BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 12/18/2018

Thiel: Seahawks and the rule of randomness

If Janikowskl does Job One and makes an extra point, no one is lamenting a club-record 14 penalties and 148 yards. Instead, Seahawks world is convulsed.

Proof that Sebastian Janilkowski has sort of practiced tackling. / Rod Mar, Seattle Seahawks

What did Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have to say about Sebastian Janikowski?

“Seabass was a little late with the kick. He took a little extra time, and it threw the timing off a bit. That was the difference in how the ball flew.”

Oh wait. You meant on the next play.

That’s when Janikowski’s aimless abandonment of all football principles that let San Francisco’s Richie James pass untouched into the end zone after a 97-yard kickoff return, which made the one-time “Polish Cannon” Sunday’s national sports joke?

Embarrassing as it was, 10 other Seahawks special-teamers contributed to putting Janikowski in a place he has almost never been in his 18-year NFL career — playing actual football.

But the missed PAT kick? For all the subsequent wailing about Seahawks’ penalties that did them so dirty in the 49ers’ 26-23 upset triumph, none of it would have mattered in a game that ended 23-23 in regulation if Janikowski made the kick after Seattle scored a touchdown on its opening drive.

The missed point was all about one guy not doing Job One. His miss loomed over the game like a Space Needle-sized exclamation point.

Had Janikowski made a move toward James instead of running past him, Jones likely would have outmaneuvered him.

Still . . .

“I wish he would have tried anything,” Carroll said morosely Monday after reviewing the defeat, a task he described overall as “a hard film to watch.”

The only saving grace is that at 40, Janikowski proved that it wasn’t just the young players who screwed up a game in which the Seahawks outplayed the 49ers in nearly every important football data point. Except the one that counted.

“The first thing a kicker has to do is turn the guy back into the field; he got that done,” Carroll said. Then, “anything. We’ll take anything. Because it wound up being a touchdown. He could do more, and he feels bad about that.”

Not sure how Carroll knows that. Because when he was asked if he talked to Janikowski, he said no. Since Janikowski rarely talks to media, the explanation may have to await an exposition on another return of The X-Files.

“He’s not going to be a great open-field tackler,” he said. “That’s not what our expectations are.”

But he could have run at James. Or fallen. Or yelled, “Boo!”

Hilarious and pathetic at the same time, Janikowski’s non-play was just one of numerous palm-to-forehead moments that ended mysteriously a four-game winning streak ahead of a much-anticipated Sunday night, nationally televised match-up with AFC kingpin Kansas City, a 2.5-point favorite at the Clink.

Besides Janikowski’s fresh place in the Seahawks Hall of Dubious Moments, more astonishing was that the Seahawks had holding penalties by linemen on each of their final four possessions of the game over a nine-minute span: LG J.R. Sweezy with 7:12 remaining, RT Germain Ifedi at 2:49, RG Ethan Pocic at :54, then again with Pocic at 8:46 in the extra period.

Carroll was particularly galled because fourth-quarter efficiency is a prideful emphasis with him.

“Really disappointed in that, because that’s about finishing and doing right,” he said. “It just didn’t happen. That’s too bad, because we’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of emphasis in trying to finish games by doing the right things.

“It was really clear to these guys and everybody felt bad about their part in it. Coaches too. We’ll try to get it cleaned up this week.”

That would be helpful, because players, fans and media, as with nearly everyone else, can’t get minds around the concept of randomness. There needs to be causation and connection, because otherwise we are helpless in the maw of a ravenous universe.

I submit connection is not possible.

There is no link between an accidental grab of a face mask by LB Bobby Wagner, a block in the back by special-teamer Malik Turner and an argument between CB Neiko Thorpe and a 49er. The calls may have been right or wrong, but the incidents stand alone and independent in error.

“The more we look at it, the more unusual it was,” said Carroll, who intimated that the 10 penalties in the second half suggested “something had changed” with the officiating.

No. There is no conspiracy to help the 49ers win. Stop it.

The Seahawks had more than their share of misplays that denied them a good result. So many that some barely registered, such as Tyler Lockett’s muff of overtime’s opening kickoff.

The ball slipped through his hands at the goal line and off his legs forward to the 11-yard line, where he barely beat the 49ers to the recovery. Seattle did nothing with the lousy field position and punted away the ball, which the 49ers took to the game-winning field goal.

Carroll called Lockett’s recovery “miraculous,” suggesting at least that karma wasn’t always going in the same direction Sunday at Cottage Cheese Field/Levi’s Stadium.

He said Lockett saw a low kick as an opportunity for a solid return.

“He’s famous for not mishandling the ball,” Carroll said. “He was going for it and didn’t track it as tightly as he needed to.”

Just another random mistake in a random universe.

“Without the penalties we would have won the game,” he said. “Not like any mystery of what happened.”

True. But the issue was never what happened. It was why it happened — 14 times.

It was coincidence. But don’t tell a football coach or fan that, unless you enjoy seeing someone’s head explode.


  • Carl Thompson

    I agree about the no conspiracy theory – the Hawks definitely beat themselves in this game – however, did you hear about the gambler in Vegas who plopped $500 grand the day of the game on the Seahawks to win straight up? I can’t help but wonder if the MGM has the phone number of any NFL officials…

    • art thiel

      Saw that story. Why anyone bets on NFL games with the object of coming out ahead financially is beyond me. Randomness impacts NFL games more than any sport except soccer.

