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23 Nov 2009
KJR in Seattle recently conducted an interview with Mike Holmgren that offers a very interesting, lengthy treatment of the Steve Hutchinson situation several years ago.
Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 23 Nov 2009
38 comments, Last at
25 Nov 2009, 5:29pm by
OK, they screwed up, but couldn't they have traded him to another team that didn't have a highly paid LT like Walter Jones?
No, because the trouble was the contract was so worded that it kicked in immediately. So if they matched it and tried to trade him, they'd be trying to trade him with a huge guaranteed contract, which was extremely unlikely. They would also take an immediate cap hit for doing so even if they did find a willing team.
Because of that immediate kick-in they couldn't even try to get Walter Jones to renegotiate his contract to just under Hutch's, it would already be too late at that point.
So they let him go and looked at Minnesota's roster for someone they could do the same thing back with for revenge, and got Nate Burleson (I think his contract offer called for a huge bonus if he played more than one game in the metrodome), partly revenge, part protest at NFL for allowing it and hoping that this would drive through the need for such things to be controlled.
FWIW while that may have been the main poison pill case that did it, I remember reading that poison pills were used as leverage in a couple other trades... e.g., when the Patriots got Wes Welker in a trade from Miami, they apparently were threatening to offer him a poison pill contract, so the Dolphins traded him to the Patriots instead (a key difference this was before any offer sheet was signed). The Dolphins to this day are criticized for making that trade (for whom they got a 2nd and a 7th, the 2nd became a 2 year starter at center who was traded to the Raiders for a 6th rounder this past offseason (which turned into their backup left tackle) and a 7th rounder who is currently out of football)). But they wouldn't even have the left tackle if they'd had to let him go due to a poison pill offer.
Miami was getting New England's 2nd-round pick either way. If NE took Welker via poison pill offer sheet, NE would have had to give up the 2nd rounder as compensation (because Welker was transition tagged). For whatever reason (the reports in the Boston media was that it was someone above Belichick/Pioli) the Patriots decided to offer a 7th rounder and make it a trade.
(I suppose by making it a trade they guaranteed they wouldn't have to worry about the NFLPA grieving the deal or something else screwing it up.)
Trading for a player is definitely more budget friendly than acquiring a player on a one-year tag salary.
And since the Jets used a similar tactic to get Curtis Martin several years before, I'm a little concerned that Holmgren sounds so surprised that such things could happen..."It had never been done before..."
Welker was Restricted FA, not transition tagged. Right of first refusal plus automatic compensation for MIA.
Thanks for the correction! But the point remains -- MIA was getting NE's 2nd-rounder either way.
The Chargers let Welker go for nothing a few years back. Greg Camarillo as well.
I think that's pretty much what people expected. Seattle didn't WANT to lose Hutch, but the Vikings threw in that poison pill which went against the spirit of the law to drag him away...
Interesting, blood between Seattle and Minnesota...
Adam Scheffter reported this Sunday that both Seattle and the Vikings wanted to Sign TJ Hooshmanzada. Hoosh went to Seattle first, and after the negotiations Seattle management knew he was going to Minnesota next and didn't want him to sign there. They made Hoosh give him them his gold watch ( and promise he wouldn't sign?) because they knew he'd come back for the watch.
When Hoosh went to the Vikings ( and didn't sign), they knew he was going back to Seattle. The Seahawks were rumored to have a car & driver to pick him up and escort him to the airport...
So the Vikings had some guy that somewhat looked like TJ dress in a disguise and get into the car...
Who knows how much of this story is true, but I wonder what goes on behind the scenes like that. It sounds like both teams potentially broke tampering rules but it wouldn't shock me if that story had a grain of truth to it.
It's a great story, true or not.
And I agree, I wonder how much similar stuff goes on.
"somewhat looked like TJ"
is it wrong that I read that statement as "Tarvaris Jackson"?
The way I heard was that when Hoosh visited minnesota they had him meet with their apparently quarterback going into next season, that being Tarvaris Jackson. Legend says Hoosh called seattle and said he would sign immediately after this meeting.
If Favre had been officially on board before this, Hoosh might have signed with the Vikings.
Of course if he signed, then maybe the Vikings wouldn't have draftd Harvin....
Wouldn't shock me about that point either... Would you want to play for Tavaras Jackson? The success of Favre has made Jackson's failures look even worse.
Here's a 40 year old guy, that many called turnover prone, that steped right in, didn't do OTA's, mini camp, or much of training camp and he vastly vastly outperformed you. I've felt like early in the year Favre wasn't even really taking a lot of chances, with lots of dump offs ( minus game #4 vs GB). Yeah he's grown into his role as the Vikings QB but how many people said it wouldn't work out?
