Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Ignored Seahawks

What gesture is he really making?
Alright, this is just getting ridiculous.

I've never been a huge fan of FOXSports' Adam Schein, and this week he has joined the chorus of national writers who are incapable of interpreting a Seahawks' win (over the Eagles, in this case) as anything but the opposition throwing the game:

I took the time to do a video rant on Cosmic SCHEIN this week on FOXSports.com to explain why the Eagles shouldn’t fire Reid. And then his team travels cross country and loses to the Seattle Seahawks. Actually, they didn’t lose. They got manhandled for three quarters by a relative bunch of clowns. Forget the 31-14 score. The effort and execution were pathetic all game.

That's the way this cookie always crumbles for the national media. The Seahawks never win, the other team just loses. No Seahawks victory contains any element of the Seahawks doing anything to actually earn or deserve it. It's always the fault of whatever team went into a Seahawks game cocky and came out clocked. To the national media, the Seahawks are an inert, faceless element with no sentient qualities or nameworthy players except their sucky QB, which other teams just seem to trip over because they weren't looking.

I'm usually one to try and put the shoe on the other foot. I try to see all sides and not let my fandom color things, and sometimes it makes others question that fandom. Let's get the perspective out of the way: The Eagles really did play like they didn't want it. They played like the Seahawks did for Charlie Whitehurst. They were missing three crucial starters, five once Mike Williams was done falling on people's heads, and were playing on the road (big-time) after a short week. Vince Young is just not an NFL quarterback, and three of his four interceptions came on awful throws/decisions. Their LB corps sucks in almost every facet. All things being equal, the Eagles really did make enough independent mistakes to lose the game.

If only things were equal to the pundits. Enough is enough.

The Passing Game

National media: can you name any of the Seahawks players who were also out on Thursday? No, no, besides Sidney Rice, jackasses. That's too easy. Well, actually, come to think of it, why not start there? Rice's absence should have made things worse for Jackson and our receivers, not better. He's been drawing tons of coverage downfield and Jackson has been locking on to him since they took Qwest Field together. There should have been some immediate downward spiral for the Seahawks passing game as coverages zoned in on Mike Williams and Doug Baldwin, undeterred by the threat of Rice. And the loss of two starters on the offensive line should have absolutely doomed Jackson against poor, maligned Jason Babin.

So it's not as if the Seahawks lacked their own key injuries to balance out the playing field.

Instead, Seattle had a bunch of bit players rise to the occasion whose names you're probably only barely aware of. Golden Tate you know from the draft reels, but Zach Miller is an under-the-radar guy and Michael Robinson is completely anonymous outside the NFC West. Crucial third-down completions from Tarvaris Jackson to these guys kept the game alive. With half an O-line and a crippled, second-rate quarterback.

Despite the predictions of some C-list defensive tackle whose name I've already forgotten, I think Jackson acquitted himself just fine. And yet the only story the talking heads can come up with is whether Andy Reid's seat is actually hotter than Pete Carroll's.

The Running Game

What's that you say? Of course Marshawn Lynch bulldozed over the infamously bad Eagles run defense? Easy matchup? Fair enough. But how do you explain the previous four games? Yes, Evan Silva, I know that you think of Lynch as

...mediocre talent...compensating with difference-making volume. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts and touches over the past four weeks, and during that span only Michael Bush has scored more fantasy points among running backs. You can make a case that Lynch is an RB1 until proven otherwise. Just keep in mind that Philadelphia's run defense has stiffened lately.

Lynch is still averaging under four yards per carry on the year.

That run defense has stiffened all right. Like a corpse. Do you know what an 8-man front is, Evan? It's where defenses stack an extra player in the box to prevent the run, something made much easier by the absence of a WR like, oh I dunno, Sidney Rice. So the Eagles did this against Lynch. A lot. Marshawn destroyed them. Just like he's been doing for five straight weeks now.

I forgive you for your facts taking five weeks to catch up to the present - it happens. It's certainly better than people taking two years to notice Chris Spencer's improvements. God, it was like watching Groundhog Day. But I would think you'd have noticed Lynch posting 109 yards against the Ravens' #1 run defense. Yeah, it was only 3.4 YPC, and yeah, he got more opportunities because of David Reed's fumbles. But then how do you explain the 5.9 YPC against the previous two NFC East opponents? You don't get to smirk at Lynch's high November workload while ignoring its YPC, then turn around and cite his year-long YPC as if there hasn't been an earth-shattering trend upwards.

No, Evan, you're just cherry-picking. Defaulting to your default faulty preconceptions. You and Walter Football. Taste the rainbow, gentlemen.

