfield up-and-coming "powerhouse" so that's probably why I picked 5 mids and only 3 forwards. One, however, must also take into account one Taylor Twellman. Yeah, he plays for the New England Revolution but as ussoccer.com reports, he led that team in scoring 3 out of the past 5 years and scored more goals than anyone else in MLS. Twice. I'd say that's pretty good especially since so many good-in-the-past players go to the MLS to retire (and figure out new ways to dye their hair blonde) and sit in front of the goal for the easy cherry-pick goal. I haven't watched Taylor play, but my gut tells me that a player with his speed and ability to lead the goal tally on a good offensive team has him earning more goals than "chancing" upon most of them. He didn't make the team this summer, but I'm guessing we'll hardly see any of Brian Ching, who beat him out. BC was a good player for our Seattle Sounders, in the short time he played here but all I can conjure up about him is that he has awesome blowout games and is a bit of a hyped player. I hope I can write some affirimative sentences as to his skill this summer, if we even get to see him play. Who knows.

Alrighty then, there's the National Team breakdown. Hope it was as fun to read as it was to write, especially since I've written most of this from memories from 4 years ago.

Next up will be team by team synopses of our fellow "group of death" teams. Czech Republic by early June, Italy by sometime after then and Ghana by the time we play the CR. Hopefully.

posted by El Jefe @ 7:54 PM  0 comments

Ultimate Explosion!!

Colin (whiner) is with the in-laws this week and is bound and determined to force me to continue to show him up as the penultimate blogger of this site. Well, challenge accepted.

The NBA playoffs continue to pull me in whenever the Phoenix Suns are playing and last night was no exception. Steve Nash started to show why he's the MVP (although let's be honest, people, isn't he about the 10th guy in the league you would pick in a fantasy draft?), taking over the game in the 4th quarter with the Suns down nine. The Mavericks really didn't take the lesson learned from the Lakers/Clippers and attack the Suns down low each and every possession. Dirk Nowitzki should be an unstoppable force against the Suns, but instead it seemed like he settled for far too many fade-away jump shots. The Mavericks aren't going to get 30 from Devin Harris each night, either, so some improvement is needed. As for Phoenix, is there going to be a game when they actually shoot well from behind the arc? Is Boris Diaw really this good? They sure better hope Raja Bell is healthy, they need his defense. Maybe Kurt Thomas will be able to add something as well. That would sure be nice. Tonight is Miami-Detroit... I think I'll pass.

Continuing on the NBA theme, Chad Ford has come out with his first NBA mock draft. I'll start mocking these later, but wanted to make my positions known clearly early. Unlike the NFL draft this year, when it was difficult to really want a specific player with the Hawks picking so late, I have two players in mind for the Sonics. Brandon Roy, for obvious reasons, and Shelden Williams, who I wanted longer than Roy until Brandon really started to take off. Well, Ford has us taking Williams. That would be a nice major coup.

Of course I can't go too long without the NFL. Gary Horton of ESPN's Scouts Inc has an in-depth look at the NY Giants' offseason. He's a bit more glowing than I would be, since I don't think the Giants did nearly enough to address their wide receiver situation and the secondary additions scream "veteran band-aid" loudly enough to wake Grandpa. However, I thought I'd post his final thoughts, since Colin and I whine about press bias enough here.

"It's always fun to pontificate at this time of year and I will take a shot at predicting the Giants' success in 2006. I think they will win the NFC East with a physical 10-6 record and advance all the way to the NFC Championship Game, where they will lose to Seattle."

That's right. We ALREADY have some on the bandwagon for the Super Bowl. Niiiice. Also nice not to hear the name "Carolina" involved at that point.

On to UW Football. I do see signs of recruiting improvement. I'm not sure how much of a major coup it is to get an early commitment from a lifelong rabid Husky fan, but talent is talent, and if Ty Willingham gets enough of it to come to UW so that we can actually win more than two games next year I'm all for it.

Finally, does anyone else think it's strange to actually care how Oakland/Texas/Anaheim do each day? I caught myself scoreboard watching yesterday for the first time in two years. Only two games out is nuts, even if Rodrigo Lopez is currently utterly schooling our lineup and The Alien Posing As Gil Meche is having another excellent outing. If we can actually be "average", as the Seattle PI puts it, I might be able to get through this summer. That, of course, only happens with the contributions of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre... not to mention Felix Hernandez. Maybe I have to drag myself down to a few more games.

posted by Gavin @ 3:11 PM  2 comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ultimate Explosion!!

The weekend is over, in which yet another editorial meeting of the Crushed Optimists staff (wedding back at the Leavenworth place) kept us from meeting our posting duties, but hey, what about that El Jefe guy? Last three posts! We are now all over that soccer crap.

Actually, Jeff was with us at the M's game on Sunday, so we had a full editorial CO meeting.

Afterwards, this involved playing Perfect Dark Zero. I'm not sure how many of you out there had Perfect Dark for the N64, but it was the best four player first-person shooter made. Not only could you team up with three friends, but you could pick the number of opponent sims, rank each of their level of difficulty, and use one of two surefire tactics for hilarity.

1. Nothing but Rocket Launchers. Whenever you would randomly see a sim running at you and all you could do was turn, yell something, and fire a huge overkill rocket at them it was a good time. This was also the Collateral Damage situation when you were guaranteed to piss off your friends by killing them multiple times as well with stray rocket fire.

2. Combat Boosts and Shotguns. Using a Combat Boost put the game into "Matrix Mode", a nice slow motion affair. If you timed it right, you could come around a corner, see a sim, use the Boost, and shoot them in the face with the Shotgun. Man, it didn't get any better than that. Wow, that sure reads pretty bloodthirsty. Whatever. Watch out for me at work.

Anyways, Perfect Dark Zero is a step back from the previous work. I think they tried too hard. For starters, it takes about 20 bullets to take down anyone, which is lame. There are no combat boosts, and bosses on a medium difficulty level have enough health points to take on a Balrog. In other words, we should have been blogging than wasting our time with that crap.

Colin did have an opportunity to kick my sorry ass in one-on-one basketball yet again. At one point I'm going to make that last second shot to beat him. Friday was not that time.

Isn't this a sports blog? Riiiight... so what about those M's? As I wrote above, we took in Felix's start on Sunday. I can't write any observation on Felix better than the guys at USSM, who are just rocking it recently, but that wild pitch in the sixth sure made me miss Dan Wilson. No way Dan lets that ball get away from him. From a hitting perspective, obviously we liked what we saw, except that whole "use Jose Lopez to sacrifice bunt" crap, which made me want to jump out onto the field from our seats on the third base line and charge the M's dugout wildly screaming.

It was also a lot of fun to see a few patented Mike Cameron swing-and-a-miss and foul-it-straight-back's. Apparently his eyes haven't been fixed yet.

Now they've won four in a row and are starting to creep dangerously close to .500 and respectability. I'm hopeful to continue to see signs of hope for the rest of the season, anything to keep me interested, now that 24 and Prison Break are over. I have to do SOMETHING with TV, because exercise sure isn't on the agenda.

I suppose I should mention something on all those Game Seven's in the NBA. I have to admit, though, that I didn't actually watch any of them. So, outside of LeBron James being far away from Jordan-esque status, I have nothing else to say except, "HAVE FUN IN THE SUMMER GINOBILI! I HATE YOU!!!!!!!!"

I should probably stop now before I start going on a tear. M's-O's tonight. May the streak continue.

posted by Gavin @ 1:46 PM  0 comments

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thierry Henry - Muchas Gracias!!

Henry renewed his contract with Arsenal this week, adding 4 more years with the club in which he's spend the past 7. His announcement came a day after losing such a difficult game, yet his response is what I feel solidifies him as one of the best athlete examples we currently have. Look at how he weighed his options, look at his priorities (MLB/NFL/NBA take note please) in the glowing story linked here. As an Arsenal fan as well as a fan of world soccer I am filled with such optimism for the future of that club as well as others who hopefully will follow in Henry's wise stead. This is what makes the world's game spectacular and why I'm proud of the storied franchise that is Arsenal of North London.
Many thanks, Thierry, for staying with the Gunners and providing for a bright future as you move into a fantastic new stadium.

posted by El Jefe @ 12:00 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Yahtzee!

In the first installment of the futbol version of Explosion Ultimato, this Yahtzee! segment dives headlong into a soccer-passerby's guide to the US Men's National Soccer Team (USMNT).

As the Stars and Stripes take the pitch this June/July in Germany one must consider the man at the back to be the strong point of the team. Whether or not this pans out to be the case as one Brad Friedel did in 2002, Kasey Keller is the man the Czech Rep., Italy and Ghana will have to figure out. He impresses with shutouts (albeit in the weak region we have for World Cup Qualifying (CONCACAF)) and has been Senor Consistent for quite awhile now. Personally, I would have picked Keller to retire from National Team duty before Friedel, but I think we all were surprised at how well Friedel stepped up in 2002. He played the man on fire (opposite the contrast of Jeff Agoos...ugh, if you don't remember, don't ask...) blocking shots of all kinds, one on ones and even penalties (!). Kasey will need to play the games of his life to live up to Friedel's statement in Korea 4 years ago, but even in his mid 30's, he has the talent to do so. Heck, he conceeded only 2 goals out of 5 games in the US Gold Cup last summer. Also, he's from Lacey (somewhat close to Seattle but in our state at least), so you gotta support the hometown dude.
Into the defense, the names to watch for are Eddie Lewis (used to be a midfielder), Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, and Steve Cherundolo. Lewis plays for Leeds United (English First Division), Carlos is in the English Premiership with Fulham, Pope plays for Real Salt Lake (yeah, we in the States have copied yet another big name (Real Madrid) to try to fit in with the rest of the world...sigh). Steve suits up for Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga.

