Fans in Seattle are aghast at the sudden demotion and trade of a player pre-destined as the next Dick Butkus before he was drafted with the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft.
Seahawk management felt this was “safe pick” and one where they could not miss, to fill a position they sorely needed filled. At 6 feet 2 inches and 255 points with 4.52 speed, he seemed like a sure thing. An expected Pro-Bowler with great personal character, to anchor the fledgling Seahawk defense for years to come.
He was the highest drafted linebacker in franchise history, and the highest linebacker picked in the NFL draft since Lavar Arrington in 2000. But when he agreed to renegotiate and shorten contract with unguaranteed money, the handwriting was on the wall. Especially when fourth-round pick KF Wright ultimately won the battle for the starting strong-side spot.
Curry was promptly shipped off to the Oakland Raiders this week, for a paltry seventh-round pick in 2012, a conditional draft pick in 2013, and a case of Cheesey Cheetos to be delivered Seahawk headquarters by noon on Friday.
It would be easy to criticize Seahawk management for blowing the pick, but criticism today is merely the worst form of Monday morning quarterbacking done by folks who have no idea what they are talking about. Who among us has ever drafted a player using the vast complexity it takes to evaluate talent?
In this case, studying old Wake Forest tape does not categorically decipher whether Aaron Curry was truly great because of his own talent, or because of the talent that surrounded him. Especially on a team like the feared and loathed Demon Deacons, in the ACC, which is not a football conference that tends to knock the knees of potential opponents.
The third smallest school in FBS in terms of enrollment behind Rice and Tulsa, it is by far, the smallest school playing in a BCS conference. Therefore it’s not prone to attract national attention unless they upset a more storied football program, which in their case could be anyone they played.
On teams like this, where underrated players are the norm, and these guys surround the favored media-declared superstar, the favored guy might get the accolades when the others actually deserve it.
How difficult it must be, for talent scouts to sort that out. And even then it's a gamble.
You can’t tell, for instance, that in the much quicker NFL that he would be slow to decision-make during a play, or that he would tend to overrun plays where he should have stayed home. How could you know this?
Especially when he showed such promise during his first five games, and had every pundit in the land pointing to his can’t miss credentials as a great guy off the field as well as on. He is smart, caring, and does everything a professional organization expects of their stars.
It's not like the Seahawks could have brought in Aaron Curry to play a few games with the professional team before drafting him. Thus it's a bit of a cheap shot for fans to rip on then general-manager Tim Ruskell and other Seahawk talent scouts after-the-fact.
Two Seahawk coaches, Jim Mora and Pete Carroll, both targeted Curry as a strong side linebacker, where you have to be strong and athletic and crazed enough to react with instinct instead of head smarts. And yet in the ACC, where players are certainly not as quick and determined as they are in the NFL, how could you possibly know how Aaron Curry or anyone else for that matter, would react on a professional football field?
You can’t know, all you can do is play the odds. You can evaluate to your heart’s delight, but it comes down to game day players who have that extra gear that kicks in when games that count start play.
As a coach and talent scout you can’t measure that in collegiate athletes, all you can do is put stop watches on their speed, and evaluate how they play during a scant handful of post-season games where other college stars are brought together. Games in which sure-thing picks tend to avoid.
None of this is precise, nor is it guaranteed. And thus players like Aaron Curry, and Steve Niehaus, and Brian Bosworth, and Rick Mier, all high can’t-miss Seahawk draft picks, went bust. They didn’t pan out in the long run.
That’s not to say that Aaron Curry will be ensconced with this group for the remainder of his career. But is to say that the critics need to stuff socks in their pie holes and back off. It’s very easy to launch missiles from the safety of the unpaid sidelines of fandom.
It’s not so easy when you’re the guy in the hot seat evaluating Aaron Curry and a whole host of other “can’t miss” college football prospects following what could have been a freak high-performance season they may never repeat. And thus even professional talent scouts miss the sure things while others get lucky finding untapped free agents who eventually become better.
Welcome to the NFL. Welcome to professional sports. If it was easy, we’d all be doing it.