Tuesday, February 25, 2014 @ 10:16am
By Brady Henderson
The Seahawks and 49ers have plenty in common, from the division they reside in to the way their teams are defined by strong defenses, physical running backs and young, athletic quarterbacks.
Where the similarities end is in the harmony between their respective head coaches and front offices. While there has been no indication that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been in anything but lockstep while molding the Seahawks into Super Bowl champions, recent reports have characterized the relationship between their 49ers counterparts, head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, as turbulent and potentially untenable.
From Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com:
The men are barely speaking, I'm told, and almost all communication is through email. Harbaugh also has a strained relationship with team president Paraag Marathe, sources said, and he has clashed with many within the organization. It could prove untenable. If anything, the impression I got this week was that the situation there is actually much worse than how it has been portrayed in the media, and helps explain the delay in giving a new deal to the coach, who has two years left on a contract he has outperformed.
That's the who and the what. Those theorizing about the when and the why have cited personnel disagreements dating back to the 2011 draft, Harbaugh's first with the 49ers, and what one 49ers writer, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee, described as the coach's proclivity for chaos and inability to function without discord regardless of those around him.
Mike Sando of ESPN.com, a guest on Monday's edition of "Bob and Groz" on 710 ESPN Seattle, said the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl and going through the 49ers to do so inflamed matters, helping explain why such dysfunction could exist on a team that has had so much on-field success.
"It's just amazing to me," Sando said. "Over the last three years they've won 41 games, counting the playoffs. No one's won more. They're tied with New England. And you're having issues? That's why I really think the Seattle component is a big part of it."
In the video above, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby share their thoughts on the 49ers saga and how different it appears to the harmony in Seattle's front office.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 2:25pm
Wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant will reportedly be the first Seahawks to be released in cost-saving moves. They likely won't be the last.
Releasing Zach Miller would clear up a significant amount of salary-cap space while leaving Seattle thin at tight end. (AP)
Clemons, Miller on the chopping block? Clayton expects defensive end Chris Clemons and tight end Zach Miller – if he doesn't agree to a reduced salary – to also be released, which combined with the releases of Rice and Bryant would clear around $24 million of salary-cap space in 2014. Clayton thinks Seattle could then give defensive lineman Michael Bennett, a pending unrestricted free agent, a new deal averaging $7 million or $8 million a season.
Bryant could be back. Bryant just completed the second year of a five-year, $35 million deal he signed before the 2012 season. Clayton thinks the good will Seattle engendered by giving Bryant an above-market deal could help him get over the hard feelings of being released, potentially allowing him to return on a reduced deal that pays him around $4 million per season.
Replacing Miller. No other Seahawks tight end who is under contract for next season has much – if any – starting experience, so releasing Miller would likely put Seattle in the market for a starter. One name Clayton mentioned was Jermichael Finley assuming he makes a full recovery from the season-ending neck injury he suffered in 2013. Finley, 26, has spent all six of his NFL seasons with Green Bay.
Cap increasing? Clayton said some projections have the 2014 salary cap increasing to $132 million, about $9 million more than it was in 2013. While that would give Seattle more flexibility to re-sign Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate, might it also be a double-edged sword in that it increases the price tag free agents place on themselves knowing teams have more money to spend?
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 1:06pm
Bruce Irvin's 2013 season produced glimpses of his potential as an outside linebacker but also some uncertainty about whether he'll stay there.
From the sounds of it, he will.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn says he likes Bruce Irvin's potential at strong-side linebacker. (AP)
Irvin sure looked like it during the Seahawks' Week-8 win over St. Louis when he finished with an interception and a strip sack to go along with nine tackles, the second most on the team. He had switched from defensive end and then served a suspension at the beginning of the season, and what was only his fourth game as a strong-side linebacker showed the type of impact he can have when his athleticism is put to use in the open field.
The rest of the season wasn't as encouraging, though, as Irvin didn't record another sack or an interception and finished with more than four tackles only once over the final eight regular-season games. By the end of the season he was playing mainly on early downs and leaving the field when Seattle subbed in its nickel defense. He was drafted 15th overall for his ability to rush the passer, and he went so long without recording a sack that merely sniffing one in the NFC title game made him feel like he had – in his words – a newborn child.
