Phil Caldwell

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The 10 Worst Trades in Seattle Professional Sports History

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The city of Seattle is known for many things.  The Space Needle.   Fishies jumping to and fro from glistening water lining the shorelines.  Sunsets skipping across snow clad ridges.   The deep blue of winter skies.   Tossed salmon through the Pike Place Market.

It is a city in a wonderland of outdoor bliss, where rugged mountains and skiing are within an hour’s drive of 150 golf courses played year round.

But the city is also known for assembling pathetic professional sports teams run by inept and/or confused general managers.  This is the city, after all, that fumbled its beloved and seemingly permanent NBA basketball franchise with four decades of history, away to a tiny town in the tumbleweed-infested plains of Oklahoma.

Where oh where does one start in pointing out terrible trades and mind-boggling player movement associated with this metropolis?   Perhaps an impossible task with dire consequences, sure to invoke scathing rebukes by the faithful.

The top ten worst trades in Seattle sports history!

10) Mariners – Tino Martinez & Jeff Nelson to the Yankees (December 6, 1995)

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 15:  Infielder Tino Martinez #24 of the New York Yankees smiles during the game against the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum on May 15, 2005 in Oakland, California.  The Yankees won 6-4.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

I spit on the ground at the mere mention of this travesty.  The Mariners drafted Tino in 1988, and Martinez began his career playing under  Lou Pinella who was a friend of his father back in Tampa.  He had several mediocre seasons, but broke out in  1995 when he drove in 111 runs, hit 31 home runs and batted .293 during that fateful ALDS series of long ago.  In 1995 the Seattle Mariners played the Cleveland Indians for the American League Pennant,  riding the backs of two upcoming stars:  pitcher Jeff Nelson and first baseman rookie Tino Martinez.

All the team needed to do is keep what they had for years of similar outcomes.  So what did they do?  The morons shipped off Tino and Nels to the hated and despised New York Yankees for prospects  Sterling Hitchcock and  Russ Davis.

Over the next four seasons Martinez provided key hit after hit as the Yankees romped to four world championships.  Martinez hit two memorable home runs in one series, with his season statistically in 1997 when he was second in the AL MVP voting after hitting 44 home runs with 141 RBI’s.

Meanwhile outspoken Jeff Nelson, traded twice to the Yankees for mouthing off about player moves (certainly understandable) pitched for five seasons in New York, including four World Series and was a most valued set-up man for Mariano Rivera.  And although Russ Davis did hit the first home run at Safeco, this trade was a dog and one that Yankee fans are still applauding as perhaps Karma, a make-up for the Bueller for Phelps debacle.

9) Mariners – Five players to for Erik Bedard (February 9, 2008)

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 27:  Erik Bedard #45 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum on May 27, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Bill Bavasi, one of a long list of outsmarted Seattle General Managers,  assumed he was getting a sorely needed staff ace when he traded highly touted prospect and number one pick Adam Jones, left-handed reliever George Sherrill, and three minor league prospects to the Baltimore Orioles for 13-game winner Erik Bedard.   Instead they got a very temperamental and oft-injured mediocre pitcher,  who at age 29, was rumored to still living in the basement of his parents home.

When he did throw, the moody Bedard rarely exceeded 100 pitches.   Worse was the extent of a un-communicated shoulder problem that came with him, which finally led to two lost seasons of rehab which is spilling into a third.   Meanwhile newly acquired and near-rookie Adam Jones became Baltimore’s everyday center fielder, with Sherrill saving 31 games for the Orioles during an All Star summer before landing in New York the following year, and eventually to the Dodgers.

Meanwhile throw-in prospects Chris Tillman developed into a Orioles starting pitcher,  fellow throw-in Kam Mickolio pitched several games in relief this past season and continues to develop.

8) Sonics: Kennedy McIntosh for Garfield Heard (October 20, 1972)

Garfield Heard and "the shot heard round the world"
Garfield Heard and “the shot heard round the world”

The infant Seattle Supersonics were fleeced by the Chicago Bulls for a Seattle player who later played in many playoff series for three different teams.  Kennedy McIntosh, originally drafted in the first round of the 1971 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls, best season in Seattle was in 1973-74 when he averaged 7.4 points per game.  McIntosh left the NBA in 1975 due to injury after only six games and lots of time riding pine.

