Seahawks vs. Redskins and the shifting of expectations

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks are in the playoffs for the 7th time in the last 10 years. Why does this appearance feel so different from the last ones?

Pete Carroll joined the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. Carroll guided the team to two playoff berths in three years. Except it didn't feel like a real playoff appearance in 2010, because the team won the division with a 7-9 record and everybody hated us for it and the Saints game was supposed to be a laugher. In the end, it was a laugher, but for completely different reasons. We ended up trouncing the defending champions on our home turf. Beast Quake rightfully gets all the attention, but the underrated story of that game is that Matt Hasselbeck had the performance of his life. Also Aaron Curry was fucking terrible, but you already knew that.

The story of that season was that Seattle got to wear the glass slippers for two weeks running. We weren't supposed to be there in the first place, and we certainly weren't supposed to be there again in the Divisional Round. When the Bears handily knocked us out, I wasn't even mad. It felt right--this team had significant flaws, and the fanbase was so polarized we couldn't even enjoy the playoff run. There was a legitimate debate over whether we should have tanked the Week 17 Rams game just to secure a better draft position.

2011 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and it played to expectations. Other than a late-season run that kept us in the playoff race until Week 16, it was mostly a year of grinning and bearing Tarvaris Jackson while admiring young defenders like Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and K.J. Wright. Things were looking up. Now if we could only fix that quarterback position....

I'll spare you the gory details since it's been discussed ad nauseum on this site, but long story short, Carroll and Co. did fix the quarterback position, and did it in the most Carroll way possible--signing a journeyman veteran to a long-term deal and benching him behind a 3rd-round rookie. It seemed insane on paper, and I'll fully admit I was on the Flynn train early on when Wilson struggled, but Carroll stuck to his guns, Wilson found a groove, and we're now headed into Wild Card weekend as three point favorites on the road.

Let that sink in for a moment. The Seahawks, famous for lackluster road performances over the years, are three point favorites on an East Coast trip.

You want your respect, Quixotic fans forever chasing that windmill? Here you go. Knock it down if you somehow feel it's not enough respect, but there it is. The Seahawks are legitimate. They are a threat. Nobody wants to play the team playing the hottest football going into January, and we happen to root for that team. This is it. We've gained way more attention than we ever did back in 2005. Carroll and his team have forced Seattle on the national radar, and they did it the only way they could--by beating the shit out of everyone else.

With that newfound respect, comes adjusted expectations. And here's where I turn to you, fellow Twelves.

The Seahawks are no longer the plucky underdogs of 2010. They're not the gang of also-rans that had brief runs in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. Hell, they're not even as dismissed as the 2005 team was. This team is something else. This team is getting reactions I have never, ever seen out of a Seahawks season in my life.

This team is feared.

You all heard the dumb nicknames over the years. SeaChokes. SeaChickens. SeaSquawks. We were "soft". We were "timid". Even the 2005 team got shit on for its supposed "finesse" offense (ignoring the merciless power of Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson, but that's a story for another day).

Those days are long behind us. Pete Carroll has, for the first time in recent history, given the Seahawks a distinctive identity. That identity is so simple I'll let Cee-Lo Green sum it up: "Fuck You."

You all watched the same team I did for 17 weeks so I won't go over specific details, but this team has guys like Sherman and Browner and Lynch and Chancellor and Wright and Wagner and so many other guys who couldn't give two shits about how the team is perceived--they will ruin your shit and take no apologies for it. Hell, even Breno Giacomini oozes this attitude, even as he pisses me off with drive-killing penalties. He's not shying away, and as much as I'd like to replace him in the offseason, I kinda admire that attitude.

Pete Carroll, John Schneider, Gus Bradley and Darrell Bevell have completely changed the culture of this franchise in less than three years. This team is playing with a confidence and swagger I have never seen, and will not hesitate to step on your throat if you prove to be inferior competition. I'm not worried about the road trip Sunday. If the Redskins start off slow, Seattle can and should bury them early. If they match us blow for blow, it could be a game for the ages. Win or lose, I won't be doubting the effort Seattle puts in.

I said up above that I would address my fellow Twelves. That took way longer than it should, but fuck it, I had words to say. Show your pride. Flaunt your support. Do not back down. The old ways are behind us. This is a new era of Seahawk football, and while I had my doubts about the Carroll regime at first, I will gladly eat crow and am completely on board now. We are looking at a possible Golden Age that could eclipse the Holmgren Era. Embrace this brave new world. Win or lose on Sunday, eat, drink and scream your fucking lungs out for this team that you supported for so long against your better judgment. It's about to finally pay off.

SEA!

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