June 8, 2013
Long-time readers might already know this, but I'm not a "Seattle Sports Fan." Yes, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (in the stark atomic splendor of the Tri-Cities). Yes, I became a rabid Seahawks fan back in '83 when I was eight years old. But the Mariners didn't move me- I became enthralled by Roger Clemens and latched onto the Red Sox for life. The Sonics? They were a fun, competitive team back in the 1980s, but I have always followed players more than teams when it comes to the NBA. When I moved away from the Northwest to Columbus, I adopted the Blue Jackets and Crew as my local rooting interests... So the Seahawks are the ONLY Seattle team that I root for.
Does this mean I hate the other Seattle teams? Nah. Unless they're playing the Red Sox or the Crew, I prefer that Seattle teams win, given my affinity for the area and the large number of friends I have back west. Do I get jealous and bitchy about the other Seattle teams if they're ever in some sort of conflict with the Seahawks? Hell yes. I remember I was out for a visit to Seattle right after the 9/11 attacks, and I was supposed to go to the Seahawks/Chiefs game that Sunday, but it was postponed until the end of the 2001 season.
I was out at breakfast with a friend, and I was lamenting the fact that there wasn't a game that day. I understood why there was no game, but watching the Seahawks would have cheered ME up, at least. This total stranger in Mariners garb decides to chime in with "Pffft. Seahawks? Who gives a crap about THEM?"
With murder in my eyes, I said "I do. And when did you get that M's gear? October of '95?" Back in the 90s, when the Sonics and Mariners were captivating all my friends, I SEETHED. To this day, I somewhat irrationally get peeved when Sounders fans call a crowd of 40,000 at our shared stadium a "sellout." The Seahawks have been selling EVERY seat for EVERY game in that arena since 2003... So you get the picture- I'm fiercely defensive and sensitive about the Seahawks' place in the local sports pecking order.
Russell Wilson throwing out the first pitch at the Mariners game last night got me cogitating. If you look across the history of Seattle professional sports, who are the most "iconic" figures? The ones who captured the imaginations of millions, both in the region and nationally/internationally? I hate to say this, but as great as Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Cortez Kennedy and every other Seahawks legend has been, none of them ever became popular phenomenons like Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, Shawn Kemp or Gary Payton did (Edgar Martinez also has his rabid adherents, but I'd argue his stature is much more localized in nature).
To me this is fascinating- The Mariners have had peaks of great success, but overall their history is much more forlorn than the Seahawks' past. Despite that (and the M's current struggles), Felix Hernandez is BY FAR the biggest individual figure on the Seattle sports landscape right now. Kemp and Payton were a spectacular duo, but they played for a team that no longer exists (sorry, Sonics fans). So why haven't we seen a Seahawk reach those heights of popular obsession?
Part of it is almost certainly the simple fact that football players wear helmets that render them somewhat anonymous, and they play a sport that is much more focused on team success than individual accomplishments. If you look at Seahawks history specifically, our three greatest players are a left tackle, a (prolific) possession receiver, and a defensive tackle. None of those positions lend themselves to an easy embrace from the larger public.
Who are (most of) the most popular, well-known, endorsement-laded NFL players? Quarterbacks. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have transcended those natural limits football inherently places on individual super-stardom. This morning I was watching ESPN and Linda Cohn was GUSHING about Russell Wilson throwing out the first pitch at the M's game, even throwing in a Wilson-esque "Go Hawks!" at the tail-end of the segment. That's just one reason I think Russell Wilson is on the verge of becoming the most towering figure in Seattle sports history. Ten years from now, I think he will have eclipsed even Junior in dominance of Seattle sports consciousness. Why?
First, he's going to be a prolific quarterback on a highly successful team, who will regularly show up on SportsCenter's Top Plays. If/when Seattle wins a Super Bowl, he'll ROCKET into the Brady/Manning/Rodgers stratosphere nationally. Beyond that, he has a great backstory: The third round pick who was too short to be a successful QB, but who won over doubters at EVERY point in his career. The kid's got a little Kurt Warner in him. It also doesn't hurt one bit that he's humble, grounded, telegenic and handsome. One can easily imagine him going into broadcasting after his NFL career ends (or even politics, if he was so inclined). To put it another way, he's a total dreamboat who can fucking BALL. I truly believe this kid will be bigger than Luck or RGIII. Someday, his statue will be in the North Plaza of Seahawks Stadium- Ten feet tall and forever running to victory. I already kinda wish I had a Wilson jersey for every day of the week.
