A Hard Look at Lofa Tatupu

It was recently reported that Tatupu had undergone arthroscopic surgery on both knees.  I wasn’t exactly shocked to read this, however, it does beg the question:  What should the Hawks do with Tatupu?

This is a tough question for fans.  On one hand, he was a huge part of our Super Bowl defense and an instant leader in the locker room.  I remember when the Hawks practiced at EWU, Tatupu was more likely to be spotted with coaches than other players.  I believe that he came into the league with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove anyone who passed on him in the draft wrong

He did just that becoming a dominant linebacker in the NFL.  His intelligence was his most valuable asset as he rarely over pursued  and had a knack for picking the right angles on opposing ball carriers.  There was a span of years were Lofa Tatupu was easily the most popular player on the field in the eyes of fans and coaches alike.

So what happened?

He got paid, injured, and arrested. 

In December of 2007, Tatupu had the greatest game of his career collecting 3 interceptions and 11 tackles.  It was perhaps the greatest game ever played by a Seahawks linebacker, but it was also the peak of his career.  In March of 2008, after 3 100+ tackle seasons, Tatupu was signed to a lofty contract (42 million for 6 years) making him one of the 5 highest paid linebackers in the NFL. 

Two months later he got arrested for a DUI.

I appreciate that he took responsibility for his actions and apologized to the organization and fans, however, it seemed like a real stupid move from a guy who was so smart on the field.  If memory serves me correctly, he was driving his girlfriend’s car with a bunch of other guys going to a McDonalds.  The whole thing seemed surreal to me at the time.

The following season, Tatupu tore a pectoral muscle and was placed on IR following week 5.  He ended that season with 32 tackles. 

This year Tatupu collected 88 tackles, however, he only reached double digit tackles in a single game once during a loss to Tampa Bay.

So is Tatupu washed up? 

According to the responses on a recent PI forum, he is.  Yet I respectfully disagree.  Washed up is as pretty harsh term to put on a guy who has given so much to a franchise.  However, there is no question he is not the player he used to be.  In fact, I would go as far to say he is not even the best linebacker on the current roster.  Hawthorne collected 106 tackles and reached double digits 4 times this season. 

My problem with Tatupu is not that he has nothing left in the tank because he does.  He’s just not the defensive juggernaut he once was.  Yet his contract gets bigger every year as his skills decline. 

Ultimately, I would love to keep Tatupu.  I think he is still an NFL caliber player, but he is no longer on the list of elite players.  My hope is that he can restructure his contract to better represent his contributions and allow the Hawks to go after more valuable free agents.

I guess it is really going to come down to what Tatupu wants.  Does he really believe in what Pete Carroll is trying to do?  Does he have any allegiance left for Seattle?  If so, I could maybe see him moving to the weak side and taking a pay cut. 

This is a dangerous area in which the Hawks have a tendency to make bad decisions by giving older players huge contracts or in this case honoring a contract past a player’s prime.  I would like to see this trend end now with Tatupu. 

Either he takes the cut or gets cut. 

Either way, I will always appreciate his contributions early in his career.  He was one of the great Seahawk players for a limited amount of years.  But the Hawks need to look to the future and not towards the past when they’re writing the checks for next year’s payroll.

Tags: 12th Man Free Agency Lofa Tatupu National Football League NFC West Seattle Seahawks

  • Mike

    I think your jumping to conclusions Riley. He should get another year to show us his stuff. He could come around. He came off that injury the year before and obviously had knee problems last year. I agree he didnt play like an elite LB. Our LB corp is fine we need to focus on DB’s and especially our CB’s. Tatupu didnt play to his full potential last year but is still above average.

  • Riley Moore

    I guess my biggest point is that he is aging as his contract grows. One of Seattle’s biggest flaws is that they do not know when to get rid of players. Tatupu is a prime example. He has slown down a lot and cannot shed blockers like he used to, yet he is the highest paid lb on the team. I am not saying cut him; I am simply saying pay him what he’s currently worth.

    You may be right about jumping the gun, however, as he was second on the team in tackles. But when a player at this point in his career starts to dip, he rarely comes back. No disrespect to Tatupu or his fans. I just do not think he is or will be worth his current contract.

  • Angela

    OK, first of all I think that it’s hilarious when fans try to talk about players from just simply watching the game on tv and prob listening to what the dumb ass commentators have to say. If you really knew what you were talking about you might try blogging about Aaron Curry and try giving a “hard look” at him this season. You wanna talk about a player not playing up to his contract potential? ya check out those stats then tell us what you think. Tatupu had a great season especially coming back from a torn pec last yr. The guy gave it his all this year, playing with two bad knees, plus a torn ligament in his ankle that they did not put on the injury report. Most guys would have been out for at least 3 weeks just for the ankle alone. No he hasn’t been able to make those big plays that he was making during his first season as a rookie, but of course he can’t! The other teams know him now and know his playing strategy. Which means they know to keep that ball away from him. And the biggest thing of all is that not only does he have to cover his own position but he also has to babysit Aaron who cannot seem to get it right! not to mention a few other players. So you may think that his abilities are slipping and that he’s getting paid too much for what he has been doing out there but the reality is that having a SMART player like Lofa is key to any team. no offense to the other guys playing out there but while they may have the physical attributes which should make them fully capable of playing some amazing football they are still lacking the brains necessary to do so. That is where it’s TATUPU TO THE RESCUE!

  • LouieLouie

    Lofa isn’t that old. He had 3 Pro-Bowl years, and three not so pro-bowl years. A contract restructure is not a bad idea, especially one that contains some performance incentives. He may be past his prime, but if he can really get healthy, he’ll still be an asset for the Seattle defense.

  • Riley Moore

    Maybe this was a little harsh. I know Lofa is a fan favorite. I have his jersey and have worn it to a number of games over the years. I am thankful for all he’s done. I really am, however, his contract is out of hand, and he is aging. His double knee surgery will have an impact on his game, but not his contract.
    Also both Joe and myself have called Curry out on many occasions.
    I am not saying cut the guy, I am saying let’s re evaluate his role on this team as well as his cap number because he is absolutely not the same player who signed that contract, and eventhough everyone wants him to, he will never be his old self ever again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sammysings Sammy

    I don’t know if Tatupu is washed up or not, but I do know fans need to stop thinking in terms of “he was on the Super Bowl XL team”. That was five years ago, going on six, which is an eternity in football terms.

  • Bob Easter

    Not all of us at the PI were of the opinion that he was done. Your article is misleading in that regard.


  • Riley Moore

    c_hawkbob is right. I suggested that everyone stated the same thing. My intention was to say the majority of posts. Thanks c_hawkbob.