May 14, 2013

The Top 10 Rookie Seasons in Seahawks History

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?