RENTON What a week for Garry Gilliam. And it’s not even Christmas yet.
He’s received a new, 55-inch, Samsung curved UHD 6-series television (retail value: around $800). He’s gotten two tickets in first class wherever Alaska Airlines flies (retail value: who knows?)
Those gifts were what $87.6 million quarterback Russell Wilson, Alaska’s "Chief Football Officer," gave his Seahawks offensive linemen for Christmas – and for blocking him all season. Wilson apparently gave every Seahawks teammate the airline tickets.
(And, no, Wilson’s tickets for his linemen weren’t one way.)
"I have a seven-room house," an appreciative Gilliam said with a big grin walking around the TV boxes in front of each lineman’s locker following Thursday’s practice. "I think I can find a place for this."
Oh, yeah, he’s also received his job back.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable announced Tuesday Gilliam will start at right tackle on Saturday against Arizona.
“We’re going to go back, give Garry the opportunity,” Cable said. “But we’re still competing for it.
“Really, what we’re looking for is what we’ve always said about positions, is consistency. There are certain areas to break that down and they know what those things are. That’s what we’re trying to get, more consistency.
It’s unusual and not exactly comforting that a divsion champion wins over Arizona and San Francisco away from the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs is still figuring out starters on its offensive line in the 15th game.
Cable didn’t rule out rookie Rees Odhiambo at right tackle, even though the underwhelming, third-round pick has yet to start a game and has been inactive for seven of the first 14.
“I think anyone is really an option until we get it right,” Cable said Tuesday. “I would never discount that.”
Gilliam was Seattle’s starting right tackle all last season, and for the first 11 games of this one. Then, abruptly, he yielded his job to Bradley Sowell after just three plays of the loss at Tampa Bay Nov. 27. Seahawks coaches never fully explained the reason Gilliam got just three snaps that day and then was out.
Way out. The former college tight end at Penn State and undrafted rookie hero of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2014 season went from two-year starter to inactive, in street clothes watching Sowell play the next two games. Those were the blowout win over Carolina Dec. 4 and blowout loss at Green Bay the following week.
Then last week Gilliam went back in at right tackle for the final 15 offensive plays of the Seahawks’ 24-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams. The victory clinched the team’s third division title in four years.
What happened? And what changed back?
"When (there’s) an opportunity for someone else to get into where you are at, you know, it makes you re-evaluate a lot of things," Gilliam said. "For me it was like, ‘All right, OK, what are you being asked here? Why is it going on?’
"You have to humble yourself."
That, and get more physical.
"Physicality" was Cable’s answer for weeks, even when Gilliam was starting, for what the athletic, 6-foot-5, 315-pound former high-school basketball player and track state-championships qualifier at The Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania needed to have to improve.
The Seahawks want their tackles to have more mashing, less thinking.
Apparently, Sowell wasn’t physical enough.
The offense scored five, 40, 10 and 24 points in the games Sowell replaced then started for Gilliam. The running game, in which physicality matters most for a blocker, had 127, 240, 136 and 72 yards rushing when Gilliam was mostly watching. That average of 143.8 yards per game on the ground was above the 101.9 average for the league’s 20th-ranked rush offense.
"I tend to be a player that thinks a little bit more. I read, people a little bit more," Gilliam said. "Just do less of that and just … reacting. Which isn’t a problem. It’s just a matter of telling myself to do it."
After leaving the game at Tampa Bay after just three plays, Cable and Carroll said unconvincingly that’s just how it worked out. During the first half of that game Gilliam went up to Cable on the sideline, the lineman’s arms behind his back holding his helmet. The veteran line coach looked over his shoulder and said something. Gilliam retreated off the edge of the sideline – and remained there for the rest of Seattle’s 14-5 loss.
Gilliam now sees being not only benched but inactive for two games as harsh way for the coaches to motivate – if not punish – him.
"That could have been part of it," Gilliam said. "Our program is built on competition. I think a lot of that is trying to get the best out of our players. So I think you could definitely say something like that…it was just a matter of us being better. Of being the best us for this team.
"I have no issue with that."
After his brilliant week, he has no issue with anything.