Sunday, October 19, 2014

Percy Harvin's "issues" a well-kept secret in Seattle

When news first broke that Percy Harvin—who the Seattle Seahawks gave up three draft picks and cash to acquire—had been dealt to the New York Jets over the weekend, my reaction was the same as everyone else’s: What the (fill in the blank)? Oh sure, aside from that kickoff return in the Super Bowl, he had all the earmarks of a major trade bust, but wasn’t it just a matter of staying injury free (his “major” issue in Minnesota) and being utilizing his supposed skill set? But now it seems that the Vikings knew what they were doing all along, and part of the Seahawks’ success last season was the fact that Harvin was on the field hardly at all.

What is interesting is that no one here—fans or media—had any inkling of the turmoil and conflict that Harvin was creating in the locker room. Harvin apparently had physical altercations with Golden Tate before the Super Bowl, and during the preseason with Doug Baldwin. It has been suspected that conditions had come to a head in recent weeks, and Pete Carroll found them untenable to team “chemistry” and “cohesion”—and this on a team made-up in large part with castoffs like Marshawn Lynch who arrived with their own “issues.” In fact, it appears that Seahawks were so desperate to rid themselves of Harvin that if a trade couldn't had, they would have simply cut him.

Could it really have been that local media was completely ignorant of this, or were trying to keep it under wraps for the “good” of the team”? Or was it as one player tweeted, that he couldn’t understand how the Harvin conundrum had escaped the locker room in the first place to make it a topic discussion at all? I find it fascinating that people were so eager to add a “weapon” to Russell Wilson’s “arsenal” that they didn’t consider Harvin’s apparently not well-enough known past dating from high school, where his reputation as a top athlete went hand-in-fist with frequent incidents of  “unsportsmanlike conduct.” At Florida, he reportedly physically attacked his wide receivers coach, and with the Vikings he was a constant headache for both Brad Childress and Leslie Frazier.

It has been suggested that Harvin was “unhappy” with his lack of involvement in the Seahawks offensive game plan, but the reality was that even in Minnesota when this was the case it didn’t stop him from having anger management “issues.” In the loss against Dallas last week, he refused to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter, reportedly the “last straw” for Carroll. But up to that point in the game, Harvin had seven “touches” for only -1 total yards. And he had only on rare occasions exhibited that supposed ability to break away from tacklers for large gains. 

In fact, if one looks at his career receiving statistics, he was never much more than a “possession” receiver catching passes for short yardage. His “reputation” largely rested on his play as a kick returner. Harvin was also used occasionally on running plays, but instead of being an added “threat” on offense, all this apparently did was put the Seahawks offensive system out of sync.

Thus the Seahawks’ radio play-by-play announcers actually sounded relieved that Harvin was gone; now the team could return to the brand of football that had taken them to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, it might take more than one game to get back in “sync.” On paper, Wilson’s stats against the St. Louis Rams look impressive, but in the first half the team sputtered and bungled and fell behind big. It is these times when observers may ask, why didn’t Wilson do his run-and-gun thing to start the game? Or was it just that the Rams clearly winded defense felt it was “necessary” to give themselves a “break” with a big lead? Whatever the case, we have seen this too often: The Seahawks’ offense playing ineffectively early—with Wilson being given no responsibility for it, but suddenly being praised as one of the great quarterbacks of all time (at least according to local media) when he piles up stats late even in a losing effort.

In the meantime, the New York Jets are the “happy” inheritors of the Percy Harvin problem. That’s all they need now is a confrontational head case like Harvin getting under the skin of the aloof, arrogant Geno Smith with his limited skills. I suspect that “honeymoon” will be rather short. Frankly, if Harvin had to go anywhere, the Jets are exactly the spot where I would have wanted to see him go.

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