Note: this is adapted from an earlier fanpost.
With a successful 2013-2014 season in hand, people are beginning to note that with the last several years of Seahawks success under Pete Carroll and John Schneider, the Hawks are approaching a somewhat unusual milestone for an NFL team- they are now within one season of reaching a winning overall* record as a franchise. With 293 wins and 303 losses, that means finishing 13-3 gives them a 306-306 record, and a franchise-best 14-2 mark would finally tip the Seahawks into winning territory for the first time ever. But thinking of cumulative franchise records raised some new questions, and so I turned to our trusty companion pro-football-reference.com and my BFF Excel in order to answer them.
This is a graph of the cumulative franchise W/L record and point differential year by year for the Seahawks since their inception in 1976 (somebody out there is crying over the double y axes and wonky scale- I know, I know). Interestingly, the Seahawks’ differential is wandering rather close to the break-even point as well, at -139 as of the end of the 2013 regular season. Comparing win/loss with point differential, it seems to me the likelier of the two is hitting +140, which is a solid goal for a winning team (the team was +167 and +186 in 2012 and 13). Just as a benchmark, this year’s Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers teams finished +125 and the San Francisco 49ers finished +134.
Personally, I kind of prefer the yearly point differential graph because it doesn’t obscure the pathetic/dominant nature of blowouts like a straight W/L chart does (And there are no ties to compute. sidelong glance at the Chicago Bears and their 42 ties). What a roller coaster of frustration fans have seen in the late 80s and at the culmination of the Holmgren years in 2007, as a run of really good teams threatened to break through only for the machine to ultimately spin apart and collapse just within sight of the goal.
Anyway, for a fan there’s no better time than fresh off a Super Bowl victory for
disciplined reflection on your successes and failures belligerent arrogance to get the best of you. Let’s laugh at some suckers! Here’s how the graph looks for our 1976 expansion partners the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which ended up being a failure pile in a sadness bowl:
-2000 PD! We could have had it so much worse! OK, so there’s been a lot of losing here. Let’s add in a team that’s been very successful since 1976:
No surprise here, the 49ers have been really, really good over the last 38 years. But wait a minute…..zoom in on 1983! Something strange happened that year.
Listen: Chuck Knox has become unstuck in time. His hiring, John Elway being drafted, the final episode of MASH- for whatever unexplainable reasons, as a result of this confluence of events, from 1983 onward the Niners, Seahawks, and Bucs have aligned into unnatural symmetry, leading us to question the basis of scientific law and open our eyes to the possibilities of the paranormal.
The X-Files Opening Theme (via NicoMT12)
...In 1983, the Niners’ point differential was 193. The Seahawks? 6. The Buccaneers? -193. QED.
If we expand our perspective towards NFL teams more generally, my guess is that the majority are fairly boring- we know the Arizona Cardinals have been terrible and the Chicago Bears very good, but moreso than that, with at least 50 years of seasons played for many of these teams, the accumulated passage of time makes it seriously difficult move the dial in any direction within a short timespan.
That said, we do have a recent team worthy of note:
On this Week 16 play against the Raiders last December, the San Diego Chargers moved from -5 to +2, in positive territory for the first time since Week 2 of their sophomore 1971 NFL season, a 34-0 loss to (hello again!) the Oakland Raiders. For the first time since finishing +4 at the end of the 1970 season, the Chargers finished +11 to close the 2013 season.
So enjoy it, Hawks fans. We’re going to enter the 2014 season obsessed with the chance to officially start a multi-Super-Bowl dynasty, but don’t forget the less obvious milestones out there. Here’s hoping these next two seasons are ones to remember.