Chalk up another one there for all the people that said T-Jack wouldn't work out. We were told to "give him a chance" etc., but Favre's success makes Jackson's failures look even worse.
Again, C, if you boldly predict that "He won't work out" for every qb drafted in the 2nd round, you will be right a large majority of the time. If you want to impress someone with your rookie qb evaluation ability, correctly pick name of the next 10 qbs who are drafted in 2nd round who do end up being above average starters.
I swear, I wrote "eight of the next ten".
I am not claiming to be some complete QB guru, but I call them as I see them. I don't watch enough college football to call all the next guys to "make it", but I have a great record of calling guys who won't make it. Show me all of the QB's I've been wrong about? It isn't even just about telling you who won't make it, I stood behind Eli Manning when he was the butt of all kinds of jokes here at FO and elsewhere.
People are overly bullish on guys when they get drafted. They see what they want to see, and they always talk about a guy's arm strength, or mobility, size, blah blah blah. People very often overlook a guy's flaws when he's new to them.
Start talking to me about a guy's weaknesses... Talk to me about the categories that actually matter. The first thing you will hear about most 1st round QB's is " he has a strong arm", or "throws a pretty ball".
How often do you see a team give up on a quarterback because his arm isn't strong enough? How often does a team give up on a QB because his legs aren't fast? How often do you see a team give up on a QB because he doesn't "throw a pretty ball"?
Teams give up on QB's...
- Because they can't read a defense
- Because they hold onto the ball too long
- A slow release goes along with not getting rid of the ball quick enough
- Take too many ill advised chances
- ( Jason Campbells case) because they don't take enough chances
- Implicitly because a guy doesn't work hard enough, doesn't have leadership
I've gone against the grain on a number of QB's here. On guys that obviously sucked, and on guys that people actually liked. And yes, I've profited from my observations. Being early to the party is nice.
Again, C, every observer who says "He won't make it" regarding qbs stands a very good chance of having "a great track record" of calling guys who will not make it. Call eight out of ten that do make it, and then that will be something to congratulate yourself about.
Profiting from the prediction that a qb without a track record won't make it is fairly common. Playng qb in the NFL is hard. The vast majority of those who try to do it will fail.
Hindsight is 20/20 and if it was so easy show me the other guys who have been right and early at a pointing out a guys flaws. It's not like I'm blanket throwing out there " These 10 rookies will fail", I was anti- Vick and Leftwhich when people actually liked them, and I was pro Eli when everbody joked on him ( at Football outsiders and elsewhere). Plus there is the analysis. Did I just say "Leftwhich sucks because he is fat", or was I pointing out all of the horrible mechanics to go along with the horrible attitude he had?
Then throw in all the other guys and that's a pretty freaking good record. You act like it's just flipping a coin, or that I'm "guessing". This guy won't be any good. No, I gave my reasons why T-Jack shouldn't have been a 2nd round pick and why he shouldn't be playing and I was right.
You're patting yourself on the back for championing a first overall draft pick who's currently rated fourteenth in the league by DVOA? For saying that Mike Vick wasn't a good quarterback... to the FO audience, where the subtitle might as well have been "Where We Tell You Why Michael Vick Isn't As Good As You Think"?
Seriously, that's what you're h ianging your hat on?
No, C, a pretty good freaking track record would be correctly calling eight out ten guys, not one, who the consensus was calling a failure, or was neutral on, who instead turned out to be good. Let me know when that happens, and I will congratulate you.
What you are doing now is almost akin to predictng 100 degree temperatures in Phoenix during August, and then dislocating your shoulder through excessive self-back patting when it turns out that, yes, it's damned hot in Phoenix during August.
Doesn't have much to do with Holmgren or Hutchinson but I think that C is correct about how poorly teams evaluate QB's.
I'd argue that the reason that you can say most 2nd round QB's will be a failure is because NFL teams really can't tell which QB's will be good coming out of college. Considering how much they are going to pay these guys and how much money is at stake for the team
It would be interesting to see if they actually do a worse job on QB's than other positions or just tend to draft them higher and they are higher profile when they bust.
Bill Belichick talks about what's important in a QB in a Q&A:
Here is the critical part:
Belichick:...As long as the guy is a good decision-maker and he’s accurate and he’s consistent, you can give him something you can count on and you have a pretty good chance. The hard part is when they’re inconsistent or they’re not very accurate or they don’t make good decisions because ultimately you’re going to need a throw, they’re going to miss it; you’re going to need a decision, they’re not going to make it and that’s when it comes apart.
Cole: So accuracy and decision-making are the most important things?
