Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Candid Interview With Marshall Faulk

Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk sat down with HawkBlogger.com

Blogging is a weird deal. You spend hours, days, years, writing on a topic, and get accustomed to writing regardless of whether anyone is going to listen. People are listening lately, and that has afforded me with some unique opportunities, including a chance to sit down with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, courtesy of SAP.

Many Seahawks fans consider Faulk to be strongly biased against Seattle, but I entered the conversation with an open mind and nothing but respect for one of the best players I have had the pleasure of watching play the game of football. I left the interview with far more questions about his objectivity. Let's just say Faulk won't be one of the smart people placing bets on the Seahawks at SportsBettingOnline.ag.
We started with a question about where this Denver offense compared to his Greatest Show on Turf offense. 

Q: Would you agree with the statement that this Broncos offense is the greatest offense in history?

Marshall Faulk (MF): I do not agree with that. I would consider their offense to be the best offense in history under the new rules. Just as our offense, what we did in St. Louis, and the Chargers offense under Don Coryell before us, were the best offense of their era. People do not credit that Chargers offense enough. You could basically undress a receiver, and for them to have the success they had, and for us to come and break all their records, it is hard to say the Broncos is the best. What each of those teams did is special, and so is what the Broncos did. 

Q: What types of defenses gave you the most trouble?

MF: The Super Bowl we won, we had to play Tampa, the number one defense. Those guys, as we were structured and did not make adjustments for what they did, they were structured, and did not make adjustments for other teams. It was extremely competitive. When I think about games, that was an epic game. I know for me, and I think I can speak for most of the guys on our offense, that game was much harder than the Super Bowl. Jeff Fisher's Titans defense was top five as well.

Q: Were there characteristics of those defenses that made them tougher?

MF: The common factor was they had a guy that could impact the pass rush. Tampa has Warren Sapp and Tennessee had Jevon Kearse. It forced us to do some things that were uncharacteristic of what we did, which was maybe help a guy at times. I had to check on those guys on my way out on routes.

Q: You played with Peyton his rookie year. Did you foresee his career turning out the way it did?

MF: I think that he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. He has changed our game in the manner of which if your quarterback does not have the ability in the two minute to call his own plays, but just throughout the game if you want to change the pace of play, your quarterback has to get you in the right play. Get you from run to pass, or pass to run, based on what the defense is allowing you. That's a whole different ballgame than what we're accustomed to playing. We're in the modern era of football where it's a coached game. If you watch the New Orleans Saints play, they run in groups of personnel at a time. That is when you are getting beaten by a coach. He is giving you different personnel groupings. What Peyton did in Indy, and I think this is so special because with the Rams we would motion you and switch things up, but for them, Marvin Harrison would play on the left side, Reggie Wayne would play on the right side, and would always go two-by-two. They never went three-by-one. They never ran motion. And Peyton called the plays. And he beat you. That's hard. That's so hard to do. When you can do that, and you're on year 15, and in all but one year you've had 10 wins, you're a special guy. And the whole post-season argument, the 16 games that gets you there, they matter. They do matter. The people that only talk about the post-season obviously did not have to play those 16 games to understand how hard it is to win those.


Q: I read that Peyton said he owed a debt to you for helping him as a rookie. Can you speak to that?

MF: All the times you come in as a rookie--there are no exceptions to this--you really want to know if what you are doing is the right way to do it. Peyton and I, we are football junkies. I've been an addict in two things in life, and that's football and golf. We saw football through the same set of eyes. We would have our kids in the room with us while we watched film, and we considered that spending time with our kids. You know, it's very unique. Then, off the field, if you're successful in life, you're still going to make more mistakes than doing things right. When he came in, I was like, "You want to do that. You don't want to do that." That comment he made was not as much about football as you'd think. On the field, it would be a quick conversation about, "I think that's cover-2 Marshall." "Yeah, it is Peyton." It was casual conversations like that we'd have on a play-by-play basis. I don't want to toot my horn in relation to other running backs, but I think that is kind of rare in the league. Listening to what that did for him, what was helping him was helping me as well. To have another person there that you know has watched as much film as you, it helped.

