Shaun Alexander: A retrospective
Posted by Danny O'Neil
It has been more than a year since Shaun Alexander left Seattle's roster yet he remains the most polarizing Seahawks subject.
That was a surprising reality I discovered on Thursday after posting a blog item drawn from his radio interview in the Bay Area.
Usually, it's the quarterback who produces those kind of emotional -- and at times vitriolic -- responses. Look no further than Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia for an example of that.
But here in Seattle it was -- and in many ways is -- Alexander. I'm not quite sure when that started. His statements about being stabbed in the back after falling short of the 2004 rushing title certainly had something to do it.
I began covering the Seahawks in 2005, and it was immediately evident that there was a huge gap in opinions. There were some people who considered him a historically great back who was unappreciated locally while others who perceived him as a glory hound who didn't run as hard between the 20-yard lines as he did inside of the 20.
Here's a link to a story from 2005 about the perceptions of him. The newspaper I wrote that story for has stopped publishing a print edition, and Alexander is gone, but one fact remains as true today as it was back during that Super Bowl season.
"Opinions about him are as unambiguous as a pregnancy test. There is no in-between.
-- Danny O'Neil
Thursday's discussion here on the blog demonstarted that opinions of Alexander have not mellowed with age.
That blog post was hardly my best work. There was a grammatical error and a statement of fact, both of which have been corrected. There were also a contrast I constructed between Alexander statements and the reality of facts that came off as unnecessarily snide and leading to the belief that I had some sort of personal issue with Alexander. Not true. As a reporter, Alexander was a great subject to cover. He was always willing to talk and forthright about his feelings. What he said did not always match up perfectly with the facts from the field or what others said about a given situation, but he always sought to describe how he saw a given situation.
I was baffled by how many people characterized him as if he were an underachiever who did not get the most out of his talent. This is a player who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in five successive seasons and the only NFL player ever to score more than 15 touchdowns in five successive seasons. If being one of the most productive backs in league history constituted "underachieving," I wondered just what those people expected from him.
Alexander's decline in production followed his signature on a large free-agent contract, leading many to read a cause-and-effect relationship into those facts. That's not entirely accurate, either. He was hurt in 2006, missing regular-season games because of injury for the first time in his career. When he returned he remained very, very productive. There was a 200-yard game on Monday night in the snow against Green Bay and a 140-yard game against San Diego's stiff defense. He gained 108 yards in the playoff loss in Chicago.
He never rushed for that many yards again for Seattle and was released after the 2007 season.
Today he is unsigned yet optimistic. He still believes he can play at a high level, still eager to get a chance like that afternoon last year when he was on the visitor's sidelines at Qwest Field, ready to run onto the field to replace Clinton Portis after an injury only to be called back.
Alexander spent the first month of 2008 waiting for a phone call and couldn't stick with Washington as the No. 3 running back, but any attempt to describe the reality of the current situation is interpreted by some as a smear on his history.
In seven years with Seattle, he ran for more yardage than any player in team history and became the only Seahawk ever named the league's MVP yet one year and a team after being released he remains this region's hot-button topic.
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