13-3 A History: Part 1

Since the NFL went to a 16 game schedule for the 1978 season there have been 64 teams that won at least 13 games, excluding the 2013 Seahawks. On eight seperate occasions, a team has won 13 or more games in consecutive seasons. In the other 48 examples the teams failed to reach their regular season standard of excellence from the season before. Historically speaking this means the Seahawks will, in all likelihood, win fewer regular season games in 2014. That doesn't mean it won't end with Russell giving Pete another Gatorade bath next year in Glendale, it just means we probably won't look as dominant on our journey. As a little researach project I've decided to take a look back at the 64 seasons we've seen teams reach 13 or more wins. To take an overview of what went right or what went wrong in the subsequent year for each. As a disclaimer I'm choosing not to look back what happened to the eight teams the year after they repeated the feat. Simply because Seattle hasn't done it twice in a row yet, so what happened in year three is a discussion for next year, hopefully. I'll start things off with the teams that went from excellent to dumpster fire seemingly over night.

*Disclaimer: I'm leaving off the '81/'82 49ers and the '86/'87 Giants, due to the player's strikes that heavily influenced both teams posting losing records. ** Disclaimer 2: Every team that posted a losing record after going 13-3 the year before played after the institution of the salary cap in 1994. The salary cap: it's important.

1997-1998 Kansas City Chiefs:

1997 (13-3): Before John Elway helicoptered over the goal line and Terrell Davis saluted his way to the Super Bowl MVP, it was actually the Chiefs that won the AFC West in '97. Of course this was a Marty Schottenheimer coached outfit so they promptly lost to Denver at home in the divisional round 14-10. Fun fact about Marty: he took teams to the playoffs 13 times in his 21 seasons as a head coach, he went 5-13 and never made a Super Bowl, Marty Ball. Anyway the '97 Chiefs are an odd duck. Rich Gannon took over for an injured Elvis Grbac midway through the season, but was then benched in favor of Grbac for the playoff game. In the backfield 37 year old Marcus Allen and Greg Hill split carries. On defense HOFer Derrick Thomas and Dan Williams racked up 20 sacks for Football Outsiders 6th ranked unit.

1998 (7-9): I'm going to stop you right now, I know what you're thinking. Yes, 7-9 is a dumpster fire when you went 13-3 the season before. Only 15 teams went on to have losing seasons the year after going 13-3. Six game swings are massive it's 5-11 vs. 11-5. So what happened to KC? An ineffective and turnover prone Grbac ceded to Gannon after the bye at 2-4. Allen retired and Hill left for St. Louis leaving a gaping hole at running back. On defense Thomas missed six games and Williams missed the whole season sapping the KC pass rush. Also a team that managed 5 defensive touchdowns the season before got only one.

1998-1999 Denver Broncos:

1998 (14-2) : The defending Super Bowl champs defended their title by being even more dominant than the year before. Although Elway missed four games mid-season, some dude named Bubby Brister managed to go 4-0 by managing to hand the ball off to Terrell Davis. Davis racked up 2008 yards and the three headed monster of Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey combined for over 3000 yards and 26 touchdowns. An offensive juggernaut paired with a below average defense, 20th by FO, overwhelmed the NFC's 3rd best team, by DVOA, the Atlanta Falcons.

1999 (6-10): The obvious point is that Elway retired. Mr. Ed rode off into the sunset with his rings in tow and the Broncos went careening into a ditch. That's not the whole story though. Davis only played in four games that season. Olandis Gary filled in admirably running for 1159 yards in just 12 games, however it wasn't near the MVP level of Davis the year before. On the receiving end, Sharpe missed 11 games and while Smith and McCaffrey went over 1000 yards a piece it wasn't enough. The defense actually improved greatly to 10th by DVOA.

1998-1999 Atlanta Falcons:

1998 (14-2): The team Denver overwhelmed in the Super Bowl was probably never as good as their record would indicate. Football Outsiders rates them 7th overall for 1998, and while their Super Bowl appearance was a dud, this team is certainly well remembered. Jamal Anderson did the "Dirty Bird" 16 times, former UW qb Chris Chandler was efficient, and Seahawks legend Eugene Robinson tried to pick up a hooker the night before the Super Bowl. They are also remembered for their famous OT escape in Minnesota in the NFCCG. What most people don't remember is that the Falcons snuck past a superior 49er team 20-18 in the divisional round at home. Dan Reeves joined Don Shula, Bud Grant and Marv Levy as the only men to coach four Super Bowl losers.

