This story has been 575 days in the making. That’s how long it was from the moment the Seattle Seahawks drafted Shaquem Griffin out of UCF, until his coming-of-age party Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Eagles.
This was not Shaquem’s first game, not by a long shot. He’s been a special teams regular throughout his early career. He even started his first career game when K.J. Wright was unable to begin the 2018 season. For anyone who remembers the season opener, Griffin’s first outing was....unfortunate. His coverage ability was notably outmatched as he had at multiple significant errors, including one that led directly to a touchdown.
Even the Seattle Seahawks aren’t capable of changing everyone’s position. Griffin has played as an edge rusher - his primary role in college - the previous two games, and it’s clear this is where he belongs.
But before we get to his most recent play, a moment. A moment for celebration and statistics. A moment to boldly declare that this has the potential to be the greatest story of the NFL this season on so many levels.
Fun fact: there are four pairs of twins currently in the NFL. If you were surprised by that number, so was I. Only 0.4% of the population are identical twins. According to the NCAA, only 1.6% of college players make it to the NFL. If we multiply the fractions, accounting for the representative population of collegiate athletes against the overall populus of America, the probability of identical twins playing professional football at the same time is......
insane. I don’t do well with numbers smaller than 1.
But seriously, the fact that there are four sets of twins in the league doesn’t even really make sense. What’s weirder, is that until recently three of them were on the same team. The McCourty brothers both play for the New England Patriots. Until this summer, so did another set of twins, until John Schneider messed it all up. Seattle’s very own Jacob Hollister is a twin, while his brother Cody is still on the Pats.
But until recently, it was really just a fun story that people had to work hard to remember. We hadn’t seen Shaquem do anything of note since he picked off Russell Wilson in training camp. There was even potential for that story to end had he not made the team this year, which may have become reality if the Seahawks had kept Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo.
The story of a brother who followed his brother through high school, then to UCF, then even to a professional football team, always having to work harder because of his one hand. Though that’s plenty exciting to fill time for the media, it’s never once been the end goal for Shaquem.
#AgainstAllOdds does not stop at being on the roster. I’m sure it doesn’t mean being a special teams speedster either. Quem wants to hit quarterbacks.
After all, his brother has turned into a very good, borderline top-of-the-class cornerback, and he’s not even any faster, according to Shaquem.
For those who were traveling abroad, or perhaps in a coma, during the 2018 draft, it came out that the Griffin brothers have been doing the same drills with their father for years. Hear that again - two brothers, with three hands combined, did the exact same drills in the backyard year after year. From the way they described it, those drills involved getting the ball thrown at them really hard by a grown man over and over.
Yet it was a disability, a physical disadvantage, and a distrust from coaches that kept Shaquem from finding opportunities as quickly as Shaquill. Quil, who started first at UCF, was drafted first by the Seahawks, and made a big splash quickly in his first and now third seasons in the NFL. In his astonishing open letter to NFL GM’s - which definitely has not made me tear up every time I’ve read it - he describes the confusion and frustration of sitting for three years at UCF before being unleashed.
So it was more than just a game on Sunday. It was a lifelong dream realized. The Bros. Griffin played on the same field, at the same time, on the same team. Beyond that, they both played meaningful football, as significant contributors. My sources also tell me that Shaquem registered the first one-handed fumble recovery in the NFL’s history.
It’s already been clear that Quil is having a Pro Bowl caliber season. He’s among the league leaders in yards allowed, opposing QB ratings, and passes defensed.
He doesn’t play like Richard Sherman, but he’s played well enough to shed that shadow and be a great corner in his own right. He’ been a staple of the Seahawks defense all year.
Shaquem, meanwhile, is back in the position that earned him Peach Bowl Defensive MVP. In a mere 35 snaps on Sunday, he registered two QB hits, a forced fumble that will never be on his stat sheet, and a fumble recovery that apparently doesn’t count statistically, either. It’s unbelievable how hard this guy has to work for anything to go his way.
They both happened on the same play, so here you go:
The fumble gets credited to Carson Wentz by rule because it looks like a QB-RB handoff miss. The recovery doesn’t count because Jefferson was flags, down by contact, and a host of unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense.
Now that you’ve seen the play once or twice, it also reveals why people love the Griffin brothers so much. The word joy gets used a lot. They exude it, it’s totally genuine, and it surrounds them all the time.
Yes, the genuine joy of Shaquem and Shaquill Griffin made the trip to London. So refreshing, real seeing their dreams coming true in the NFL as #Seahawks teammates, roommates. @thenewstribune pic.twitter.com/D4ZKtdOgbP— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) October 11, 2018
But go back and look at the fumble-fumble-near-touchdown above. Especially the second angle. Quem trucks Miles Sanders, then starts running to his own sideline to celebrate. It doesn’t appear to be cockiness; he’s genuinely excited for the big play. The sideline Seahawks emphatically let him know that the play wasn’t over, and you can see him fly back on screen moments later to successfully chase down the ball. He’s got more energy than a one-year old cheetah on his first true hunt.
It should have been an even bigger day for Shaquem; one sack was close and another should have been called.
Wish I could've seen a closer replay on this in slow mo because I'm pretty confident Wentz still had the ball when his knee hit the ground... Should've been @Shaquemgriffin's first NFL sack. pic.twitter.com/6PyaTW018Y— Corbin Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) November 26, 2019
It was encouraging to see the success of the inside moves Quem was able to put on against the Eagles. He’ll continue to maintain his plus speed as a linebacker or edge rusher, and so the extra inside swim move is a great tool to add.
Huge difference from San Francisco game to yesterday for Shaquem Griffin... watch him set up this swim move with explosive upfield rush first, then shoots back inside.— Corbin Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) November 26, 2019
That's called executing a pass rushing plan... now just has to finish! But still forces errant incompletion. pic.twitter.com/gPUvPa6xMA
The Seattle defensive line is beginning to resemble the 2013/14 version in that it’s got more effective players than it knows what to do with. This was one of the two most effective days as a unit, and Jadeveon Clowney didn’t even play. Which is a good problem to have, but it would be more than a little sad if Clowney and Jarran Reed make it back into the lineup only to see Shaquem disappear to the sidelines again. He’s more than a disadvantaged player, he truly is a high motor with lots of talent. Personally, I thought Ziggy Ansah was a goner and that Quem had grabbed his role for the time being, but then Ansah and went and had a great game of his own.
We’ll just have to let the coaches sort out play time for what is no longer the weak link on this Seahawks defense. Shaquem is guaranteed never to get as many snaps as his brother. Shaquill’s almost a lock for 100% snap count week in and week out, which edge rushers simply can’t do. But you’d be crazy to not be trying to figure out how to get Shaquem at least similar play time to what he’s seen the last couple weeks. Furthermore, this team is no longer characterized by machismo, or chippy swagger, or whatever you call what Sherman and Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett had. It’s more defined by Russell Wilson’s sheer inability to give up on anything ever. I can’t think of a better duo to fit right in and strengthen that culture on the defensive side. than Quem and Quil. The two brothers who embody a belief that quitting is not an option, obstacles are worth overcoming, and football is one big freakin’ joy.