A Breakdown of Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

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A few months ago I wrote an article detailing the decline of the Seattle Seahawks.

I, among many others, was dead wrong.

That being said, much of what I laid out in that last article was true. The Seahawks drafting has not been as strong in recent history as it was at the beginning of this regime’s tenure. There have been major misses in free agency and in trades. Coaching decisions and hires have not been perfect (they employed Tom Cable for about six years too long). However, one thing I did not take into account was the power and resolve of a strong philosophy. Whether it’s in sports, business or a family, a core set of values and a healthy culture is the foundation for anything successful. It gives everyone involved a sense of purpose, direction and something to fall back on in times of turbulence.

And that’s exactly where Seattle found themselves going into Week 3 at 0-2.

Before delving further into the season, I am going to break down some of what Carroll’s philosophy entails, a majority of it coming from his 2010 New York Times Bestseller book “Win Forever”. A personal favourite of mine that gives a lot of transferable advice to multiple facets of one’s life.

Pete Carroll Philosphy

Belief System

From the time Carroll was hired, he established the “Win Forever” matrix into the fabric of the Seahawks, from the staff he surrounded himself with to the players they drafted. The core (bottom of the pyramid) has stayed intact throughout Carroll’s tenure. “Do things better than they have ever been done before.” 

Of the three rules, rules one & two have come under siege multiple times throughout Carroll’s career in Seattle, most notably since Super Bowl 49 when the Seahawks notoriously threw the ball on the one-yard line, resulting in an interception and a heartbreaking loss. Since then, players have been very outspoken, this has resulted in Rule One, being broken.

“Always protect the team”.

After the devastating Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in 2015, many players have spoken out against Carroll, the coaching staff and the team. Most notably, Richard Sherman in 2016 when he openly criticized the offensive coaching staff for calling a pass on the one-yard line in a Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Rams. More recently, it was reported that star defensive end Michael Bennett would read books during coaching meetings. Bennett was traded to the Philidelphia Eagles this past off-season.

To Pete Caroll’s credit, he never once made excuses for the devastating Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, at the foundation of his philosophy Carroll has stayed true to his core. He protected the team and didn’t throw then offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell or Russell Wilson under the bus. He didn’t make any excuses, complain or whine at the result.

“There’s really nobody to blame but me.”

Central Theme

This is what Pete Carroll is known for, every training camp, practice, pre-season game etc. It’s all about competition. It’s how former CFL All-Star cornerback Brandon Browner became a starting corner in 2011, how fifth round-pick and former college wide-receiver Richard Sherman became an All-Pro cornerback, how a third-round quarterback, many touted to be “too short” managed to find himself as a Week 1 starter in his rookie season in 2012.

Competition.

It doesn’t matter what round a player is drafted in or how much he’s being paid, how hard they compete and what’s best for the team determines how much of a contributor they will be for the Seahawks.

“However successful you may be, there is always some element you can improve on, some achievement to exceed.”

What’s great about this portion of the hierarchy is that it’s the most relatable and applicable to everyday life. No matter what you’re competing at, whether it be sports, filmmaking, writing, working out, school or work is that by having the mindset of doing things better than they’ve ever been done before, you can maximize your potential. Carroll also mentions in his book that he does not see his opponents as the “enemy” but as people who offer him the opportunity to succeed. This is a massive perspective change compared to what we regularly perceive as our competition.

Environment

Pete Carroll cites his final year in New England when asked to evaluate a pair of youth football practices as a moment of enlightenment for him in regards to practice. He witnessed a team in the Bronx practicing but it was unlike what he had seen before, the energy was different, there was more if it and it started with the coaches. From that moment, Carroll promised any team under his watch would practice with more energy than anyone in football.

“But Winning Forever is not about the final score; it’s about competing and starving to be the best. If you are in this pursuit then you’re already winning.”

I'm in

How Carroll runs his practices has had a direct impact on the culture of this team. Music blares at practice, drills are run at high paces and things are generally kept “loose” as per NFL standards. There are different themes for each day of the week leading up to the game. There’s Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Tuesday, Turnover Wednesday, No Repeat Thursday and Review Friday. For the sake of the length of this article, each day focuses on a key component within Pete’s philosophy, that’s what gives structure to his entire program.

Pete Carroll acknowledges that he’s been known as a “player’s coach” which he notes is a label that carries negative connotations such as being “too nice”. However, Carroll puts this to rest with a brilliant quote that all leaders in any position can take a page from.

“If you really care about helping people maximize their potential, then you must try to uncover who they are and what they are all about.”

Performance

Pete Carroll near the end of his book looks at how any person can apply the Win Forever philosophy to their own lives. In short, Carroll believes that by setting up a vision for yourself, staying disciplined and true to your strengths and keeping in touch with said vision, you can maximize the best version of yourself.

“When you truly know yourself, you have the best chance of using your strengths to your best advantage. And when things aren’t going so well, it is so much easier to get back on track when you have a plan for where you want to go.”