  • Howard Wells

    other than the punter, Janikowski is the ONLY employee of the Seattle Seahawks who actually uses his foot in playing football. Saying he actually finally had to play football is incorrect and a cheap shot against him! I hardly think his missed extra point was the sole opportunity to win or lose this game! You ignore 150 yards of penalties on people who don’t use their feet in playing football. Come on Art, geesh!

    • Husky73

      If players make a mistake– mental or physical– that’s part of the game. BUT, a lack of effort, or in this case, NO EFFORT, is unacceptable. It’s embarrassing to the team, coaches, organization and fans. Janikowski should have been cut yesterday.

      • Howard Wells

        You expect a fracking place kicker to save the game !? Come on!

        • Bruce McDermott

          No, but I expect him to TRY to do so.

          • art thiel

            Exactly. Running past a TD-bound target as if you have a bus to catch . . . well, go ahead and take the bus.

      • Chris Alexander

        I disagree. I think it sends a bad message to the rest of the team if you cut a player for one bad (okay, really, REALLY bad) play. Plus, find another kicker who’s at least as accurate as Seabass, is available for us to sign, and would efficiently acclimate to the team before the game against the Chiefs on Sunday. Cutting him would have been a GROSS overreaction.

        That said, if I’m his coach, the only thing he’s doing in practice this week is tackling drills. Every day. All week.

        • art thiel

          A firing is an overreaction, independent of whether a replacement can be found.

          But to introduce tackling drills for the first time in the career of a 40-year-old creates more problems than it solves.

          Chris Petersen would advocate 500 push-ups.

      • art thiel

        I don’t think it was a fireable offense. It was worthy of some sanction, but we’re unlikely to hear about it from anyone who knows.

    • art thiel

      I wrote the Sunday column about the penalties. The issue with Janikowski was lack of effort. Carroll apparently agreed. And as we’ve seen, Dickson, Ryan and Hauschka weren’t afraid to grass-stain their uniforms.

      • antirepug3

        I don’t recall what game it was but I do remember Jon Ryan running down (surprised me how fast he is) the returner and making a tackle on him.

  • Ron

    Janikowski slipped on the bad turf in pre-game warmups, which may have played a part in his taking extra time to plant for the missed PAT.

    • John M

      Agree. Thanks for saying it so I didn’t have to . . .

      • art thiel

        He did slip pre-game. Carroll made no mention of it or whether it was the reason for the mis-timing.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Wow – heads exploding – I’m picturing Monty Python acting that out….cool!

    I’m 50/50 on whether, on the kickoff return, that Jones would have been intimidated by Janicowski yelling “Boo!” in Polish, or “Gwizt!”………two errors in a row for poor Seabass. I expect that he has accepted full responsibility.

    This game was yet another learning point for our young Seahawks team. So far it’s been a season of satisfaction with regard to the non-repetition of mistakes learned.
    With that track record, I see them righting the ship with respect to overlooking an inferior opponent.

    With that, Cardinals should expect no mercy; KC – much respect, but be ready for a battle. GO HAWKS!!

    • Kirkland

      The Seahawks had a cushion from their recent hot streak. In the grand scheme of things, this loss just lessened their cushion; and only slightly, because other wild card contenders keep falling on their faces (what happened to Carolina, for one?). Win one of the next two games, both at home, and they’re in. I’m not going to panic yet.

      • Chris Alexander

        True. Even after the loss, the Hawks’ odds are 99% for making the playoffs. And, honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing them get the 6 seed instead of the 5. Playing the inconsistent Cowboys in Dallas sounds a whole lot better than playing the Bears in Chicago. It also saves a potential rematch with the Rams until the NFC Championship (assuming they get past both the Cowboys and the Saints).

        That said … I’d have preferred a win in SF so that we didn’t have to worry about HAVING to beat the Cardinals if we fail to beat the Chiefs.

        Still, last I checked, the Seahawks’ odds of making the playoffs are still about 75% even if they lose the rest of their games – due to the aforementioned “other wild card contenders (who) keep falling on their faces.”

        • art thiel

          The NFC casualty rate has been remarkable. Even LA’s Goff is starting to revert to his early career at Cal.

      • bugzapper

        Spoken like every M’s fan and sportswriter this past July.

        • art thiel

          Point taken.

      • art thiel

        We were worried you were going to overdose on Ambien. Good onyer, mate.

    • art thiel

      They have shown a propensity to learn, Part of my point was that there’s no way that kind of randomness gets repeated.

  • tor5

    And how unlike the Great Art Thiel to apparently mix up the names James and Jones in the above. I’m sure it’s just a random error in an article about random errors. Or is it? I suspect something in the ether.

    • art thiel

      Career-first error.

      Fixed. Thanks.

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    I read the whole thread and didn’t see the following discussed, so I thought I’d mention it. Janikowski hasn’t just missed that 1 extra point last weekend in Santa Clara. Against the Raiders in preseason, he missed 2-of-3 extra points. Against the 49ers AT HOME in Week 13, he missed 2-of-6 extra points (the ‘Hawks had such a big lead it had no consequence in that game, but it still shouldn’t be happening). That’s at least 5 extra points he’s missed for the Seahawks in 1 year. He missed a grand total of 6 extra points in the entirety of his 18-year career with Oakland. I’d say it’s very statistically significant if you go from one miss every 3 years (averaging his Oakland stats) to 5 misses (so far) in 1 year.

    • Kirkland

      That said, extra points were much easier until a couple of years ago. I’d like to see the numbers on the league’s other kickers with the longer extra points, Hauschka had trouble with them too.

      And the glass-half-full viewpoint: Janikowski’s tackling has cost the Seahawks fewer wins than Blair Walsh’s kicking did last year.