When you think of the best teams – and the best-run organizations – in the NFL, you think of New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay; but Seattle doesn’t immediately come to mind. If you’re in my age range (mid-30s), you probably still have the moniker of “America’s Team” seared into your consciousness when you think of the Dallas Cowboys. You’d also probably liken the 49ers, Giants, and various others among the greats. But the Seahawks? Nah. Tucked all the way up here? Out of the limelight, what with East Coast Bias and whatnot, the Seahawks are middle-of-the-road at best.
Living with this team in the 1990s, “middle-of-the-road” was something to aspire to! An 8-8 season was considered a success! But, I think it’s time to come around a little bit. I did some research (i.e. wasted a bunch of time working on a spreadsheet), and it turns out the Seahawks have been pretty damn great; not just recently, but dating back the last 13 seasons.
I know, it’s a VERY arbitrary starting point. But, this is a Seattle-centric blog, and the 2003 season is quite significant for this franchise.
Mike Holmgren’s first season with the Seahawks was 1999; he’s generally credited (and rightfully so) with turning around this moribund franchise. All the old-timers can cling to the mid-80s glory of the Seahawks, but let’s face it, by the time Holmgren was brought on, this team was a laughingstock, or at the very least a non-entity. This little slice of nothingness up in the Pacific Northwest you didn’t really have an opinion about if you didn’t have to play us regularly (and even then, even teams within our own division had MUCH bigger rivalries with teams other than the Seahawks). Even though Holmgren led the Seahawks to a division title and a playoff appearance in his first year, I’m reluctant to include that year, or the subsequent three seasons, as he was still mired with a lot of the previous regime’s players.
In 2003, though, everything started to come together. Matt Hasselbeck was a proven, quality quarterback. And, the rest of the team was talented enough to push us into perennial division-winner status, as we ripped off five straight NFC West titles. The Holmgren era, by and large, gets short shrift when compared to the Pete Carroll era, for good reason. These Seahawks teams, since 2012, have been VASTLY superior, and have had much more success than those Holmgren teams (especially in the playoffs, where it counts more). But, if you lump these two eras together, you get a good look at what a quality franchise really looks like.
You’ll notice a theme when you look at the great franchises: they tend to be defined by the head coaches. The Holmgren Era, the Carroll Era, and so on. But, really, what we’re talking about is quarterback eras. The Hasselbeck Era, the Wilson Era. As you can see from a lot of the crappy teams, quarterbacking is everything in the NFL. Teams are lucky if they get ONE franchise quarterback in a generation; the Seahawks have had two, and that’s the biggest reason why the Seahawks have been among the greatest teams over the last 13 years. It’s also why the Seahawks will continue to be great, as long as Russell Wilson sticks around.
From 2003 through 2015, the Seahawks have been the sixth-most successful franchise in the NFL, behind New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Denver. In that Google Spreadsheet I linked to, the left side divides the teams by division; the right side is listed by way of regular season record. This is some PHENOMENAL company the Seahawks are keeping! And, when you go down the list, you can see why these teams have had the success they’ve had. Tom Brady & Bill Belichick; Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck (Indy hitting the lottery twice with those #1 overall picks); Ben Roethlisberger; a seamless transition from Favre to Rodgers. The only semi-outlier is Denver, who has been blessed in recent seasons by the signing of Manning, and had some other playoff years with Jake Plummer of all people; but, the one thing I would point to is organizational stability. They had Mike Shanahan for a bunch of those years, and John Elway has been a force as an executive since he took over.
I don’t really have a point beyond touting that the Seahawks are pretty great. I often come across as a bit of a Debbie Downer, as a result of my sports upbringing and having all success ripped away from me as a fan. I just think it’s time to appreciate how good this team has been for the majority of my adult life. When you take it in across the big picture, the Seahawks are fucking awesome, and it’s about time the rest of the nation recognized.
With news of Ken Griffey Jr. being inducted into the Hall of Fame (with a record-setting percentage of votes), it’s given Mariners fans yet another opportunity to reflect on our mid-90s success. You look at those teams and smile, especially given how bereft we’ve been of baseball prowess in recent years. You can also look at those teams – with two hall of famers (Griffey and Randy), a should-be hall of famer in Edgar, and another should-be hall of famer in Sweet Lou – and smack yourself as hard as you can on the forehead: HOW DID WE NOT WIN A WORLD SERIES WITH THOSE GUYS???
But, that’s baseball. Really, that’s just sports. Success is fleeting, championships are fucking hard, and the world is a meaningless flat circle.
With the thought of those Mariners teams in your mind, now think of these Seahawks. From the Holmgren Era, we had a hall of famer in Walter Jones, who anchored one of the best O-Lines in recorded history. From the Carroll Era, we’re looking at how many possible/probable hall of famers? Let’s list them off:
- Earl Thomas
- Richard Sherman
- Russell Wilson
- Marshawn Lynch?
- Bobby Wagner?
- Kam Chancellor?
- Doug Baldwin???
It’s getting a little lean down there at the bottom; I don’t know if any of those last three guys have a legitimate shot at the HOF (they’d probably have to have REALLY extended careers, which I don’t think is necessarily in the cards with the way big hitters like Wagner and Kam play the game; and I just don’t think Baldwin will have the raw receptions/yards numbers compared to other receivers – it’s just hard as a receiver in general in this pass-wacky day and age to crack the hall), but just having three Hall of Famers on your squad is remarkable in its own right (for what it’s worth, I do think all three of Earl, Richard, and Russell will end up making it, assuming their careers aren’t cut short in a hail of concussions).
We’re really fortunate, is what I’m getting at, to be fans of the Seahawks right now. That’s not to say I’m satisfied, or ready to settle for what we’ve got. As a fan, you always want more; it’s the nature of the beast. But, as we head into Wild Card weekend, it’s cool to look back and reflect upon all the greatness we’ve seen. Here’s to another 13 remarkable years!