This quote is the reason why the Seahawks “rebuild” has taken all of 12 weeks as opposed to the two years or more many thought it would take. From the ground up, Pete Carroll has not only developed a philosophy he believes in, but he was able to get everyone else to buy in. The entire Seahawks program revolves around competition and maximizing potential.

Seattle may not have a hall of fame secondary as they had in 2013 or a running back of the calibre of Beastmode (Marshawn Lynch). Pete Carroll simply gets the most out of his players and this wouldn’t be possible without his philosophy. The fact that the Seahawks have an identity is what is keeping them in the playoff race. Something they sorely lacked in the first two weeks of the season.

Win Forever

Beyond football, it is this book and the joy of watching Carroll coach every Sunday as to why he’s such a big inspiration to me. I would encourage anyone of any profession or walk of life to check out this book or other online resources on Carroll’s philosophy.

It is because of leaders like Pete Carroll as to why I wholeheartedly believe that sports mean so much more than wins, losses and championships. Philosophies like Pete’s and others out there from esteemed players and coaches across many leagues transcends the sport itself. The ability to inspire everyday people like you and me can make a far deeper impact than a Seahawks victory (but you’ll still find me screaming at my TV every Sunday).  I leave you with a poem found in Pete Carroll’s book and I hope you find as much value in Pete Carroll’s teachings as I have.

Always Compete

Always Compete…

As you progress through your sporting life…

Always Compete.

If you want to go for it…

Always Compete.

You’re gonna have to make choices in life and those choices need to be conscious decisions. There’s only one person in control here, and that person is you…

You hold all the cards. You are the master of you. It’s time to admit it…

You have always known this. So if you’re ready, act on it…

Always Compete.

Don’t you dare try to be too cool, don’t you dare be afraid of life,

Just “dare to be great,” and let it rip.

Always be humble, always be kind, always be respectful…

Always Compete.

Everything you do counts and screams who you are. There is no hiding from you.

Act as if the whole world will know who you are…

Always Compete.

Be true to yourself and let nothing hold you back.

Compete to be the greatest you, and that will always be enough and that will be a lifetime!

Always Compete.

Any thoughts on this post, Pete’s philosophy, the Seahawks or just want to chat? Find me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook!

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Advice if You’re Taking Business

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“What do you plan on doing with that degree?”

“People take business because it’s easy!”

“Only people who don’t know what they want to do with their life take business!”

I could go on with the one-liners I have heard over the years in regards to people’s views on business degrees. To their point, I am sure they have met people in a business program where they feel that view is justified. However, I would rather talk about the potential upside of pursuing a business degree based on my time taking business and I’d like to offer up my thoughts if it’s able to help anyone on edge about kicking off their journey in the business program.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a post-grad who’s got his entire life figured out, this is just some advice based on a quick reflection of my time in school, others may have different advice, but they can talk about it on their own goddamn blog.)

Passion

In my four-years taking business I met a lot of people who were born to be in business. They know from as early as middle-school that that’s where they wanted to be after graduation. Whether their passion was rooted in finance/accounting, entrepreneurship, management, or perhaps the creative side in design and marketing. You could see their eyes light up when you asked them about their plans post-college graduation about all the things they planned on accomplishing, what their goals were and how they planned on reaching them.

However, there were also people I met who were walking representations of the quotes at the top of this post. Their parents pushed for them to take business because at least it was “something”, they really didn’t have any goals laid out in terms of what they aimed to accomplish post-grad and they appeared very lost. And that’s okay. Because not everyone needs to have it figured out at 18, 19 or even 22 years-old. However, this shouldn’t be an indictment on the value of a business degree or any degree for that matter. If you’re not certain what you want to do after college graduation, help yourself out by getting active outside the classroom.

Get Involved!

A business degree can still be of value in learning the multiple facets of business. But the big catch is you get out what you put in. It seems cliché however, being that business is not a Point A to Point B degree, you have to get involved. While classes are beginning to catch up with the times in offering more creative experiences for students, the onus is still on the student to supplement their classroom time with extra-curricular activities.

Whether it’s getting involved with a business club, a fraternity/sorority, case competitions, sports teams, a job relevant to business (co-op program) or even building something on the side (like a super COOL blog). It’s important to put yourself in positions where you will be actively testing the knowledge you learn in the classroom. This goes beyond “beefing” up your resume (but it certainly doesn’t hurt), this is testing your critical thinking, time management, organization, leadership etc. And that does not even take into account the networking that can be done through any one of these activities, you never know who you’ll meet that can steer you on a totally different path than you originally anticipated! (But that’s another post in itself).

Don’t Stress

At the end of the day, there are plenty of people just like you across all majors that are uncertain about their futures post-graduation. Just because you’re majoring in something that’s more broad than others, doesn’t mean you aren’t working towards something of value for your future. As a recent graduate there’s a lot I look back on and wish I got involved in even more despite being relatively active outside the classroom. However, I do not regret taking business as the content I learned, the connections I made and the great minds I got to learn from and interact with I know will pay off in the long-term. Because with any degree or education, it’s an investment into yourself and future.