Irvin, despite some concern about his ability to hold up against bigger offensive tackles, did lead all rookies in sacks with eight in 2012 – and that was in a situational role in which he didn't even start. And with the futures of Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons uncertain, that led to some speculation that a move back to defensive end could be in Irvin's future.
But Quinn said it isn't and cited the room for improvement from Irvin, who after all has only spent three-quarters of a season at the position.
"He's got all the stuff that we look for in our outside 'backer with speed and length and he can set the edge, he can rush," Quinn said. "So I thought for his first time playing linebacker he did a terrific job, and you know that it's only going to get better from here. So we feel like he's in the right spot and we couldn't be more excited to see how far we can take him."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 12:15pm
By Brady Henderson
A transcript of the latest edition of "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 8:09am
By Danny O'Neil
INDIANPOLIS – Michael Sam did not become a gay football player earlier this month.
He became known as a gay football player, and the fact he played last season after telling his Missouri teammates he is gay is worth remembering as everyone wonders how he will be accepted within an NFL locker room.
Because he has already been accepted in what turned out to be a remarkably successful season for the Tigers, who lost only one game with Sam being named the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, which is only considered the country's top conference.
The difference next season? It won't be just Sam's teammates who know he's gay. And that fact – more than Sam's sexual orientation – is the biggest variable, according to one of the league's top personnel evaluators.
"He has been a good player," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' general manager. "He has been in a locker room. It's what you – the media – what are you all going to do with it.
"Once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback and he can get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. But the biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with it."
The results Saturday weren't all that encouraging in that regard during a 15-minute interview that drew the kind of crowd usually reserved for top quarterbacks or linebackers with imaginary girlfriends.
The attention was not a surprise. The mid-round prospect has become a de facto pioneer after he came out earlier this month in interviews with The New York Times and ESPN. Saturday's interview at the scouting combine was his first full-fledged press conference, and it attracted the largest crowd at an event with more than 900 credentialed media members.
The questions Sam was asked proved to be more telling than his answers, the interview making it clear just how awkward his introduction to the NFL will be. Not for Sam, mind you. He was incredibly composed, occasionally humorous and unbelievably gracious considering some of the questions he was asked, which merited cringes more than responses.
Like this one: "When you told your team about your sexuality, were there jokes about it? Did you tell them, 'I can take jokes?' And if so, how did it go?"
Seriously. That was the question transcribed verbatim. In a best-case scenario, it was an attempt to determine whether Sam would insist on inoffensive language within the locker room. At worst, the question sought to determine whether he would be OK with hearing homophobic jokes or being slurred.
Sam's response: "Everyone could be normal around me. If they wanted to, we'd joke because that's a brotherhood, that's a family. We don't draw blood, it's all fun and games."
"I wish you would just see me as Michael Sam the football player," Sam said. (AP)
Even Sam balked at that one.
"Am I going to fight?" he said. "No. If someone calls me a name, I will have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."
He is banking on the ability of fellow NFL players to behave like adults. The same should be expected of the media.
Dumb questions aren't going to stifle his career. Neither are 15-minute press conferences. But the size and nature of the media coverage of Sam's career – something which he no longer can control – can make teams reluctant to draft him or future teammates resentful.
It amounts to a second hurdle Sam may face. Not only is there the possibility that anti-gay sentiments will impact his career in a league that has never had an active player who is openly gay, but there's also the possibility that the attention and scrutiny now being trained on him will turn teams off.
Having a gay teammate may not be a distraction, but being repeatedly asked about having a gay teammate could be. That's just the beginning, though. We're talking about sexuality here, which means there's a whole tier of sensational approaches journalists could take.
Will reporters go to each member of his new team and ask about showering with a gay teammate? If so, why?
That's not a rhetorical question. Why ask about showering? Is it really about making sure Sam doesn't face discrimination? Is it truly an attempt to expose homophobia? Or is it about trying to ask the most pointed question in the effort to get the most salacious response that will in turn draw the most attention?
Why was Sam asked Saturday – as he was – whether he thought teams might feel more obligated to prove they weren't prejudiced? It wasn't quite asking Sam if his decision to come out was done with an eye toward improving his professional prospects, but it wasn't all that far off, either.
