Thursday, June 25, 2009

Idle Musings

I think the Dodgers record should silence all the people who claimed that Joe Torre only won in New York because of the talent. Then again, people who believe in that don't really understand baseball in the first place.

I do not understand the fans of the Mariners who want them to turn into Pirates West. These are the fans that always root for the backup quarterback and always believe that whatever is next is the next best thing. Despite the fact that the Mariners are fielding an .500 team, Mariners fans want them to clean house, trade Bedard, Washburn, Beltre, Betancourt, Lopez, virtually everyone. In a situation where you are trying to build from the ground up, you keep the young guys, trade a quality veteran for some prospects, and have a couple of older guys to bring leadership to the team. Bedard, however injury prone, is young. The Mariners gave too much up to get him, but you can't do anything about that right now. He has great stuff and is a surgeon on the mound. Why trade him? His value isn't tremendously high, and it just leaves another hole in your rotation.

Washburn is a guy I would like to see traded. He's officially morphed into "crafty lefthander" status and his effort is contingent on team success. A playoff contender would love to bring him in to solidifer their rotation, and his mechanical and philosophical adjustments(going more off speed and relying less on fastball) have only increased his value. However, he's older, and taking the spot on the rotation of some younger arms, his value will never be higher, trade him.

Lets say the Mariners keep Bedard, Felix keeps improving, Murrow rounds into a solid 7 inning guy, Vargas continues to pitch well, and Roland Smith finally gets healthy. That is one hell of a rotation, not a single weak link, young, live arms, good left/right balance, the kind of rotation that could get you deep in the playoffs.

I'll admit I was wrong about Griffey, his presence has been invaluable and he's finally coming around to hit. The Mariners, in recent years, have excused their lack of plate discipline by claiming they are just "aggressive". Griffey is patient, he works the count, he gets walks and gets the pitchers pitch count up. The Mariners aren't hitting the ball very well, but they are slowly playing the game the right way. The minor leagues have some horses down there as well. The future is bright. For once.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2006

My naivete got the best of me this season. I figured the ultra motivated Seahawks would steamroll the NFC. However, I forgot the golden rule of success. When people win, they want to get paid, and losing teams want to fill their teams with "winners". Thanks to the Seahawks bungling, the Vikings signed a disgruntled Steve Hutchinson. A move the Seahawks are still recovering from. Andre Dyson left, Marquand Manuel got a much deserved pay day, and Shaun Alexander got paid. Robbie Tobeck was a year older and Chris Spencer was about to redefine the term "A man without a position" as he was about to start hopping from center to guard with frequency.

I had high expectations. But in the preseason, Chris Spencer was getting knocked backward, Mack Strong was just a little slower clearing out the holes and Shaun Alexander no longer was running for a contract. Marcus Tubbs was hurt, and Chuck Darby, a great rotation guy, was thrown into a starters role. I was unconcerned.

Until opening day. The Lions, fired up under their new coach, used the standard blitz happy, line crowding game plan that every team used to foil Holmgren. The Seahawks stunk, but won 9-6.

Things got better the next week, but the offense still was struggling. The Seahawks traded a first rounder for Deion Branch, unveiled a wide open offense because old number 37 broke his foot and annihilated, utterly annihilated the Giants the next week.

And then, everything changed. The Chicago Bears murdered the Seahawks. They became the first team to expose the Seahawks safeties, and overwhelmed the Seahawks offensive line. They also exposed a weakness in the middle of the Seahawks run defense that run oriented teams would exploit for the entire season. The image of the Seahawks as Super Bowl contenders came crashing down. They'd never look the same.

The next week, they won a wild game against the Rams, in the first of their annual "Flat start, Unbelievable Finish" games in St. Louis.

Then, the Vikings blew them out and knocked out Hasslebeck.

The Chiefs ran over them in a game not even as remotely close as the score. It was a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a cornerback falling down on a deep ball away from losing by 20 points.

They beat the Raiders, in a game with no offense whatsoever.

Unbelievably, with players dropping left and right, they won four of their next five games. Although you got the feeling they were just treading water, playing sound defense, and winning games at the end. Seneca Wallace was servicable, but limited, and Josh Brown won game after game.

Hasslebeck returned, and a tailspin began. They blew a game in Arizona and got shelled for the second time against San Francisco, a physical team tailor made to beat the Seahawks.

