(Photo by Rod Mar)
Five years ago today, Pete Carroll was hired as the Seahawks new head coach. He inherited a roster that was Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (so to speak). One seemingly small move in Carroll's complete demolition/rebuild of the Seahawks in 2010 was the 5th round selection of a safety out of Virgina Tech: Kam Chancellor. Seattle's starting safeties in 2009 were the serviceable duo of Jordan Babineaux and Deon Grant (whose average age was 28.5). Just like at every other position, Carroll's goal was to get younger/better/cheaper in the defensive backfield. Expectations were high for first-rounder Earl Thomas from Texas, but the former high school quarterback Chancellor slid into the 5th. The move into the secondary served Kam well with the Hokies, and he'd quickly build a reputation for wanton brutality once he reached the NFL.
Bam Bam Kam has already made his mark in the league, being selected to three Pro Bowls, being named 2nd-team All-Pro twice, and surely haunting Vernon Davis' nightmares (among dozens of other offensive players). However, yesterday Chancellor delivered the best performance of his already illustrious career. He made 11 tackles, including an incredible individual effort to blow up a screen pass to DeAngelo Williams and a first down-denying hammering of sentient boulder Mike Tolbert. A bewildering flag denied him credit for an acrobatic blocked field goal at the end of the first half. With Charlotte deep in Seattle territory, and aiming to pull within 7 with six minutes left, Chancellor jumped the route and sped 90 yards for the clinching score (highlights here).
Chancellor is one of three Seattle DBs on a trajectory for Canton (Richard Sherman and Thomas also turned in spectacular performances against Charlotte). Constructing the Legion of Boom was relatively simple compared to the task of finding a quarterback who could lead Seattle to championship glory. Charlie Whitehurst? Oof. Tarvaris Jackson? Great leader. Tough and well-liked. Not the guy. Matt Flynn? Steady, but far from spectacular. Typically, if a new coach/GM combo made THREE bad calls at QB, they'd be chased out of town by a surly mob. Still on the board in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft? Russell Carrington Wilson.
The WolfBadger is 41-13 as Seattle's starting quarterback, and already has a Super Bowl ring. But since he doesn't throw for 4000 yards and 35 TDs every season, he gets tagged as a "game manager." If the small-minded bobbleheads of narrow vision weren't swayed by RCW's performance, they'll never be. There was the DIME he dropped fifty yards downfield to Jermaine Kearse for a 63-yard TD. There was his performance on 3rd downs: 8-for-8 for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns. His 149.2 passer rating was the 2nd highest of his career, and he turned in a dominant performance despite only scratching out 22 yards rushing.
Yesterday the Seahawks proved they could win even when things didn't go exactly according to plan. Despite Marshawn Lynch being held to only 59 yards, despite holding the ball for only 25 minutes, and despite allowing 17 points & 362 yards to the Panthers, Seattle pulled away in the 4th quarter. The standout play of Wilson and Chancellor was more than enough to counter a solid Charlotte game plan and a better-than-expected day from Cam Newton. As usual, it was all about the ball, too. Seattle won the turnover battle 3-0, and the winning margin of 14 was directly attributable to 2 touchdowns off takeaways.
There are concerns going into the NFC Championship against Green Bay. Paul Richardson is out for the year after tearing his ACL, taking away a deep threat in the passing game. The status of Max Unger and Byron Maxwell is uncertain. MVP-in-waiting Aaron Rodgers is coming to town. This NFC Championship Game won't have the extra jolt it did last season against our most hated rivals, but it is shaping up to be an epic dust-up. Mike McCarthy, Rodgers, Carroll and Wilson will all be eyeing a legacy-securing second Lombardi Trophy. I can't help but think about the last time the Seahawks went up against the league MVP and his high-powered offense. How'd that turn out?
I'd like to wrap up on a personal note: I'll be at the game next Sunday. Immediately after the loss at Kansas City that dropped us to 6-4, I had to decide when I'd come out to Seattle for my usual Wintertime visit. In a fit of optimism, I picked the weekend of the NFC Championship Game. I'm GIDDY that the Hawks are making me look like a seer, and I'm ecstatic that I'll be there to once again give our boys a sonic boost towards the Super Bowl. They've never lost a playoff game I've attended, and they aren't going to break that streak next week.
In five years, the Seahawks have gone from this:
Sidebar... I've gone from this:
Upgrades all around (And we haven't even peaked yet)!