T*steful Historians: An Oral History of the Rashaad Penny Pick

With the 27th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Pete Carroll and John Schneider changed the course of their franchise. More importantly, they changed our lives. All of us — you included! — remember April 26th, 2018 like it was but a fortnight ago. A day of reckoning for the Seattle Seahawks and the Tasteful Profanity writing staff alike.

While 363 nights have come and gone, the incredulity remains. This treatise you’ve stumbled upon acts as a first hand recollection of that evening from those courageous enough to witness a travesty unlike any before.

Because we are artsy and edgy and stuff, past and present tenses are mixed at moments. You’ve seen Game of Thrones. They’re into time travel shit now so this can’t be the weirdest piece of content you’ve consumed over the past couple weeks.

Prepare yourselves for an arduous trek through exhaustive bullshit.

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Peter: Because I’m dumb, I watched the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.  I knew the Seahawks would trade back and I knew they would pick a player I had barely heard of before.  So, like an idiot, I burned the shit out of some nachos and settled in to watch with some friends.

Dan: Tom Cable was gone!  Darrell Bevell deserved better, but fresh new faces filled the locker room. I had no idea what they were going to do but my hopes were sky-high. No more first round tackles converting to guard — this was going to be great!  The only thing I knew for sure (along with literally any Seahawks fan that has paid attention to PCJS drafts) was that the Seahawks were not picking at 17.  

Griffin: I was extremely dejected going into the draft given the massive talent exodus on defense. I was particularly salty about the Bennett trade, and I figured they needed to fill starter spots.

Mike C: It had been the first time in a long while that there was uncertainty in the fanbase. That was exciting, to not know where the team was going in terms of a rebuild. We had coasted upon consecutive playoff runs and our identity seemed set. But after the failure of 2017, the breakup with Richard [Sherman], Michael [Bennett], and Marshawn [Lynch], it felt like there were a lot of questions on the roster. Every position — especially quarterback — seemed to be one of need, and there was no telling what the Seahawks were going to do given that this was the highest spot they had selected in six years.

Tony: I had been preparing evaluations since January. This was the year that I’d finally predict Seattle’s pick correctly. I didn’t care what Ernst said about some fake unwritten rule to never take a cornerback in round one. He was wrong and I couldn’t wait hear his reaction when they took Isaiah Oliver. No matter what happened that night, I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to listen to people complain about the Solari and Schottenheimer hires anymore.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,

Sean: Coming off of the first playoff miss of Russell Wilson’s career, it was clear that the team had a few obvious gaps on the roster. Wide receiver, tight end, cornerback, safety, or maybe even a guard in the first round? Any of these seemed to fit the team’s biggest needs.

Patton: I really had three names circled for Seattle: Derwin James, Harold Landry, and DJ Moore.

Alistair: Man it sure would be nice if they draft Harold Landry.

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As the first round began to play itself out, plenty of players desired by Seahawks fans were still on the board. Florida State defensive back Derwin James and Boston College EDGE Harold Landry had begun to plummet, leaving viewers licking their chops at the prospect of these prospects.

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Sean: Derwin James left the board and my first thought was simply ‘damn.’ But it’s draft season, and you can’t select every player you want. I was prepared to see who they’d decide to pick in his stead aaaand Seattle trades down.

Tony: Wow, one pick away from Derwin. I still wonder if the Hawks would’ve stayed put if he fell. But my guy Oliver was still on the board. I knew the responsible target was Will Hernandez, but I can’t come to terms with how un-sexy taking a guard in the first round would be. Besides, they could’ve gotten an offensive lineman later after they traded Earl Thomas to the Browns.

Patton: Once Derwin James was picked by the Chargers and Marcus Davenport was gone, I assumed Seattle would trade down at least once.

Peter: When the Seahawks traded back out of 18, we all nodded knowingly.  “Classic Schneider, gotta accumulate those picks”.

Dan: John, you wily sonofabitch, well played.

Griffin: At this point, good move. Derwin had just escaped our grasp, there weren’t many first rounders left at that point — best to trade back to get better value and collect an additional pick.