Belichick: For me, yeah.
Cole: Can you even distinguish between the two?
Belichick: What’s one without the other? If you make the wrong decision, you’ve got problems, and if you can’t throw the ball, even if you make the right decision, you’ve got problems. So if you’ve got those two, you’ve got Joe Montana. If you can’t do one of those two, then what’s the future? … If you have those two things, you have a quarterback. If you don’t have those two things, you’re going to have to dumb it down. You’re either going to have to limit the decisions he makes or take the accuracy element out of it by either not throwing over 10 yards or not throwing outside the numbers. You’re going to have to do something that changes the way you play offense.
As a Raiders fan, I am so sick of hearing about arm strength. It is VASTLY overrated.
To give the NFL talent evaluators a break, college defenses simply don't have the speed or sophistication to allow an evaluator a glimpse of how good the college qb's decison making is, or really, their accuracy, given how much more open receivers get in college, and how much often the qb can throw while unimpeded by a pass rush. It's one thing to throw accurately to a wide open receiver while no rusher is impeding your vision or throwing motion, it's quite another to do so when the ball must thrown to the precise spot that allows a receiver to catch it without having his sternum collapsed by a safety, while also having a zone blitzer block your vision, and a defensive end forcing you up into a collapsing pocket.
This was the first example of many of Tim Ruskell outsmarting himself. I had it on good authority from a guy who's covered the Eagles for years that Philly's front office was considering doing something similar with Hutch about a month and a half before the Vikings did it, as Seattle's line performance during the 2005 season drove his value through the roof. So when Seattle's front office said that they were unaware of the possibility that it might happen, they were either lying or incredibly stupid.
I fault the league and the Special Master to a point, as I believe ANY such shenanigans so close to the CBA re-negotiations should have been voided. Teams didn't know whether they would have about a $10 million swing in cap room based a CBA extension or not. Mostly, I put it on Ruskell and Mike Reinfeldt, Seattle's cap manager at the time, for trying to lowball the best guard in the game for $600k (the approximate difference between the franchise and transition tags in that case), and pulling the rug out from under Holmgren, who they had promised that they'd either re-sign or franchise Hutch.
I do not blame Hutch or Tom Condon at all. It's Condon's job to get the best deal for his client, and it's Hutch's job to take the damn money. The Burleson thing was petty and impossibly lame. We got our first glimpse of the smallness of the man that has run the Seahawks into the ground that day.
It is just unspeakably stupid to risk deeply offending a player as good as Hutchinson over 600k, when the total payroll is starting to approach 100 million. A manager oughta' get fired for that alone.
Why in God's name is it okay to throw a shitfit over $600k when you're talking about contracts that exceed $49 million in total value? They placed the tag with the intent of signing a contract, and placing the transition tag allows Condon to go out and establish a fair market value that Seattle can then match. If his value had shot up it would be reflected by the dollar amounts he got in his negotiations with other teams, and since teams would be negotiating with the intent of trying to convince Seattle not to match, his value would go up even further. If it weren't for the highly disingenuous use of the poison pill clause, this would've been a very shrewd move on behalf of Ruskell, and it would've worked out very well for Hutchinson because he would've signed a contract that would've probably exceeded his actual long-term market value.
"Okay" has nothing to do with it. There is only "effective" and "ineffective". Anybody who has spent any time negotiating for things of large value knows that what can be done, eventually will be done, by those who have a vested interest in a particular outcome. I was honestly surprised that it took as long as it did for this tactic to be used.
Also, the term "disingenuous" to me means "dishonest", or "lacking in candor". I don't think plainly structuring a contract so that it would be much more expensive for a third party to match falls under that definition. If the point is that it violates the CBA, well, that is for special masters or judges to decide. The fact that one disagrees with the decision of a special master or a judge doesn't mean that the parties which used the tactic were disingenuous. Finally, constricting offers to those that can be matched by another party inevitably means that fair market value may not be established, since the very existance of such a clause often discourages potential bidders.
I guess I have an inclination to side with the player in all matters regarding transition or franchise tags. If I were a player, I'd deeply resent not being perfectly free, upon the expiration of my contract, to freely sell my services to whomever I damned well wanted to, and I would take all measures within the boundaries of law to circumvent any attempt to restrict my ability to do so.
The contract was structured in a way that was intended to circumvent the intent of the transition tag. Maybe it's not disingenuous, depending on the attitudes of those involved, but this is quibbling minor details. It's still shifty, as evidenced by the fact that teams since and prior avoided doing it.
