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.