April Madness: Warner vs. Kennedy

Yesterday: Then there were three – in the semifinals, that is.

Shaun Alexander joined Walter Jones and Kenny Easley in the semis by running past Jacob Green. Alexander, the league MVP in 2005 and team’s all-time leading rusher, collected 72 percent of a light voter turnout – or just 442 votes. Green, the franchise leader in career sacks, got the remaining 28 percent – or 173 votes.

That brings us to the fourth – and final – semifinal …

Today: Curt Warner vs. Cortez Kennedy

Leave it to Kennedy to put this exercise in perspective. Told of the bracket madness on Thursday, when Kennedy visited the team’s minicamp practice, he offered, “Those are some great players. But come on now, who do you think should be in the finals?”

That’s up to you to decide, and this is another defense (Kennedy) vs. offense (Warner) matchup between pivotal players who helped define different eras in franchise history – Warner the memorable 1980s; Kennedy the forgettable 1990s.

When Chuck Knox was hired to coach the team in 1983, he needed a feature back for his “Ground Chuck” offense. So the Seahawks traded their first-, second- and third-round picks to the Houston Oilers to move into the third spot so they could select Warner. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards six times in his first seven seasons – missing only in 1984, when he tore a knee ligament in the opener. The Seahawks went to the playoffs four times during Warner’s run with the team.

Warner left after the 1989 season as the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (6,705) and touchdowns (55) – totals since surpassed by Shaun Alexander. He was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1994.

The Seahawks made a similar move in 1990 to insure landing Kennedy. This time, they moved to the third spot in a trade with the New England Patriots to land a tackle that prompted Knox to shift to a 4-3 defense. Kennedy had 14 of his career 58 sacks in 1992 and also averaged 60 tackles. But the Seahawks did not return to the playoffs until his next-to-last season (1999).

Before Kennedy was finished, he has been voted to the Pro Bowl eight times, selected NFL defensive player of the year in 1992 – despite playing on a 2-14 team – and named to the league’s All-Decade team for 1990s. He entered the Ring of Honor in 2006 and has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame the past two years.

The franchise’s first 1,000-yard rusher? Or the most decorated defensive lineman in club history? You make the call.

Tomorrow: Kenny Easley vs. Walter Jones, in the first semifinal matchup

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