Some people incorrectly claim that the reason the Seahawks have won just nine games the past two seasons is that they have no talent.
But the real reason they have been so horrible is that the talent they have has not been available. Their best players simply have not been on the field very much the last two years.
Linebacker Lofa Tatupu has missed 12 games.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and offensive tackle Sean Locklear have each missed 11.
Receiver Deion Branch has been MIA for 10.
Linebacker Leroy Hill has been absent for nine.
Cornerback Marcus Trufant sat out six last year.
And then there are the multitude of games those six played in which they were not even close to 100 percent.
If the Seahawks are going to make any progress under new coach Pete Carroll, those guys–along with second-year linebacker Aaron Curry and veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh–are going to have to stay healthy and start earning their salaries in 2010.
If they don’t, most of them could be gone in 2011.
The Seahawks have a lot of money tied up in those eight players, and rookie tackle Russell Okung will join the richest of them soon, so he’ll also be under pressure to play up to his contract as he replaces the legendary Walter Jones.
Here’s an alphabetical look at how each of the Seahawks’ so-called best players has underachieved and why he has to perform in 2010.
In 2009, Branch matched his high for games played (14) in Seattle but performed worse than ever (averaging 9.7 yards per catch and scoring just two touchdowns).
He has not even come close to earning the $39 million contract the Seahawks gave him after acquiring him for a first-round pick in 2006. Branch has been paid $27.5 million but has yet to play a full season–appearing in only 47 of a possible 64 games.
He’s recovering from yet another knee surgery as he unbelievably goes into his fifth year in Seattle with pretty much nothing to show for it, with a scheduled salary of $5.47 million.
He should have been released before last season, but the new coaching staff likes him, so he gets yet another chance to finally earn his salary. This guy is one of the luckiest lottery winners in sports history.
Curry was lost without Tatupu last season, overwhelmed by the feeling that he had to do everything. As a result, his rookie season was not very successful.
It’s preposterous to label him a bust after only one year, but Curry needs to step it up in 2010.
Pete Carroll plans to use him as a pass rusher, and, if Tatupu stays healthy, the talented Curry should make the expected progress and start to earn the $60 million contract he signed last year.
After missing nine games in 2009 with a mysterious back ailment, Hasselbeck was healthy last season–until Week Two, when he broke two ribs. He missed only two games but certainly was not healthy the rest of the season as he condensed his throwing motion to protect his ribs.
Over the last four years, Hasselbeck has missed 15 games (including four with a sprained knee in 2006)–leading many fans to think the soon-to-be 35-year-old quarterback is washed up.
As he enters the last year of his $48 million contract, due to make $6.75 million, he certainly needs to show the new staff that he can stay healthy and play like he did as recently as 2007, when he set team passing records.
If he can, the team will have to decide whether to re-sign him beyond 2010. If he can’t, the decision will be self-evident.
Hill has become a basket case and certainly has his work cut out to stay out of jail, let alone start, let alone be worth the $7 million he is slated to be paid this season.
Not only has he missed nine games the past two seasons, but he has also been arrested in each of the past two off-seasons. The 2009 marijuana bust has resulted in a one-game suspension to start the 2010 season, and that penalty could increase pending the results of Hill’s trial for domestic assault, which probably won’t conclude until just before the season starts.
If and when Hill makes it back to the field, he might find himself stuck behind David Hawthorne. But if he does get a chance to play, Hill will have to be at his very best–and on his very best behavior–to last past the 2010 season.
At $40 million over five years, Houshmandzadeh was extremely overpaid last year. But that’s how desperate the Seahawks were for a good receiver after they lost seven of them to injury in 2008.
Well, thanks to a horrible offensive line and an unimaginative coordinator who could not come up with a way to work around it, Houshmandzadeh’s first season in Seattle was quite unimpressive. By the end, Housh had given up on Greg Knapp’s play calls and was doing his own thing. That can’t happen this year.
The receiver’s numbers were not that bad–79 catches for 911 yards and three scores–but he’ll need to be better in 2010 simply because the Seahawks are younger at receiver with Nate Burleson gone.
Housh turns 33 on Sept. 26, one day after Hasselbeck turns 35, but age shouldn’t be a factor for a guy who makes his living as a possession receiver. He’d just better catch everything thrown his way–and run the right routes this season.
So much for the “left tackle of the future.” Even when healthy last year, Locklear proved he wasn’t up to the task of replacing Walter Jones.
So back he goes to the right side, where he has proven to be pretty functional when healthy.
Unfortunately, he has missed 11 games since signing a five-year deal worth $32 million in 2008.
He needs to stay healthy and show he can play the right side in Alex Gibbs’ zone scheme–and earn his $4.85 million salary–if he is going to return in 2011.
After making the Pro Bowl in his first three years, Tatupu earned an early extension from the Seahawks in 2008. But he has yet to live up to the $42 million deal.
In 2008, he was hindered by a litany of injuries. And then last year, a hamstring injury kept him out of Week Three and a torn pectoral muscle forced him to miss the final 10 games.
The defense is much better with him in the middle of it, and he’s going to have to stay healthy to stay on the field and earn his $5.85 million.
A third straight injury-plagued year and it will be time to look at Hawthorne as the new middle man.
Like Tatupu and Locklear, Trufant got a big contract in 2008 ($50 million over six years) and hasn’t been healthy since.
He played with a broken wrist for most of the 2008 season and then missed all of camp and the first six games last season with a mysterious back problem. When he returned, he played the worst football of his life.
All signs this off-season point to him having a rebound year. After being paid $8 million for 10 bad games of work last year, Trufant is due to collect $8.7 million this year. He will need to play at a Pro Bowl level, like he did in 2007, to be worth it.
Trufant could easily have been speaking for most of these guys when he told reporters in May, “I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove. And I want to come out, and I want to do better for my team. I felt like I not only let myself down, but I let my team down by coming back and not playing at the level that I know I can play at. So I’m just here to do the best for my team, and to help the team out as best as possible.”
In 2011, Hasselbeck is a free agent, so it’s clear he is playing for a contract this year.
But so are those other guys.
In 2011, Houshmandzadeh is slated to make $8 million, Hill $7 million, Branch $5.95 million, Trufant $5.9 million, Locklear $5.6 million and Tatupu $4.35 million.
Their salaries keep escalating after that, so they need to start playing like Pro Bowlers now or they’ll no longer be worth that money.
If these guys don’t perform in 2010, the Hawks will have to cut their pay or cut them in 2011.