Percy Harvin Gets Traded to Jets, Gets Reputation Ruined, Seahawks Weirdly Get No Blow Back

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Late yesterday evening, the football world got all shook up when the Seattle Seahawks unexpectedly traded wide receiver Percy Harvin to the New York Jets for basically nothing, just over a year after giving up three draft picks (including a first round pick) and signing Harvin to a six-year, 67 million dollar deal.

If the move seem to come out of nowhere, it’s because it was. It seemed like only weeks ago that Harvin was being widely praised and the Seahawks aggressive strategy of talent acquisition was being touted as the way to do modern football business. Now, Harvin gets to have his reputation ruined as “anonymous” sources come out the wood work to smear him, while the Seahawks oddly get praised for signing him to a huge deal and then trading him after only eight games.

Make no mistake about it; the Seahawks knew what they were getting in Harvin when they made this deal. They were in no way shocked that Harvin had anger management issues. Those that have followed him since high school can tell you that Harvin has always had an attitude problem. He had issues at the University of Florida. He had well documented issues in Minnesota. Darrell Bevell was with him in Minnesota. He knew.

They all knew the risk. Bevell, head coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider. No one was caught of guard when Harvin’s anger management woes started to take prominence. No one should’ve been shocked when the oft-injured Harvin –surprise, surprise — suffered a hip injury that required surgery and kept him out most of the regular season. When he did play again, his original hip injury flared up. When he got healthy from that, he got a concussion that kept him out of the NFC Championship game. And no one in Seattle appeared to care when Harvin punched Golden Tate in the face during Super Bowl week.

It was trading for and signing Harvin to that massive deal that prohibited the Seahawks from being able to re-sign Tate, a promising receiver who had developed excellent chemistry with quarterback Russell Wilson.

Percy Harvin has issues. No one can deny that. Off the field, he has an explosive temper that seems poised to at least temporarily derail his promising career. On the field, his somewhat limited route tree and inability to stay healthy are a hindrance.

But they knew that. And they still traded for him, and they still gave him a big money contract. The Seahawks are quickly becoming another example of a front office who wins in spite of the sort of short-sighted, dumb moves they make, at least in free agency. Their ability to draft and develop talent is damn good.

But this move goes into the pile with the “trade and pay for crap quarterbacks until you luck into a franchise QB you weren’t sold on” type of decisions.

And yet not one is willing to call the trade what it was; terrible. Granted, the impact is somewhat lessened because of where they would’ve ended up drafting and unloading his contract. But who from the Seahawks is going to admit that this was a mistake. Who will ask them why, if they knew the risk, they even bothered in the first place?

Too often since this story broke, the words “the Seattle Seahawks had no choice” have appeared. “They had no choice but to trade him. Bevell couldn’t figured out how to integrate him. His route tree was too limited. He fought with teammates. He rubbed guys the wrong way”.

But they did have a choice. They could’ve traded for Harvin and, ya know, not give him a huge deal. They could’ve not played him in the Super Bowl after he allegedly punched Tate, or not tried to build an offense around someone who was either injured or being a jerk. They could’ve chosen to not deal with Harvin at all.

In fact, while the Seahawks deal with relatively little blow back, the team that has gotten more is the New York Jets. Part of it comes down to “bagging on the Jets us fun”, but it’s baffling otherwise that the Jets would suffer any sort of backlash.

The Jets have a bucketload of cap space sitting around unused. Their offense has sputtered. Eric Decker hasn’t made the kind of plays they want, and outside of him and Jeremy Kerley, the Jets have no other playmakers on their offense. They have a young quarterback who could desperately use somebody, anybody that could take the pressure to play perfect off him.

The Jets have a coach players love and an offensive coordinator who can design creative plays. In addition, Harvin has no guaranteed money, and they could theoretically can him next season if it doesn’t work out. All they had to do was give up a mid round draft choice to do it.

How do the Jets get any criticism, and the Seahawks get off relatively scott-free?

