Although the Seahawks’ chances of advancing to the postseason have deteriorated to that bleak point between slim and none, I’m clinging to hope until the inevitable checkmate.
But it’s a different kind of hope, steeped in the opening lyrics of an awful Engelbert Humperdinck song: Please release them, let them go.
After five consecutive playoff appearances, the best thing that can happen to the Seahawks is understanding a slap-in-the-face reality: Playoff appearances are earned, not bequeathed.
When the team showed up for training camp, dominating supposedly inferior competition in the NFC West was a given. When it a lost a clunker opener at Green Bay, and fell short in a 33-27 shootout two weeks later at Tennessee, the narrative remained business as usual. The defending division champs had a 1-2-0 record: One win, two defeats, zero worries.
Never miss a local story.
This past Monday, 24 hours after the Los Angeles Rams pummeled the Hawks in the sort of fight that prompts boxing trainers to toss a stop-the-bleeding towel from the corner, coach Pete Carroll acknowledged there were a few worries while accentuating the positive.
“We are ready to get going again,” he said. “We have to. We’ve got a big game coming up and we have to turn it. I know it may seem difficult for those out there to understand how we can do that, but we will. That’s how we work and that’s what’s coming.”
Uh, no Pete, that’s not what’s coming. What’s coming is playoff elimination, which will require you and general manager John Schneider to evaluate an aging roster desperate for an overhaul. The most grim aspect of the Rams debacle is the fact the victors not only were faster and stronger but younger, too. Their claim to division supremacy might have seemed sudden — like, midway through-the-first-quarter-sudden — but the supremacy could be intact for years.
Difficult decisions await the Seahawks’ braintrust. Some of those calls will be hands of the such stalwart veterans as defensive end Cliff Avril and strong safety Kam Chancellor, mulling quality-of-life issues related to neck injuries.
But what about the healthy and inconsistently productive Jimmy Graham? The former All-Pro has scored nine touchdowns this season — most ever by a Seahawks tight end — and yet recently disappeared against Jacksonville (no catches) and Los Angeles (one catch, for minus-one yard).
Graham’s contract, which saps up $10-million of his team’s rigid salary cap, soon will expire.
Please release him, let him go.
Graham’s inconsequential performance against the Rams was merely a footnote to an all-encompassing saga that revealed the Seahawks’ defense as soft and (on those occasions Michael Bennett didn’t draw the customary penalty flag for encroachment) and slow.
Which brings me to the linebackers. K.J. Wright, a reliable seven-year veteran, was out with a concussion last Sunday. Bobby Wagner, a six-year veteran inclined to wreak havoc from sideline to sideline, was hobbling with a hamstring injury that essentially reduced his contribution to communicating defensive-formation signals to those few teammates interested in making stops.
Liberated from the threat of a hard tackle, Rams running back Todd Gurley enjoyed a career day, rushing for 152 yards and three touchdowns in little more than a half.
This just in: Linebackers don’t grow on trees. They must be scouted and nurtured, assimilated into a system. The Seahawks haven’t drafted any linebackers since 2014, when they selected Kevin Pierre-Louis in the fourth round. Without quality linebackers, the world never would have been introduced to the Legion of Boom.
Carroll’s John Paul Jones act is understandable. He’s an accomplished coach whose team has a history of reviving itself, be it late in the game or late in the season.
But there’s nothing left to revive in 2017. A Seahawks victory Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys seems less important than the Seahawks finally playing a crisp, well-executed game that isn’t tarnished by sideline tirades, unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and chippy post-game social-media exchanges. Win, lose, whatever, just play football in the spirit of professionals before embarking on a serious remodeling project.
Advancing to the playoffs almost always is a good thing. For a Seahawks team that has come to assume its superiority, advancing to the playoffs would not be a good thing. It merely delays the wake-up call and prolongs the myth.
Yes, hope is still alive. My fingers will be crossed until I’m assured it isn’t.