Saturday, March 10, 2012
Memory Lane: Tatupu, Hutch revisited
By Mike Sando
Two moves making NFL headlines Saturday recall the Seattle Seahawks' finest season.
Lofa Tatupu's contract agreement with Atlanta came just as Minnesota was releasing seven-time All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson. Both players earned Pro Bowl honors with Seattle when the team made its lone Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season.
Tatupu's health was a primary factor in his absence from the NFL last season. Knee and concussion problems slowed the linebacker during his time with Seattle, affecting his play and leading the Seahawks to release him before the 2011 season.
Hutchinson was in his prime when the Seahawks lost him to the Vikings six years ago in one of the more dubious episodes in team history. The team hoped using the transition tag on Hutchinson following the 2005 season would spur the sides to a long-term agreement. Instead, Hutchinson's agent, Tom Condon, worked with the Vikings to craft a contract the Seahawks could not match without guaranteeing all $49 million of the deal. The so-called poison pills inserted into that contract stirred controversy and hard feelings while exposing the Seahawks to harsh criticism, even though few foresaw the poison-pill route as a threat.
I'm not sure what Hutchinson envisions for his future, but he is 34 years old and could presumably play a couple more years. Rejoining the Seahawks seems unlikely even though the team has new leadership since Hutchinson left on unpleasant terms. Robert Gallery is the projected starter at left guard, and 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter could project for the role. Hutchinson did play for current Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and with two current offensive starters, Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice.
Hutchinson has played left guard his entire career. If he were a right guard, the San Francisco 49ers or Arizona Cardinals could certainly use his toughness, talent and veteran presence. I actually think the Rams could use a Hutchinson type, but would he want to join a rebuilding team at this stage of his career? That seems doubtful. The Rams might prefer to move forward with younger players, anyway.
Whatever path Hutchinson takes from here, he will go down in Seahawks history as one of the greatest linemen the team ever employed. He and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones comprised one of the all-time great left sides in league history. As the chart shows, Shaun Alexander averaged 1,500 yards rushing and 19.6 total touchdowns per season when Jones and Hutchinson were together from 2001 through 2005, with the only dip coming when Hutchinson missed 12 games to injury in 2002.