It’s the same reason people can roll their eyes at the Redskins signing DeSean Jackson after the Eagles cut him, while a winning team — let’s say a New England, or a San Francisco — would’ve gotten praise. Winning creates a bubble around you and insulates you from critque, even when the mistakes you make are fairly obvious.

In the meanwhile, a losing team gets less leeway, even though they arguably deserve more rope.

One can’t help but wonder if the Seahawks tried to get Harvin any kind of help with his issues. There’s certainly an argument to be made that guys like Harvin need to try and help themselves, but it took Brandon Marshall years to come to that realization. Did they ever try to sit him down, ask him to seek help? Did they try to make it work?

Or did they do what every NFL team does; ignore Harvin’s issues until they could pass them off on someone else?

It seems like they chose the latter. And, as is all too common, they seem to be getting praise for it.

Kirk Cousins, EJ Manuel, and Why Bad Quarterbacks Keep Getting Starting Jobs

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The Kirk Cousins Error is over as quickly as it started. (Yes, I spelled that correctly). Jay Gruden has confirmed that Robert Griffin III, not Cousins, will re-assume the controls as soon as he is mentally and physically ready.

It has not been a good audition for Captain Kirk. Cousins has thrown 7 picks in his last 3 starts. How he managed to avoid getting picked off versus Seattle is a mystery, but four picks versus the Giants and three versus the Cardinals would kill any talk of him being a better fit for the Redskins offense. No one who has turned the ball over 17 times in 8 starts should be the starter if it can be helped.

And it’s not just that Kirk has thrown a lot of interceptions. It’s when he throws them; in the clutch, when you have to have your best players make plays. It’s been that way since he was a rookie; he threw back to back picks in a winnable game versus Atlanta. Versus Denver in 2013, again in relief of Griffin, he threw two forth quarter picks, including a pick six. He threw 5 picks in 3 games as the starter and had a fumble. His passer rating was a 58.4, which ranked him in the bottom of the league amongst qualifying QBs. His interceptions this season have all come in the second half, and his stats worsen as the game goes on. His passer rating just on third down is an astounding 39.8; that’s 20 points lower than any other qualifying passer. His second half quarterback rating is 63.9, which is worse than everyone but Chad Henne.

Why, oh why, would anyone view Kirk Cousins as a viable starter? Especially any head coach or offensive coordinator?

Because a quarterback like Kirk Cousins gives offensive coordinators what they want. Or what they think they want. The same ole tired cliches about quarterbacks that have been dying slow, painful deaths for at least a decade.

You can check off all the boxes for Kirk Cousins, at least at first glance. Good arm? Check. Quick release? Check. Good footwork? Check. Accurate? Check. Played in a “pro-style” offense in college? Check. Looks great in practice with no pass rush and no pressure to perform? Check.

Someone like Kirk Cousins is a safe option. He’s the definition of what a quarterback is. He is the default player you’d create in a video game. And thus it’s easier to fool a Jay Gruden into thinking Cousins fits his system. On paper he had a similar guy in Andy Dalton.

Someone like Robert Griffin III is rough around the edges and learning. Some days he’s up, some days he’s down. Cousins gives you the illusion of consistency.

Until he steps on the field, and you watch your team go 1-5, and all those check marks require white out. Good arm? Sure, if/when he doesn’t flip out at perceived pressure and he has a good base. Quick release? Almost too quick. So quick he doesn’t let the play develop. Accurate? Not over the middle, and not on third down. Good under pressure? Puh-lease.

It doesn’t matter how many athletes like Steve Young, and Michael Vick, Steve McNair, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or RGIII come along. The coaches and front offices that make up the NFL have convinced themselves thay a prototype of a quarterback that continues to prove itself antiquated is the way to go. And in a league where patience is low, it provides some quarterbacks opportunity to play even when they’ve failed countless times, and others left in the dark.

