Phil Caldwell

Sports Blogging With a Grin

Posts Tagged ‘Pete Carroll

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

New York’s NFL Giants Surprised by Seattle’s Hapless Seahawks

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Each year, week five of the NFL season exposes which team is a legitimate contender vs which will be wallowing in self pity for the next ten  months.  Yesterday at the Meadowlands was no exception, as the New York Giants were exposed as pretenders in spite of three victories against a single loss going into the game.

Squeakers over a bad Arizona Cardinal team a week following an equally unimpressive win over an unimpressive Eagles team, the Giants needed to make a statement against their third crappy team in a row.  This time it was the Seattle Seahawks, who two weeks prior had been mutilated 24-0 by the Pittsburg Steelers before losing to a decent Atlanta Falcon team off a missed last-second field goal last week in Seattle.

A perfect time to excel, especially when the Seahawk’s starting quarterback Tavaris Jackson, a Vikings cast-off and bad one at that, went down in the third quarter with a shoulder injury while trying to stretch an 11 yard run into 12.  A move that had head coach Pete Carroll still muttering and complaining in the post-game.

But when backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (who?) came in and looked like a metamorphosis of Peyton Manning, mid-way through the third quarter, the vaunted Giant defense looked more like something you might find at an average high school.  Whitehurst absolutely tore apart the Giants, giving the sluggish Seahawk offense exactly what they needed as they blew away New York’s squad of soon-to-be waivered has-beens.

Seattle started the game with an Oregon Duck lookalike effort featuring no huddles and a confused New York contingent, that ultimately yielded seven points in under three minutes.   Not-to-worry, as the Giants answered with their own quick seven play drive as Eli Manning nailed Jake Ballard in the end zone to tie things up.

And after the Seahawks floundered and punted, New York decided to bequeath the Seahawks the ball and the game, with a generous gift on their own 17 when Manning was sacked and fumbled.  But two plays later Seattle returned the favor and fumbled back to the Giants, who put together a pathetic three and out before a two play Seattle scoring drive which landed the visitors a quick 14-7 lead with three minutes left in the first.

It could have easily been a four touchdown lead had things broken differently.  As was, the Giants floundered again, Seattle put together their best drive of the day, a 12 play beauty that consumed almost six minutes off the clock and could have all but ended the game right there, had they not coughed up the ball again at the Giant’s two yard line.

Really ugly football followed for the rest of the half, until Manning finally woke up the crowd with a bomb to Hakeem Nicks down the right side, followed by a quick TD strike to tie things up at 14 with only seconds remaining in the half.

With FOX announcers Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman carrying on about how surprising it was for Seattle to be tied at halftime with the mighty New York Giants, things were about to get a bit nutty.  It started when Seattle’s starting quarterback got nailed trying to stretch a run and left the game.

Following a pretty punt to end the same drive that was downed at the five yard line, Seattle’s Anthony Hargrove nailed New York’s DJ Ware in the end zone on the right side on a first and 10.  Hargrove had slipped around the line unnoticed and Ware had no chance at going anywhere other than to the end zone carpet, and Seattle had a 16-14 lead from a improbable safety.

Several punts later Seattle kicked a 51 yard field goal seconds into the final period to take a 9-14 lead, but it was short-lived when the Giants got their first real break of the game.  Manning dropped back and threw a sideling bomb to Victor Cruz, which was batted straight up in the air by Seattle’s cornerback Richard Sherman.

But sometimes luck dictates the day, and on this play Cruz won the lottery when the ball fell right into this hands with nothing but an open field in front of him.  What should have been a routine incomplete pass turned out to be a 68 yard TD strike and the first New York Giant lead of the day, 22-19 with just over 12 minutes left in the game.

Cruz, and unrecruited out of high school and undrafted into the NFL, demonstrated why with a cheesy shuffle dance following the score that deserved a clothesline cheap shot from anyone nearby (including his own teammates)

But Seattle came right back after the kickoff sailed into the end zone thanks to that dopey rule change moving kickoffs up five yards.   Whitehurst hit Doug Baldwin on a perfectly executed screen play for a quick 20 yards, but followed it with a no-huddle mess that resulted in another punt.

Three plays later Seattle’s Walter Thurmund, demonstrating skills learned while pummeling Pac10 opponents at Oregon, stripped Manning of the ball when Manning was distracted while fighting for additional yardage.

Seattle had the ball on the New York 25, which they did nothing with, but it was close enough to salvage a 43 yard field goal to tie the game at 22 with ten minutes left.  Whitehurst looked terrible, missing receivers by dozens of yards for no particular reason, while newly acquired wide receiver Sidney Rice didn’t bother looking back and missed a sure catch on the following play to force a punt.

At which the Giants answered with their own seven play 80 yard drive, with Manning absolutely picking apart the Seattle defense.  In fact the Giants singed the Seattle defense with three big gainers in a row, and had the ball with a first and goal.  But when Tight End Jake Ballard got whistled for a knuckeheaded false start, the Giants never recovered.

Manning threw the next short pass into a huddle for no apparent reason, and the Giants would end up settling for a field goal to take a disappointing 25-22 lead.  But the drive only consumed a couple minutes off the clock.

Still with seven minutes left and a three point lead, things appeared to be going the Giant’s way with a revved up home crowd and all the momentum.  Seattle, back in their no huddle scheme, struck quick when Whitehurst hit Doug Baldwin for a quick 22 yard gain to the Seattle 42.

But the Giants looked like they had the drive stopped until managed to throw a miracle to Doug Baldwin on a 3rd & 7 for another first down to the Giant’s 47.  Followed by what turned out to be the game-ender.  Whitehurst found a wide open Doug Baldwin on blown coverage for touchdown and a 29-25 lead that would prove fatal.

The Giants Defensive End Osi Umenyiora gambled and came rushing in as Seattle faked a screen pass, which also got every single Giant defensive back to bite on the play, thereby leaving Baldwin all my his lonesome with nothing but open field in front of him.

Two-and-a-half minutes left, and the Giants needed to make something happen.  Manning hit Ware for a quick 22 yards, then drilled Manningham to get to their own 44 yard line.  But when Manning threw to Victor Cruz in the red zone, Cruz almost made a spectacular one-handed catch at the five yard line, only to have Seattle’s Brandon Browner grab what looked like a Cruz handoff, and raced 95 yards for Seahawk touchdown with just over a minute left.

The second freak play of the day involving Mr Cruz, only this time it turned out catastrophic to the Giant effort.  What should have been a 32-29 lead with no time left, ended up being a 36-25 Seahawk lead with no chance for a comeback.   And when Kam Chancellor intercepted Manning’s pass for the 8th turnover of the day in this slopfest, it was lights out for the Giants.

The Seattle Seahawks,  who looked so lethargic and uninspired against the Steelers two weeks prior, had just managed to march into the New York palace and snatch a win that few believed possible.  The Giants hence left looking like a pretender, while the Seahawks head into a bye week with new-found reason for optimism.

The youngest team in the league, lead by the greatest cheerleading coach since perhaps the great Vince Lombardi of the Packers a century ago.

Who woulda thought?