There’s a buzz around the Seattle Seahawks and it’s not being created by the product on the field. Sunday’s miserable 24-0 defeat in Pittsburgh was the viewing equivalent of being poked in the eye.
Several times. With a cactus.
As the game laboured to it’s pitiful conclusion, for the first time in my life watching the Hawks people began to wonder if the team genuinely is the worst in the NFL? The hype surrounding Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is so great, being worst has taken on a Holy Grail status. Who will win the competition to be that bad? Who will be the first to give up on their season and punt for Luck? Have the Seahawks already reached that level in sticking with the clearly struggling Tarvaris Jackson as the unquestioned starter?
Only as the Kansas City Chiefs lost more key starters and conceded even more points did people begin to wonder if this was even a competition. The Colts are kind of bad too – should we be worried here? Are they a ‘threat’ to Seattle’s absolute stinkiness? As the second half dragged on I started to notice fans across the NFL ranking the teams who were in the Luck sweepstakes. Some Seahawks fans were already noting ‘competitors’.
Let’s get one thing straight now – DO NOT ROOT FOR THE #1 PICK. STEP AWAY FROM THOSE THOUGHTS. NOW.
It is unhealthy. You will suffer much more stress than you ever will hoping for the team to win. When you’re investing so much time in taking satisfaction from your own team losing, that’s one thing. When you’re also stressing about other teams winning who you’d otherwise find insufferable, it takes on a whole new world. I more than anyone have banged on and on about needing to draft a franchise quarterback. I more than anyone have banged on about the Seahawks probably needing to draft that quarterback very early in the first round. Rooting to be the #32 team out of #32 however is like rooting for a lottery win. To some extent Seattle needs that early pick to really shift this rebuild into gear, but hoping to be bad enough to pick first overall will be like taking on a second full-time job.
Earning the opportunity to draft Andrew Luck will likely take more than being flat out bad. It’ll probably take an injury list similar to the ones being experienced in Kansas City or Indianapolis – key players missing for the season. The Seahawks do have a tough schedule, but they also play in the NFC West. The 2009 Seahawks were impossible to watch and went 5-11. The 2008 Seahawks were ravaged with an incredible injury list but had superior coaching and younger players and went 4-12. Being ‘just’ bad isn’t enough in my mind – as strange as that sounds – to be the worst in the NFL. It will take more.
I appreciate that people will point to the recently announced absence of Robert Gallery with a groin injury, continued issues with Russell Okung’s ankle and now Sidney Rice’s torn labrum. Others will direct focus at Tarvaris Jackson and say he’s reason enough the Seahawks are capable of earning the #1 pick. I still remain sceptical – I think the Seahawks look like a bad four win team that plays six games in the NFC West, not a truly chaotic 0-2 win team like Carolina last year that has to face divisional games against Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
And while many will prey that the Seahawks will ‘suck for Luck’, the truth is they could get away with ‘bad for Barkley’.
You can take it to the bank now that Andrew Luck will be the #1 pick next April. We can run through different teams that ‘might’ pass, but the reality is you’d need to own a young, elite passer to ignore a player as hyped as Luck. A team with a young, elite passer will not be picking #1 overall in all likelihood. Elsewhere, Indianapolis have seen what life after Manning looks like and it isn’t pretty. Other teams will see it as their opportunity to get the next big thing and players like Matt Cassell are not going to force your hand. Forget about picking anywhere other than #1 overall to get a shot at Luck.
Likewise forget about trading up. The stigma of passing on Andrew Luck for any amount of draft stock will be far greater than actually taking the guy and him not ending up as the greatest quarterback pick since Peyton Manning. Teams will want a kings ransom to put themselves in that position and even that might not be enough to tempt.
The Seahawks will have to be a complete and utter shambles 14-15 times in 2011, not twice, in order for a shot at the Luckmeister. I wouldn’t rule that out right now, particularly after the first two weeks. Yet they may only have to be bad enough to pick in the top five or ten to get a shot at Matt Barkley.
For starters, he simply isn’t receiving anywhere near the same level of hype as Andrew Luck. USC being out of the national picture even at 3-0 is keeping Barkley’s profile in check – almost like he’s admired from afar but not universally discussed. Without sanctions looming over the Trojans like a thick grey cloud, his 70% completions – 892 yard – nine touchdown – one interception start to the season would be generating much more hype.
Luck choosing not to declare for 2011 has created a monster that we didn’t see last year as he grew into a redshirt sophomore starting for a second season. This is Barkley’s first opportunity to consider the draft, thus keeping a lid on things for now. Opinion is also a lot more mixed on Barkley – and while I think there’s actually very little between the two top ranked quarterbacks - big name pundits like Todd McShay have not matched grades offered by the likes of Tony Pauline and Mel Kiper in the early first round.
While Kansas City won’t be able to resist the temptation to bin Matt Cassel in favor of Andrew Luck, they may be more hesitant when presented with the chance to draft Matt Barkley. It could be a similar story for Indianapolis who let’s not forget just invested in an insane contract for Peyton Manning. Drafting Luck would be a steal and set them up for years – but if he’s not there, would they rather concentrate on keeping Manning upright for the rest of his bumper deal with perhaps a franchise left tackle in Ryan Kalil instead? They did just draft Anthony Castonzo.
There are others – Minnesota for example – who would be less inclined to draft Barkley but would probably write off Christian Ponder if offered Luck. Suddenly you’re wondering if the Seahawks could finish possibly with a #4 or #5 pick and still have a very realistic shot at a quarterback with franchise potential. It’d still be a stress inducing wait, because I don’t rate any other 2012 eligible quarterback close to a top ten grade at this stage.
So yeah – this is a bad Seahawks team and only the most eternal optomist can expect they’ll pull off another miracle by somehow scraping into the playoffs. Sunday’s game against Arizona will essentially dictate the season – lose that game and an 0-6 record looks likely before the Bengals arrive in Seattle. Win it and suddenly that Atlanta home game offers an opportunity to maybe – against all odds – take a 2-2 record into road games against New York and Cleveland. It seems unlikely, of course it does, but those are the kind of margins between a team that stutters along just about competing in the NFC West and a team that has a shot at the #1 overall pick.
Having the chance to draft Andrew Luck may well put this team on track for a decade of challenging at the top table. I’m a Luck fan, but he’s not Superman and would have a lot to prove. Yet if the Seahawks are bad enough to pick early – but not quite bad enough to be worst – there’s every chance they’ll still have a chance at getting their quarterback.
Speaking of Matt Barkley, see the video above for his performance against Syracuse on Saturday. The USC quarterback threw five touchdown passes – equalling a school record. Although it’s only a highlights tape and doesn’t show bad plays, it’s worth noting how well Barkley goes through progressions. I’m not sure I’ve seen a college player work through 3-4 targets as well as Barkley and still manage to stay fairly decisive. It’s an under rated quality and one which will help him at the next level significantly, particularly if asked to start early.