MythBusters: The Hamlin "Problem"

MythBusters: The Hamlin "Problem"

In an attempt to debunk one of the more frequently espoused fairy tales on the Seahawks.NET message boards – that safety Ken Hamlin is a "hothead" whose "inability to avoid stupid penalties" is "killing his team", our own Kyle Rota ran down the actual facts. What he discovered is that the opinion is nothing but ridiculous. Bottom line? Hamlin isn't the problem.

First off, I'd like to start this article by thanking Aaron Schatz and Football Outsiders for allowing me to use their proprietary penalty data to prove just how much of a “bonehead” Ken Hamlin is.

“Another day, another stupid penalty by Ken Hamlin. Whether it is for five yards or for fifteen yards, the guy just cannot play by the rules. His hotheaded play has cost the Seahawks multiple games this season. There should be no question about what we do this offseason: Hamlin has to go. He wracks up the penalties, and the Seattle defense cannot even stop the offense without penalties.

“I mean, Hamlin was flagged just a few weeks back against San Francisco. And he committed an unnecessary roughness against both Kansas City (Week 8) AND St. Louis (Week 6). As if that were not bad enough, he also committed a defensive pass interference against Arizona in Week 2. And then he... well... there was the one time he... wait... you mean he has only had 4 penalties all season?”

That’s right, folks. Hamlin has committed a grand total of four penalties this season. The perception with Ken Hamlin is that he is simply killing the Seahawks with his stupid penalties. While you'd certainly like to see four less penalties from Hamlin, they are not the game-killers that Hamlin's detractors would have you believe.

Seattle has been losing games in all sorts of fashion - letting Frank Gore run for half a billion yards, Matt Hasselbeck gift-wrapping passes for defenders, Chris Gray giving defenders a shortcut to the backfield, fumblemania, coverage breakdowns with 36 seconds remaining, etc. Seattle has not been losing games on penalties by Ken Hamlin or any Seahawk.

“Ok, fine, he's only committed four penalties. But it seems like he gets more fouls than anyone else, he's probably among the league leaders in flags. After all, the league is throwing less flags than last year.”

Well... Not really. In fact, that theory is flat out wrong. The league leader in penalties through week 15, Ravens cornerback Chris McAllister, has four times as many penalties as Hamlin (16, ranging from offsides (as a cornerback?) to illegal use of hands). Rams tackle Alex Barron can claim 14 penalties of his own (11 false starts would indicate he needs to stop chugging the Mountain Dew), while Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle needs to keep his hands to himself (an astonishing seven defensive pass interferences, and one defensive holding make up the bulk of his 13 penalties).

Two players (Cardinals guard Reggie Wells and Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins) are tied at twelve penalties - still thrice that of Hamlin. Hamlin does not have many penalties, and what he does have pales in comparison to everyone else.

Just as how people have stubbornly held onto beliefs involving Shaun Alexander, Darrell Jackson, and Marcus Tubbs, people formed an opinion early of Ken Hamlin, and would rather cling to that misguided opinion than face reality. Ken Hamlin is NOT committing penalties at an unprecedented rate. He is barely committing penalties.

“But committing penalties is clearly a sign of an undisciplined, bad ballplayer.”

Except that even the best players commit penalties. Chris McAlister is a top-notch cornerback on an outstanding defense. Kris Jenkins is, when healthy, among the most dominating tackles in the NFL. Alex Barron is the most physically gifted right tackle in football, and a major reason why St. Louis ranks fourth in the league in Adjusted Line Yards.

While neither Reggie Wells nor Antrel Rolle are great players, they have a great excuse - they're coached by soon-to-be-former Arizona Cardinal Head Coach Dennis Green, who is as well considered a head coach as David Greene is considered a Quarterback. That Ken Hamlin commits penalties does not mean he is a good or bad player. Instead, fans should look at his great coverage the past two seasons and his very solid run support.

Hamlin isn’t even above and beyond in the number of specific penalties he’s become notorious for in certain circles. Washington safety Sean Taylor, Atlanta cornerback DeAngelo Hall and Cleveland defensive end Orpheus Roye all have two personal foul penalties this year. Hamlin has one, and that was an offsetting call with 49ers running back Frank Gore.

Unnecessary roughness? Hamlin, Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman and Indianapolis linebacker Gary Brackett all have two of those through fourteen games. But Taylor has one of those penalties AND a 15-yard facemask in addition to his two personal fouls. If you want to point fingers at a safety whose undisciplined play might be hurting his team, Taylor’s direction might be the way to go.

The Seahawks defense is really bad for a ton of reasons: Poor tackling, horrendous play up front by the defensive line, an astonishing 10 quarters in between sacks (against either first or second year starters, at that), Kelly Herndon's inability to outrun the hot-dog vendor, vanilla gamecalling, and a host of other flaws all contribute more to Seahawk losses than the four penalties Hamlin has amassed.

There is simply no reason to pin these losses on Hamlin's penalties - the evidence is irrefutable and overwhelming.


Kyle Rota is our MMQB, and is also known as "Rotak" on our message boards. You can e-mail him here.

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