A familiar face ended the Cinderella story of the 2019 Tennessee Titans. Frank Clark rose from the turf, his finger-nail and shoe-string sack of Ryan Tannehill cementing the Super Bowl trip for his new Kansas City Chiefs.
And then he celebrated.
It would have looked better in blue.
It was by no means the most important play of the game, just the most breath-releasing one for Chiefs fans.
But after all, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
That’s a bit how Clark has approached this season, as well.
So much so that this author must sincerely eat his words for the piece we put out in Week 6: “Frank Clark has not panned out in Kansas City thus far.”
Truth be told, Clark didn’t look very good in the first half of the season. Actually, he didn’t look very good until Week 7, so one has to wonder if athletes really do read their own news, and if Field Gulls should share some responsibility for a stellar turnaround.
You’re welcome, Frank.
But enough about news that nobody actually cared about, Clark included.
It’s a very sobering thing to sit at home and watch Frank Clark and Richard Sherman pack their bags to head to Miami and Super Bowl 54. It’s especially difficult not to wonder what exactly happened as Clark finished the season well and Clowney struggled to fight through a core injury.
We laughed. Out loud. For weeks. About how embarrassingly one-sided John Schneider’s assassination of the Houston Texans looked this summer.
So... how we feeling about that Frank Clark trade now? Short-term it's arguably the biggest L John Schneider has taken. Long-term they used the KC first-rounder to get LJ Collier and through a convoluted route of trades, notably drafted Cody Barton.— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) January 19, 2020
Less laughing. Besides, the Seattle Seahawks are they who must now make difficult decisions.
Gotta be bittersweet for the Seahawks to watch Frank Clark seal that win with a sack. They traded him to KC figuring they couldn't re-sign him after 2019 once DeMarcus Lawrence drove the pricetag above $20M. Will they pay Clowney more than what they weren't willing to pay Clark?— Brady Henderson (@BradyHenderson) January 19, 2020
It’s probably not that hard, but we’ll get to that later.
So Frank Clark improved as the season went on. How much? Enough to become a contributor, and at least not make ownership throw up in their mouth when they remember how much they’re paying him.
Here’s a look at how Clark fared in the first half of the season. This would include the stats that caused the original review of his play, plus a good game in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos.
Before Week 9
12 solo tackles
5 QB hits
KC record: 5-2
After Week 9
15 solo tackles
10 QB hits
KC record: 6-1
Postseason (two games)
5 solo tackles
5 QB hits
He’s had a pretty crazy postseason already. Clark also ended the game against Houston. Again, that game was also already a done deal, KC up by 20.
Frank Clark unblocked off the edge to seal it!pic.twitter.com/G7BjKTe84z— PFF (@PFF) January 12, 2020
But it does highlight that Clark gets home in a way that Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t. Or didn’t. Or can’t, I’m not really sure.
It is pretty apparent, however, that Clowney is not a pure pass rush specialist, and this is the point that has caused a lot of contention among fans.
This was the sack that finally made the Titans stop believing:
Look in particular on the double spin that Clark pulled off against left tackle Taylor Lewan. Clowney doesn’t have that. Or didn’t have that. Or can’t, I’m still not sure.
If anyone cares, Clark and Clowney had near identical numbers for forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and interceptions. To his credit Clowney demonstrated he is far superior once he gets the ball in his hand, turning two turnovers into touchdowns and not ever looking like this.
Richard Sherman’s not over there, Frank. You can run to the right.
Repeatedly, Clowney demonstrated that he’s much more of a balanced defender, especially how good he is against the run. On this team, with the flexibility they are afforded next year, that is a skill set fans should be okay with.
It’s not just this year, either. Clowney’s been the league’s best defender against the run, or in the area, since he entered the league.
Jadeveon Clowney led the NFL in run tackles for no gain or a loss! pic.twitter.com/3Caf386Ai5— PFF (@PFF) February 15, 2018
So yes, the Seahawks have a pass rush problem. It is significant. But they can’t have Clowney and Clark on the same roster.*
However, if they line up a pure edge rush on the other side, taking advantage of JD’s double teams and forcing QBs to head towards the Clown Man, this line would look and feel radically different in 2020 than the frustrations of 2019.
It’s a thing that we’ll have to deal with all offseason now, that Jadeveon Clowney and Frank Clark will be compared head-to-head, because they play (sort of?) the same position, and were traded for each other.
But they’re largely different players. Different style, strength, energies, and more.
He’s still one of my favorite players to come through Seattle in recent years, and it is exciting to see him succeed again like we knew he was capable of. Almost makes it forgivable that he’s essentially ruined the best Seahawk joke of the year by rediscovering his playmaking.
Remember when we got Clowney....
Less funny than it used to be, but still worth it IF he stays. Hopefully.
I wish Clark all the best and more importantly look forward to a healthy three-and-a-half sack game against Jimmy Garoppolo in a couple of weeks.