Five different teams from last year's DVOA top eight rank in the bottom half of the league through four weeks of 2014. What can we learn from other teams with similar starts in the past?
17 Sep 2008
by Vince Verhei and Ben Riley
Do you remember the name Scot Halpin? He died this year of a brain tumor at the age of 54. An accomplished small-time musician who played for numerous halfway decent Bay Area bands in his all-too-short life, Halpin is famous for one singularly unreal moment in the history of music: the day he played drums for The Who in 1973, after Keith Moon passed out from taking enough tranquilizers to sedate a small herd of African elephants. (When asked if he could handle the amount of drugs he was about to ingest, Moon reportedly said, "Of course I can take it. I'm Keith [rhymes with trucking] Moon." It's worth noting that Moon was the likely inspiration for Animal on The Muppets.) With Moon unable to keep playing, even after being temporarily revived from a shot of cortisone, Pete Townsend asked the audience if "anyone can play drums ... I mean someone good!" Shortly thereafter, Halpin was thrust on stage to play three songs on drums with arguably the greatest rock band of all time. And a legend was born.
"What," you may be asking, "does this have to do with fantasy football, or football in general?" Well, nothing of course -- it's just an amazing story. The vague point, however, is that a seemingly debilitative loss can create a window of opportunity. Which brings us to the imploding Seattle Seahawks, who currently have their top six wide receivers sidelined with serious injuries. As FO editor and Seahawks homer Doug Farrar quipped earlier this week, playing wide receiver for the Seahawks right now is much like being the drummer in Spinal Tap (see, it's all tying together now). Consequently, the crack Scramble team -- itself comprised of two die-hard Seahawks supporters presently pondering the mental-health benefits of intravenous heroin usage -- decided to examine the Great Seattle Wide Receiver Panic of Aught Eight in greater detail. Is it possible that the Scot Halpin of wide receivers is about to emerge in the Northwest? (Answer: No, but please read on.)
We begin by looking at the fallen, in chronological order.
Deion Branch: The 2008 injuries actually began before the 2007 season ended. Deion Branch tore his ACL in the Seahawks' playoff loss to Green Bay, causing him to miss the entire preseason and the first two games of the regular slate. Although he has been participating in practices, he is not expected to play in a game for several more weeks. Since coming over to Seattle in a 2006 trade with New England, Branch has missed nine games and played 25, none of them particularly memorable.
Bobby Engram: One of the league's most underrated players (except at FO World Headquarters), Engram suffered a cracked shoulder bone in August and has not played or practiced since. The team is hopeful he'll return to action sometime in October.
Ben Obamanu: A somewhat promising second-year player, Obamanu broke his collarbone in the preseason and hasn't played since. He won't be back until around Halloween at the earliest, but even when he returns, don't expect him to crack the top 50 of fantasy performers.
Nate Burleson: Seattle effectively traded Steve Hutchinson for Burleson in a dubious free agent period of 2006, when Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell decided he had to spite the Vikings by making a "poison pill" offer of his very own. (As an aside, the poison pill defense of corporate takeovers, invented by New York attorney Marty Lipton in the 1980s, may be the single most reprehensible development in business over the past 50 years, ensuring that mismanaging corporate directors and CEOs can inoculate themselves from market-correcting forces. But we digress.) Burleson supplied the Seahawks with mediocre receiver play but outstanding kick return ability, leading the league in punt return yards last year. With the loss of Branch and Engram, "Burly" was supposed to be the team's No. 1 wide receiver for the first month of the season. Instead, his campaign lasted just one game: Burleson tore his ACL in the season opener in Buffalo and is lost for the remainder of the season.
Jordan Kent: Though technically not injured, Kent is no longer with the team; he was released after the Buffalo game. The fact that this particular team released Kent, and that he has not been picked up by anyone since, may mean that he has a career-ending case of sucking.
Samie Parker: A former member of the Kansas City Chiefs, Parker was signed by Seattle on September 10 and released on September 13. If you can't play wide receiver for the Chiefs (any year) or the Seahawks (this year), it might be time to call it a career.
Seneca Wallace: Though he's Seattle's backup quarterback, Wallace has seen time at receiver -- he made a critical catch during the 2005 NFC Championship game -- and has the speed, hands, and athleticism to play the position. (We've only mentioned this about 136 times.) After losing Burleson in Week 1, the Seahawks schemed heavily around Wallace playing slot receiver against the 49ers. Hence, Wallace pulled a calf muscle in warm-ups and now is expected to miss at least a month. By the way, this means Charlie Frye is the backup quarterback in Seattle. In a related story, Puget Sound-area Starbucks are now offering a new cyanide-flavored latte.
Logan Payne: Named after the worst Damon Wayans movie ever made (which is saying something), this undrafted rookie out of Minnesota with no particularly discernible talent stuck with the team as he watched one superior player after another go to the sideline thus forcing the Hawks to elevate him to the starting lineup. It took all of one series against the 49ers for him to join them with a torn MCL, though to Payne's credit he held on to the ball after getting slammed both high and low. He will not play again this year.