Take the Bills second year quarterback EJ Manuel. Manuel had an inconsistent, injury plagued rookie season in Buffalo, but performed no worse than you’d expect any rookie to play. He had an uneven preseason in 2014, but his team was 2-2 when he was benched for veteran back up Kyle Orton.

Orton forced his way out of Dallas, then signed a two year deal that will pay him $5.5 million a year in average salary. With a number like that, it seemed all too obvious Orton would start if EJ struggled.

But again, there was the 2-2 record. The stats and the film don’t back up the idea that Manuel was a boat anchor holding the team back. Manuel posted a completion percentage over 60% in the teams two wins. Outside observers pounded EJ for settling for checkdowns and not trying to stretch the field, but nearly every time Manuel had an opportunity with one on one coverage deep down the field, he took it, often making good throws with good location. Was his accuracy occasionally squirrelly? Damn right it was. But the Bills have also been plagued by drops and lack of separation.

On top of that, Doug Marrone’s offense is predicated on short passes and utilization of their running backs Fred Jackson and C.J Spiller. When afforded the opportunity, Manuel has no problem hitting the intermediate throws.

So what gives? Who pulls a second year quarterback, 14 games into his NFL career for Kyle Orton?

Kyle Orton is the modern day Steve Deberg. He’s just good enough to get you beat. His career as a starter is a perfect 36-36. He’s thrown 86 touchdowns to 61; for every touchdown he throws, he throws 1.4 interceptions. His passer rating is 80.4. In going on ten seasons, he’s never been able to lock down a starting job.

He once lost his starting job to Tim Tebow. He couldn’t keep Rex Grossman on the bench.

You couldn’t grow a more genetically average quarterback in a laboratory.

But Orton is exactly the kind of quarterback that fools coaches. The idea of consistency is better than the idea of a young quarterback learning the position. Coaches still treat the games’ most important position as though they can throw any average guy into their system, and somehow a guy who’s never been able to elevate a team will become something he’s never been.

It’s why Kyle Orton keeps getting a job. It’s why Jay Gruden can entertain the idea that Kirk Cousins is a “better fit” than the more talented but more raw Robert Griffin III. It’s why his brother Jon went through half a dozen quarterbacks, failing to develop any young talent. It’s why Lovie Smith signed career back up Luke McCown to a pricey deal, rather than see what he has in Mike Glennon, who played well in his rookie season in the midst of Greg Schiano lighting the Bucs on fire.

It’s why Bill O’Brien rather hope Ryan Fitzpatrick morphs into a different player than draft a quarterback first overall, and why somehow Brady Quinn was signed to a team this offseason, and why the Jaguars stuck with Chad Henne despite clearly showing less than their first round quarterback in preseason, and why team after team passed up Teddy Bridgewater after a bad pro day for whatever scrap heap quarterback they had laying around.

The idea, or the illusion of consistency trumps the reality that most all of these guys are just guys. Every once in a while a Matt Schaub gives the general appearance of elite ability, only to fall off a cliff.

In today’s NFL, coaches are rarely afforded the benefit of time. All too often, it’s “win now, or get bent”. And so they’d rather play it safe, and try to win now, instead of trying to win in the future.

It shouldn’t take 1-5 with seven picks in three games to know that Griffin is a better long term bet than Cousins. Manuel gains little by sitting on the bench, while Kyle Orton has only improved the amount of yardage the offense puts up, while turning the ball over 3 times against 3 touchdowns. He’s won one (that he could’ve/should’ve lost if the Lions had a half decent kicker) and lost one.

Bad quarterbacks get starting jobs due to a dangerous combination of fear and arrogance. Fear that a younger, or rougher passer may not be consistently good, but they can turn consistently mediocre into great.

Mediocre is as mediocre does. Jay Gruden now awaits Robert Griffin III’s comeback to get to the hard work of developing him into a franchise QB, because Cousins sure as hell isn’t one. The sooner the Bills, and the league in general, learns that development of talent is actually better than casting retreads and guys who look good throwing in practice as potential franchise leaders, the better.

