The Percy Harvin puzzle

A receiver possessing Percy Harvin’s tools — speed, elusiveness, hands — should be able to gain yards in the NFL, at the very least. That’s what’s so confounding about his play with the Seahawks . . . and was one of the main reasons they unloaded him to the Jets last week for a late-round draft pick. Forget touchdowns; he wasn’t even getting first downs.

In fact, his per-catch average through five games was ridiculously low: 6.05 yards. Only one wide receiver in league history has finished with a lower one (on 20 or more receptions). The data:


Year Wideout, Team Rec Yds Avg
2003 Justin Griffith, Falcons 21 122 5.81
2014 Percy Harvin*, Seahawks/Jets 22 133 6.05
2009 Josh Cribbs, Browns 20 135 6.75
2012 Early Doucet, Saints 28 207 7.39
2009 Mike Furrey, Browns 23 170 7.39
1997 David Palmer, Vikings 26 193 7.42
1993 Kevin Williams, Cowboys 20 151 7.55
2009 Danny Amendola, Rams 43 326 7.58
2013 Earl Bennett, Bears 32 243 7.59
2001 Tywan Mitchell, Cardinals 25 196 7.84
2006 Dante Hall, Chiefs 26 204 7.85

*season incomplete

Not exactly a prestigious group, is it? It’s certainly not the kind of group a player with Harvin’s contract (6 years, $64.25 million) and expectations should be associating with. But when you get right down to it, Percy — as a wideout, anyway — isn’t all that fearsome a force. He’s more of a horizontal threat with his Jet sweeps, pitch plays out of the backfield, bubble screens and shallow underneath routes.

If Harvin were a truly great receiver, he’d just line up wide, beat his man (or the zone confronting him) and make big plays. But his teams – first the Vikings, then the Seahawks – haven’t used him that way, which suggests it’s Not His Thing. To me, he’s a bell, a whistle, a trinket, an additional ornament for an offense, but not somebody who should be making $11 million a year.

Maybe that will change with the Jets. Maybe he’ll show the world he’s capable of being the focal point of an attack. But we’re talking about a guy who’s had injury issues and, reportedly, personality issues, a guy who only once has gained as many as 1,000 yards from scrimmage in a season (1,312 in 2011). A few times a game he’ll get his hands on the ball, step on the gas and give the crowd a thrill, but how often does he ever tip the balance?

He’s a receiver who specializes in catching passes that aren’t really passes, throws behind the line or close to the line where there’s no defender to worry about. This is a star? An old-time quarterback once told me, “We used to call those pee passes. You threw ’em about as far as you could pee.” That, to me, is Percy Harvin: The Prince of Pee Passes.