Author Note: With the 2015 pre-season right around the corner, football fans have awoken from our collective slumbers, like hibernating bears stretching and yawning. The last six months have been littered with a hodgepodge of news stories- a smattering of who’s dating who, what contracts are getting extended, what options aren’t being renewed, and endless speculation about the next off seasons potential moves, when the NEXT offseason isn’t even here yet. It’s time to eek out a W, before they start rolling in during the season.
As Charles Dickenson said in his work, a Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” For Seattle Seahawk fans, this statement couldn’t ring more true.
The upcoming 2015 season for the Seattle Seahawks is arguably the most important season the team will play of this decade. If there’s a singular characteristic that the talking heads on ESPN and other sports outlets have been adamant about, it’s this: None of them believe that Seattle is a dynasty in the making. I have a slight issue with that. So I will set out to examine an up and coming dynasty, with a dynasty. (Note: I’m not comparing the 2000’s N.E. team to the present SEA team, rather both teams since Seattle’s near meteoric rise of 2011-present)
First, let’s examine what a dynasty is: usually a familial set of rulers, domineers if you will, that control an area of land, a fiefdom, a ubiquitous security blanket of sorts. Sports dynasties, though, more loosely relate to a series of players/managers/coaches who exert influence and power among certain demographics.
When you think of dynasties in sports, your mind may gravitate towards big names: 1960s/1970s Oakland Raiders, 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970s and 1980s Miami Dolphins, 1990s Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, and of course, the early 2000s New England Patriots. Any one of these teams is defined fore mostly as a ‘dynasty’ by Super Bowl wins and/or regular season victories. More simply defined: it’s just the same team winning all the time, for years at a time.
Statistics, especially in the salary cap era, continue to raise the bar and define the parameters of what makes a team a ‘dynasty’ worthy. It’s usually a battle of odds and luck. The aforementioned teams already have statistics in their corners- consistency on the field, big numbers on the scoreboard on a week-to-week basis, literally years of experience in the NFL, or coaching and player management in general.
The aforementioned teams also had limited turnover, and (in most cases) above average retention rates of players and staff. But statistics and retention alone do not make a dynasty.
Is it big name players? The Brady’s, the Big Bens, the Marino’s, the Bo Jacksons, that really make a team a dynasty? At first glance, one could lean heavily upon the players as the sole reason a team categorized as a dynasty. It’s easy to see why- the players account for almost 90% more of the team experience than say, staff, general managers, or owners. They are the ones executing the play calls on the field, through the conditions, and the ramifications of what happens when the right call gets made the wrong way. They are vilified when they don’t make something out of everything, and something out of nothing. They are dubbed heroes when they ace split second decisions and roll away from coverage, while the contents of our stomachs threaten to rocket from their depths.
Dynasties are remembered for a string of these plays, whether the results were precise or through sheer luck. You cannot talk about one of the earlier mentioned dynasties without stringing together a number of plays that highlighted tremendous successes and utter failures.
New England is still haunted (probably) from the catch off of the helmet of NY Giants WR David Tyree, that set NY for a colossal upset of a 12 point favorite during SB XLII, fresh off an undefeated regular season (Matched only by the 1972 Dolphins). The team would rebound and go on to win multiple AFC Championships, prompting many to call for the renaming of the AFC Championship game to the “Patriots Bowl”
Seattle is still haunted (probably) from losing in the last minute of the 2011 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Had they gone forward, to face the Ravens, the “Blackout Bowl” may have ended much differently. Had they gone forward, win or lose, the team’s foray into SB-dom last year would have placed them squarely in dynasty talk contention. Instead, the team is still reeling from a New England manufactured schadenfraude of the last play of SB 49.
Is it the coaches? The Belichicks, the Shula’s, the Lombardi’s, the Davis’, the Maddens? Do their interpretations of playbooks, hours of tape review, and reliance on instinct that define their teams as a dynasty? Again, one could argue that simultaneous vertical and horizontal communication between multiple echelons and play call management is a defining characteristic of the road to D-town.
New England’s coach is infamous for being silent, monotone, and unforgiving. At least, that’s how he’s portrayed. He’s remembered more for benching his players due to conduct, than those he’s started. He’s rolled the dice on Tight Ends with criminal records, Quarterbacks whose combine photos invoke raucous laughter, and the constant roulette that is the Running Back position. New England’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels, is writing up a very interesting chronicle by himself. Sure, he didn’t pan out in Denver. But there are plenty of NFL coaches in any form who start out with a fizzle, and then go boom later on.
