Do you remember the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers?
You know, that post-Phil Jackson blunder of a team teetering on the edge between relevance and tumbling down a cliff after all the championships?
Yeah, that’s Jimmy Graham right now. He’s the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers.
Those Lakers were pieced together by major offseason moves of which everyone was excited about. There was nobody in the world not pumped about the prospect of that Lakers super-team.
Similarly, when Graham was dealt for Max Unger and a pick this January — everyone became enthralled with the idea of “Jimmy Graham in Seattle’s offense.”
Unfortunately, not all marriages are sealed in champagne.
Names are names and production is production. Sometimes pieces don’t fit. The pieces of the 2012 Los Angeles Lakers—Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, and Pau Gasol—didn’t fit and they faltered. Big time.
Jimmy Graham doesn’t fit in Seattle’s offense as much as we wanted him to. That’s a reality I refused to fully believe until about Week 9.
I’m a huge defender of the idea that talent reigns. If a player is good enough, which Jimmy Graham has seemed to prove over the course of his career, you can make it work.
But in Graham’s case, it’s basically been trying to fit a big square peg into a small circle hole.
Ultimately, this is why he’s been so bad in fantasy football this season. After years of being the best tight end not named Rob Gronkowski (at worst), Graham is currently sitting at a distant 9th among fantasy tight ends in 2015.
I could stop at “it’s that simple” and probably be right – but when you peel back the layers you realize that Graham is a product of misfit, and malpractice, within the entire Seattle Seahawks offense.
First we need to grasp exactly what Jimmy Graham was in New Orleans: He was a weapon. Not only a matchup nightmare of opposing defenses, he was schemed for and had the quarterback capable of delivering the throws across the middle of the field.
He transitioned from the third-ranked passing offense in New Orleans to the 27th in Seattle. I don’t care how talented you are, those types of stats indicate Graham was as much a ‘product of the offense’ as he was a reason the offense was good.
New Orleans’ aerial offense made Jimmy Graham great. Seattle’s ‘pound it and improvise the rest’ offense does not.
Graham is essentially rendered useless going from said timing based offense with Drew Brees to playing backyard football with Russell Wilson. At this point, he would be better served with Ricky Johnson as his quarterback (one love if you got that reference).
From a statistical standpoint, Graham’s’ numbers – at least on the yardage end of things – aren’t as cringeworthy as you would assume. In a Seahawks offense that’s predominantly run-oriented and features a quarterback who scrambles every five drop backs, 491 yards is pretty respectable.
It’s his touchdown numbers that are concerning. With only two on the season, he’s woefully short of the 11 he averaged per season as the starter in New Orleans. And with the way the Seahawks are trending on offense, there’s zero optimism that he’ll go on a second-half scoring tear.
When the Seahawks traded for Jimmy Graham, they gave up an invaluable piece in center Max Unger and their offensive line has struggled mightily. Graham—not a good blocker by any stretch of the imagination—is being asked to block in line or seeing less offensive snaps to get Luke Willson on the field.
So, in all reality, the answer to “What the hell happened to Jimmy Graham?” is quite simple.
Just about everything.
And it’s caused a fantasy football staple to become an afterthought in less than a calendar year.