Sam simply pointed out he could not answer that question.
"I am not a GM," he said. "I do not have control over my draft status. All I can control is me, preparing myself to get the best scores out there."
The story is out of Sam's hands now, not just in terms of where he gets picked in the draft, but how he is covered.
I don't have all the answers for how to cover this story. Reporters do have a responsibility to see if Sam's career is impacted by his decision not to hide his sexual orientation. On the other hand, there's also a possibility the coverage of Sam's integration into the NFL could become something that actually negatively impacts his integration into the NFL.
In a league in which teams routinely seek to avoid any extra attention, it's not hard to imagine a team choosing a player roughly as talented as Sam ahead of him because it would avoid the added scrutiny that was on display Saturday.
That would be sad not just because journalists aren't supposed to be part of the story, but because this is ultimately about Michael Sam and what he's trying to achieve.
He wants to be a pro football player. He has made that clear. The question now isn't only whether one of the NFL's 32 teams will let him, but if the people covering the country's most popular sport can, too.
"I wish you would just see me as Michael Sam the football player," he said, "instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player."
Sunday, February 23, 2014 @ 6:33pm
By Danny O'Neil
The Seahawks are expected to release defensive end Red Bryant, according to a report on Sunday night from Alex Marvez of FOX Sports.
The Seahawks would clear at least $5.5 million of salary-cap space if they released defensive end Red Bryant, which the team is reportedly expected to do. (AP)
Bryant is 29, and he was scheduled to be paid a roster bonus of $3 million that was believed to be due next month. He was going to count $8.5 million against Seattle's salary cap in 2014, and releasing him would allow the Seahawks to save at least $5.5 million against the cap, potentially more depending on the way Bryant's release is designated if that is indeed the path the team is going to go.
Fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett is scheduled to be a free agent, and the release of Bryant would free up money for Seattle to pursue re-signing Bennett. However, Bennett wouldn't necessarily take Bryant's place given that he weighs about 50 pounds less than Bryant.
Bryant started all but one game for the Seahawks over the past three seasons, serving as the run-stuffing defensive end on early downs. This season, however, Seattle rotated its defensive line more frequently, no one playing so much as 70 percent of the snaps. Bryant did not take the field until the second quarter of the Super Bowl as Seattle used its pass-rush package to start the game against the Broncos.
Bryant drew heavy interest from the Patriots two years ago, and was scheduled to visit New England before re-signing with Seattle.
Sunday, February 23, 2014 @ 2:01pm
By Danny O'Neil
INDIANAPOLIS -- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has two words for any team seeking to replicate Seattle's success with taller cornerbacks: Good luck.
"They don't exist," Carroll said. "Big fast guys are the fewest people around ... There just aren't many humans like that in the world. It's rare when you find them."
The 6-foot-3 Richard Sherman combined with the 6-4 Brandon Browner to form the NFL's biggest and best cornerback duo, but that success won't be easy for other teams to replicate. (AP)
Easy to say, almost impossible to do.
"The perfect guys aren't there because there's no really tall, exceedingly fast guys," Carroll said. "Other than Calvin (Johnson). There's a handful. You have to make those guys come to life through your coaching and how you adapt, their style and their ability to fit it."
Sure enough, look at the list of top cornerbacks available in this year's draft, and there are only two guys taller than 6-1 who are expected to be chosen in the first half of the draft: Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Utah's Keith McGill, both of whom are 6-3.
"That's just how it goes," Carroll said.
Then Carroll caught himself. After all, why should he discourage teams from following the potentially futile draft of finding taller cornerbacks the same way Seattle has.
"I'd love people to try and copy that," Carroll said. "Get a bunch of tall guys out there. Awesome."
Running back Christine Michael was the first of 11 players the Seahawks drafted a year ago, and like many rookies, he had a hard time seeing the field. Michael was inactive for all but four games during the season, and didn't see any game time after mid-November.
He remains very much a part of Seattle's hopes for the future, though.
"He's really talented and is a really exciting guy in our program," Carroll said. "Probably has the most breakout potential of anybody because you haven't seen much of him yet. We've seen him. We know that he can do really special stuff."
