Harvin’s astonishing trade another example of coaches who think, or maybe hope, they know players, yet don’t. At least Seahawks were smart enough to accept a sunk cost.
A track record of dysfunction was there in college at Florida and followed him to his first NFL team in Minnesota. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was proud of his success rate with some players who were deemed by others to be incorrigible or irredeemable. He gambled up to $67 million, $25.5 million guaranteed, plus three draft choices, that he could fix Percy Harvin.
But before you brand Carroll a naive egotist, save some bile for Mike Holmgren. The former Seahawks coach thought the same thing about Koren Robinson and Jerramy Stevens. Didn’t work out there, either.
Most successful coaches believe they are fixers. They believe their words, deeds and supportive environments bring out the best and minimize the worst in the high-maintenance thoroughbreds that electrify in the stadium and paralyze in the locker room/clubhouse.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Ask Bill Belichick about Aaron Hernandez, Harvin’s old teammate at Florida. I’m not saying Harvin is anywhere close to Hernandez in terms of a character failure. I’m saying . . . a coach is like a parent, spouse, sibling, teacher or therapist. They think they know, they hope they know, but they can’t always know.
The specifics of Harvin’s short, partly spectacular and ultimately failed tenure in Seattle await disclosures from anonymous sources, and perhaps something on the record from retired fullback/active TV oracle Michael Robinson. But the conclusion is unmistakable as it is astonishing — the defending Super Bowl champions made a rare, controversial and league-startling trade at midseason because they thought they had a better chance to repeat by booting Harvin for nothing in return in 2014.
Basically, he was fired.
Dismissal came after two weird games even more absurd in hindsight. Against Washington, he had three touchdowns called back — a club record by two — because of penalties, including one on him, and against Dallas, he had three rushes and three receptions that totaled minus-one yard. That is a bewildering blizzard of non-production.
Theories vary. Carroll, who called Harvin’s acquisition “a no-brainer,” and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell have owned up generically to needing to improve the game plan by Sunday in St. Louis. But they remain here, and Harvin does not, so that speaks to their conclusion.
This chart shows that, for all the excitement about Harvin’s undeniable skills, his Seattle production, thanks in part to injuries, was modest:
|11/17/13||Minn||1-17||0-0||1-58||KOR first play as Seahawk|
|1/11/14||NO||3-17||1-9||0-0||Departed with concussion|
|2/2/14||Den||1-5||2-45||1-87||TD to open SB second half|
|9/4/14||GB||7-59||4-41||3-60||Long catch of 33 yards|
|9/14/14||SD||1-5||2-45||3-68||Long rush of 51 yards|
|9/21/14||Den||7-42||0-0||1-13||Long catch of 11 yards|
|10/6/14||Wash||4-27||2-7||0-0||3 touchdowns called back|
|10/12/14||Dal||3-0||3-1||5-142||Had long KOR of 46 yards|
|Totals||27-167||14-148||14-428||No regular-season TDs|
There’s more going on than Harvin’s lack of production. The Seattle Times reported Friday night that sources said Harvin refused to re-enter the game late against Dallas Sunday. He missed 11 of the game’s final 17 snaps. That may partly explain Carroll’s confusing answer to a question Wednesday about Harvin’s absence, saying that some substitutions were “random.”
The Times also reported that Harvin and WR Doug Baldwin had an altercation during the week of practice leading up to the Aug. 26 preseason finale at Oakland. Baldwin was cut on the chin and both were excused from practice. Harvin did not travel to Oakland, which the team described as “a personal matter.”
The Times confirmed a tweet by a radio talk show host in Houston that claimed an NFL source told him Harvin punched fellow WR Golden Tate during Super Bowl week and left a black eye.
History of confrontations w/ teammates contd in SEA according to my guy including punching G Tate during SB week & near fight w/ #3 in ‘14
— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) October 17, 2014
If the description of the episodes are accurate, the Seahawks were fortunate to get for him a fourth-round pick from the New York Jets, where a former Seahawks front office exec, John Idzik, is GM.
The deal has yet to be announced by either team until paperwork is completed and Harvin passes a physical. The pick reportedly could escalate to a second-rounder if Harvin meets performance levels, but in no way can the return come close to a wash in terms of franchise treasure expended.
The Harvin trade turned out to be a colossal bust. Yet they still won a Super Bowl. And to the Seahawks’ credit, they recognized a sunk cost and made a move, no matter the damage to reputation nor cost in fan disappointment and media mockery. They will also save $6.47 million this year in salary under the cap that can be rolled over into 2015 to help accommodate Russell Wilson’s pending mega-contract.
In hindsight, Carroll this week perhaps dropped a hint about the pending change when he answered with a gush about a question about two rookie receivers, Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, who drew much praise in training camp preseason but have barely seen the field in the regular season.
“Yes, we’d love to have those guys playing,” he said. “They practice like starters — they’re really top-notch guys and it kills me. Like last week, we had to sit both of those guys down (on the inactive list) and they’re worth playing and being out there.”
We’ll see what happens Sunday in St. Louis. But don’t expect a quick fix. The Seahawks offense hasn’t been spritely for a while. In 2013, a glance at the final seven games prior to the Super Bowl reveals that the Seahawks did not have a total offense figure of more than 330 yards in any game. Defense and special teams delivered so well that the mostly absent Harvin wasn’t missed.
The mushroom cloud produced at the Super Bowl, thanks in large part to two weeks of prep time and a voracious defense, obscured some shortcomings. As Carroll himself said this week, “We lost three games and five more could have gone either way.”
As 2014 rolls out, the flaws are compounded by injuries to TE Zach Miller, C Max Unger and an increasingly limited LT Russell Okung. Simply getting rid of Harvin and adding two rookies is not a resolution. It is a patch.
But at least Bevell, who was an assistant at Minnesota when Harvin was there, will no longer be troubled by trying to balance the egos and productivity of two well-paid stars in Harvin and RB Marshawn Lynch. All Bevell has to do is remake the rest of the playbook to outwit a defense that has 77 sacks, hits and tackles for loss on Wilson during his four career meetings with the Rams.
But that was then, and Sunday is now for a 3-2 Seahawks team that had to be rocked by the trade. The 1-4 Rams have their own problems, and the Seahawks would seemingly have one less.
But the outcome looms extra-large for the resume of Carroll. He has to coach his way out of his biggest mistake.