Overview: Mike Holmgren never did figure out how to use TJ Duckett. Or, rather, he figured out exactly how to use TJ Duckett - sparingly. Duckett was used exclusively to convert short yardage, both first downs and touchdowns, and to kill the clock. In that role, he excelled, converting 26 first downs and eight touchdowns in just 62 attempts.
What Went Wrong: It's hard to fault Duckett for anything. With few exceptions, he did exactly what was asked of him. This is just idle speculation, but Holmgren didn't look too happy even when Duckett did succeed. He didn't seem comfortable with Duckett as a power back, incensed at Duckett's maddening insistence on picking his way through the line rather than bursting ahead. I'm sorry, did I say maddening? I meant incredibly effective.
Duckett didn't catch a damn thing. That's a deficit that extends back to Michigan State. In ten seasons, college and pros, Duckett has only 57 receptions. He has averaged 8.7 yards per reception as a pro. Marshall Faulk and Brian Westbrook each averaged 9.0 yards per reception as a pro. I'm not making the rather strained comparison to say Duckett is their equal, but to wonder aloud what the compelling evidence is that Duckett can't receive.
What Went Right: Duckett rushed for 56 DYAR and did everything asked of him.
Quintessential Game: Rams at Seahawks
High-stepping bowling ball: T.J. Duckett's nickname is apt; pressed into tight quarters he really does curl down and keep his knees high, looking every bit the high-stepping bowling ball. That hard to tackle, somewhat comical run style served him well churning into the end zone.
Twelfth play of Seattle's first drive of the quarter. Seahawks and Rams break in classic goal line formations. Seattle in an "I", with Sean Locklear playing tight, outside-left of Walter Jones. At the snap, Seattle's left side gets push, neatly encapsulated by Locklear throwing his weight around against O.J. Atogwe. There's an air of eventuality to Duckett's march, it's slow, methodical and when contact's made inches outside the goal line, you know which way the pile is moving. Duckett is a bit of a picker, and doesn't hit the hole with haste like a typical short yardage back, but that's also how Seattle run blocks, with holes and cutbacks lanes developing. Duckett is a cutback power back, if you can fathom such a thing.
Outlook: I wonder what Holmgren thought when Tim Ruskell signed TJ Duckett. Holmgren was always foremost a masterful offensive coordinator. To say the writing was on the wall that Seattle would soon replace Holmgren with Greg Knapp is to say too little. It was downright preordained. That's not quite working alongside your replacement (a trial Holmgren also endured), but I'm sure the absurdity of the situation wasn't lost on the scholarly sixty year old.
Duckett and Knapp are reunited and neither much changed for lost years. Knapp has escaped the black hole; Duckett the pigeonhole. Both get a shot to prove they're something more than their surroundings. Luckily, both are still pretty young for their positions. Duckett isn't entirely speed-dependent, and as power backs go, there ain't many faster. Knapp needs another back to absorb the 500 or so carries he hopes to dish out. Duckett embodies a funky combination of styles. He's part power back, part cutback rusher and part feature back. If short yardage be an indicator, he has the most awkward approach I've ever seen. He's all knees and elbows. All knees and elbows on a six foot, 250 pound frame. And when he uncoils, he glides with a clunky effortlessness that's something to behold.