Meanwhile the player they traded, Garfield (Gar) Heard, is best known for a buzzer beater made in Boston to send Game 5 of the  1976  Phoenix– Bostonchampionship series into a third overtime.  This feat is commonly known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World ”

Fans had stormed the court after the time was erroneously allowed to expire, and one particularly boisterous fan attacked referee  Richie Powers after it was announced that the game was not over yet. Future Sonic  Paul Westphal then intentionally took a  technical foul by calling a timeout when the Suns had no more timeouts to use. It gave the Celtics a free throw, which  Jo Jo White converted to give Boston a two-point edge, but the timeout also allowed Phoenix to inbound from mid-court instead of from under their own basket. When play resumed, Heard caught the inbound pass and fired a very high-arcing turnaround  jump shot from at least 20 feet away. It swished through, sending the game into a third overtime. However, Boston eventually won the game and the Finals, four games to two. Heard had scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in Game 5

Heard went on to play eight more seasons in the NBA and was a solid veteran, with many Sonic fans stung to fury knowing they received nothing back for key defensive stalwart who seemed to always be in key playoff series for the Chicago Bulls, Buffalo Braves, and Phoenix Suns.

7) Mariners: Carlos Guillen for Juan Gonzalez and Ramon Santiago (Jan 8, 2004)

ATLANTA - JUNE 27:  Carlos Guillen #9 of the Detroit Tigers against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Guillén was signed by the  Houston Astros as a non-draft amateur free agent in 1992. He was traded to the  Seattle Mariners with pitcher  Freddy García and  John Halama in the trade deadline deal that sent  Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros.

Guillén made his debut in 1998 and was traded to Detroit at the end of the 2003 season after a trade for Omar Vizquel fell through.   In Seattle, shortstop Guillén was forced to play second and third base with incumbent  Alex Rodriguez at shortstop. After Alex Rodriguez signed with the  Texas Rangers for the  2000 season, Guillén moved back to his natural position. He had a league-average campaign in his first full season with the club.

The Mariners dealt Guillen for Santiago and Gonzalez who went on to play a combined 27 games for the Mariners (all of them by Santiago). Meanwhile, Guillen blossomed into a pretty solid run producer for the Tigers, hitting .318, .320, .320, 296, .286 from 2004 thru 2008 for the Tigers.  Today he remains on the team and is a utility player providing veteran leadership.

6) Sonics – Lenny Wilkens for Butch Beard (August 23, 1972)

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No trade in Seattle sports history ticked off local fans as this early introduction to professional sports, by the Sonics.

Owner Sam Schulman pushed his staff to trade five-time NBA All-Star Lenny Wilkens, who the team had acquired three years earlier for guard Walt Hazzard, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for guard Butch Beard and Barry Clemens.

Wilkens was arguably the first Seattle superstar and clearly the most popular player in early Sonics history.  He led the club to a team-record 47-win season, just missing the playoffs, but the year following this trade the Sonics plummeted to a paltry 26-56 record.   But he was a player-coach, and then owner Sam Schulman demanded that Wilkens choose one over the other (coaching or playing).  Once Wilkens decided to play, the Sonics deemed it too difficult a situation for the succeeding coach and promptly traded him to Cleveland.

His coaching replacement, Tom Nissalke, was fired after only 45 games.   Meanwhile Butch Beard bore the brunt of everyone’s frustration while trying to please hostile crowds   He pressed and lost confidence,  and things got progressively worse as his scoring average dipped from 15.4 points per game with the Cavs to 6.6 in Seattle.

Sonic fans, feeling jilted for perhaps the first time, packed the sold-out Seattle Coliseum the first time Lenny Wilkens returned to Seattle after giving him a two minute standing ovation during introduction, making it the franchise’s second-highest game attended to date.  Wilkens’ every move was cheered while the home team was booed nonstop, beginning with the first pregame layup drill. Cleveland won 113-107

“It was brutal,” recalled Bob Houbregs, former UW All-America center and the Sonics’ general manager responsible for the ill-fated trade. “I felt so badly for him and his family. They took so much abuse and it wasn’t right.”

Soon-to-be-discarded Beard got even with the Golden State Warriors the next season by winning an NBA title with the Warriors, one of his five pro teams.  Later he coached the New York Nets & went on to other managerial positions in the NBA.

5) Mariners: David Ortiz to Minnesota for Dave Hollins (August 29, 1996)

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after striking out in the sixth inning of their game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ez
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Losing David Ortiz to Boston goes down as one of the poorest trades in Mariner history.  Albeit a somewhat forgivable move since absolutely noone foresaw Ortiz developing into what he ultimately became: a six time All Star who set a single-seaon record in 2006 for 54 home runs.

Ortiz was a post-deadline throw-in completing the trade for the pinch-hitting David Hollins as oft-ignored “player to be named later.”   Turns out the Mariners donated the farm by throwing in “Big Papi” during an unsuccessful push for the promised land of the postseason.

