Scramble for the Ball
Fantasy football, the Loser League, and general goofiness

Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.)

Do You Think It's Alright? (No.)

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.

The Kids Are Alright! (Not Really.)

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.

Check out the Football Outsiders comics archive and Jason's wacky Gil Thorp blog.

Keep Choppin' Wood

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.

The 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.

Loser League

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.


42 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2010, 9:09am

1 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes


It seems like being signed to play WR for the Seahawks this year is kind of like being invited to go on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney!

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

I actually don't think Crennel's decision was that bad. Uninspired, perhaps, but not horrible. Assuming you're playing to win, you need a TD and a FG, and 3:28 is enough time to get a stop and get the ball back. (Did Cleveland have timeouts left? If not, then I guess it was a worse decision). Yes, a TD ties the game, but then the Steelers get the ball back and go for broke to take the lead, and chances are you don't get the ball back. On the other hand, if you kick the FG, then the Steelers probably run up the middle three times trying to grind clock, and you have a better chance of stopping them. And it's not like he kicked the FG on the 2 yard line, or on 4th and inches. He was still out on the 20, so even if he converts, a TD isn't a foregone conclusion. And if you fail to convert a 4th and 7 (and in a game that was 10-3 at that point, I'm guessing your odds at converting a 4th and 7 are pretty slim), then you need a TD just to tie, not to win, and you still have to negotiate overtime, even barring a last second go-ahead Steeler's TD.

9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

While I agree that this call was not as egregious as the one against Dallas, it was still a pretty bad call. And I've give the KCW to him just for sucking two weeks in a row, even if this week's sucking wasn't as bad as last week's.

EDIT: I also forgot to mention, his kicking formation on the ensuing kickoff, which cost them 5 yards for illegal formation.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Think of it in terms of "what do the Browns need to do?"

1) Down 7, 4th and 7, and you go for it. In this case, you need to complete a 4th and 7, and if you do, you're in the red zone and then need to score a touchdown. You then need to stop the other team, drive down the field, and kick a field goal, or go to overtime. If you don't make it, you need to stop the other team to recover the ball, and score a touchdown to go to overtime.

So "what you need to do to win" is complete a 4th and 7, score in the red zone, stop the other team, drive, and kick a field goal.
"What you need to do to tie" is EITHER complete a 4th and 7, score in the red zone, and stop the other team, or stop the other team, drive, and score a touchdown.

2) If you don't go for it, and kick the field goal: in this case, you need to stop the other team, drive down the field, and score a TD. You have no "tie" options.

Now note something: note that what the Browns need to do to "tie" in case 1 (if they fail) is exactly the same as what they need to do to "win" if they kick the field goal.

So realistically, what the Browns did is trade the chance of success on 4th and 7 for improving from a "tie" to a "win" in the case where you stop the other team, drive down the field, and score a TD. That's it.

That should already seem like a pretty terrible trade. What makes it really bad is that in both, you have to drive down the field and score a TD, and the Browns just showed they couldn't do that. So if you assume that the Browns were very unlikely to drive down the field and score a TD (fair assumption, considering they didn't), then Crennel's decision was utterly insane, because he traded an unlikely, but good, outcome (succeeding on the 4th and 7) to improve the benefits of a very unlikely action.

At that point in the game, "playing to win" was not really an option - as you pointed out, the situation wasn't that favorable if they went for it quickly. He should've played to tie, which was by far his team's best chance to win.

3 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

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.

Is this the Brothers Grimm version of Charlotte's Web? In the E.B. White book, Wilbur is saved from slaughter thanks to Charlotte's writing ("some pig", etc.), and ends up winning a prize at the county fair.

4 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Am I the only one getting an Adbrite advertisement in the middle of the column featuring 3 young underwear clad women in a pile on the floor?

Do I have spyware or is this no longer a work-friendly site :(

(not at work currently, thankfully)

5 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

I wonder somewhat if the facilities have had something to do with the rate of injuries the Seahawks suffer. Some of it is bad luck I'm sure, but I don't remember the last time the Seahawks had a healthy season, I'm thinking 1999. If so, does this "lost year" and the move to the new and by all accounts spectacular facility in Renton bode well? I can only hope.

8 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

This week's poor showing notwithstanding, is the Baskett for McMullen trade one of history's great swindles? Not that Baskett has been great in Philadelphia, although he is a solid contributor, but because McMullen is truly terrible. Who in god's name would trade FOR Billy McMullen? Every team cuts half a dozen more talented WRs every year.

"A little celery is always nice after a good pee."

29 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

I can understand why Childress made the trade. Perhaps he thought that Baskett could have become a good player, but at the time Baskett was still a low-percentage rookie FA. Meanwhile, Childress was a first-year coach who wanted to install his system at his new team. McMullen was no great player, but he had played in that (or a very similar) system for several years, and so would very likely be able to actually contribute much more quickly.

I'm sure Childress was hoping McMullen could turn it around and become a good player, but in the end I'm betting he was happy with one year of production while he got better players up to speed on the offense. Childress really didn't give up anything for McMullen except Baskett's potential, which was a huge unknown at the time anyway.

13 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Are the Loser League standings available on the new FO yet? The option in the drop-down menu just gives me the recaps/intros from previous years.

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Crennel's decision looks even worse when you realize that on the ensuing kickoff he did not onside kick, he kicked deep. In order for the Browns to get the ball back with enough time on the clock for them to score, he had to have been counting on his defense to force a three and out - something that had not done since the Steelers second drive in the first quarter.

16 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

We have not been able to add the Loser League yet to the new site. We're working on it.