Now, what makes these guys good? A lot is to be guessed at here. Lewis is a converted midfielder with a strong left foot. If he can connect with Brian McBride on some crosses as he floats forward on some runs, that would be awesome. Not sure if Lewis will start, though, and hopefully he's hardened up as a defender in the First Division (AAA level for all you beisbol lovers out there).

Bocanegra is a bruiser and to survive in the Premiership as a defender, you must be. I haven't seen much of his play, but I have no recollection of his mistakes, which unfortunately is most often the only impression one gets from a defender. As one compadre was explaining to me the other day, the US must assert their position at this Cup physically. This begins with our backline and with our "group of death" (jury is still out on that designation), they will be tested again and again.

So Eddie Pope plays in the MLS, which I must confess is a count against him. He played a few of our dismal games in the '98 debacle that was the US trying to play soccer (or some version of it) at the World Cup that year, but by no means am I calling out Pope for that. Just saying he's seen a lot of soccer with the national team. He's a steady presence, according to teammates, so his leadership will be called upon often.

Finally, Steve Cherundolo plays in the same league as Keller, the German top division. How often do you hear about this league? Well, I confess I follow English and Spanish teams more often than German, but the flippin' Scottish league made up of Celtic and Rangers and some other teams that will never have the money to win that league are followed more closely than the Bundesliga- at least in the news sources I follow. Any good leads on a news site/blog/etc. for the German league, please send them my way. So all this to say, I'm going out on a foolish sports writing limb and suppose that his time in Germany will transfer to 50-75 "experience points (XP)" to help him perform well at the Cup. Just don't think about the fact that probably 5%-10% of all the players in the Cup play in the Bundesliga (or less...for all you engineers out there that was a WAG). And club ball is always different than national team play. I can't explain it, but will try to at some point. It's not as bad as the difference between the NBA and college basketball (a great lead into a Gavin tirade), but I think it's similar.

Look forward to a midfield and forwards breakdown in the next few days. Or next week. Or whenever...just wait in semi-impatient anticipation.

posted by El Jefe @ 9:30 PM  2 comments

Champions League recap

For all 10 of us US-born futbol lovers who watched with great anticipation the result of today's Champions League...I must confess I'm quite distraught yet ambivilently optimistic (must be on this site) for Arsenal's future. Sure they lost 2-1 in Paris to a great Barcelona side, but the way they lost it ended a season so destined for a triumphant climax that the crushing blow of not only giving up the first goals after about 16 HOURS of soccer but also the loss in this the biggest game of Arsenal's current history is just plain difficult to swallow. Henry may have played his last game as a Gunner, and might have well left on the Barca team plane for all the hype that has gone up recently over his high transfer worth. Everyone from the Catalan side seem to sing his praises constantly (esp. Ronaldinho...grrr) and although I still hold out hope that Henry will stay with one of the best coaches in the game in one Arsene Wenger, he may play into the Real Madriditis complications of greed (read: move foolishly to Barcelona for money, not playing time, respect, etc.). Funny how an A-Rod like story could develop here. I pray that doesn't happen.

So the game itself was 10x worse to "watch" via soccernet.com's live text commentary than the second Villarreal match. Arsenal somehow scored in the first half (missed that due to getting too absorbed in this "work" thing at midday). Second half they did all they could to protect and you know how a final goes with that mentality. These are the 2 greatest teams (currently) in Europe. Sure that's subject to discussion, but everyone knows that defense and offense win championships - not one or the other alone. So with 45 minutes to keep a one goal lead, Arsenal played like they were in the last 10 minutes of the match over and over again. Amazingly, some runs on goal resulted for the Gunners. Henry and a few others were denied good shots, according to the commentator. But then he ran out of gas as did the rest of his mates. Two quick goals sealed the come from behind win and Arsenal's fantasy run at their first Champions League trophy. Regardless they fought well and did impressively better than I thought they were. And that optimism I began with in this post? Their success came with many youth team players and acquisitions from recent years. They may have lost a huge game today, but they won a ton this year they would have lost in years past. And they will start again towards European glory next year, thanks to their last minute run in the Premiership to top Tottenham for the last place in the tournament. Great year, Gunners...now ON TO THE WORLD CUP!!

posted by El Jefe @ 5:14 PM  0 comments

Back to Fun

After watching last night's debacle of an M's game, I desperately needed a pick-me-up.

Thank you Seahawks for yet again providing that boost.

Mike Holmgren is back for two more years (three total) that should work for everyone involved. Mike gets to stay coaching a team during its window of opportunity (Hasselbeck, Alexander, Walter Jones, D-Jack) before stars age. Then, should the ability arise, he can go off and suck at being a GM again.

I'm not concerned when the coaching decision arrives. Paul Allen has lots of money and we have quality people in the front office. I just didn't want it to happen just when things were going so smoothly. We weren't going to have a Nate McMillan-Bob Weiss problem, but any transition automatically would make us an easier target in our division and the NFC.

I continue to enjoy watching us amass front office talent, today with the signing of Russell Webster. The guy was with the Bucs, most recently as their director for player personnel, for 18 years, and was a prime candidate for two GM jobs (even if the Rams one was apparently an empty position). Down side? Probably had a prime role in picking Chris Sims to be an NFL quarterback. Hopefully he helps us make a better decision in Hasselbeck's successor. Still, this is another good solid talent evaluator that Ruskell trusts. In my mind, we will continue to have successful drafts and continue to be competitive if our brain trust continues to thrive.

Nothing but optimism.

Except for the Mariners. You suck.

posted by Gavin @ 2:08 PM  0 comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Random Ramblings...

When the guys from “1st and 10” (yes, I still watch that sometimes, due to the fact that it is summer vacation, I’m a grad student, and it makes up for the fact that I earn near to zero dollars) have one of their topics be about who the most famous pig is (Woody Paige votes for the pig from “Animal Farm”), you know that there really is little to blog about from the sporting world, and I’m not about to stoop to Gavin filling out some stupid political questionnaire.

“FICA? Real estate tax? Medicare? So….. very…… interesting….. must…….. stay….. awake………….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….”

Besides, Matt Leinart is getting some action from Paris Hilton, which is probably the first and only time that an Arizona Cardinal has reached tabloid status. Question only I could think: Does Matt dream about throwing Tinkerbell out the window every time they are together? I take one look at that dog and die a little more inside.

In actual glorious news, I saw the Antichrist, Manu (not the evil Lord Xenu from Scientology, nor the new scary kid from the 6/6/6 movie) foul out last night, which made me, well, die a little less inside. Sure, some calls actually went against the Spurs last night, to which I say to angry Spurs fans everywhere…. you have absolutely no sympathy from me after the Sonics/Spurs series last year, when Bruce Bowen was able to run rampant and Manu pulled a flop getting hit by thin air. The Foul Gods are just evening up the score a tad. And the Tim Duncan Sad Face just hit a new high with his post-game press conference, when he pulled out the Tim Duncan Sad/Pissed Off/Slightly Constipated Face, giving one word responses and generally looking about like Gavin usually did after I would whup him in basketball.

Actually, the NBA playoffs have been moderately interesting, what with Raja throwing Kobe down a la Steve Carrell throwing down Dwight in “The Office”, Rasheed Wallace looking like a fool, LeBron reaching BIGTIME status (I’m witnessing Nike earning billions of dollars), Tim Thomas becoming this years’ Jerome James, Larry Brown still making headlines by perhaps being bought out by the Knicks (who would take that job? Rick Adelman?), Gary Payton still pretending he’s a superstar, and Vlade pulling a, well, Vlade during Game 3 of the Suns/Clippers series, when he made a few quick 3’s, the Suns actually started guarding him, and he shut it down for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, it appears that we are careening towards a Heat/Pistons matchup in the East (I’d rather talk about FICA), with a Mavs/???? in the West, where it is readily apparent that the Mavs will whup whoever emerges. The only interesting thing from then on out is whether we will see David Stern, with gritted teeth, hand Mark Cuban the trophy, while Cuban smiles that big, goofy smile that is still worth about 500 times more than Stern’s.

In Mariner news, Jose Lopez rules. He’s our best hitter in clutch situations, our #1 RBI guy, and is generally growing into a star before our very eyes. In the meantime, Beltre and Sexson are going through an anti-evolutionary process where they revert back to Cro-Magnon baseball players. Not special to watch. Oh, and Gil Meche sucks. Wow.

You know what is interesting? The fact that Aras won “Survivor” after getting whupped by Terry in challenges basically every single week. The ONLY reason this meditating jerkoff won was the weird fact that Danielle, perhaps the weakest Survivor finalist ever, somehow won final immunity and then, for some ODD reason, picked Aras to go to the Final Two even though there was NO EARTHLY WAY that she could beat him in a jury vote. She MAYBE had a chance against Terry, who was not liked by former Casaya members, but she had NO change against Aras. I thought, for a brief second, that Danielle was the love-child of Rick Babcock (former Raptors GM, joke would also work with Matt Millen) and Saigon Jane Fonda, both of whom also made career-ending decisions.

