Happy New Year.
I mentioned this in the podcast yesterday but wanted to put it down in words. For me, the thing that was most bothersome about Super Bowl XLIX wasn’t so much the agonising manner of the defeat. It was the way it jeopardised the legacy of this era of Seahawks football.
Win back-to-back Super Bowls and this is the team of the decade. Forever to be remembered as one of the greats. Pete Carroll would be one Super Bowl title behind Bill Belichick’s incredible haul. It wouldn’t matter if they didn’t win it this season. They’d be the Seahawks people always remember.
Now there’s a genuine danger that the Carroll-led Seahawks will be remembered for little more than that ending to that game. That would be unfair. Watching the creation of this team has been like watching a good movie (not Indiana Jones 4). What kind of an ending is the abject misery of that intercepted pass?
The only way anyone is going to get over that play is to win another Championship. To gain redemption. The desperation to get there is probably more intense for this fan base than even winning the first title. Nobody wants their team to be that team.
There is still a chance the Seahawks make the Super Bowl this season. It’s probably a smaller chance than the Cardinals or Panthers — but they have a legitimate shot.
Here’s ten reasons to feel like this season could still be a story of redemption:
1. Here are the players who were part of Seattle’s Super Bowl roster last season that are currently no longer with the team:
B.J. Daniels, Robert Turbin, Tony Moeaki, Chris Matthews, Kevin Norwood, Bryan Walters, Keavon Milton, James Carpenter, Max Unger, David King, O’Brien Schofield, Kevin Williams, Tony McDaniel, Landon Cohen, Malcolm Smith, Byron Maxwell and Jeron Johnson.
Here are the players that were not available last year or have since been added:
Brandon Mebane, Fred Jackson, Tyler Lockett, Frank Clark, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh, Ahtyba Rubin, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Kelcie McCray.
A few key players have departed (Maxwell, Unger, McDaniel) but nobody of major significance. The emergence of Lockett, the return of Mebane and the addition of Rubin offset the losses. Basically, this is virtually the same roster that many claimed to be the most complete team in the NFL a year ago.
2. According to Football Outsiders, the Seahawks have a 76.4% chance to be the #6 seed. That would mean going to Green Bay or Minnesota in the Wild Card round. Seattle recently destroyed Minnesota on the road while the Packers, according to the MMQB’s Peter King, are “positively messed up”. If the Seahawks can get on a roll in the wildcard — that could be the launchpad for a post season run. Maybe avoiding Washington is a good thing — they’ve won three in a row. Kirk Cousins has thrown eight touchdowns and zero picks in his last two outings. The Seahawks have struggled against good tight ends — Jordan Reed has 25 catches, 333 yards and five touchdowns in the last three weeks.
3. Marshawn Lynch is close to returning. If there is to be some kind of fairytale end — Lynch possibly provides it. This could be his final season in the NFL. At the very least it looks like his final year in Seattle. Although he seems to have a unique relationship with the front office — there’s no question he inspires his team mates. Helping Lynch finish in style could be the thing that unites this squad and gives them that extra edge in the post season. The NFL has a weird way of providing these kinds of endings. Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis. Santa Clara is only 40 miles from Oakland, in case you’re wondering.
4. The Seahawks lost to the Rams in a squalid performance last weekend. Do you have to be the hot team to win in the post season? Absolutely not. In 2012 the Ravens lost four of their last five games before winning a Championship. In 2011 the Giants lost five out of six between weeks 10-15 before winning a Championship — including a 23-10 loss at home to the 5-11 Washington Redskins. Whatever happened last week against St. Louis or even this week against Arizona doesn’t matter. What matters is the best players coming good at the vital moment — the post season. In particular that means the quarterback. In 2011 and 2012, Eli Manning and Joe Flacco found their best form. Russell Wilson has been playing his best football for several weeks already.
5. Speaking of Wilson — he might be the most under-appreciated player in the league. There are only two players in NFL history with a +100 career passer rating — Aaron Rodgers (104.4) and Russell Wilson (101.4). Rodgers has been described as, at least up until this season, possibly the most talented quarterback ever to play the game. His inability to win another title (plus Tom Brady’s growing collection) stalled some of that talk. Wilson is on target to emulate Rodgers’ career without the benefit of a long developing process behind Brett Favre. Over the last few weeks Wilson has excelled in all of the key areas — red zone percentage, third down conversion, explosive plays. The Seahawks have a genuine title winner at quarterback who can drive this team forward.
6. Going on the road could be a good thing for the Seahawks. They only won five games at Century Link in 2015. Unless Pittsburgh sneaks into the playoffs, none of those wins came against a team that will make the post season. It feels like Seattle is getting everyone’s best shot at the CLINK. It’s an opportunity to make a statement — a chance to prove you belong. Whether it’s Cam Newton showing he can win the big game, the Cardinals trying to prove they are the best in the NFC West or the Rams looking to end a bad season on a high — the Seahawks haven’t been able to match that will and intensity at home when the pressure is on to get the job done. It might suit this squad to go on the road and be the under dog. They certainly thrived in that role when they pummelled the Vikings in week 13.
7. There is something to be said for knowing what it takes to win. The Seahawks are a Championship roster filled with players that have won on the big stage. The Panthers and Cardinals can prove over the next few weeks they can achieve that level too. And yet they still need to prove it. Carson Palmer hasn’t won a playoff game. Cam Newton’s only playoff victory came against the Ryan Lindley-led Cardinals a year ago. It might not be a significant advantage — but there is an advantage to Seattle and Green Bay in that they know ultimately what it takes to go deep into the post-season.
8. The Seahawks have history against all of the teams in the NFC playoffs. They’ve won in Carolina in each of the previous three seasons. They destroyed the Cardinals last year with Ryan Lindley at quarterback — but also beat Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer convincingly in their own backyard in 2013. The Seahawks recently won comfortably in Minnesota and had a big win in Washington against Kirk Cousins last year. And while they lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in week 2 at Lambeau — they also beat Green Bay twice last season. They’ve beaten these teams before — there’s no reason why they can’t do it again.
9. Albert Breer made an interesting point on the Brock and Salk show yesterday. When discussing what makes a legitimate Championship contender, he made reference to Arizona’s multiple ways they can beat you. They run the ball well. Carson Palmer could (and maybe should) be the league MVP. The defense plays tough, solid football and can make the plays to win a game. How is this any different to the Seahawks? Russell Wilson is having a fantastic year. They’re expected to have Beast Mode back on the field — possibly for the last few games of his career. The defense hasn’t always played up to a 2013 or 2014 level — but it’s still ranked #4 overall by DVOA, #2 in pass defense, #3 against the run and #3 in points-per-game. The Seahawks remain balanced and like Arizona — can beat you in multiple ways.
10. This is the chance. You can’t find redemption for the last Super Bowl in week 5. You can’t find it in week 15. The Seahawks can only re-write the script in the playoffs. If they want people to stop talking about last season — they need to make it happen in January and February. Not October. They’ve already conquered the burden of having to live with that experience by even making the post season. Some clubs would’ve buckled under the weight of disappointment, anger and frustration. Even getting to the playoffs is an achievement. Now they’ve made it — this is the time to make amends. Super Bowl XLIX hung over this franchise for nearly a full year as a negative. For the next few weeks they can finally use it as a motivating factor. A positive. Go and put things right.