BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/13/2013

Thiel: Harvin’s fit a test for Carroll, Seahawks

The return of Percy Harvin, who comes with high risk and high reward, echoes a similar scenario endured by the Sounders with star Clint Dempsey. It’s a little different, but . . .

Percy Harvin appears ready to get on an NFL field for the first time in a year Sunday. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

One of the trickier sports-management headaches is about to arrive in Pete Carroll’s frontal lobe — attempting to improve a team near the top of its game by adding a new superstar player in mid-season. If the Seahawks coach needs any instruction on how not to handle it, he can call Adrian Hanauer, Sounders general manager.Hanauer told reporters Monday that the Sounders’ locker room became a tense place after the introduction of Clint Dempsey, the American star bought from his EPL  team when the Sounders were on the rise in August.

Dempsey played in 12 matches, starting nine, in which the Sounders went 3-5-1, Dempsey contributing one goal and one assist in 921 minutes as the highest-paid player in MLS. Worse, the more he played, the less the results. The Sounders had a late-season screamer of a collapse, losing nine of their final 10 matches, including a pair in the playoffs to the demon spawn Timbers of Portland.

Obviously, there were more factors in the flop than the collision of egos surrounding Dempsey’s arrival. There was also a difference with the Seahawks in the circumstances — Dempsey was a surprise to everyone, especially including players. The Seahawks traded much treasure in March to acquire WR Percy Harvin from Minnesota, conveniently the foe Sunday at the Clink.

He was a part of the plan, and the workouts, prior to his hip injury that required surgical repair in August. Now, he’s back on the 53-man roster, and if all goes well in practice this week, will see his first Sunday action in a calendar year.

The transition will be helped by the coincidence of a season-ending injury to fellow WR Sidney Rice, purportedly Seattle’s top downfield and red-zone target. So the Seahawks would seem to have a tactical need for Harvin’s remarkable skills, even though he is a different type of receiver.

But the Seahawks are also an NFC-best 9-1 and coming off a large road win in Atlanta in which WR Golden Tate and WR Jermaine Kearse had big impacts in the best game the offense has had this season. Obviously, one productive game doesn’t resolve much regarding the offense’s immediate future, and the investment in Harvin was for the long term.

But this season is shaping up as an epic chance for the Seahawks to take it all. Every discerning sports fan in town understands that the Seahawks are young, deep and talented, virtues that can erode quickly with each season. They just beat a team in the Falcons who, after eliminating the Seahawks last year, looked to be in good competitive shape for the next season or two. Instead, they are 2-7 and groping to find the doors the Seahawks blew off Sunday.

Even the Seattle schedule has turned out relatively kind, as Steve Rudman pointed out here. Four of the Seahawks’ final six games are at home, where they seemingly are undefeated since pterodactyls filled the skies, while the division-rival 49ers executed a face-plant Sunday at home against Carolina.

Nothing can be assumed, of course, except for one thing — Seattle sports fans are aching so much for a championship, the radiation registers on Geiger counters.  Thousands are showing up to the Seahawks’ road games, to the astonishment of all who bear witness. Even Hanauer, a Seattle native, picked up on the vibe from his Sounders perch.

“Certainly this is the town in this country . . .  (where) it feels like there is more pressure in  to win a championship than any other town,” he said. “I feel that pressure as a general manager, as an owner, as a fan.”

The Sounders scuffed what seemed like a good chance for an MLS title, and the disappointment in the soccer crowd is sharp enough to strip paint. Now the Seahawks are not only local but national darlings, a good story with amusing personalities, for much higher stakes, so that each game becomes an intense communal search for greatness, or anguish over shortcomings.

Into the adrenaline stew is thrown Harvin, who in his time in Minnesota proved to be a volatile, controversial figure. At 25, he begins his sixth professional season astride  great confidence by his coaches, a big investment by ownership and greater expectations from ticket buyers. With a scar on his repaired hip.

The unspoken message? Percy, don’t screw it up.

“It’s a very upbeat feeling around our locker room right now,” Carroll said Monday. “These guys are excited to see (injured starters) Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini back in. (Center) Max Unger comes back to us this week. If everything works out right during the week, there’s a chance that all three could play this week.

“The potential of Percy just adds to that. So the push is really on right now; a very intense time during the season.”

Carroll has a good track record of managing characters with tumultuous histories. But this is a rare circumstance — adding a premier (and initially tender) talent in mid-season of an already soaring year in a market that longs for championship reward.

