“Christine, that’s all I ask of you.” –Phantom of the Opera Lyrics
When Total Packers ran stories on November 15 and 16 on the Packers’ possibly acquiring just-released Seahawks running back Christine Michael, and then confirming Green Bay did indeed claim him, commenters were less than enthusiastic. Some of the gripes: fumbles a lot, a head case, cut by three teams, not right for the Packers’ offense, has character issues, doesn’t catch many passes.
I’m going to take the opposite view – in desperate times like these, optimism is called for.
Christine Michael (pronounced Kris-tin), was among the top three running backs in the country coming out of high school in Texas. He went on to Texas A&M, had a fine college career, and was drafted in the second round in 2013 by Seattle’s savvy general manager, John Schneider.
He played sparingly in 2013 and 2014, but he has a Super Bowl ring from that first season, and would have another but for Russell Wilson being intercepted when he passed from the 1-yard line in the final minute of the Super Bowl in 2015. He was also on the field two weeks earlier when Green Bay infamously lost to the Seahawks in overtime 28-22.
Seattle traded him to Dallas as the 2015 season was about to begin. Seattle Times reporter Jayson Jenks at that time described Michael as being “a strange cocktail of talent, potential, immaturity, and inconsistency.” But he also quoted an NFL scout as saying he was the most gifted running back in the last five years. A strength/conditioning coach felt he was “as explosive as Adrian Peterson.”
Michael is 5’10″ and weighs 221. He is strong (27 bench presses) and was cast as the apparent successor to Marshawn Lynch. One observer gushed that all he had to do is walk on the field and his potential demanded to be seen – it was that obvious.
On the downside, others said the intricacies of the position evaded him (his Wonderlic score was 11), and that his inconsistency proved to be his downfall. One person noted that he’ll tease you with his potential.
As to those commenter complaints, I see no indication of a fumbling problem (he’s lost one fumble in 233 regular season carries), and no dire character issues (drugs, domestic abuse, criminal record, etc.). He caught 20 passes in his nine games with Seattle this year – though at under five yards a catch, they must have been mostly dump-offs by Wilson.
As for being cut by three teams (twice by Seattle), the fact that Seattle brought him back for the tail end of the 2015 season, and started him right up to the time of his release this year indicates the Seahawks by no means viewed him as damaged goods. He even started last year’s playoff game against the Vikings, rushing for 70 yards on 14 carries, and helping Seattle survive, by a 10-9 score.
There’s an additional irony here. Seattle released Michael last week when Thomas Rawls got his health back, rendering Michael a third stringer, behind Rawls and fast-rising C.J. Prosise. Five days after the Packers acquired him, Prosise damaged his shoulder and is probably out for the rest of the year.
A second irony: the Vikings were also ready to claim Michael off waivers, but the Packers had first dibs due to their worse win-loss record on the year.
A Realistic Plan
The last thing the Packers (or their fans) need to be worrying about is Michael’s long-term prospects. Unlike Knile Davis, Michael has not been warming the bench. Until last Sunday, he played in all nine Seahawks’ games, and he averaged over 15 carries and 2.7 catches in the first seven – considerably more work than Eddie Lacy was getting at the time.
He’s ready to go. All the team needed do is assign a coach to him, work up a small number of basic plays designed expressly for him, and start him on Monday night. See what he can do – unleash that potential.
Maybe Michael can tease us for just six weeks with his talent. Christine, that’s all I ask of you.