The Line Game

Oh, I love this one. In a desperate but typical attempt to turn all the negative energy over this game inward towards the Eagles, Philly beat writer John Miller offers this up:

Jason Babin is the poster child for these Eagles. He’s going to do what he wants to do, the team be damned. He’s already told us that he wants to get a lot of sacks, so he can make a lot of money. Winning football games is a secondary concern.

Go back and look at Marshawn Lynch’s 40-yard touchdown run, a cutback right through the gaping hole that Babin had created by racing up field at the snap of the ball. That’s part of the Wide-9 technique – getting up field – but Babin was laughably out of position. The defensive end in professional football must – must! – set the edge to contain running backs from getting wide. The next time Babin does this will be the first.

This is just plain bad football understanding, plus questionable vision. Watch the play. No cutback lane wide enough to drive a truck through can be blamed on one player. Babin didn't create that hole, their defensive line did. By getting collapsed to the inside by a mediocre blocking tight end and a couple of second-string offensive linemen. That calls for embarrassment, Philly fans. There was hardly any defensive line left for Babin to set an edge on. He also got jolted so hard by Cameron Morrah that he looked dazed as he whirled around trying to find Lynch.

But no, Jason Babin has gone in one game from a sympathy figure who was mistreated by the evil Seahawks, to the "poster child" for a team of greedy malcontents (wasn't Desean Jackson the poster child?). Yep, twelve sacks on the season is merely another hint of his self-centeredness. Facts changing to fit the agenda. I get that this is less about football and more about feeding the pissy, poisonous atmosphere of the East Coast sports markets - attention-grabbing over analysis and all that - but isn't anyone actually watching the games over there?

And don't forget Miller's mention of the Seahawks going "4-7 against bad competition", blowing right past the part where Seattle had the strongest strength of schedule to start the season.

The Popularity Game

The national media liked Pete Carroll in his first Seattle season. He was good for the occasional punchline and oddball news. Reviving Mike Williams' career, starting the season strong against bad competition, the addition of media-approved Russell Okung and Earl Thomas. Yep, life was good. Especially once we defied the writers' traditional hopes and put an NFC West team in the actual playoffs, holy cow. And then turned around and beat the defending Super Bowl champions. It was quite the opening act for the former USC coach.

But in 2011, something has changed. Shocker of shockers, Pete Carroll actually seems to want to go on winning. They signed what appears to be a universally hated quarterback. They committed to building through the draft - not through the exciting headliner picks, but boring, unheard-of late rounders.

The national media's smiles faded quickly. Now it's a terse, implied "Okay buddy, joke's over. We know what you really are. Go back to the Pac-10."

I used to chalk it up to Tarvaris Jackson hate and Matt Hasselbeck loyalty, but that's no longer a sufficient explanation. This isn't just ignorance and South Alaska Syndrome. It's more like a dogged determination here to marginalize this team. Fingers in the ears. It's echoes of the contempt Carroll often got from the markets he beat at USC.

You've seen the sound bites. Every Seahawks loss brings about some rumor about front-office turmoil, Carroll being on the hot seat or in hot water with John Schneider or whatever. Kam Chancellor gets nothing but condemnation for a couple of big fine-drawing hits and no acknowledgement of the textbook-perfect tackling form he shows the rest of the time. (Eagles fans on Russell Okung right now: "Taste of your own medicine, Seahawks.") Lofa Tatupu should have been kept around for the magical comeback that no other team seems to be expecting. Brandon Browner keeps racking up the interceptions, but CB stays high on pundits' wishlists for Seattle because they assume a former CFL player can do no good. And Carroll seems to be in no hurry to whore himself out in filling that darling position of reporters', the quarterback.

I don't know what it is that's drawing the nation's ire, but it seems to be a combination of things. No doubt the football community is up in arms over the Seahawks' hubris in actually defeating East Coast teams. Their physical, unrelenting style of play contributes. James Carpenter seems to have insulted everyone's mother at some point, so unanimous is the backlash over Carroll drafting him. Maybe it's just that this front office doesn't follow the usual media-approved formula of glittery marquee free-agent signings and endlessly stacking up the dramatic fade passes to the corner of the end zone (like this?) for the league to slo-mo from a low angle and stuff into cell phone commercials. And the media always has the USC sanction mess to fall back on when they run out of criticisms.

And did I mention the QB position remains unaddressed? I guess Pete shoulda signed Vince Young instead.

While the Seahawks have done their darndest to swerve the wheel of their fate, the inertia of national opinion has remained steady and unaltered, oblivious to the fact that things change. Their remarks are out of proportion. I thought everyone loved a rebel. Carroll's certainly a rebel, throwing conventional NFL wisdom to the wind whenever he can. And it's gotten him a scrappy, opportunistic team that's throwing aside Pro Bowl defenders (both past and future) and is arguably only three solid draft picks away from long-term playoff contention.

