Friday, April 30, 2010

1995 NFL Mail Bag: The Seattle Seahawks

Football nerds like myself might have taken large note yesterday with the news that Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones announced his retirement after 13 seasons. The left tackle is one of the more unsung positions on the field, or at least it was until the widespread release of The Blind Side last year, but the Seahawks, upon the announcement that Jones was retiring, were quick to regard him as one of the greatest of all time. And given some obscure but no less valid statistics, they probably have a point.

After all, the man was called for holding nine times. In his entire 13-year career.

That's just plain nutty. Almost as nutty is the fact that, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Seahawks have already retired Jones' No. 71, rather than simply waiting for the season opener or a nationally televised showcase at some point this year. Then again, considering that former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren called Jones the greatest offensive player he ever coached -- and Holmgren coached Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and possibly the greatest player of all time, Jerry Rice -- perhaps this type of thing is warranted.

The Seahawks wasted little time in Jonesing up their website, with direct links to both Washington governor Christine Gregoire's declaration of Walter Jones Day, and, my favorite part, a video of Walter Jones highlights. The highlights are my favorite part for the simple reason that I couldn't fathom how one can edit together a highlight reel for a left tackle that lasts three minutes and 22 seconds. And yet, somehow the Seahawks did it.

Given the retirement of, arguably, the greatest player in the franchise's history, today seems as good a day as any to open up the ol' mail bag and see what the Seattle Seahawks deemed appropriate to send my way back in 1995.

The package itself is a fairly nondescript envelope with a return address from Kirkland, Washington, which I found somewhat peculiar since it wasn't in... "Seattle". But It's hardly unusual for teams to hold main offices outside their actual home cities these days, so I ought not to get too worked up. What I did find somewhat unusual however, is that most teams will include some sort of description of their team's history, an informational magazine, a media guide or a yearbook.

Or at the very least a letter thanking me for my interest.

But the Seahawks, apparently, had no interest in those frills in 1995. Perhaps that's because they didn't have much of a history to boast about at the time. Seattle was seven years removed from its last playoff appearance and wouldn't get its next one for four more years. At the time the Seahawks had yet to appear in a Super Bowl, and their uniforms were still in that somewhat garish, blue, green and silver phase.

So as a result, I received no letters or historic recounts, but I did receive two very nice posters, one of which I was particularly excited about being legitimately autographed until that preconception was dashed this very morning. But more on that later. The first poster was a bold and proud declaration of the Seahawks as "The Defense of the 90's", which featured the always enormous Cortez Kennedy tackling some poor defenseless running back from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This poster is awesome in kitschy fashion for a few reasons. For one, and most obviously, those uniforms sported by the tangerine bedecked Bucs are fucking great. So bad, they're good in retrospect, which is probably why the Buccaneers chose to break them out again this year for a few games in lieu of their regular tasteful duds. Another thing that catches my eye is the proud title of "The Defense of the 90's", which, for a few reasons, seems like a bit of wishful thinking.

For one thing, this poster was produced during the 1994 season, which you can note from the NFL 75th anniversary patch sported on the jerseys of both teams. It was worn all season by every team in the League. At that point, the Seahawks were in the midst of quite the playoff drought. In fact, they were 23rd in the League in total defense that season according to NFL.com's statistics. The next season the Seahawks would drop to 25th. During the course of the 1990s, Seattle finished in the top ten four times and never higher than eighth. And while Kennedy, an eight-time pro bowler, is certainly one of the great defensive tackles of his era, the only other player of note on that defense, according to the poster itself, is Sam Adams, who was a rookie at the time, and while Adams would have a solid career, his best years came with the dominating defenses of the Baltimore Ravens in the early 2000s, with whom Adams would win Super Bowl XXXV.

So yes, "Defense of the 90's" might have been a bit of a stretch, though that goofy font is fun.

The other poster I received was an autographed shot of running back Chris Warren from Seattle's win over the Houston Oilers on December 11, 1994. Aside from knowing that I could win a free autographed football from Schuck's Auto Supply and KIRO 710 AM, I always thought this poster was awesome because from the day I got it I could have sworn it was actually autographed and not just printed on. I came to this conclusion, because, as best I could tell, the autograph itself appeared to reflect light in a way that was different from the rest of the poster, meaning it must be ink and not gloss.

Of course, this morning, my weekend house guest, Jessica Guerrero took a look at the poster as I was explaining to her my glee as if I were still nine years old, and she came to the conclusion that the autograph was actually printed like the rest of the poster. By her logic, there were no signs the poster had absorbed any ink nor any flawed inconsistencies that one would find in handwriting.

This was a disappointing revelation, as I had lived the last 15 years under the assumption that the Seahawks were one of the few teams to send me something of any real, appreciative value. Sure, Chris Warren is no Hall of Famer, but with three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in the mid 1990s and 7,696 rushing yards to his credit, he is one of the more underrated backs of his time.

But alas, my possessing his real John Hancock was not meant to be. Somehow I will manage to strive on. It's nice outside, and it is Friday. Perhaps that will help. We can only hope.

In the meantime, I will simply just take solace in knowing that the Seahawks, despite their "Defense of the 90's", managed to go on to bigger and better things.

Happy Friday, everyone.

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