I think the Seahawks will win four or, at most, five games this season. I think they will lose by two touchdowns or more in at least half of their games. I think that Seattle's last four games will have more to do with where they draft than they will with competing for the division title. I believe that the Seahawks will have one of the least-effective offenses in the NFL, that their special teams will continue to be victimized, and that their defense will be lucky to hold serve.
I think Seattle will play enough games this season that resemble their Week One performance that by Week Ten, there will be more people calling for Pete Carroll's head than those in support of him. There will be points in the season where this team is so lost that Hansel and Gretel will look like a GPS system in comparison. I think that it will get ugly enough at times that several national pundits will consider them the worst team in the league.
I believe all of these things, and yet, I am optimistic about this team.
One of my favorite books is "Candide, or, Optimism" by Voltaire. If you've read it, you'll know why I bring it up. If you haven't you will likely consider me unbearably pretentious (it's okay, because I totally am). Anyway, in the book, the main character experiences things so unfathomably terrible that any bright worldview seems impossible in the overwhelming shadow of his circumstances. It forces him to re-evaluate optimism, to re-define it to fit the shattered world around him. I fear that Seahawks fans may be forced to do the same this season.
I have a lot of conversations with people about the Seahawks. Some of them are hopeful, but most of the folks I talk to are not. Many of the discussions center around Tarvaris Jackson, or more accurately, how shitty it is that he's the quarterback for the 'Hawks. Other recurring themes are the fallibility of the offensive line, the lack of big-name defenders, Sidney Rice's bust-factor, and the organization's supposed lack of commitment to winning. To hear the fans tell it, this team can't be competitive until most of the roster has different players than it does now. I agree with that last sentiment, but not in the way you might think.
To address the last point first (because who doesn't love a little inversion?),
if when this team starts winning, much of their current roster will be different than it is now, but it won't be the result of continuous turnover. Rather, I think the team will see success when the young guys on team now become more mature, experienced versions of themselves. A quick glance at the players on the squad reveals a team with an unusual amount of inexperience. The QB has just 21 starts to his name, the WRs are highlighted by a 5th year player, a guy who was out of the league two seasons ago, and a bunch of guys who were in college during Carroll's last season at USC. The line's most veterany veteran is Robert Gallery and he's surrounded by four players with a combined 31 NFL starts. The secondary has Marcus Trufant, but every other impact player has spent less time in the pros than Tom Cable spends on the toilet.
Of the 53 players on the active roster, just eight are older than I am, and I turned 28 last week. That youth is all the more apparent when you consider how staggeringly few games the guys on the Seahawks have played together. This team is like a group of high-schoolers trying to get into a fraternity party and their relative immaturity was/is for the most part, exposed as soon as they got in the door. That inexperience is a weakness this year, no question about it, but if the core of this team stays in tact, their virginal disposition will be an uncommon strength in a couple of years.
I'm not going to spend much time on the QB situation (not that it will keep the comments section from being dominated by the topic), other than to say that I think Jackson fits the bill of the tough, mobile, semi-capable placeholder necessary to survive the storm until a new captain can be brought on board and trained. In the meantime, the offensive line and receiving corps will have ample time to gel, not only with each other, but with the demanding nature and pace of the National Football League. Same goes for the secondary.
I've long believed that there's no substitute for talent, but even talent is only enough to get you in the building. Lots of supremely gifted athletes have failed in the wheat-thresher that is the NFL and it takes talented guys who are willing to run that gauntlet, that is, to put in the necessary physical and mental work, to make a successful unit. Carroll and the front office have done a sensational job of acquiring the playmakers (I mean, seriously; if you were to take a list of the top 50 free agents going into the last off-season and highlight the guys the Seahawks would end up with, you'd probably be thrilled at the names in yellow), it just remains to be seen if those guys can reach their considerable potential.
The fans will have to endure the growing process, but I think that the Seahawks roster has one of the highest collective ceilings in the entire league. You don't see many (read: any) extremely young teams competing for the Super Bowl, but most of those teams started with a young nucleus that grew cohesively through their first few years, filling gaps when necessary. The Packers and Saints have done it. The Colts and Patriots have done it. The Chargers, Ravens, and Steelers have all done it, too. The Falcons, Lions, and Buccaneers are well on their way, and I don't see any reason the Seahawks can't join that group in a couple of years.
It will be easy to bemoan their plight along the way and I would never recommend eschewing the game-to-game highs and lows. I would, however, encourage any of you who share the vision of this team's ascension to keep your frustrations buoyed by a sense of direction that the 'Hawks have lacked since the early days of Mike Holmgren's regime.
In the meantime, enjoy the glimpses that these guys will show us. Revel in that one cut that Leon Washington makes to get a game-clinching first down, in the two or three times Marshawn Lynch finds the endzone with multiple defenders fruitlessly pushing against him, in the flashes of schoolyard playmaking by Golden Tate, in the way Rice will high-point the ball on a red zone fade, in the ferocity of Leroy Hill blowing up a swing pass, in the phantom-like ability of Earl Thomas to pick off a pass to the opposite side of the field he started on, in the gregarious way Carroll greets his players on the sidelines like a faithful Labrador whose owners just got home from a three day vacation, in the raucous downtown festival that is the 12th Man at Centurly Link Field.
This team will rise, and it will be a glorious thing to have been alongside for the whole trip.