On Christmas Eve they lost a heartbreaker to a very very good San Diego team when Michael Boulware was beat on a deep ball. This was my first time watching Shawn Merriman play. It wasn't surprising when it came out later he was on steroids. The man could've been a boxer, his hands were that quick.

Thanks to the fact that the rest of the division sucked, the Seahawks wrapped up the division by beating Tampa Bay. However, two members of the secondary were hurt, Babineux and Jennings(I think). Leading to the Seahawks pulling guys off the street to START against the Cowboys.

Going into the playoffs, I knew the Seahawks weren't very good. But I subscribed to the notion that worse teams had made it deep and into the Super Bowl(85 Patriots anyone?). If they were going to win, it was going to be on coaching and guts.

Sure enough, in an utterly unbelievable game famous for Romo's botched snap. The Seahawks won by a single point.

Next up the Bears. During the Bears game, I destroyed a remote, and threw an empty water bottle so hard that it bounced off the wall, flew across the room and struck my friend in the head. Holmgren put together a game plan so beautiful it should be studied in coaching clinics everywhere. Shaun Alexander played his last great game as a Seahawk(He played two great games this year, his foray through the snow for 200 yards against Green Bay being the other). The defense, after a shaky start, held tough for the remainder of the game. The Seahawks did what few teams could do, and thats run right at the Bears. They harassed Rex Grossman, and held the ball in overtime with a chance to win.

I will forever believe that Hasslebeck choked in this game. He had one terrible interception, and was gunshy toward the end. This wouldn't be a concern if Rocky Bernard had held onto an interception with a clear path to the end zone.

They lost because the safeties finally got burned in overtime when the Seahawks elected to go on a balls out blitz on a third and long(when your front four is getting pressure, don't blitz!!!).

You were crazy if you thought Robbie Gould was going to miss that kick.

The season was a disappointment, but considering all the injuries, it was a testament to this teams toughness. The defense had its struggles, but was tough and tightened up as the season went on. Holmgren further proved he could compete even when he was working with guys off the street. This team gets forgotten because it was sandwiched between the offensive superpowers of 2005 and 2007, and winning ugly isn't sexy. But its still winning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2005

As a Seattle professional sports fan, we aren't often exposed to greatness. We had Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr in his prime and Steve Largent. But as far as great teams go, they are few and far between. Even in the year of our only professional championship, the Sonics went 45-37. The 1996 Sonics were an immensely talented bunch, but lacked the cohesion to be considered great, even with 60+ wins. The 2001 Mariners were record setting, and watching them on a day to day basis was a marvel. 116 wins, tied for the greatest regular season ever. But they weren't built for the playoffs, and a certain amount of playoff success is needed to be considered great.

The 2005 Seahawks were a great team.

I chronicled 2004 and explained how it nearly killed me. The effect of this was an apathetic approach to the season. Their offseason moves, so key, so beautifully constructed, were ignored by myself and others. It was just another 9-7 year, another early playoff exit. I didn't notice how Shawn Springs was gone, how Chris Terry was shown the door, how Anthony Simmons was given his walking papers, how Koren Robinson was finally let go. I scoffed at the signing of Joe Jurevicius and ignored the signing of Lofa Tatupu. I switched schools and found myself far away from the Seahawks.

The season opened in predictable fashion. In the searing heat of Jacksonville, the Seahawks were battered, outplayed and outmuscled by the brute force of the Jaguars. Hasslebeck was awful, and his protection was worse. The Seahawks went down 26-14, on an old Seahawks message board, I wrote a post bemoaning the start of another "same old Seahawks season". The next week they limped by Atlanta, it was ugly. They destroyed the Cardinals the next week, ordinary work I figured.

The next week, the Seahawks started to show something. In D.C, for much of the game, the Redskins beat them up. The Seahawks were down by two touchdowns, and then, things started to come together. Alexander busted a huge run. They scored soon after. They got the ball back, and scored again. The Redskins threw an interception deep in their territory. I went ballistic, finally a road win against a good team, finally!!! And then Josh Brown hit the upright.

After the Redskins scored in OT, I was crushed. They were 2-2, with a game at the Rams coming up, where they hadn't won since 1997. This game was the entire season. I knew it, I think everyone knew it.

