BY Art Thiel 07:00AM 01/02/2021

Thiel: Metcalf catching Largent, not Megatron

DK Metcalf is likely to break a 35-year-old club record by a Seahawks legend Sunday. But to catch NFL leader Calvin Johnson, he needs to be on a bad team.

Seahawks RB Curt Warner, left, won the Star of the Year award in 1983 and WR Steve Largent followed two years later in 1985, the year he set the club record for receiving yards. / Seattle Sports Commission

In 1985, Seahawks coach Chuck Knox, inventor of diabolically mundane Ground Chuck offense, found a way for QB Dave Krieg to complete 79 passes to WR Steve Largent for 1,287 yards, breaking his own 1979 mark and setting a franchise standard that has lasted in Seattle for 35 years.

That was so long ago that fans actually attended games in person. Shoulder to shoulder. Maskless. Indoors.

It sounds made up, I know. But it’s true.

For a Knox offense to have set a positive pass-receiving record would seem unlikely. Not as unlikely, say, as Snacks Harrison medaling at the Winter Olympics in the slalom, but hard.

The key, apparently is to have a modest urge to throw to others.

Guess who was No. 2 in receptions that year? A running back. A good one — Curt Warner, with 47.  The No. 2 wideout was Daryl Turner (34 catches). The tight end was Charle Young (28).

The topic comes up because WR DK Metcalf is six yards shy of breaking the record of Hall of Famer Largent, which he seems destined to do Sunday against the 6-9 49ers (in Arizona, 1:25 p.m., FOX) in the regular-season finale.

“To break a record that’s been standing for so long, it’s a blessing just to be in this position,” Metcalf said this week. “It’s an amazing opportunity I have in front of me.”

In the first meeting with the 49ers at the Loo Nov. 1, Metcalf torched the damaged SF  secondary with 12 receptions and 161 yards in a 37-27 win. The Niners again will be without CB Richard Sherman — as well as CBs K’Waun Williams, Emmanuel Moseley and a cast of a thousand wounded  — who played in just five games because of a calf injury. At 32, he has said publicly he thinks his three-year tenure by the Bay is likely done.

So the depleted Niners seem to offer an opportunity for the Seahawks to put on video for playoff opponents some evidence that the explosive passing attack that dazzled the NFL in the first half of the season is still there; to say it is merely shrouded by choice, not inability.

After the 5-0 start, defenses began using two safeties deep to discourage shots to Metcalf and WR Tyler Lockett. In his searching, QB Russell Wilson hung on to the ball too long and forced matters, creating some turnovers. But the decision to throw under the coverage, coupled with a return to health in the run game, has made the offense a harder, if less flashy, out.

“We kind of went through a little hiccup in the middle of the season, but now we got it figured out,” Metcalf said. “Defenses have to find another way to beat us. If teams start going two-high, it’s gonna be interesting to see how how teams stop us.

“If you play two-high, we’re gonna run the ball. If you try to load the box, then we’re throwing it over your head. They they can pick their poison.”

The balance makes the offense less reliant on Metcalf. In the first eight games, he had seven of 90 or more yards. In the past seven, only one of more than 80 yards.

It’s worked out increasingly well for the offense. But if the change in emphasis becomes a more or less permanent feature of the offense over time, Metcalf in future seasons is going to have a difficult time reaching his other personal milestone beyond Largent’s mark — Calvin Johnson’s single-season NFL record of 1,964 yards in 2012.

“I kind of looked up (Largent’s) record last year, toward the end of the season,” Metcalf said. “So I knew it was going to be on the agenda this year to break it.

“I’ve got to start small with the Largent record, and then hopefully move on to Calvin’s record.”

That 700-yard difference is an epic climb. While Metcalf is a match for Megatron’s size, speed, power and hands, he bears the burden of being on a good team.

Johnson’s nine-year career (2007-15) was spent with the Detroit Lions, where he was often the only game-breaking option on a franchise that had two winning seasons in his time.

The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. Metcalf in his second season already has been in as many playoff games as the three-time All-Pro — two. In his record year, the Lions lost their final eight to finish 4-12 and broke a 30-year-old NFL record with 740 pass attempts (46.25 per game).

That’s how to get to a nearly unmatchable individual record in the NFL — be the best guy by far on a roster of perpetual mediocrity.

With the Seahawks about to enter their ninth postseason in 11 years under Carroll, a big believer in balance, Metcalf is going to get plenty of chances to be a star. But he has to share the stage.

Metcalf isn’t even leading the Seahawks in receptions.

Lockett has 88 catches, 11th in the NFL (Stephon Diggs leads with 120) and seven shy of breaking Doug Baldwin’s 2016 club record. Metcalf’s 80 are 19th.  Metcalf’s 1,282 yards are sixth, Lockett has 964, which is 19th. Metcalf has 10 TDs, Lockett eight.

That makes for one of the best tandems in the league. But as long as the band stays together, it’s not the best shot for a record solo act. Yet Carroll Friday was unwilling to put a lid on Metcalf’s capabilities.