Q: You were a superstar that got traded. Put yourself in the shoes of Percy Harvin and also in the shoes of the other guys on the Seahawks that got the team here. How would you feel if Harvin won the Super Bowl MVP?

MF: If was him, I'd be happy. As them, I'd be even happier. I was working at media day, and we were talking about Marshawn Lynch. Usually, if you win the MVP, you won the game. There was one time that a player won the MVP, but his team did not win the Super Bowl. So if Percy Harvin is to win the MVP, and I'm on his team, I'm elated because we obviously won the Super Bowl.

Q: How important would it be for Manning to win this game?

MF: I think it shuts up the doubters. If you have watched him for the last 10 years, you're only looking for reasons to not call him the greatest. Right now, regardless of what happens in Sunday's game, Broncos fans know their team is going to win 10 games or more next season. I think the fans of almost any team would take that. I love Tom Brady. I love what fuels him. When you're a 6th-round pick, and you're splitting time with Drew Henson at Michigan because everyone loves him, and you take your team to the Super Bowl, that's special. What's shined a light on those two quarterbacks, though, is that Brady had to win the last two Super Bowls on his own, and he could not do it. That's been what Peyton has had to do every year. This year, if you watch the New England game, their defense showed up, the running game was there, and then, in the winding moments, Peyton had to come in like he was Mariano Rivera and close it. He had to be feeling like, "You know what? This is easier then if I have to play a perfect game to win." It is like the perfect scenario. If you look back and John Elway's career, it was a similar story. Getting a running game is what it took to win the Super Bowl.  It's such a team sport. It's hard to be successful in this game. It's even harder when people expect you to be great. 

Q: How much of a factor do you feel like the running game will play in the Super Bowl?

MF: Depending on if Denver can stop the run or not, it could be extremely huge. And depending on Peyton, his willingness to continue to call running plays, it could be huge. If he decides there are six men in the box, and he sees Michael Bennett, who is a defensive end playing defensive tackle, I think I want to run the football at him. Let's see if my right guard, Vasquez can block him. Let's see. We know he can rush the passer. It's 2nd and 6, 3rd and 6, let's see if he wants to play the run today. On the other side, if you heard Marshawn Lynch on media day, he said, "I never talked me way into anything. I'm going to be there Sunday, and the Denver Broncos know I'm going to be there." I'm like, wow, that's powerful. That's pretty powerful, so the running game is either going to play a huge role or stopping it will play a huge role.

Q: The Broncos were 1-2 in regular season games decided by 7 pts or less. The Seahawks have not lost by more than 7 pts in 44 games. What kind of game are you expecting to see on Sunday? Is is going to be close?

MF: You know, I think there's two ways to this game. We're either going to have a very close where Peyton Manning is going to have a chance for a drive to bring his team back at the end, or the Seahawks will get blown out. That's the two ways I see this game in the fourth quarter. 

Q: Why do you feel that way?

MF: It's kind of been Denver's MO, that teams that run the football against them, they've had trouble. Any time you Peyton in a situation where he has to score because his defense is not playing well, they fall behind. They struggle as an offense when he doesn't have the option to throw the ball away on 3rd and 5. When he does not know he can punt the ball without getting it back until 7 or 3 goes up for the other guys, that puts a little pressure on him. It puts pressure on any quarterback really. And Seattle, I see it as a blowout because they are about as arrogant as you can be as a defense. From Gus Bradley, to now Dan Quinn, to just Pete Carroll and who he is, I believe they are willing to lose at what they do best.  They don't disguise anything. They play the defense that they show you. I just don't know if you can play defense like that against Peyton. You know, it's not like you're playing Colin Kaepernick, and a play is called in, and he gets to the line of scrimmage, and he's switching from run to pass. Peyton switches the protection, to the receivers routes, to the running backs responsibilities, to not just whether you are running right or left, but what kind of run. That's a huge advantage. And regardless of how good you are, every defense that you play, there is a play to beat it, and if you show Peyton that play, you can ask the great Baltimore Ravens defense, if you show him a play with like 10 seconds left on the play clock, he's going to get in the right play. So, that can be considered dumb tough to me if that's what they're going to do. If they're not going to disguise anything. That's hard to do versus him. It could be ugly. Dan Quinn could be sitting up there thinking, "Damnit."