The Seahawks went out and kicked ass, even after the Rams took the kick back for a touchdown. The offense was a machine, getting huge chunks of yardage. But the defense slipped late, and a 37-24 lead was cut to 37-31, and the Rams had forced the Seahawks to punt deep in their own territory. I think I had resorted to uttering, "Oh god please no, not two games in a row, no, not again, please!" When J.P. Darche forced Shaun McDonald(poetic justice) to fumble on the punt return.

The Seahawks would win their next ten games.

The offensive line was incredible. An ode to the old days of man blocking, spitting in the face of the zone blocking revolution. Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray had been playing next to each other for five years, and they played like it. Shawn Locklear performed far better than anyone would've thought.

This was the one year where Shaun Alexander ran hard as well, it being a contract year and all.

Hasslebeck was golden, by far his best year.

The defense wasn't dominating, but it was good and surprisingly physical. Marcus Tubbs played the whole year, Tatupu was great, and the patched up secondary, with Kevin Dyson and Marquand Manuel filling in, was always solid.

People like to point to an easy schedule with this team. But a schedule is a schedule, they can't do anything about that. They beat the Cowboys, they beat the Giants, they slaughtered the Eagles, they went undefeated in the division. It was a season where everything came together, thats why it was so utterly shocking that they didn't win the Super Bowl. Rarely does a game like the Jay Feely game happen(one of the finest football games ever played before the missed field goals, trust me, an incredible old school brawl). Or the Cowboy game, where they were beaten down for 55 minutes before scoring 10 points in the last two minutes.

This team could finish, and in the NFL, where parity runs rampant, the ability to close out games is what separates the great teams from the good teams.

After Shaun McDonalds fumble, the Seahawks ran for three first downs to seal the game.

Against the Cowboys, an 88 yard drive in the driving rain tied the game and led to the Babineux pick.

Against the Cardinals in Arizona, a punishing drive for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter but the icing on a 33-19 win.

Against the Rams in Seattle, St. Louis had cut it to 24-16 before another run based drive clinched the game and the division.

Against Tennessee, a 24-14 deficit was quickly turned into a 28-24 win.

The playoffs rolled around, and I'll admit to being extremely nervous about the Redskins game. One thing you always know about NFC East teams, is that they play physical football, and the high pressure, blitz happy defensive style had always given the Seahawks fits. If they could just beat the Skins, I thought, they would go to the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks won, in a driving rainstorm despite letting a myriad of errors and Shaun Alexander being knocked unconscious. Mack Strongs run was the icing on the cake.

I wasn't concerned about losing to the Panthers at all. I knew the Seahawks would be able to run the ball, and move it at will. I thought they'd put together a good plan to neutralize Steve Smith. They did all those things. In the finest 60 minutes of football the Seahawks have ever played, they destroyed the Panthers 34-14.

I'm not going to talk about the Super Bowl. Other than to say I was utterly positive the Seahawks were the better team. Unfortunately, they weren't good enough to play poorly and survive shaky officiating, and an injury to Marquand Manuel(whose replacement was victimized on every Pittsburg touchdown).

I can't imagine anything worse in sports than losing a Super Bowl.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thoughts On The Finals

Well, the last five and a half minutes, because thats all I really saw.

People can say that experience doesn't matter in the Finals, but after this game, I don't know how that is even an argument.

Last year, the Celtics won the Finals because they played better defense, were tougher, and more seasoned than a early blooming, relatively green Lakers team. Now the Lakers are in the Celtics position, and the Magic are the newcomers.

I never felt confident in the Magic, even when they appeared to have it wrapped up. Why? Free throw shooting. Poor free throw shooting is footballs turnovers, if you miss a lot of free throws in a big game, you will lose. The Magic are young, they were tight, and it showed. They made mental error after mental error, and the Lakers, despite being outplayed, hung in there. The Magic are talented, but mentally weak, and now, the series is over.

Some of the errors made by the Magic include:

The poor free throw shooting, really Rashard Lewis? Splitting free throws when your an 80% free throw shooter? Earn that 100 million.

Van Gundy's mismanagement of the point guards. Jameer Nelson is not an offensive threat right now, he can create, and thats it. I personally guarantee you that if Van Gundy played offense/defense toward the end, and the taller, lankier, better defender, Rafer Alston was in there, Fisher doesn't make the shot. Nelson didn't pressure the ball, he allowed Fisher to step right into the three pointer. Nelson's indecisiveness and poor defensive rotation is why they lost the game.