I would add my thoughts on “Prison Break” and “24”, but Gavin’s too busy playing (and losing at) rec league basketball to watch the shows on Monday night, and has to wait to watch them until Tuesday. Thus, I will bid you all adieu, until the next ramble.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:06 PM  0 comments

Late Night Ravings

Ah... insomnia.

Rather than toss and turn over another intramural basketball loss, I've decided to better spend my time rambling for a while.

I've noticed that May is lame for sports and so my posts have started to have a slightly more negative spin. Maybe if the M's weren't just playing with my heartstrings we'd have more optimism throughout this blog recently.

Seriously, is this what we get to deal with the rest of the summer? Four straight losses which have radio hosts talking about Willie Bloomquist as an every day player AGAIN, then a couple of decent series wins that makes everyone forget that we suck? And then the AL West is mediocre so we can have pipe dreams of "that one good week" that must be riiiight around the corner. Any week that includes Gil "Vegetable Medley" Meche is not going to be a good week. I'd say replace him, but the options appear to be the corpse of Kevin Appier, Bobby "Jamie Moyer" Livingstone, or Jesse "Where's My Control?" Foppert. Inspiring. Perhaps Emiliano "Big" Fruto can step in... even if he just had a Matt Thornton appearance. Man, I remember those from last season. The one time in two months where Thornton would pitch three scoreless innings in a meaningless game, followed by everyone lavishing praise on how far he had come, erstwhile forgetting that Matt Thornton was an awful, awful pitcher who shouldn't have been allowed near the mound.

I'd probably have more optimism if my fantasy teams were doing slightly better. King Felix is dragging both of them down... so turn it around, King. In the roto league I'm in (yes, I think roto is beyond stupid, but coworkers in New York asked me to join, and I thought it would be fun to not pay attention to) I keep getting offers for David Wright that cause me to convulse with laughter. The latest? Randy Johnson straight up. This, of course, would be the Randy Johnson who just got smacked around by the freaking Oakland A's, whose offense is as anemic as it gets. Yeah... didn't go for that one.

I've actually started to watch more of the NBA Playoffs, and have come to one conclusion... I want to see as many bad calls go against the San Antonio Spurs as humanly possible. At least the shoddy reffing is getting Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili mad instead of the other way around. That, my friends, is justice.

Did anyone watch the season finale of The Office? I'm torn, because of course I wanted to see if Jim and Pam would hook up, but kind of wanted them to string that plot line out a bit... kind of like a carrot on a stick so I'd keep on watching. I would probably do that anyways, since Steve Carell rocks my world, in a very heterosexual way. This might be blasphemy to say, but I do like this version of The Office better than the British one. Of course, office romance can't hold a candle to Prison Break and 24 (whose writers apparently left the writing of those awful middle episodes to chipmunks and illegal immigrants before picking it back up for these kickin' final ones). Yeah... TV.

M's-A's. Tomorrow/Today.

posted by Gavin @ 12:40 AM  0 comments

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ultimate Explosion!!

Interesting how a weekend can feel better when the M's win two of three against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, brought to you by Thunderstix. Basically, ever since the Angels won the World Series and their fans were admitted into "most annoying ever" pantheon status, beating them is just a little sweeter than, say, taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, which has "kick the puppy" status. Now they are 3.5 games out of first in an AL West Division that is looking remarkably similar to the NL West of last season. Total mediocrity. However, we do have two exciting young players in AAA that I can't wait for later in the year. Snelling and Adam Jones both are just ripping it up, although I would like to see Jones take a few more walks. The power and defense are both there.

Kudos to perennial favorite Lookout Landing for making both Colin and I laugh out loud for the TGI Friday's reference in yesterday's game recap. I think we can safely say there isn't a better Seattle sports blog right now than LL.

I think yesterday's game recap in the Seattle PI was written by either an intern or a monkey, because it sucked. Case in point: "Everything about Emiliano Fruto is big. Big hands. Big feet. Big body. Big head, even. What can't necessarily be seen at first glance is this: Big heart."

You have got to be kidding me. At least they didn't mention his reproductive organ. Still, this has to be one of the worst, kitchy, cliched openings one could possibly write. "Big head, even"? My high school English teacher, alter ego my mother (to the Mom-Cave!), would shake her head in disgust while scribbling the hated red ink over the page.

There was another part of the article I particularly liked. "He (Fruto) got the word of his promotion at 1:30 a.m., when he was still on the computer, figuring he'd have time to sleep later."

Riiiiiight. And what was Fruto doing on the computer at 1:30? Everquest? The curiously addictive Web Sudoku? Just wondering...

Art Thiel has another must read article about the Sonics financial situation today. Read every word. Hang on the artfully put together prose. Enjoy how different it is than the crap above. Thiel does come out in favor of moving the team to the suburbs. I'm finding it more difficult to understand how even to make an NBA franchise work in this economic climate. I'm a Seahawks season ticket holder and even I think going to an NBA game is too darn expensive, especially to sit in a small seat and listen to bad techno for three hours. I don't think either moving to the suburbs or facelift work on Key Arena is going to be anything but a band-aid. There are some revenue streams that can be tapped by the team that should be, like getting 100 percent of the revenue from luxury boxes. I just haven't heard a single plan yet that makes the Sonics a financially competitive franchise for the next five years, much less ten. I think our situation here is the tip of the iceberg. Look for more situations like Portland to appear in the next season or so.

Finally, thought I would do something for kicks, because it's May and nothing of note is really going on (this does include the NBA playoffs, which have, by and large, been a dull affair punctuated by poor outside shooting and shoddy reffing), so I'm jumping aboard with the Frinklin and Fred show and answering that liberal survey.

Note: Colin and I ABSOLUTELY hate people who bring politics into sports discussions. Sports is a uniter for cities. I can be a Hawks fan and that jackass Tin Man from Friday can be a Hawks fan and we have a point of common interest. Therefore, the below is purely because I'm bored. It is not meant to influence anyone. Anywhere. Like my opinions would do that.

1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration
No. I'm with Frinklin. Personal responsibility (i.e. not getting that fifth credit card) has to be taken into account here.

2. Repeal the estate tax repeal
I'm torn on this one. My family isn't well off by any measure, and this repeal really helped us when a family member recently passed away. So using this as a "damn the wealthy" populist movement isn't going to sway me. However, if it is a good priority to balance the freaking budget, then we should make the move.

3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
Nope. The economic impact of increasing the minimum wage has been pretty well established. Indexing would be interesting. I'm reminded here of Stroker and Hoop (funny Adult Swim show) and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, which pays "A Living Wage for all our Living Workers" and then hires zombies.

4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one).
And this is why Democrats piss me off sometimes. Of course the devil is in the details. Every single friggin' detail I've ever seen, like Kerry's plan, would have been some of the most ill-conceived gibberish ever. Still, no one likes to see anyone without the ability to see good treatment, so I would support a realistic plan.

5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
Like any environment regulation would ever actually work. If it was anywhere near the Kyoto Treaty, we should treat it like Gil Meche.

6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice.
What exactly is improving access to contraception? Would this include vending machines in schools? Also, what exactly does pro-reproductive rights mean? Is that the new code word for pro-choice? If so, I think I'm for this, even if I might change my mind tomorrow. Improving education seems a stupid part of the above statement too. I think there's plenty of education out there, unless we want to take a clue from South Park and have it brought into kindergarten.

7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code.
The above should be a goal of every living human on the face of the earth. Not sure what "increase the progressivity" is. Not sure what "progressivity" is, although it does take an impressive amount of letters.

8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
Ah yes, the Democratic party, hating Christianity since 1805. And you wonder why the ignorant yokels in JesusLand don't vote with you? Take, for example, Project Nightwatch here in Seattle, run by a minister locally helping the homeless. Good liberal organization. You would take funding away from him because it is faith-based? Christ (oops). Throwing around the "religious discrimination" stuff seems odd too, because I think many would then interpret that as "life style" discrimination.

9. Reduce corporate giveaways.
Yes, although this seems like another random populist movement.

10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan.
Because Medicare has been such a smashing success already let's throw more responsibility at them. That would work great. At the same time, let's install Isaiah Thomas as head of Medicare.

11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
Between the "higher minimum wage", "larger pensions" and "stop outsourcing (just throwing it in there from the last election)" liberals probably aren't part of many businesses making a profit. Let's face it, more government oversight on an issue like this is probably not a great idea.

12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
Yes on marijuana, although I see Fred's point that it could get odd from state to state. To that I say, God Bless America, that we can have different laws in different states. Also, Pauly Shore would know where to go to find anyone who thinks he's funny.

13. Paper ballots
My gosh. I can't believe this is important enough to even make this list. Seattle should know as well as anyone after our governor's "election" that paper ballots include just as many conspiracy theories as voting machines. Also, those evil Republicans would just find some way to steal that election too.

14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies.
Isn't the idea of daycare actually an anti-family policy since it was created to replace the normal family structure? Also, what does improving access entail? Are we going to have federal daycare scholarships? Other pro-family policies cracks me up too.

