The Seahawks haven’t felt special in a while. In looking over the list of recent seasons, nothing has really stood out since our last trip to the Super Bowl. Losing before the conference championship game has become commonplace. Sure, that probably sounds spoiled; Jets fans/Lions fans/Browns fans/Bengals fans/Jaguars fans would LOVE to have that problem. But, there are two different types of football teams in the NFL: those who already have a championship-calibre quarterback and those who are still looking for a championship-calibre quarterback.
There are only so many elite quarterbacks out there, but when you have one, as a fan your life is totally different from most other fanbases. You go into EVERY season believing there’s at least a chance of winning it all, if not outright expecting to win it all. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t win it all with a lower tier guy (Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, and Eli Manning come immediately to mind), but a lot has to go right (mainly, having a defense and skill position guys who can carry the team). The margin of error is greater as the talent level of your quarterback improves.
The Seahawks have had a championship-calibre quarterback since 2012. We went to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It felt like we were just getting started on a nonstop upward trajectory, but the last half decade has felt pretty mundane. Like the Seahawks were just going through the motions. Like winning 10 games and making the playoffs was “good enough”. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty impressive achievement to see what the Seahawks have done. They really have sustained success throughout the Pete Carroll/John Schneider marriage, particularly when Russell Wilson was brought in to complete the ménage à trois.
From the 2010 season through this year, we have five NFC West titles, nine playoff appearances, and nine consecutive winning seasons; and yeah, two Super Bowl appearances are great in such a timespan, but only one title feels a little like a rip off. Even though – OF COURSE – it’s friggin’ hard to win a championship in the NFL! A dynasty like the one the Patriots sustained for two decades is unprecedented, even in the pre-free agency eras. Yet, that’s the standard, so that’s what we have to compare ourselves to. Because it’s been pretty much just the Patriots and Seahawks over the last decade as the top two organizations in the league, and we are lagging WAY behind (with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes getting set to leap right over us).
With all the talent we amassed, it’s always going to feel like the Seahawks have underachieved … until they win the next one. And, if they never win another title with Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, then it’ll forever feel like something got away from us.
It remains to be seen if the 2020 Seahawks are special. But, they’ve made a big first step. I’ve written ad nauseam about how important it is for the Seahawks to not have to play on the road throughout the playoffs. So, getting to host a game at least in the first round is better than the alternative. But, clearly, being that #1 seed is the ultimate goal, and as I’ve previously mentioned, losing to the Giants all but eliminated us from contention (I’ll write about how it’s not technically impossible in the next day or so). For these Seahawks to be special, they’re probably going to have to do something they’ve only done once in the history of the franchise (1983), and that’s win a road game in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
I do feel better about these Seahawks than I have since probably the 2015 season (when we won six of our last seven games, though ultimately had to settle for a wild card spot), for a couple of reasons.
First and foremost, it does feel we’re in the midst of another upward trajectory period, albeit less pronounced than the rocketship into the atmosphere that was the period from 2012-2014. The Seahawks really bottomed out in 2017, while missing the playoffs for the first (and still only) time since Russell Wilson entered the league. The 2016 divisional championship even felt like a bit of a fraud, since no one else in the NFC West won more than 7 games. We got back to the playoffs in 2018, but that felt like a bit of a fluke; we were certainly just happy to be there, especially after starting that season with a 4-5 record. With last year’s team, it felt like we were more on the right track, but injuries really derailed things by the end, as we lost three of our last four games (ultimately falling just a yard short of beating the 49ers in the final game of the regular season to win the division).
Just as 2019’s Seahawks were incrementally better than they were in 2018, this year’s team feels similarly improved over last year. First thing’s first: we won the division. We also have a +85 point differential through 15 games; last year we were only +7 (meaning that, even though we won 11 games last year, we were unsustainably lucky to not be closer to 9-7 or even 8-8). Also, even as we’ve seemed to struggle throughout the season, it’s impossible to ignore how much we’ve improved.
The defense was an undeniable disaster through the first eight games of this season. And, as the offense has regressed towards the mean (to say it kindly) or totally fallen off the fucking map (to say it bluntly), it’s been encouraging to see the defense not only step up and assume its share of the responsibility in this relationship, but actually turn into the strength of this team as these Seahawks look remarkably like some of those Seahawks teams of old: where we needed our defense to keep us in games, while the offense sputtered along until it managed to win games in the end one way or another.
It’s scary to think about how the 2020 Seahawks have yet to really put together a complete game (I don’t count the Jets debacle; I don’t care how many games they’ve won in the subsequent two weeks). Scary in the sense that it might not ever happen (and we might be tantalized with thoughts of what might’ve been), but also scary in that if these Seahawks ever DO figure it out, they’ll be right up there among the very best teams in football.
Ultimately, though, I think the main reason why I feel better about these Seahawks than I have in years is a matter of being relieved. We got back over that hurdle of winning the NFC West again. This has been a difficult division, probably the best in all of football the last three seasons; the last two NFC West winners have made it to the Super Bowl, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I’m also relieved because we knocked the Rams down a peg; I’ve considered them to be our primary rivals this year, so it was important to get them out of our way (at least, until we have to play them again in the playoffs).
While relieved, though, I can’t say yesterday’s game inspired a lot of confidence. The Seahawks’ offense – once again – failed to surpass 20 points. Russell Wilson just looked sort of okay; he didn’t have any turnovers, but there was a surefire interception that the Rams dropped. The rushing attack was so-so (24 carries for 95 yards). The offensive line predictably gave up 5 sacks (remains to be seen what was Wilson’s fault vs. what was just poor blocking). Lots of little mistakes added up to a 6-6 tie at halftime. The Seahawks mounted a touchdown drive to start the second half, then did nothing until midway through the fourth quarter when they generated a second touchdown drive to seal the deal.
This game was all about the defense, which was better than I’ve seen it in YEARS! Three sacks (two by Jarran Reed, to give him 6.5 for the year, which makes his new deal money well spent so far), 7 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed, and a whopping 9 hits on the quarterback. Jared Goff looked as miserable as ever, which was a refreshing change of pace. The Rams were able to convert some frustrating third downs, but we kept them out of the endzone, capitalized on one of the most baffling interceptions of all time, and ultimately injured his thumb to the point where Goff will either be lost for the year or will have to have offseason surgery to get it fixed.
In seven games, the Seahawks’ defense went from the very worst, to only the 10th worst in yards allowed. Granted, we’ve still given up the most passing yards in the league, but it’s no longer the most passing yards given up ALL TIME. Also, we went from giving up among the most points per game, to almost exactly middle-of-the-road. The Indianapolis Colts are considered to have one of the better defenses in the league this year; we’ve given up exactly the same number of points through 15 games. That’s an impressive turnaround!
But, as I said, we won’t really know if these Seahawks are special until at least a month from now. Things are trending in the right direction, but I won’t be truly happy until we’re playing for championships again. Steven A. Taylor settles for nothing less than the best!