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State of the Blue-nion: Life after Percy Harvin

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Otto Greule Jr

Welp.

This is a drag of historical proportions. This is so new and so unusual that we almost lack the vocabulary to illustrate how stupid and bizarre yesterday actually was. To wit:

  • We paid Percival Harvin a total of $19 million to play in 8 NFL football games and 3 preseason NFL football games (he spent the 4th preseason game at home for "personal matters" which turned out to be picking a fight with Doug Baldwin)
  • We paid him $12 million of that $19 million just for signing on the line which is dotted and posing for pictures with Pete Carroll and John "I just trade-showcased Percy Harvin on Monday Night Football" Schneider
  • In exchange for the mere privilege of paying said sums to Percy Harvin, we gave up the chance to draft guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Le'Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Xavier Rhodes, and about a dozen other intriguing prospects in a draft that to date is looking quite lackluster for Seattle
  • We let Golden Tate waddle away to Detroit
  • From a trickle-down perspective, we were also forced to let Chris Clemons skulk away to Jacksonville with Red Bryant reluctantly tagging along behind him

There are more bullet points coming, but let's take a breath. That's a crazy shift in money, resources, and personnel in exchange for a non-quarterback. We knew it at the time, we know it now, but seeing it all broken out like that is...yikes.

There's another side to this coin, since we operate in three dimensions and a 2-dimensional coin is impossible unless you're trapped in A Wrinkle In Time. The other side is locker room and culture dynamics. We have not had much exposure to locker room troubles since Carroll's arrival in 2010. Then, in the space of 180 minutes yesterday, we learn...

  • Percy allegedly gave Golden Tate a black eye
  • Percy allegedly got into an altercation with Doug Baldwin, leading to his benching (stay-at-homing, really) for the 4th preseason game
  • Percy allegedly reacted poorly to Russell Wilson telling him to check himself, leading to another confrontation that has not been described in much detail. Presumably Percy just didn't react well to being told what to do, especially by a little 3rd year squirt like Russell Wilson
  • Percy allegedly took himself out of games, including the end of the Dallas game (though he was back on the field for the 4th down play that was intercepted)
  • Percy allegedly became so unhappy that he asked for a trade, and the Seahawks obliged

So, here we are. Percy flew to New Jersey this morning and will be a New York Jet pending a passed physical. The Seahawks are in Missouri, eating toasted ravioli and preparing to face the Rams. What do we make of it?

This was not about yards per catch and jet sweeps.

While it's easy to look at Percy's numbers and call this a football decision, you'll never convince me that it was. We just traded away the second best athlete to ever don a Seahawks uniform. We may never see another athlete like him in Seattle. The sweep-and-screen attack may not have panned out the way Bevell and Carroll expected it to, but precious little of that failure had anything to do with Percy. Even with the other wide receivers whiffing badly on blocks, he was still making guys miss regularly and turning negative fives into negative threes, something we have always been happy to praise Lynch for doing. You could abandon the screen game entirely and still desperately want to have Percy Harvin on your team.

So while I understand that his production has been relatively disappointing and the offense certainly didn't look right, it's impossible for me to believe that you let Percy walk because he didn't set the world on fire through five games in 2014 (though our own Kenneth Arthur nearly convinced me otherwise in a piece he wrote and published within 3 hours of this story breaking last night). There are a hundred other things you try with #11 before you label him an incompatible failure and ship him to the AFC East. Percy Harvin is gone because of the man he is, not because of the player he is.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I'm just actually using that cliche, it isn't the George Bush joke or whatever, sorry.

Percy fooled me. Deeply. All I ever saw between March of 2013 and October 17, 2014 was a guy with a shy smile who kept to himself but was happy to be in a good place. I believed that he and the other wide receivers had found an equilibrium, a silent understanding that together they were better. I believed that he and Russell Wilson were building trust and rapport, a QB1 to WR1 connection that we haven't seen in a decade. And I believed that the injury stuff was behind him. I believed that every yard gained was a little bit of redemption for him, that every reception was a step towards silencing his doubters in Minnesota and around the country. I was wrong. He is incapable of not being a dick to people.

All of that said, I think the story of today and this weekend and the coming week might serve to balance the narrative to some extent. I'm eager to hear Percy's side of the story. Golden Tate, bless him, is kind of a punchable guy. Russell Wilson is an effective leader but a bit of a corny one, and he may be difficult to get along with in the same way that most outrageously successful people are. Doug Baldwin doesn't seem like a barrel of monkeys to hang out with either. I think Percy is every bit the hotheaded troublemaker that we're hearing he is, but I wonder if the rest of the team is blameless. Marshawn Lynch immediately lamented Percy's departure on Twitter, which may mean we soon get some stories from Michael Robinson that add context to all of this.

He may have some other champions in the locker room yet to speak up. Or maybe I'll be made a fool twice. Time will tell.

Speaking of speaking up

Nobody did. That is astonishing. The timeline on the flareup with Golden Tate puts us squarely in Super Bowl Media Week, the time when countless NFL reporters and cameras and groupies and snitches and fake friends could have broken this story if anyone was grumbling about it. Nobody did.

Protect the team is Pete Carroll's first rule, and that's exactly what happened. Then we made it through an entire offseason without hearing about the Percy drama. Golden Tate left town and didn't throw anyone (directly) under the bus. Chris Clemons and Red Bryant had every opportunity to dish, and they didn't. Michael Robinson hinted at locker room troubles, but resisted spilling the beans in spite of his new role in the media. Pete Carroll has assembled a group of young, famous, competitive men who played through this nonsense without ever slipping up. It's the biggest story in all of this.

Life without Percy

As the shock of this news begins to wear off, something interesting is happening. The team makes more sense now, not less. I'm beginning to understand why things have felt so strange, why the offense was so outrageously peculiar to watch, and why the sideline and postgame atmosphere was registering "Tesla coil" levels of charged tension. We've been looking at a football team without a key piece of the puzzle. But some big questions remain.

What happens next on the football field will be fascinating to watch. How does Paul Richardson work as a Percy Harvin impersonator? How does Christine Michael respond to the first real opportunity of his career? Has Percy Harvin been blocking the development of Kevin Norwood, who may be the big Sidney Rice receiver we've been so sorely missing?

How does Bevell adjust to having his favorite toy thrown over the fence? Execution issues aside (and they are significant indeed), Percy Harvin may have simply been too much of an "easy button" for the Seahawks to resist. Why play football the hard way if we think Percy can take one of these screens to the house? Why risk throwing it downfield ever? Why run the ball 32 exhausting times every game if we can save Lynch for the playoffs? Time to start calling football games, again.

State of the Blue-nion: we good

The team is now facing a spectacular opportunity to rally. We are on the road against a hated NFC West opponent, and we can roll into that joint with an "all we need are the 53 guys in this room" mentality. I expect the Legion to sort themselves out and get back to winning games for their football team. I expect Doug Baldwin to take the opportunity and sprint away with it. I expect Russell Wilson to take over the locker room completely. "Did you see what happened to the last guy who questioned my leadership? Run with me or run from me." I expect Pete Carroll to feast on the emotions of the moment, taking it all the way back to square one: a scrappy team of fiery underdrafted misfits playing for a city that nobody can find on the map.

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