Last week, we more or less giddily looked forward to the “Big Game” on February 2nd. This week, I’ve decided to take a step back and review the last time the Seahawks were in a position to give all of our lives meaning.
The 2005 Seahawks didn’t come out of nowhere, per se, but they also didn’t look like a team that would be bound for the Super Bowl. In 2003, the Seahawks finished second in the NFC West (to the Rams), and lost in the Wild Card round to Green Bay (take the ball, score, all of that nonsense you wish you could forget). In 2004, the Seahawks won the NFC West, but lost again in the Wild Card round, this time to the Rams (who, sadly, managed to beat us three times that season).
Suffice it to say, these Seahawks were starting to remind everyone of the early George Karl Sonics teams (good enough to win divisions and make the playoffs, but ALWAYS with the first round exits). In a way, 2005 was a make-or-break year for Mike Holmgren. Obviously, he had already lost his General Managing duties by this point, but if there was another underperforming finish to this season, you had to wonder how hot his seat would’ve been. 2005 was his seventh season in Seattle. He had made the playoffs three times in those seven years, and each time he lost in the first round.
So, it was more than a little disconcerting to see us go into Jacksonville – where we expected to be the better team, given the Jags’ questions at quarterback – and lose to kick off the season. Granted, those Jags would end up 12-4, but we had no idea they’d be that good going in. The Seahawks bounced back with a couple of home wins over a couple of mediocre teams (Falcons & Cardinals), before losing on the road once again (this time to the Redskins).
By this point, it was the same boring storyline: the Seahawks can’t win on the road (and they especially can’t win on the road at 10am Pacific time). The very next week would, once again, put this theory to the test, as we faced off against our most bitter rival (at the time), the St. Louis Rams. After they’d beaten us three times the previous year, we knew there was a dragon left to be slain. Having it on the road, in the morning, made it all the sweeter when we won 37-31.
This kicked off an 11-game winning streak that was only broken in Week 17 when we rested many of our starters (as we’d locked up the #1 seed).
Looking back on it, the NFC was VERY weak in 2005. The Rams & Packers were both in the midst of down seasons. The Bears had a great defense, but were led by Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman of all people. The Seahawks drew the Redskins in the Divisional Round, with the aging Mark Brunell, and easily dispatched them. That led to an NFC Championship Game against the Carolina Panthers. We made mincemeat of Jake Delhomme (probably the beginning of the end of his career, with three interceptions against only one touchdown) and Steve Smith (at the height of his powers, held to a trivial 5 catches for 33 yards). These were not teams to fear.
For sure, all the talent was in the AFC in 2005. The 14-2 Colts were the best team in football. The 13-3 Broncos were surprisingly effective with Jake Plummer at the helm and the 3rd ranked defense by points scored. The 10-6 Patriots were still, more or less, the same team that had won three of the last four Super Bowls. The 11-5 Bengals were a surprising division winner, with Carson Palmer looking to really make his mark on this league. The 12-4 Jaguars were one of the better 5-seeds in the history of the league to that point (boxed out by the aforementioned 14-2 Colts). Leaving the 11-5 Steelers, in the 6-seed.
Had things gone according to plan (or according to the 2013 blueprint), the Seahawks would have played Peyton Manning and his Colts in the Super Bowl. Of course, nothing goes the way you want it to.
The Steelers started out their playoff run by killing Carson Palmer’s career. He thew one pass for 66 yards. On his next attempt, he was hit at the knees by a defensive lineman and was out for the game (Palmer would make it back, but he was never as good as he was in 2005). A promising Bengals team was defeated, with Jon Kitna at the helm. The Steelers continued their run by going into Indy and playing the top team in the league. They came away with a 3-point victory. That led to them going into Denver to play the Broncos (who somehow managed to defeat the Patriots), where they won easily.
To be honest, the run couldn’t have gone more perfectly for the 6-seeded Steelers. It was a harrowing feat to say the least. You want to talk about steel sharpening steel? Compare that run of three straight road games to the charmed life the Seahawks had, with one of the easiest conference regular seasons in recent memory, followed by two home games where we enjoy the best Home Field Advantage in the world. Pretty much, the Seahawks were flying first class to the Super Bowl, while the Steelers had to survive a death march over steaming hot coals.