1999 (5-11): The '98 Falcons were kind of a "fake it, 'til ya make it" team. The 1999 group would have no such luck. The 1998 team had 10 starters in their 30's including three of their six Pro Bowlers. In '99 they had eight starters in their 30s. This was an old team that bottom flat fell out of. It's one true star still in his prime was Anderson and he missed 14 games due to injury. Unlike Denver, there was no competent backup waiting in the wings. The 5th ranked defense plummeted to 27th and a 10th ranked offense sank to 25th. It's like if the '05 Seahawks were followed by the '08 version. U.G.L.Y. Dan Reeves didn't have no alibi.

1999-2000 Jacksonville Jaguars:

1999 (14-2): The Jags partied like it was 1999. James Stewart and Fred Taylor were a potent 1-2 punch in the backfield. Another former UW qb Mark Brunell passed, specifically to Jimmy Smith, a lot. Over 1600 of Brunells 3006 yards were on completions to Smith. Dom Capers coordinated the league's #1 scoring defense that only allowed 13.6 ppg. There was just one teensy, tiny little problem; the Tennessee Titans. Steve McNair & co. handed the Jags all three of their losses including a 33-14 beat down in the AFC title game. Which came just a week after the Jags bulldozed Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson's Dolphins 62-7, in the final NFL game for both.

2000 (7-9): They hired Lane Kiffin to be a defensive quality control assistant. But seriously, the Jags were probably more a victim of schedule than anything. The Titans ranked #1 in DVOA and are one of the eight teams to repeat a 13-3 record. Jacksonville also had the misfortune of having to play the 2000 Ravens defense twice as well. Brunell took a small step back efficiency wise, but realistically the Jags probably played through our nightmare scenario for 2014. A solid if unspectacular unit has to play in a ridiculously tough division leading to bitter disappointment.

2001-2002 Chicago Bears:

2001 (13-3): The #1 scoring defense and 4th rated special teams by DVOA carried a pedestrian offense to a phenomenal 13-3 record. The quarterback was a journeyman by the name of Jim Miller who basically Sanchized around and handed the ball to the A-Train, Anthony Thomas. The defense kicked in 5 tds lead by a young Brian Urlacher, and presto you have the opposite of the '98 Falcons. Unfortunately Miller was knocked out in the divisional round against Philly and some dude named Shane Matthews came in and stunk up the joint throwing two picks. Just like that, Bears winning formula was out the window and Philly rolled 33-19, on the back of four Bear turnovers.

2002 (4-12): Miller and 37 year old Chris Chandler split the QB duties and neither was an improvement on the 2001 version of Miller. This time however the A-Train never got rolling. Thomas missed four games and never recaptured the magic of his 2001 campaign. The defense went flying off a cliff as well. Despite an All Pro season by Urlacher, the Bears dropped from 1st all the way down to 25th in scoring defense. They also couldn't generate the key points of a season before only scoring one defensive touchdown.

2001-2002 St. Louis Rams

2001 (14-2): Lovie Smith was brought on as defensive coordinator and the sieve that was the 31st ranked scoring D in 2000 leapt up to the 7th. The Greatest Show on Turf had some backup and they took full advantage. Kurt Warner shredded defenses, throwing darts to; Holt, Bruce, Az Hakim and Ricky Proehl. On the ground and through the air Madden cover man Marshall Faulk accumulated over 2100 all purpose yards and 21 touchdowns. Of course we all remember how the story ended for this team but damn, there was a reason nobody thought the Pats stood a chance in that Super Bowl.

2002 (7-9): Super Bowl loser's curse? Maybe. Warner completely imploded, 3 tds - 11 ints. He would be replaced by Bulger but it was too little, too late. Madden Curse? Maybe. Faulk was banged up and not the nearly the same factor he was the year before, only 1490 total yards and 10 tds. Also Lovie's D apparently used up all of it's magic fairy dust the year before as the defense dropped to 23rd in points allowed.