15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
This is probably one of the first real decent ideas on this whole damn list. FICA is a greedy bastard, and he can really hurt small income dudes. As long as those dudes don't then move to a state that legalizes marijuana and blow it all on that. Help the economy, man!

16. Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
If this includes anything legislative, then absolutely. If this is "file lawsuit after lawsuit until a judge finally rolls over" then no. Let the people decide.

Anyways, this was educating for me. I'd like to have seen a few better ideas (all that devil in the details crap annoys me). I think I see 10 No's and 8 Yes' in my list, which is about right on my leanings.

Back to sports tomorrow!

posted by Gavin @ 2:15 PM  0 comments

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ultimate Explosion!!

I've decided that sports talk radio can really annoy me. Here's reason #1028:

Radio Host: "Let's go to the phones. Here's Annoying Jackass in Seattle... AJ, you're on."
A.J.: "How's it going, Host?"
Host: "Fine. What's up?"
A.J.: Launches into ill-conceived diatribe about whatever topic is out in the sports world.

At this point I think we all know that I can be a jerk, and a picky jerk at that, but why in the world does every single idiot who calls the radio ask that stupid "how's it going" question? It's beyond asinine. A. You don't care. B. The Radio Host isn't going to tell you that he just got divorced or his toast was burnt and his knee hurts because it's going to rain. C. It's another fifteen seconds of my life you're stealing before your lame comments.

Next time you listen to the radio, see what I mean. Fingernails on a chalkboard.

Reason #3 (yes, it's that high): That point in the M's season when a radio host (this time Dave SOFTY MAAAAhler) decides that the problem with the M's is that they aren't tinkering with the lineup more and the solution is... more Willie Bloomquist, who is our best hitter right now. Christ. And so it begins again.

Now, sports radio can also be entertaining. Where else do you hear John Clayton tell a backstory behind not being able to answer a question the previous week due to an attractive Steeler fan showing him a tatoo on an interesting location while on-air. Hearing the story and then hearing the clip was one of the better moments of my week.

Speaking of the Steelers, apparently Hines Ward is now a jerk. Great, and I used to like him. But seriously, if it requires a front page story to have some ESPN writers go along with you to see you do good deeds, you have a big head. If you refuse to help Santonio Holmes, you have a big head. If you're friggin' trash talking Peyton Manning, then it's another strike. Basically, I have to commit to my current Steeler fan hiatus.

Another good wide receiver, Jimmy Smith, just called it quits, resigning the Jacksonville Jaguars to be a huge disappointment this season unless they make a big move between now and the beginning of the year. Would you feel comfortable with Ernest Wilford as your #1 receiver? Why not go get Jerheme Urban (the Willie Bloomquist of the Hawks) from us instead? Above I link to an ESPN article from Jeremy Green. My favorite line? "Jacksonville had a favorable schedule last season that resulted in a 12-4 regular season. It also became apparent in the playoffs that they did not have 12-4 talent." Amen.

As you have probably noticed by now, Colin and I are becoming a bit more stat-head inclined when it comes to football, although since the sample size of each season is so small, it is more difficult to predict future numbers. However, some people out there are defining some interesting new statistics and KC Joyner is one of them. I highly recommend his new evaluation of wide receivers. Simple to understand, and far better than just "yards per catch".

Finally, Seattle cracks me up sometimes, basically because we're chock full of hippies that try and make an impact sometimes, and usually do, but when they come up short it is a never ending laugh riot. Case in point? This "Sonics protest" yesterday that attracted the Seattle Times but apparently only two dozen others. Ouch. Also, next time you schedule a protest to sway city leaders to focus more on poverty and such you might want to make sure they're in the actual country. Just a thought.

Does this make sense to anyone? "Dressed as The Tin Man, Queen Anne resident Richard Littleton stood under a little tent and said he was hoping to steer politicians to worthier, more compassionate causes: "The Emerald City gave me a heart and I'm going to return the favor and give this heart back to the city."" What? Can we diagram this out?

Better luck next time. Let me know when it's happening. I'll be Traxus, Destroyer of Galaxies.

posted by Gavin @ 1:47 PM  0 comments

NFC West Overview: Seahawks Defense/Special Teams

And so we come to the finish line in this week's escapade. It's interesting. We schedule a week of NFL blogging and I can't wait to get to the laptop and plug away. Then we schedule a blog about the Mariners and I dread every waking moment, staring at the laptop knowing that, at some point, I must fulfill my duties and put together some haphazard crap post.

Fortunately, we do have Jeff blogging about the World Cup (right, Jeff? Blogging?), because the only (bad taste) joke I've thought about so far is how ironic it is (shows how far the world has come) that, in 2006, the WORLD (including France and Poland) is invading GERMANY. In the words of Fred Willard.... "Wha' Happened?"

And, yes, I will be laughing every time a Frenchman takes a dive in Germany. And, every time a French goalie uses his hand to knock away the ball, I will say (at least inwardly), "Oh, don't hurt your surrendering hand! Not in Germany!" I'm a terrible person.

But, yes, the Seahawks defense and special teams. Right. Well, you could read this from the PI (probably took that writer AT LEAST an hour to put that together), or you could read on. Choose wisely. Goodbye.

Defensive Line:
LE Bryce Fisher, DT Marcus Tubbs, DT Rocky Bernard, DT Russell Davis, DE Grant Wistrom, DE Darryl Tapp, DE Joe Tafoya (and, of course, my favorite white defensive tackle in the NFL, DT Craig Terrill)

Again, what doesn't kill us makes us deeper. That has been Ruskell's mantra this offseason. We have the same defensive line from last year PLUS Tapp and Davis, two possible playmakers. Davis was one of the Cardinal's best defensive players, and is a pretty doggone good trade for Okeafor and "The Playmaker"TM. Tapp makes me sleep a little better at night knowing that Joe Tafoya isn't the next person stepping in if Wistrom or Fisher goes down. And resigning Bernard? Well, let me tell you something. Bernard was the one Seahawk that I was POSITIVE he would leave; that some douche (funny story: ask Gavin to tell you just how he learned what a douchebag actually was) would pay him an exorbitant amount of money and that would be that. Well, surprise! Bernard is back in town, assuring that the pass rush will not come only from the ends position. The final touch of gold is Mr. Terrill, who just rocks my world. Again, this is one more unit that, at least on paper, is better than last year.

Linebackers:
OLB Leroy Hill, MLB LOFA TATUPU THANK YOU JESUS, OLB Julian Peterson, OLB DD Lewis, OLB Kevin Bentley, OLB Isaiah Kacyvenski, MLB Niko Koutouvides

Again, again, again. Depth. Depth. Another position that, on paper, is better than last year. We know how just how cool Lofa Tatupu is, though some idiot commenters over at Football Outsiders are still calling him a reach and saying we should have drafted Khalif Barnes instead. No. Not cool. Tatupu was, is, and is to come. He is Tatupu, and he is the reason that I will always be optimistic about our defense for the next ten years. We then have Hill starting to begin this season (YES!) and, bum ba ba ba bum, bum bittidy bittidy bum ba bummmmmm...... JULIAN PETERSON, who I have watched with dropped jaw for years and, as soon as I heard we had drafted him, I started to feel better about the offseason (readers might remember my pessimistic take much earlier). He is a freak who can do so, SO much. Rush the passer. Check. Protect against the run. Check. Guard the tight end. Check. Play the zone. Check. Do everything awesomely. Check. Even better, that means one more line of defense before having Isaiah stepping onto the field in a non-special teams situation. DD Lewis and Bentley provide some great depth (remember Bentley against Steve Smith last year?), and, basically, this group rocks. This might be the most talented linebacking corps ever assembled in Seattle.

Secondary:
CB Marcus Trufant, CB Kelly Jennings, CB Kelly Herndon, FS KEN HAMLIN, SS Michael Boulware

All hail the return of Ken Hamlin, who was the victim of a terrible incident last year after a freaking Houston Texans game. Hamlin was our most talented player in the secondary, and that injury, in the end, might have cost us the Super Bowl (thank you Etric Pruitt). We all hope and pray that he is able to step on the football field and perform once again, both from a selfish motive and just because it's obvious that he loves what he does. Speaking of budding superstars, Michael Boulware made a tremendous impact during the season and playoff run last year, becoming a soft-spoken leader of the secondary and, indeed, the entire team. His ball-hawking skills are excellent, and every pick seems to be in a crucial situation. Trufant still has to prove that he can become more consistent and an actual stopper, but Jennings will have to learn fast. As I wrote last year about Antrel Rolle, regardless how talented a corner is, it usually takes at least one year to learn the speed of the NFL. Ty Law would be much appreciated here, but obviously not at $10 mill.

Kicker:
Josh Brown

Bad Super Bowl, but he knows how to kick in Qwest, which is needed.

Punter:
Please no Tom Rouen, please P Ryan Plackemeier

It is time to not have Rouen be our punter. Please.

Overview? The defensive line is better, with much more depth. The linebacking corps is better, with much more depth. The secondary is better, with much more depth. Anyone notice the pattern here? This should be a top 10 defense, and, paired with our potential top 5 offense, should help this team remain at the top of the NFC for this season. All hail Ruskell!

posted by colin_hesse @ 9:35 AM  0 comments

Thursday, May 11, 2006

NFC West Preview: Seattle Offense

First off, big Crushed Optimists shout out to David Locke, who apparently has read some of our tripe recently. Unfortunately, this comes at the same time we criticize him about his Seahawks statements, so if he just Googled his name and popped on over, sorry about that. Write more Sonics stuff, we eat that up.