In any other year, against any other team, I would have been cheering on the Steelers like nobody’s business. Instead, I came out of Super Bowl XL with the Steelers as one of my most hated teams of all time
I’ll have more on Super Bowl XL tomorrow. Right now, let’s take a look at those 2005 Seahawks, and how they compare to the 2013 version.
As a general overview, the 2005 Seahawks were (unsurprisingly) quite successful on offense and not so much on defense. In fact, they led the league in points scored and were second in yards gained. However, on defense, they weren’t quite the trainwreck I seem to remember. They were 7th-best in points allowed and 16th in yards given up. Of course, I would contend their schedule had something to do with that, but the point is, we’re not talking about the 2012 Saints or anything.
The 2005 Seahawks had the MVP of the league in Shaun Alexander. He scored 27 rushing touchdowns which, at the time, was the NFL record. It would be beaten by LaDainian Tomlinson the very next season, but it was still an amazing achievement. Alexander also ran for 1,880 yards, which was a career high for him. You can say what you want about his running style, but the man got the job done for us and should be appreciated as the greatest running back in Seahawks history.
The 2005 Seahawks were led by Matt Hasselbeck. He was in his seventh year in the league, fifth year with the Seahawks, and third year as the Seahawks’ unquestioned starter at the quarterback position. Remember, when he first got here, we were jerking him around with Trent Dilfer on the roster. As if winning that Super Bowl with the Ravens (and the greatest defense of all time) somehow made Dilfer competent at the quarterback position or something. Anyway, I made the point at the time (and stand behind it to this day) that the 2005 Seahawks were as good as they were because they had Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Shaun Alexander might have been the league’s MVP, but Hasselbeck was the team’s MVP. Had we played that season with a replacement-level quarterback (or, Seneca Wallace, as he’s formally known), we would have had replacement-level results, no matter how many yards and touchdowns Alexander ran for.
Then again, the heart and soul of the 2005 Seahawks resided along the offensive line. It was EASILY the best in football and EASILY the best line we’ve ever seen in Seattle. It also probably rivals some of the best offensive lines in the history of the league, but I’ll leave that argument for people smarter than me to make. All I know is: with Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson on the left side of that line, the rest of the offense’s job was made a lot easier.
So, let’s start there. Let’s make the rest of this post a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the offensive line. For the record, I’m going to try to pick the player who played the most games at his given position (or, who is known as that team’s “starter”). The better player is highlighted in blue.
2005 – Walter Jones
2013 – Russell Okung
2005 – Steve Hutchinson
2013 – James Carpenter / Paul McQuistan
2005 – Robbie Tobeck
2013 – Max Unger
2005 – Chris Gray
2013 – J.R. Sweezy
2005 – Sean Locklear
2013 – Breno Giacomini
Overall, when you consider the offensive line as a whole, you give the overwhelming nod to the 2005 Seahawks. The 2013 Seahawks have no one NEAR the calibre of Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson of 2005. Max Unger gets a marginal nod over Tobeck. Chris Gray was like 2005’s version of Paul McQuistan (savvy veteran, able to play multiple positions along the line, helps more than he hurts). I never did like Sean Locklear.
2005 – Matt Hasselbeck
2013 – Russell Wilson
I’m not gonna lie to you, before I looked at the stats, just going off of memory, I REALLY wanted to pick Hasselbeck over Wilson. I just thought, given the style of offense (West-Coast, heavy on the passing and the completion percentage), the Seahawks would have required more out of Hasselbeck than they do out of Wilson now. But, look at these numbers!
Hasselbeck: 294/449 (65.5%), 3,459 yards, 24 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 98.2
Wilson: 257/407 (63.1%), 3,357, 26 TDs, 9 INTs, rating of 101.2
First of all, I thought Hasselbeck would have attempted WAY more passes than Wilson, but it turned out to only be 42 more passes (or a little over two and a half passes per game). As it turns out, Wilson was the more efficient quarterback, who still managed to best Hasselbeck in touchdowns thrown. When you tack on Wilson’s rushing yards, it’s pretty clear who’s the better quarterback. It’s NOT Year 7 Hasselbeck; it’s Year 2 Wilson. Soak that in as you daydream about the next dozen years with Wilson at the helm.
