January 16, 2017
Ranking the Squads: #10 (2016)
Offensive Rank: 18th out of 32 teams
Defensive Rank: 3rd out of 32
Turnover Ratio Rank: 16th out of 32
Team MVP: Bobby Wagner
High Point: Seahawks 31, Patriots 24
Low Point: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 31
Over the last 33 years, I've watched 572 Seahawks games. I have no specific recollection of the vast majority of those contests. For a good chunk of them, if you gave me some sort of prompt, it might shake a half-remembered collage of plays out of a dusty corner of my brainpan. In any given season, a handful of games might stick in my memory forever, as will a smattering of plays. When I reflect upon 2016 years from now, what will I remember?
I don't think I'll soon shake the nauseous feeling I got when Earl Thomas went down after colliding with Kam Chancellor on SNF in early December, or the dawning horror when ETIII (prematurely) tweeted about his possible retirement. As valiantly as the team fought on after that gut-churning moment, they were fundamentally hobbled without the former Longhorn patrolling "Area 29" and quarterbacking the defense.
Oddly, that gives me a little bit of mental cushion when it comes to the other negative memories of 2016. If I really wanted to torture myself, I could dwell upon the fact that a tiny handful of plays in two games against Arizona kept us from hosting the NFC Championship Game next Sunday. What if Hauschka made that short kick in OT down in Glendale? What if he had made that extra point at home against Arians' minions in December? And so on...
That December loss was the 2016 Seahawks in miniature. The offensive line couldn't open running lanes or protect Russell Wilson. The defense, without Earl Thomas, was suddenly vulnerable to big plays. The special teams, which has for so long been a point of pride for this franchise, collapsed like a termite-rotted gazebo. But somehow, down 31-18 late in the 4th quarter, Russell Wilson conjured up some legitimate magic. All of the sudden, Baldwin, Graham, and Richardson were getting free and the Wolfbadger was finding them for big gains and touchdowns. Wilson's late TD to Preach filled every 12's heart with elation - This was classic Pete Carroll Seahawks late-game drama. They once again, somehow, found a way to steal a victory. The #2 seed and a first-round bye beckoned...
Then that errant extra point attempt... then one last infuriating defensive meltdown... and it was gone. That championship mettle hadn't dissolved, but the injuries and mistakes piled up too high to be overcome.
We saw the Seahawks do things that felt like they had been poorly copied from the most aggravating days of the Holmgren era, like the return of a stark divide between the team's performance at home (8-1) versus on the road (3-5-1, with only one victory against a team that finished with more than five wins). Distressingly, we saw the offense held to 10 points or less four times, and we saw the defense allow more than 34 points three times. The turnover ratio? Just plus one, good enough to land Seattle exactly in the middle of the pack in 2016.
If you wanted to be a clarion of doom, these Seahawks gave you plenty of ammunition. The core players on defense are aging and spending more time rehabbing from injuries than they ever have in the Carroll era. Russell Wilson posted the lowest single-season passer rating of his career, and threw more interceptions than he did in his rookie campaign. The running game disappeared for long stretches of the season, and the offensive line often appeared to be falling far short of basic competence, let alone any standard of Super-Bowl-level excellence. If you wanted to pen a hot take about Seattle heading straight for the jagged rocks at the bottom of the ravine, I bet you could get that shit to go live on Bleacher Report and get an assload of clicks.
That doesn't make it true, though. These Seahawks gave us (all too brief) glimpses of what could be an incandescent future. At Foxboro in November, with the team operating at something resembling full strength, they handed Tom Brady his only defeat of the season thus far. The defense was a swarm of unchecked fury. Russell Wilson outplayed Brady. C.J. Prosise did his best peak Ricky Watters impression. New England couldn't cover Doug Baldwin. That defense? They made one of the most impressive goal-line stands you'll ever see to secure the victory. THAT could be the future of this team, and I'd argue it's more likely than Januarys on the couch watching the Rams, Niners, or Cardinals host playoff games.
The bright spots weren't limited to one night in Massachusetts, though. Bobby Wagner was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year contender. Jimmy Graham fully recovered from his horrific 2015 injury to reassert his status as one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in football. Frank Clark began filling his great potential, as did Paul Richardson. Cliff Avril had the best season of his distinguished career. Thomas Rawls proved that, when healthy, he is a worthy successor to Marshawn Lynch.
The Hawks bullied the Lions to reach the Divisional Round for the 5th consecutive season. They had a dramatic, entertaining win over the Bills on MNF. Victories over playoff teams from Miami and Atlanta went down to the dying seconds, with Seattle prevailing with flair.
The core talent of this team is locked down at least for the next couple of years, and the team's cap situation is favorable. Despite an injury-marred 2016, the Hawks are fortunate to have found a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson who will keep them in the Super Bowl conversation for the next decade or so. They sit atop a division with two teams in utter disarray, and another with a cornerstone QB near the end of his shelf-life.
Take a quick look at the rankings below... How many of the top 10 seasons in franchise history have happened on Pete Carroll's watch? Five. Look around the league, too. Outside of whatever deal Belichick, Brady and that crew have made with Lucifer, it's VERY DIFFICULT to win consistently in this league. The fact that our expectations have shifted to making it to (and winning) Super Bowls, away from merely having a winning record and sneaking into the postseason, tells how how fortunate we are to be rooting for this team and enjoying this historical moment.
I've been doing this ranking the squads thing for nine years now... Here's the updated list, with links to the original articles I wrote. I'm eager to hear what y'all think. Once again, thanks for reading this season. I'll be posting sporadically during the offseason whenever I get a good idea for a blog post. Until then, GO HAWKS!