Thursday night, the 2011 Seattle Seahawks will cross the threshold from theory to practice- We will finally get to see them clash with another NFL team in anger, and it will be a glorious evening. Keep in mind that the level of play is likely to be embarrassingly awful, and that the only unambiguously positive outcome of the game would be a lack of serious Seahawks injuries... Even with those caveats, I can't remember ever being this excited for a preseason opener before in my 28 years rooting for the Seahawks.
My main advice, particularly for newer fans? Try to resist the urge to overreact to everything that happens in Thursday's game. If T-Jack is awesome, don't run out and buy his jersey. If he sucks, don't assume we're destined for 4-12 either, and so on...
The best news has already happened- PCJS just pulled off the best free agent period in team history, and starting Thursday night we'll finally get to see our shiny new toys out on the field (albeit briefly). It's safe to say that the Seahawks front office isn't trying to "suck to get Luck." Yes, they decided not to spend precious draft picks on the best possible "bridge QB." I'd be dishonest if I told you I wouldn't rather be seeing Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton or Matt Hasselbeck under center Thursday evening- But the move to Tarvaris Jackson makes sense, and I think it has a better chance of working out than many in the national press (or even the Seahawks fanbase) are willing to admit.
I run into a lot of fans who say things like "I'm sick of going 8-8 every year," and that usually develops into some argument about how the team has to get horribly, pathetically crappy before it can be a Super Bowl contender. I don't think that's how the modern NFL works, and I think Pete Carroll understands this. You cannot crap away entire seasons "rebuilding." You MUST make an honest effort to field a competitive team, even in the middle of a total roster demolition- That's what Carroll did last year, and I sincerely believe the team will be better in 2011.
2011 is unlikely to be the greatest season in Seahawks history, but thanks to the tireless efforts of PCJS, it's laughable now to argue that '11 will be among the WORST seasons in team history either- The team has added too much talent, and gotten so much younger, bigger, and faster that it's hard for me to imagine the team going worse than 6-10.
You might find this goal for 2011 to be pathetically pedestrian, but here goes: I want the Seahawks to control their own destiny in the NFC West race going into the final two weeks of the season (which have Seattle hosting the Niners and then travelling to Arizona). If we are in that position, I think we'll win the West, simply because I think this team will get better as the season marches on. My intuition is that we are about an 8-8 team, a little bit better with good luck, or a touch worse with bad fortune. I think 8-8 this season would be a beautiful thing, whether it results in a playoff berth or not.
When we look back on 2011, it's probably not going to be among the most memorable campaigns in Seahawks history on its own- But I think it will be a chapter in a longer story- The epic tale of Pete Carroll's conquest of the National Football League.
Writing starts Thursday- and I think it's going to be a page-turner of a yarn.