And if the demand for Hutchinson was as high as Doug says it was, then it seems more likely to me that the effect of bidding on market value would outweigh the reduced demand. The reduced demand would push out marginal suitors, but teams with genuine interest would try to give Hutchinson a contract Seattle wouldn't be willing to match. All it takes is one high bid and that becomes his price tag.
As for whether or not you'd resent not being a 100% free agent, I'm not sure what to tell you. That's the CBA under which you play the game. Teams aren't being conniving or underhanded when they use the franchise/transition tags, and they're not acting against the spirit of any rules that I'm aware of. They're doing exactly what they negotiated for with those tags, and I haven't seen any good arguments that those tags aren't important, necessary elements of free agency for small-market teams who can't operate at the cap on a year to year basis.
Sorry, Doug, I don't buy this line of thinking. I think Seattle fans have gotten tired of excuses and started to revise the fuzzy details a bit to fit the narrative. Seattle was coming off a great year, and had every reason to believe Hutchinson wanted to be back.
Condon engineered this deal, with or without Hutch's say-so. A million teams could come to Condon with that same deal but if he didn't agree to it then it wouldn't have mattered one bit whether Philly planned to do a damn thing about a damn thing.
What you're saying amounts to blaming the victim. I say that with one caveat; this is sports, not a criminal act, and sports at this level are about competition and playing to win, not playing to be nice. If the rules don't bar something then it's ultimately the rules that are to blame. Still, there are more than enough reasons to look objectively at what Ruskell and crew wanted to do and what they expected to happen and think "Yes, that is reasonable". Did it work? No, but dwelling on that simple question seems a bit too results-based for my tastes (and not in character with how this site usually approaches common wisdom!).
This is how I'd appraise the situation, based on all of this.
1 - Ruskell should now know better, and if this mistake happens again it's on him, regardless of where he works next year. This isn't a case where he should just throw up his hands, blame it on the rain, and never change, but it is one of those "Fool me once, shame on you" types of situations.
2 - The rules that allowed that poison pill contract to happen were broken, because by allowing it the transition tag becomes essentially non-functional. What is the point of a transition tag when it is that simple to bypass the defining element of the tag, which is the ability to match any contract?
3 - The culpability lies with Condon and the Vikings, and possibly with Hutchinson. What exactly they're culpable for is a matter of some nuance, though, and it's neither the damning conivery that some bitter Seattle fans would have you believe, nor is it the "just following my nature" innocence that your explanation suggests. It was an unsporting move by the Vikings, and depending on Hutchinson's role it was either poor communication with his client by Condon, or it was dishonesty by Hutchinson, who had made it clear to Seattle that he wanted to stay.
The ultimate result was that Hutchinson was able to avoid the franchise and transition tags, tools put in place to help teams retain their star players, either through dishonesty or dumb luck. It is the intent of the rules that players be subject to these tags should their teams elect to use them. Trying to turn this issue into a simple matter of Ruskell trying to save $600k sounds way too convenient for the creeping urge to pin all of this franchise's problems on Tim Ruskell. He deserves a share of them, but so does Mora, and so does the regrettably no-account problem of rampant injuries.
Can anybody explain why Holgren whines about anything and always blames other people? Hutchinson, same with the Refs in the Super Bowl. Sorry, but if you removed a key player from the Colts, they still would win games. Having a team take a nosedive and then blaming it on the loss of one player and $600k is pretty lame.
If I were an owner, I certainly would not be dumb enough to offer Holmgren a contract as GM, Big Poohbar or Coach.
And you get the idea that Holmgren is "blaming it all on the loss of one player" from where? The closest thing he says to that is: "I think it’s made a huge difference for the Seahawks and clearly been a real, real positive thing for the Vikings."
If you don't think losing Hutchinson made a huge difference to the Seahawks, you were not paying attention to their play during the relevant time period. (A side of Pork Chop Womack did not satisfy the palate.) He made a huge difference for the Vikings, too. Anyone here remember when Chester Taylor wasn't one of the best backup RBs in football?
Accusing Holmgren of doing something he didn't do is what's pretty lame.
If Holmgren did not want to shift the blame, why did he mention how the Hutchinson deal worked out and that he was not involved in the decision to transition tag him? Sorry, but if you are the real deal, you keep your mouth shut, find another decent guard - I am not saying "finding the next Steve Hutchinson" - and continue to win football games. Now, the team goes downhill and he mentions the loss of Hutchinson as a part of the problem.
Sorry, he stepped down as HC/GM as far as I remember, then he has to allow other people to make the personnel decisons. But this looks like take the glory and shift the blame. He doesn't even talk about whether he wouldn't have used the transition tag himself - remember, the Vikes kinda reinvented the poison pill. Would he have known?
