Here we go with the best sports month of the calendar year, and here we go with one of its better subplots: Seahawks practice.
Seahawks practice doesn't concern most of us normally -- even if the Seahawks did go 13-3 and lead the NFL in coolness -- but for the next week-plus as Seattle practices through a well-earned bye, Seahawks practice might answer an overarching financial question.
As Pete Carroll announced that Percy Harvin would bring that mutinous left hip to practice with the team starting Thursday -- "fingers crossed for him" -- here we go: Did the Seahawks' commendable boldness hit one considerable ditch? Did the six-year, $67-million and this-year, $14-million splurge last March on Harvin wind up working and mattering? Or did it wind up not working but not mattering? Or did it wind up not working with that failure mattering?
If this frightening 25-year-old talent were to return to the field, distract some addled safeties and make a play or three toward a Super Bowl title in the coming weeks, you could argue that it worked and mattered. If he were to remain idle while the Seahawks proved good enough to tractor-trailer their way to New Jersey and eternity, you might say it didn't work but didn't matter. And if he were to remain idle while the Seahawks' offense stayed in its relative thickets of recent weeks, you could say it didn't work and that that wound up mattering.
The only path that seems implausible is that he returns but it doesn't matter. You'd think his presence alone would have to keep some safeties from hovering at the line, even if there's no real stat for that.
The Harvin-in-Seattle tally so far: one sizzling 58-yard kickoff return and one smashing 17-yard catch to sustain a drive, both on Nov. 17. The hip that drifted into surgery on Aug. 1 has done too much wailing for anything otherwise. Check the cost of that output -- the $14 million plus the first-, third- and seventh-round draft picks -- and you'd have to assess a one-season error to the wildly competent.
Yet in a league so maddeningly and thrillingly bunched together, would you say $14 million and three picks were worth a distracting presence that abetted an offense and secured a Super Bowl title? Probably. In a league where fortunes and legacies turn on sole plays more than they ever have (as opposed to the more champion-definitive NFL days of, say, the 1970s), would you say all that outlay was worth a distracting presence plus a huge 20-plus play here or there that turned a game toward a Super Bowl title?
In the didn't-work-but-didn't-matter category, you have a young team so audacious, with a quarterback so appealing, that even the neutral amongst us can feel lucky to think of watching it across coming years (risky though that thought has become in a league of up-and-down-and-up). It plays in a stadium that hikes its home-field advantage from big to enormous. Who cares if its audacity led it to a one-year flunk, if that year wound up with unprecedented accomplishment for the franchise? That same audacity has given it much already.
And in the didn't-work-and-did-matter category, you have the recent muddle of Seattle's offense. Did that mean anything? Did any diabolical defensive coordinators find anything? In a 19-17 loss at San Francisco on Dec. 8, Seattle grinded for 13 first downs and 264 total yards, with just two plays exceeding 20 yards, even though quarterback Russell Wilson did suitably at 15-for-25-for-199 and one interception. In a 17-10 home loss to Arizona on Dec. 22, Seattle managed 10 first downs and 192 total yards, with Wilson suffering the second-worst day of his two-year career at an unsightly 11-for-27-for-108. And in the finale against St. Louis last Sunday, a 27-9 win with one defensive touchdown, there came moderate improvement with 20 first downs, 269 yards and eight catches for 129 yards for Golden Tate.
It looks like an offense that could use some more space.
Harvin certainly ranks among the world's more capable space-creators, so that would help even if he wouldn't have to match the 12 catches for 104 he got last year as a Viking against the Colts, or the 11 for 133 against the Redskins, or the nine for 89 against the 49ers. He made those two plays on Nov. 17 and he said, "I'm looking to take off from here." This home-standing team might not need all that much of a takeoff.
Then again, it's the NFL, where no No. 1 seed has won the Super Bowl since New Orleans four years ago, where the last three titlists went in seeded Nos. 6, 4 and 4, where road teams have won four of the last six conference championship games including both last year, where 13-3 No. 1 seeds have never seemed more fit to wind up devastated. There's a defense from Charlotte that might be coming to town three Sundays from here. With Harvin, we could be talking incessantly about something insignificant utterly -- or, not. Hello, January. It's good to see you, even at practice.