Everyone is Finally Admitting Bill Belichick Sucks as a GM

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Maybe this is the year where New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can’t drag his team to the playoffs.

The funny thing about winning all the time (I assume; I am a Redskins fan after all) is it can give you a false sense of security. The Patriots haven’t missed the playoffs since 2008, and have been to the AFC Championship game in each of the last three seasons. No one is going to scrutinize the coach/GM that manages to simplify that feat. In today’s salary cap era, Bill Belichick’s ability to get to consistently win can’t be underestimated. Right?

Who can question that kind of sustained success? Clearly something Belichick is doing is working.

But the Patriots getting thumped by the Kansas City Chiefs on national television on Monday night revealed something that people either didn’t notice, or had no reason to complain about until recently; the Patriots kind of suck.

At least as far as raw talent goes, they suck, or are mediocre at best. On defense they’re average, and on offense they’re just plain bad. And that’s a trend that’s been happening since at least 2010.

The one constant has been Tom Brady. As he’s done for the entirety of his Hall of Fame career, he’s made due with mostly mediocre talent, aside for 2007, in which he probably had one of the most talented offenses of all time. And now, they’re sitting at 2-2, which includes barely beating an Oakland Raiders team that just fired their head coach four games into the season. At home, no less.

Tom Brady can no longer bail out Belichick. He’s no spring chicken at age 37. He’s at the part of his career where his physical skillset is diminishing, a time where the Patriots should be going above and beyond to put the best talent on both sides of the ball around him. They’ve failed miserably at that.

For example, since their record breaking 2007, the Patriots have drafted 8 wide receivers; of those eight receivers, 3 are currently on the Patriots 53 man roster. Matthew Slater is mostly a special teams ace, who only has 3 targets and 1 catch since 2008. Aaron Dobson was a promising but raw prospect out of Marshall who was supposed to be a deep threat in the same vein as Randy Moss. Dobson had an injury plagued and inconsistent rookie season, but still had 37 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. This season, he’s been inactive in three of the Patriots first four games, for allegedly mouthing off to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Julian Edleman may be the best of the bunch. He’s the only receiver the Patriots have drafted since ’08 that’s cracked 1000 yards.

Since they can’t develop a receiver to save their lives, they often take chances on other teams guys. Chad Johnson, Donte Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Tory Holt, and Joey Galloway were all bought in to play at one point or another. Stallworth and Gaffney were the most successful. Holt, Johnson and Galloway all struggled to learn the Patriots uber complicated offense.

Their most successful wide receiver acquisitions were Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Belichick rescued Moss from Oakland, and plucked Welker from relative obscurity. Between 2007 and the beginning of the 2010 season, Moss and Welker combined for 7,453 yards and 62 touchdowns.

But Moss began to slowly get phased out in 2010 as his Patriots contract was set to end. It culminated in Moss publicly grumbling about his contract situation, and then getting traded to Minnesota.

One could say that Moss talked his way out of New England, but Belichick’s irrational dislike of Wes Welker, while well documented, is still nearly insane. Despite being Brady’s security blanket, good friend, and highly productive, Belichick seemed to go out of his way to alienate Welker. He called Welker out in meetings. He franchise tagged Welker in 2012, repeatedly lowballed him on contract offers, and then seemed to deliberately try to find ways not to use him, despite the fact that the Patriots were so desperate for receivers that they bought back Deion Branch, Gaffney, Stallworth, and a host of other rentals just to cobble together a compotent passing game.

They then let Wes Welker leave via free agency in 2013, replacing him with Danny Amendola. Welker caught a career high 10 touchdown passes. Amendola only played in twelve games, leaving several of those early, and caught two touchdowns. This season, Amendola has caught 3 passes for sixteen yards. Wes Welker was suspended for the first two weeks of the season and was on a bye last week; he has 6 catches for 60 yards.

