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Closing the Book on the Seahawks' Regular Season

If "Winning Forever" really is about the journey and not the destination then we should pause and celebrate this regular season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I have a dear friend who is the kind of casual observer that can drive hard core, sports-obsessed fans (like me) crazy. She only pays attention to "the big games" or the post-season. Once, while gleefully busting my chops about being such a fan boy, she said, "I don't understand why anyone would watch a regular season game until the end of the season. I mean, what is the point of watching some mid-season game? I am only interested in seeing the best players on the best teams when they're playing for the highest stakes. I don't want to watch them practice."

Now it's easy to dismiss her snide (though partly tongue-in-cheek) question, but ponder it anyway. If your Seahawks fandom pre-dates Pete Carroll (and certainly if it pre-dates Mike Holmgren) it's a worthwhile question to ponder. What was the point of watching those teams during the ultra-lean years of the late 80s and 90s, for example?

As you ponder, consider this. You may have forgotten just how lean those years really were (and newer fans may not even really know). In its fairly brief history the Seattle Seahawks franchise has been unique in the consistency of its mediocrity. They weren't even lovable losers like Tampa Bay or New Orleans. Seattle had the misfortune of not being good enough to be relevant but not being bad enough to change their fate through the draft. In sports, purgatory is actually worse than hell and Seattle didn't just rent. They bought.

Since its inaugural 1976 season the Seahawks have tallied only eight regular seasons with double-digit wins and only seven seasons of five or fewer. That is owning mediocrity.

  • The double-digit wins seasons: 1984 (12 wins), 1986 (10), 2003 (10), 2005 (13), 2007 (10), 2012 (11), 2013 (13), and 2014 (12).
  • The five-or-fewer wins seasons: 1976 (2 wins), 1977 (5), 1980 (4), 1982 (4), 1992 (2), 2008 (4), and 2009 (5). Cincinnati had seven such seasons between 1991 and 2001 alone, while Seattle had only one during that stretch. Jacksonville has nearly matched Seattle with six seasons in just 20 years.

What makes Seattle's mediocrity so comically preposterous is that teams 7, 8, or 9 wins almost always indicates transition; a team is on its way up or on its way down. Football purgatory may be worse than hell, but no one is actually supposed to stay there very long.

So, if you willingly chose to suffer through those times the question is what is wrong with you why?

I suspect that for many of us the answer is "it's about the journey, not the destination." My preferred version of that proverb is, "The great thing about sports is that you can't predict the moment when you'll see something great." And "great" here is very loosely defined. In the regular season the greatness of great moments is not magnified or diminished by the chase for a title. We can just appreciate the aesthetics of an amazing kickoff return, or one that may yet be with another off-season in the weight program. (I'm looking right at you Paul Richardson.) We (rightly) see that "almost" kickoff return in the playoffs differently than during the regular season. Once the calendar turns to the playoffs it really is about the destination.

Pete Carroll has brought the blessing of raised expectations to the fans of a uniquely mediocre franchise, and that is, without caveat, a wonderful thing. But, raised expectations can come from a sense of entitlement or from a sense of appreciation and gratitude. Losing sight of the journey to focus solely on the destination cultivates that sense of entitlement--that "wake me up for the big games" attitude--articulated by my friend, and frankly, by many football fans.

You know what cultivates a sense of appreciation and gratitude?

Appreciation and gratitude. They are practices, and they are irreducible. They are what they are in whole, not in part.

So, here is my way of practicing appreciation and gratitude for the 2014 regular season. Below are three plays for which I am very appreciative and grateful for reasons I detail briefly. What are your plays?

1. Beast Quake II -- We can all appreciate Lynch's aesthetic brilliance. No one else runs like him. At the same time, it is Lockette that turned this moment into something that inspired gratitude in me. Remember, this guy is built like something out of mythology. When he came to Seattle he either wouldn't or couldn't play teams. He's found a niche into which his combination of physical gifts and hustle just fit.

2. Stealing from Gus Malzahn -- I am grateful for Pete Carroll and his staff's attitude toward NFL conventions. It is not so much contrarian as it is agnostic. They have a few articles of faith, but beyond that they are open to lots of ways of seeing things. They embraced the read option, but were not necessarily the first. Once they saw that in certain defensive looks the yards were low-hanging fruit they started to run it. Over time teams have made adjustments to how they play Seattle's read option looks. This was a wrinkle. Seattle hasn't fallen in love with it, but it's there in the right situation.

3. Robert Turbin Finds a Niche -- Sometimes, finding where you fit is just the hardest thing to do. The coaches clearly like and trust Turbin. He has served as the "2 minute" running back this season replacing Lynch. I think in many ways the Carolina game served as a coming out party of sorts, where Turbin found how he could be a weapon in the regular offense. Marshawn Lynch is obviously one of the most complete backs in the NFL, but the one thing he doesn't do well is make himself available in the scramble drill. He's had some big plays (e.g., Washington) in the scramble drill but Russell Wilson mostly creates the opportunity for Lynch. Turbin, as we discovered against Carolina, is quite good at creating passing lanes.

This is not a list of "the best of 2014" or anything like that. They are three plays that stoked my sense of appreciation and gratitude for this team.

Those are mine.

What are yours?