The best part of Kam Chancellor’s return for Seahawks fans? The list of players on the missing-in-action list is down to one. Or maybe that is the worst news, because now all the fan and media speculation descends upon TE Jimmy Graham.
He gets to pay the price when the two-time defending NFC champion starts the next season 0-2. But all he wants is the ball.
You may have heard that the first words China president Xi Jinping’s offered this week in greeting Gov. Jay Inslee was, “My people want to know why Mr. Russell no longer likes Mr. Jimmy.”
At least, that’s how I read the translator’s lips.
Inslee offered no real answer except to promise he is prepared to declare the Seattle offense a disaster area if the Seahawks don’t beat 15-point underdog Chicago Sunday at the Clink.
But is the offense a disaster? The Seahawks offense scored 18 points at St. Louis (two other TDs came from defense and special teams) and 17 points at Green Bay. Not great, but when the offensive line has three greenhorns and a rookie wide receiver, along with a newbie at backup running back, the opportunity for misunderstanding and misplay is increased notably.
But since the Seahawks gave up a first-round pick and veteran C Max Unger in trade to get Graham, the expectation was that Graham would at least put on Superman’s cape, not the cloak of invisibility.
A single catch for 11 yards in Green Bay in the national game of the week Sunday has put football tongues on hyper-wag.
“We’ve had the intent, just like you would think,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “We want him him to be a big part. In the first game (against the Rams), he had five catches and a TD. That’s a pretty good game. This (Packers) game didn’t work out.
“We tried going to him on four of the first five passes. It’s just the way it worked out. I’m not panicked by that at all.”
Carroll is no fun. He should be running around flailing his hands in the air and screaming. If for no other reason than he would blend in with the 12s.
While two games is a breathtakingly teensy sample size by which to judge the Graham acquisition, the Henny Penny crowd is inspired to angst by the analogy to former Seahawks WR Percy Harvin. He also required large franchise treasure to acquire, but became an awkward misfit owing to equal parts play (can’t run pass routes) and personality (punched out two teammates, refused orders to return into a game).
The Seahawks caused a national stir almost a year ago when, without warning, they traded Harvin to the Jets for two tickets to the Broadway revival of the Lawrence Welk show (the Jets’ first offer was four).
But Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who Wednesday fielded multiple question about whether Graham’s picture should appear on milk cartons, was quick to disabuse the analogy.
“Specifically to Percy, we were trying to do things obviously to incorporate Percy in, and I don’t think that Jimmy is in the same category as that,” Bevell said. “He’s a tight end, we’re able to plug him in and use him that way, and I think everything’s going to be fine.”
Bevell requested some patience, arguing that the personnel turnover elsewhere requires some time until its choreography resembles the Joffrey Ballet.
“I think what could be said is each year is a new year,” he said. “The offense never stays the same. There’s personnel that changes all the time, whether it’s offensive line, tight ends, receivers, running backs.
“We’re trying to make sure that we get guys in the right spots, and try to bring their strengths out as best we can.”
All true, but when Graham, at 6-foot-7 heralded as the big target Russell Wilson has never had in Seattle, was part of 50 snaps Sunday and targeted only twice, the roar of the tsk-tskers is nearly deafening.
“There’s plays where he’s the primary target, and the ball goes elsewhere,” Bevell said, a bit testily. “(Defenses) do different things in coverage. The quarterback looks a different way. Protection breaks down and can’t hang on to it long enough. There’s so many things. I’m not just going to sit here and point out one thing.
“Is there an emphasis to try to get Jimmy the ball? We want Jimmy involved in our offense. There’s no question about it. We want him to make catches. We know that he’ll do great things for us. But there’s also other guys that do great things for us as well.”
As for the view of Wilson, all he can ever do is spread thick sunshine upon controversy, hoping to smother it.
“Jimmy’s an ultimate competitor,” Wilson said. “He’s been unbelievable in practice. The way we all practice is a lot of fun. He’s a great teammate, couldn’t be any better . . . great friend too. We’re excited about what’s going to happen.”
The question is whether Graham is pining for the pass-happy offense of his former team in New Orleans, and is dismayed in Seattle about having to do his least favorite thing — blocking. But Graham didn’t talk after Sunday’s game, and said he would speak only on Fridays. Media is on high alert.
So Carroll this week had to answer the question for Graham as to whether his new star was frustrated.
“He’s competitive — he wants the ball,” Carroll said. “I don’t think there’s any question — I feel that too.”
That’s the sort of thing Carroll said about Harvin a year ago when the Seahawks started 3-3. But at least Graham will catch one thing Sunday — a break, as many will be watching Chancellor’s every move to validate or invalidate opinions about his holdout.
But if it’s another one-catch day, Graham will be reminded that all of China is watching, wondering.