Then again, we've heard this tale before.
This is the great argument every time Harvin's name is brought up. He is one of the more polarizing names among skill position players in the league.
The optimistic crowd—often those remembering his fantastic predraft scouting reports or influenced by their love of fantasy football—will likely point out Harvin's incredible and dynamic pace. They'll throw out stats about yards per target or the crazy variety of ways he can amass yards in an offense.
On the other side of the great chasm—ignoring the many who simply don't think about Harvin as one of the people in this discussion, which alone is a critique of his abilities—is the pessimistic crowd. The arguments here will likely include the idea that the Vikings willingly jettisoned Harvin as he entered his prime and that Harvin has rarely seen the field during his NFL career.
So, is Harvin just fool's gold, or will the Seahawks find themselves with a new top weapon in 2014?
Dangerous Every Time He Touches the Ball
It's been so long since Harvin has been a consistent piece of the football landscape that we can forget just how ridiculously dynamic he once was.
At Florida, Harvin was one part Herschel Walker and one part Randy Moss. He could win just about any matchup—even in the immensely talented SEC—at both receiver and running back. Although the presence of quarterback Tim Tebow will always define those Gator teams (and rightfully so), one could argue that Harvin was integral to making that offense as explosive as it was.
Frank Gore rushed for 1975 yards and 17 TDs in college. Percy Harvin rushed for 1852 yards and 19 TDs in college.— Adam Harstad (@AdamHarstad) July 10, 2014
When the ball found its way into Harvin's capable hands, he left SEC defenders in the dust.
Heading into the NFL draft, many had the feeling that sort of dynamic would carry over to Sunday afternoons. Here's the money line from his NFL.com draft profile:
Harvin's durability will be an issue, but his propensity to get big yardage on every touch -- even when less than 100 percent -- will likely allay any fears teams have about making him a mid-to-late first-round pick.
It wasn't just his durability, but also off-field concerns that—like Moss, whom I compared Harvin to earlier—made some teams wary about bringing Harvin on board in the early part of the first round. Yet when the Vikings had a chance, they pounced, and Harvin (as the NFL draft profile alluded to) seemed to be exactly what they were looking for.
Fast-forward a few years and a team later, and things are much the same. Take a moment and check out this (slightly dated) video from Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen on what Harvin can add to the Seahawks offense:
See, the issue isn't really how Harvin fits into the offense. More often than not, it's simply how often a team can fit him in.
Frankly, that balancing act is part of what doomed Christian Ponder while the two were in Minnesota—needing to force-feed a receiver who couldn't stay healthy. In the same way, it's almost beneficial that Harvin needed to sit out much of last season, because it allowed Russell Wilson to build a rapport with the rest of his offense.
Yet look at how Harvin actually played in the Super Bowl without that rapport others need. From Bleacher Report's Dan Hope:
Harvin, who had played just 39 combined snaps and appeared in just two of Seattle's first 18 games before Sunday, had as big an impact as anyone.
In doing so, he validated what had all season looked like a huge mistake by Seattle to trade its first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft to acquire Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings.
Of course, Harvin's biggest play was a door-slamming kickoff return for a touchdown, but it wasn't the only play. He amassed 137 all-purpose yards in the sort of night that little boys dream of one day having in the Super Bowl.
Permit a cross-sport analogy, but Harvin's Super Bowl performance was almost like a closer coming in to demoralize a team—not just handing them the loss, but shoving it down their throats.
Now, continuing the analogy, what happens if Harvin can return and become a high-impact "starting pitcher" instead of a reliever? He's got the talent to do so; he just needs to, in many ways, catch a break.
He's Hungry, but Critics Still Wonder If He Can Be Effective
Harvin has said as much, as recounted by NFL.com. "A lot of people were asking me, did that [the Super Bowl] kind of make the season for me? And it did, but not at all," Harvin told KCPQ-TV's Aaron Levine. "I was brought to this team to make plays throughout the season, and I wasn't able to do that."
That's the sort of attitude head coach Pete Carroll wants on his team.
Carroll's "Win Forever" philosophy isn't about resting on one's laurels, nor is it about being content with anything—even a Super Bowl win. This isn't about just winning another Super Bowl; this is about changing the landscape of the NFL, and a Seahawks team with a potent offense could do just that.
Anytime an athlete as uniquely talented as Harvin seems to want success this badly, magic can happen.
Having covered Harvin in Minnesota during our shared time there, it wasn't always readily apparent that he was willing to go all-in. Instead, he seemed apathetic—almost bored—at times and often clashed with then-head coach Brad Childress. Much of that was due to lingering injuries and migraines, but Harvin rarely appeared to be going the extra mile.
Percy Harvin has played in only 10 regular season games since the end of the 2011 season.— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) July 7, 2014
For fans in Minnesota (and across the league) the story quickly shifted from, "Hey, could Harvin be dogging it?" to "Oh wow, this guy really just can't stay healthy." When Harvin continued to have plenty of seemingly minor injuries that still kept him out of games after his much-needed scenery shift, the discussion just got louder, as echoed by a fantastic debate on Pro Football Focus:
He also has a long injury history. His time in the NFL hasn't been too bad, missing just 10 of 64 career games (seven of which came this year with a torn ankle ligament), and he is undoubtedly tough as nails, but including college he has missed time with ankle, neck, rib, heel, and more ankle injuries, as well as a well-documented battle with migraines. He is tough, but Harvin is just 5-foot-11' and 184 pounds, being tackled by players that outweigh him by 60 pounds or more on a regular basis — that doesn't add up to a player you can rely on week in, week out.
That dissenting opinion in the case of Harvin was PFF's Sam Monson, who is one of the smartest football guys around. He—like myself and just about anyone with a set of eyes—knows how much Harvin can impact a game. The problem is that he simply hasn't done it with regularity over the course of his career.
So here's the question we're left with: What exactly does Harvin—only 26 years old—have left?
This isn't meant to be fantasy football advice, but some will undoubtedly take it as such. If you believe Harvin is simply too frail to play 16 games in an NFL season, then this all becomes a moot discussion. Yet the adage is correct: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Because of that truism, one could argue that it is possible Harvin doesn't miss another game for the next seven seasons.
Since none of us have the prerequisite crystal ball to do anything more than predict, prognosticate or otherwise guess at what Harvin's playing time will look like next season, this truth is all we're left with: If Harvin can suit up for the Seahawks with any degree of regularity, that offense could be nearly as unstoppable as the defense.
The Seahawks' run-heavy attack returns Marshawn Lynch and an offensive line that meshed well toward the end of last season. Russell Wilson, as much as he has been considered a wunderkind, is a much better and more polished player than he was in his rookie season. Another offseason should only help that. Although the loss of Golden Tate stings, the Seahawks added plenty of speed and talent at the receiver position in the draft.
Without Harvin, though, that lineup looks little more than tepid.
That isn't "hate." It simply is what it is. The Seahawks offense has been more about ball control than making points rain down from the heavens. No, the defense has stolen the show, and the offense—at best—can take advantage of that by playing the field-position game and hitting some advantageous deep shots.
Add Harvin to that equation, though, and you're talking about opening up pages of the playbook that have lain dormant. More importantly, this is the addition of an innovator out on the perimeter the same caliber as Wilson under center.
If those two find a way to get into sync, no one—not even the San Francisco 49ers—is stopping them, home or away from the friendly confines of Seattle.