January 3, 2012

Ranking the Squads #21: 2011 (With Updated All-Time Rankings)

21. 2011
Record: 7-9
Offensive Rank: 23th out of 32 teams
Defensive Rank: 7th out of 32
Turnover Ratio Rank: 5th out of 32
Team MVP: Earl Thomas
High Point: Seahawks 22, Ravens 17
Low Point: Steelers 24, Seahawks 0

In 2002, the Seahawks got off to an abysmal 2-6 start- It was bad enough that fans and media types in Seattle were calling for Mike Holmgren to get canned, only three years after coming to the Northwest as The Savior, covered in Super Bowl-winning glory. Somehow things started to come together in the 2nd half of that season, though- Matt Hasselbeck blossomed as a near-elite quarterback, throwing for over 3000 yards in only 10 starts. Holmgren's offense, anchored by Hasselbeck, Alexander, Jones and Hutchinson finally bloomed and the Hawks finished that campaign on a 5-3 uptick. It was the adolescence of one of the NFL's most prolific offenses from 2003-2007, and the beginning of Seattle's 2nd Pro Football "Golden Age."

We may look back in a few years and see 2011 as 2002's mirror image- Yes, Seattle's offense was much improved over 2010... Behind a talented and well-coached offensive line Marshawn Lynch punished enemy defenses and helped establish a new, tougher mentality. Tarvaris Jackson proved me right: He WAS better than 1999 Jon Kitna, and he played well enough that he is highly likely to be our starting QB again in 2012 (Even if he's just holding it down until a QB we draft is ready to go). Undrafted Free Agent Doug Baldwin was the team's leading receiver (and one of the NFL's best stories of 2011), and Golden Tate took steps towards becoming a dangerous weapon in the passing game. With better health next year, Seattle's offense could be in the top half of the NFL... But that's not why I'm so excited about the future of our team.

Seattle's defense is a pass-rushing DE or two away from becoming one of the top 5 defenses in the NFL. The quartet of Thomas, Chancellor, Sherman and Browner could become the best secondary in the league, perhaps as early as next season. Any of those four could lay a claim to the title of "team MVP," but I gave the nod to Thomas because his skills allowed the players around him to shine so brightly. Earl Thomas is Seattle's first Pro Bowl starter since 2007, and is on his way to a Kenny Easley-level NFL career. Up front, Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons and Alan Branch bedeviled opposing offenses and the linebacking corps of Hill, Wright and Hawthorne made Lofa Tatupu and Aaron Curry expendable. With one more solid draft and free agency period, Seattle could finish building an absolutely terrifying defense.

Special teams had an inconsistent year, but Jon Ryan was again one of the league's best punters, Leon Washington was still a dangerous return man, and the team blocked six kicks over the course of the 2011 season. A year that started with a plague of penalties and an offense that looked like it might sink to 1992 levels of ineptitude ended with nothing but hope for the future... The Seahawks were vastly improved over 2010 even in their losses- Instead of a string of blowout defeats, the 2011 Seahawks were within one score in the 4th quarter in all but one of their losses, and they notched memorable road wins at New York and Chicago. They shined on national TV against the Eagles and Rams, but their signature win was in a 22-17 blood-pisser vs the mighty Baltimore Ravens (and the play of the year was Marshawn Lynch nearly snapping off Ray Lewis' ankles with a juke to keep the game-clinching drive alive).

My memories of 2011 will always be fond ones- Even in that awful defeat at Cleveland, I got to shake hands with Earl Thomas and Pete Carroll before the game, which I'll never forget. I truly believe in time we'll look back on 2011 as the first shaky steps towards the 3rd Seahawks "Golden Age." First Knox, then Holmgren, now Carroll... But Coach Carroll will best Knox and Holmgren in the only criteria that matters: He will bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle. I believe. It's only a matter of time.

Here's the updated all-time rankings- Enjoy!

1. 2005
2. 1984
3. 1983
4. 2007
5. 1986
6. 2003
7. 2006
8. 1988
9. 1987
10. 2010
11. 1979
12. 1990
13. 1978
14. 2001
15. 1999
16. 2004
17. 1998
18. 1985
19. 1997
20. 1995
21. 2011
22. 2002
23. 1991
24. 1996
25. 1989
26. 1982
27. 1977
28. 1981
29. 1993
30. 1994
31. 2000
32. 2008
33. 1980
34. 1976
35. 1992
36. 2009


Lance said...

How can you rate the 2010 squad 11 spots above this year's squad? In 2010 the Seahawks went 3-10 after starting out 4-2. We limped into the playoffs and yes we did have one amazing, unforgettable playoff victory but I am much more enthusiastic about the future during this off-season compared to last off-season.

In 2011 we looked very good in the second half of the season and lost some close games. Although the records for 2010 and 2011 are identical, the point differential tells the true story:

2010: -97pts
2011: +6pts

DKSB said...

As I said back when I ranked the 2010 team so highly- That win over the Saints is very hard to ignore. Yes, if they played a simulation in Madden the '11s would win- But the '10s were one of only 6 teams in team history to reach the divisional playoffs, and in my book playoff performance almost always trumps regular season performance.

DKSB said...

7, not 6... I forgot 1988.