Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who Do We Blame for Aaron Curry?

LB Aaron Curry is in the midst of a slow-burn demotion. In a fall from grace that actually evokes my sympathy, Curry is now taking reps with the Seahawks' scout team as fourth-round pick KJ Wright assumes his starting position. Curry has taken a humble attitude in front of the reporters, and despite some angsty Twitter comments that people are reading way too far into, he seems to be taking it in stride.

Dave Boling, in an attempt to put the selection of Curry in perspective, tries to shift the responsibility for the Curry pick away from Curry. Indeed, it wasn't Curry's fault that he went #4, and that needs to be acknowledged. But then Boling turns around and picks the wrong scapegoat: Curry's coaches.

That he has never reached the level of achievement his draft status presaged is entirely aside from the point at the moment.
It would be easy to go back and blame former general manager Tim Ruskell for taking Curry with that pick, but every evaluator was projecting him as a sure thing, and some labeled him the safest pick in the draft. He was the winner of the Butkus Award as the nation’s top college linebacker. His size, speed and strength were undeniable, but the Seahawks have never found a way to exploit his talents, trying him as an outside pass rusher, inside pass rusher, strong-side linebacker and weak-side linebacker.

As I’ve evaluated his progress, I wanted to be sure not to hold Curry responsible for the expectations others put on him, asking only: Is he doing his job as a linebacker, not as the fourth player taken in the draft?
That’s completely the wrong question to ask. Like it or not, Curry IS a #4 pick, with a contract to boot. Or are we supposed to just smile peacefully and applaud when a #4 pick fails to pan out? You can’t separate a player’s performance from his cost. It doesn’t work that way. Cost-to-benefit analysis is part of every business transaction, and a draft pick in sports is no different.

I can appreciate that almost every evaluator on planet earth was high on Curry before the draft, but frankly, that doesn’t matter. That popular opinion of Curry rarely took into account the value of a 4-3 linebacker. Basically, there’s a reason that only safeties are drafted less in the Top 10. Offensive picks and defensive linemen all have far more impact than a linebacker in the NFL’s current power structure. A #4 linebacker needs to be a Pro Bowler to justify a #4 contract, and he needs to be scheme-transcendent. You cannot tell me that a #4 pick should be expected to vanish as entirely as Curry has since his draft day, even when playing in the wrong scheme. This isn't about exotic plays or highlight-reel hits, it's about fundamentals and football acumen. Rushing the passer effectively, competence in coverage, and I dunno, good tackling are all must-haves for a LB drafted that high. Is that really an unreasonable expectation? The excuse that Jim Mora and Pete Carroll failed to find a use for him is entirely out of place here.

Also, as Rob Rang recently pointed out in a humble-pie piece on Curry, not everyone was unaware of the red flags. Some against-the-grain draftniks (the best kind) and educated fans knew about his stiffness in coverage, his lack of experience as a pass rusher, and his penchant for playing too aggressively and without awareness. The galling thing was, these were all the same problems that were plaguing the LB corps already. Ruskell was deepening Seattle's defensive flaws with this pick, and had traded away a proven playmaker to Detroit in order to make room. Curry was hailed as a “more disciplined Julian Peterson” – well, sometimes you should be happy with what you've got. Curry's aptitude for the 3-4 was clear from the beginning. If “safe” is the best label one can come up with for a player drafted at a slot that demands Pro Bowls, that’s not saying much.

Curry was just another bad first-round pick by Tim Ruskell. The badness of it goes beyond his misuse in Seattle and beyond the players that some wanted Ruskell to take instead (QB Mark Sanchez and WR Michael Crabtree). I’ve held for a while that the 2009 draft was a no-man’s-land, and indeed much of its first round has failed to impress ever since, but positional value says that Curry was probably one of the last guys Seattle should have taken. Had Crabtree or Sanchez gone to the Seahawks and busted instead, Ruskell could have at least consoled himself that he took a swing at a needed position, that he understood where the NFL bread is buttered on.

Instead, Ruskell revealed completely backwards priorities. Most of his unremarkable roster has been shuttled away by now without any great loss. His great last-chance pick is now running with the scout team, competed out of his spot by a fourth-rounder and unlikely to fetch any more than that in trade from another team. KJ Wright may not be a complete linebacker either, but he benefits the team in much the same way Chris Clemons does: his skill set serves the Seahawks' scheme and in-the-moment holes better than the guy he's replacing.

My hope is that Curry will find a second chance with a team that can maximize his great measurables and isn't relying on him to succeed for their defensive health. That will probably be a 3-4 team in need of an inside LB. It'd be ironic if that team ended up being Kansas City, the team that originally passed on Curry in the draft and allowed him to fall to Seattle. Or it might be Carolina, which is severely in need due to injury at linebacker. Whatever the case, one thing Curry has never been guilty of is apathy or lack of effort on the field. He's given it his all. That professionalism should give him a second chance, provided he can cut down on the helmet-throwing.

But I disagree with the thrust of Boling's article - calling fan expectations "unrealistic" in a subtle attempt to validate the opinion of draft evaluators. Fans aren't wrong to expect a #4 pick to play like a starter, much less a Pro Bowler, and Boling himself admits that Curry has done neither. Now his position on the depth chart shows it. What's so unrealistic about that?


  1. Boling thought it was a great pick at the time. He is defending his stance, not Ruskell's. Blaming coaching is a way of saying he still was not wrong.

    But he was wrong. So was Ruskell, who never expected to get a shot at Curry and was ecstatic when the player he coveted was available with the 4th pick.

    Curry will not thrive in the middle of a 3-4. He simply misses too many tackles, and shows little improvement in 3 years as a tackler.

  2. I blame myself, Hi, My name is Slim Ruskell... Me and Jimmy Mora thought it would be a great idea to draft this waste of flesh, We could have had Brian Orakpo, but we thought why have a good player?, right?... Who doesn't like a 1st rd draft bust?, not me I love'em, Spencer, Jennings, Branch(traded for), Wilson in the 2nd, but who cares now?, right?, I'm in Chicago screwing up Da' Bears I've already brought in Spencer,,, I'm such a little stinker, HEHE!

  3. Biggest BUST in Seahawks history. What a fucking disgrace. Not Mirer, not McGwire, because there were obvious red flags with both. Everyone and their mother was kissing Curry's ass because of his character and ignoring the fact that LINEBACKERS DO NOT GET DRAFTED IN THE GOD DAMNED TOP 5!

    Stupid ass Ruskell should pay back every unearned cent he stole from the Seahawks organization.

  4. Let's keep the language and venting down a notch next time, eh folks?

  5. No, lets keep the venting right where it is. I don't care how safe of a pick he was, Ruskell was a fool to take a LB at #4. And at the time the strength of our D was our LBs, so why would we need another one?

    Oh, I remember, because Timmy was an outright embarrassment as a GM. His best picks turned out to be mostly late round afterthoughts, (Obo and Forsett).

    Trade Curry for anything and it will be win for us.

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