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Grip on Sports: The Seahawks lack of consistency a monster that destroyed their playoff hopes this season

Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh, center, watches path of his failed field-goal attempt. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)
Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh, center, watches path of his failed field-goal attempt. (Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • You like consistency? OK, then. This year, 2018, will start in this space the same way the last few have, with some grumbling about something or other concerning the world of sports. How’s that for consistency? Read on.

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• I was an English major in college (with a criticism emphasis, which probably doesn’t surprise you). Of all the phrases I was forced to read and write about, one has stuck with me over the decades. It comes from America’s greatest intellectual, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his greatest work, “Self-Reliance.”

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” Emerson wrote back before the Civil War, in words that I am still struggling to completely understand – and probably never will.

Yet, I am sure of two things: Emerson didn’t believe being consistent was a good thing; and I will never quite figure out what a hobgoblin really is.

As for the first, we strive for one form of consistency here. We strive for the consistency of being inconsistent in opinions. And we want to be misunderstood, at least occasionally. After all, Emerson felt to be great is to be misunderstood.

So let’s be clear – because we certainly aren’t great: The Seahawks’ season was a disaster a few years in the making.

All of their weaknesses over the entirety of Pete Carroll’s reign came to a head in 2017, mainly because the talent was so drained by the combination of the salary cap and injuries, there wasn’t enough left to overcome them.

Everyone is aware of the problems with the offensive line – and have been for the past couple years. But the lack of depth on the other side was also troubling, and contributed to the defense’s inability to get off the field in a timely manner routinely this season.

We’re not just referring to forcing three-and-outs, though those are always nice. A fresh defensive line is able to exert more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, forcing them into bad decisions. The more often such decisions are made, the more often turnovers occur. In the glory years, turnovers served as the fuel that kept the Seahawk machine powered.

This year, turnovers seemed rev up the Hawks only rarely. They didn’t against the Cardinals yesterday in a game Seattle had to win to have any hope of the season continuing.

Of course hope died in Atlanta, as it often has throughout history, when the Falcons put away Carolina and clinched the NFC’s last playoff berth. And then the Hawks’ off-season momentum expired courtesy of Blair Walsh’s inaccurate right foot.

As we wrote in our thoughts as the game ended yesterday, Walsh’s penchant for missing key kicks played a huge part in the Seahawks missing this season’s playoffs. Which is appropriate.

As the bill for their young talent came due, the Hawks had to cut corners, and not in the football sense of the word. Instead, they cut kicker Steven Hauschka, whose accuracy and ability to finish from distance was sorely missed, to use an ironic phrase.

Walsh wasn’t their only problem, but he was symptomatic.

At a position where Seattle was once first-rate, it had become second- or third-rate.  And it just wasn’t there. If the defensive end depth wasn’t up to snuff, neither was the depth at linebacker. There was enough erosion at enough places to undermine the dam. It broke. And, for the first time since 2011, the Hawks were part of the group whose season was washed out to sea before the postseason began.

In all honesty, they lacked consistency. And that lack attacked their fans’ happiness like a hobgoblin in a horror movie – if I have the idea of a hobgoblin right.

• Hercules Mata’afa’s tweet yesterday that he’s entering the NFL draft wasn’t all that unexpected.

The only thing that might have kept him in Pullman another year was the opportunity to play more often next season without his hand on the ground. But I’m not sure there is anyone in the football offices that could give him that assurance. Not with the rumors swirling about change on the defensive side of the ball.

Maybe if Alex Grinch had presented a plan to Mata’afa concerning next season, aimed at preparing the 6-foot-2, 255-pound defender for his possible NFL future as a linebacker, Mata’afa may have been enticed to stay. Or it may not have mattered one bit.

The idea of playing in the league is a powerful one. The chance to fulfill a dream, to be paid for playing, to test oneself against the best, it all pulls players of Mata’afa’s caliber out of college.

Add in the risk of injury, the idea of striking while the iron is hot and the uncertainty in the defensive offices, and it’s easy to see Mata’afa is making the right decision.

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WSU: That decision is covered by Theo Lawson, from his perch in Los Angeles, where he watched the Cougars take a couple of gut punches – or lower – in the first weekend of Pac-12 basketball play. Theo has the story of their second conference loss, this one 89-71 at USC on Sunday. … The defeat at the Galen Center included a flagrant foul by USC’s best player. … The Times’ Stefanie Loh has a story on Mata’afa’s decision. … The Washington State women lost at Oregon State, 71-53.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12, UCLA held Washington to 17 second-half points in a 74-53 win at Pauley. … Utah is 2-0 after getting past Oregon State in Corvallis. … Oregon got back on the winning track against Colorado. … There are a lot of problems for Pac-12 football right now, and they all need to be addressed.

Gonzaga: Zach Norvell switched the script a bit against Santa Clara on Saturday. Jim Meehan explains how. … Around the WCC, Saint Mary’s win in Provo shows BYU just how far it has to go to win the conference.

EWU: Eastern split its first weekend of Big Sky play by winning 77-64 at North Dakota.

Idaho: The Vandals split their first weekend of conference play after losing 81-77 at Northern Colorado.

Chiefs: Spokane split its WHL weekend with a 4-3 loss at Tri-City.

Seahawks: At the core of it, Seattle’s woes have been self-inflicted. But what’s behind those woes is up to debate. John Blanchette has some ideas on that front, not only in a global, over-the-season way but in Sunday’s loss as well. … What type of changes will occur before the 2018 season begins is the subject of much speculation as well, even among the players. … We had our three takes as the game ended. … The Hawks didn’t do well at home this season and haven’t done well against Arizona in CenturyLink recently.

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• So who wins college football's national semifinals today? I know the two teams I am rooting for, but I am also afraid the two SEC teams will end up playing for this year’s national title. Until later … 


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