When all is said and done, the Seahawks' 2008 campaign may resemble Battlefield: Earth -- a tale of ruin and devastation that is absolutely unwatchable. With that in mind, we bring you the remaining wideouts in Seattle. Just think, one of these men could rise to be Johnnie Goodboy Tyler (or Scot Halpin).
Courtney Taylor: The good news: Taylor's 39 yards receiving this season have already topped the 38 yards he collected in eight games during his rookie year last season. The bad news: Right now, Taylor has -53 DYAR, 78th in the league, ahead of only Braylon Edwards. Taylor has shown absolutely no sign of being able to get separation from NFL-caliber cornerbacks, so if he struggles against the non-NFL caliber cornerbacks who play for the St. Louis Rams, you can bank on him being a non-factor this year.
Michael Bumpus: An undrafted rookie out of Washington State, Bumpus was one of the final cuts in Seahawks camp, though his time on the practice squad didn't last long. He caught two passes for nine yards in his pro debut against San Francisco, which was enough to spark cries of "Bumpus Fever!" at Ben Riley's very drunken Niners-Seahawks game-watching party. If the name sounds familiar, his family owned at least 785 smelly hound dogs that stole the Christmas turkey from Ralphie's family.
Billy McMullen: This former Eagle set career highs with 23 catches for 307 yards with the Vikings in 2006, then couldn't find work in 2007. He told the Seattle Times that he didn't even watch football last year. "You play football every year since the sixth grade, it's different when you're not playing. Of course it pulls on you. It's painful." It's worth noting that McMullen's actual first name is Wilbur, the name of the pig that gets slaughtered at the end of Charlotte's Web. Not exactly a positive harbinger.
Koren Robinson: As this story goes to press, the Seahawks have announced that they have re-signed Mike Holmgren's former prodigy who drank himself out of town four years ago. Robinson saw marginal action for Minnesota and Green Bay in the three years that followed, but he did make the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a kick returner for the Vikings, so that could be helpful. Given that Ruskell is notoriously character-driven when it comes to personnel decisions, the signing of Robinson is somewhat surprising (to say the least), but Ruskell explained his decision in a Tuesday afternoon conference call with the media (quote courtesy of The Tacoma News-Tribune):
My whole deal was, we just can't have knuckleheads around here. That can't happen. That's not how you win. So we got rid of several players that, I felt, fell under that umbrella, and I thought that would be the end of it. Obviously this little crisis we're going through with the receivers made a lot of names come up and I really wasn't even thinking of Koren.
Coach [Holmgren] had actually brought it up initially, along with Matt [Hasselbeck] through a third party, talking about the meeting he had had with Koren in this retreat. [Note: Hasselbeck and Robinson apparently spent time together in the offseason at a Christian retreat in an as-yet undisclosed location.] That was really the initial talk. Like I said, initially, [I was] against the idea, but once we started doing our research, [we] sent [pro personnel director] Will Lewis out to meet with Koren, and [director of player development] Maurice Kelly, [and] we started hearing favorable things that kind of verified what Matt had been saying about, "This is a different Koren." And the more people we talked to, not only in North Carolina and in Green Bay, the way that he had changed his life in terms of his marriage and his kids and what was important to him as opposed to a different set of priorities when he was here earlier, that started the thing moving in a different direction.
Incidentally, The Knuckleheads will be playing the Crocodile Café this Saturday, with Darrell Jackson on vocals, Ken Hamlin on guitar and Jerramy Stevens on human-skin-made drums.
Keary Colbert: The same day the Seahawks re-signed Robinson, they traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Broncos for Colbert, also known as the Poor Man's Michael Clayton: Colbert had more yards receiving in his first season (753) than he has tallied in the following three years combined (670). Here are some words that rhyme with Keary: Weary. Teary. Bleary. Seems fitting.
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For perhaps the first time in Scramble history, the KCW award goes to the same person two weeks in a row, for making the exact same mistake two weeks in a row. We've just taken last week's text and made the necessary changes. Hopefully this person never learns, it will make our job much easier.
first second KCW award goes to Browns head coach Romeo Crennel. Down 28-7 10-3 to the Cowboys Steelers with 10 minutes 3:28 left to play, the Browns faced a fourth-and-3 fourth-and-7 on the Dallas 17-yard line Pittsburgh 20-yard line. You can feel Gregg Easterbrook quivering with anticipation, can't you? And sure enough, Crennel sends in the field goal unit to boot a field goal that still leaves the Browns down by three touchdowns a touchdown ... [The] thing is, coach, even if you do make it -- and Dawson did -- then where do you go? Answer: Back to Cleveland with your first second loss, and your first second KCW trophy.
QB: In a week when no quarterbacks were truly terrible, two players performed merely badly, and that was enough to tie them as biggest loser among passers: Carson Palmer and JaMarcus Russell each had a 2.
RB: When is a loser a winner? When his name is Laurence Maroney, he rushes eight times for only 16 yards, but his Patriots beat the Jets anyway.
WR: Two receivers put up goose eggs this week: Justin McCareins and Hank Baskett each had a 0.
K: It hardly seems fair to lay this burden on Shayne Graham. After all, he was kicking in zillion-mile per hour winds. But there is no weather adjustment in Loser League, so Graham's stuck with a -1. That blows.
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