It's hard to cancel ads unless we know what company they are for. When you see a non-work-friendly ad, you need to tell us the company. Often, we approve ads only to find the companies have changed them on us later. We do try to reject ads of the type mentioned above.

17 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

"[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."

Since you recycled last week's KCW, I will recycle my comment from last week as well: He was already in Cleveland, so at least he didn't have to go very far.

18 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Love the drummer story, I remember reading it in "Before I Get Old," a book I churned through 5-6 times in high school. Man, I wish I were born a little earlier, had a chance to see The Who really in their prime (not to mention Zeppelin and several others).

20 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

It's Obomanu, and he's not coming back at all this year--he was placed on injured reserve last month. Jordan Kent was released, but was signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.

21 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Actually, Obamanu was placed on IR, to prevent him from taking up a spot on the 53-man roster. So he'll get healthy and I guess be able to practice or something.

As an aside, here is a list of players Seattle no longer has on the 53-man, so as to keep TWO FUCKING KICKERS:

Justin Forsett (released after Week 1, picked up by Colts)
Jordan Kent (on PS)
Jason Babin (released today/yesterday)
Ben Obamanu (IR)

Great players? No. But I still wonder what Brandon Coutu (inactive for two weeks) has on Seahawks management that make them want to keep him so badly. Incriminating photos of Tim Ruskell and a horse?

24 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Seahawks reacquire Robinson, trade for WR Colbert

"Last week when the Seahawks had four receivers injured, coach Mike Holmgren mentioned Robinson to Ruskell as a possible replacement. And quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Robinson's quarterback from 2001-04 in Seattle, told Ruskell that Robinson had turned his life around. Hasselbeck saw Robinson during a weeklong Christian retreat in Dallas last winter and was impressed."

26 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

There must be some mistake. Seattle solved all their problems by using a first round draft pick to acquire the last fourteen games on Anthony Branch's contract, and then giving him eleventy billion dollars.

If the Ospreys want to get a wideout outta mothballs, I'd have gone with Largent over Koren. At least Largent wouldn't show up to the first practice in one of those cars with the beer sloshing around in it you see on the half-time ads.

On another topic, Seneca Wallace is the greatest backup quarterback ever to take in Madden. You can get him for next to nothing and he runs like Mike Vick.

28 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

I think it's quite telling that former 2nd round pick Chad Jackson has been unable to find work in Seattle. Maybe Belichick was right to keep CJ Jones on the 53 instead.

Quiet, Ho.

31 Re: Hochuli's Quick Thinking that Could've Saved His Skin...

Ahh, I see a Hochuli comic, does that mean I can make a "post-4-days anger cooling off" comment? After thinking about it a bit and watching the replay; I think that Hochuli could've given the ball to the Chargers based on 2 points.

Point 1: Just because he initially signaled "incomplete" doesn't mean the call on the field has to stay "incomplete". There are many times when officials have various looks at a play and their rulings might conflict (think of sideline catches or trap-catches), and their initial call on the field gets overruled after a huddle. Now, Hoch did huddle with another official after calling it incomplete on the field. Why couldn't he have changed his call based on input from that official who surely must've seen the ball fly backwards? He wasn't committed to a ruling on the field at that point.

Point 2: If you listen to the replays, the whistle doesn't blow until either *simultaneous to* or *a hair before* the Charger recovers it. He didn't immediately blow the whistle as he signalled incomplete. There's at most a half-second lag. I don't know why he couldn't rule that the whistle occurred *after* San Diego had recovered the ball? Even though we all know the whistle may have occurred a little earlier, I don't think this would've been unreasonable. The Charger really did immediately recover the fumble.

Of course, it took me more than a day to think that this is a possible ruling on the play, and he immediately realized what happened. I think he was being a bit too honest, but of course... "by rule".

32 Wow, I had no clue...

The Crocodile Cafe is reopening and I learned about by reading Football Outsiders. What a bizarre way to find out.

34 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Nope, no tight ends. I don't know if there are enough tight ends with regular receptions to avoid serious penalties....

we're getting loser league standings now, hooray... now just need the invdividual team results, but we're getting there...

I did pretty good this week, but with Tarvaris being benched its going to be hard going for the rest of the first half.

38 Re: Tarvaris Benchson

Yeah, I have to rely on Matt Ryan the rest of the way. He's unbenchable, but even healthy he won't play week 7. Got 8th place this week, and I'm just outside the top 5 with 52 points. Don't know how long I can keep that up.

35 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

Years from now it will be a San Diego loss and a Norv Turner loss and no one will remember the injustice that came with it.

I heard Shanahan saying it wasn't like the refs gave them the victory, they still had to score and then get the 2 pts. But football is a mental and emotion game, and to have what was victory snatched away from you is horribly deflating. I can think of many cases where something like that happened legitimately and the other team suffered a letdown right afterwards (e.g., Miami vs Ohio State). It had to be in the back of every one of the charger's heads that they had it and now they were gonna lose it based on the call.

37 KCW?

Crennel is not even close to the obvious winner of this week's award, Desean Jackson. That was by the far the stupidest play of the decade so far.

By the way, another poor decision by the officials to call the play dead before they were sure it was a TD. They should have let the play go and see how far the cowboys could have returned it.

39 Loser League scoring

Kickers from week 1 still need their scores adjusted. I can tell by the overall points that anyone who missed a FG is being charged -7, as though they missed a FG and a PAT. Don't know if that's affecting week 2.

41 Re: Scramble for the Ball: Behind Blue Eyes

I believe Colbert's first name is pronounced exactly like "Kerry":