The in bounds catastrophe at the end of regulation, horribly handled by the inbounder, and petrus missed a wide open rashard lewis in the corner(his money shot by the way) and instead threw up a wild jumper that had no chance.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why ESPN Classic Sucks

I have this problem with the NFL Network as well, but isn't the concept of ESPN Classic flawless? Shouldn't this be the greatest channel ever created?

Instead, we get old PBA competitions and the World Series of Poker? Every now and then you get a college football game, usually in the afternoon when no one can watch it. You rarely, if ever, get NFL games. Is it a licensing issue? If so, didn't they think to get these licenses before they launched the network?

You just get the feeling that they have a station they don't care to do anything with, so they find the worst, most irrelevant programming and run with it. When they get it right, the results are astounding.

For example, one day in college, during the week before a BC, Notre Dame game, I received a frantic text message from my friend ordering me to go to the dining hall as fast as possible. The Notre Dame/BC 1993 game was on ESPN Classic. This was an unbelievable game that I always remembered watching, definitely ranking in the "I know exactly where I was watching this game" category. I damn near sprinted the half mile to where he was to catch the unforgettable fourth quarter.

That, and the NFL Network, are the only stations where you can boost ratings by word of mouth. For example, during the three years I had ESPN Classic, I remember the joy/pain/or just awe of watching classic games like

the Florida State/Miami battles of the early 90's.
UNC vs Michigan National Championship
UNLV vs Duke National Championship
Michigan Ohio State 1994(The Tim Biakabatuka game)
Oregon Michigan 2003
Sonics Nuggets Game 5 1994
Dominique vs The Basketball Jesus
Sonics Bulls Game 5 1996
Sox Yankees game 7 2003
Nolan Ryan's no hitters

Your telling me they can't fill their programming with game after game after game? There are plenty of classic games, and plenty of simply irrelevant games, just to capture a moment in time that they can show. Why not show the USC Texas Rose Bowl once a week during football season? Its that good of a game.

Fox Sports Net stole from this idea and I loved it. Granted now they show the same games every year. But, watching these games, watching these great players, watching the 2002 Apple Cup, or the 2004 CAl USC game, or Oregon State's coming of age game in the 1998 Civil War, is a great experience.

ESPN Classic, instead of capitalizing on years of great sporting events, shows bowling and poker, the latter not even being a sport. Its disgusting.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2004

This is a tough season to write about. Its a season that shook me to my foundations as a fan and caused me to give up my season tickets for my health. I don't think I plunged back into the emotional investment I had in the Seahawks until midway through the following season. After the 2004 season I didn't watch the draft, and only heard of the Seahawks free agent moves through friends. I was done.

After 2003, expectations were high, we thought the team could only get better, they were a year older, a year more seasoned, the Rams were slowly declining, the 49ers were about to fall off the map. This was the year. I should've taken the hint during week 1.

I expected them to slaughter the Saints, and they beat them, 21-7, but it was a skittish, disjointed effort that would be a sign of things to come. They beat Tampa Bay the next week in a game they had no right to win, the offense was dominated by the Bucs and if it weren't for Chris Simms blowing the game, they would've lost.

All fears disappated when they utterly annihilated the 49ers 34-0 the next week. It was as sound of a beating the Seahawks have ever laid upon someone. A bye week followed, then the hated Rams would roll into town, wounded, ailing, but, as those Rams always were back then, utterly confident.

I remember the game very well, the Seahawks dominated for 52 minutes, completely and utterly dominated. The Seahawks young secondary finally had a leg up on the elite Rams receivers and were jawing with them the whole game. And I remember committing the cardinal sin as a sports fan, from my spot atop the Nest, with the crowd thoroughly enjoying the 27-10 lead, I let my thoughts drift to the game the following week, a epic showdown with the Patriots, who were on an unrivalled undefeated streak. Then, suddenly, the Rams scored. There was a quick three and out, and a terrible punt. On the first play of their next drive, the Rams scored again, victimizing Terrell Bierra(this was to be a reoccuring theme). Another three and out, it was 27-24, but I was still confident, this was just a little burst, the Seahawks would hold them off. They didn't. The Rams got the ball back and kicked a field goal to put the game into overtime. Now, I felt the familiar sinking feeling all Seahawks fans are used to. That feeling of another collapse. Now the cheers were of desperation as the Rams slowly moved down the field.