Anyways, on to the single easiest preview of the week, the Seattle Seahawk Offense. Why is this so easy, you ask? Well, basically because it's the same freaking offense minus two players, Steve Hutchinson and Joe Jurevicius. Now, those are two pretty darn important players, but still...

By the way, if we write this much NOW about the Hawks, just wait until our actual season previews. Just wait.

Quarterback:
Matt Hasselbeck - DPAR 88.4, DVOA 28.4%
(Backup Seneca Wallace)

Matt Hasselbeck took the next step last year in his maturation as an NFL quarterback, especially when the game was on the line. He was, by far, the best QB in the NFC last season, even with the uber-hype given to Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, and Michael Vick. Hasselbeck outshone them with the best run of decision-making we've seen in his career. He never seemed to try and force it the way he had before, letting the offense flow around him. Of course, much of this relaxation was probably due to the fact that he rarely had to worry about pressure, but he continues to display an escapability that surprises observers not used to Seahawk football. His touchdown number (24 last year) will probably go up since Shaun won't get near his own record. That does bring up another point, his red zone efficiency in terms of turning the ball over was also impressive. Our biggest weakness is probably his backup, Seneca Wallace, who I just don't feel comfortable handing the keys over should Matt get hurt.

Running Back:
Shaun Alexander - NFL Freaking MVP, DPAR 57.8, DVOA 20.7%
(Backup Maurice Morris)

Shaun took his game to another level last year, if that wasn't obvious. He ran with more authority through tackles, and even tried pass blocking for the first time in his career. He still sucks at pass blocking, but we'll take the effort. There were two moments last year when I knew Shaun was motivated. The first was his first third-and-short, where he forced it easily. The second was that 90 yard TD run against Arizona, when he ran towards Colin and I, found a final gear, and didn't let the pursuing defenders touch him. There were so many great Shaun moments that it's difficult to describe them all. One area I look to see some improvement is in the screen game, where we used to be terrific and blew last year. Shaun is a much better receiver than is given credit for and should be given more opportunities.

Wide Receivers:
Darrell Jackson - DPAR 14.3, DVOA 23.1% (8th in league)
Bobby Engram - DPAR 13.2, DVOA 4.4%
Nate Burleson - DPAR 4.8, DVOA -.2%
Peter Warrick - N/A
DJ Hackett - N/A
Jerramy Stevens - DPAR 16.6, DVOA 23.9%
Itula Mili - N/A

Ah yes, the loss of Joe Jurevicius. Definitely a blow, as Joe J had great hands, was good in the red zone, and was just a dependable guy. However, this is not a death knell for our team. Joe's stats were mainly the product of the injuries sustained by D-Jack and Bobby Engram. When they were both in, he was relegated to the third receiver and at times disappeared from the picture. Nate Burleson should be different. While the stats above are poor (again, injuries, and Daunte Culpepper SUCKED last season), in 2004 Burleson's numbers were a 35.0 DPAR and a DVOA of 35.3%. Even half of those numbers are close to what Jurevicius put up. Burleson allows Bobby Engram to move back to the slot to pick up automatic first downs for us. DJ Hackett can continue to expand his repetoire as the #4 guy, Jerramy Stevens will be healthy and has turned into a top five TE, and we cannot forget about the return of Itula Mili. Mili and Stevens gives us the luxury of two proven receiving tight ends that we can stick on the field at the same time, another wrinkle for opposign defenses to attempt and plan for. Some health for this group and we will be a better team than last season. D-Jack's numbers will be better. Engram's numbers will be better... I think you're getting the idea. Again, as we wrote multiple times last year, it was insane that Hasselbeck had as good a year as he did with all these injuries, same with Shaun. Defenses had to focus on the running game and could stiff us physically on the outside. Now, with us being healthy, we have Jackson able to break man coverage, Burleson able to provide an actual deep threat, and several tremendous over-the-middle options. Yes, I'm excited.

Oh yeah, all that and I forgot to mention that Peter Warrick is healthy and into our offense now. Now I'm really being optimistic, but Warrick if truly past his leg troubles can be a weapon. Just another tool of depth in our arsenal.

Offensive Line:
Walter Jones, LT, Pork Chop Womack, LG, Robbie Tobeck, C, Chris Gray, RG, Sean Locklear, RT
(Backups Tom Ashworth, T/G, Ray Willis, T, Chris Spencer, C/G, Rob Sims, G)

And we come to the second unit (of doom apparently). Losing G Steve Hutchinson sent much of the local pundit world into a spinning cycle of angst. Such was the level of our woe that nobody noticed that our line is, if anything, deeper this year than the one that had an incredible Power Success rating of 81%, hit 25% of all runs over 10 yards, and was only stuffed 27% of the time. Basically, we had our will with opposing defensive lines. All that and we only gave up sacks a little over 5% of the time. Will everything be as good next season? Probably not, but we shouldn't look at it as a giant decrease. Remember, all those good numbers came with one Chris Gray manning a guard position, yet another reason why guards can be overrated. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Gray was beaten out in training camp by one of our youngsters, including Chris Spencer (would give him some nice playing time before taking over at center). The key to everything, of course, is Walter Jones. As long as Walt is around, we get to wipe out opposing defensive ends out of the equation. They go nowhere. Pork Chop Womack is definitely as athletic as Hutchinson, able to play guard, and while not quite as nasty or strong, will be a more than suitable replacement. Tobeck's another year older but coming off a Pro Bowl season. Basically, we should have zero injury fears (other than Walter, of course). We have so much depth, so many bench players who would start on other teams, that we can and will feel good about the line play for years to come. I'm excited to see what Sean Locklear can do with a year of experience under his belt. He was a terrific young tackle last year, what does that translate to now? If Gray especially is replaced, it could mean that our power success could be to both sides of the football, something defenses would have to play better.

All in all, this will be a top five offense in the NFL once again, and will continue to make opposing defenses look awful, especially those in St Louis, Arizona, and San Francisco.

Tomorrow: The Defense!

posted by Gavin @ 2:54 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

NFC West Overview: Arizona Cardinals

And here we are again, my friends.

Back, once again, in what is probably my fifth preview of Arizona in the young history of this blog.

I ask for it every time, not just because I live in Phoenix, but because I care. I care about our readers, I care about the Hawks, and I care about reality. Realism.

However, readers might notice a change in my previews of the Cardinals this time around. Why, you ask? Because the talent they have assembled on the offensive side of the football has started to hinge on "awesome". This year we're not talking about Kurt Warner and J.J. Arrington and how THEY will propel Arizona to the promised land. No, we're talking about Edge, Leinart, Pope, Fitzgerald, Boldin, Lutui, Davis, Johnson, etc., who won't probably propel them to the promised land this year (Leinart probably won't start until around Week 5, when Warner inevitably goes down with a strained hip flexor), but come 2007, if this team isn't, at the very least, FIGHTING for a playoff spot, then Denny Green needs to be fired.

However, last time I checked the calendar, THIS year is 2006. Rinse. Repeat. 2006.

Thus, it is up to me to provide balance to the Sean Salisbury's (top 5 offense in the NFL) of the world and honestly give a fair opinion of where the Cardinals stand at this point. Before I begin, no offseason overview of the Cardinals would be complete without mentioning that they are moving into a new stadium that is ALREADY sold-out. In May. That's right, the Cardinals will actually have a home-field advantage for the first time since moving down to Phoenix from St. Louis, and that should make a difference. Heck, the decibel level should move beyond "Seattle Mariners home games" territory into "immigration rally" levels.

2005 record: 5-11 (they sucked, in other words)

Quarterback:
Kurt Warner - DPAR 36.4, DVOA 8.7%
(Matt Leinart, R)


So we have a quarterback leading the troops who performed even worse than Marc Bulger last year, a quarterback who is brittle beyond all getout standing behind a line that hasn't improved all that much. In other words, the world should prepare for the beginning of Matt Leinart's career sooner rather than later. Leinart, in my opinion, will be a good quarterback in this league. I'm not convined that he will be a great quarterback (a la Carson Palmer), but surround him with talent like Boldin and Fitzgerald..... he's smart enough to make the right play. Now, the whole Super Bowl in 2008 thing is a tad overstated before the guy even takes a snap, but his talent level should, at the very least, propel this team into respectability fast while teams like San Francisco and Detroit continue to flail because of their quarterback situation. Seriously, Detroit. You would rather have Jon Kitna than Matt Leinart? You honestly think you have a better chance to reach the Super Bowl with Jon Kitna? Stupid move, and the Cardinals benefited.

Running Back:
Edgerrin James - DPAR 50.8, DVOA 16.6%
(J.J. Arrington)

Those are elite numbers, folks, and we're all about to find out how much of those elite numbers were due to Peyton Manning and the Colts' offensive line. I don't expect him to post those kind of numbers this year, but I DO expect him to boost the running game (he can't HELP but boost the running game, they HAD no running game). This was an incredible situation that James fell into the Cards' laps, and they better get an offensive line NOW to utilize his tremendous talents before he inevitably starts to decline at about the same time that Shaun does. Another huge plus for the team from this offseason, and one that should show immediate benefits, especially catching balls out of the backfield. I was excited for Cardinals' fans when I heard about this.