The Seahawks saw how it played out with their futbol brethren who share the civic playpen. The Sounders were the footie epitome of the wisdom offered by the comic-strip immortal, Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    The Seahawks hasn’t had much luck in the free agent market looking for the hext Steve Largent/Terell Owens/Randy Moss. They spent a first round draft pick on Koren Robinson and have brought in over the years Nate Burleson, Deion Branch, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Sidney Rice and Harvin. Their best results have been when they drafted Darrell Jackson (2nd round) Bobby Engram (free agent after playing only 3 games the previous season due to illness) Golden Tate (2nd round) and Doug Baldwin. (non-drafted free agent)
    It’s like the players that should have developed didn’t and the ones that were a gamble did, though some thought Tate should have been drafted in the 1st round. When the Hawks drafted James Carpenter I was hoping they’d take Jon Baldwin of Pitt. He’s a tall WR at 6’4″ which I think the Hawks need though KC traded him after an unventful rookie year so it’s a good thing I’m not an NFL scout. Still, would love to see the Hawks invest in a tall WR.

    • Effzee

      Yep. Tall WRs who can get open (Larry Fitzgerald, for example) are a rare commodity, so they have to be big and physical. Jermaine Kearse: Physical. Sidney Rice: Not so physical. Mike Williams: Physical, but slow as molasses. I was weary of the Rice signing and the Harvin signing. My fear was that they were soft guys who really don’t like to be hit hard and who get injured very easily. You know, like the typical SEC wide receiver. I am always doubtful of SEC wide receivers and quarterbacks. Hardly any of them ever make it big in the NFL. The SEC is far better at running and defense than passing the ball, and always has been. JS and PC seem to do far better with “desire” guys than with “talent” guys.

      • 3brettb3

        Harvin is anything but soft. He’s a very physical receiver who seeks out contact. He’s not just a speed guy.

        • Effzee

          That’s a bit reassuring. I don’t really follow the Vikings, so my impression from here is that he just kept getting injured, which I tend to equate to being soft.

      • Matt712

        Not sure I’d characterize Harvin as a guy who doesn’t like to get hit. On the contrary, he seems to relish doing the hitting as well. And that’s a problem. He’s an F1 car at a monster truck rally and he thinks he can take ‘em all on. Makes for quite a spectacle… for a few minutes. I hope (and suspect) he’s being coached to protect himself better. But I’m not sure if his intensely competitive nature will allow him to. If his tough-guy style was inspired by Adrian Peterson, God only knows how he might ratchet up playing next to Marshawn.

  • ll9956

    I’m not surprised to see Art write this article. When the trio of Kearse, Tate and Baldwin performed so extremely well in the last couple of games, I couldn’t help but wonder if the addition of Harvin could turn out to be a case of trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Needless to say I hope this concern proves to be needless and that Harvin just adds another dimension to an already formidable corps of gifted pass catchers.

    • PokeyPuffy

      agree, hopefully everyone gets enough touches. Kearse/Tate/Baldwin are a great bunch, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I can recall when being a Seahawk meant dropping catchable passes…

    • Bayview Herb

      I think Harvin needs to earn his way into the lineup. You don’t want to replace success with ?

  • Paul Maggard

    why you even putting us in the same talk as a non factor soccer team? we play foot ball and no matter how you try to spin it soccer sucks GO HAWKS kick some ass and take some names and everyone in the team as known for a long time Percy was here so not the same thing moron

    • PokeyPuffy

      yikes!

  • PokeyPuffy

    Regarding Harvin, these chemistry questions are fair to ask. The one thing occurs to me is the current receiving corps is very much in line with what Carrol would want. They are a bit unorthodox but they make catches and are low maintenance. This has allowed Pete to focus time and resources on other areas of the game that he feels are more impactful (i.e. defense). Now he has a prima donna on O. how will it work? Here’s hoping its a good fit

  • Just Wondering

    I don’t think the schedule is as soft as people are saying:
    - Saints on a Monday night after a 15 day layoff is a tough game.
    - six days later on the road against the Whiners.
    - following week a 10AM PST start in NY. If the Giants have played themselves into some kind of playoff contention, the officiating will be brutal.
    - Cards and Rams at home. Good, but both are unpredictable and would probably be leading the NFC East and maybe even the Central.
    I thought the Bills were right today to gripe about their questionable schedule … and Seahawks isn’t much better.

  • Steve McAbee

    Will Harvin provide that rarest of things: A reality that lives up to the hype?

  • Steve McAbee

    Oh BTW, this is a lousy time for Paul Allen’s empire to disintegrate. Better clean it up.