Mike C: The Chargers selecting James right before we were on the clock was only the second most tragic thing that happened night — the first being the Raiders stealing the best player of the draft in Kolton Miller at pick 15. I’m still bitter that Pete Carroll fired Tom Cable — the architect behind the Seahawks’ dominant run offense — in favor of some scrub that couldn’t even make an adequate offensive line with Walter Jones, Mike Wahle, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, and Sean Locklear.

Alistair: Fuck, well I hope Harold Landry is still on the board at 28.

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As the 27th pick approached, potential scenarios for a second trade down swirled furiously  around the Seahawks. Would they actually sit pat and pick on Day One or would everybody have to wait until Friday for the team’s selection?

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Dan: I didn’t know who any of these prospects were, so I figured let’s just trade down again.  You know you want another Day Two pick after the Jeremy Lane failed trade fiasco.  Picking in the first round is for cowards anyway. Bill Belichick would never.

Tony: The clock was running long, with Schneider probably on the phone working out another trade back. I hailed the waitress to bring my tab. ‘We aren’t picking tonight,’ I thought to myself. Why did I expect anything less… and when were they going to trade Earl!? Like, they were out of time. Just take less. Anything is better than watching him be miserable in Seattle and then getting no compensation for a Hall of Fame talent.

Sean: It was par for the course, as I don’t think they had taken a first round pick that was their original one since 2012, maybe 2011? Honestly not trading down would have been the surprise. By then I was just ready get to that first pick.

Mike C: One of my friends texted me at this point and said, “[Lamar] Jackson’s still on the board.” Sure enough, I couldn’t believe my eyes that one of the best offensive players for Pete Carroll’s system was still available. I knew it was too good to be true to pick him, given that his abilities at run blocking were inadequate, but he had everything you wanted as a quarterback — leadership, intangibles, and the threat of running. I remember texting back wishing Pete and John would pull the trigger and start grooming him in case Russell Wilson gets a ridiculous amount of money, in which case we can promptly trade Lamar for two first-round picks anyways since people like to overpay for potential.

Griffin: I remember being surprised that no one had gambled on Maurice Hurst yet — we all really underestimated the medical flags — and kept repeating “just draft Hurst just do it why not just do it.” A more realistic pick was Harold Landry.

Patton: I was disappointed that DJ Moore had just gone to Carolina, but was thrilled that Seattle was going to take Harold Landry.

Alistair: Wow I can’t believe Harold Landry is still available

Griffin: Either way, I was thinking defensive line or secondary. There is no way they’d draft a running back. That’s just a twitter joke, right?

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As Rodger Goodell trudged onto the stage, the entire state of Washington, nay, the world held its collective breath for the pick.

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Peter: When pick 27 came up, we figured we would get another trade back.  But Roger Goodell got up on stage and announced that the Seattle Seahawks, with the 27th pick in the 2018 NFL draft, had selected… Rashaad Penny.

Alistair: Well that’s not Harold Landry.

John: The Seven Stages of DisbeGrief. Stage 1: Shock/Shockwave — Is that the start of a North Korea bombing campaign or the sound of Ben Baldwin’s head exploding?

Tony: You have to be kidding me… a running back!? The kid from San Diego State who literally nobody had a first round grade on?

John: Stage 2: Denial — I’m pretty sure the Seahawks traded back to do something else. Why is everyone fake tweeting that they they took some running back? Stop that, everyone.

Dan: Are you fucking kidding me. WHERE THE HELL WAS YOUR TWITTER GUY JOHN? Running backs don’t belong in the first round!  I was having such a great damn time laughing at the Giants for taking Saquon at 2, and then I had to laugh at the Hawks too.

John: Stage 3: Anger — THOSE FOOLS YOU CAN GET RUNNING BACKS IN THE LATE ROUNDS.

