Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Archive for the ‘Seattle Seahawks’ Category

Seattle Seahawk Fan Criticism of Tim Ruskel Over 2009 NFL Aaron Curry Pick Unfair

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Fans in Seattle are aghast at the sudden demotion and trade of a player pre-destined as the next Dick Butkus, before he was drafted with the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft.

Seahawk management felt this “safe pick” was one where they could not miss, to fill a position they sorely needed filled.  At 6 feet 2 inches and 255 points with 4.52 speed, he seemed like a sure thing.  An expected Pro-Bowler with great personal character, to anchor the fledgling Seahawk defense for years to come.

He was the highest drafted linebacker in franchise history, and the highest linebacker picked in the NFL draft since Lavar Arrington in 2000.   But when he agreed to renegotiate and shorten contract with unguaranteed money, the handwriting was on the wall.  Especially when fourth-round pick KF Wright ultimately won the battle for the starting strong-side spot.

Curry was promptly shipped off to the Oakland Raiders this week, for a paltry seventh-round pick in 2012, a conditional draft pick in 2013, and a case of Cheese Cheetos to be delivered Seahawk headquarters by noon on Friday.

It would be easy to criticize Seahawk management for blowing the pick, but criticism today is merely the worst form of Monday morning quarterbacking done by folks who have no idea what they are talking about.   Who among us has ever drafted a player using the vast complexity it takes to evaluate talent?

In this case, studying old Wake Forest tape does not categorically decipher whether Aaron Curry was truly great because of his own talent, or  because of the talent that surrounded him.  Especially on a team like the feared and loathed Demon Deacons, in the ACC, which is not a football conference that tends to knock the knees of potential opponents.

The third smallest school in FBS in terms of enrollment behind Rice and Tulsa, it is by far, the smallest school playing in a BCS conference.  Therefore it’s not prone to attract national attention unless they upset a more storied football program, which in their case could be anyone they played.

On teams like this, where underrated players are the norm, and these guys surround the favored media-declared superstar, the favored guy might get the accolades when the others actually deserve it.

How difficult it must be, for talent scouts to sort that out.  And even then it’s a gamble.

You can’t tell, for instance, that in the much quicker NFL that he would be slow to decision-make during a play, or that he would tend to overrun plays where he should have stayed home.  How could you know this?

Especially when he showed such promise during his first five games, and had every pundit in the land pointing to his can’t miss credentials as a great guy off the field as well as on.  He is smart, caring, and does everything a professional organization expects of their stars.

It’s not like the Seahawks could have brought in Aaron Curry to play a few games with the professional team before drafting him.  Thus it’s a bit of a cheap shot for fans to rip on then general-manager Tim Ruskell and other Seahawk talent scouts after-the-fact.

Two Seahawk coaches, Jim Mora and Pete Carroll, both targeted Curry as a strong side linebacker, where you have to be strong and athletic and crazed enough to react with instinct instead of head smarts.   And yet in the ACC, where players are certainly not as quick and determined as they are in the NFL, how could you possibly know how Aaron Curry or anyone else for that matter, would react on a professional football field?

You can’t know, all you can do is play the odds.  You can evaluate to your heart’s delight, but it comes down to game day players who have that extra gear that kicks in when games that count start play. 

As a coach and talent scout you can’t measure that in collegiate athletes, all you can do is put stop watches on their speed, and evaluate how they play during a scant handful of post-season games where other college stars are brought together.  Games in which sure-thing picks tend to avoid.

None of this is precise, nor is it guaranteed.  And thus players like Aaron Curry, and Steve Niehaus, and Brian Bosworth, and Rick Mier, all high can’t-miss Seahawk draft picks, went bust.  They didn’t pan out in the long run.

That’s not to say that Aaron Curry will be ensconced with this group for the remainder of his career.  But is to say that the critics need to stuff socks in their pie holes and back off.  It’s very easy to launch missiles from the safety of the unpaid sidelines of fandom.

It’s not so easy when you’re the guy in the hot seat evaluating Aaron Curry and a whole host of other “can’t miss” college football prospects following what could have been a freak high-performance season they may never repeat.  And thus even professional talent scouts miss the sure things while others get lucky finding untapped free agents who eventually become better.