As I continue navigating life post-university I will hopefully have more detailed thoughts that can be of value for anyone in or thinking of taking business. If you have any further questions or have any differing thoughts don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

Stephen Bolen

Top Five Seahawks Primed to Breakout in 2018

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By now you’ve heard all about it. Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, Cliff Avril, Paul Richardson, DeShawn Shead and potentially Earl Thomas (god please no) are all no longer Seahawks. That has left many analysts and pundits alike to predict the demise of the once great Seahawks. Records as low as 4-12 have been predicted for the Seahawks and Hawk fans were even blessed with this great take:

You’re welcome for the free promotion on my blog that nobody reads, Benjamin.

Anyways, there are five players in my mind that can prevent such a catastrophe of having the worst record in the NFL.

1. Tyler Lockett (WR)

It may seem odd to put a player here who’s been in the league for three years already. However, after an outstanding rookie season in 2015 that saw Lockett be named as a 1st Team All-Pro by the Associated Press, Lockett unfortunately broke his leg at the end of the 2016 season and that injury had lingering effects on his 2017 campaign.

Enter 2018. With Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham gone and Doug Baldwin fully cemented as the team’s number one receiver, look for Lockett to have a big season. Oh, and he’s on a contract year.

2. Shaquill Griffin (CB)

Quill Griffin had a great rookie season, despite only registering one interception. Griffin was thrusted into a much larger role after Richard Sherman tore his achillies and by all accounts he handled it as well as he could. As Pro Football Focus Seahawks points out, Griffin ranked up well compared to his rookie counterparts in 2017:

Having a full off-season to prepare as the starter in Sherman’s old spot at left cornerback should do wonders for Griffin’s development. He’ll need to take a leadership role in that secondary that has seen the departures of Sherman, Chancellor and a rocky relationship with Earl Thomas. Griffin has made it very clear that he plans to carry the torch of the L.O.B.

3. Nazair Jones (DT)

2017 3rd-round pick Nazair Jones started in only two games last season and played in just 11. However, he managed to register 19 tackles, two sacks and an interception in that time. With the ill-fated Sheldon Richardson trade backfiring on Seattle after he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, Jones will have room to take a hold of the starting role right out of camp.

The Seahawks supplemented this with the signings of Defensive Tackles Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen (both former Vikings). Nazair Jones will have his work cut out for him in camp with heavy competition at the position that also includes 2016 2nd-round pick, Jarran Reed. The Seahawks will need solid production from both Reed and Jones, but look for Jones to breakout if he is able to play all 16 this season.

4. Nick Vannett (TE)

As a 3rd-round pick in the 2016 draft, Vannett had high expectations to produce pretty quickly as many higher round picks tend to do. Unfortunately, Vannett has been buried in the depth chart over the last two seasons behind the Greatest Seahawks Tight-End of all-time Jimmy Graham (In three seasons, Graham set the Seahawks’ Tight End franchise record for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.) As well as everyone’s favorite Canadian now turned Detroit Lion Luke Willson.

The proverbial sea has parted at the Tight End position, leaving Vannett to compete against nine year veteran Ed Dickson and rookie Will Dissly. Now is Vannett’s best chance to take the starting role and start producing.

5. Michael Dickson (Punter)

#PuntersArePeopleToo

Also look at these punts, goddamn.

If these five (or four, sorry Michael) can put together a solid season it would pay huge dividends for the Seahawks in 2018. The NFC is looking more and more like the Western Conference in the NBA with the likes of the Eagles, Rams, Packers, Saints, Falcons & Vikings all looking like Super Bowl contenders. Couple that with teams like the Panthers, 49ers, Giants, Cowboys on the rise the Seahawks have their work cut out for them. Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright, Doug Baldwin and (for now) Earl Thomas are still the core of this team, but they can only carry this team so far. The aforementioned five four players and their peers will determine the course of this season.

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2018 CFL Predictions

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The CFL season kicks-off today and so do my hot takes. Here are my predictions for the 2018 season, a little mix of what I think will happen versus what I hope will happen.

Standings

EAST
Toronto Argonauts: 11-7
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: 9-9
Ottawa Redblacks: 7-11
Montreal Alouettes: 3-15

WEST
Edmonton Eskimos: 12-6
Calgary Stampeders: 11-7
Saskatchewan Roughriders: 11-7
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 9-9
B.C. Lions: 8-10

Toronto never impresses in the regular season, I would be shocked if they posted a better record than 11-7 but they’ll get hot for the playoffs. Hamilton with a full season under June Jones should see improvements this season, though Masoli will be looking over his shoulder throughout the entire season. Ottawa has very shaky Canadian Depth and unless Harris can stay healthy the entire season, I don’t see this team going far in 2018. Montreal… well, I just… yeah.

Edmonton will be very good this year, they have the proper protection for Mike Reilly and though they incurred some losses at receiver, Walker and co. should supplement that. Every year I pick Calgary to fall off and it never happens, their system and Bo Levi are too good to not be at least top two in the division. The Riders and Bombers will duke it out for 3rd place in the division. Matt Nichols being out 4-6 weeks could give the Riders a much needed head start. The Lions season is on the shoulders of a Johnathon Jennings rebound.