Tony: Let’s recap here. Was Ronald Jones taken? No. Was Sony Michel taken? Nope. How about Nick Chubb? Still available. I was done. Where was my bar tab? It was time to go. Everyone in the bar was looking at me like I stole a foul ball from a kid. Did they not realize the significance of this? Freaking casuals…

Peter: At first, I was elated.  The Seahawks hadn’t selected Guice, or Michel, or Chubb or any of the other backs they had been tied to.  I had literally never heard of this player.

John: Stage 4: Bargaining — Well Pete does like to run the ball. And he must be special or they wouldn’t have.

Griffin: I was silent for about two seconds, then yelled “WHAT THE FUCK” a lot of times. As well as “ARE YOU SHITTING ME. WATCH CARSON WIN THE JOB.” Then I remember laughing hysterically. Penny is a good back! BUT WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT PICK. I tweeted something snarky some time later (which I never do, I’m very serious on Twitter), about how Carson will probably win the starting job. He did. I am so smart.

Sean: Are you fucking kidding me? I had to check my phone to see if this was the dude who lost to Army in his bowl game. With a half dozen holes at positions that actually matter, we had taken a running back. Great, just great.

John: Stage 5: Depression — Time to tweet “I cannot believe they wasted that much first round capital and now they’ll never make it back to the Supe—” oh wait, no need to tweet that, looks like Evan beat me to it.

Dan: God damn it Pete, I know you had something to do with this, you sick bastard.  Why did the Seahawks hate Chris Carson? What did he ever do to them?

John: Stage 6: Testing — Let’s see what they do with the rest of the draft. And let’s see how that career turns out.

Mike C: Running back was such a dark horse. When I combed through the tweets I saw that the selection had pissed off Ben [Baldwin], which means that it was most likely going to be a great pick. I went searching for his YouTube highlights and fell in love with his speed and versatility as a receiver. I doubt Penny could’ve been a workhorse like Marshawn, but I would’ve appreciated if he could’ve grown into a Christine Michael or Robert Turbin role a year or two down the road.

Patton: I believe I tweeted “I am floored by this Penny pick, but he has no red flags and is a double at best (no home run potential with the pick)”. Then I tweeted out the Stanford game where he just destroyed them.

Peter: It slowly dawned on me that the Seahawks had not only selected a running back with their first pick in the draft, but didn’t even get one of the consensus great ones.  What the hell, John.

John: Stage 7: Acceptance — Never.

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Shortly after the Seahawks’ selection, a report came in that an anonymous franchise had immediately offered their pick to trade for the newly-drafted Penny. Chaos, per usual, ensued.

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Tony: What!? Okay the Steelers really reached by taking the other Edmunds brother but who else had a high enough grade on Penny to make an offer? Maybe Schneider sniped him with plans to package him with Earl or something.

Griffin: I definitely yelled, “DO IT. FUCKING DO IT.”

Sean: You’re telling me that someone would’ve offered draft capital for a late first round running back and we didn’t take it? Pass the scotch.

Patton: It was the strangest thing I had ever heard, and it turned out to be Detroit.

Alistair: Sweet, take Harold Landry with the pick you get for Penny.

Dan: Sounds fake, but okay.

Mike C: Some people were skeptical, but I fully believed this. I’m not surprised that a team would be willing to do so. It was posturing from Carroll and Schneider, probably a rumor they planted through one of their sleeper agents on Twitter like [NAME REDACTED]. They didn’t need to sell me on the pick. Running backs are the most valuable commodity in the NFL due to their relatively short lifespan, and everyone knows you need successful running to win. The fact that so many teams drafted a tailback shortly afterward — especially that of the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots — is all the evidence you need.

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The draft’s opening round came to a close and so did the optimism of Seahawks fans.

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Griffin: I leveraged my incredulity into laughter instead of anger which was probably best for my mental health.

Sean: Seattle’s 2017 running back rushing attack was one of — if not the — worst rushing attacks in league history. It was clear the offense became one-sided and defenses didn’t fear the rushing attack’s potence. But, I just could not believe that was because of a lack of running back talent. It was clearly the offensive line that was struggling. Right? Am I on crazy pills?

Dan: At least they traded back first.

Patton: I was thrilled that the Patriots didn’t get Lamar Jackson, but pissed that the Cardinals traded up for Josh Rosen.