2005 – Shaun Alexander
2013 – Marshawn Lynch
Listen to me, now. I know how much you love Beastmode. Hell, I love myself some Beastmode as much as anybody! I wouldn’t trade his hard-nosed, rugged running style for anything. It isn’t even really a question of who would you rather have. I’m not posing the notion of putting 2005 Alexander with 2013’s offensive line to see who would be the better guy. Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander WITH 2005’s offensive line is just a better running back than 2013 Lynch with 2013’s line. I’ll kindly refer you to the numbers:
Alexander: 370 attempts, 1,880 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 27 touchdowns
Lynch: 301 attempts, 1,257 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 12 touchdowns
Let’s face it, 2005 Alexander’s numbers are Looney Tunes! You just don’t see running backs like this very much anymore. They’re a dying breed. Alexander was 28 when he had this season. Lynch is 27, but considering the pounding his body takes, you’d have to think he’s in a similar boat. When Alexander hit 30, he fell off the cliff. I would expect nothing less out of Lynch.
Also, 2005 Alexander had 69 more attempts! In what is supposed to be a pass-oriented offense. Now, granted, those Seahawks won a lot of games and leaned on teams late with that rushing attack. But, the 2013 Seahawks ALSO won a lot of games, but weren’t putting up numbers like this.
It boils down to those 2005 Seahawks being a fast-paced offense vs. the 2013 Seahawks slowing the game down. Of course you’re going to get better offensive numbers if you’re going to be running so many more plays.
Wide Receiver 1
2005 – Darrell Jackson
2013 – Golden Tate
The numbers don’t bear out that Jackson was the team’s #1 receiver – because he missed a good ten games in the middle of the season before returning for the playoff run – but it’s pretty obvious who the team’s top target was. Jackson’s early career was mired by drops, but he managed to get his shit together starting in 2005. And, in that playoff run (where he caught 20 balls for 268 yards in three games – and it would have been more in the Super Bowl had things gone a little differently), Jackson really took a step forward.
Nevertheless, Golden Tate gets the nod. He draws the lion’s share of the coverage (usually with the other team’s best cover corner), and still managed to catch 64 balls for 898 yards. What puts Tate over the top is his talent, his versatility, and his ability in the punt return game.
Wide Receiver 2
2005 – Joe Jurevicius
2013 – Sidney Rice / Jermaine Kearse
I resisted the urge to put Doug Baldwin here, mainly because I want to save him so I can compare him to Bobby Engram. In his stead, I put the duo of Rice & Kearse. Rice was obviously this team’s #2 receiver when he was healthy, but of course, he went down after 8 games and Kearse picked up some of the slack. You’ve got to ding Rice for not being reliable with his health. But, aside from all that, Jurevicius was rock solid in 2005.
He caught 55 balls for 694 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns! He was the type of big body that Pete Carroll has been spending his entire Seahawks career trying to bring in.
Wide Receiver 3
2005 – Bobby Engram
2013 – Doug Baldwin
Bobby Engram was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin was even a twinkle in the Seahawks’ eye! Engram was Hasselbeck’s 3rd Down security blanket just as Baldwin is that for Wilson today. And, when other receivers went down – as they seemingly always did – Engram was able to pick up the slack, just like Baldwin has this year after Rice went down.
I’m giving the nod to Baldwin for a couple reason. Even though Engram caught 17 more passes, they caught the same exact number of yards: 778. Doug Baldwin is the more explosive receiver. He can go downfield and make a big play FAR more regularly than Engram ever could. While he may play in the slot, Baldwin isn’t just a traditional slot receiver like Engram was. Baldwin can play all over, yet still be that security blanket on third down who finds the hole in the zone or makes the diving sideline grab.
2005 – Jerramy Stevens
2013 – Zach Miller
I probably shouldn’t let my emotions get the better of me, but in this case I can’t help it. 2005 Jerramy Stevens’ numbers absolutely dwarf Zach Miller’s, and if he even REMOTELY lived up to the hype coming into his pro career, Jerramy Stevens would be a beloved individual around these parts. Instead, he sucked dick, and is beloved in Pittsburgh for handing them the Super Bowl. So, Zach Miller gets the nod (plus, Miller is actually a true tight end who blocks well and does the whole thing; Stevens was a glorified, overweight wide receiver and not a very good one at that).