Belichick has a dynastic reign on his players, benching them for being late, but weathering media storms when his players inevitably mess up. Belichick appears to have the tight grip, yet no players who depart from the team really cry foul play. Belichick’s disciplinarian stance in his approach of game management is easy to understand and support. Living on the Eastern Seaboard for many years, integrity and owning up to ones mistakes is as commonplace in football as it is in other facets of daily life.
Seattle’s coach differs from New England in many ways, and what’s better, head coach Pete Carroll seems to want to push his own brand of servant leadership into the far reaches of the league. He doesn’t seem to worry about losing an arm or a leg, (i.e., player or coach) because he values the next man up, instead of holding onto someone past their usefulness and making a glass ceiling for others others.
Some NFL coaches maintain a very hardline stance on player management. Carroll seems to be laissez faire with player management, he doesn’t appear to demand anything from them, rather he commands it.
New head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, Dan Quinn, spent only a few years in the Emerald City as a defensive coordinator before moving on. I’m sure he’d agree with my assessment of Carroll.
As a fan, you want to scream bloody murder about offensive coordinator Darrell Bevels last call, but he too, has been quietly re-writing Seattle offensive history since his arrival in 2011. Yes, his first 7-9 season threatened to derail it, but you cannot discredit his performance since. The gamble on ‘too small’ QB Russell Wilson has ultimately paid far more dividends than losses.
Say what you will about Carroll’s tenure at USC, his wayward NFL career that included defensive stints for the Jets, Head Coach for the New England Patriots, and the fact that he’s one of a small few coaches to win both an NCAA championship and a Super Bowl. He’s revered for his youth in spite of his numerical age, and when you watch him on the sidelines, you are often in disbelief. His animation is above all else, infectious. Critics lambast Carroll for his wordiness, his length and staunch belief in those around him, whether on the field or off. In regards to that, Carroll exists to serve as a beacon for the coaches he mentors, and the players he controls.
Both coaches maintain stability that aids the team experiences: Draft after Draft, both GMs and coaches have a knack for getting in a pre-draft trade and selecting above average players in later rounds at significant bargains. They are not afraid to release a player that fails to achieve their ceiling. Neither is afraid to upend the roster if necessary. Both rely on a core group of guys who are unfazed by age, play, or style demographics.
With a W/L record of 12-4 (2014), 1/3 Super Bowl wins, and a head coach who persevered through two 7-9 seasons, and an 11-5 reversal to the record we see today (13-3, 12-4 in the seasons since), all the pieces of the dynasty puzzle are present in regards to Seattle, and seemingly unconnected.
No, I think that in addition to all of the above, odds, audacity, resilience, and timing are the ingredients needed for a team to ascend to D-status. And that’s precisely the road that the Seattle Seahawks are on currently.
Before you jump through the screen and bellow loudly about the last play of Super Bowl 49, realize that I intend to discus this later on.
One poor call, set of odds, or poor timing isn’t quite enough to derail a team on the yellow brick (dynasty) road. You could hardly guess that most of Washington State and Oregon half erupted into cheers, then jeers when Bevel made the infamous call. But where others may be quick to jab, you cannot totally write off a team that until a few years ago, was a quiet .500 team through the regular season and the playoffs.
Being a relatively ‘new’ team (from the mid 1970’s), a lot of other NFL franchises may view Seattle as the annoying, gentrifying younger brother in the family. While it’s true that the PNW is undergoing vast amounts of cultural and gentrification changes, the overall positive effects cannot be ignored. We’re not going to talk about Seattle’s $15 an hour minimum wage, but we will not overlook the fact that during the past few years, ticket sales have skyrocketed, merchandise sales are through the roof, and as a fan base, there’s a sense of collective consciousness that hasn’t been present in a long time.
At least, that’s what it feels like, here in Washington.
I’m an East Coast boy, born and raised in a small town, in a state that has a total population that’s 1/3rd or 1/4th the size of Washington. Fandom ran rampant- you either rooted for the Pats, or another team entirely. You just didn’t root for any New York teams.
