BY Howie Stalwick 06:30AM 06/26/2015

Top 15 worst moves in Northwest sports

Some sports list-makers claim the Seahawks’ final Super Bowl pass was the worst move in sports history. But it’s only No. 3 on Howie Stalwick’s Northwest list.

This unforgettable moment is No. 3 on the list of worst moves in Northwest sports./ Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The last-minute interception that may have cost the Seattle Seahawks a second consecutive Super Bowl championship is the gift that keeps on giving nightmares to Seahawks fans.

Worthly.com published a list of the 15 worst decisions in sports history. Guess what came in No. 1? Yep, the Seahawks’ ill-fated decision to throw from the 1-yard line instead of handing off the ball to Marshawn Lynch in February.

Considering that the Boston Red Sox once sold 24-year-old superstar Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for around $100,000, it is highly questionable if the Seahawks’ Super Bowl decision truly rates as the worst in sports history. In fact, it doesn’t even rate No. 1 on our list of the 15 worst decisions in Pacific Northwest sports history.

15. A Ty was A Loss

Tyrone Willingham’s so-so record and oh-no personality (or lack of one) led to his dismissal as Notre Dame’s football coach after just three years. The Washington Huskies, apparently in need of fewer victories and spectators, jumped at the opportunity to hire Willingham after the 2004 season. The result was four losing seasons in as many tries, which helps explain why Willingham’s next coaching job came as a volunteer assistant with the Stanford women’s golf team. One presumes Dry Ty’s motivational talks in golf (“Hit that ball. Please. If you’re so inclined. Go, uh, Stanford.”) were every bit as riveting as in football (“Hit that player. Please. If you’re so inclined. Go, uh, Washington.”).

14. Sonics not too Swift

Skinny high school center Robert Swift, the Seattle SuperSonics’ top draft pick (12th overall) in 2004, drew more attention for his countless tattoos and personal demons than for any discernible playing skills. The 7-footer was stapled to the bench during most of his four NBA seasons with Seattle and averaged 4.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. Then his life turned into a mess, documented here by the Seattle Times.

13. Mercy, mercy, Percy

Percy Harvin is a big-time talent. Everyone knows that. Harvin is also a big-time pain. Everyone knows that, but the Seahawks threw millions at Harvin in the hope that he would become a changed man in Seattle. As usual, Harvin spent more time injured than active and complaining than playing before he was shipped off to the New York Jets in October. In a little more than one season with Seattle, Harvin played in eight games.

12. Cougars cry Wulff

Paul Wulff loved his alma mater and truly believed he could revive the Washington State football program. Love, as they say, is blind. Wulff got the ax after going 9-40 from 2008-11. For all the misery Wazzu has experienced on the gridiron over the years, no other Cougars football coach comes close to matching Wulff’s career winning percentage of .184.

11. Spokane puck-ered out

Spokane’s population barely topped 100,000 when budding hockey legend Lester Patrick brought major league hockey to the city in 1916-17. The Spokane Canaries – that’s right, Canaries – finished last in their only season in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association while playing in an unheated arena with no roof. Temperatures often dipped below freezing inside the arena, and crowds (surprise!) were minuscule. “The high price (of tickets) has become a stumbling block to many who are curious to see the new league, but not to the extent of $1,” Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper reported. By the way, the PCHA’s Seattle Metropolitans downed the Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup that year.

10. Vandal declares . . . insanity?

Idaho Vandals basketball player David Henderson, a junior college transfer, averaged 1.5 points and 0.9 assists in his only season in Moscow. The backup point guard played in just 16 games and shot 25 percent from the field and 55 percent at the free-throw line. Naturally, Henderson passed up his senior season to declare himself eligible for the 1990 NBA draft. Naturally, he was not drafted. Naturally, he never played a nanosecond in the NBA.

9. The Boz not the worst

The Seahawks once wasted a draft pick on LB Brian Bosworth, but The Boz was just one of countless draft blunders made by NFL teams. Seattle’s worst pick? On defense, LB Aaron Curry gets the nod. The Seahawks guaranteed Curry $34 million – a rookie record for guaranteed money for a non-quarterback at the time — after drafting him fourth overall in 2009. Curry barely made it to his third season before he was benched and then traded to Oakland. On offense, Seattle’s worst draft goes to QB Rick Mirer. The No. 2 pick in the 1993 draft lasted four seasons in Seattle, passing for 41 touchdowns and 56 interceptions before he was dealt to Chicago. How did Mirer fare in the Windy City? “Mirer,” Chicago Tribune sports columnist Bernie Lincicome wrote, “is to quarterbacking what nose hair is to coleslaw.”