Wide Receivers:
Anquan Boldin - DPAR 23.0, DVOA 4.5%
Larry Fitzgerald - DPAR 31.5, DVOA 13.2%
Bryant Johnson - DPAR -1.5%, DVOA -18.7%
Leonard Pope (TE, R)

It is time for Bryant Johnson to step up and become an actual talent in this wide receiving corps, because all the physical skills are there for him to take his game to the next level. Fortunately for him, Warner, and Leinart, Arizona is blessed with perhaps the second best 1-2 punch in the game (outside of Harrison and Wayne), as Boldin and Fitzgerald are just beyond awesome. They are physical, they are fast, they time their jumps well, they are excellent route-runners, and they can bail out Warner many a time. Their one weakness is in the red zone, where they find themselves triple-teamed with no room to run. Enter Pope, who is a beast of a man and should GREATLY help the absymal red-zone offense that was in Arizona last year. Pope was a 1st round talent that somehow slipped to the third round. Sure, he might not be that good of a blocker, but how many tight ends are? These guys can make a HUGE difference. Just ask Big Ben about that.

Offensive Line:
LT Leonard Davis, LG Jeremy Bridges, C Alex Stepanovich, RG Deuce Lutui, RT Oliver Ross

As with San Francisco's wide receiving corps, we have now reached the crux of the matter. This team simply CAN'T radically improve without radical improvement from this group. Davis, while physically a beast, has consistently underperformed for his entire career. Stepanovich is, at best, a journeyman who has below-average skills, and Ross was a big disappointment coming over from Pittsburgh. Sure, drafting a guard is nice, and will help, but the center and tackle positions are way more important, and Arizona still seems to fall way short here. Can they open holes for Edge? Can they give Warner time in the pocket? Can they give the receivers time to get open? So far, I have to say that I doubt it, at least on a consistent basis, and this is the main reason why I have to tell Cards fans to wait one more year to really get the optimism meter running. Gavin, you might want to add your thoughts here, because this is probably the single most important unit in the NFC West as previews go.

Gavin: Well, Colin threw down the gauntlet, so I'll add a couple of thoughts here. It's difficult to understate just how bad the Cardinals offensive line was last season. From Football Outsiders, they were last in yards per carry and adjusted ypc, converted only 41% (incredible!) of their short yardage situations (also last in the league), and were stuffed (explanation at site) 32% of ALL running plays (last in league). These are extroardinarily bad statistics. They were middle of the pack in sack percentage, at 6% of the time, but again, that doesn't take into account how often Kurt Warner got hit when he dropped back. Getting Edgerrin James isn't the difference maker to the above equation. When there are no holes there are no holes. James made his living in Indy running around the corner, led by one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. When the only difference is a rookie guard, albeit a fairly good rookie guard, this offensive line should NOT be looked at as improving considerably. Anyone who says differently in their NFL season preview is worthless. Any optimism about Matt Leinart is worthless. This crisis of a unit has not been addressed and until it is the Cardinals will never challenge the Hawks for NFC West supremacy.

Defensive Line:
Chike Okeafor, DE, Gabriel Watson, DT, Darnell Dockett, DT, Bertrand Berry, DE

Remember how Okeafor was going to completely revamp that defensive line? Um.... no. Arizona actually lost their best defensive tackle to us in Russell Davis, they have limited depth at the defensive end position (remember Anton Palepoi, Seahawks fans?), and, overall, there's not a lot of help for Dockett, who is a great player, and Berry, who is a superb player, barring injury. Again, this group could be average, and Barry will get to the quarterback (except against Seattle, where he meets a little someone I like to call Walter), but not a dominant unit by any means, especially up the middle. I predict many a run right at Okeafor during the two Seahawks games, since that guy can't defend against the run if his life depended on it.

Linebackers:
Karlos Dansby, James Darling, Orlando Huff, (insert player here)

Again, you have one great player (Dansby), one solid player (Darling), one overhyped player (Huff), and etc., with little to no depth. We'll talk about this more in the next couple of days, but that is one thing that makes Ruskell so special. He cares about depth, and we are basically protected at all positions (except for quarterback, where Seneca Wallace isn't quite what we need there, as much as I like him). Listen. Injuries are a fact of life, and the fact is that the Cards are not protected against the inevitable Dansby/Darling injury.

Secondary:
Antrel Rolle, David Macklin, Adrian Wilson, Robert Griffith

Yawn. Nothing much to report here, as there is nothing really new to discuss, thus, we'll actually analyze this more later. As it appears, this is a semi-strong secondary with Wilson alone, but it remains if Rolle can step up with the talent that we all know he possesses.

So..... superior talent at offensive skills positions, another couple of stars at various positions (Berry, Wilson, Dansby, Rackers), and..... etc. No, this is not the team to upset the Hawks and take the NFC West this year, but if they don't win more than 5 games.... wow. As it is, terrific offseason for the Cards. Really. Fantastic.

posted by colin_hesse @ 2:05 PM  1 comments

Ultimate Explosion!!

Yes, it's been a while since the last Explosion... blame it on the sports world being completely boring recently. That and the M's suck.

- Every once in a while I feel a little sorry for Alex Rodriguez. Getting publicly called out by George Steinbrenner on a day when Randy Johnson can't go 4 innings against the Red Sox is probably not his fault. However, karma apparently isn't done with A-Rod. Go karma.

- John Clayton has a darn good article today on the new type of small, fast, weakside linebacker (Seattle=Julian Peterson). I think this is another example of traditional mindsets changing on what the linebacker position is supposed to be. I've watched Tampa Bay and New England dominate the league defensively for years based mainly on the ability of their linebackers (Derrick Brooks, Tedy Bruschi) being able to cover the entire field from sideline to sideline, drop back into zone coverage, or come up to stop the run. All of those responsibilities require speed and instinct, not necessarily size. The end of the article posits the theory that offenses (apparently like Dallas) are going to go more to a two tight end set to run the ball at these smallish linebackers. That to me sounds like a stupid move, especially since tight ends are becoming glorified wide receivers. Just try that against Leroy Hill and Peterson and see how well you do.

King Felix won a start! Bam! He actually did it without struggling every single inning! Now, if he could only do that against a team that wasn't the Tampa Bay Devil Rays I might be impressed. Still, with Chris Snelling (new nickname: Seabiscuit) on his way back and Adam Jones ripping it up in Tacoma I think there may actually be something to look forward to this summer. Of course, if the rest of the AL West continues to suck and we by the luck of the draw stay in this race who knows what could happen.

Of course, an Explosion wouldn't be complete without some Hawk buzz. I would like to point out to David Locke that Itula Mili has practiced, meaning we do have an experienced tight end who is healthy in May. If that makes him feel better. Mike Sando brought up in his blog (linked to at the side) another player I don't refer to enough when talking about our depth, and that's RT Ray Willis, who the coaching staff absolutely adores. They think he could be better than Sean Locklear, who did nothing but contain every huge pass rusher he faced last season. Need to remember him.
Newspaper note sections crack me up sometimes. Check this one out.

"Former Seahawks WR Jerry Rice and QB John Friesz will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame's divisional class (for schools smaller than Division I-A) in August."

For starters, Jerry Rice was an extremely forgettable member of our organization. Saying "Former Seahawks WR Jerry Rice" is almost the funniest thing you could write in that situation. I'm sure the divisional College Football HOF will mention his glorious 10 games with us. Also, do we really want to remember that John Friesz played for the Seahawks? Aren't we trying to think optimistic thoughts right now? What's next, the Rick Mirer fun hour? The Dan McGwire Bobblehead Night?

Finally, one last word (probably not) on the Texas A&M "license". Apparently the Hawks paid less then 10 grand. That's right, less than 10,000 dollars to get those monkeys off our backs. I did a little research and it costs a student about 17k (total cost... books, room, board,etc) to attend this prestigious institution this year. In other words, don't look for the Seattle Seahawks Scholarship to show up anytime soon.

posted by Gavin @ 12:42 PM  5 comments

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

NFC West Overview: St Louis Rams

In the limited history of the NFC West as currently constituted, the St Louis Rams have always been around the top of the heap, always either first or second in the division. The year before the restructure, of course, was their 14-2 first place finish and Super Bowl run. Basically, the Rams have had a pretty long window of success.

Last year, however, signified the end of that window. You heard it here first last summer in our season preview. We correctly pointed out that when you are an 8-8 team, it is generally a poor move to stand pat and believe you are going to make large improvements. Petey Prisco thought otherwise, but that's because he's a moron.

So one would think the Rams would have noticed the end of this era and try to start rebuilding appropriately with young talent. And then you would be wrong. The Rams apparently would like to go the route of the Mariners, clutching at wins with aging veterans past their prime. Note to Rams fans: it sucks.

Also, I'll be using Football Outsiders stats here today (explained here), because they're better than what Colin (lazy) used yesterday.

Also, you better believe we're doing all these previews again in August. Would you rather read about Carl Everett?