CFL Playoffs

East Semi-Final:

Winnipeg 26 Hamilton 16

West Semi-Final:

Saskatchewan 32 Calgary 30

East Final

Winnipeg 28 Toronto 20

West Final

Saskatchewan 25 Edmonton 21

GREY CUP

Saskatchewan 19 Winnipeg 10

GREY CUP CHAMPIONS

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Grey Cup MVP: Ed Gainey

Most Valuable Canadian: Jerome Messam

Ok, so this is where my bias takes over. Obviously playoffs are a coin flip, I mean look at the last two Grey Cups. (Never forget Calgary choked in two Grey Cups in a row that they were heavily favoured in.) So who knows what will happen. If the Riders O-Line fails to protect Collaros, they might not even make it to the playoffs. That’s the fun of the CFL. If you have predictions of your own, DM @roughridersdaily on Instagram, I’ll share the best ones in my stories.

CFL 2018 QB Rankings

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Ranking CFL’s Quarterbacks

1. Mike Reilly (Edmonton)

Though unorthodox in his throwing motion and style of play, Mike Reilly continues to produce year in and year out. Despite shaky production from Adarius Bowman and not having Derel Walker for a portion of the season, Reilly would go on to throw for 30 touchdowns and 5,830 yards on his way to an MOP campaign. Whether it’s his heart or his skill, it has led Reilly to be the cream of the crop and worthy of being the CFL’s best quarterback.

2. Ricky Ray (Toronto)

This may not age well as the 2018 season progresses but when Ricky Ray is healthy, he can rarely be stopped. Last season saw Ray go for 28 touchdowns and 5,546 yards, hardly a guy who is “too old” or “lost a step”. Many are speculating the recently acquired James Franklin to supplant Ray this season. However, if Ray continues his 2017 production into 2018 he will not give Marc Trestmen any reason to give Franklin the keys.

3. Bo Levi Mitchell (Calgary)

Bo Levi has seen a dip in production since his MOP campaign in 2016. 2017 saw Mitchell throw for the least amount of touchdowns since his 2014 season where he only started 14 games. This past off-season has seen Mitchell delete his Twitter account after this happened in 2017. There is no doubt that Bo Levi has all the tools to be an all-time great Quarterback in the CFL and while he has two straight Grey Cup losses to overcome, Mitchell appears geared up to return to his MOP-form in 2018.

4. Trevor Harris (Ottawa)

This is where it becomes tricky, one could put Matt Nichols here and to be honest it could be subject to a coin flip. Harris put up a good set of numbers last season clocking in with 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and 4,679 yards passing. Despite an inconsistent season as a team, Harris, when healthy, kept this team in contention throughout the season. Not having to look over his shoulder for Henry Burris certainly helps his cause and while he will continue to put up great individual numbers, the wins now need to follow before he can be included with the upper echelon of CFL quarterbacks such as Reilly, Ray and Mitchell.

5. Matt Nichols (Winnipeg)

What is holding Nichols back from becoming an elite quarterback in the CFL is his inability to shake the “game-manager” tag that has followed him throughout his career. And while not necessarily a bad thing, his lack of success in the post season the last two seasons have done little to aid him in that process. Often referred to as the “CFL’s Alex Smith”, Nichols put up career numbers last season with 28 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and 4,472 yards passing. However, his season ended similar to 2016 with a West Semi-Final defeat. In any event, if Nichols puts up similar numbers and is able to will his team to the Grey Cup, look for him to move up the rankings.

6. Zach Collaros (Saskatchewan)

*Braces for impact

Collaros is coming off of his worst season as a professional quarterback. However, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the squad he was with in Hamilton had run its course. It appeared the Ti-Cats were still trying to stretch out the prime of a group that had been to two consecutive Grey Cups (13’&14′), three straight East-Finals (13′-15′) and four straight playoff appearances (13′-16′). The roster had gotten stale and not much was being done around Collaros that put him in a position to succeed. However, on pure optimism alone, it is my belief that a change of scenery, one of the most loaded skill position groups in the CFL and a solid coaching staff will see Collaros return to his 2015 form. Before his season-ending ACL injury, Collaros had put up 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in 12 games. First, he will have to beat out Bridge in a QB competition sure to dominate headlines. 

7. Jonathon Jennings (B.C.)

At one point he was hailed as the “Canadian Russell Wilson”, but after a tumultuous 2017 season, things have come crashing back down to earth for the young pivot. Similar to Collaros, his supporting cast did him no favours as the Lions boasted one of the worst O-Lines in football last season. However, poor decisions and injuries are also to blame for the poor season Jennings experienced last season throwing for more interceptions (19) than touchdowns (16) and losing his job to veteran Travis Lulay. If Jennings has anything going for him going into 2018 is that Lulay is still recovering from a brutal injury suffered last season, meaning that the keys belong to him for the beginning of the season anyways. There is no doubt the upside Jonathon Jennings has as a starting quarterback in this league, the true question is whether he is able to realize this potential or not.