3rd and 5 from about midfield. The Seahawks have had enough, they are going to blitz, and they show blitz, the linebackers hitting the inside gaps. Marc Bulger(a hideously underrated quarterback), checks down, slot receiver, go route, right up the seam against the safety. The Seahawks blitz, the Rams block down(I think the Hawks blitzed seven here), Bulger gets it off right before he's hit. I see the ball floating in the air, I see Shaun McDonald has a step on Bierra, I start screaming, "Turn around! Turn around! Turn around!" Bierra doesn't, the ball lands right in front of him in McDonalds hands, who prances into the end zone. The image of McDonald catching that ball is burned in my mind. I'll never forget it. I sat there in a daze for a while, I would've sat there forever, but my brother jolted me, he wanted to flee the place. I'm sure that loss ranks somewhere on a Bill Simmons scale, and I bet that ranks highly.

The next week, the Hawks were flat. The Patriots jumped on them and had a huge lead, 20-0 or 23-7. And then, the Hawks woke up and the game became exactly what everyone thought it would. It was 23-17 with a few minutes to go and the Seahawks were driving to win the game. Shazaam, there was a phantom intentional grounding penalty, the Seahawks settled for a field goal. Their defense didn't come through and they lost 30-20.

They lost the next week to the Cardinals, I really don't want to talk about that game.

Then, they won a couple, and things seemed to right themselves for their clash with the Rams in St.Louis. This was the last time the Rams would beat them in St. Louis, and the last time they played against the Seahawks on their old AstroTurf, coincidence? That game was a beating, the Seahawks started slow(this team could never play 60 minutes). They came fighting back, Shaun Alexander broke a big run, Aeneus Williams ran him down at the 10, punched the ball out and recovered it. Game over.

The win over the Dolphins was memorable, because Michael Boulware saved the day with an interception return. I think my delirium as Boulware was running toward me in the end zone could most aptly be describe as relief. The Dolphins were 1-8. I think thats when I realized the Seahawks just weren't very good.

Somewhere in all this the Seahawks signed Jerry Rice, who played well, but was infected with the drops, aiding my theory that the Seahawks propensity to drop passes might have something to do with the way Hasslebeck throws. But thats another column in itself.

Come December, the Seahawks played the awful Cowboys on Monday Night. They went up 14-3, fell down 29-14, went up 39-29, and lost 43-39. I still haven't recovered from this. I slept two hours that night and nearly physically assaulted a guy in class who was ripping on the Seahawks the next day. I think this game is also why Julius Jones still plays in the league.

After that, I took the week off from the Seahawks. And they posted one of their only road wins over a playoff team ever in the Holmgren era(2 in total) against the Vikings. I didn't watch the game, instead I went to see Polar Express.

They stumbled into the playoffs and even won the division by defeating the Falcons backups at the last second.

Then, dear god, the playoff game against the Rams. It was as intense a game as I'd ever seen. Hasslebeck was playing simply out of his mind. Thanks to that shaky secondary the Rams had the lead late. Hasslebeck led them on a furious charge, but I had already given up. The season had whittled me away to nothing, absolutely nothing. On 4th and 5 with under a minute left I stood there, my arms folded across my chest, and watched Hasslebeck escape three Rams, and somehow throw a pass that hit Bobby Engram right in the hands. Who promptly dropped it.

You could write a book on this season. The fast start. The high expectations. The collapse against the Rams. The collapse against the Cowboys. The "me first" defense starring Shawn Springs, Rashad Moore, Anthony Simmons and Chad Brown. All taking their turns to bitch and moan to the coaches, and in Simmons case, get in fist fights with them. You could write about Koren Robinson once showing up for a game 30 minutes before the start, and drunk. The desperate aquisition of Jerry Rice. The fact that anyone could run right up the middle. This season nearly killed me. Nearly got Holmgren fired and got half of the defense canned.

It sucked.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jake Heaps

Husky fans are freaking out. The number 1 quarterback in the nation, Jake Heaps, chose to go to BYU instead of UW or any other big six school. But, when you step back and look at it, this wasn't a fatal blow, and, there are other qbs out there who are better fits.