Q: What would it say if it was a blowout the other way?

MF: It would prove to me that a great defensive game plan was called. In the one Super Bowl that Peyton Manning lost, Gregg Williams explained what he had to do to beat Peyton. They called different game plans for the first, second and third quarters. On third down in the first quarter, they were more combination coverages. Second quarter they played more zone. Third quarter, they played more man. And in the fourth quarter, he was like, "I called a little bit of everything." That's kind of what it took. So for it to be a blowout the other direction, it would have to be a damn good game plan against #18. And understand that I know they have a relentless pass rush. They rotate around eight guys in. It's going to take an act of a miracle for it be one-sided their way. I just know, and I wish I could say how much I know. Their offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, is a good friend of mine, and I just know how much they've put into Seattle and this defense, and how much they respect Seattle and this defense. It's hard to seeing it going in that way. I hope I didn't discourage you. 

I responded, "Not at all. I just want to make sure I know where to find you on Twitter after you find out you were wrong." Marshall said, "The good news about it, is I've been wrong before."

It was clear while interviewing Faulk, that he is an intelligent and hyper-competitive guy. He saw my Seahawks pullover as soon as he walked in the room, and made a comment about seeing a Seahawks fan in New York. It felt like he was being forced to speak with the enemy. That feeling pervaded most of the conversation. It was cordial. It was professional. But it had an edge to how he talked about the Seahawks.

The respect is not there. Despite all the team has done. Despite the far harder road they have walked. People here, including Faulk, think they are largely just the supporting actors in Peyton Manning's feature film. There were other people in the room when he was answering questions, and they asked me after what I thought about his predictions. I said, "he doesn't know the Seahawks like I know the Seahawks. They are not getting blown out." I went on to point out that if the national media knew the Seahawks, I would have nothing to write about. When I studied the Redskins last season and published my findings ahead of the playoff game, the Washington Post linked to the article, and I was inundated with Redskins fans who thought I was crazy to think the Seahawks were clearly the better team. They were. When I did the same thing ahead of the Falcons game, and concluded it was a coin flip game, it was. When I studied the Saints and predicted a closer victory, I was lambasted by Saints fans who told me this time the outcome would be different. It was not. When I broke down the 49ers, and predicted it would be like the 1981 SF vs DAL championship game and that Michael Crabtree, Colin Kapernick's throwing, and Frank Gore were not setup for big games and that Doug Baldwin has a history of killing the 49ers, San Francisco fans poured in from every corner to tell me I should brace for humiliation and pain. Instead, they felt the pain. A pain that will last for a year.

Predicting football games is impossible. Nobody is always right. I am rarely, however, completely wrong. Those are the games that teach me the most. If Manning and his Broncos were to blow out the Seahawks, I would pay my respects. This is the greatest defense in the last decade, and while Faulk would like you to believe that what they do is arrogant, history shows that the defense that gave Manning the most trouble in his career was the one Bill Belichick ran for the Patriots. That defense played base throughout the game. Manning, who feasts on defenses blitzing or doing something exotic that he can exploit, had nothing to adjust to. He just had to line up and beat them by being better than them instead of smarter than them. Seattle is that kind of defense.

Faulk definitely knows football better than I ever will. He does not know the Seahawks. He also seemed to be holding onto that divisional rivalry even if he is no longer a Ram. Some people reading all this will want to attack him, but that energy is wasted. The only way to get respect is to earn it Sunday. It will come.

No comments :