8. Jeremiah Masoli (Hamilton)

Masoli has slowly built up his repertoire since entering the league in 2013. He has unreal athletic ability and led Hamilton to a strong finish after an 0-8 start led by Collaros. The reason for his low ranking in this list is simply that we have not seen enough of Masoli to put him above starters who have proven themselves over several seasons. Masoli put up an impressive stat line with 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 12 games played. 2018 will be the true test for Masoli to see if he is a true #1 starter and if he is able to hold off Manziel and lead the Tiger-Cats back to the playoffs, look for him to jump up the list next season.

9. Brandon Bridge (Saskatchewan)

You do realize you’re reading this on RoughridersDaily right? While it’s tempting to put Travis Lulay, Kevin Glenn, Drew Willy or James Franklin, all of them either have topped out in their careers (Lulay, Glenn, Willy) or haven’t had the opportunity to show what they have yet (Franklin). Bridge would probably be lumped in with Franklin had it not been for Glenn’s poor first half play in a handful of games last season that spurred Bridge into action. An impressive 10 touchdowns 4 interceptions ratio last season and his ability to escape pressure with his legs puts Bridge amongst the Top 9 quarterbacks in the CFL. Bridge just simply needs to continue making plays from the pocket and while the improvisation is fun, it is not sustainable.

Honorable Mentions:

Travis Lulay (B.C.), James Franklin (Toronto), Kevin Glenn (Edmonton), Drew Willy (Montreal).

 

 

 

All Fingers Point to Pete Carroll & John Schneider for Seahawks Decline

The term “Seahawks Rebuild” has been tossed around since the Seahawks failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 last season. However, after a crushing loss to the upstart Chicago Bears and a 0-2 start, the Seahawks are back under the spotlight of the national media for all the wrong reasons. Though it’s important to note that starting linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright was out along with #1 wideout Doug Baldwin, starting right guard D.J. Fluker. This does not excuse the awful performance on offence that Seattle fans were subject to Monday night. And what led the Seahawks to the point of a severe lack of depth falls squarely on the shoulders of General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll.

Drafts

Allow me to preface the coming criticism by stating the two aforementioned gentlemen are responsible for the most successful decade in the history of Seahawks football. Playoffs in 6/8 seasons together (10′, 12′, 13′, 14′, 15′, 16′), four division titles (10′, 13′, 14′, 16′), five straight seasons with a winning record (12′-17′) and finally back-to-back Super Bowl appearances (13′-14′) and a victory in one (13′).

However, much of this success is due to the very successful drafts the Seahawks had from 2010-2012. Since then, the Seahawks have had mediocre drafts at best whiffing on a number of high draft picks. No players remain from the 2013 draft class, one player remains from the 2014 class (center, Justin Britt), two from the 2015 class (Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett).

Dismal 2016 Draft

The Seahawks then kicked-off a string of disappointing drafts by selecting right tackle Germain Ifedi who has been nothing short of a failure in his time protecting Russell Wilson. He also had the prestigious honour of leading the NFL in penalties in 2017. Hindsight is 20/20 but linebacker Myles Jack was still on the board at the time but we’ll get to missed opportunities later. Second-round defensive tackle Jarran Reed has been a solid contributor over the last two seasons, however, after that, contributions from this class are pretty bleak. Running back C.J. Prosise hasn’t been able to stay healthy, Nick Vannett hasn’t been able to assert himself has a number one tight-end and the emergence of rookie Will Dissly may make that even harder. Alex Collins was never given much of a shot to take over at running back and since being cut, he has broken out as a number one back in Baltimore.

2017 Draft Look Promising

Aside from the unfortunate short career of 2nd-round pick Malik McDowell, the 2017 draft has an optimistic outlook to it. Guard Ethan Pocic, corner Shaquill Griffin, defensive tackle Nazir Jones and running back Chris Carson all appear to be contributors for the seasons to come, the jury is still out on safety Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson (no not THAT Mike Tyson).

It’s still too early to evaluate the 2018 class but there are plenty of players to be excited about mainly, Aussie punter Michael Dickson. However, the stretch of poor drafts between 2013-2016 has put this team in the spot it finds itself today. Carroll and Schneider’s failure to replenish the cupboard after stellar drafts from 2010-2012 has left this team thin in many areas. Not to mention the poor free agency decisions that have taken place over the years.

Free Agency/Trade Blunders

Harvin over Tate

Whether it’s been Schneider and Carroll failing to resign developed talent or making bad trades, both have set the Seahawks back in a number of areas. This dates back to 2014; right after the Seahawks had won the Super Bowl. Free agency opened up and the Seahawks allowed Golden Tate to walk, they figured they were set at the receiver position as it was with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Percy Harvin. This is where it gets interesting, the story is Tate and Harvin got into a confrontation the night before the Super Bowl that leads to Harvin giving Tate a black eye. The following pre-season, Baldwin and Harvin reportedly got into it. By mid-season 2014, Harvin was traded to the Jets for a mid-round pick.

