TMQB: "The Anti-Report Card"

TMQB: "The Anti-Report Card"

So...once a team's season is over, how you go about rating it? In the case of the 2004 Seahawks, there were far too many variables - thereby eliminating the standard "A through F" system. .NET's Doug Farrar has another way that's far more fun...and just as derivative!

“Facts, sir, are nothing without their nuance” – Norman Mailer

I’ve never liked report cards. Didn’t like ‘em when I was in school, and I’m not fond of ’em now. Grades, in and of themselves, minimize and dismiss the nuances and intangibles of a thing by rounding up or down and placing a thing in a convenient slot. A through F, minus E. Norman Mailer understood…facts are nothing without their nuance.

So when it comes time to summarize a season, especially one that featured so many “What the hell?!?!?” moments as the 2004 Seattle Seahawks’ season did, it’s an injustice to format a thing as such.

“Quarterbacks - B+”.

Uh…what does that mean? Compared to what? The rest of the league? An arbitrary ceiling known only to the journalist grading the quarterbacks? What the quarterbacks would have done if a thousand external factors had landed on a different number? Did one particular play merit the “+”? Is Kyle Boller a “C” quarterback with a “D-“ offense around him, or vice versa? Is Matt Hasselbeck less of a quarterback because his receivers spray “Football Antidote” on their hands every week? How do you quantify this?

A football season isn’t so simple, and the performances that define it over the long term aren’t simple at all. So, when thinking of a way to wrap up the entity that was the 2004 Seattle Seahawks, I decided against the derivative “Team Report Card” slant. Instead, I decided to go with the derivative “Take a bunch of quotes from a movie you love, and assign said quotes to the people, players and games that defined the season” slant, as popularized by the ubiquitous Bill Simmons. And given the movie I chose, I think the concept of attempting to discover originality by way of derivation is pretty appropriate. Besides, it’s a lot more fun.

The movie(s) in question? “Kill Bill (Vol. 1 and 2)”, Quentin Tarantino’s genre-busting, whack-em-up Tale O’ Revenge, starring Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo and David Carradine as “Bill”. Brief synopsis:

Bill is the mastermind behind the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a nasty band of killers-for-hire, and quite possibly the most dangerous women in the world. Beatrix (“Black Mamba”) Kiddo is the group’s franchise player, until she mysteriously disappears. Thinking that she’s dead, and looking for her killer, Bill uncovers the truth – Beatrix is alive, and has decided to move on. More surprises await him. What Beatrix doesn’t realize is that the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad is NOT an “opt-out” organization. Bill brings this to her attention with a bloody massacre in El Paso, Texas, where Beatrix is hiding out. Bill thinks he has taken care of Beatrix once and for all, save the off-chance she’ll ever awaken from the coma he put her in by “popping a cap in her crown”, which proves to be a MAJOR tactical error on his part.

Upon awakening from a four-year “Big Sleep” (any similarity to the Seahawks’ defense is purely coincidental…), Beatrix is understandably less than pleased at the rough treatment she received at the hands of her former sensei (and lover). So, Beatrix composes a “Death List Five”, upon which she writes the names of the Squad members who ruined her life: Bill’s brother Budd (Sidewinder), Vernita “Copperhead” Green, O-ren “Cottonmouth” Ishii, Elle “California Mountain Snake” Driver and Bill (Snake Charmer) himself.

What transpires is quite the little party. As with any Tarantino film, “Kill Bill” is both wildly derivative and stunningly original. You’ll get the usual time-shifting storylines (that he somehow makes work), the usual heaping helpings of stylistic homage, and the usual unparalleled marriage of music to film. Why do I like “Kill Bill”, in particular, enough to write an article around it? Let’s just say that a double feature of “Fists of Fury” and “For A Few Dollars More” is my idea of a good time. And if you are familiar with the works of both Ennio Morricone AND Sonny Chiba and you HAVEN’T seen this movie? Well, get on board, Paisan/Buckeroo/Grasshopper!

In the meantime, let’s take a look back at the long, strange trip known as the Seattle Seahawks’ 2004 season. And since we like to keep it topical at Seahawks.NET, we’ll start things off with a few quotes that summarize recently dismissed Team President Bob Whitsitt:

“When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a ‘Roaring Rampage of Revenge’. I roared. And I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction. I’ve killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point…but I have only one more. The last one. The one I’m drivin’ to right now.”

To everyone who was ground under the jackboot in Whitsitt’s eight-year Seahawk Slash-o-rama…every long-term employee who found their belongings in a cardboard box on their desks, every current employee who developed whiplash looking for the guillotine, every journalist that was ever intimidated or excluded by his P.R. Goon Squad, every fan who was forced to endure a customer service nightmare just to buy season tickets…and to Mike Holmgren, who had the fortitude to survive six years of Whitsitt’s haranguing, clueless interference and emerge as the Last Man Standing.

“Now…in these agonizing last few minutes of life you have left…let me answer that question you asked earlier more thoroughly. Right at this moment, the biggest ‘R’ I feel is Regret. Regret…that maybe the greatest warrior I have ever met…met her end at the hands of a bushwhackin’, scrub, alkie piece of <expletive> like you.”