2003-2004 Kansas City Chiefs

2003 (13-3): Our first repeat appearance! Admit it, you aren't the least bit surprised the Chiefs are on here twice. The '03 Chiefs were an offense first outfit. Trent Green was very good, and got to hand the ball off to Priest Holmes. Priest Holmes, for those that don't remember used to be the first pick of your fantasy draft for a couple years. Holmes rushed for 1400 yards and 27(!) touchdowns while being named All-Pro. Tony Gonzalez continued on his Hall of Fame track also being named All-Pro with 71 catches, 916 yards and 10 TDs. This was also the season that Dante Hall went HAM on returns. He had four return touchdowns while averaging more than 16 yards per punt return. They are notable because they are Peyton Manning's first ever road playoff victory.

2004 (7-9): Remember how I said the Chiefs were an offense first team in '03? Well in '04 a mediocre defense became a godawful POS defense. While Trent Green and the offense were still awesome, scoring over 30 points a game, it wasn't enough. Dante Hall also proved to be a bit of a 1 year wonder in the return department. Still effective, just not the massive game changer he was the season prior. Holmes missed half the season but the running game wasn't to blame as Larry Johnson and Derrick Blaylock filled in ably, actually averaging more YPC than Holmes did.

2004-2005 Philadelphia Eagles:

2004 (13-3): The offense stole headlines spearheaded by McNabb, Westbrook and All-Pro T.O. However, it was the league's 2nd ranked scoring defense that made this group special. Lead by 28 year old Jevon "the Freak" Kearse and Brian Dawkins the Eagles overachieved on defense. Ranked only 16th on D by DVOA the Eagles bent but didn't break and finally punched through to the Super Bowl on their fourth consecutive attempt. Unfortunately they were undone in a close game by the last repeat champions, Tom Brady's Patriots. The fact of the matter is that this was probably the weakest of the McNabb/Reid "golden years" teams.

2005 (6-10): You've probably heard the expression that the NFL also stands for "Not For Long". Well by the time 2005 rolled around, Philly's core had reached it's expiration date. Owens and McNabb had a falling out, both missed significant time. Along with Brian Westbrook missing four games, the wheels fell off a potent Philly attack. An overachieving defense from the year before actually underachieved in '05 dropping to 27th in points allowed despite improving to 11th by DVOA. The defining moment of the season came in a week 13 embarassment at the hands of our Hawks on a snowy Monday night. The 42-0 shellacking will always be remembered around these parts for Lofa's Rocky celebration after a pick 6.

2006-2007 Chicago Bears:

2006 (13-3): Our second repeat of three on the dumpster fire list. Again, no one should be surprised that the Bears are back on the list. The '06 Bears are almost a carbon copy of the 2001 edition. Crappy journeyman at QB: Rex Grossman, check. Excellent running back; Thomas Jones & Cedric Benson, check. Dominant defense, check. The main difference is Devin Hester playing a Dante Hall role returning five kicks for touchdowns. Denny Green famously let 'em off the hook. Ultimately they were who we thought they were as Rex Grossman bumbled his way through the Super Bowl committing 3 turnovers. Including the game sealing pick six to Kelvin Hayden.

2007 (7-9): The passable offense from '06 fell apart in '07. Rex Grossman was atrocious and was benched in favor of the adequate Brian Griese and later Kyle Orton. Before the season began the Bears traded effective veteran Thomas Jones and a 2nd round pick to the Jets, in exchange for the Jets' 2nd rounder. They later flipped that pick (37) to the Chargers for the 62nd, 93rd, and 167th picks. With those picks the Bears selected: DE Dan Bazuin, RB Garrett Wolfe and SS Kevin Payne. That's gross, man. The defense also took a step back in part due to the waiving of Tank Johnson stemming from a murder investigation and a DUI arrest. Surprisingly Hester was able to maintain his awesomeness but that was about it as the Bears just didn't have the same mojo.

2006-2007 Baltimore Ravens:

2006 (13-3): Before the season GM Ozzie Newsome brought in 33 year old Steve Mcnair. McNair proved an effective game manager, while Jamal Lewis ground out tough yards on the ground. The offense wasn't much but it didn't lose ball games and mostly stayed out of the way of the wrecking machine that was the Raven defense. Coached by Rex Ryan; one of the league's all time great defenses was headlined by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The supporting cast included Bart Scott, Adalius Thomas, Terrel Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Chris Mccallister and Samari Rolle. This group only allowed 12 ppg. Point blank they were phenomenal. However they weren't enough in a playoff loss to Indianapolis, despite only allowing 15 points, McNair and the offense could only muster two Matt Stover field goals in a divisional round loss.