Jimmy Graham Trade

Next, is the Jimmy Graham Trade. After a stunning Super Bowl loss at the hands of the New England Patriots, the Seahawks shook things up by acquiring Pro-Bowl tight-end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick. In exchange, the Seahawks gave up starting center Max Unger and a first-round pick. While Graham would go on to set franchise records, his talents were never fully utilized in the offence leading to Graham leaving this past free-agency to the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, it’s been no secret the Seahawks offensive-line woes that have consumed the narrative of the Seahawks for seasons now, trading Max Unger plays directly into that.

Bruce Irvin & Sheldon Richardson

When the team needs pass-rushing help now more than ever with the departures of Michael Bennett and the retirement of Cliff Avril. This makes the decision to let Bruce Irvin walk at the end of the 2015 season appears baffling now. Irvin accumulated 15 sacks in his two seasons with Oakland and already has one in 2018.

Sheldon Richardson, on the other hand, was acquired last season after the Seahawks desperately needed interior pass-rushing after 2nd-round pick Malik McDowell’s career came to an end before it even started in an ATV accident. In exchange, the Seahawks gave up a 2018 2nd-round pick and Seahawks hero Jermaine Kearse. This was not a bad trade by any means, however, allowing Richardson to walk this past off-season for just $8 million is a questionable move considering where the Seahawks are at with depth on their defensive line. Not much more needs to be said on this move, PFF has a graphic that speaks a thousand words.

All Said and Done

Pete Carroll and John Schneider deserve all the credit in the world for making the Seahawks the juggernaut they were in the mid-2010’s. They appeared to be lapping the league in draft knowledge and personnel moves. But the NFL is a copycat league and it appears on the surface, that Carroll and Schneider have now allowed the rest of the NFL to catch up. And to make things worse, poor drafting and salary cap moves have left the Seahawks a shell of themselves for Russell Wilson to carry. What fans saw Monday night is a direct result of personnel decisions dating back four years ago. Practice roster players starting in key positions is not ideal in any circumstance. Time will tell if the Seahawks can turn things around or if they will fall prey as every other team has (minus the Patriots) to the salary cap era.

That being said the Seahawks are still going to the playoffs in 2018.

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Complete NFL Predictions for 2018

The NFL is as unpredictable as any sports league out there. And I’m probably wasting my time doing this but in the off chance I’m anywhere in the ballpark I want to have it in writing so I can tell you all what a GENIUS I am in February.

AFC

AFC East

Patriots: 12-4 (z)

Jets: 7-9

Dolphins: 6-10

Bills: 4-12

AFC South

Jaguars: 11-5 (y)

Texans: 10-6 (x)

Titans: 7-9

Colts: 6-10

AFC North

Steelers: 11-5 (y)

Ravens: 9-7 (x)

Browns: 5-11

Bengals: 5-11

AFC West

Chargers: 10-6 (y)

Broncos: 7-9

Chiefs: 6-10

Raiders: 4-12

NFC

NFC East

Eagles: 12-4 (y)

Giants: 9-7

Cowboys: 8-8

Redskins: 4-12

NFC South

Saints: 11-5 (y)

Falcons: 10-6

Panthers: 9-7

Buccaneers: 3-13

NFC North

Vikings: 12-4 (z)

Packers: 10-6 (x)

Lions: 7-9

Bears: 7-9

NFC West

Rams: 11-5 (y)

Seahawks: 10-6 (x)

49ers: 7-9

Cardinals 6-10

Playoffs Seeding

AFC:

  1. Patriots 2. Steelers 3. Jaguars 4.Chargers 5. Texans 6. Ravens

NFC:

  1. Vikings 2. Eagles 3. Saints 4. Rams 5. Packers 6. Seahawks

Playoffs

Wild-Card Round

Jaguars over Ravens

Chargers over Texans

Seahawks over Saints

Packers over Rams

Divisional Round

Jaguars over Steelers

Chargers over Patriots

Vikings over Seahawks

Packers over Eagles

NFC/AFC Championship

Chargers over Jaguars

Vikings over Packers

Super Bowl

Vikings over Chargers

NFL Awards

MVP: Russell Wilson (Seahawks)

Offensive Player of the Year: Alvin Kamara (Saints)

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald (Rams)

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Saquon Barkley (Giants)

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Derwin James (Chargers)

Coach of the Year: Mike Zimmer (Vikings)

Comeback Player of the Year: Deshaun Watson (Texans)

This article would be about a 30 min read if I had to give an explanation for every team’s record and playoff win. I will say this though, many fans, pundits and “experts” have the Seahawks missing the playoffs and finishing with 6-8 wins. Let me make myself very clear:

THE SEAHAWKS ARE NOT FINISHING WITH LESS THAN 10 WINS THIS SEASON.

(Provided Wilson stays healthy) I can’t stress this enough. The Seahawks scraped to nine wins last season without a running game, an offensive line that ranked dead last and a kicker that cost them three wins. Those issues, on paper, appear to be rectified. Tom Cable was fired, Chris Carson is healthy, Rashaad Penny was drafted and the Seahawks acquired Sebastian Janikowski.

