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How JaMarcus Russell and Jamaal Charles helped the Seahawks land Earl Thomas

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

I know Earl Thomas is in the middle of a contract holdout, but whatever the end story of this may be, he’s been one of the most important draft picks in Seattle Seahawks history. He’s almost certainly a future Hall-of-Famer, and I’m grateful to have watched him play in a Seahawks jersey over the last eight seasons.

...But perhaps none of this ever materializes if not for some upset wins by a couple of old Seahawks rivals.

Just to jog your memory for a quick second, one of Tim Ruskell’s final moves as Seahawks GM was to trade down from #37 to #49 in the 2009 NFL Draft, giving the Denver Broncos the #37 pick in exchange for their 2010 first-rounder. Denver wound up taking CB Alphonso Smith, while the Seahawks got Max Unger.

Heading into the 2009 season, one of the main missions for Seahawks fans was to root for losses aplenty for the Broncos, thus assuring Seattle of a high draft pick regardless of how the Seahawks’ season went.

Week 1 came along and Denver caused Gus Johnson to just about have an on-air aneurysm, thanks to this oh-so-lucky way to win.

By the time November 1st rolled around, the Broncos were inexplicably 6-0 with Kyle Orton at QB.

Regression hit Denver hard during the second-half of the season, but they were 8-5 with three weeks to go and in prime position to make the playoffs, meaning Seattle’s other draft pick would be no better than 21st overall. Not good.

December 20th, 2009

JaMarcus Russell and the 4-9 Oakland Raiders are in town, having been squashed 23-3 in the first matchup, with Russell throwing for an astounding 61 yards on 21 pass attempts.

Charlie Frye started in the rematch, but was removed from the game with a head injury. Russell was inserted into the game with the Raiders down 16-13 in the 4th quarter. With 3:29 left and trailing 19-13 to the Broncos, JaMarcus Russell turned into JaMarcus Russell Wilson. He went 6-10 for 47 yards, and the game-winning touchdown to Chaz Schilens with just :35 on the clock.

You know who missed the touchdown-saving tackle on this play? Yup, Alphonso Smith.

Broncos lose, fall to 8-6 after an embarrassing home defeat to Tom Cable’s Raiders. Suddenly, Denver going to the playoffs doesn’t look so certain!

January 3rd, 2010

After another last-second loss, this time a 30-27 setback against the Philadelphia Eagles, the 8-7 Broncos are in need of help to make the playoffs, as “win-and-in” is no longer applicable.

One of the scenarios that would’ve seen Denver into the postseason was a win over the 3-12 Kansas City Chiefs, whom they’d annihilated 44-13 at Arrowhead Stadium in December, as well as a win by the Houston Texans and a loss by the New York Jets on Sunday Night Football.

Houston won earlier that day, but results elsewhere hurt the Broncos’ chances, so the only paths to the playoffs entering the 1:15 PM PT window were:

1.) DEN win + BAL loss or tie at OAK

2.) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie

No ifs, ands, or buts.

Seahawks fans had every reason to pay attention to Chiefs-Broncos over Seattle ending a miserable season against the Tennessee Titans.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, a Texas alum and former Earl Thomas teammate, shredded the Broncos defense in historic fashion. Charles rushed for a franchise record 259 yards only 25 carries, as well as a pair of touchdowns, including a 56-yard dash that killed off any possibility that Denver was going to win.

A 44-24 thumping. Who could’ve seen that coming? From 6-0 to 8-8, and the beginning of the end of the Josh McDaniels era in Denver, who would fire him in the middle of the next season.

Now as it turned out, the Ravens won and the Jets blew out the Cincinnati Bengals, so Denver would’ve missed the playoffs anyway. However, if you look at the 2010 NFL Draft order, 9-7 would’ve dropped Seattle’s second draft pick from 14th to somewhere in the 18-20 range depending on tiebreakers.

If JaMarcus Russell doesn’t produce a rare game-winning drive (the final one of his career, in fact!), or Jamaal Charles has a so-so day on the ground, Denver is at worst 9-7, and at best a 10-6 playoff team. I’m not saying that Earl Thomas definitely would’ve ended up on another team if the Seahawks picked 18th or lower, but are you willing to take that chance? He could’ve just as easily ended up in Houston at #20, or (gulp) San Francisco at #17.

Instead, Seattle had not one but TWO picks in the top-half of the draft, and a new front office in charge. The direction of the franchise — hell, arguably the formation of the Legion of Boom itself — may have been dramatically altered without Jamaal and especially JaMarcus’ heroics at Mile High.

Oh yes, and I suppose we should also thank Tim Ruskell for making the Broncos trade happen in the first place.