You Win, Mike Salk

Defensive backs take part of their traditional pregame huddle before taking the field for warmups.

Mike Salk co-hosts the KIRO 710 morning show Brock and Salk with Brock Huard. He is good at his job. His style and personality are an odd match for the Northwest, but he plays the bad cop well. Having gone to school for sports journalism, and now working at a company whose products are used in every form of media, I know the game Salk plays. He is not emotionally invested in any of the local teams, except to the point that they impact his well-being. A winning team usually generates more listeners, more calls, and more advertising dollars. When a team loses, like the Seahawks are now losing, it is Salk’s job to incite a conversation. He is not alone. Every media member is doing the same thing, looking for any angle that gets your attention. Even though I know all this, I can’t help but write an entire post just to refute the contrived argument Salk put forth today about the Seahawks. He doesn’t care if he’s right or wrong, and just writing this encourages more irresponsible analysis, but I can’t help myself. You win, Salk.

The Seahawks started 4-2, and have since gone 2-5. Salk made two main assertions aimed at discrediting the coaching staff. First, he said that injuries cannot be completely to blame for the deteriorating season. Second, he says that injuries don’t explain why players like Aaron Curry, John Carlson, Kelly Jennings, Marcus Trufant, Earl Thomas, Matt Hasselbeck, Golden Tate, and Chris Clemons have failed to improve as the season wore on.

I’ve spent the better part of two posts today already addressing the first assertion. If you have not already read about why consistency has escaped the Hawks or how big of an effect even a single injury can have on a team, take a moment to read them. Salk claims that it all can’t be attributed to Red Bryant being out, but that’s missing the point. If only Red Bryant was out, that would be a fair question. Guess how many of the last seven games have seen Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane, Mike Williams and Russell Okung step on the field at the same time? Forget the myriad of other injuries and shuffles along the lines and at wide receiver. Just those four players have played exactly zero minutes together, as a group, in the last seven games. What about just three of the four? How many games of any combination have three of those guys been on the field at the same time in the last seven games? The correct answer is two. What about the first six games, when things were going well? All six of those games saw at least three of those players on the field (plus Red Bryant). The only game ALL SEASON that all four of those players have played a full game together was @CHI. Not surprisingly, most would call that the Seahawks best performance. Injuries do matter. Discounting them is lazy and sensationalistic.

Now, to the second part about lack of improvement. Before I tackle each and every player he mentioned, let’s discuss the players he conveniently omitted. How good was Ben Obomanu at the start of the season? Wasn’t he on the 53-man roster bubble for many? What about Cameron Morrah? Any improvement there? Deon Butler and Kam Chancellor have made strides. David Hawthorne is playing better now than to start the year. Sean Locklear has stabilized, as has Mike Gibson. Additionally, of the players Salk listed, I disagree that Curry, Clemons and Hasselbeck have not improved. Clemons had 5.5 sacks through the first six games and has 4 in the last seven games. That’s not exactly a major dropoff, especially considering the extra attention he got after his fast start. Curry has three of his four sacks in the last five games, and after averaging 3.17 tackles/game in the first six, he’s averaging 6.14 in the last seven. That sure looks like improvement to me. Hasselbeck is the controversial one, but in the TWO GAMES he’s had a healthy Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu starting he threw for more yardage than any two-game stretch in his entire career outside of one series in 2002. Every Seahawk fan that watched the @ARZ and @NO game saw jaw-dropping improvement in the passing game.

Of the other guys, some can just be explained by saying they are veterans who are who they are going to be no matter what the coaches do. There is no upside to be had. Players in this category include Jennings and Trufant. Carlson has only himself to blame. Maybe he’ll get better after another year in the system, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Tate has some maturing to do. This off-season will show how dedicated he is to becoming an NFL receiver. He also was injured for a long stretch, so improvement before the year is out is still possible. When the coaches start Ruvell Martin over you as a second-round pick, it should be a wake-up call. Lastly, Earl Thomas is hard to judge. He has not stood out to me as a guy whose play has dropped off dramatically. He has missed some tackles and some assignments, but tossing him into the “not improved” bucket is questionable, at best.

Nobody wants a radio show question that can be answered simply and directly. I get it. The part that drives me batty is how it actually starts to shape public opinion. Pete Carroll and staff have done an admirable job of finding anyone and everyone who could contribute to a winning team. When you start with arguably the worst talent in all of the NFL and have this many injuries to core players, bad things are going to happen. Nobody is likely to be singing Carroll’s praises while the team gets their heads bashed in repeatedly, but any honest assessment of the franchise’s overall progress must be overwhelmingly positive.

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