Many people are pointing to the loss of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and others on the defense as a reason why the Seahawks will fall off, but let me remind you that this team minus many contributors on defense defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champion Eagles convincingly in December. This unit is still comprised of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Frank Clark and (hopefully) Earl Thomas. I am willing to die on the hill of Seahawks over 9 wins in 2018.

If you have any questions/predictions of your own, tweet back (@stevebolen22), reply on Facebook or comment below! I’d love to discuss!

Training Camp Primer

Preview

With Training Camp is set to kick-off in a few days in Saskatoon, expectations are higher than previous years for the Riders. Coming off a 10-8 record and a 4th place finish in the West that saw them crossover to the East defeating the defending the then defending Grey Cup champion RedBlacks, the Riders are expected to pose a significant threat to the West this season. It feels like a lifetime ago when fans were calling for Chris Jones’ head after the release of Dressler, Chick and other fan favorites but numerous signings, trades and draft picks later the refreshed Riders roster is light years ahead of the dismal roster Jones inherited.

Shrinking Window

It’s odd to thinking about a closing championship window when it feels like the Riders are still trending upwards but this is football after all. And while the 2018 version of the Roughriders roster are primed to make a run, one has to remember that championship windows are short in football and though it’s been a slow build back to prominence, the Riders are in “win now” form. One can’t be certain how much longer Duron Carter will stick around in the CFL, he’s been singing 1-year deals at a time and is set to become a free agent once again in 2019. Messam, the 33 year-old workhorse running back along with his fellow former Stamp DE Charleston Hughes (34) probably won’t be dawning green and white for very long post-2018. Tack on Chad Owens (36), Jovon Johnson (34), Robb Bagg (33), Marc-Olivier Brouillette (32), Thaddeus Coleman (32), Marcus Thigpen (32), Brendon Labatte (31), Bakari Grant (30), Crezdon Butler (30) and Naaman Roosevelt (30) who are all either entering their prime or the twilight of their careers. This is not to say CFL players hit a brick wall at 30 years old, it’s different for every player but that is a large number of contributors who are north of 30 years old.

Jaimie Nye of the Green Zone put together a mock depth chart going into Training Camp and the Riders have massive depth at the skill positions.

Riders Depth ChartThe biggest weaknesses are at the offensive line and linebacker position. In my previous write-up outlining the QB competition between Bridge and Collaros, I mentioned that Bridge spent a majority of last season using his legs as his biggest weapon, often escaping pressure that Glenn was unable to. Common sense would dictate that the Riders want to avoid a similar scenario this season and took steps to change that with the addition of Offensive Guard Travis Bond.

What To Expect

The cliché saying “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” is often used in the sporting landscape however it may have never been more true than what to expect from the 2018 Roughriders. Being loaded at Running Back and the Receiver positions bode well for whoever resides under center for the season, but that may not mean anything if the line can’t protect and buy Bridge or Collaros the time they need in the pocket. No matter how open Carter, Grant, Roosevelt, Bagg or Holley get, if the Quarterback is running for his life (see the 2017 Seahawks), this team won’t go very far. On the defensive side, there is lots of talent to be had at multiple positions but depth is a cause for concern for this squad behind Johnson, Gainey, Jefferson or Hughes is a lot of unproven talent.

Strong as our weakest link.

Either way Rider fans should be optimistic going into 2018’s Training Camp, despite aforementioned points, there always seems to be a surprise stand-out contributor or a “diamond in the rough” that helps alleviate depth issues. Also, one really has no choice but to trust in Jones who has taken this team from 3-15 the year before he took over to 5-13 in 2016 to a game away from the Grey Cup and a 10-8 record. Expectations should be high, but they must capitalize because just as fast as they’ve rose to prominence, they could fall back down.

Inevitable Controversy

We know what awaits come training camp

As the days count down before the Riders first Pre-Season tilt May 27th vs. the Edmonton Eskimos, all eyes will be on the battle at quarterback between the young Brandon Bridge and veteran Zach Collaros. Both will be looking to prove themselves but for different reasons.

Brandon Bridge

Bridge is coming off a season where he threw for the most attempts in his career, often in relief for the often pulled Kevin Glenn. During this time Bridge was able to go 92 completions on 138 attempts for 1236 yards and passing for 10 touchdowns with 4 interceptions tacked on. However, what really grabbed the attention of Ridernation in his time doing spot relief for Glenn was his legs and ability to get outside the pocket when protection broke down. Bridge was able to muster up 127 rushing yards for an average of 6.4 yards-per-carry and a touchdown to boot. With question marks looming on the Offensive Line once again, Bridge may have to rely on his running abilities again out of necessity and not necessarily choice.