What do you think, sirs?
May 14, 2013
Now that we've gotten our first look at Seattle's newest crop of NFL talent at the rookie minicamp, I thought this would be a great time to look back at the top 10 rookie seasons in Seahawks history. One big (and somewhat scary) conclusion? Having a great rookie season doesn't automatically translate into a great career.Conversely, many all-time Seahawks greats didn't necessarily have stand-out rookie seasons. Here's what I consider the top rookie seasons in team history. Please let me know in the comments if I missed anything obvious.
10. Steve Largent (1976)
I considered sliding Rick Mirer, Michael Boulware, John Carlson, Darrell Jackson, Doug Baldwin and even Brian Bosworth into this slot, but Largent's '76 season was the most deserving. Largent was a cast-off who probably only made an NFL roster because the Seahawks were a 1st-year expansion team, but he quickly became Seattle's ONLY reliable offensive threat. His 54 catches for 705 yards and 4 touchdowns seems pedestrian out of context, but becomes more impressive when you consider the disadvantage the expansion Hawks were at in their inaugural NFL campaign. He would also form a fruitful connection to quarterback Jim Zorn that would define the young Seahawks throughout the Jack Patera years.
9. Daryl Turner and 8. Fredd Young (1984)
Turner's career was the definition of a "flame-out." After scoring 23 touchdowns in 1984-85, he was out of football by the start of the 1988 season. In '84 he was a classic deep threat. While he only caught 35 passes, ten of them went for touchdowns, and he averaged an astounding 20.4 yards per reception. Fredd Young would go on to become a Seattle fan favorite in the mid-80s as a linebacker, but in 1984 he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a dominant, fearsome special teams ace.
7. Bruce Irvin and 6. Bobby Wagner (2012)
Pete Carroll and John Schneider hit it big in the 2012 draft (more on that below), and their first two picks helped turn the Seattle defense into the NFL's best. Wagner racked up 139 total tackles, two sacks and three interceptions. The Kiper-maligned Irvin was inconsistent, but still tallied eight sacks and helped Seattle field its most dangerous pass rush in years.
5. Earl Thomas (2010)
ET appears to be on a Ring-of-Honor, if not Hall-of-Fame, trajectory. While Seattle's defense in 2010 was a mess (25th in points allowed), Thomas was a bright spot, hauling in five interceptions (including two in a huge upset win over San Diego) and giving all of us a preview of the devastation the Legion of Boom would eventually unleash upon the NFL.
4. Lofa Tatupu (2005)
Tatupu's body eventually wore down and his career declined (and ended) prematurely, but his rookie year was spectacular. Tatupu anchored Seattle's Super Bowl-bound defense and was selected to the Pro Bowl (he was narrowly defeated by Shawn Merriman for DROY honors). His three interceptions in a Monday Night shutout of the Eagles is an indelible memory for millions of Twelves, as is his devastating hit on Carolina's Nick Goings in the NFC Championship Game.
3. Joey Galloway (1995)
Even great wide receivers usually struggle in their rookie season, but Galloway EXPLODED upon the NFL scene in 1995 (which is even more remarkable given the people throwing the ball to him were Rick Mirer and John Friesz). Galloway caught 67 passes for 1039 yards and 7 TDs, but his most memorable moment from '95 was an 86 yard touchdown scamper on a reverse in a win at Jacksonville. Galloway was never really properly utilized by Dennis Erickson, and a contract dispute led to a season-marring holdout in 1999, followed by a trade to Dallas for two first round picks (one of which the Seahawks used to acquire Shaun Alexander- Thanks, Jerry!).
2. Curt Warner (1983)
The Seahawks traded their 1983 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks to the Houston Oilers in order to acquire Penn State Running Back Curt Warner. I vividly remember Warner's first NFL carry: a 60-yard dash in the sweltering heat at Arrowhead Stadium. The Seahawks lost that day (because that's what they did in Kansas City back then), but Warner would rush for 1,449 yards (and add 42 catches for 325 yards) and 13 touchdowns. He'd lead the Seahawks to the AFC Championship Game that season, topping the AFC in rushing and winning a Pro Bowl spot along the way. If not for competition from Eric Dickerson and Dan Marino, Warner would have undoubtedly won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. A knee injury in the 1984 opener kept him from growing into a Barry Sanders-level all-time great, but he'd still go on to have three more 1000-yard seasons and two more Pro Bowl selections.