2007 (5-11): The quarterback position became a carousel due to injury and ineffectiveness. The even keeled McNair that had guided the offense the year before, broke down and first round bust Kyle Boller, along with former Heisman winner Troy Smith also got some starts. Before the season began the team cut Jamal Lewis and let Adalius Thomas walk. Both starting corners missed a majority of the season, while future hall of famer Jonathan Ogden missed five games and was a shell of himself. In what ended up being the final season for McNair, Ogden and Brian Billick the Raven's trademark strong defense wasn't enough to save a sinking ship.

2007-2008 Green Bay Packers

2007 (13-3): A resurgent Brett Favre at 37 years young had a brilliant season. The Pack returned to the postseason after a two year hiatus. In the air and on the ground Green Bay had the fifth ranked offense by DVOA and the fourth highest scoring offense. On defense Charles Woodson and Aaron Kampman helped the Packers defense over achieve it's DVOA significantly and finish the season with the 6th best scoring defense. Green Bay whitewashed the Seahawks in the snow during the divisional round before Tom Coughlin's 1999 karma caught them in the NFCCG.

2008 (6-10): The biggest bit is the Brett Favre "I'm retired, no I'm not, bring me back, trade me" saga. However, the bigger misstep may have been releasing Jon Ryan before the season. At any rate GM Ted Thompson held firm and committed to '05 first round pick Aaron Rodgers. While the deal didn't pay immediate results in the win column it's hard to argue with it now. The Packers were actually a pretty solid team by DVOA coming in 11th. They also underperformed their pythag by nearly 3 games. The main culprit was probably regression in 1 score games. From 5-2 in 2007 to 1-7 in 2008.

2011-2012 New Orleans Saints:

2011 (13-3): The year after getting Beast Moded the Saints were still plugging away with their winning formula of Drew Brees and Sean Payton are better at offense than you. It was another year of business as usual in the Big Easy, elite offense, questionable defense and a lot of wins. Ultimately they were undone because they caught Alex Smith, of all people, on the wrong day.

2012 (7-9): I think we're all familiar with what happened here. With Payton suspended for the season and 'Bounty Gate' controversey/suspensions/stupidity hanging over their heads. New Orleans stumbled to an 0-4 start and never truly recovered to the form they've shown in every other season dating back to 2009. I think it's pretty safe to call this season an anomaly with as many uncommon factors contributing as the two strike teams.

2012-2013 Atlanta Falcons:

2012 (13-3): Remember these guys? Of course you do. Pretty hard to forget these assholes. Like Michael Crabtree, a lot of Hawks fans were all like #fake #fake #fake after last season's heart breaker in the Georgia Dome. Perhaps the biggest paper tiger on the list, the '12 Falcons weren't exceptional at anything really. They had the 12th rated offense, 12th best defense and 16th best special teams by DVOA. A whopping 8-3 in one possesion games including playoffs, Atlanta was more lucky than good and it finally caught them in January.

2013 (4-12): What happens when an aging, middling team doesn't improve it's roster and is then ravaged by injuries, all whilst facing the league's 2nd toughest schedule? A dumpster fire. All of Atlanta's good fortune from 2012 went down the crapper in an epic 2013 flame out. Before the season we all thought the Hawks trip to Atlanta was going to be a matchup. Well in the words of the legendary Richard Sherman "Mismatch!" A 33-10 pounding pretty much says it all about the Falcons fall from relevance.


So what are the common threads that tie this group together? The biggest one by far is instability of the quarterback position. Whether it was retirement, injury or generally bad the guy under center was, basically every team save the 2000 Jags, 2012 Saints, and the 2013 Falcons suffered a major drop off at QB. In this department I'd say it's unlikely Seattle suffers a similar fate in 2014. Wilson has been exceptional in his first two seasons and should only get better from here. Another common thread is defensive regression. Many of the teams laid out above had defenses that overachieved compared to advanced stats in the prior season. The only group that compares to this year's Seahawks is '06 Baltimore and they were still a top 5 defense in 2007. So again, probably not a worry. Finally five of these teams reached the Super Bowl with only one of them winning it, that being the '98 Broncos. Assuming Mr. Wilson doesn't retire before the season, Seattle should have very little in common with that Denver team. All in all it's extremely unlikely Seattle tanks hard in 2014. The 2013 team was younger and better than any team in this group, Seattle is practically a lock to at least manage a winning season in 2014.

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