A funny thing happened at Seahawks draft headquarters in Renton Thursday afternoon.
When, minutes before Roger Goodell would announce it on TV, the electronic readerboard in the media workroom flashed the Seahawks selection of “Bruce Irvin, West Virginia,” a hush fell over the room measured in megatons. Even the talk radio guys in the back of the room from KJR and ESPN fell silent. Momentarily.
Nobody in a room of maybe three dozen people, some of whom had devoted weeks of preparation for the event, knew Bruce Irvin from Bruce Lee or Hale Irwin. The look on everyone’s faces, including mine, was as if Sarah Palin walked into the room and started singing, “Highway to Hell.”
In a place where information is instant and the arcane is hyper-scrutinized, the worst thing to be, in a era of self-made expertise, is unaware. So after everyone did the cartoon double-headshake, Google search (or Bing search, as Seahawks PR man Dave Pearson likes to shout reflexively on behalf of the Seahawks sponsor) was avalanched with “Bruce Irvin” queries. Sheets of paper fluttered, cell phones tinkled and oaths uttered.
First-round mock drafts, a sports-culture commodity approaching in value the brackets for the 68-team NCAA men’s basketball tournament, blew apart like Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life.”
After information poured forth: “One of fastest big men at combine . . . character issues . . . Dropped out of high school . . . briefly homeless . . . two junior colleges . . . arrested in March after his school’s pro day . . . single-skill player . . . second- or third-round talent,” the analysis was almost universal: General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll had jumped the shark, popped their lug nuts and tin-cupped the big shot.
With the passage of time — say, the hour it took for the two to explain the rationale for the pick to the assembled media — a less condemning view started to develop. As Irvin’s story unfolded over the next few days, it turned out that Irvin did impress many at the scouting combine, the video evidence showed incredible speed on passing downs, and while his past was rich with misdeed, none included treason, murder or assault.
Yes, he spent time in jail after trying to rob a drug dealer, and yes, he was drunk when he knocked a signboard off a sandwich-delivery car in March, and yes, he did actually say Thursday in response to the latter charge, “The Lord knew it was BS,” thereby making him eligible for the Sports Quote Hall of Fame without the five-year mandatory waiting period.
So, whether you are offended by or dismissive of his background, what seems indisputable is that, one way or another, the guy is a load. High speed, high maintenance, high risk. Or in a word, disruptive.
What is amusing is that most of the post-draft media analyses downgraded the Seahawks draft because Irvin was taken so high relative to the conventional wisdom. Yet it’s not as if there was documentary evidence that proves Irvin was not worth the purported value assigned the 15th pick.
What seems anecdotally plausible is that media and fans who invested a lot of time and cred in mock drafts were pissed at the Seahawks for the disruption. Besides, in our cultural urge for quantification, stratification and pontification, some entity has to wear a dunce cap or writers look like house guys for the NFL.
The view here is that the amount of unknowables that is part of pro sports drafting ranks third in the world — trailing North Korean rocket science and high school recruiting — in the amount of fewest truths per cubic foot of available information. The fact that franchises in baseball, football, and basketball get it right as often as they do is remarkable.
Which is not to say that Irvin’s selection will or won’t work out. Don’t know. Neither does Carroll. As I wrote Monday, my concern is less about Irvin’s past than how he will deal with success and stability, for which he has almost no experience.
Carroll, who knows more about Irvin’s past anyone speculating on the draft, is betting a considerable portion of the Seahawks house that he can design a defensive role that maximizes Irvin’s biggest asset, speed, and minimizes his biggest liability, size. As to whether Irvin’s off-field actions turn him into the next Koren Robinson/Jerramy Stevens or the next Cortez Kennedy/Dave Brown, your guess is as good as anyone’s. And no one’s.
Peter King at SI.com offered this post-draft take: The Bruce Irvin pick at 15 in the first round wasnt that odd at least not to two GMs I spoke with. He was going in the first round, guaranteed, one said. Hes got rare pass-rush skills.”
Then King reached the heart of the Seahawks value system with this quote from an unidentified personnel director: Seattle “just values players differently than almost every other team. They get a feeling on a guy and it doesnt matter if theyre the lone wolves theyre going to take the guy no matter what anyone else thinks.”
In their third draft together, Carroll and Schneider proved the point again. Whether it proves right will need another season or two to know. What’s known now is it makes the Seahawks perpetual guests at The Second-Guess Saloon — see Red Bryant, Brandon Browner, Charlie Whitehurst, Mike Williams — and therefore as jaw-droppin as Palin’s AC/DC impersonation.
Disruption is rarely greeted warmly except by its perpetrators, and respected only if it works.