Alistair: I can’t believe they didn’t draft Harold Landry.

Mike C: It was reassuring that the front office knew what they were doing. I was glad that the Ravens ended up picking Lamar, as well as the Patriots deciding to go with Michel — I thought those were great picks to conclude the 1st round. Not having a second rounder interrupted the drafting experience, but it was to revel in the sheer joy of trade downs and sleeper picks.

Tony: The Seahawks had durability issues at running back and maybe were planning on going dual back. I had just been so conditioned to see a workhorse. I convinced myself that the Saints and Falcons were on the cutting edge, running out these dynamic committees. Seattle was just following the trend. I needed to sleep on this. See how I felt in the morning.

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Nearly a year later, the draft is upon us yet again. With two picks in the first round, the Seahawks are poised to bolster their running back corps even more thoroughly this time around.

The passage of time has allowed for clarity from those reflecting on the drafting of Rashaad Penny.

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Patton: I understand the pick. Seattle couldn’t trust Carson (or any of their backs) to stay healthy. The cost of a late first for a running back is not ideal but neither is it prohibitive — I believe Penny only made 2.5 mil, which is like not in the top 25 for rushers. All of the running backs went VERY QUICKLY in rounds two and three, and we got our #2 rated back (after Saquon Barkley). Would have been nice to trade down one more time and grab a fourth, but too many teams would have taken Penny by then (New England took Michel, Cleveland took Chubb, Detroit took Johnson).  Penny showed flashes during the year that he can create a great tandem with Carson. Still wish they would have ended up with one of my preferred targets, but I’m not mad at it.

Mike C: The Seahawks have always been a trendsetter for the league. Starting with the 12th Man, then evolving into the Legion of Boom and Beast Mode. I think all of these defined a generation, and the Penny pick felt like a return to the old familiar. All those things are the standards for a golden era, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the front office chose Penny. He will ultimately define a new period of championships, so for Carroll and  Schneider to go back to their roots was iconic.

Sean: Rashaad Penny is probably a great guy, and I don’t have anything against him. Like at all. Players are out there to get paid and I’m all about it. But how in the world do you defend this pick? In what world did this make sense? He could have been the steal of the century and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Tony: Today, I’m not happy about the pick but I can sort of see the rationale for the Seahawks to just follow their board when they couldn’t trade back even further. At the time, Rashaad Penny checked a lot of key boxes the team was looking for. He filled what was then a team need even if he ultimately became a hedge for Carson. He had a high medical grade. He had a clean background. These were things they were hyper-attracted to due to the injury history at the position, the recent flux in culture and, the empty yields from higher risk players taken in previous years.

Griffin: Good running back! Bad pick! Ultimately, 27 was a weird spot in the draft last year. There weren’t many suitable options there in retrospect. The best aspect of Penny is his home run ability and I think he’ll only get better with more reps. With Davis gone, he’s firmly RB2 so we’ll see more of him.

Tony: That said, some good players were left on the board and that in hindsight will follow them for years to come when the cement is dry on Penny and the 2018 class. No matter what he ends up doing in his career, there will be many who feel the pick to be inherently bad based on the decreased value of running backs in today’s game. Though I enjoy pounding the rock, I agree with running back value. What really spoils it for me is, I don’t see a scenario where Penny simply beats out Carson, and that’s where the pick goes from a “reach” or bad value, to an outright “bust”. He’s not that now but if Carson a seventh rounder, continues to outclass him and he’s not on the field by year three, it won’t be the hottest take you’ll have heard.

Sean: There’s only one answer all of this. The pick was made out of spite. That’s right, you heard me. John Schneider read all those damn running articles, got sick of our shit, and drafted a running back in the first round to own the nerds.

Dan: It is going to be absolutely magnificent when Penny leads the league in rushing touchdowns after the Seahawks pick up his fifth year option.  It will be less magnificent when Schneider decides that means he should get paid top running back money.

Alistair: Sure wish they drafted Harold Landry. Man it would’ve been nice if they drafted Harold Landry.