The Journey Part I: A New Hope

I started writing this as a way to kill time and process what happened a week ago in Super Bowl XLVIII. I wrote a lot more than I intended and don't really feel closer to figuring it out. What follows is my attempt at chronicling the Seahawk's from 2008 through the present. It was going to be one post, but it got really long. Like really long. Don't expect this to be great writing either. I'm a science guy and our writing consists of mostly figuring out how to phrase things to avoid personal pronouns. Part 2 will follow when I finish it and if I still feel like posting it. Feedback is welcome and discussion is encouraged. This is how I saw it, your mileage will probably vary.

Never forget the journey. Four years ago, the Seahawks organization was in shambles. I remember where I was on January 11, 2010. I was sitting in my local community college library pretending to study for my Psychology test while watching the news come through that the Seahawks were starting over. Picking themselves up out of the dust, brushing that dirt off their shoulder, and putting one foot in front of the other on an epic quest that would culminate four years and 24 days later on the biggest stage in the world.

It didn’t start pretty. 2008 was probably the most painful sports year that any city has had to endure. The Seahawks ended a run of four consecutive division titles by putting up a 4-12 effort in Mike Holmgren’s swan song. The UW Huskies put together the most pathetic showing in school history by going winless. The Mariners managed a grueling, ugly, miserable 101 losses on their way to the second worst record in MLB. And in the one of the most enraging and heartbreaking acts of pure evil, the Seattle SuperSonics were ripped from the city and sent to Hades. This would have been an entirely sane point for anyone of you to throw your hands in the air with your middle digits extended to all of sports and take up knitting or random acts of violence for entertainment. But I didn’t (is what my lawyer tells me I should write) and you didn’t and by making it through fandom hell I knew I could take it. "Abandon all hope all ye who enter here", seems to have become the mantra of Seattle sports. Like some kind of abused animal we kept coming back, but with wary eyes and a little less ability to feel. We weren’t missing out on the good feelings, because those didn’t exist. Those weren’t allowed to happen in Seattle. Never forget the journey.

But a fresh new perspective was here to bring glory back to the Seahawks organization and his name was Jim Mora Jr. T. J. Houshmandzadeh, Edgerrin James, Aaron Curry! If you just flinched, trust me, it hurt more to write those names. Nothing was different though. Tim Ruskell was still in control and integrity was a word that was used a lot. Talent was an abstract idea but not something that appeared on the roster. Was it Mora’s fault? No probably not. That’s not saying he’s a good coach, but he wasn't handed the keys to a Ferrari it was more like a 1989 Honda Accord. It’s a little bit weird to think that the 5-11 record was an improvement in a season that featured the Seahawks head coach publicly calling out his kicker and the toughness of his players. Unity and respect were even more glaringly absent than talent in a team that completely gave up over the last quarter of the season losing all four of its last games. Ruskell resigned and Mora was very unceremoniously fired.

Pete Carroll? Did they say Pete Carroll? The same Pete Carroll from USC that has the best job in college football and already tried the whole NFL thing? This is honesty time and that means I have to admit that I was not overjoyed. I was not even particularly joyed. Hell I didn’t very much like it. So he’s going to be our GM too? Oh no he’s going to be co-GM with a guy we haven’t hired yet. Oh yeah that should work great. I see no way this could possibly go wrong. Like it or not, on January 19th of the same year the Seahawks made the best decision in organizational history (I said honesty time not hyperbole-free time). Q/PM was born. To those who weren’t around these parts for those days Q/PM referred to the apparent relationship between Carroll and Schneider comparing it (derogatively admittedly) to the Queen/ Prime Minister relationship. Seriously though, think about it. We hired a head coach and gave him part GM control then hired the actual GM and put them into a room and said "Okay you guys are bestest friends now! Win some footballs!" There is no goddamn way in hell this should have worked. This should have been that thing we looked back on with a wry grin on our face as we talked amongst ourselves, "You remember that whole Pete Carroll/ John Schneider thing? God, that was embarrassing." Turns out this was only the first checkmark on the three mile long list of things that the Seahawks did wrong. Unconventional and unprecedented would become badges of honor to this band of misfit football players who marched in the wrong direction to say nothing of the beat. Never forget the journey.

I already told you, I wasn’t a believer and I damn sure was not all in. Win Forever, Always Compete sound so good, but that’s just some bullshit all coaches say. You want to bring your high energy, positive attitude to the big leagues, but this in the National Goddamn Football League and this is serious business. There is no way that attitude will ever work in a locker room. But it did. I didn’t understand. There’s a difference between lip service and a belief, an earnest philosophy that permeated your entire being to the core and an indoctrination of this philosophy to the core of your organization. But this was a long way from becoming apparent.