2005 record: 6-10

Quarterback:
Marc Bulger - DPAR 37.5, DVOA 15%
(Backup Gus Frerotte)


Marc Bulger is starting to die a slow death. Mike Martz set him up as a human pinata for defensive ends everywhere. Now he can't stay healthy and it takes about a sneeze to dislocate his elbow. This means his stats last year were pretty darn pathetic. In comparison, Matt Hasselbeck had a DPAR of 88.4. Ouch. Bulger can still throw a nice deep ball, but is prone to inconsistent stretches, and in a pass-first offense like the Rams, inconsistency equals three-and-outs. Many three-and-outs equals the Rams defense having to, well, defend, and bad things happen for St Louis at that point. Basically, the Rams REALLY needed to draft a young QB, and to get a better backup than Gus Frerotte, because the drop off is huge.

Running Back:
Stephen Jackson - DPAR 5.4, DVOA -7.2%
(Backup Marshall Faulk, Tony Fisher)

These numbers are difficult for me to understand. For someone who is as talented as Jackson, the Rams got basically what they would have from Maurice Morris (or Bam Morris). In fact, Jackson had a NEGATIVE impact on the game. What does this mean? It starts with the fact that Jackson is not a good pass blocker, never a good sign in the Rams offense. His offensive line did not open holes well enough for him last year, and Jackson hasn't shown the top end speed to outrun secondary players. He's still a bruiser, and I think he can turn his career around, but the Rams really have to start committing to the run, something new coach Scott Linehan should be willing to do. Jackson has the talent to be a top 10 back, not top 30. Marshall Faulk is also still around for some idiot to take in his fantasy draft only to be sorely disappointed.

Wide Receiver:
Torry Holt - DPAR 22.o, DVOA 5.0%
Isaac Bruce - DPAR 2.3, DVOA -7.4%
Kevin Curtis - DPAR 7.5, DVOA -3.7%
Shaun McDonald DPAR 7.1, DVOA -.6%

The numbers aren't looking much better for the Rams as they look to climb off the mat. Torry Holt, of course, is amazing, but Isaac Bruce was a complete waste of space who is only getting older. Kevin Curtis started off hot and was generally good for one long play a game if nothing else, and Shaun McDonald is a passable #4 receiver. Bruce, by the way, had a DPAR of 26.0 in 2004, so those injuries played a large part in his ineffectiveness. I think Rams fans can see a bit of an uptick in Holt's numbers, but need to add a better playmaking #2 receiver for their spread formations. They still don't have a true downfield threat in the Randy Moss mode that gave Linehan this genius label. There's not a lot of depth and help on the way either. Converted QB/WR Marques Hagans is a big question mark, and TE draft picks Dominique Byrd and Joe Klopfenstein will take time to groom. Byrd has the most talent but can't block (vice versa for Klopfenstein). If the injury bug hits again the Rams don't have much in the larder to plug in.

Offensive Line:
Alex Barron, RT, Adam Timmerman, RG, Andy McCollum, C, Claude Terrell, LG, Orlando Pace, LT

The offensive line is where the Rams won their championships and is where their downfall has been created. St Louis gave up sacks 7.6% of their pass plays (number adjusted for opponent, down, and distance) in 2005, basically meaning whoever is dropping back to pass becomes a punching bag. This number isn't even indicative of the number of big hits a St Louis quarterback took in Martz's offense as the receivers ran their deep routes. Alex Barron showed some promise but also was very inconsistent. Adam Timmerman is OLD, same with Andy McCollum. Imagine Chris Gray has the RG and C. Yeah. Bad. Claude Terrell is an unproven rookie at LG, and of course Orlando Pace is good at the other tackle, although not nearly as good as he used to be. Who knows if they really can run block (stats say no) because the Rams have never asked them to get into any semblance of a rhythm. As with everything with the Rams, there's far too much consistency here for a bad team.

Defensive Line:
Anthony Hargrove, DE, La'Roi Glover, DT, Jimmy Kennedy, DT, Leonard Little, DE

And now we reach my real beef with St Louis' philosophy... how they've decided to "rebuild" their defense. On the defensive line they've decided to basically stand pat with the rushers, which is good news for Seattle. Then they decided to keep underacheiving Jimmy Kennedy and add La'Roi Glover, who is basically a proven veteran on the downside of his career. Get used to that, because you're going to see a lot more names similar to it. Claude Wroten is the rookie x-factor to this mix. If he doesn't snap or get suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy (and it will happen at some point, anyone who is dumb enough to get caught at the combine will get caught in the NFL) he could make a decent impact. However, Shaun Alexander and most other running backs will continue to find holes in this bunch to get through to the second level.

Linebackers:
Brandon Chillar, Wil Witherspoon, Pino Tinoisamoa

I don't really think the Rams actually know what their depth chart looks like, the NFL.com one is a joke. Witherspoon is the one impact (and I use the term loosely) player the Rams actually signed this offseason in that he is servicable, doesn't take plays off, and is an instant upgrade over the crap he's replacing. However, he's not near a Pro Bowl caliber player and when he's the suppsoed catalyst of your improvement you have issues. Chillar is a second year player with some promise (not that much though). Depth again is a serious issue. Any injuries here and the Rams are going to continue to be awful in the middle of the field.

Secondary:
DeJuan Groce, CB, Tye Hill, CB, Corey Chavous, S, Fakhir Brown, S?

Corey Chavous (really overrated) is the supposed replacement for Adam Archuleta. Yeah, like that's an upgrade. Tye Hill is a good young corner, but he'll have a sharp learning curve when he's hung out on an island as often as he will be. Groce will be looking to bounce back from an injury and is pretty talented when healthy. Who knows who the other safety will be. Brown is listed on the NFL.com depth chart, but on the roster he's listed as a corner. So they don't even know. The fact is that the Rams were terrible against the pass last year. If Groce is healthy they have a start. They even have a serviceable third corner in Travis Fisher. Still, an awful lot of veterans on a team trying to improve.

Basically, the Rams are a team that has finished 8-8 and 6-10 the past two seasons and has done precious little to upgrade key positions, especially on defense. Any hopes for a large rebound have to rest on Marc Bulger and the offense getting healthy and doing a rapid turnaround to outscore opponents 35-30. Until then the Rams are the antithesis of the Cardinals, getting older and slider backwards.

Tomorrow: Those pesky Cardinals!

posted by Gavin @ 2:16 PM  0 comments

NFL Live (5/9/2006): Seahawks?

Per Clayton, Holmgren definitely wants an extension to stay in Seattle. Excellent news for this next year, as it means that there won't be a cloud over next season.

Opening drive: Seattle? Since when did that ever happen on NFL Live?

Shaun has some killer fuzz going on that face. Still, he looks 23 years old.

Wow! Mark Schlereth thinks we are actually better!

Clayton thinks we can be better!

Small notes: Surprisingly, ESPN did a GREAT job analyzing the offseason of the Seahawks, making, basically, the exact same points that Gavin and I will make later this week. Both Schlereth and Clayton think that we have the chance to be better than last year (you can't say we will be, that's just stupid, too much can happen over the course of a full season), they both think that we are built for the long haul (meaning 3-4 years in the salary cap version of the NFL, which is about the window for Alexander, Hasselbeck, and Jones to remain dominant), they both think that we have had, overall, a great offseason, they both think that the loss of Hutch, while hard, should not be that difficult to overcome (this is coming from a great guard in Schlereth, who made a point to illustrate how non-crucial the guard position is, and he should know), and, finally, they both think that the biggest loss of the offseason was Joe J., which I FULLY agree with, including Clayton's point that Joe brought a physicality to our corps that was missing, though he added that Burleson might be able to bring the same tools to the table.

Wow. A piece about the Seahawks on ESPN that I completely agree with. Weird.

Again, we'll bring our own thoughts to the table later this week, and will ask for yours as well, gracious readers (and Nate).

Gavin: Clayton echoed those thoughts on the radio today, and he and the host spent some time ripping David Locke (same station, thought that was funny). This whole question is pretty academic, since last year's team went 13-3 and it would be stupid to expect 13-3 any year in the NFL, but as we have written and will continue to write, ON PAPER we are better. Kudos to ESPN for figuring it out early. Maybe we won't have to go through the rest of the offseason cringing for preview to come out to rip.

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:03 PM  0 comments

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dear Texas A&M: Eat It

Good Hawks articles today at ESPN.com from John Clayton and Seth Wickersham (basically, on paper the Hawks do look better). Even Dave Boling proves my theory from before in writing a positive article after checking out the weekend minicamps... when the team is this good, you have to really nitpick to start finding flaws. More on all this when our offseason overviews come out end of this week.

No, the purpose of this quick post is to rub some dirt into Aggie fans everywhere, who decided after over 20 years that it was time to pretend to be all pissed off over the 12th Man flag at Hawks Stadium (Qwest Field is only for corporate whores). Confident that the law would side with them, redneck fans from deep south Texas took out their frustration over having a loser pansy football team for years out on our successful season, complaining and trolling over to Seahawks blogs (especially the 12th Man one we link to) to let us know (generally with poor spelling and grammar befitting Texas A&M education) how they felt.

Well, the courts have spoken. Texas A&M and the Hawks have reached a "settlement" under which Seattle will recognize A&M "ownership" basically as a footnote and only in some circumstances. The end result? We will fly the 12th Man flag, wear our 12th Man jerseys, eat our 12th Man burgers, and do whatever the heck else we want to. To me, that's not a "settlement". That's a "victory". No discussion of reimbursement, no "12th Man, brought to you by Texas A&M", no "12th Person".