Now Holmgren is out, rumors are that he wants Ruskells position and he suddenly badmounthes him quite obviously. That's cheap.
I never liked this guy, obviously for a reason. Hope the Redskins hire him ...
It was mentioned earlier in the comments section that Holmgren promised to either re-sign Hutchinson or Franchise tag him. You are letting your bias get in the way and it's annoying.
"If Holmgren did not want to shift the blame, why did he mention how the Hutchinson deal worked out and that he was not involved in the decision to transition tag him?"
Maybe because he was asked for his thoughts so he was explaining how things happened? If you read blame in his narrative then you were looking for it because I don't see how any reasonable interpretation could come up with that.
"Sorry, but if you are the real deal, you keep your mouth shut, find another decent guard - I am not saying "finding the next Steve Hutchinson" - and continue to win football games."
Are you auditioning for a role as an ESPN commentator? What's with the macho 'Just Do It' nonsense? Do you think Holmgren lacks guts? Also how is it that it's his responsibility to find a replacement but a second later he shouldn't be trying to influence personnel decisions because it's not his job anymore? And if you think they should've found a decent guard, what do you call Mike Wahle? Did you somehow foresee his career-ending injury when nobody else did?
The problem here is one of perception. Holmgren has always had a very open relationship with the press, so when someone asks him a question he will generally always answer it, rather than trying to shut it down or No Comment his way out of sticky situations. He had a similar reputation in Green Bay; he always tried to be very open with the local papers. This approach worked well in Green Bay where the community was smaller and the team was very successful. I think his perceived fixation on old ghosts is really a convergence and reflection of Seattle's fixation on them (and Seattle JUST played Minnesota last week so the question is somewhat topical) and sensationalism.
Chester Taylor arrived in Minnesota the same year Hutchinson did, so it is hard to analyze the difference he made for Taylor.
Prior to that he was one of the best backup RBs in football when he was with the Ravens. Taylor has averaged over four yards a carry every season except his rookie year and so far this season.
Also, while Alexander dropped 1.5 yards per carry (5.1 to 3.6), and scored over one less TD per game played (1.75 to .75) scored 21 less touchdowns, he was also coming off a dreaded 370 carry season.
I'm not arguing that Hutchinson hasn't been been a tremendous boon to the Vikings or his loss a terrible blow to the Seahawks, just that it isn't the entire story.
I do think it may have been more than what he did physically, such a loss has to take a mental toll as well. As in they were just to the superbowl, but might not have as much faith in management if they allowed something like this to happen... and once
I seem to recall that Adjusted Line Yards had very positive things to say about Hutchinson's value to the Minnesota running game. Seattle's didn't really have a good replacement for Hutch, IIRC, as the musical chairs game that was the week-to-week OL configuration began shortly after Hutch's departure.
If I'm not mistaken, part of the 'poison pill' was that if player is not highest paid lineman yadda yadda then the entire contract is guaranteed. 7 years 49 mil.
That was 4 years ago and Steve Hutchinson has not missed a single down of football.
Maybe the Seahawks should have resigned hutch and guaranteed the freaking contract.
I wouldn't be suprised if he plays 3 more years of injury-free high level football. He's more than halfway to earning every cent of that $49 mil/
As a Seahawks fan, I will despise the Vikings until the day Hutch retires, btw. In fact, I hope their team up and moves to California or Canada and don't want to see one drop of 'cry poor' small market tears from the team who invalidated the transition tag and drove player prices up.
As I read that I was wondering the same thing about the guarantee. Why not? Even if you only get 3.5 years out of it, you might have a SB win in there....
I understand Paul Allen has a business rep and people who work for him (at Vulcan, for example) are worked like red-headed step-rented mules, so maybe nobody wanted to go to him and say, "We have to guaranee this $49 mil." Because then they'd be out of work.
But it's not like the owner couldn't afford it.
I can understand why a team wouldn't do that--one bad knee injury in TC the first year and the guy's never the same, doesn't even play one down at 100% but you're committed to paying him the full $49M. That's quite daunting.
But it's not like the owner couldn't afford it, and hasn't made questionable business choices in the past.
Oh, and as a Colts fan living within sight of Seattle, I really hated that Alexander "stole" that MVP in 05. My feeling was that they both had huge seasons, but Alexander wasn't even the MVP of his own team. If Manning didn't get it, it should be split by Joneski and Hutch. That I could have lived with. Bah!
LeCharles Bentley would like to strongly disagree. This guy was a sure thing when he entered FA in his prime, took a huge contract and got what is now called the brown infection (used to be staph).
The Vikings need offensive line help, while the Bears, Lions, and Packers have significant defensive concerns.
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