So, if you add it up for both sides, 2005 gets the edge on Offensive Line, Running Back (an extension of the offensive line), and one of the three wide receivers. 2013 wins on Quarterback play, Tight End, and 2/3 of the wide receivers. If I’m weighting things as I should, it’s pretty neck and neck. Offensive line is the most important part of any football team, so they factor in pretty heavily. QB comes next. And, I figure the receivers and tight end equal out the Shaun Alexander MVP factor. I’m calling it a wash across the board. But, you can’t just call it a tie, so let’s go to the numbers:
2005: 452 points, 5,915 yards, 1,020 total plays, 5.8 yards per play, 17 turnovers
2013: 417 points, 5,424 yards, 973 total plays, 5.6 yards per play, 19 turnovers
Look, by the slimmest of margins, I’m giving 2005 the nod over 2013 on offense. There are pieces there to cobble together the greatest offense of all time (2005 O-Line with 2013’s skill position players), but if you want the truth, I’m going to go with the offense that scored more points. It’s kind of as simple as that.
Let’s hop right into the defenses.
2005 Defensive Line
Bryce Fisher (DE)
Grant Wistrom (DE)
Rocky Bernard (DT)
Marcus Tubbs (DT)
Chuck Darby (DT)
2013 Defensive Line
Red Bryant (DE)
Chris Clemons (DE)
Brandon Mebane (DT)
Cliff Avril (DE)
Michael Bennett (DE/DT)
Tony McDaniel (DT)
Clinton McDonald (DT)
This goes without question. I mean, LOOK at that rotation! The 2013 Seahawks can come up with any number of fronts, whereas the 2005 version pretty much ran out the same four guys play-in and play-out. I would argue that Mebane was just as disruptive up the middle as Tubbs. Michael Bennett can do just as much as Rocky Bernard on the inside (as far as pass rush is concerned), as well as have the ability to slide outside and rush on the edge. Grant Wistrom was less of a joke than a nightmare I’m still trying to wake up from. No contest. Next song.
In 2005, you had Leroy Hill and Lofa Tatupu as rookies, and therefore at the height of their powers and physicality. But, Tatupu was never good enough to hold Bobby Wagner’s jock, and the combination of Wright & Smith is WAY more versatile than Leroy Hill ever was. Hill was great at run-stuffing, and he managed 7.5 sacks in his rookie campaign, but there’s more to linebacker than simply running forward. You’ve got to run laterally, and backward. You’ve got to play in coverage, and that’s where the 2013 crew has it all over the 2005 crew. Which is odd, because those Holmgren defenses were known for their speed. Here’s the thing: 2013 HAS that speed, but they’ve also got size and versatility. Again, no contest. Next song.
I could have stopped after just Richard Sherman – with he alone covering all of the other team’s receivers – and he would have beaten out the 2005 secondary. I was going to split them up by cornerbacks and safeties, but what’s the point? It’s laughable how terrible that 2005 secondary was. Luckily for the 2005 team, they were frequently playing with a lead. It’s a lot easier to play defense with a lead than it is from behind.
On the whole, it’s not even close. 2013 defense in a landslide. In fact, I don’t know if there are any guys on that 2005 team would would even PLAY on the 2013 version! I don’t think anyone turns down a 2005 Rocky Bernard. And I know 2005 Bryce Fisher had 9.0 sacks, but does he have the ability to stuff the run like Chris Clemons does? I mean, maybe Fisher cracks the defensive end rotation, but most of those 2005 guys are backups at best on the 2013 team. I’ll tell you this much: I’m starting Byron Maxwell over Marcus Trufant every day of the week.
In conclusion, the 2013 Seahawks are the better team. You pit them against the 2005 Seahawks, one game, winner takes all, it’s the 2013 team by a comfortable margin. 2013’s defensive line might struggle to get pressure on the quarterback, and it’s 50/50 whether or not the 2005 team runs the ball well. But, there’s no way 2005 is throwing all that well against 2013’s secondary.
For the record, nothing would bring me greater joy than to see Kam Chancellor knock the shit out of Jerramy Stevens. I don’t even mean in any hypothetical matchup between these two teams. I mean in real life. Kam Chancellor hunts Jerramy Stevens down, wherever he’s living, and he fucks his shit up. For real.