Those decisions were driven by sports dynasties- the Red Sox reign of baseball, and New England’s early 2000s dominance. You watched football because it was what you did on Sunday. You followed the movement, in ignorance of the regular season standings, or Super Bowl Wins or Losses. You wore one or many Jerseys, and openly debated how good someone or some team was or wasn’t, on a near daily basis.
There weren’t a ton of flags flown, but plenty of other merchandise to be found. No one measured the size of your fandom, or ‘fandick’. It was a social movement, and at its core: us versus them. But it’s remained largely unchanged, year after year. AFC Championship wins or not.
Everyone in New England loathes teams from New York because of the sheer difference in their approaches to player management: New England teams characteristically low ball their players, stretching money as thin as they can, while New York teams spend as if there was no tomorrow. New England teams historically, have always played the underdog card. When they win, the whole region becomes a different, near rabid type of fan. When they lose, no one really talks about it for a few days, or a few weeks.
Something, I think Dolphins fans could relate to when they got blown out, Steelers fans could relate to when the ‘Steel Curtain’ stopped being so formidable, and when the Elway’s and Favre’s retired- they could always lean back on the good ol’ days, but their futures looked grim.
Seattle mirrors New England in this respect. From signing players to varying salaries, to allowing players to depart in free agency because they sought more guaranteed money, they don’t rely on fiscal power to resolve their roster issues. They are very effective at utilizing the franchise tag to their advantage. The current standstill on long-term contracts for Wilson and Wagner illustrates these points. NFC Rivals San Francisco and St. Louis help Seattle loosely mirror the New England/New York hatred. 6 years, $114 million for Kaepernick, and whatever ludicrous amount Sam Bradford was paid highlights this further. (Despite the fact he’s got a negative number of good knees)
Seattle fans are (for the most part) hybrids: part rabid dog, part crouching tiger that are just as prone to wild mood swings as the next team. Texas A&M may lay claim to ‘the 12th man’ moniker, but the 12s of the PNW stand for more than just a retired jersey number. It’s a state of mind, an extra identity than anyone can assume on game day or the next day. They’re an Army all onto themselves, and dynasties need a self-sustaining life force, which the 12s loudly provide. In the last five years or so, their cries have become increasingly louder and louder, as their size has too.
For all the hype about Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, the heart and soul of Seattle really is the dynamic equilibrium of the defensive and offensive lines, which includes a lot of big names (already mentioned) and those not mentioned. New comers, such as Jimmy Graham and draftees like Tyler Lockett or Obum Gwachum, do not have to rebuild their talents from the ground up. They simply have to jump on the speeding train. Complimented by players such as Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin, there’s an air of unity already brewing. Receiving lines will grow, as will attempts. The defense, with some backups now serving in starter roles (LJP in for now departed Unger), for example, will hold the train to the tracks.
Decimated by injuries, departing players in free agency and staff moves, the ‘team’ aspect of the dynasty remains overly solid throughout the years (Sherman, Thomas, and Chancellor playing through horrific injuries during SB 49). Again, a relatively mixed team, with young (three drafts prior) and old (four or more drafts) players adds to the allure of what could define the team as a dynasty, but isn’t the single characteristic.
No other team refers to their secondary as a legion. Then again, no other team’s secondary is as fearful in today’s league as Seattle’s.
You can hate on Richard Sherman’s brashness, but you cannot deny his passes defensed, interceptions, or his status as a de-facto warrior king of the L.O.B. When you compare the speed, style, and aggression that Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas III, Byron Maxwell (now with PHI), even Brandon Browner (pre-jump to N.E.) against other teams, the similarities are slim. Most teams have a solid corner (or a pair), or defensive back (or a pair), but most do not enjoy stability amongst all positions. Even though parts of the feared L.O.B have gone on to other teams (Browner to N.E., then N.O., Maxwell to PHI); the integrity of the 4-3 remains solid. We are still holding our breath and praying Earl Thomas III will be ready to go Week 1.
New England’s lines are a mix of who’s in, who’s not, and who you never would expect to achieve status in the NFL at all. Take the 2011 season, where the majority of their running backs (Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley) are still in the league and successful today. LeGarrette Blount, save for his off again, on again relationship with New England, personifies the ‘chip on the shoulder’ style of play that the team thrives upon. Yes, Brady’s helm at the ship’s wheel is longstanding, and star studded.