1. Russell Wilson (2012)
This wasn't just the best rookie campaign in franchise history- It was one of the best seasons by any rookie in NFL annals. Not only did he lead Seattle to a 11-5 record and a playoff win, he also racked up an impressive list of accomplishments, including (but not limited to):
-A Pro Bowl selection
-4th in the NFL in Passer Rating
-4th in yards per pass attempt
-2nd in touchdown percentage (for passing)
-7th in completion percentage
-3rd in the NFL in game winning drives (5)
-The best single-season rushing performance by a quarterback in franchise history
So yeah. Pretty awesome, huh? Some nitwit thought he shouldn't start, though.
What do you think, sirs?
April 29, 2013
When the Seattle Seahawks joined the NFC West in 2002, I was among the hordes of Twelves who wailed and moaned about being cast out of the AFC West. We bemoaned the death of our traditional rivalries, and the disrespect implied by being the only team forced to switch conferences as part of the NFL's realignment process. As usual, my hysterical overreaction was completely without justification. The move to the NFC West was one of the best things to ever happen to our franchise. We left a division in which we had a pathetic amount of success (only TWO division titles in 25 AFC West campaigns, and losing records against the Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs) to join one populated by the fading Niners, the aging Rams, and the historically forlorn Cardinals. The move paid dividends in less than two years with a Wild-Card berth in 2003, then division titles in five of the next seven seasons for Seattle. To be blunt, the Seahawks have pretty much owned the NFC West since they joined it in 2002.
The main irritant of our first decade in the NFC West was the laughable state of the division as a whole. During Seattle's run of four straight division crowns from 2004 to 2007, the Hawks were the only team in the West to even post a winning record. In 2010, NONE of the division's teams even reached 8-8, and 7-9 Seattle became the first team to make the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season. When your division is so bad it's inspiring talk of taking away automatic playoff bids for division champs, you've bottomed out.
2012 gave us the first glimpse of a stronger NFC West, with both Seattle and San Francisco winning 11 games and St. Louis going 4-1-1 within the division. After a flurry of free agency moves amounting to an "arms race" between the Hawks and Niners, and particularly strong drafts by Seattle, San Francisco AND St. Louis, the new conventional wisdom is that the NFC West might be the best division in football. In three years, our division has gone from laughingstock to juggernaut. What does this mean for your Seattle Seahawks?
The first thing that jumps out at me is how RARE it's been for the Hawks to be involved in a pitched battle between two or more elite teams for a division title. You know how many times the Seahawks have been involved in a divisional race that produced three teams that finished with 10 or more wins? Exactly twice. In 1984, Seattle finished 12-4, just ahead of the 11-5 Raiders and just behind the 13-3 Broncos. In 1986, the Hawks were edged out of the postseason by the 10-6 Chiefs and the 11-5 Broncos (DAMN YOU, ELWAY! DAMN YOU TO HELL!). I fully expect the 2013 NFC West to see a battle every bit as intense as the 1984 AFC West race- which means that the Seahawks could field one of the best squads in franchise history and STILL end up hitting the road in the playoffs.
That got me thinking about a larger historical question: Are Super Bowl Champions more likely to come out of competitive divisions populated by two or more playoff-caliber teams (the "steel sharpens steel" theory), or are they more likely to emerge from divisions where the eventual champs weren't battered by six brutal divisional slugfests? Let's look at the NFL's post-realignment history.
-2002: Tampa Bay cruises to a 12-4 record, but the NFCS actually boasts two more teams with winning records- The 9-6-1 Falcons and the 9-7 Saints
-2003: New England runs to a 14-2 record, but Miami also posts a 10-6 mark.
-2004: Patriots go 14-2, but New York hits 10-6 and Buffalo goes 9-7.
-2005: Pittsburgh's 11-5 record is matched by Cincinnati.
-2006: The 12-4 Colts are the AFC South's only team with a winning record.
-2007: The Giants go 10-6, sandwiched between 9-7 DC and 13-3 Dallas.