To Whitsitt's hamfisted handling of Mike Reinfeldt and Ted Thompson, the team’s former Senior Vice President and Vice President of Football Operations, respectively. Reinfeldt was the Seahawks’ last bastion of salary cap wisdom before Whitsitt allowed his contract to expire and asked him to take a significant pay cut. He responded by walking away last February. In the eleven months since, there has been little progress with the daunting list of free agents the team could lose. Thompson left the Seahawks to take the position of General Manager with the Green Bay Packers, but being ordered off the field during the Seahawks-Rams playoff game (as he reportedly was) certainly didn’t engender any feelings of permanence.

Reinfeldt is possibly available (and has been the subject of rampant speculation/wishful thinking, including mine), but Thompson, who recently told the Seattle Times that he would have considered throwing his name in the hat to replace Whitsitt, wasn’t going to stick around for that chance. Reinfeldt and Thompson both played key roles in Ron Wolf’s dynastic tenure in Green Bay in the 1990’s, partially due to the fact that Wolf knew how to treat valued colleagues.

“You hocked a Hattori Hanzo sword? It was priceless!”
“Not in El Paso, it ain’t. In El Paso, I got me $250 for it.”

To Whitsitt’s most craven, cavalier gesture…the brokering of Steve Largent’s #80 to Jerry Rice upon Rice’s trade to the team in October. Whitsitt called Largent, put Rice on the phone (telling Rice that Largent wanted him to call) and asked for the “temporary transfer” of Largent’s retired number, effectively putting the two greatest wide receivers in NFL history on the spot in one fell swoop. Whitsitt compounded this error by letting Rice take the heat until Rice’s wife told the San Jose Mercury-News the real sequence of events. Largent, as is his nature, took the dignified route and allowed Rice to wear the number. It’s a toss-up as to what was more offensive in this process – the fact that Whitsitt so arrogantly displayed his complete lack of regard for the team’s history, or the fact that he never understood why the fans were so affronted by the entire…erm…”transaction”. But when you’re dealing with a guy who ordered the removal of team memorabilia that preceded his tenure at Seahawk HQ…all bets are off.

Except for one. Whitsitt, for his part, was also directing the immediate manufacture of a Jerry Rice replica jersey – with the number 80, of course – to be sold for the princely sum of $130.

“This is me at my most masochistic.”

Whitsitt’s quotes to Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle P-I three days before he was fired. Put on your asbestos suit and take a step back:

His role in saving the Seahawks? “I've still got the press release where I was having the press conference to say that Paul has withdrawn. It was Easter Sunday, and I talked him into it. He was going to Japan. I'm home on Easter Sunday, convincing Paul, 'Let me not do that press conference.' We got far enough with the politicians, and he didn't like the vibe. He said, 'We're done.' And when he's done, he's done. I said, 'Give me until you come back from Japan. I'm going down there (Olympia) and I've got an idea where you negotiate an option.' Then we got the whole year to work with the politicians. Long story short, he said, 'OK.' I went down there and got it done in a week."

His role in bringing Mike Holmgren to Seattle? "I hired Mike Holmgren. Paul Allen didn't even know who he was. I got (Mike) to come back on a 32-hour trip to have dinner at Paul's house the night before we announced it. Because Paul agreed he should at least meet the guy before we do it. And it was important for Mike's ego. It was all me. I did the money, which was massive. So nobody wants him to succeed more than me, because it's on my report card."

On Holmgren himself? “Two years ago, I took his GM stuff away from him. Which he wasn't doing anyway. I know he can coach. But I've got to get him energized. I've got to get him working a little harder. It was a little bit of a hiccup. Did he want it to happen? No. But we got through that."

On the sixteen free agents the team had apparently made no effort to re-sign, or even negotiate with? " Let's pretend that we loaded them all up last year with big contracts and you have a monster payroll, you're monster tapped out on the cap, and have a very mediocre team. If all these free agents are so good, and Paul has to write that big a check, why haven't we won a playoff game in six years?"

Wow...you DID flunk chemistry, didn't you? Just curious, Bob…how have you managed to go through life knowing full well that others have taken credit for your roles in the first lunar landing, breaking the Watergate story, getting the hostages out of Iran and the invention of the internet? And with what transportation does it take 32 hours to get from Green Bay to Seattle? Was Mike Holmgren riding a covered wagon?

“So, I suppose it’s a little late for an apology, huh?”
“You suppose correctly.”

To Mark Collins, the Seattle contractor who ran the “Save Our Seahawks” cause in the mid-1990’s. As Les Carpenter reported in the Seattle Times on January 16, Collins spent over a year and lost more than $100,000 of his own money fighting to keep the Seahawks in Seattle in the wake of BehringGate. When Paul Allen bought the team, Collins was promised season tickets for life. Then, he got the “Sorry – that’s tickets for six years” end-around. Then, it was tickets for the first and sixth years only (insert picture of George Steinbrenner here). Collins fought back and received tickets for six seasons. I’m sure THAT made him feel good!