Yes, year after year, Brady’s ability sustains the team drive. But the drive is preserved by the O-line and D-line that boasted Nate Solder, Vince Wilfork, Jerrod Mayo, and Rob Ninkovich. It’s furthered by the likes of Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Branden LaFelle, and Julian Edelman. You can accurately predict who will get the start for the team by mixing 100 strips of colored paper, and $100 in single dollar bills in a hat, and guessing what you’ll pull out first. This leads to frustration among many fans that I know, especially those who play fantasy sports.
Audacity is the next characteristic that I believe Seattle exerts, on its road to dynasty status. No team that starts out below .500 for two seasons grabs attention without being audacious. Most of the ‘experts’ write the team off, favoring to pick them apart with statistics, and how they are fighting an uphill battle. As ESPN’s Matthew Berry said on his “100 Facts”, statistics without names attached to them can be very deceiving, and we can get substantially upset if our team or favorite player is on the receiving end of particularly bad statistics. Take this from that article: “The issue these days isn’t information — we are in an information overload era. The issue is parsing that data, trying to decide what to believe and what not, who to trust and who to ignore.”
Audacity and statistics are like, the prom queen and the QB of your high school Football team. It’s expected they’ll win, but they often hate each other and don’t stay together. Though they do have some flashes of sustained brilliance, they fizzle out sooner then you might hope. Which is exactly where the critics view Seattle’s improbable third trip to win a Lombardi trophy. Sure, it would be nice, but hey, don’t you remember that NFC Championship game? Or what about that “Call”?
Audacity lead to ‘the call’, to throw on the 1 yd. line in Super Bowl 49. It was also that same audacity that mounted the comeback in the 2014 NFC championship game, when four interceptions threatened to derail a re-peat Super Bowl appearance. Need I say Kicker Sneak? Few teams do such things, in two minutes, to spectacular results.
If we’re speaking openly about Audacity, then New England quickly comes to mind for their play calling schemes, ineligible receivers, and possible misinterpretation of the rules. I don’t need to elaborate on who’s responsible for what, I’m sure the league will make the right call, 50% of the time. New England and Audacity are PB&J. There’s simply no denying it. They’ve re-written many rules of the game. Few, if any other teams, can say they’ve done the same.
The ugly, ugly truth about Audacity is that it’s fraternal twin, Resilience, doesn’t always make a comeback showing. We expect to wield one unilaterally, but save the other for nail biting, last seconds of a game that matters the most. No matter how skilled we are at one, the other is based off of time, and persistence. From a blowout Super Bowl win against Denver, to a soul crushing defeat at the hands in New England in the follow up, simply returning to the big dance in consecutive years doesn’t define a dynasty.
But as a recent article by the recipient of that last interception, Ricardo Lockette says, there is no bad blood left. The team is focused on what matters: continuing the upward trend of acting as a singular unit, a family, intent on leaving more than memories and stats behind. Building a dynasty.
My Pre-Season predictions are bold. Being a fan, I don’t ever want to admit that a losing season is possible. I mean, look at the statistics: Passer ratings and receiver completions were low, while rushing was high. New pieces of the puzzle (TE Graham, WR Lockette) appear to bring change to the horizon. But what good is hyping up a team with only statistics?
Graham, for example, excels in odd years. 2015 is an odd year. He’s poised for a rebound.
Lynch, fresh off a spectacular season while supposedly in the throws of pre-retirement, still factors to be a significant target.
The rest of the offensive parts of the pie are present, regardless of whether Wilson signs his long term extension or not. The offensive line, even with the loss of Max Unger, still shows hopeful light. Seattle has consistently rotated players outside of their regular positions, to measurable success.
None of this matters though, with improper timing.
New England was written off by many, myself included, after their questionable efforts by QB Tom Brady last season. It’s a very similar manner to how people are writing off Seattle for tripping up on the last steps of Super Bowl victory staircase. The QB is expected to do all of the work, and win all of the time. No exceptions.
No one expects RB Jonas Gray will repeat his ridiculous 38-201-4 line from last years game against the Indianapolis Colts. Which is precisely why New England gets all of the dynasty talk thrown their way- they rotate players in and out, and they continue to achieve measurable success. They’ve only been an NFL team for 16 more years than Seattle, which pales in comparison to teams like Green Bay, which has been around since, well, the dawn of time (football speaking).