Zach Collaros

Collaros on the other hand is looking to return to his 2015 MOP-like form before tearing his ACL, a level of play he has not been able to live up to since the injury. Before his unfortunate injury, Collaros lead the Ticats to an 8-3 start leading the way with 25 touchdowns, 3,376 yards and passer rating of 113.7 the highest of his career (minimum 8 starts). The CFL was exposed to a Collaros they had never seen before in 2017, one that was indecisive under pressure and could not lead his team to a win, after an 0-8 start, Collaros was benched in favour of Jeremiah Masoli. Collaros would finish the 2017 campaign with a career low passer rating of 81.1.

The Skinny

Based on the numbers alone, both Bridge and Collaros have much to prove to themselves, their coaching staff and the 13th man, and if it was based on that alone, this competition would be wide-open and perhaps subject to a coin flip. However, one cannot discuss this competition without mentioning Zach Collaros’ contract, prior to restructuring he was scheduled to make $540,000 with up to $200,000 in bonus’. 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk reported back in January that the restructured deal is worth $430,000 with $225,000 included as a bonus. While Head Coach Chris Jones maintains that this will be a pure competition, it is easy to wonder if that will be the case with so much of their $5.2 million in cap space tied up into Collaros.

Screenshot (9)

Needless to say, expect this story to start to dominate the headlines from the start of training camp all the way until the end of the season. Similar to last season, when one slips up the pitchforks will come out and demand the other start. That may just be the price to pay for the Riders in having two starter-quality quarterbacks under 30. Time will tell if Bridge makes the turn from fringe starter to franchise quarterback or if Regina is the place for Zach Collaros to revive his career.

Thank You, Doubles

It’s hard to find a common consensus to sum up Durant’s tenure in Saskatchewan, ask 5 fans on the street on how they felt about Durant as a starting quarterback you may get 5 different answers.

Recap

Buried in the depth chart during the 2006 and 2007 seasons Durant finally burst on to the scene in 2008 after the Riders traded Grey Cup Champion from the year prior, Kerry Joseph, to the Toronto Argonauts. Durant made the most of his opportunities in a crowded QB room among the likes of Marcus Crandell, Steven Jyles and Michael Bishop, throwing for 7 touchdowns and rushing for 1 more before a rib injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. 2009 saw Durant beat out Steven Jyles for the starting QB job throwing for 24 Touchdowns and 21 Interceptions, leading the Riders to a Grey Cup appearance (we won’t talk about that ending though). The following year saw much of the same in Durant surpassing his TD total from the year prior with 25 touchdowns, along with 22 Interceptions to boot. However the 2010 Season saw him throw for a career high 5,542 yards and led the Riders to yet another Grey Cup appearance.

The 2011 and 2012 campaigns Durant’s production took a dip as the team around him began to age and coaching changes were taking place at a rapid clip as the Riders went from Ken Miller to Greg Marshall, back to Miller to finally hiring Corey Chamblin before the 2012 season. After missing the playoffs (2011) and yet another heartbreaking playoff loss for the 3rd time in 4 years (WSF 36-30 loss to Calgary), questions began to loom if Durant would ever be able to win “the big one”.

Our Finest Moment

In 2013, Rider fans saw what might have been the greatest Rider team ever assembled along with some of the best quarterback play we have ever witnessed. In knowing that Saskatchewan was going to be hosting the Grey Cup that season and seeing the Lions and Argos hoist the trophy on home soil each of the last two seasons, GM Brendan Taman went all in bringing aboard Geroy Simon, Dwight Anderson, John Chick, Ricky Foley and Weldon Brown. This on top of Korey Sheets, Dressler, Craig Butler, Chris Getzlaf and Robb Bagg. Durant would put up career numbers in touchdowns (31) and passer rating (95.7) capped off with 4,154 yards passing. But perhaps his finest moment came in the Western Semi-Final when facing a 25-16 deficit, Durant literally put the team on his legs, rushing 6 times for 97 yards, killing the clock and marching the Riders into scoring position. The end of the 2013 playoff run capped with Grey Cup victory on home field saw Durant post 8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 795 yards passing while rushing for 141 yards in three games, absolute domination.

While Rider fans will be left wondering what could’ve been in 2014 and beyond as injuries grinded Durant’s run to a halt before being traded shortly after the 2016 season, we should take solace in the fact that Durant helped build something special in Riderville (including a new stadium). I shudder to think what this last decade could’ve looked like if we gave the keys to Michael Bishop or Steven Jyles all those years ago. Summing it up, Durant led the Riders to 3 Grey Cup appearances, 1 win and only missed the playoffs once as a full time starter (2011). What could’ve been another 18 year Grey Cup drought, was much less and regardless if you feel that the team surrounding Durant that Grey Cup season was the main reason for it, without Durant’s brilliant playoff performances, 2013’s magical run would not have happened.

When It’s All Said and Done

Despite the rollercoaster of a ride, the inconsistent play during the regular season and some disappointing playoff endings, Durant helped keep this team relevant after their 2007 Grey Cup win, when the wheel realistically could’ve came off after trading Kerry Joseph. I hope all Rider fans take today to thank Darian and his contributions and let this be a day of remembering what he brought to the team, city and the community.

Thank you, Darian.