Needless to say, it would behoove Whitsitt’s replacement to get right on that lifetime tickets thing for Mr. Collins. In fact, current CEO and Marketing Guru Tod Leiweke could take care of that right now. Guys who define a grass-roots fanbase to that extent are NOT the sort of people you want to alienate.

“You call that begging? You can beg better that that.”

To whatever organization you try to sucker into a job down the road, Mr. Whitsitt. If there’s any justice, you’ll hear this little bit of smack Gogo Yubari gave to Beatrix in the House of Blue Leaves…

“One condition.”
“What?”
“She must suffer ‘til her last breath.”
“That, Elle darlin’, I can pretty much damn well guarantee.”

And one last thing, Bob – Elle’s bargaining chip with Budd for the sale of Beatrix’ Hanzo Sword pretty adequately describes how the fanbase is left feeling about you. Don’t come back to the “Q” for any “Old Home Week” celebrations – I’ve never been pummeled with 67,000 plastic bottles, but I’d imagine it stings a little.

“I never saw anyone Buffalo Bill the way she Buffaloed Bill.”

To Seahawks owner Paul Allen…while we thank you always for saving the team for Seattle and finally ridding the organization of “The Menace”, aren’t you just the slightest bit embarrassed at the length of time it took you to figure this out, and the organizational atrophy suffered under his watch? Far be it from me to offer unsolicited advice to a man who has a higher net worth than Europe…but you might want to consider expanding the braintrust who reports to you to a number larger than one in future.

“I know this is a ridiculous question before I ask it…but you haven’t, by any chance, kept up with your swordplay?”

To Randy Mueller, the former Seahawks/Saints GM and current ESPN analyst who seems to be the media’s breakaway frontrunner for Whitsitt’s job. Mueller, for his part, has referred to the Seattle chair as a “Dream Job”. There are those who point to Mueller’s cap-craziness during his past time in the Seahawks’ organization as good enough reason to look elsewhere. Others say that he was entrenched in an impossible situation and did the best he could. Whatever decision is made (and I wouldn’t mind Mueller’s return at all), there are at least sixteen reasons why it must be made with not only a great sense of urgency, but with unprecedented clarity…

“Screw your soap opera…hurry up!”

To Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Itula Mili, Alex Bannister, Heath Evans, Chris Gray, Floyd Womack, Robbie Tobeck, Brock Huard, Orlando Huff, Ken Lucas, Brandon Mitchell, Chike Okeafor, Tom Rouen and Ken Walter….also known as (at least) sixteen reasons. Sixteen unrestricted free agents, the fates of whom the Seahawks have very little time to negotiate. Of course, some of those decisions will take very little time, but that quarterback/running back/left tackle/tight end/center/defensive end/cornerback talent bunch is a doozy. “Number of franchise players wherein a team smooched the pooch” is NOT a statistic the Seahawks want to lead the NFL in…

Oh yeah…and the draft is in three months. Tick tock, guys!

“If this were the military, I’d be General by now!”
“Oh, so you’d be General, huh? If you were General, I’d be Emperor, and you’d still get the sake. So shut up and get the sake!”

Hattori Hanzo’s hilarious sushi-bar standoff with his longtime flunky goes to current General Manager Bob Ferguson…who, should he survive whatever vestiges of the Whitsitt Purge remain, would be well-advised to define his role. Bob, we’re not quite sure what you do, but we’ll assume you do it exceedingly well. I mean, you can always hire someone to get the sake, if you get my drift…

“Revenge is never a straight line. And like a forest, it’s easy to lose your way…to get lost…to forget where you came in.”

To everyone left in the front office…first, congratulations for surviving. Now it’s time to band together, fill the holes and move forward. Time is fleeting, but the good news is that after Whitsitt’s reign, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Oh…one personal gripe to get out of the way before I wrap up Part One:

“Y’all got a song? How ‘bout ‘Love Me Tender’? I can play that.”

To the individuals who control the stadium music at Qwest Field - a couple of thoughts:

First, this is a football stadium, not a wine-tasting event at the Sahalee Country Club. Dinky songs by one-hit British weenie-bands (“Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve???) don’t cut the mustard. Think Metallica, and not just “Enter Sandman”. I mean, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees uses that song when he comes into the game from the bullpen! Yankee music! Icky! Think “Creeping Death” when the defense hits the field. Think Pantera’s “Yesterday Don’t Mean <Expeletive>” at next year’s home opener. Or, as our own Scott Jones once suggested, a good, strong dose of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” might just whip the home crowd into a Jack Black-style frenzy. Not that we’ve needed help lately…

Second, that home crowd you heard throughout the 2004 season? The same one that took several opposing quarterbacks out of their games? The music has to be heard over us, or there’s no point in playing it. If your sound system’s master volume has a defect that does not allow it to go above, say, “2”…FIX IT. Think of it as a favor to us, ahem...”face-painted freaks”.

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will run on Monday…

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.

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