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2005 was a great year in the Seattle area. The Seahawks went to Superbowl XL; we were named the most literate city in the country; a judge awarded a woman $45,480 when a neighbor’s dog mauled her cat. (All very similar…)
The Seahawks made a run to the Superbowl as underdogs. They may have been favored in most games, but no one thought they had the roster to make the Championship game. They did and they did it on the back of the 2005 NFL MVP: Shaun Alexander.
Alexander had a season for the ages, including: 370 rush attempts for 1880 yards (average 5.1/carry) and a record 28 Touchdowns (since broken). This included eleven 100-yard games, three of which he broke 160-yards. His career has given him the status of Seahawks record holder for Rushing Yards (9,429), Touchdowns (112) and Rushing Attempts (2,176).
And that is where it will stay; since yesterday he was released from the team that drafted him with the 19 th overall pick eight seasons ago.
This isn’t about the loss of the player or the contributions he made, but about the fact that we may not have seen this coming, in our hearts and the back of our minds we knew something like this might happen.
I will call it the “Perfect Storm”. The 2005 season was great for him and the team, yet it had three omens that we should all pay attention to going forward. He signed a major contract and then problems happened. Why? There were the three warnings that should have made us think twice; three caveats that some saw and are now considering themselves “right”: The Contract Year; The Madden Curse; The End of His Prime.
1. The Contract Year: This is never perfect, but a lot of experts will tell you that you can’t trust a contract year. Performances can be blown out proportion based on the players desire to make a big deal in the off-season. Whether you believe that a player would do that or not is inconsequential: it happens.
A lot of times it is a cap situation where you just can't do anything, said Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens' general manager. So now this season sort of turns into a job interview. The player gains a different mind-set. With a good year, he has the leverage of free agency. And usually, for a player in a situation like this, it is a good year. [ 1 ]
All of a sudden some guys in this situation show up in camp in the best shape of their lives, said Carmen Policy, the Cleveland Browns' president and chief executive. They make all of the voluntary off-season workouts and they come ready to propel themselves. You try not to let quality players get into their last years, but with the salary cap, it is unavoidable. It's scary because you have some guys like this who give you that great year and then fall off. You can almost sense it. [ 1 ]
2. The Madden Curse: This superstition is real. I say this as a fan who every year says: “No, that won’t happen. It was a fluke last season.” Then I watched as Alexander was put on the cover and missed six games with a broken bone in his foot. He had never missed a game due to an injury in his first six seasons with the team, yet suddenly – with the Madden Curse running strong – he was on the shelf.
For those of you who don’t know what the curse is, it is said that every player who is on the cover of the popular Madden NFL game will suffer an injury or some other problem that will force them to lose playing time the following season. (For more info: Snopes: Madden Curse)
There are several examples of this:
2000: This was the last season that John Madden was on the cover, but there was a photo of Barry Sanders in the background. Sanders did not play in the NFL again, abruptly retiring.
2001: Eddie George was another semi-cursed individual. He was on the cover then ended up bobbling a pass which was taken by a defender and returned for a touchdown; causing the loss in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
2002: In 2001 Daunte Culpepper led the Vikings to the NFC Championship, yet his face was on the game, they went 4-7 before he injured his knee; he missed the last five games.
2003: After his team made the Superbowl two of the three previous seasons, Marshall Faulk was asked to be the cover boy. The following year he dealt with an ankle injury watching his rushing yardage drop below 1,000 – after four straight 1,300+ seasons.
2004: His recent problems aside, Michael Vick may be the poster-boy for the Madden curse. The day after the game hit stores with his likeness plastered on the case, he broke his fibula in a pre-season game. He played five games that season.
2005: Ray Lewis was the first defensive player to appear on the cover. He had recorded 6 interceptions the previous season, but with his face gracing Madden he did not record one and missed the final game with an injury. The Ravens missed the playoffs.
2006: His record of 59-21 and five straight playoff appearances made Donovan McNabb a no-brainer for the honors. After mocking the curse he suffered a “sports hernia” in the first game and had surgery after the ninth game. They finished last in the division.
2007: This is Shaun.
2008: Vince Young was the first rookie on the game. He hurt his leg in the fifth game and missed the next week; this was the first time in his entire life of football that he missed a game due to injury.
Pretty compelling evidence. This may not be enough in a court-of-law, but you must admit that this seems to happen a lot.
Another explanation is this: the players on the cover usually have gone above and beyond the season before, and they are more likely to be run down. Either way, it is a pattern.
3. The End of His Prime: Shaun signed his contract when he was 28. I will give examples why this was a bad time to do it. The following is a list of star backs and how many seasons of 1,000-yards they had AFTER their 28 th birthday – circumstances are not important to these numbers! You will note that it is the “superstars” that had great careers past their prime. (+ = Hall of Fame)
Marcus Allen +: 0
Earl Campbell +: 0
Marshall Faulk : 0
Jerome Bettis : 1
Jim Brown +: 1
Eric Dickerson +: 1
O.J. Simpson +: 1
Steve Van Buren +: 1
Corey Dillon : 2
Franco Harris +: 2
Barry Sanders +: 2
Thurman Thomas +: 2
Tony Dorsett +: 3
Curtis Martin : 3
Walter Payton +: 4
Emmitt Smith : 4
He signs a contract that is seen as one of the biggest in the history of the league and he gets railed for it. Well, his numbers showed he should receive it. His yards say so and his rushing touchdown numbers rank him number seven on the all-time list ahead of Sanders, Bettis, Harris, Dickerson, Dillon and Dorsett. All of the eligible players ahead of him on the list are in the Hall of Fame, so why is he such a bad player? Why has the world turned against him when he has done everything that was expected of him? If you think he is soft, then that is your own issue - you try getting hit by a 270-lb man 35 times a game.
The problem he faced was this mixture of three problematic situations that created a tidal wave that swept him right out of Seattle.
Thank you, Shaun for all you have done in Seattle. Your last seasons may have been rough, but I will never forget what you have done for the Seahawks.