“I don’t know what’s not attainable for DK,” he said. “He is such an extraordinary player. For us, he’s just getting started. I think the sky’s the limit for the kid. Because of his habits, his talent and and his mentality, he’s got everything that you’re looking for.

“So we shouldn’t set any boundaries for him at all.”

For a kid who turned 23 two weeks ago, owning a 35-year-old record is plenty for now.


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YourThoughts

  • marmoto

    I’d love to see Lockett get the receptions record tomorrow. His body language lately has conveyed less than his usual buoyancy. Maybe he needs the crowd back. Or maybe I’m projecting.

    • art thiel

      He hasn’t quite been as energized as I’ve seen him. Don’t know why.

  • Chris Alexander

    I get that Megatron’s record seems like a reach, but . . .

    Heading into Week 17, DK has 80 catches (on 120 targets) for 1,282 yards (a 16.025 yards per catch average).

    Stefon Diggs is #1 in the league in both receptions, targets, and yards with 120 catches on 158 targets for 1,459 yards. If Diggs had matched DK’s average of 16.025 yards per catch, he’d be sitting at 1,923 yards heading into the final game . . . only 41 yards shy of the record.

    Could DK get 120+ catches next season? Sure. Would he need the #2 receiver to get 50 or fewer? Not necessarily.

    As mentioned, Diggs has 120 receptions this year. The #2 WR in Buffalo (Cole Beasley) has 82.

    Combined, Diggs and Beasley have 202 receptions on 265 targets for 2,426 yards. Metcalf and Lockett have combined for 168 catches on 238 targets for 2,246 yards.

    That’s not a huge difference.

    From a QB perspective, Wilson and Allen are pretty close as well. Allen has completed 378 of 547 passes (69.1%) for 4,320 yards. Wilson has completed 364 of 522 passes (69.7%) for 4,031 yards.

    The main difference is that Buffalo’s top 2 receivers account for 53% of the catches and Seattle’s top 2 receivers account for 46%. If that “extra” 7% (roughly 25 catches) had gone to DK, he’d be sitting at close to 1,700 yards right now.

    Long story short . . . if DK wants to top Megatron’s record in the next couple of years, I wouldn’t bet against him. And I don’t think Seattle would need to change much for him to have a legitimate shot.

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    • art thiel

      Thanks for a good look at the numbers. My main point is that Carroll will always gravitate to a strong ground game because of the reduced risk of turnovers. The numbers for Metcalf/Lockett were inflated this year to compensate for injuries and the defense’s slow start. And Allen has nine INTs, Wilson 13. Those extra four for Wilson loom large in Carroll’s mind.

      As long as Carroll has Wilson, Lockett and a top-tier RB, Metcalf’s numbers won’t approach Johnson’s.

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  • DB

    I’m not on topic, Art, but wanted to say that your question to Pete in the Wednesday Presser about ‘standards for hiring / managing assistants / staff’ was one of the best questions from the press corps this year.

    I’m not sure what motivated you to ask about that, but found it to be quite interesting from the perspective that Pete has fired and replaced more top assistants than any other successful long-tenured head coach I can think of. After all, who fires his offensive and defensive coordinators (in 2017) and still gets to the playoffs the next season? -Kind of ‘Coach of the Year’ stuff, given all the pressure he put on himself with that. Since Pete has such well defined principals for how he wants to play the game, its not hard to think that he would have a philosophy towards hiring / managing / terminating. “I talk to John and other trusted coaches” clearly wasn’t an illuminating answer. It was still a great question though.

    • art thiel

      I asked because tomorrow is Black Monday for NFL coaches. Lots of staff changes, and Carroll has already lost son Brennan to U of Arizona as OC. As you noticed, Carroll didn’t quite take the answer where I hoped it would go. I assumed that he learned things as an assistant from senior coaches who did things right and wrong that would inform his choices as an NFL head coach.

      Thanks for noticing.

  • jafabian

    Lockett is approaching 1000 yards for the season, sitting on 964 currently. The Hawks have never had two players hit the 1000 yard mark in the same season.

    DK in a way reminds me of Darryl “Deep Heat” Turner. Both are exceptionally tall receivers who can catch the long ball but with Turner he seemed to only catch the long ball. Anything less was typically dropped. DK has been growing in terms of holding onto the ball after the catch. A staple of the receivers during the Pete Carroll era.

    With the 49ers as injury depleted as they are, especially on defense, both DK and Lockett could set some records. That could set some momentum going into the playoffs. Just hope that Shell and Randall haven’t started momentum on the COVID19 front on the team.

    • art thiel

      I think Metcalf has it over Turner in every aspect, including blocking, never a Turner forte.

      • jafabian

        Oops. Correction: Joey Galloway and Brian Blades both eclipsed the 1000 yard mark in 1995. Agree that DK is a good blocker. The standard for all Seahawks WR’s set by Steve Largent.

        • art thiel

          I would put Golden Tate with Largent.