I'll enjoy watching that flag at all the games this year, about the same time of year that the Aggies get pounded again by Texas. Good times.

Update: Apparently there will be some sort of licensing agreement in place. I'm going to assume that it is negligible, since the Seahawks (apparently before this year) have never actually sold 12th Man memorabilia. If they are going to move forward AFTER the ruling it would make sense that the courts are giving A&M a little "do you feel better now Timmy?" money.

posted by Gavin @ 3:11 PM  2 comments

NFC West Overview: San Francisco 49ers

The agony of the NFL Draft is now behind us. No longer do we have to listen to Trey Wingo and Mike Golic talk to us about Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young. Now we get to listen to more stories about T.O. and Brett Favre (who now is saying that 2006 might not be his last year, meaning that not only do we get ANOTHER year of media fawning over every last fart this guy throws out, but he might be the first person since Jordan to have THREE separate "retirement" games. This is bad news to everyone not from Wisconsin.).

What this DOES mean is that it is about time to take an look-see at the off-season developments in the NFC West, ending with the Hawks. Here's the loose schedule that Gavin and I will try to adhere to.....

Monday: San Francisco 49ers
Tuesday: St. Louis Rams
Wednesday: Arizona Cardinals
Thursday: Seattle Seahawks offense
Friday: Seattle Seahawks defense/special teams

That means it is up to me to start the overview off with the horrible team down by the bay, the once-proud San Francisco 49ers.

2005 record: 4-12 (won final two games of the season)

Quarterback:
Alex Smith - RAT 40.8 YDS 875 TD 1
(Backup Trent Dilfer)
Can small hands throw the football in the NFL? That is the question, as numerous balls slipped through the teensy-tiny fingers of Smith last season (though only 2 of those counted as fumbles, leading me to question the entire meaning of the word "fumble", because I watched him live in Seattle last year, and he seemed to fumble about seven times that game alone). Smith most assuredly would not have been the #1 overall pick if he had been drafted this year (not even in the top 10, probably), and I wondered about the Niners passing up Leinart in the draft with the obvious struggles of Smith last year. However, the Niners are obviously pitching their tent in Smith's camp. and they will rise and fall based on his small hands and oversized brain (great score on the Wonderlic!). Dilfer is a more-than-capable backup who would be worth a few extra wins if they actually let him on the field, but...... no.

Running Back: (I'm going with Frank Gore as the possible starter, because Kevan Barlow sucks, and I can't imagine that they would go with him again to begin the season)
Frank Gore - ATT 127 YDS 608 TD 3
(Backup: Kevan Barlow, Maurice Hicks)
Gore is, definitely, more talented than Barlow, and Hicks was a real nice find towards the end of last season. If these two are used competently, and have some semblence of an offensive line, then the running game of the Niners should improve from 17th last year. Both are a tad smallish, so it will take some good play-calling as well, but this is, honestly, one aspect of the Niners that I am interested to watch. It might be *gasp* decent.

Wide Receiver:
Arnaz Battle - REC 32 YDS 363 TD 3
Antonio Bryant (from Cleveland) - REC 69 YDS 1,009 TD 4
Eric Johnston - Did not play in 2005, 82 rec in 2004
Vernon Davis - R
Brandon Williams - R
Michael Robinson - R
And we get to the crux of the matter. Brandon Lloyd, he who killed the Seahawks every time we played them with brilliant one-handed catches, was allowed to leave, going to Washington. Much love then was given to the Niners for drafting Vernon Davis, who does appear to be a freak of nature. This is where Gavin and I differ from the football establishment, because, quite simply, Eric Johnston was the best receiver currently on the Niners roster (still is, actually). He had a stupendous 2004, and, if healthy, could easily be an impact player in 2006. Now, I'm not sure if, like Dallas, San Francisco is planning on going to a two tight-end set the majority of the time. If they are, then the pick is more understandable. As for the rest of the wide receiving corps..... woof. I give San Fran credit for realizing that the corps sucked by drafting a lot of talent here, but it remains to be seen if those moves will work.

Offensive Line: (I'm not sure if the depth chart I'm working off of on NFL.com is up to date here, apologies if it is not)
Kwame Harris, RT, David Baas, RG, Eric Heitmann, C, Larry Allen, LG, Jonas Jenninngs, LT
This line super-sucked last year. According to Football Outsiders, they ranked 29th out of 32 teams (Arizona was the worst, by the way). I just don't see, even with a few new rookies in camp, a whole lot of improvement coming the way of the Niners here, which means that poor Lil' Hands will be staring at the sky following another blitz by Julian Peterson or a solid bullrush by Rocky Bernard. Basically, if this sucker doesn't improve, the offense won't improve, because the talent at the skills positions just aren't good enough to overcome a disastrous offensive line performance. On the plus side (I mean, the SUPER plus side), the NFC West welcomes all-time heavyweight Larry Allen to the show!

Defensive Line: (same caveat as the offensive line)
Marques Douglas, Bryant Young, Anthony Adams
One year into the 3-4 system, which means one of two things. Either it was an abject failure, as it did finish last in the NFL, or it was a learning year, meaning that there can be no direction but improvement for the wayward Niners D. However, where is the talent infusion coming from for this so-called improvement? Not on the line, where Parys Haralson (DE) was the first talent taken in the fifth round (note: I don't include Manny Lawson in that as it is WAY more likely that he takes over Julian Peterson's OLB position). Can Bryant Young really stand up for one more season? The guy is pushing a zillion, isn't he? Again, the talent here doesn't lend itself to the impression that the Niners are a team poised to make a giant leap.

Linebackers:
Manny Lawson, R, Jim Maxwell, Jim Ulbrich (hopefully with mustache), Brandon Moore, Derek Smith, etc.
I liked the draft pickup of Manny Lawson. He was the one defensive end that I would have preferred over Tapp, but since I knew he wouldn't last to #31, I didn't mind us not getting him. He has a great motor and all the tools to perhaps be just as good as Peterson. I missed watching Ulbrich play last year, and hope that he is healthy and ready to go. Honestly, this is the one aspect of the defense (just like the running backs for the offense) where I can see some actual play-making talent, which is good if you're playing a 3-4 and are counting on your linebackers to be all over the field.

Secondary:
(Brief note: San Fran actually picked up Derrick Johnston, a rookie from Washington, as a possible cornerback. If a team is looking at a member of UW's secondary from last season to help their team, problems are a-brewing, because, wow, that secondary seriously, seriously sucked. I am super serial right now, as serial as Manbearpig.)
Listen, I could tell you this secondary, but, honestly, who knows? Sure, Plummer is still there until he inevitably pulls a Springs and gets injured in training camp. Mike Rumph is still there to make fun of. Tony Parrish is an actual professional football player who somehow got on this team. Kris Richard? Shawntae Spencer? Heck, why don't they just sign Etric Pruitt to boost the secondary, eh? Expect Arizona, St. Louis, and Seattle all to make quick work of what is a below-average group.

For a team with a whole lot of cap-room, the Niners did absolutely jack-squat so far this offseason. That should mean huge klaxon warning bells blaring for Niners fans, and huge sighs of relief for all the rest of the teams in the West who count on those two easy wins every season. However, for laughs, here is one fan commenting on a recent post at Football Outsiders. I give you Michael, a man who knows no reality....

you guys keep bashing the niners im not worrying this guy who wrote the column is biased he writes for seahawks.net they should of got another guy to write it. i predict the niners will have7-8 wins because of there easy schedule plus eric johnson is back we got antonio bryant a 1,000 yard reciver in cleveland who also sucked at qb. plus in my opinion we have the best offensive line in the league. so i think we’ll finish 2nd in the nfc west….

My favorite part? Best offensive line in the league. Wow. Evidence for that? And Antonio Bryant will vault you 3-4 wins? Antonio Freaking Bryant? Next up, Karl Cuba (excellent tag, man!)

The binning of the niners offense was to be expected but they have changed half the personel. New starters this year are Battle (should be healthy), Bryant, Johnson, Jennings, Newberry (again is now healthy), Allen and Snyder. Alex Smith will have an extra year to learn (the idea that at this stage you can say he will never be a good qb is laughable, he played the whole year behind a banged up, young line with only one reciever, Lloyd, who refused to go over the middle). Why is Bryant described as ’streaky’ in the article when he’s done nothing but produce? We all know he’s a tool but he has performed well and can everyone here say that if they’d been a 21 year old millionaire they never would have done anything stupid, he’s still only 25, he has time to mature.

The real worry for niner fans is at OLB, the only guy on the roster is Brandon Moore and though he is an OK pass rusher (5 sacks in reserve duty), he’s only 6′-1

If your "real worry" is OLB, then you don't really understand this team. And Bryant has done nothing but produce? On what planet? Final question.... what is binning?

Reality so far, Niners fans? You must hope for some slight improvement this year based on:
1. Smith radically improving
2. Vernon Davis and Manny Lawson being awesome
3. Frank Gore becoming a servicable back
4. (??)

Any other thoughts by readers about the Niners offseason so far?

Tomorrow.... St. Louis!

posted by colin_hesse @ 1:00 PM  0 comments

 


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