Perhaps Seattle trouncing the Eagles on a national stage will take the Seahawks' reputation out of the hands of the media and give them some real exposure. This is a very, very interesting football team. The Pete Carroll Seahawks defy analysis, defy extrapolation. They've got that "What's up with these guys" vibe to them. They make plays. They beat the odds. They win, and never at the times you expect. That's worth some respect.

Aaaaaaand now that I've used that fatal word, it's time that I end this article and stop pretending that I care what Adam Schein thinks. I only pretended to care because I write better when I'm pissed.


  1. Agree with almost all of this. I live on the East Coast and see the bias first hand. For me there are a few factors that cause most of this.

    1) Seahawks were the laughingstock of the league when they limped into the playoffs last year with a 7-9 record. Beating the Saints forced the media to stop bashing the Seahawks with every playoff article but the idea that the Seahawks are terrible remained in the general ether of collective football knowledge.

    2) The Seahawks off-season was not what the media likes (to your point above). Boring draft for the Seahawks (two lineman!!!!) and Tavaris Jackson, who everyone seems to know is inept for some reason or another (no one could say why...didnt Brett Farve play with him or something?).

    Since then, when the media/east coast wrote off the Seahawks, no one has at them again. No one really noticed when the Seahawks almost beat the Hawks, or beat the Giants, or beat the Ravens, or beat the Eagles. The only thing people notice about the Seahawks is their fantasy potential, and even bad teams can have fantasy stars.

    The only people who seem to notice that the Seahawks are one of the few non-elite teams no one wants to play (especially at home) are their opponents.

    And at the end of the day, Im ok with it. I dont need the media, just the W's

  2. To get back some respect, step 1: beat Chicago. Avenge our playoff loss last year. (The rest of our games are within the division. The national media won't care.)

    Next year, the whole NFC West needs to show improvement. The Niners are back. We should be strong next year. We need at least three NFC West teams to play strong. We need to collectively beat up on East Coast teams. We need there to be a race (with strong records) within the division to create drama. And then we need to come out on top. Do that, and people will take us seriously.

    With a losing record (again?) in a traditionally weak division, there's no way we can gain respect out here in the hinterlands.

    For now, we need to be content in our role as Q-ship. No glory. Just results.


  3. Great take on the big media. I pay little attention to them any more and go directly to 17power, Fieldgulls and NFLfocus to get my information.

    I like writers who actually watch the games rather than those who repeat the common wisdom and pander to the largest number of people in order to sell commercial space.

    You guys are doing the best Seahawk writing out there! Thanks.

  4. Awesome post! Keep writing mad, it works.

  5. Brandon, what makes me laugh is that Adam Schein actually cast the die on what his story would be Friday AFTER THE FIRST PLAY FROM SCRIMMAGE ON THURSDAY NIGHT. He twittered his radio bud, Rich Gannon, after Golden Tate was late onto the field that Seattle was a bunch of clowns.

    He is embarrassed because he was contradicted by Reid's actions. He had made a lot of bold statements about Reid all week, then Reid did his questionable personnel stuff along with his statements after the game that none of his players quit on the field, even though video replay shows that Desean was legging out routes like he had all day to get there.

    For the record, he has a real problem with Pete Carroll, and was one of the most vocal about Seattle beinga 7-9 team in the playoffs, even suggesting Roger Goodell should take a special action to change the rules DURING the season to prevent such a thing. Of course, if he did so, Shein's hometown Giants would have gotten in.

    For the record, the only thing Schein loves more than the Jets is himself.

  6. Word. Bias against Seattle is definitely not a myth. Speculating on reasons:

    1) It's natural to ignore/be biased against places that are far away
    2) Seattle isn't far away in a fun noteworthy way like Hawaii or Alaska
    3) Most people just can't think of Seattle as a football city, it's just not part of our cultural image
    4) I think we're just an odd, grey city in most folks minds (the greyness certainly can't help)
    5) Once story lines get set they just live a life of their own
    6) Seattle hasn't had national marquee names or much fantasy impact in... ever? (Okay I recall Shawn Alexander being a fantasy king maker briefly but still...)

    While it's annoying that we aren't actually credited for our wins, surprising the media adds a bit of sweetness to them.

  7. Well said. People think of Seattle as a rainy haven for hipsters, grunge, and snobby Frasier Krane wannabes who sip lattes and write novels on their Macbook Airs in coffee shops. They dont want to believe a city like that can have a physical, blue-collar, punch-you-in-the-mouth team. As much as I would love to see our young starters doing the damage, it's even more satisfying to rough teams up with our backups.

  8. Its so true. Everything in here is true. And it sucks that it is, but that just makes me love the Hawks that much more, and drink that much more beer at the games, and cuss at my tv that much more when they say

    "And Marshawn Lynch, isnt gonna get anything....OH OH WAIT, TOUCHDOWN SEATTTLE!!!!"