The Mariners were shocked when this cast-off eventually became the powerful team leader that Boston fans have adored ever since.  Ortiz’s lovable easy-going nature has been a rock in the Boston clubhouse during tense pennant races and perhaps THE most influencial party during the stunning Boston come-back against the Yankees in 2002.  His intensity with a bat is second to none. Ortiz is one of the greatest team leaders ever to play in beantown and has taken on near worship status in a city that loves their baseball team like no other.

4) Seahawks: Tony Dorsett for No.14 Pick Steve August (May 3, 1977)

16 Nov 1986:  Running back Tony Dorsett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during a game against the San Diego Chargers at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.  The Cowboys won the game, 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Ken Levine  /Allsport
Ken Levine/Getty Images

After using their first-ever draft pick on Defensive Tackle Steve Niehaus in 1976, Seahawk management and GM John Thompson decided the team needed help in many key positions rather than just one glory running back who would get crushed behind an expansion offensive line.  Dorsett felt the same way, whimpered that he would never play for Seattle, and thus even with Dorsett’s NCAA rushing records and Heisman Trophy out there for the taking, the Seahawks went for quantity rather than quality.

Seattle made two proposals to the Cowboys. The first involved some Dallas draft choices and Linebacker Randy White. “The Cowboys bounced that back faster than we could spit it out,” Thompson says. The second was the deal that eventually was made.

Dallas general manager Tex Schramm, was rightly euphoric about landing Dorsett. “Dorsett is the outstanding back to come out of college since maybe O. J. Simpson,” he said. “He doesn’t have O.J.’s size, but there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be as successful as Simpson.” Then Schramm talked like a businessman.

“People can argue whether what we did at Seattle was good or bad,” former Seahawks front office member Bob Ferguson said years later, “but all I know is that those guys all ended up starting for us and we went 9-7 in our third year in the league.”

Fair enough point, but considering Dorsett ran for more than 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons, led the league in rushing during the strike-shortened ’82 season (when his string of 1,000-yard campaigns was broken), won two Super Bowls and retired as the second-leading rusher in NFL history behind Walter Payton, there’s a strong argument that this was an epic mistake.

3) Mariners – Jason Varitek & Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb (July 31, 1997)

ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 27:  Catcher Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox works behind the plate against the Tampa Bay Rays April 27, 2008 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Both Boston fans and team management are still laughing about this pig of a trade.

The trade happened literally minutes before deadline, and apparently Woodward was working the phone lines hard. He ended up with too many irons in the fire, and as everything fell apart, he came back to Heathcliff Slocumb. Rumors leaked out that the Red Sox were asking for Derek Lowe OR Jason Varitek, but not both.   It was the Mariners that came back offering both of them.  Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Boston to agree to the deal.

Slocumb had over 30 saves in 1995 and 1996, sporting ERAs in both years around 3.00. By traditional numbers, he looked fine, but the wheels started to come off in 1997, to the tune of a 5.79 ERA with only two fewer walks than strikeouts at the time of the trade.  Looking beyond Heathcliff’s ERA (or watching him in person for that matter), Slocumb always struggled to throw strikes, and didn’t counteract that with an eye-popping strikeout rate.

His split-finger was a swing-and-miss type of pitch, but hitters often felt no need to expand their strike zone with his questionable control. Still, despite the obvious signs the Slocumb wasn’t a strong rebound candidate; M’s GM Woody Woodward bit the bullet, and put some trust in him.

In Woodward’s defense, Slocumb was added to one of those epic mid-’90s terrible Mariners bullpens. Although Heathcliff wasn’t great, he was 1 of 20 pitchers used in relief by the 1997 Mariners, which says plenty about the talent level of that bullpen.  In Seattle the rest of the season, as the closer, Heathcliff got about a strikeout an inning and his ERA went down nearly a couple runs. However, Slocumb showed his true colors again in 1998, and was gone by the end of the season.

In the end, the deal sort of worked for three months. The price was excessive, to say the least. Derek Lowe, who made his MLB debut for the 1997 Mariners (and was ineffective in his nine starts), did not take long to establish himself as an All-Star caliber pitcher for the Boston Red Sox where he posted a 21-8 record with a 2.58 ERA and candidate for the Cy Young in 2002.

Jason Varitek was still a prospect in the Mariners system, but went on to become a three-time All-Star and  Gold Glove Award winner at  catcher,and a  Silver Slugger Award winner.   Varitek was part of both the Red Sox’s  2004 World Series and  2007 World Series Championship teams.   In December 2004 he was named  captain of the Red Sox, only their third captain since 1923.

2) Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice (June 22, 1987)

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Seattle held the fifth pick in the 1987 draft, but on draft night 1987, the Chicago Bulls acquired Scottie Pippen by convincing Seattle to exchange for the eighth pick, center Olden Polynice, a second-round pick and the option to switch first-round picks in 1989.   It sounded advantageous to the Sonics at the time since they intended to take Polynice anyway, but it is now known nationally as quite possibly one of the biggest stinkers of all time.  Pippen would later be named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history.

The Bulls got this seven-time All-Star who became a vital component of the Chicago Bulls’ six NBA Championships in the 1990s.   During his seventeen-year career, he played twelve seasons with the  Chicago Bulls, one with the  Houston Rockets and four with the  Portland Trail Blazers, making the postseason sixteen straight times.  He racked up the second most playoff game appearances (208) behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (237). But above and beyond, his all-around game was the prototype for the next generation of small forwards.  The Bulls got the perfect compliment to Michael Jordan and one of the greatest, most versatile players of all time who could do everything.

Polynice played for eight different NBA teams in his 16-season NBA career, including two stints with Seattle.  Zero championships, always known as a somewhat mediocre if not slow methodical player and career back-up whose best scoring average was just over 12 points per game.

1) Dennis Johnson for Paul Westphal (June 3, 1980)

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How can I call this trade the worst in Seattle history in comparison to the other dogs we just mentioned?  Because this trade ruined the chemistry on TWO former contending teams, not just one.

The balance which had worked so well in both Seattle and Phoenix no longer worked as well in either city, although both teams did do well the year following the trade.  But with the exchange of these two All-Star players in this straight-up trade, neither found the dominating form that had made both teams the elite they had been during the previous years.  Part of that was obviously due to the Lakers drafting sensational rookie Magic Johnson and vaulting the Lakers to heights previously unknown, but the impact Dennis Johnson’s defense had for the Sonics is unmeasured.

Dennis Johnson was a 6-foot-4 guard and five-time NBA All-Star who averaged 14.1 points, 5.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds over his 14-year career. When Johnson retired in 1990, he was just the 11th player in history to have 15,000 points and 5,000 assists.  He was named to nine straight All-Defensive Teams.  He was a member of three NBA championship squads, two after leaving Seattle.

In what could be the best draft pick the Sonics ever made,  Seattle selected Johnson in the second round of the 1976 NBA Draft with the 29th pick and was given a four-year contract which started with a salary of $45,000 in year one and ended with $90,000 in the last year.

He had grown up on the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, one of 16 children. He didn’t make varsity until his senior year of high school and went to work driving a forklift in a tape warehouse after he got his diploma. He played ball in local leagues and was “discovered” by Jim White, coach of Los Angeles Harbor College.  From there, Johnson went to Pepperdine. The Seattle SuperSonics drafted him as a “junior eligible” in 1976

Four years later Johnson and teammate Gus Williams were both named to the All-NBA Second Team, and Johnson was also named to the All-NBA First Defensive Team for the second consecutive year.  After the Sonics made it to the Western Conference Finals for the third straight season, it would be the last time that the backcourt of Williams and Johnson would play together in SuperSonics uniforms.  Dennis Johnson was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the start of the  1980–81 season.

Wilkens felt Johnson was too moody and erratic, too immature and a “cancer” on an otherwise championship team.

Paul Westphal was no slough either.  Drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1972 out of USC,  Westphal played three seasons and earned a ring in 1974, and then was traded to the Phoenix Suns where he earned another in 1976.  He was a prolific scorer if not a bit soft on defense, yet defensive plays may be what he is best known for three decades later after his role in the triple-overtime win game 5 Phoenix win at Boston.  He spent one year in Seattle before being shipped off to the Knicks the following year, eventually going back to Boston and then ending his career back in Phoenix.

Meanwhile Dennis Johnson was shipped off to Boston after several years in Phoenix,  in another Red Auerbach fleecing for Celtic and former Kentucky lumbering big man Rick Robey, and Johnson went on to be a centerpiece in the legendary Lakers / Celtics rivalry on the 1980’s.   In Sports Illustrated, teammate Larry Bird, who was not known for lightly tossing around compliments, called Johnson “the best I’ve ever played with.”  Meanwhile in Seattle the Sonics were never quite the same and eventually declined into mediocrity following Gus William’s season long contract hold-out, the Sonics change in ownership and consequent move to the Kingdome.

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Written by PhilCaldwell

November 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm

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.

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As published at the FanVsFan website:

http://fanvsfan.com/articles/seattle-seahawk-fan-criticism-of-tim-ruskel-over-2009-nfl-aaron-curry-pick-unfair

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Auburn vs Oregon: Cockroaches and Flying Insects Killed from ESPN’s pregame

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Bosie State vs Utah in Las Vegas: Broncos Defeat Utes for Absolutely No Reason


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?

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.

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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.”

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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