I got a call from David Locke last night just to catch up on what's happening. Our discussion inevitably led to the topic of Shaun Alexander, and he mentioned he had written a column about the topic after the Super Bowl, saying at the time he didn't think the Seahawks should sign him. I went back and read it. Here is that column.
Locked on Sports: Now we'll see the real Alexander
By DAVID LOCKE
SPECIAL TO THE P-I
It feels absurd to still have questions about a player who was named NFL MVP. Yet Shaun Alexander's performance continues to be one of the most highly debated topics in Seattle sports.
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His dominance last season made most of the doubters into believers. However, now we will really find out about Alexander.
With a huge contract weighing down his bank account, what truly drives Alexander will finally come to the forefront.
Over seasons past, the Seahawks pushed every button and milked every ounce out of Alexander in his quest for the ego-fulfilling, gigantic contract.
The dividends were fantastic.
Many of the warts in an otherwise gorgeous game disappeared from Alexander's approach. For the first time, last season we saw Alexander power through defenders on tight, third-and-1 situations.
In the past, Alexander had been notorious for dying early on running plays, primarily those to the outside, when he didn't like the play call or the run. Last season, he ran hard on every play.
While his pass-route running and blitz pickup will never make an instructional video, there was minimal improvement in those areas as well.
With that said, if Alexander is deserving of the largest contract of any running back, he must improve in these areas so the Hawks don't have to replace him on third downs.
Alexander always has been classified as a guy whose individual desires superseded the importance of team needs.
Conveniently, a self-centered running back usually equates to team success. If he gets his numbers, the team usually wins.
With free agency looming, he modified his game perfectly to become the best running back in the NFL.
With the money run in the rear-view mirror, now is when Alexander will write his legacy.
What will the motivation be at this point? Will his ego put him on a quest to Canton, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Or will the accomplishment of his primary goal, the contract, create a slippage in his performance?
Contract in hand, will he look beyond the team elements of a running back -- blitz pickup, pass routes and decoy situations -- and become even more obsessed in his quest for stats?
These are the questions that Alexander will answer in the upcoming years. The much-debated character and approach of Alexander will have shown all of its cards.
Somewhere in my gut, I believe we have seen the best of Alexander. The MVP season in which he refined many of the rough edges of his game will be the highlight.
This is not saying the Hawks made a mistake in signing him. The way they formed the contract eliminated all the concerns of an aging back. After three years, the cap implications are minimal.
Moreover, they kept Alexander in the correct salary slot behind more valuable pieces Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones.
Yet, my best guess is that we will look back on the signing of Alexander in a few years and wonder why the player of the Super Bowl season never returned.
I am not sure what it will be, but something is going to leave us wondering what happened. Maybe it will be the pressure of performing to meet the contract. It could be the expectations that he should be more heavily featured considering the contract or the inevitability that he will always be stuck in the same role in Mike Holmgren's West Coast offense.
On the flip side, Alexander's infinite ego could continue to drive him without the carrot of the contract, instead with the quest to be remembered as an Emmitt Smith or a Walter Payton.