By Matty F. Brown
Christine Michael did nothing wrong. The words of a wise man. Whisper them quietly. Now SCREAM them to the entire neighborhood. Go for a walk in the winter — the peak of football season when the body blows really punish — and you will find such a message in the Washington snow; a sign from the football gods.
Michael returned to the Seahawks in 2016 from the Dallas Cowboys, having narrowly lost the battle for carries to the lesser talent of Ezekiel Elliott. Blessed are we to have the superior talent evaluator, John Schneider, who faced the task of filling in for the ‘retired’ Marshawn Lynch. Attempting to replace such a talismanic figure, Michael employed his frenetic, different brand of running energy. The former second rounder had two plays in this season that truly emphasized his brilliance with the pigskin in one just one hand – the same hand, for the entire play, let’s not get sidetracked here.
In our first example, Michael returns to the cursed University of Phoenix Stadium. Michael had already proven himself as totally demon-proof, rushing for 102 yards from 17 carries in his previous visit in 2015 — Darrell Bevell’s usage of double stacks might have helped. 3.3 yards per carry and 3 receptions for an average of a single yard was a deadly return to Arizona. All it was missing was the trademark point to the sky.
King of the offense, Michael was flared out wide as Seattle looked to overcome an all-time horrendous offensive line performance — More on the responsible party later. The Seahawks trailed 3-0 with 11:35 remaining in the game. C-Mike served as a crafty coverage indicator for quarterback Russell Wilson, letting him know the Cardinals were in a zone defense as they chose to put cornerback Patrick Peterson over Michael.
Even though Darrell Bevell foolishly chose to not make Michael the primary target on this play, Seattle’s most dangerous weapon still managed to get his hands on the football. Wilson, reading the Cardinals were in quarters, threw the ball to Michael, who was wide open immediately on a smoke route in the flats.
Dead as a Pike’s Place salmon that’s been thrown and dropped a hundred times for Sunday Night Football (you know they cut that footage out). That’s the best way to describe the chances of positive yardage on this play. Linebacker Kevin Minter had no route threatening his zone and was free to attack the flats. Meanwhile, the offensive line was doing its best peak-Seattle impression.
Incredibly, though, Michael had the sense to work back to the football. It’s these little things that often go unnoticed in the professional game. How could he be expected to read Minter’s angle of attack and cut the other way, towards the sideline?
Don’t you think that occurred to C-Mike? He even had the sense to secure the ball as it squirmed loose from underneath him, the hard ground of the terrible Phoenix turf clearly at fault.
Never forget that Michael was an unheralded whistleblower, so committed to exposing the Deflategate scandal that he continued to fumble after the story had been revealed and Roger Goodell had handed down his sentence to the evil empire. Ball pressures need to be checked consistently and someone has to make sure it’s done in a league where they can’t even remember that a Canadian football field is 110 yards long.
Other heinous acts were exposed by Michael. His contact balance, so effective from the waist up, was often variable below the belt — in 2016 the CenturyLink Field turf was relayed and new FieldTurf Revolution 360 technology was developed. It’s no coincidence that Michael’s machine-gun running style, so like his mixtape delivery (it still slaps), coincided with this period.
The crimes of Tom Cable against Seahawks humanity were Michael’s best exposé though. His prescient vision was frequently viewing a different dimension than any other football player. But, to a Cable-coached catastrophe, it was even further advanced. Michael’s skillset was bordering on alien technology.
His plan against the Patriots was dastardly. Nobody expected him to turn a simple DUO play into a counter by going the ‘wrong’ way pre-snap; he fooled them all for an 8-yard gain!
It was made even better that this was a set-up for later action. On another DUO run, Michael unleashed his plan. The play, as explained by Geoff Schwartz, is a gap-blocked inside run that is designed to get the offensive line double-and-climbing.
Normally, the running back will read the Mike linebacker and make his cut decision based on the position. If the defender comes straight downhill, the back will bounce the ball outside the tackles. If the linebacker goes over the top of the blocks, the back will cut the ball back up inside — often through the backside A-gap.
Get this! Michael was playing tricks again. Instead of following the script, he executed a beautiful ad-lib. He ignored the Mike linebacker moving over the top and ran right into contact. Such a hit was the biggest a Seahawks offensive lineman would have seen on offense since Brandon Browner blowing up Jermaine Kearse in Super Bowl XLIX. (Editor’s Note: What the hell)
What Michael did here was make damn sure Seattle wasn’t getting complacent, up by just 1 point with a 25-24 lead, his Super Bowl-winning expertise was put to use. The Seahawks would see the remaining 7 minutes and 35 seconds out, on the road in New England.
Running outside after the trademark spin move to bounce out of the warning tackle with excellent contact balance, Michael said “to hell with your conventions.” This was avant-garde football; a middle finger to the stuffy old vanguard of heavier personnel and stacked box-enthusiasts. Fuck them. And codswallop to the Patriots’ spread, a double 3-tech front. Michael would not cut back as the play design ordered. He outran the defensive line to the outside and threw a puny defensive back to the floor, with only his own magnificent locomotion able to topple his might.
Ordinarily, gaining one yard on 1st and 10 may look wasteful in the box score. But box score scouting is for morons and it would be willfully ignorant to overlook the true majesty of this inventive gain. Taking time off the clock and humiliating the supposed best team in the league by not even following the basic rules of a run design is the work of an absolute king.
Normally, visionaries die without being appreciated in their own lifetime. It’s a sad reflection of the world we live in. Take Vincent Van Gogh, who could paint a pretty picture yet perished a poor man whose work had not been loved.
Get Christine Michael’s talent to the XFL. And if it’s not the Seattle Dragons we boycott.
(Seriously though, Week 4 in 2016 against the New York Jets broke C-Mike. The run blocking was terrible and all the errors he made afterward were emblematic of that game. The Jets’ defensive front battered the Seahawks. He deserved a week-to-week spread run attack.)