Heaps has been running Skyline High School's offense since the sixth grade, at least thats when the youtube vids start and rarely been under center. Skyline's offense is like Texas Tech's, lots of short throws out of the shotgun. Going under center after spending your entire football career in the shotgun can be a difficult switch. Given Skyline's personnel during his two years at starter, a pro offense would've fit better, but hell, they've won the state title two years in a row, whose to complain. T

The first time I saw him play was similar to my first time watching Jake Locker. I didn't know that he was exceptional and was watching the game to watch Odea's plethora of D-1 recruits, just like three years prior I went to a Ferndale game to watch Kenendy's studs, figuring he was just another cog in the great Skyline passing machine. I watched Odea pound them for three quarters, left my place to go to a party, missed their comeback, and the next afternoon, my friend who watched the entire game told me that Heaps was one of the best high school quarterbacks he'd ever seen. He's very skilled, has a good arm, exceptionally smart and disciplined for a high school qb, and is cool under pressure. He's good.

However, he's not your standard 6'4" gunslinger, which is another advantage of him being in the shotgun. Granted, BYU was mostly under center last year, but they have a long standing tradition of lining up in the shotgun and slinging the ball all over the place. He's going to be a good player, but I'm not crushed that he's going elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2003

This was the year everything clicked and everything turned around. No longer were the Seahawks scrambling to get to .500, this was the year they turned into a contender. Don't let the easy schedule fool you, this team was good.

After 2002, they fired Steve Sidwell as defensive coordinator and brought in the simple, fundamentals based Ray Rhodes. He got a lot of heat his time here, but with a relatively young defense, especially a young secondary, this hire was important. The Seahawks already had Ken Lucas, but thanks to a Vikings draft day slip up, Marcus Trufant fell into their lap. Later on they drafted Ken Hamlin. Overnight, the secondary was leaps and bounds better.

I remember the first game of the season, a home game against the Saints, as being a huge game. If this team, with its gluttonous talent was going to be a contender, they had to beat the Saints. From high atop the Hawks Nest, I think I cheered harder than I have for most games, I was depserate, I didn't get my voice back for four days. They hammered the Saints 27-10, but showed their one fatal flaw, finishing games.

The Seahawks in 2003 and 2004, couldn't close games. In 2003, this only came back to bite them on the road, but in 2004, it ruined the season. Had the Seahawks had a bounce here or there, they could have easily been 12-4 or 13-3. They always started incredibly fast, but halftime always seemed to zap the energy of this team and Holmgren would often close up the playbook.

Look at some of the leads they had at halftime

Saints: 21-3 Halftime

Cardinals:24-0 Halftime

49ers: 17-3 Halftime

Lions: 35-14 Halftime

Ravens: 27-10 Halftime

Cleveland 17-0 Halftime

Cardinals: 21-3 Halftime

7 of their 16 games they held at least a two touchdown lead at halftime.

This season had unforgettable games, the infamous wild card game against the Packers where Hasslebeck and Favre had a duel for the ages until Alex Bannister(why was he in the game?) ran the wrong hot route.

The two battles against the last great Rams team were classics. In Seattle, the official "We've arrived" game when they came back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to win. And the intense, brutal, maddening loss in St. Louis where the refs would sooner swallow rat poison than slow down the greatest show on turf and the back judge tackled Bobby Engram. I'll also remember the Rams offensive line holding so blatantly that the announcers were reduced to silence. I'll also never forget the column Pete Prisco of cbs wrote about this game, truly a precursor to the media as we know it today. If I ever meet him in person, I'd like to chat with him about it. It was a hell of a battle.

I'll also never forget the "loss" to the Ravens, the Seahawks got a nice apology letter about that one. They made the vaunted Ravens defense look silly the entire game, forcing them to resort to their standard tactics of grabbing Shaun Alexander by the throat, choking him, and punching him, while the refs looked on. Of course, the refs wouldn't have had the chance to screw it up if our corners could stop a jump ball on a 4th and 26.

The high point was coming back from 14 down for only the second road win of the season against the 49ers to clinch a playoff spot. Absolute delirium when that happened.