-2008: The 12-4 Steelers are pushed by the 11-5 Ravens.
-2009: Yes, the Falcons get to 9-7, but the 13-3 Saints aren't seriously challenged in the NFC South.
-2010: The 10-6 Packers finish the regular season just behind the 11-5 Bears, but beat them in the NFC Championship game to reach Super Bowl XLV.
-2011: The Giants eke into the playoffs at 9-7, and are the only NFC East team to finish with a winning record.
-2012: The Ravens' 10-6 record is matched by Cincinnati (shades of 2005!)
In 11 seasons since realignment, the Super Bowl Champion has emerged from a divisional race involving two or more playoff-caliber teams EIGHT times. So, in recent NFL history, it does appear that being in an intense divisional battle tends to help your chances of winning the Super Bowl.
Does being in the "NFC Best" hurt Seattle's chances of winning homefield advantage for the entire postseason? Probably. But recent NFL history also shows us that most Super Bowl winners won at least one playoff game on the road. After surviving the NFC West gauntlet, I don't doubt our Hawks could go to Atlanta or Green Bay or New York (or anywhere else) and win in the playoffs. On balance, I think the strength of our division helps the Seahawks more than it hurts them. They're ready for this battle, and prepared to win it.
What do you think, sirs?
April 18, 2013
Here it is: The 2013 Seahawks Schedule!
(All times Pacific)
September 8: @ Panthers 10 am
September 15: v Niners 5:30 pm (NBC)
September 22: v Jaguars 1:25 pm
September 29: @ Texans 10 am
October 6: @ Colts 10 am
October 13: v Titans 1:05 pm
October 17: @ Cardinals 5:25 pm (NFLN)
October 28: @ Rams 5:40 pm (ESPN)
November 3: v Buccaneers 1:05 pm
November 10: @ Falcons 10 am
November 17: v Vikings 1:25 pm
December 2: v Saints 5:40 pm (ESPN)
December 8: @ Niners 1:25 pm
December 15: @ Giants 10 am
December 22: v Cardinals 1:05 pm
December 29: v Rams 1:25 pm
What jumps out to me? It's great that we've got at least four national TV games, particularly for an Northwest expatriate like myself. I like the early-season trip to Indianapolis (See y'all there!), and I LOVE the late-season placement of the bye week. Wrapping up the season with two divisional home games sets us up nicely to take the NFC West, and playing four out of our last six at home won't hurt us, either.
What do I HATE about the schedule? The early-autumn stretch where we play four out of five on the road, including two 10 am games and a road Thursday night game. I don't like being stuck with a 10 am game on the east coast on Kickoff Weekend, either. Out of six possible 10 am kickoffs, we got stuck with five. True or not, that just FEELS like the league office screwing with us, doesn't it?
That being said, I don't think that any scheduling configuration would derail the 2013 Seahawks. If you made me guess, I'd say that we'll finish 13-3, with the losses at Houston, Atlanta, and New York (Yes, we'll sweep SF and lock up the division with a week to spare). What do you guys think?
I'll probably (hopefully) make it out to the Niners game September 15, the Colts game in Indianapolis October 6, and one of the last two home games that bracket Christmas... and the playoff games at Seahawks Stadium too... Doy.
What are your reactions to the Seahawks schedule, y'all?
April 14, 2013
A few years back, I wrote a brief piece about the budding rivalry between the Seahawks and Vikings. With our recent acquisitions of ex-Vikes like Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Antoine Winfield, I decided that it's time to revisit the surprisingly nasty history between these two franchises. Here's some of the gory details:
1987: Ahh, the strike year. The Vikings visited Seattle for a key early November matchup, and much of the pre-game talk was about how the "real" Vikings came into the game undefeated, but the team's overall record was only 3-3 because Minnesota's replacement players were putrid even by the low standards applied to those scab games. The Seahawks were 4-2, based in part on the 2-1 record posted by the SeaScabs. Seattle showed they weren't frauds that day- Behind three Dave Krieg TD passes and 132 all-purpose yards from Curt Warner the Hawks ground out a crucial 28-17 victory. Both teams would make the playoffs, with Seattle falling at Houston in OT in the AFC Wild Card game, and Minnesota ending up a 4th-and-goal away from XXII in a heartbreaking NFC Championship game loss at DC.
