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What's Wrong With John Carlson, Final

When I say John Carlson, my wife says "John Carlson's agent." This stems the from the summer of 2008, when I told my wife to remind me to contact Carlson's agent to set up an interview. Ultimately, I decided I didn't want to interview Carlson. It wasn't what I did and it wasn't a relationship I wanted to forge with a player. It would have created short term dividends, assuming I could have actually set up the interview (and I'm persistent), but it would have muddied the waters. It's also why I have dropped organizing the Brandon Mebane event. I love Mebane the player, but, as much fun as it would be, it's not my prerogative to help create hype and goodwill for him as an employee. I am probably partisan enough, frankly.

Journalistic objectivity is in the news right now after the firing of Juan Williams by NPR. I have always found the argument that a journalist must be objective to be kind of preposterous. Can humans be objective? Is it even possible with how the human brain works? Logic is an invention rather than an innate method of thought, and anyone who presumes themselves to be above bias and emotion has no chance of being fair. That's really what the media should strive to be, fair, equitable and accurate. Mindful that bias, superstition and emotion must be overcome rather than denied.

So, when I quizzed myself why Carlson was struggling so bad this season, and that is an inference but one I'm sure I'm not alone in reaching, I came up with a few stock answers:

  • Carlson is struggling with the new offense. He is playing three positions: tight end, wide receiver and, occasionally, fullback/split back. I remembered incomplete passes that stemmed from route confusion, and that seemed to be the answer. After inspection, I only marked five plays as "undefined." These are plays involving route confusion, or, in one case, an early pass / a pass Carlson didn't make a strong effort to receive. So, though problems with the new offense might contribute, it's a minor part of his "struggles."
  • Carlson is a typical polished Ruskell pick that peaked early and is now declining though only 26. This seems to be unsupported nonsense, something I considered because of the modest early showings of Darryl Tapp and Josh Wilson.
  • Carlson is the listed target on a lot of uncatchable passes. And this one seems like the best explanation, but I would extend it further.

Carlson is receiving for a quarterback that, and I confront this idea every so often, might be among the very worst starters in the NFL. Matt Hasselbeck might be so bad, not just weak armed but hesitant, sometimes wild, incapable of completing a roll out, and, yes, incapable of challenging safeties deep, that it's borderline impossible to evaluate any skill position player independent of him.

This isn't a novel idea either, I seemingly mention it all the time. Not just with Hasselbeck, but a player like Terrell Owens, who I noted this off-season

It does make sense for somebody to pursue the controversial, but nevertheless sensational, wide receiver. [Owens'] last season in Dallas wasn't too hot, and maybe he really has lost too much to be good again, but if I had to pin blame for his DYAR disaster in 2009, I would look first to Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

and boy was the sarcasm dripping off that post*. In fact, I look for hidden receiver talent every off-season and in the draft, because a receiver truly can not accomplish almost anything independent of his quarterback.

*Owens, it should be noted, is having another poor season for receiving DYAR, despite ranking fourth in the NFL in receiving yards. Which, well, he wouldn't have done in better in Seattle.

My final tally has 17 passes listed as "no fault", Carlson's 17 receptions. Hopeless third down attempts and two and three yard targets into coverage are not helping his DYAR or EPA, but they're not mistakes, per se. Two, yes, two, passes are listed as Carlson's fault. You can add three if you think he should have caught that deep pass before being blown up by Rashad Johnson. You can also add some of the route confusion passes if you think those are solely Carlson's fault, though I think that's speculative. I recorded five passes that failed but lack a clear player to blame.

Lets break this out in case anyone suffers paragraph fatigue: 15 of John Carlson's 39 targets were intercepted or fell incomplete because of Matt Hasselbeck, 38% of all targets.

I didn't know where this series of posts would lead, and, honestly, between a desire to move on from the eternal bench-Hasselbeck debate and my absolute exhaustion of pointing out just how poorly Matt has played, I didn't want to write another post that concludes that Hasselbeck is to blame, but Hasselbeck is to blame. Not entirely, but predominately, and for every play I as a screwup by Hasselbeck, we can probably speculate another is not even attempted. Because not only is Matt not completing passes he is attempting, but a better, more capable quarterback could attempt and complete better, more valuable passes. Carlson's value is limited both by what Matt does and what he incapable of doing.

Apart from that broken record, dead horse, elephant in the living room, we can take heart that if there is something wrong with John Carlson, there is little evidence to suggest as much. Carlson is probably just fine. The same route running machine we learned to love, with underrated athleticism and strong hands. We can take heart that there is talent on this offense, and then we can remember it doesn't make a damn bit of difference until someone can take advantage of it.

(This becomes a grind, I have to admit. And that sucks, because it's a grind that I simultaneously love. When I think about starting a general NFL blog, this is exactly why. The NFL is awesome, full of talented players and exciting matchups, but as much as I love the Seahawks, Seattle plays bad, sloppy football, and the major reason why is that they start a broken, aging quarterback. If Charlie Whitehurst isn't the solution and this season plays out how it looks to play out, there really isn't an end in sight. What I do at Field Gulls isn't really rah-rah, it's more like criticism, and criticizing only the Seahawks is a bit like, well, a bit like being an art critic that only ever visits the Seattle Art Museum. You can wait for great things to come, but in the interim, you can only rephrase "the Kurt Cobain Exhibit sucks balls" in so many ways. And I got to tell you, friend to friend, the Kurt Cobain Exhibit sucks balls.)