Welcome to the NFL.  Welcome to professional sports.  If it was easy, we’d all be doing it.


As published at the FanVsFan website:


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Written by PhilCaldwell

October 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

1976 NFL Draft Taught High First Round Picks Don’t Guarantee Pro-Bowl Players

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As beer-guzzling, couch-dwelling husbands and sons across the country belch on the couch, donning exposed undies stained by pizza grease and other disgusting matter, the other side of the house was dominated by roomfuls of giddy multi-generation women, near-fainting and panting over the pomp and ceremony of a prince marrying a commoner.

Ah yes, American culture and the dregs of society, pitted against class and etiquette adored by people who are disgusted with those making a big deal about their team drafting an offensive lineman.

Not that any of this matters.  History shows us that these Disney-type weddings have about the same record of longevity as do NFL first round draft picks.  No more obvious is that, then the very first Seahawk draft pick of all time, one Steve Neihaus, taken with the second overall pick of the 1976 Draft.

You remember 1976, right?  There were plaid bell-bottoms, silk shirts, hairy chests, the birth of Peyton Manning,  and the birth of the Seattle Seahawks franchise, which drafted a stud defensive lineman out of the University of Notre Dame with their first-ever pick.

But barely. Rumors said the infant Seahawks were on the phone two seconds before the bell, trying to deal the pick to other teams for a gaggle of picks, but failed in their efforts.

Thus they reluctantly picked this mammoth, who stood 6’5” and weighed 270 pounds on a large frame. Huge by 1976 standards.


Nevertheless, the pick had Seahawk management in charge of player personnel smiling and proud, boasting that they were not nearly as inept as whoever designed those color-challenged gray pants mixed with Canuck blue jerseys and green.

Neihaus ended up being the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and held the Seahawk rookie record for sacks in a season. Nine and one half.

The one half being when he accidentally ran over Dallas Cowboy Guadalajara-bred kicker Efren Herrera, who was caught napping on a Doritos stack table inappropriately placed between Neihaus and an emergency toilet facility.

But I digress.

Steve Niehaus finished 12th in Heisman Trophy voting in 1975. Second in Outland Trophy voting, and had been a favorite of pro scouts since starting for Notre Dame as a freshman.

He was a two-time All-American, unanimous selection as a senior, with 95 tackles in 1975, 13 of them for minus 82 yards, and he broke up two passes and recovered one fumble.

Career totals at Notre Dame included 290 tackles, 25 for minus 128 yards, and played in the 1976 College All-Star game.

No wonder the Seahawks liked this guy. At the time, Seahawk head coach Jack Patera gushed “We feel Steve Neihaus will be as valuable to us as a quarterback. He can be an anchor for our defense, who will be here for 10 years.”


But he never made much of an impact, and played in just 36 games before being traded in 1979 for an eighth-round draft pick.

The culprit was a faulty right shoulder according to Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times, who three years ago, reported via a telephone interview with then 53 year-old Neihaus that his shoulder started popping out of place randomly, which ultimately proved fatal to his playing career.

Often he played football with a leather strap harness thing, then had a 3-inch screw inserted surgically, and finally couldn’t take it anymore and retired shortly after being unloaded by the Seahawks to Minnesota.

The point being that high draft picks sometimes are not what they are cracked up to be on these draft days filled with hoopla and festivities.

Sometimes the lower round guys turn out far better, like Pro Bowl defensive back Gary Fencik of the Miami Dolphins, chosen 280 picks later in the same draft in the 10th round, or Tampa Bay’s Pro Bowl wide receiver Carl Roches, selected four rounds after that with the 377th pick.

Five Hall of Fame players and 15 Pro Bowlers were picked in 1976, all but one of them long after the Seahawks chose Steve Neihaus. The vast majority had no fanfare when selected, as is the case in most NFL drafts.

But Steve Niehaus remains the guy we all remember, those of us old enough and fortunate enough to remember the very first NFL draft for the Seattle Seahawks

Written by PhilCaldwell

April 28, 2011 at 10:50 am