I’m so full of … what’s the opposite of shame?
No, not that far from shame.
Time to reflect! Better get it out of the way now while the gettin’s good. And speaking of Good, that’s all we’ll be talking about today. Save all the bad stuff for … the rest of the offseason.
We won our division! Hey now! Considering where we were at the end of last year, going from public embarrassment to slightly less embarrassing … that’s pretty fun.
In truth, we were 2 games better than we were last season and 1 game better than my predicted 6-10. But, we played the schedule we were given, we played under the same rules of the divisional system as everyone else, and as it shook out, we won just enough to grab a 4-seed. AND, we won our first round playoff game, giving everyone who spent the previous week grousing about moving down in the draft a chance to delight and dream a little bit. We had the team we wanted to play in the second round. We were looking at ANOTHER home game if we’d won in Chicago. Everything was setting up for a miracle run, until it wasn’t.
That experience, those last three weeks, were really something special. That’s what following sports is all about. Going down to the wire, winning your final game of the regular season to crack the playoffs, shocking the world by beating the Super Bowl champs, rolling around on pins and needles all week in anticipation of the next round … ultimately failing like 30 of the other NFL teams in the league. All a part of the fan experience, and something that shouldn’t be taken for granted (though, so often IS, because hey, we lost!).
Not only that experience, but just the unexpectedness of it. I mean, come on; coming out of two years where we won a combined 9 games. Coming off of two straight coaching changes. Coming back with a college coach who hadn’t been in the NFL in a decade. All the holes we needed to fill, combined with all the personnel turnover. And the biggie: Quarterback Controversy. Would Hasselbeck hold up all year? Would Whitehurst force his way into the starting lineup? Would we rue the day we didn’t go after one of the veterans on the free agent market?
The point is, we made progress; in SPITE of all that turmoil. We got 14 games out of Hasselbeck. We found out what Whitehurst really is (probably). We discovered that Carroll and Schneider are really good talent evaluators. They found some diamonds in the rough, that’s for sure! Yes, they basically lucked into Okung and Earl Thomas in the draft – those were the OBVIOUS picks that had to be made. But, look at the lower round players we got who contributed. Look at Leon Washington’s value to the special teams. Look at Mike Williams’ importance to making our offense go. Look at Chris Clemons’ role in an improved pass rush. Look at what we were able to do with our run defense until Red Bryant was lost for the season. Look at how our receiving game didn’t really miss a beat even though we got rid of Houshmandzadeh and Branch. Look at how everything DIDN’T fall apart with our offensive line even though we arguably had as many injuries there as we did last season.
This is progress. And the upcoming offseason will reflect more progress. There IS reason for hope, even IF we’re drafting 25th overall.