On Monday night, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Ray Lewis teed off on Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham regarding his contributions to the offense when he’s not running pass routes.
“He is unwilling and incapable to hold up in the run game as an in-line tight end,” Dilfer said.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Darren Woodson jumped on the pile with Dilfer and Lewis, in an appearance on ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (on his SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio show).
“Let me tell you this about Jimmy Graham,” Woodson told Smith, via a transcript provided by SiriusXM. “Jimmy Graham, to me, and I’m watching this guy and I know he’s a special athlete, I know he’s a guy that makes big plays, probably one of the best pass-catching tight ends to play the game, hands down. He can run any route you want to run, he stretches the defense, he does a lot of things you want him to do. But you talk about a complete teammate? He’s not even close. He won’t block to save his life. He’s not a teammate. I wouldn’t even call him a teammate.
“This guy is all about Jimmy Graham, and that’s the shame in this. This team has been built, and Pete Carroll has done a great job over the last few years of getting the team mentality, you know, it’s all about us winning games, who cares about the individual rewards, we want to win Super Bowls. Well, in order to do that you have to get down in a three-point stance and block someone sometimes. Sometimes you’ve got to get a little dirty for the running back so he can get that extra yard. Jimmy Graham will not do it and that is the shame in watching this Seattle Seahawks team. And I’m sure, knowing that team, knowing Richard Sherman, knowing Cam Chancellor, knowing [Michael] Bennett on the defensive line, I’m sure someone has told him or reminded him that, ‘You are a Seattle Seahawk, you had better do the dirty work.’ At least I hope so.”
So what did the Seahawks expect when they traded for Graham? It’s not like Graham suddenly changed when the Saints traded him to Seattle. Graham is exactly what Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Ozzie Newsome, and all other great tight ends were: Weapons in the passing game.
For whatever reason, the Seahawks feel compelled to make Graham something other than a pass-catching tight end. They want him to be a blocking tight end, too. And the bulk of the criticism for the team’s effort to make Graham into something he isn’t is landing not on the Seahawks but on Graham.
“It’s been good sometimes, it hasn’t been good sometimes,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told reporters on Wednesday regarding Graham’s blocking. “He’s willing to do it, he’s willing to continue to work on it. He’s a tight end for us. That’s something that’s part of the position. We’re trying to put him in positions to be successful, and that he’s going to be able to do it when we need it to be done, and we know that’s not where we want to make our living with him in there, but that’s part of the position. That’s going to be something that he’s going to have to do, and it’s something that he wants to do, believe it or not.”
Plenty of people want to do what they can’t do, and their employers are smart enough to not ask them to do those things. Taking a square peg like Graham and trying to jam him into the round hole of Seattle’s vision of a complete tight end makes no sense, and it’s unfair to Graham for guys like Dilfer, Lewis, and Woodson to blame Graham for the team’s decision to trade for a player who has one specific skill set and then asking him to do things that fall beyond it.
Maybe he can rush the passer, too. Cover receivers. Kick extra points. If being a “teammate” in the eyes of Darren Woodson requires embracing everything about football, maybe Graham also should play some quarterback. (At least he’d be able to see over the team’s makeshift offensive line.)
Graham is who he is. The Seahawks knew who he is. They now want him to be who he isn’t. And no one is criticizing the Seahawks for that, for failing to get the ball in his hands, and for trading for him in the first place.
Surely, they didn’t give up a first-round pick and $27 million over three years for a blocking tight end. They made that investment for a weapon in the passing game. And he’s quickly becoming the latest high-priced weapon in the passing game that the Seahawks can’t figure out how to properly use.