Percy Harvin makes plays. That alone does not make him especially unique or remarkable to the NFL though. What sets Harvin apart is he consistently makes plays. He doesn't exactly make playmaking look easy. Such feats of effortlessness are mostly reserved for freaks of nature like Calvin Johnson. Harvin has top tier athleticism but nothing otherworldly. Percy Harvin makes playmaking look... organic - like he was put on this planet to do so.
One might point to his competitiveness and physicality as the root of this feeling. Yet fellow Seahawk and undersized playmaker, Golden Tate, is similarly touted for his competitiveness and physicality and I get a dramatically different feeling from watching him play. To use fire as a metaphor, Tate's competitive fire burns bright. There are times when he gets going and just seems completely unstoppable. But the fire is erratic. There are other times when you could run your hand through the fire and not get burned.
Harvin's competitive fire burns more like an ember. It's steady, it's extremely hot, but it's not bright. If you put your hand on an ember, you're going to get burned, every single time. This is a rare quality for a wide receiver. Even for the best WRs, explosive plays are few and far between. It's really no wonder why great receivers are synonymous for being divas. Big play receivers marvel at their own playmaking ability right alongside the rest of us. Harvin has a certain, "another day at the office," demeanor about him that you don't often find from a dynamic playmaker.
One could look to a guy like Larry Fitzgerald as another big play receiver with a blue collar demeanor. Yet Harvin's competitiveness is palpable, where Fitzgerald competes with seemingly zero emotion. I would describe Fitz as a technician who has mastered his craft. This demeanor is not uncommon for a receiver and comes woefully short of defining Harvin's play style.
I've struggled with putting words to Percy Harvin's effect on the field since the very day that we traded for him. My epiphanous moment finally came through a completely unrelated medium...
A couple weekends ago I powered up the DVD player to watch an episode of HBO's award winning miniseries Band of Brothers, which chronicles the incredible story of Easy Company in World War II. Easy had just helped the Allies halt the German's desperate bid to march on Paris in the Battle of the Bulge, and were now ready to go on the offensive. The first step was to seize the strategically significant town of Foy.
Easy needed to quickly cross an open field before German artillery could zero in on their position. Unfortunately, under the incompetent leadership of Lieutenant Dyke, the attack stalled at the precise moment when it was imperative to be pressing forward. The former commanding officer of Easy Company, Captain Winters, was overseeing the assault and briefly considered taking over command himself. However the recently promoted captain was called back due to his now elevated rank. So instead he called upon, well, I'll let you see for yourself...
Percy Harvin is the Lieutenant Ronald Speirs of the NFL.
Football is incredibly simple for Lieutenant Percy Harvin. There's nothing brilliant about what he does on the field. He simply does it more fearlessly and efficiently than anyone else. More than Harvin's tremendous talent, I think this is why Adrian Peterson, the "Player's Champ," said what he said when the Vikings sent Harvin to Seattle.
The best all around player I ever seen or you'll ever see! Goes to Seattle! I feel like I just got kicked in the stomach. Several times!!!— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 11, 2013
Lieutenant Harvin exposes momentum for the illusion that it is. Every offense in the league suffers moments when they can't move the football. Maybe it's the feeling of a surging opposing offense, maybe it's stewing over a stupid turnover, maybe it's consecutive three-and-outs. Whatever it is, prior results seem to build on each other and affect future results. Momentum. There is zero logic behind this phenomena but it's still a credible theory because humans are not ruled by logic.
The quarterback position has arguably the greatest influence over a playing field in all of team sports. They're the field general who executes the attack. Thus, the league's elite quarterbacks have an ability to override the illusion of momentum and keep their team in the game. I believe that Percy Harvin is one of the few "troopers" in the NFL who similarly possesses this ability. He has the Ronald Speirs Effect on the field.
Lieutenant Percy Harvin changes the game on an emotional level which seems impossible for his position. Part of that is his talent, part of it is how many ways you can put the football in his hands. But mostly it's the ember of competitiveness he plays with and the relentless assault he brings against the defense.