So what kept that hidden during a rookie season in which he carried the ball a total of 18 times?
"He played in a very competitive position," Carroll said. "It's hard to get in there with Marshawn (Lynch) and Robert Turbin there, but he'll give those guys a real run when we come back to work. He'll grow a lot from Year One to Year Two. We all know in our program that he's going to be very explosive and a really exciting guy, and he showed that in his chances that he had."
Okung hopefully OK
Left tackle Russell Okung hasn't had surgery to repair the toe injury that sidelined him for half of last season, and there's still hope he won't need the surgery. That's not the last word on Okung's recovery, though, according to Carroll.
"It looks like we're not going to," Carroll said of surgery, "but that's not done yet. There's still some work being done there."
Saturday, February 22, 2014 @ 7:40am
By Danny O'Neil
INDIANAPOLIS – Russell Wilson's success is a set-up for future failure.
That has nothing to do with his career, and everything to do with the precedent he has set for vertically challenged quarterbacks as well as team seeking franchise cornerstones.
Wilson is an outlier, a most exceptional exception both in his ability to become a Pro Bowler at 5 feet 10 and five-eighths inches and to start for a Super Bowl champion in just his second year.
The shortest quarterback in the NFL is casting quite a shadow over this offseason whether it's in the draft prognosis of a quarterback like Johnny Manziel, who is shorter than 6 feet, or a contending team expecting a young quarterback to provide the finishing touch.
The double play Wilson performed is remarkable. Unprecedented even. Only two quarterbacks have won a Super Bowl at a younger age and neither was Wilson's height.
But Wilson's success doesn't make it any less difficult for another short quarterback like Manziel. Similarly, Seattle's success doesn't make it any more likely that a team that chooses a quarterback in this draft will be hoisting a Lombardi Trophy two years from now.
That's not to say teams won't try, though. Especially after seeing the bargain that Seattle got with a starting quarterback on a rookie contract that paid him a little more than $500,000 last season (or $17 million less than Denver's Peyton Manning made). The Seahawks parlayed that into signing defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, who more than made up for the difference in the Super Bowl.
"It was a big deal for us," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said regarding the salary-cap flexibility Wilson's contract provided. "We've been able to acquire other players, and they were definitely players we were able to acquire that helped us get over the top this year."
That bargain was more like a fortunate occurrence, though, as opposed to a premeditated plan. The Seahawks may have hoped Wilson would emerge as the starter, but they did not necessarily expect it. After all, he was one of three quarterbacks competing to be the starter his rookie season, and he only became a bargain once he played well enough not only to win the starting job but carry the team into the playoffs each of his first two seasons.
Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel would join Russell Wilson as the NFL's only starting quarterbacks under 6 feet tall. (AP)
That's something that is worth emphasizing with Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater expected to be chosen among the first 10 picks in this year's draft. One of them is already drawing comparisons to Wilson not just because of his ability to improvise, but because of his height.
Manziel doesn't necessarily look up to Wilson. Not even after he measured in more than half an inch shorter than expected on Friday at the scouting combine.
But Manziel does look to Wilson as a precedent, an example that someone shorter than 6-feet tall can excel. And Manziel is shorter than 6 feet, measured at 5 foot 11 and three-eighths inches, though he said Friday that won't define him.
"I play with a lot of heart, play with a lot of passion," Manziel said. "I feel like I play like I'm 10-feet tall. A measurement to me is just a number."
But it's not entirely insignificant. It is more difficult for a shorter quarterback. Not impossible as Wilson has clearly shown, but definitely more difficult.
"Not everybody that's 5-10 and a half can play quarterback," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You've got to be a great football player and a great player. Like we say, all the elements make up Russell, make him very, very unique regardless of how tall he is."
Carroll is a fan of Manziel's. Loves the way he plays, the flair and the ability, and he said Friday on 710 ESPN Seattle that Manziel is going to be long gone by the time Seattle picks for the first time in a draft where it holds the 32nd overall pick.
That's probably true. But chances are that whoever picks Manziel won't experience the same success because Wilson is such a tremendous success in terms of his height and his team's success.