1997: After an injury-shortened and ineffective 1996 campaign, the Vikings cast aside veteran QB Warren Moon in favor of Brad Johnson. Minnesota got solid play from Johnson, but as soon as Warren Moon took over for an injured John Friesz in Seattle he showed the Vikings (and the rest of the NFL) that his Hall-of-Fame arm still had some juice left. Moon would be named to the Pro Bowl after throwing for 3600 yards and 25 TDs in only 14 starts. In one memorable win over Oakland, Moon torched the Raiders for 400 yards and five TD strikes. Not too shabby for a 41-year-old QB, huh?
2001: Future Hall-of-Famer John Randle bolted for Seattle via free agency, and he'd be a key contributor over his three Seahawk seasons, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2001 and racking up 23.5 sacks in 35 Seattle starts. The Vikings would find a roundabout way to fatally wound the 2001 Seahawks, though. On the final weekend of the season, Seattle needed a win against the Chiefs (which they got) AND a loss by the Jets OR the Ravens. The Jets pulled out a win at Oakland with a last-second field goal, making Twelves wait until Monday night to see if the Vikings could upset the Ravens. Unfortunately, Minnesota's QB that night wasn't Moon or Johnson or Cunningham or even Jeff George... It was Spergon Wynn, and the Ravens defense predictably destroyed him AND the Seahawks' faint playoff hopes.
2002: The Seahawks were off to a miserable 0-3 start, and the desperately needed some kind of spark going into the first national showcase for Seahawks Stadium: An appearance on Sunday Night Football. Thankfully their opponents that night were the 0-3 Vikings, and the football-watching nation was treated to a historic performance by Shaun Alexander, who scored five first-half touchdowns on his way to a 221-yard rushing/receiving day. The Hawks would lead 45-10 by halftime and cruise to a 48-23 victory.
2004: The only truly, unabashedly joyous moment of 2004 came when the Seahawks pulled off a huge, season-saving upset in Minnesota. Darrell Jackson, playing only hours after his father's death, had the best game of his career, and Michael Boulware intercepted a Randy Moss pass (WTF?) in the final minutes to seal a shocking 27-23 win.
2006: First, there was the Steve Hutchinson "poison pill" fiasco, where the unfathomable miscalculations of Tim Ruskell opened the door for the Vikings to concoct a clause in their offer sheet that made it impossible for the Seahawks to match Minnesota's offer to the All-Pro guard. The Seahawks retaliated by luring WR Nate Burleson away from the Vikings with a similar tactic. Then there was the game played between the two teams that October- Not only did Seattle lose the game 31-13, but E.J. Henderson dived at Matt Hasselbeck's knees and knocked him out of action for a month, and even when Hasselbeck returned to action he wasn't close to 100%. I'm still convinced that without that dirty hit, the Seahawks would have reached Super Bowl XLI that season.
2009: The bidding war for T.J. Houshmandzadeh came down to Seattle and Minnesota, and the former Bengals wideout picked the Seahawks. In retrospect, this was probably a win for Minnesota. After a single fairly disappointing season in Seattle, Housh was a late-offseason cut by Pete Carroll in his first season as Seattle's head coach.
2011: The Vikings allowed Pro Bowl wideout Sidney Rice to bolt out to Seattle. While Rice hasn't matched his stellar 2009 numbers with the Seahawks thus far, his solid, injury-free 2012 campaign showed that he can still be a dangerous weapon, particularly with Russell Wilson under center and other targets like Tate, Baldwin, Harvin and Zach Miller giving him favorable match-ups.
2012: Minnesota visits Seattle, and despite 182 yards from NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, the Seahawks outslugged the Vikings for a 30-20 victory. Minnesota also lost Percy Harvin to a broken ankle in the loss, dealing a serious blow to their Super Bowl hopes.
2013: A now-healthy Harvin demanded a trade out of Minnesota, and the Seahawks sent a first-rounder (and more) to the Vikings in exchange for one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons. Just a few days ago, former Pro Bowl defensive back Antoine Winfield turned down $3 million guaranteed from Minnesota to join the Seahawks for significantly less guaranteed money. The reason? He feels like he has a much better shot winning a championship this season with the Seahawks.
The Vikings visit Seattle at some point this season. That one should be fun, huh? What do y'all think? Do we have a real rivalry with Minnesota at this point?