In fact, many people wrote off Seattle after their 3-3 beginning. A 9-1 miracle run after that would silence many critics. Their first playoff win against Carolina was expected, and I can honestly say I was throwing many things at the T.V. during the NFC Championship game against Green Bay. The last two minutes of that game really solidified, for me, why Seattle deserves to be in the dynasty conversation.
Timing, of passing on the short yardage into coverage, has already been entered into the Seahawk’s history books. The risk vs. reward gave way to risk, much like the hot hand approach led to New England capitalizing on a leaky Colts defense gave way to reward(Deflategate issues notwithstanding). Seattle, as we know, was the first team since the 2004 New England Patriots to win a playoff game the following season after a Super Bowl victory, and repeat as conference champions (outside of the Green Bay Packers)
Yes, there are many teams in the NFC who can (and have) defeat(ed) or dethrone(d) Seattle. The short list is Arizona and St. Louis. The long list includes Green Bay, even though they were 0-2 versus Seattle at home in 2014.
Yes, there are many teams in the AFC who can (and have) defeat(ed) or dethrone(d) New England. Their short list includes any NY team (Jets, Bills), and Baltimore. The long list will include the Miami, Green Bay, and Kansas City. Of special note, the Colts were 0-2 versus New England in 2014, regardless of home field advantage.
If I’m not making my point clear, I’ll reiterate it. Seattle sits in the driver seat on the highway to dynastyville. It’s made some poor lane switches and exit choices, but it’s still raring and ready to go, and still driving on said highway.
New England drives around the gates of dynastyville, actively patrolling for what Spartans would call “an honorable death”- a challenge. They too, have made poor lane switches and exit choices, yet still remain driving.
The two teams seem vibrantly different on paper, but are strikingly similar in their approaches, successes, and failures. Both teams have been uber present in offseason discussion topics. Both teams eye Super Bowl 50 as a shot at solidifying their own histories: Seattle to silence the critics and be accepted as a legitimate sports enterprise, and New England to prove they don’t need properly inflated footballs to maintain greatness.
The T.V. ratings for Super Bowl 49 were astronomical. Which is exactly the storyline I, as a rabid, moody PNW fan, want to see played out again. Grudge matches are a defining part of a dynasties narrative. New England certainly feels that way towards, say, the NY Giants as they are 0-2 versus them in Super Bowl appearances. New England has 8 appearances, and 4 Super Bowl wins. If they do not return to the postseason, big dance next season, and Seattle does (and wins), Seattle will have 4 appearances, and 2 wins. Similar win percentages, with an upward trend for the Seahawks, even if their total numbers are lower.
In conclusion, there are many aspects of dynasty status that Seattle is currently already doing. New England does this too, but we’ve come to expect it from them. Brady and Belichick’s history has long since become accepted truth. Drama or no Drama, they are cornerstones of what the American fan expects on Monday, Sunday, or Thursday. You can never fully count out a team that will lose by two points one time, to win by 20 the next time.
Wilson and Carroll’s narratives are the trendy, upbeat, and overpositive tones that the NFL loves to sell tickets to, but will treat with indifference the second someone doesn’t want to answer their questions. Seattle is a team to watch, not only for their player management, fan base, and budget wizardry, but for their ability to finish opposing teams, and resilience.
The NFL is at a crossroads: They’re widely criticized for player mismanagement and erroneous timing of punishment in certain situations. They hold all of the cards in the high stakes game of Texas Hold ‘Em, and ultimately recieves no blowback for what appears to be a knack for counting cards and playing favorites. Seattle needs New England, for its David and Goliath storyline to continue. New England needs Seattle, because it’s obvious that they have little to no issue winning their division year after year. Yes, they lose every once in a while, but no team out there currently offers them a challenge quite like Seattle does. We’re witnessing the birth of a unique supremacy grudge match, and the 2015 NFL season needs to start, like soon.
I saw this video on Facebook this morning, and it’s really good. I can side with Seattle following both the theme of Rocky Balboa and of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series, though I’m more of a fan of TDK narrative: You either die as a hero, or live long enough to become a villain. If the Patriots fanbase makes such a video, I’ll link it here. Till next time…