Tanking It

Let's shake off the food and booze haze and talk Hawks. A Sunday without Seahawks football felt lonely. At the same time, I can't stomach re-watching Thursday's tape. I hope to overcome that by tomorrow, because understanding a season requires autopsy of intestine along with heart and brain. A friend of mine who recently started scuba diving related why he'd never cave dive, invoking the image of smashing his headlamp, sitting in watery darkness awaiting suffocation or, for the optimistic, drowning. That's a non sequitor for those who missed Thursday. For those who watched Dallas extend Seattle's season point deficit to 95 in the coldest and most routine of fashions might wonder if they packed a dive knife.

So what it is. Should Seattle tank and take the sure top five pick or play for pride and escape the absolute cellar? It's an interesting question easily done disservice. Realistically, a team can't tank. It can't choose to lose for fear of injury, league punishment and permanently alienating its fans. The question is rather, should Seattle fans root for Seattle to lose out?

They won't overtake Detroit. The Lions are awful, have a two game advantage and face a difficult remaining schedule. With four tough games remaining, Detroit has an excellent chance of achieving 0-16. The Bengals are an easier catch. Assuming Seattle loses out, the Bengals would only have to win once in the final four to eclipse the Hawks. What Ohioan could foresee such consequences from kissing his sister? Kansas City also has a fatal flaw: a punishing strength of schedule. A quaint screwji written into the NFL draft breaks ties by awarding the higher pick to the team with the weaker strength of schedule. The battle between Saint Louis and Seattle should be decided in week 15 with the winner losing a spot in the draft while the loser considers rock bottom.

Seattle's a shoe in for a top five pick. The merits of keeping that pick make for a long, ongoing offseason discussion. The pick becomes more valuable if Seattle is slotted behind teams not interested in a quarterback. Historically, the first quarterback drafted significantly outperforms the second quarterback taken in terms of playing time and performance. Seattle is safe behind Cincinnati, Oakland and probably Kansas City, but could lose out to Detroit or Saint Louis. Marc Bulger is only 31 and isn't broken so much as disarmed. The Rams probably shouldn't but still might draft a quarterback. The Lions drafted Drew Stanton with their second round pick in the 2007 draft. Stanton can't seem to stay healthy and is currently sitting behind freelance sports agent Daunte Culpepper.

If Seattle is targeting a quarterback and unlikely to overtake its greatest rival for that position, it doesn't make much sense for Seattle to tank because it'll likely end up with the same options at five as two. And because Walter Jones is two years from retirement, still playing at a high level, and because the short learning curve typical of left tackles, Seattle doesn't need to target a left tackle. I shrink to type that, but I think it's true. Seattle, above all else, needs a quarterback of the future. It may never have a better opportunity. But rather than hope a Seahawks team that badly needs to show some life tanks, fans are stuck in the uncomfortable and detached position of rooting for opponent quarterbacks to show at all.

The best bet Seattle has at drafting Sam Bradford, and with each game Bradford looks more and more like the nation's top quarterback, is for Stanton and Bulger to play well. It's a weird and awkward position befitting this season. Whoever Seattle drafts will be risky and expensive. And I, for one, am not so much excited for this year's draft as dreading it. My hope, my sincerest hope, is Seattle can tempt the Vikings, near desperate for a quarterback but in line for a winning record, to swap picks. The Vikings may be emboldened after trading a first and two third round picks for Jared Allen. Allen has played well and Minnesota is charging towards a division title. A wealth of picks, collectively less expensive than a single fourth overall pick; a second round pick to trade for Brian Brohm, a mid first round pick to snag help desperately needed at guard--

I'm carrying on. Oh, the fantasy of the draft! If only the real draft were so sweet.

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