As a born and raised Minnesotan, who still resides in the state as an adult, you would think that my favorite football team would be the Minnesota Vikings. If you thought that you couldn’t be more wrong.
Sometime around my 10th birthday in 1983, I became a Seattle Seahawks fan and the rest is history. I haven’t been a fan of the Vikings, although I never had them at the bottom of my “do not like” list like the Dallas Cowboys either.
However, in 2006 that changed.
The Seahawks were coming off of an appearance in Super Bowl XL and the future looked bright. Anchoring the offensive line and a strength of the team was left tackle Walter Jones and left guard Steve Hutchinson. Together they formed one of the most dominating sides of an offensive line that the NFL has ever seen and the Seahawks were perfect in converting short yardage situations over them in 2005.
That offseason, Hutchinson was set to receive the franchise tag from the Seahawks’ brain trust, led by then general manager Tim Ruskell. Somewhere between incompetence and stupidity, Ruskell decided to save a few hundred thousand dollars–which is a big deal to people like us but not when running an NFL franchise–and simply put the transition tag on Hutchinson instead. Ruskell never expected anyone to pay Hutchinson what he wanted and planned to match any potential offer.
The Vikings got creative and refused to play the fool. They would only sign Hutchinson to an offer sheet if he would accept the “poinson pill,” which were provisions in the contract that would make it almost impossible for the Seahawks to match. Hutchinson played the role of the American capitalist and did what most people in his position would have done and signed the contract.
What did the Seahawks do to “get back” at the Vikings? They signed a similar “poison pill” contract that offseason with Nate Burleson. When it was all said and done the Vikings signed Hutchinson and received a third-round pick from the Seahawks since Burleson had been a restricted free agent. Meanwhile, all the Seahawks received was a wide receiver that never played particularly well in the Mike Holmgren West Coast offense. In fact, he was a better kick returner in Seattle than he was a receiver.
Well, Mr. Ruskell, you sure showed the Vikings. Is there any wonder why he is no longer employed by the Seahawks?
Neither team got what it wanted. While the Vikings acquired an All Pro, they never went to a Super Bowl with Hutchinson. The Seahawks lost their dominant left side identity and haven’t been to a Super Bowl since. Hutchinson retired from the NFL less than a month ago after having an individual career that will see it eventually end in Canton, Ohio.
In the ensuing years, more players have moved between both teams more than normal. In 2011, the Seahawks signed wide receiver Sidney Rice and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Viking fans can say they don’t miss Rice, but they do. Aside from Percy Harvin, who isn’t the stereotypical number one receiver, the Vikings have essentially had garbage at the position the past two years. Speaking of Harvin, he’s also a member of the Seahawks after the trade last month that sent him to the Pacific Northwest in exchange for draft picks.
While Jackson never panned out for the Seahawks, it really doesn’t matter with the team striking gold in the third-round last April with quarterback Russell Wilson. Just over a month prior to drafting Wilson, the Seahawks wanted to resign tight end John Carlson, who was a second-round pick of the team in 2009, but he signed with the Vikings after having been in Kansas City on a visit.
This offseason it appears the Seahawks may be targeting another member of the Vikings, in addition to already having secured Harvin, with the expected free agent visit from Antoine Winfield this upcoming week.
While the early returns in the Hutchinson fiasco favored the Vikings, recent history has been more kind to the Seahawks and they are now the team in better position heading into the future.
After the Hutchinson debacle, I think it would be fitting for the Vikings to watch players like Rice, Harvin and Winfield hoist a Lombardi Trophy for the Seahawks next February in New Jersey.