    Whats up with the wide 9? Seriously, maybe it works in Highschool/college, but not in the pros.

    If the Eagles would just run the wildcat full time with McCoy, and line up Vince Young as the option/tight end, they would do a hell of alot better.

  9. Completely agree with the premise of the article, but you kind of lost me on Zach Miller as an "under the radar" guy. He was a 2011 Pro Bowler and led the Raiders the last few years in receiving.

    I'm a Hawks fan living in the SF area and it's amazing how sports talk radio here talks about the Hawks being a soft part of the niners schedule and an automatic W. They're obviously buying into the same bias issues as the national media. To your point, essentially to them the Seahawks are solely comprised of TJax/Rice/Carroll.

  10. Love the Q ship reference.

    Especially love kicking the crap out of the East Coast media darlings with backups. And the draft/offseason that was given an A+ by all the media pundits was when we landed Curry and Housh...

  11. Yeah, big-name free-agent signings definitely seem to be part of the "media approval" formula.

    Anonymous: Miller is a stud, but I've never seen him get a lot of acknowledgement from the national media. Even Oakland and Seattle's brief tug-of-war seemed to go rather unacknowledged.

  12. Fantastic article. Really riled up a sense of pride in my team. Keep up the good work!

  13. The East Coast Sports bias can be documented at least as far back as 1933. The year Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in "The Race of The Century."
    All the East Coast Racing Experts said that the little West Coast horse had absolutely no chance against the unbeatable War Admiral. Seabiscuit's jockey said that Seabiscuit made War Admiral into a "Rear Admiral." War Admiral wore black and yellow that day, by the way. Colors so ugly they deserved to lose. I think Bill Leavy had East Coast Bias too. He "knew" that there was no way in hell that a team from Seattle could beat the Pittsburg Steelers in the Super Bowl. Lucky for Seabiscuit nobody could throw a yellow flag at him when he shot out in front of War Admiral and momentarily destroyed all rhyme and reason in the East Coast Universe.

  14. I just wanted to say that I loved the hell out of this article. You touched on pretty much everything that's ever bugged me about the media's attitude toward the Seahawks, and you expressed all of it far better than I've ever managed to do. Well done.

  15. The dominant media still hasn't caught onto the idea that we are now a big, tough football team. This is new, so it will take some time to catch on.

    I believe that new uniforms will help. I'd like to see something that blends from black to Seahawk Blue. That would give us a much tougher appearance.

    People already have a strong association with us. As soon as they see our uniforms, they can't help but trigger their ingrained response. Please help, Nike. :)

  16. Those neon greens didn't exactly help to shift that "ingrained response" towards the positive.

  17. I think some of the national media's perspective on the Seahawks is because of what they saw at the beginning of the season. First impressions mean a lot and many saw the Steelers take apart the Seahawks. They still think that this current team is that team.

    Of course it is lazy journalism. With no offseason and a shortened preseason, the Seahawks were destined to start slow and improve throughout the year.

    Too bad the national media is missing out on a good story up here in Southern Alaska

  18. Lynch is averaging over 4yds per carry this season, he is averaging 4.2 YAC..

  19. This weekend on one of the pregame shows, the "personalities" were discussing Chicago's path to the playoffs. Every game ahead would be a challenge - except the one against the Seahawks, of course.

    Tonight's game will be interesting. The NFC West is getting stronger. The 9ers have a strong record. The Cards beat them and are playing well lately. We've won three of our last four. We've beat the Ravens, Giants and Eagles.

    And then there are the Rams. They're beat up and haven't had good depth. Their record stinks. By contrast, we have a potential path to the playoffs and have been playing tough.

    So, what will be the narrative? MNF won't be shouting that both teams suck. They want a story that will help with the ratings.

    I predict that the narrative will be that 1) the Rams are tragic, 2) Seattle is young, on the upswing, and is building an identity as a tough, running team, and 3) the NFC West (aside from the tragic Rams) is becoming a contender again.

    Because MNF will need to contrast us with the Rams, they won't dump on us. Yes, they'll poke fun at Coach "Rah-Rah" Carroll, but they will also marvel at Lynch. They will praise our safeties and be awed by the size of our DBs. We are the young, up-and-comers.

    If we were playing against the Patriots or Steelers, we'd be portrayed as weak. Since we're playing the Rams, we'll be described as the strong team.

    And we had better win. A win will help cement this new perception of us. A loss will set us back to square one, media-wise.

    Go Hawks!

  20. Good predictions all, Jon. I thought Jon Gruden was going to race out of press box onto the field and propose to Brandon Browner at any moment.

  21. Oh yes, and how could I forget:

    We'll never be forgiven for stealing the Giants' playoff spot last year. THAT alone has doomed us to the sphincter of national opino for as long as Pete Carroll is coaching the team.

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