8. Pippen sent packin’

The Sonics selected Scottie Pippen fifth overall in the 1987 NBA draft and promptly traded him to Chicago for No. 8 pick Olden Polynice and two future nobodies. Pippen was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. In a related development, Polynice was named one of the 50 greatest centers in Sonics history.

7. Big Train passes through Tacoma

A hard-throwing young pitcher tried out for the Tacoma Tigers minor league baseball team in 1906, but player-manager Mike Lynch cut Walter Johnson and advised him to consider becoming an outfielder. One year later, “The Big Train” began a 21-year major league career as one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. No one has ever topped Johnson’s 110 shutouts, and only Cy Young bettered Johnson’s 417 wins.

6. Bowie boo-boo

 The Portland Trail Blazers drafted Kentucky center Sam Bowie second overall in 1984. The Blazers chose to ignore Bowie’s history of leg injuries in college, but more leg problems limited him to a total of 63 games in four of his five years in Portland. That’s bad enough, but the Blazers selected Bowie one pick before the Chicago Bulls took a flyer on a guy named Michael Jordan.

5. Mariners malaise

Picking the Mariners’ worst personnel move is akin to picking the worst Vin Diesel acting performance. In no particular order, read ‘em and weep: Lost superstars Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez. Traded Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Traded Adam Jones and Chris Tillman for Erik Bedard. Traded David Ortiz for Dave Hollins. Traded Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Traded Doug Fister for Charlie Furbush and assorted warm bodies.

Costly (in more ways than one) signings of spectacularly inept free agents Carlos Silva, Chone Figgins, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, Scott Spiezio, etc. Granted clubhouse access to renowned clubhouse cancer Milton Bradley. Drafted high school outfielder Tito Nanni sixth overall in 1978. Nanni’s only apparent weaknesses were an inability to hit, field or run particularly well. He spent seven years in the minors and zero days in the majors.

Ryan Leaf’s career did not go well.

4. A falling Leaf

It is difficult to fathom, but it was hotly debated whether Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf should go first in the 1998 NFL draft. Granted, both quarterbacks enjoyed superb college careers. The Indianapolis Colts selected Payton No. 1 out of Tennessee, and he developed into one of the NFL’s all-time greats. The San Diego Chargers selected Leaf No. 2 out of Washington State, and he developed into one of the NFL’s all-time busts.

3. Hawks in Pick Mode

The Seahawks were three feet away from what would have been their second consecutive Super Bowl title when they chose not to hand the ball off to Lynch, who stands almost six feet tall. If one of the most powerful running backs in NFL history had simply carried the ball to the line of scrimmage, tripped and fell on his facemask . . . (sigh). No wonder The Twelves are still in Shock Mode.

2. Pilots had no flight plan

In 1969, a group of investors with insufficient cash, fortitude and common sense force-fed major league baseball to a Seattle fan base not keen on watching a bumbling expansion team play in an aging minor league ballpark (Sicks’ Stadium). The financial state of the Seattle Pilots was such that equipment trucks headed north from training camp in Arizona the following spring with instructions to just keep driving until it was determined if they should turn right to Milwaukee. The Pilots-turned-Brewers have called Milwaukee home ever since.

1. Super(Sonics) slimy move

It’s a fact of life that some people routinely lie, cheat and steal to get ahead in business. When such actions tear away at the heart of a city, the stench left behind is stifling. The conniving manner in which a new ownership group, an old ownership group and then-NBA commissioner David Stern teamed up to steal the Sonics from Seattle’s loyal fans and move the franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008 . . . to this day, it makes vomit appear a little bit in the mouths of Sonics fans in the Northwest and nationwide, except for Oklahoma.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    When I think of bad deals immediately what comes to mind is DJ for Westphal. DJ was 25 and arguably the 2nd best SG in the league after Gervin. As great as Westphal was in Phoenix he was 31 years old and didn’t match for the Sonics what he did in Phoenix and was in the league for only 2 more seasons. DJ never had a losing season in his career other than his rookie year, won 2 more championships with the Celtics and went into the HOF.

    Robert Swift was the tip of the iceberg on the Sonics draft strategy during the Howard Schultz era as other first round picks were Vladimir Radmanovic, Saer Sene and Johan Petro. In fairness, looking at those drafts the quality of players in those drafts was very poor but the Seahawks showed this season if that’s the case, you trade the pick.