But if this was just about the receivers, the Patriots might be better off. “The Patriots Way” has become one wherein your loyalty and adherence to Belichick’s way of doing things is rewarded with getting cut, traded, or flat ignored when it comes time to get paid.

Matt Light and Logan Mankins both struggled to get new contracts, despite being two of the best, if not THE best at their positons. This season, the Patriots asked Mankins to take a paycut. Not to restructure his deal, but to take a paycut. Mankins understably balked, leading the Patriots to trade him to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a late pick and an unspectacular tight end.

The Patriots tried six different offensive line combinations on Monday night. Six.

The Patriots very nearly lost the best nose tackle in football, Vince Wilfork, when they asked him to take a paycut. Wilfork got so mad that he reportedly ripped down his nameplate and cleaned out his locker, until the Patriots decided to restructure his deal instead.

The Patriots lack of loyalty would only look business like and soulless, if Belichick hadn’t forked out huge contracts to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski after only two years in the league, with two years remaining on their deals.

Belichick — despite everyone, including his own players, thinking low of him, and that he seemed to know Hernandez was in trouble — gave Hernandez a 5 year extension worth 40 million dollars, with a 12.5 million dollar signing bonus and 16 million in guaranteed money.

Belichick gave the admittedly great Rob Gronkowski a six year, 54 million dollar contrwct with $13 million guaranteed. But as great as Gronk can be, he’s appeared in 22 of 48 games over the past two seasons.

But a front office can’t predict injuries, or, ya know, a murder. The bigger issue was that Belichick has made a career of lowballing his veterans, and he handed out huge contracts to two second year players that had two years left on their deals.

And that’s just the problems on offense. After putting together terrific defenses on route to three Super Bowls and an undefeated regular season in 2007, since 2009, the Patriots haven’t had a defense finish in the top half of the league. It ranked 25th in 2010, 31st in 2011, 25th in 2012, and 26th in 2013.

The secondary has been in constant flux. Just look at their safety situation;
in 2009, Brandon Meriweather was a Pro Bowl strong safety. In 2010, Belichick moved Meriweather to free safety and moved Patrick Chung to strong safety, even though neither were playing their natural positions. Belichick cut Meriweather in 2011 and put Patrick Chung back at free safety, and had a revolving door of defensive backs and even wide receivers playing safety. They let the oft-injured Chung walk in 2012, and tried to install 2nd rounder Tavon Wilson as their starting safety next to Steve Gregory. (Wilson was someone who was widely regarded as a player to be drafted in rounds 5-7.) That failed, and once again the Patriots couldn’t lock down a solid set of starting safeties.

In 2013, they moved their Pro Bowl corner Devin McCourtey to free safety and Steve Gregory was the starter as strong safety, only to replace Gregory with Patrick Chung in 2013. And that’s not mentioning the issues at corner (despite being one of, if not the best corner in football, New England let Aqib Talib walk to the Broncos to get Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner), and the lack of a pass rush until last year.

One wonders if the Patriots getting to the Super Bowl has less to do with Belichick being a good coach and general manager and more to do with the fact that the AFC is currently a dumpster fire with maybe four or five great teams, and Tom Brady has been able to drag this bag of mediocrity kicking and screaming to championship games, only to be let down by the overall team when a team effort is needed most.

Brady’s completion percentage, yardage and touchdowns have all begun to track downward, at a time when his peers like Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are experiencing career revivals, while someone like Drew Brees is at least staying even. The Broncos and Chargers and Saints seem to understand that the importance of having a great team around their quarterbacks.

Maybe winning in spite of having a mediocre talent pool is obscuring the importance of surrounding Brady with the best in his final years.

There’s still a more than likely chance that the Patriots get their stuff together and still make the playoffs. But as Brady creeps ever closer to retirement, and the Patriots’ Super Bowl window continues to close, one wonders when they’ll finally put the team around Brady he needs and deserves.