RENTON — One of the most amazing feats of the Seahawks’ 2014 season had nothing to do with game outcomes or the final 30 seconds of the Super Bowl:
The Seahawks invented and managed their own trouble that created large internal, local and national controversy, and sailed right through the tumult to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
It’s as if they built their own hurricane just to test their foul-weather gear.
In firing mid-season the player in whom they invested the most franchise treasure, the 3-3 Seahawks sent a distress flare to the sports world waiting for the typical disarray that visits the defending champion.
As rivals, pundits and fans chortled, tittered and tsk-tsked, the Seahawks went 9-1 to reach the playoffs as a No. 1 seed. That’s the sort of crisis management that every presidential candidate should pay large coin to replicate.
Percy Harvin, the wide receiver for whom the word mercurial describes his play and his personality, was pushed onto the woebegone New York Jets (4-12 last year) for a sixth-round draft choice. Given the cost in draft picks and salary to get Harvin from Minnesota, it was less a trade and more a distress sale.
The pivotal moment in the sequence that helped lead to the trade apparently came during the week of the last preseason game almost a year ago, when Harvin punched Baldwin after Harvin had already been pulled out of the weight room to calm down.
An account of the episode published Wednesday by mynorthwest.com’s Danny O’Neil says Harvin “had blood on his hands” and was escorted off the premises after the altercation. No explanation was given for the fight, nor was a source for the account identified.
Since O’Neil co-hosts a talk show on ESPN 710, the Seahawks flagship station, the presumption is the story was leaked from the Seahawks, just as the team at the time of the Oct. 6 trade leaked anonymously to a national media outlet the word of the Baldwin fight, along with an earlier altercation with Golden Tate at the Super Bowl in New York, to justify firing Harvin. That’s how the game is played with the NFL’s broadcast partners.
The reason this pot has been re-stirred is because Harvin went on ESPN Wednesday to claim that the Seahawks’ wide receivers group believed he was more of a threat than a teammate. Here’s the video of Harvin’s interview (apologies in advance for its NSFW nature: It was done for the execrable “First Take” show with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, the tandem that certified the show’s reputation as the dumbest on TV by failing ask Harvin one good question).
“My teammates accept me a little more (in Buffalo),” said Harvin, who was not re-signed by the Jets but followed coach Rex Ryan to the Bills. “What I mean by that, I felt when I went to Seattle a lot of the receivers took me as a threat rather than accepting me as a teammate.
“I always told those guys — I pulled them to the side several times after seeing the comments they was making to the media — ‘Hey, guys, I’m here to ball with you, to take us to the next level.’ A lot of guys were looking at they were established and they didn’t need any help. I just took it as I never was kind of accepted in the receiver group by all the members.”
Thursday after practice, Baldwin met the local media en masse for the first time in training. The only surprise was how long it took (nine minutes) before the first Harvin question came up.
“It took you guys a while to get to that,” he said, smiling, then proceeded to walk miles around any further re-ignition of animosity. “Honestly, I didn’t know he felt that way. I thought we had squashed it before he left. I’ve got no hard feelings for him. I wish him the best in Buffalo.”
Baldwin said a meeting shortly after the fight — Harvin didn’t play in the final preseason game in Oakland for what the club said were “personal reasons,” but apparently was an informal suspension — cleared the air between the players.
“We had a meeting basically saying that we were going to become closer, watch out for each other and make sure that everybody was doing what they were supposed to do in terms of being great teammates,’’ Baldwin said. “And that’s really all that it took to make sure that we were being great teammates to each other.
“Like I said, we thought everything was fine. But sometimes it’s not.’’
In case you’re still unsure what to believe, please join the club. I doubt whether everything was fine after the meeting, just as I doubt Harvin was a humble victim of teammates’ persecution.
What I do believe is that Harvin committed insubordination when he refused his coaches’ order to go back late in the loss to Dallas. And I do believe Harvin has some long-running problems that led to conflicts at the University of Florida and his first pro team, the Minnesota Vikings.
I also believe that coach Pete Carroll’s ego exceeded his grasp when he thought he could bring out the best in Harvin, whom Carroll recruited out of high school when he was at USC. I also believe that Carroll correctly deduced that the cost of keeping Harvin outweighed the cost of firing him, even if it alienated some on the team and looked like embarrassing failure to outsiders locally and nationally.
I now believe Carroll can coach his way out of most any jam. I wish Harvin could talk himself into getting some help.