Man, I wish they could come up with a statistic for effort.
I mean, they have one for nearly everything else. Why not try to find a way to measure one of the key elements that separate not just winners from losers, but lift winners into champions?
It might take one of the few remaining magical intangibles out of sports, but it would be something that kept athletes’ hard work from going so chronically unnoticed.
The Seahawks roster is loaded with these kind of guys. In the run of recent success under Pete Carroll, it’s hard to remember somebody taking a play off or failing to play from snap to whistle, sideline to sideline.
I think it’s one of the least examined components of this team’s rise to perennial contender status. It can’t be measured, it’s only anecdotal and can’t fit on a stats sheet.
Sunday’s 30-13 win against Cleveland at CenturyLink Field was another game in which there were so many scoring plays and brilliant performances that many great examples of unsparing initiative and competitive gumption went unremarked.
On one play in the second quarter, with the ball at the Cleveland 48, quarterback Johnny Manziel hit running back Duke Johnson Jr. with a pass in the flat. Thirty-year-old, 311-pound Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane had pushed into the backfield, back around the 40, before taking off after Johnson.
He had to leap over a fallen teammate and rumbled past another who failed to bring Johnson down before finally tacking him at the Seattle 30-yard line. Remember, this was a giant man motoring after a running back some 30 yards down the field — the kind of thing you expect from linebackers, maybe, but almost never defensive tackles.
And the guy right there beside him was fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, another 300-plus-pounder at age 29.
Carroll was asked during his Monday press conference about that impressive display of desire, even more notable by a pair of massive guys with so many years of play on their résumés.
“Both those guys were highlighted on that play,” Carroll said of Mebane and Rubin. “That’s what we’re after; we’re always after complete effort, total effort. Every step guys take, we want to be full speed.”
Carroll said they pinpoint and applaud conspicuous effort every day during film study.
“We’re trying to show that guys can do that, and also to inspire the other guys,” Carroll said.
Carroll said the staff is always trying to champion those players with high-revving motors and unrelenting drive. The reason is obvious: They’re so rare.
“That’s not what comes natural,” Carroll said. “That’s something people have to learn and acquire a mentality for. Some guys are better than others. Human nature is to take the easy way out, and that’s not being driven to do that.”
Carroll also cited the effort of rookie defensive lineman Frank Clark, whose two tackles on the stats sheet revealed so little of the effort and intensity he showed at the line of scrimmage.
I’d add a couple more. Fred Jackson, a 34-year-old situational back, made a ridiculous one-handed catch of a ball thrown well behind him on a third-and-6 play. Not only that, but he kept his speed and motored for a first down. So, instead of having to punt from their own end zone, the Hawks then marched for a touchdown on a 96-yard drive.
Maybe the biggest surprise effort came from a player who lost his job with the Seahawks for the lack of such things.
Running back Christine Michael was picked up recently after being released by both Dallas and Washington. Michael ran with high energy and power Sunday, picking up 84 yards on 16 carries.
Most importantly, he ran with no apparent assignment foul-ups, the sort of thing that caused the Hawks to trade him during training camp.
If Michael hadn’t had such a disappointing history with the Hawks, today’s topic would be what a great free agent find the Seahawks dug up to replace injured Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls.
Michael said that the experience this season humbled him and forced him to recognize this as his last chance.
A lot of times players say such things but don’t follow it up.
Michael made good on his word. At least for his first game back.
Maybe he finally understood what it takes for guys like Mebane and Rubin, something the other unrelenting Seahawks already know.
It’s all about the effort.