    For the M’s trading Tino is tops. He was part of their core championship teams along with Nellie and Sojo. The M’s nose dived in ’96. The Varitek/Lowe for Slocumb deal is next followed by Jose Cruz traded to Toronto. He only won a Gold Glove and had a 30-30 season later on.

    I’ve always wondered what if the Seahawks drafted Tony Dorsett? I know he didn’t want to come here but he probably would have played if he was drafted. Back then players didn’t hold out. Probably shouldn’t have traded the draft pick.

    • art thiel

      DJ trade began the fall. Sonics went from WC finals in 80 to last in 82.

    • ykiki5

      I agree with most of your post jafabian, but I tend to disagree with Jose Cruz, Jr. Most of his career his avg was mired in the .230s – .250s with one year at .274 being the only one out of that range. Power was so-so for an OF hitting roughly 17/year, though he did he over 30 twice in his 12-yr career. Granted, 17 a year would be luxury for today’s M’s…

      I’m still trying to figure out how he ended up with a Gold Glove. Whenever I watched him play, he always looked “lost” when a ball was hit in his direction. I remember at the time the award was announced, I wasn’t the only one thinking “huh?”

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Ranks right up there with calling the Titanic unsinkable and then hitting speeds that were negligent with human lives in the dead of night to make up time. The Seahawks decision to pass didn’t kill anyone but was just as boneheaded.I take that back.It killed any chance of a repeat championship. It sure killed a lot of peoples moods for the next week in February.

    • art thiel

      Never analogize between real tragedy and a sports outcome.

  • dawginparadise

    i was an impressionable and passionate youngster (and die-hard Sonic fan at the time) and will never forget the lasting memories and impressions associated with the trade of Lenny Wilkens from the Sonics to the Cavs for Butch Beard (I think the Sonics also traded Barry Clemens with him). The utter dismay and shock of the transaction is something that I’ll never forget. Lenny was an All-Star and coach and beloved by the community. And when Lenny returned to Seattle with the Cavs, the scene was surreal – “This is Lenny’s Country” banner hanging from the Seattle Coliseum. That was a dark day – and the Sonics season plummeted to one of the worst in franchise history.

    • jafabian

      Definitely worth mentioning. Lenny also coached the team (one of the few player coaches in NBA history) to a club record 47 wins. The next season they won 26 games and Tom Nissalke was fired at mid-season.

      The club also IMO did a bad trade with Spencer Haywood, trading him for cash and Eugene Short who only played in the NBA for 2 seasons. Spencer played 10 more years in the league.

      • art thiel

        Forgot it was Short. That was a Jack Z-caliber trade.

    • art thiel

      A scar for many who remember the wound.

  • Jared S.

    Seattle’s near-misses with the NHL might also be worth mentioning:

    http://www.seattlehockey.net/Seattle_Hockey_Homepage/Seattle_and_the_NHL.html

    The second instance may have had long-term ramifications that set the stage for # 1 on this list. Instead of the Sonics playing in a new arena with an NHL team, they ended up playing in a rebuilt arena that was/is too small for the NHL and ended up being used as a pretext for their theft.

    I hope we can take advantage of this latest NHL opportunity, but it’s hard to figure how that’s going to happen.

  • James Jackson

    I laughed out loud at the Vin Diesel bit.

  • giannisee

    Barry Ackerley’s double-crossing Seattle’s NHL expansion bid in the early 90s would make a lovely addition to this list.

  • notaboomer

    seahawks signing frank clark should be #1 worst.

  • Pixdawg13

    I dunno about the Pippen-Polynice deal being that bad–yeah, it didn’t work out, but remember, the Sonics only drafted Scottie because the deal with Chicago was already in place. And–I’ve never felt that Pippen was a #1 (on any team) player. He was a great second fiddle, yes. But what would he have been without Michael Jordan?

    In terms of gawdawful moves, how about Ken Behring’s insistence on Dan McGwire? Everyone in the front office who knew anything about football was dead set on some guy name of Brett Favre.

  • Pixdawg13

    Unlike the vast majority–Hawk fans and others–I don’t consider that play call in the SB to have been terrible. It didn’t turn out, partly due to Lockette, partly due to a great play by the defender. But all the ‘give it to Marshawn’ stuff…deep in the red zone, his results weren’t all that good. Which is not on Lynch, but rather the blocking and play calls.