This team was good, and talented, but a bit immature and not as physical as the 2005 team, but they were good, and that offense was just lethal.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thoughts on the Finals

My viewing of the NBA playoffs is slowly decreasing, not for lack of interest, but lack of time. I watched the second round obsessively on a week long foray to the East Coast, where games being on at a late hour was a great advantage. But, regardless, here are my thoughts.

Logic tells me the Lakers will win, and win easily. Its not hard to see why. They have the most talent, and the better coach. However, their Jekyl and Hyde act, a staple of the Lakers under Phil Jackson, has bitten them in the past. And sometimes, the bursts of dominance, the teases, hide the real truth, that they might not be all that good. The 2004 Lakers were bothered by inconsistency as well, but were still the heavy favorites against the Pistons, who summarily dispatched them with ease.

The Magic are growing on me, mainly because they keep proving me wrong. They have shooters, lots of them, a horse in the middle, and athletic guards that can give the terrible point guards of the Lakers fits. The whole reason Denver hung around against LA, despite the bench not showing up for any road games, was the disparity among the guards. When the Aaron Brooks of the Rockets played well, the Lakers lost, when he played poorly, they won. With Jameer Nelson supposedly back, this could be another series where Derek Fisher and friends get toasted.

The Magic run their offense similar to how they ran it with Shaq in the mid 90's. One big man on the block, shooters lined up on the perimeter, and(when Nelson is healthy) a point guard that can penetrate and create. I'm not dogging Skip To My Lou Alston here, but he's not a playmaker.

I think Phil Jackson will find a way to break the Magic. I think his team will be able to stay focused long enough to put the Magic away. I think Van Gundy's way of overcoaching will come back to bite him, and I never trust teams that rely on the three point shot. However, f

f the Magic somehow steal one of the first two games, its an entirely different series. This Lakers team is nothing like the Lakers of earlier this decade. Those teams would sleepwalk, but would awaken with enough desperation and confidence to eventually win. Those Lakers teams could close games, I haven't seen it from these guys. They don't strike me as champions, they strike me as an uber talented squad with no character and no toughness, their big guns are too inconsistent, Odom and Gasol are completely inpredictable, they don't look like they enjoy playing basketball.

With all that said, I still can't see the Magic winning it all, or even pushing this to seven games, the talent and coaching disparity is simply too large.

Lakers in five.

The Holmgren Years: A Retrospective: 2002

The season started with high expectations. New uniforms, new stadium, a new starting quarterback in Trent Dilfer. In the first preseason game against the Colts, the WCO never fired with more precision. It was 10-0 immediately. Then Dilfer was injured, and things went downhill from there.

Hasslebeck came in and started, and the Hawks got thumped by a damn good Raiders team in week 1. Dilfer came back, inexplicably, for week 2 against the Cards. The stadium was open and everyone was optimistic that things would really get going. Dilfer threw or 352 yards, but the achilles heal of the Seahawks reared its ugly head.

We didn't realize in 2001 that Eaton, Randle and Kirkland were in the absolute twilight of their career. And we weren't that concerned when Kirkland was cut for being too overweight, we had plenty of young linebackers, and Isiah Kacyvenski was a hard worker.

Come 2002, Eaton is done, he can't play anymore, but his mouth keeps yapping, which is funny because he was an utter joke. John Randle just flat out wore down. They couldn't keep the line off Kacyvenski, who was having enough trouble on his own(his gap discipline was awful). With Chad Brown plagued by injuries, the pass rush didn't exist. Rocky Bernard started fast and peetered out(A standard for him) and years of shaky mid round drafting on the defensive line left them with Antonio Cochran as a full time starter. Ken Lucas aside, the secondary was old, Springs was always hurt, Marcus Robertson and Reggie Tongue were corpses, and Doug Evans, wow, Doug Evans, I forgot about him. The run defense was the worst in the NFL, giving up over 200 yards rushing a whopping five times.

The Seahawks stumbled to a 1-5 start, Dilfer popped an achilles. Then things started to change. Hasslebeck came in and led them to an ugly win over the Cowboys, and the offense started to move, even if the points didn't come yet. Soon, Hasslebeck and the offense exploded, eclipsing 500 yards of offense three times in the second half of the season and winning their last three games. That stretch, where the offense was utterly unstoppable(including a rare road win over the playoff bound Falcons), led directly to the string of five playoff appearances in a row. They were utterly on fire, and it led directly to 2003, where the real fun would begin.