CHICAGO - OCTOBER 17: Walter Thurmond #38 of the Seattle Seahawks breaks up a pass intended for Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears as Johnny Knox #13 attempts a catch at Soldier Field on October 17 2010 in Chicago Illinois. The Seahawks defeated the Bears 23-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Walter Thurmond; Devin Hester; Johnny Knox
I know that this isn't really a brilliant epiphany or anything like that, but the further the Mariners season goes on, the more that club reminds me of the Seahawks' franchise. The Mariners added a few cheap free-agent fillers last season in the hopes these stopgap players would push them over the edge as contenders but most of them washed out or underperformed. This helped the Mariners become (stay) one of the worst teams in the majors despite early indications and hopes that they could contend for the AL West.
Following that season of unmet expectations (Believe Big?), the Mariners, and most notably their fans, have accepted their identity of that of a rebuilding team. With no great expectations and playing mostly their young, inexperienced talent, the Mariners have become something that they weren't even once last season - exciting to watch. Though they're currently in last place, they're only 3 games out, are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and have an exciting young nucleus of future All-Stars to watch. With little expectation from anyone to win, they've been playing loose and aggressive, and it's paid off.
The Seahawks are in a similar situation. Though they made the playoffs in 2010 and beat the defending champs in the Wild Card game, more or less that victory came on a wing and a prayer after lucking our way into the playoffs. I'm not saying we didn't deserve to win that game, but we were fortunate enough to be in the worst division in football. This season, the Hawks have essentially been written off by pretty much everyone in the national media to repeat as NFC West Champions. Though it's true that anything can happen in the NFL, most pragmatic Seahawks fans have accepted that the rebuilding process is in full effect after our improbable run last season and the Seahawks are likely to be playing a lot of young players in 2011. Though I'm not saying all fans have lost hope that the Hawks could repeat as NFC West champs, it's likely that our starting lineup will include several rookies and perhaps many second year players. This means a lot of young, inexperienced talent on the field and they'll take their bumps along the way.
The quarterback that is put in place will make a big difference of course, but as Nick Andron brought up, when you're talking about an offensive line comprised of very young players and a defensive secondary made up mostly rookies and sophomore players, mistakes will be made.
On the other hand though, a lot of really exciting plays will be made. If you put a few of these together, you start building momentum and some fun games can be made. The Hawks may not win it all next year. They may not win the West. But I'm looking forward to seeing something similar to what's going on with this year's Mariners club - a young team thrown into the fire that's gelling together and producing an on-field product that's fun to watch. One that you know is going in the right direction. It makes it fun to be a Seattle sports' fan again.