The emotional mastery over fans and players must be complete when the NFL can create the mythology that in the third week of a 16-game season, any contest “must” be won.
None other than the quarterback of the visiting team, Kevin Kolb, asserted that the Arizona Cardinals contest against the Seattle Seahawks at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Clink is in the category of do-or-die.
You hate to say this early in the season, but were thinking of it as a must-win,” he told local media this week, apparently without shame. “Thats our mentality. We’re upset with ourselves. Last week, we let one get away. So its very important for us to get off on the right foot, not only in the first quarter, but of course, its our first divisional game.”
Mind you, Arizona is 1-1. Imagine the gravitas the Seahawks attach to the game, being 0-2. A loss Sunday surely will invite a “Ghostbusters”–like swarm of demons, including Mr. Stay-Puft waddling down Fifth Avenue.
But hold on. Said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll Wednesday: “Theres a real sense of urgency going into this week in the locker room, in the coaches room, on the walkthrough field today and as we go practice.”
Notice the restraint. In the nearly gruesome start to the season, Carroll must be given credit where it’s due. He didn’t say it was must-win. Good man.
Attention, class: The phrase “must-win” can be used only in connection with a defeat that ends seasonal play. As in Games 4 through 7 of a seven-game series, or any other time the loser of said game goes home (other than game 162 of a Mariners season, which is an automatic return ticket).
Games may be important, urgent, gargantuan, humongous, ginormous and a rip in the space-time continuum, but rarely are they must-win. Certainly not this Sunday and, truth be known, almost any Sunday in the NFC West. Research is being undertaken now by the NFL to determine whether the division will be so bad this year that only intra-division games will produce a victory for one team, and whether that shall be sufficient to qualify for the division title. In the event that it is not, plans are quietly underway to merge the division with the Pac-12 Conference.
The game is, however, significant enough for the Seahawks to make a midweek lineup change that is unrelated to injury, but is nevertheless embarrassing enough to be nearly mortifying.
Various language gymnastics were deployed to work around the plain fact that Curry not only hasn’t been very good, he is teetering on the brink of busthood.
“We just felt like we wanted to have more competition at the spot,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “You know, the motto here is ‘competition.'”
So we’ve been told. But when a team benches a first-round draft pick, the fourth player taken over all in the 2009 draft, one heralded by the Seahawks and others as the safest pick of all, in the season’s third week, that motto must be engraved in CAPS BOLDFACE.
Curry, the sure thing, wasn’t. The lock unlocked. The go-to guy came and went. And to do it this early in the season, well, it puts Sunday’s game thisclose to a must-win. I mean, what happens if Arizona gets 40 points behind 400 yards passing by Kolb, who is not sacked once?
“About that benching, Aaron? Just a one-week deal. Get back in there, homes. Win forever.”
Bradley and Carroll must think that outcome is not very likely. And they like what they’ve seen in Wright, who at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds is a large man for the position, surprisingly nimble, and was an impressive sub in the opening week against San Francisco at middle linebacker. Bradley finally came around to the reason for the change by complimenting Wright to convey what Curry isn’t.
(Wright) is very instinctive,” he said. “He plays very smart, situation football detailed. Hes just a real good football player.”
Curry, unfortunately for him and the Seahawks, is little of those things. A splendid athlete, he’s mostly an impulse guy prone to being out of position. No impact, except on those occasions where he tears the helmet off an opponent and costs the Seahawks 15 yards.
He’s also not Carroll’s guy. He was selected by the previous general manager, the unlamented Tim Ruskell. Nevertheless, for a franchise with a relatively dubious history of first-round flops, to see smoke coming out of Curry’s engines is disheartening for Seahawks fans. He was already forced to take a pay cut in the off-season — his $5 million contract for 2012 is no longer guaranteed, and his contract was shortened. Now this.
As far as his state of mind (or thumbs?), he seems to be doing all right. His Twitter account Wednesday night fired out 10 tweets and re-tweets in about an hour, mostly Bible verses and related fervor from his intense Christian faith.
Would that his football savvy matched his spiritual intensity.
Bradley, asked whether he simply trying to start the best three linebackers, said, Thats what were trying to do, yeah.
No matter how bad it looks for the franchise or the player, that’s the deal.
No, Sunday isn’t a must-win. But you can smell the fear from here.