The Decision (Tweet) That Could Have Saved the Seahawks Franchise

Nov 7, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29) celebrates with mascot Blitz and fans in the final minute during a NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Bills 31-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29) celebrates with mascot Blitz and fans in the final minute during a NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Bills 31-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

No one man makes an entire team. However, when one of the team’s and the NFL’s best players mulls retirement, a domino effect occurs on the team that this epic player plays for. Especially after the Seahawks lost another one of its icons to retirement in Marshawn Lynch (of course we all know he is out of retirement and is now playing for his hometown in Oakland).

Earl Thomas (whom I call Cousin Earl, but no real relation), since being picked number 14 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, helped recreate a defense that at the time ranked 30th overall in pass defense and continues to amaze us with his ball hawking ability.

He has lived up to the hype that Mike Mayock said shortly after the Seahawks chose him in the 2010 NFL Draft that he was the most instinctive safety in the draft, a playmaker on defense and will be a day 1 starter. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Eagles, who also needed a safety traded up to the 13th pick with Denver to move ahead of the Seahawks picked DE Brandon Graham (who by the way is holding out, currently, wanting a better contract.

Speaking of Denver, the Broncos traded their 2010 1st round draft pick to the Seahawks as a package deal to move into the 2009 1st round. So, thank you Denver, on behalf of the writing community in Seattle for helping us get a player that would be one of the most impactful players in franchise history.

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Throughout his tenure at Seattle, there were only a few games that I can remember, going back to his rookie year where I thought to myself, who the hell is this kid and why did we draft him so high?

He learned quickly from his decisions (right, wrong or indifferent) and worked hard to become one of the greatest safeties of all time. His ‘all-out’ play and extreme competitiveness has been infectious to other players on the team, equivalent to how the players took to Beastmode. One could say that cousin Earl is the Beastmode of the entire defense.

As Earl became more comfortable with reading offensive schemes by doing his homework, he began to trust his instincts, one of the strengths that Pete and John look for in drafting and signing players to contracts.

So, we fast forward five years and as the Seahawks are coasting along during the 2016 season all of us who were at the Panther home game witnessed Cousin Earl collide with fellow LOB’er Kam “Godzilla” Chancellor, most of us who have grown to appreciate Earl’s competitiveness believed that he would shake it off, throw some mud on it and get back out onto the field.

I for one was extremely shocked to hear that his season was over due to that injury. It was even more shocking to hear just an hour or so after the news went out that he was out for the season that he could be out for his career, joining a few of the NFL’s greatest in their position (Barry Sanders-like) to walk away from the game in the prime of their career.

Again, his competitiveness still leads me to believe that he, like his arch-nemesis Tom Brady will play well into his 40’s or until his body gives out (and he begins to play like an average NFL safety).

Perhaps it was his competitiveness and desire to win it all during a season that rides so high for his brothers, many who were drafted a year or two later and/or signed as free agents, that made him see through the forest.

Maybe it was for his own passion to challenge himself to go to a place that many would either give up or fail that made him decide to take the cleats off the wall hanger before the cleats got comfortable dangling.

The Ripple Effect for the Seahawks

The ripple effect that would’ve happened if Thomas hung up those cleats for good would’ve set this team back seven years, as a Earl-less 2017 team would give up explosive plays (plays of 20+ yards) through the air similar to the 2009 Seahawks defense. The team that Earl inherited had little heart, had little identity and with one draft pick, a ton of coaching and a ton of talent and natural instincts, helped turn this canoe of a team back towards the winning ways it dreamed of being for the past 20+years.

His departure, this year, most likely would’ve put a ton of pressure on the team to go after a similar safety (which none existed without giving away the farm) whether through free agency or trade. An Earl-less LOB would’ve put a ton more pressure on the new guy to be just like him, play like him, lead like him and communicate like him.

I don’t care if Seattle traded up to the top 15 spot to pick Malik Hooker, even he would’ve probably buckled under the pressure of guys like Sherman, Wright, Chancellor and to some extent Baldwin and Rawls who NEED this year to go off very well, if not for their own NFL contract interests.

They need to show off their skills and to remind the league how much they are valued because when the team wins, they as individuals win and can command a higher salary either by their current or prospective teams.

A 6-10 team versus a 11-5 team has huge implications for all players, coaches and yes, the architect himself, Mr. John Schneider. Losing causes free agents to be lured to other teams and makes up-and-coming teams like the Raiders, the Chiefs and the Jaguars (believe it or not) look promising to the Wrights and Chancellors of the Seahawks team.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

All of us 12s got a HUGE Christmas gift last Christmas morning when we saw multiple sources, including Earl’s own Tweet that he was going to endure a long off-season and come back better than ever.

We all took a collective sigh and even though the Seahawks by any measure probably drafted his eventual replacement, we all get a treat to see #29 out there playing this season as he is ahead of where many of his doctors believed he would be in his rehab.

Now, rookies Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson have some time (not a ton of time) to learn from one of the best to play at their position. Bradley McDougald, who I believe is one of the underrated free agent pickups this offseason can also help in grooming these two young talents.

However it happened, however the football Gods whispered into cousin Earl’s ears while he was sleeping to continue to play, if at minimum we get one more solid year of hard hitting, square you up and tackle you behind the line of scrimmage, sideline-to-sideline action, it was Earl’s decision to not retire that probably saved the Seahawks several seasons of mediocrity.

Mediocre doesn’t sit well with us 12s and it sure doesn’t sit well with Pete and John. An Earl-less defense has a higher chance of losing its identity, losing its swagger and as the 2nd half of last season’s statistics and 2nd round loss in the playoffs present, this team needs Earl.

A mediocre defense leads to putting more pressure on the offense who already has its own question marks going into this season, especially on offensive line and at running back. All of this mediocrity would’ve been corrected but after trying to rebuild this team back to its greatness by 2019, Pete and John decided to leave the Emerald City for greener pastures or retirement (in Pete’s case).

Who knows if their replacements at the very top would equal the same or different type of style, scheme and of course winning that we’ve grown accustomed to these past 8 seasons.

Instead, with a healthy Earl Thomas grooming the two gems behind him, he can help lead our team back to greatness for at least one more season (or hopefully three) and to help sustain a team that doesn’t give up explosive plays, has a strong ‘bully’ identity and keeps Pete and John calling the shots for us for at least a few more years.

In the Lummi language, we say Hy’sh’qe, or thank you Earl Thomas for not retiring!