Should the Seattle Seahawks Shut Wide Receiver Percy Harvin Down for the Season?

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterDecember 26, 2013

Nov 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin (11) during pre game warm ups prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

With one regular-season game left to play and the playoffs quickly approaching, the Seattle Seahawks face a dilemma. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have to make a decision on All-Pro wide receiver Percy Harvin.

They have to decide whether or not the organization can afford to use a roster spot on the 184-pound speedster moving forward.

There have been times this season where quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense could have used his presence to take the top off opposing defenses. Even though it has been rare, Seattle’s passing game has struggled at particular points throughout the season.

The most recent occasion came against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16. According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Wilson recorded his second-worst game of the year, while wideouts Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate turned in their lowest-graded performances from a route-running perspective.

Both receivers failed to run good routes and create separation on a consistent basis. Their failures against Arizona’s secondary meant Wilson had to fend for himself more often than not. The second-year signal-caller out of Wisconsin has proven to be a magician in the past, but Seattle can’t expect him to bail the Seahawks offense out of every adverse situation.

NFL Game Rewind

At some point, someone other than Wilson will have to up his level of play and put the ‘Hawks on his back. A healthy Harvin could be that guy if need be. Sadly, his torn labrum in his hip has limited him to 20 offensive snaps, 17 yards receiving and one catch in 2013.

Therein lies the problem. A dangerous threat like Harvin has all the ability in the world and can change the game at a moment’s notice, but it’s impossible for him to make a regular impact when he’s sidelined with an injury week after week.

Yes, the Seahawks traded multiple draft picks for Harvin and signed him to six-year, $67 million contract, yet there comes a point in time where the organization has to stop holding out and do what’s best for the team. With cornerback Walter Thurmond returning from his four-game suspension this week, that time may be now.

Carroll hasn’t made a formal decision on the subject matter, but he hinted that a decision regarding Harvin’s immediate future may be coming prior to Seattle’s regular-season finale vs. the St. Louis Rams.

Here’s what the 62-year-old coach told Tony Drovetto of Seahawks.com when he was asked whether or not the team would consider placing Harvin on injured reserve: “That may happen.”

The answer was short, sweet and noncommittal. However, Carroll is fairly easy to read if you’ve spent an adequate amount of time examining his words since his arrival in Seattle. By reading the tea leaves, I’m confident in my assessment that Harvin’s season is over.

Obviously nothing is final, and something could change from now until the end of the season, but things don’t look promising for the 25-year-old pass-catcher out of Florida. Nevertheless, the Seahawks would be making the right move by shutting Harvin down.

Despite his dominant nature, it’s apparent Harvin’s hip injury is incredibly serious. Moreover, the rehab process for a torn labrum can prove to be amazingly slow; just ask Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. Reed had surgery on his hip in May and didn’t appear in his first game until the end of September.

Throughout the rehab process, Reed dealt with tightness and soreness on a regular basis. Coincidentally enough, Harvin has been dealing with those same problems. Coach Carroll thought the soreness in Harvin’s surgically repaired hip would disappear with ample rest.

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the soreness hasn’t subdued. This, in turn, has left Harvin inactive over the course of the last four games. There’s no question that Seattle is frustrated and annoyed with his injury, yet the franchise also knows there is no reason to rush him back.

The ‘Hawks have garnered an 11-3 record with him out of the lineup, which means they still have the necessary talent to garner their first Super Bowl championship without him. Shoot, they even won 11 regular-season games and a playoff game in 2012. No matter which way you slice it, Harvin is still viewed as a luxury addition.

Sure, his presence on the field would be welcomed, but it’s evident he can’t be counted on. And that’s OK because the Seahawks still have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL in his absence. Moreover, Seattle needs to take every healthy player it can into the playoffs.

It’s not like Harvin’s roster spot would be going to some street free agent. Thurmond is an above-average cover corner who plays at a Pro Bowl level when he is in the starting lineup. In 462 snaps this season, the fourth-year pro has amassed 31 total tackles, one interception, six passes defended and one forced fumble.

Additionally, opposing quarterbacks have a 66.6 quarterback rating when throwing into his coverage area, via PFF. That’s the 11th-best mark in the league. It’s hard to argue with proven results. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be chomping at the bit to get Thurmond worked back into the rotation come Sunday.

Walter Thurmond's coverage statistics from 2013, via PFF

The Seahawks could choose to activate Thurmond and leave Harvin on the 53-man roster, yet that means they would have to cut ties with someone else if they went that route. When you’re Seattle, that’s easier said than done.

The one player the Seahawks may look at cutting in order to keep Harvin active is defensive back DeShawn Shead. Yet, cutting Shead may prove to be a stretch. Seattle paid him good money earlier in the year to remain on the practice squad until he was elevated to the 53-man roster at the end of November.

There’s no easy way to go about this decision, which is why it makes the most sense to put Harvin on injured reserve. Oftentimes it’s better to err on the side of caution when there is no guarantee as to when the player is going to return from his injury.

Ultimately, the Seahawks will wait as long as they can, but when the time comes, they will realize they made the right choice. Shutting him down tempers expectations, allows him to heal at the correct pace and avoids any further structural damage for the time being.