Over the past few weeks it became all but perfectly clear (even to those whose interest in the Seahawks is more casual) that the marriage between the ‘Hawks and the 4th overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft was all but over. Aside from the painfully obvious analysis that dictates that Curry’s career in Seattle should not have ended this way, the fact that it did creates more questions than it does answers. How did we “miss” on a player like Curry? How did a player equipped with freakish ability and raw talent, a player widely considered the safest pick in the first round of the 2009 draft wash out in less than three seasons?
Much has been written about the technical issues, the positional shortcomings that haunted Curry despite his having been given an opportunity to play a number of positions within the linebacker job description. I will not rehash arguments of that variety here except to point out that it appears that every attempt was made to find a position that suited Curry’s considerable physical gifts. Solving the Curry question was such a priority that upon arriving in Seattle Pete Carroll’s first order of business was to watch film of Curry; no doubt hoping to see on that film the key to unlocking Curry’s potential. Unfortunately–for both Curry and the Seahawks–what answers the film provided did not translate to anything that looked or felt like real growth or productivity. The result (beginning with a pre-season restructuring of his contract and ending with his being benched in favor of rookie K.J. Wright) was dealing Curry to the Raiders for a seventh round pick as well as a conditional pick. Seattle may well have gotten the better end of the trade. Now a former Seahawk, Curry’s legacy will now be reduced to conversations centered around the what-ifs, the if-only arguments and conversations designed to determine biggest “bust” status in team history; standing next to the ghosts of expensive misses like Rick Mirer and Brian Bosworth.
While the reasons for Curry’s short tenure as a Seahawk can be reduced to a handful of rather simple explanations it would be a mistake to miss two of bigger themes present here.
First, whatever one might feel inclined to say or feel about Aaron Curry the linebacker there are a number of very good reasons to respect and even like Aaron Curry the person. Despite a few comments made on Twitter following his being benched, comments that were predictable and should quickly be forgiven considering the emotion of the situation, Curry was one of the most accessible and fan friendly professional athletes in recent memory. In addition to following many of his fans on Twitter he recently signed up to manage a fantasy football league and invited a handful of fans to join. I was one of the guys who chatted with Curry as we drafted our fantasy teams. He chatted with us during the entire fantasy draft; entertaining a number of questions, not too important or too busy to join us for an hour and a half. How many professional athletes really take the time to engage like that? As Aaron begins a new chapter of his life with his new team it is worth remembering that the majority of the comments and exchanges he had with fans were positive and respectful. And this is worth remembering because even the longest of football careers falls short of the amount of time a person will be remembered for the human moments, the things done when the stadium lights go off.
Second, this might be a great time to take a step back and slow down for a moment as it pertains to the 2012 draft and the “can’t miss” QBs that people are tripping over themselves to anoint. We’d all do well to remember that no player, regardless of draft position, is a sure thing. For every lock (Elway, Marino, Manning, and Montana) there are a number of guys who, despite being the subject of pro-scouting love-fests wind up falling short. College success, while a good marker in many cases is not a promissory note. Ask the Chargers about Ryan Leaf. Ask Aaron Curry’s new team about broken draft hope and hype; something about a guy named Russell who as the Raiders’ QB a few years ago was so bad that he was sent packing despite their having paid millions only to watch their team get worse. Aaron Curry might prove his doubters wrong and turn it around. But if he does it won’t be with us, and we should not be blinded to the point of failing to realize that even massive college talent can be swallowed up by the speed, precision, and demands required of every player who comes into the NFL.
Aaron Curry the person is not a cautionary tale. He appears to value faith and family above football and as previously mentioned he was as good to his fans as one can expect a 20-something millionaire to be. But as an NFL linebacker Aaron Curry took his coaches and fans as far as either could go in Seattle. Carroll and Curry no doubt wanted a different story to be written while here in Seattle. Fans wanted “War Cry” to mean something special and be on full display during multiple Pro Bowls. But it was not to be.
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ staff made the right move. Time and again the reality of this coaching staff is defined in their expectations of those who are a part of the team. If a player (no matter how wonderful their college story reads) isn’t making the grade and performing consistently at a very high level, they will move on. There is a harshness to that reality that initially felt icy and a bit unfeeling. But I see it very differently now. It is a measured approach that is about winning; about putting the right guys in the right system and finding the best chance win. That Aaron Curry will no longer be a part of that here in Seattle is unfortunate. But I’ll take a measure of comfort in believing that for the first time in a long time we are following a recipe designed for long-term success and not just a formula designed to ensure that we look good in the NFC West. Despite the bruises and the “Ah damn” moments, it sure is fun being a fan right now.