In Defense of Seneca…

Oct 5, 2009, 1:26 PM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:55 pm

by Dave Wyman

Yesterday as I watched the Seahawks lose to the Colts, I got the feeling that Seneca Wallace wasn’t playing well. But as Jim Mora likes to say, I needed to look at the film (OK, for me it’s the broadcast, but I do have Tivo and a nice high-def TV). It’s not NFL game film, but I know what I see.

Based on the callers’ reaction in the postgame, the texts and the emails I’ve seen since, the city of Seattle is ready to ship Seneca off to the CFL.

I’ll admit, I had the feeling that he didn’t get it done. I saw him take a sack when he could’ve thrown the ball away. There were a couple of times I thought he could’ve taken off running … a lesson he failed to learn from last week. And of course there was the crucial illegal forward pass.

But here’s what else I saw…

I saw him deliver some extremely well thrown passes. Especially the throw that’s known as the “Cover 2 hole shot.” It’s a pass to the sideline 15-20 yards deep in between the corner and the safety. The “window” or open space you throw that through is about the size of a cereal box, and Seneca delivered it perfectly. As a matter of fact, Peyton Manning threw that same pass earlier in the game, and I thought Seneca’s version was better.

He also made some plays avoiding pressure that I would argue no other quarterback in the league could make. And to this point, I am unwavering: Seneca is the best athlete at the quarterback position in the NFL. When you consider who the Hawks are playing with at O-line, is there another backup quarterback you’d want in there?

One thing I didn’t like was Seneca’s posture on the sidelines. He seemed to be brooding, along with the rest of the team. But I like Seneca; I have always known him to be a tough guy and a good team football player, so I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. So, I went back and looked at how Seneca performed in the 4th quarter with the game out of reach (28-3). Let’s forget body language for a moment and check out the results.

On the first series, he was sacked by Dwight Freeney and because of that, the drive stalled. On the next series, he was sacked again by Robert Mathis and this time Mathis hammered his throwing arm, causing him to fumble.

So let me set the stage. Seneca is playing quarterback in the 4th quarter of a game that is way out of reach. It’s 34-3 on the road against arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now. His offensive line consists of 1 regular starter, 1 rookie and 3 backups. He has been sacked 5 times and avoided countless other sacks with his feet. Roaming the field are two guys (Mathis and Freeney) that are tied for 3rd in the league in sacks and are looking to pad their stats.

How does he respond? First, he takes the Hawks on a 70-yard scoring drive during which he goes 7 for 9, and scrambles the last 7-yards for a rushing touchdown.

Second, he goes 6 for 9 and leads the team to another touchdown. I know what you’re going to say. “Yeah but that was against the Colts’ backups.” SENECA IS A BACKUP! His offensive line is beyond backup! Regardless of what it “looked like” on the sidelines, the results indicate that he was a warrior in that 4th quarter.

Then I went to the stat sheet. Seneca threw for 257 yards, didn’t throw an interception and had a passer rating of 94. How do you suppose that compares to other QBs around the league? Hmmm…..I’ll tell you what, I’m going to randomly select a quarterback from another team. Just….off the top of my head….how about…..Mark Sanchez! That name sounds familiar, doesn’t it? He’s the guy that we should’ve drafted and that everyone thinks would’ve saved this franchise.

Here are Mark Sanchez’s numbers from yesterday: He threw for 138 yards, threw 3 interceptions, fumbled once and had a passer rating of 27.

Yeah, but everybody has a bad game now and then. So, let’s compare Seneca’s numbers with Sanchez’s numbers for the year:

Yds Completion % TDs Ints QB Rating

Wallace: 645 66.1 3 2 82.6
Sanchez: 744 57.3 4 5!! 71.2

Yes, Sanchez has more yardage and more touchdowns, but consider this:
-Seneca has played in 1.5 fewer games than Sanchez
-Sanchez has one of the better offensive lines in the league
-The Jets have a top 5 defense
-Seneca wasn’t the #6 pick of the NFL draft

Furthermore, as NFC West blogger Mike Sando pointed out, the Jets entered Week 4 running the ball 78% of the time on 1st down, the highest percentage in the league. They’re protecting their rookie and are wise in doing so.

With all that said, I’m no Sanchez hater. I think Mark Sanchez is going to be a good quarterback. But he is not the only guy out there. Someday it’ll be time to find Matt Hasselbeck’s replacement. Someday maybe Mike Teel may develop into a better backup quarterback than Seneca Wallace. But for now, I’m straining to see where this team can do better.

The Seahawks are cold right now … ice cold. But momentum is a powerful thing and two wins at home against the Jags and Cards can get that momentum turned around.

Upon Further Review…

Again, as I re-watched the game, I was eager to see the penalties that were not so bad in number as much as they were ill-timed. What I saw was appalling. The 3 holding calls, 2 on Ray Willis and 1 on Mansfield Wrotto, were not ticky-tack calls, they were simply … non-existent penalties. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, think about the holding calls on Sean Locklear and Chris Gray in Super Bowl XL that had every one in Seattle up in arms. Yeah, these were worse.

Let’s put it this way: I finally have the justification that I’ve been looking for to make the case that I was a perennial pro-bowl linebacker. According to the criteria these calls were based on, I really was held on EVERY PLAY! Okay, I think I’ve made my point. The calls were atrocious.

I’m going to venture a guess that the Seahawks will have Thom Fermstead, who has been their faithful video director since they processed football film in a darkroom and dropped it into a can, put together a tape of those plays. They’ll send it into the NFL office back in New York. The NFL will get it and say:

“Oh, do we still have a team in Seattle?”

Then they’ll look at the film and think to themselves, “Yeah these were bad calls, but again … it’s Seattle.”

Then, they’ll issue one of the most heartfelt apologies they can muster up. Think of the scene in the movie Animal House where Blutto hears a guy strumming on the guitar the song “I gave my love a Cherry” at the Delta house Toga party. He grabs the guitar, smashes it into a 1,000 pieces and then hands it back …shrugs…and says… “sorry.” There you have it.

I have some experience with this. My 9th and final season in the NFL, I played in Denver and we had a Sunday night game late in the season at Philadelphia. Because of injuries, I was pressed into service on the kick-off return team, something I hadn’t played since my rookie year. I wasn’t happy about it, but I did my best.

Bronco Card

On one particular kick off, my assignment was to block a player named Barry Wilburn, a veteran on Philly’s kick-off team who was also old and out of place on special teams! I put my head right across his numbers and knocked him 5-yards out of bounds.

I turned around to see a penalty flag on the ground. I looked at the ref and asked “Who?!!” As he turned and made the call, “Block in the back…number 92” I looked over at Barry and said, “Barry…you know that was clean!” He looked at the ref to make sure he wasn’t looking, and then sheepishly looked over at me and said, “Yeah man…you got me.”

So the next day, our special teams coach sent the film into the league. Turns out, my “penalty” negated yardage for our return man, and my fellow Stanford Cardinal Glyn Milburn, that would have set an NFL record for single game return yardage. The NFL looked at the film and issued the following statement: Sorry.

That’s what the Seahawks can expect.

Whining about penalties is dangerous. As is lamenting missed field goals. But this is what happens when you are, as I mentioned, ice cold. The ball doesn’t bounce your way, you suffer injuries at key positions and calls don’t go your way. You have to be perfect. Until the Hawks can build some momentum, this is the uphill battle they face.

Wyman & Bob

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