Roster churn is an idea that has become very, very familiar to this fanbase, but let’s not forget how it looked at first. This is not how roster construction is done in the NFL. You don’t trade for LenDale White on April 16th then cut in on May 28th. "Do you guys even know what you are doing? Charlie Whitehurst?" Just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Three players from the 2008 Seahawks appear on their current roster. Jon Ryan, Brandon Mebane, and Red Bryant should get together and write a book because holy shit I would read the shit out of anything those three put together, but also because they had front row seats to possibly the most incredible team transformation in NFL history. A wild ride of chaos that saw them through three regimes and from the bottom of the league to NFL Champions in six years. The 2009 iteration of the team only added one piece that the new leadership saw fit to keep around and that would be All-Pro Center Max Unger (Just some inspired work, Tim).

Rebuilding a team really is pretty easy. You just have to put together the best drafts possible, find talent where no one else is looking, and realize a shocking amount of that talent into viable, NFL-playing sons of bitches. I mean come on Cleveland, you’re just making the rest of us look bad. Granted it helps to fall into a deep NFL draft with the 6th and 14th overall selections and come out of just the first round with the anchor of your offensive line and the key to your defense. Not only Earl Thomas and Russell Okung, but you grabbed the other half of the best safety tandem in the league in the fifth round, along with Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Anthony McCoy (Oh shit! Anthony McCoy! Remember him?). That’s the kind of draft that GMs have wet dreams about and it might be the second best draft Q/PM put together. This season also saw the team add Michael Robinson, Chris Clemons, and Marshawn Lynch which are three names you might recognize as being really goddamn good players and leaders of the current NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks (I will never get tired of typing that, watch – current NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks. You can’t see me but I’m grinning like a goddamn idiot).

I don’t remember when it happened, but sometime during that weird 2010 season I fell back in love with this team, and became a firm believer in the Pete Carroll Religion. Something about a guy who so passionately believes in what he preaches and the ability to get a whole team of grown-ass men to fall under your spell, it was magic. 7-9 was better than any of us could have hoped for after the showing of the 2009 team, but a division title? (Shout-out to Mike Singletary for the assist). Did it feel slightly more than a little bullshit to be playing a home playoff game against the defending Champion Saints? You betcha. In fact there was real, honest, earnest discussion about whether it would be better for the Seahawks to lose their final game against the Rams that decided the NFC West in favor of a higher draft pick. Hindsight is stupid, but those arguments had merit because we had no way of knowing what would happen next. Never forget the journey.

January 8th 2011 should not have been notable. The Saints were expecting to roll through Seattle as a bye week. I thought the same thing. What really happened was for the first time we saw a team that would never give up. That didn’t give a shit what everyone in the world thought. The birth of an attitude and demeanor that a 7-9 team had no business showing and the birth of a legend. That misunderstood, under-appreciated running back that was given away for two measly draft picks would show that not only did he have the biggest set of balls in the NFL, but the biggest heart you will ever see.

The 2011 NFL draft set the trend. Anyone can get lucky. You can put together one good draft, but two? Two consecutive drafts of pulling talent out of your ass in round 5? 6? 7????? Those are the players that you draft to fill out training camp. This is the NFL, you don’t start players picked in the 7th round. James Carpenter, John Moffit, KJ Wright, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Smith. I can only imagine how drunk Mel Kiper was when pick number 242 of the 2011 NFL draft was announced as OLB Malcolm Smith from USC. NFL Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith. You don’t sign a guy from the CFL then start him at CB for every game of your season. This was the season that helped to not only cement the starting roster in talent, but built that foundation of depth that has carried you through even the worst injuries throughout the Super Bowl run. This was the season that birthed the Legion of Boom. Results were not staggering, but you did start Tarvaris Jackson at QB who did admirably, but worked with a tore up arm for half the season as well. 7-9 is another pretty meaningless number and Seahawks fans were beginning to realize that something special was being built. The team had an incredible leader at the top, some pretty great leaders on defense, but was missing that all-important QBOTF, the elusive piece that every team in the NFL looks to find. Enter one Russell Carrington Wilson.

My exposure to Russell Wilson started a bit earlier than some of you. My hometown is Richland, WA and the first time I heard the name Russell Wilson was as the young, short, second baseman playing for the TriCity Dust Devils. I don’t have many abiding memories of his time with the Dust Devils other than he was a good defender with a weakish bat and halfway through the short season he was gone. I remember hearing that he left to play football for the NC State Wolfpack. I didn’t think any more of it until later that year when I happened to be watching an NC State game. Wait, that kid that was playing second base in Pasco, WA is the goddamn quarterback of the NC State Wolfpack? And he’s good, wow that’s really neat! I didn’t see any more NC State games that year and lost track again until the following year when I heard about this QB Wilson playing for Wisconsin. That same QB Wilson, and he was playing goddamn amazing now. Too bad he was too short to play in the NFL, that would have been a really nifty story to tell someday. And with the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks select, Russell Wilson, QB Wisconsin. Never forget the journey.

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