Regardless of what happens this season, the Seattle Seahawks may or may not be in the middle of a dynasty. With three straight playoff appearances, at least one playoff win in each, two NFC Championships, and one ring, the Seahawks would really only need to win another Super Bowl within the next couple of years to be fairly counted among the greatest teams of all-time.
And if none of that happens, then they'll just be a great team that blew their chances of multiple rings in a small window of time. What separates a team from being great for a couple of years versus being remembered for decades like the Steelers of the seventies, 49ers of the eighties, Cowboys of the nineties, and Patriots of today?
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Well, it's certainly not just about talent. Every team that wins the Super Bowl has plenty of talent. Many of those teams also had young talent that was seemingly set to stick around for many years to come. Seattle's 2013 team is certainly counted among them, as they were one of the youngest championship teams of all-time and had a multitude of All-Pro stars under 27. However, as they have painfully played their way to a 4-5 record, people are going to be asking themselves if the window for success has abruptly closed.
The short answer is: No, it has not.
But the long answer is that sometimes when you least expect it, a supposed dynasty with boundless potential can become a vast wasteland of underutilized opportunity. It's happened many times before, but here are a few examples of would-be dynasties and what went wrong.
The 1996 Green Bay Packers
Why they're destined to be a dynasty:
The Packers came into the 1996 season fresh off of a 38-27 NFC Championship loss to the Dallas Cowboys, a legit dynasty. Green Bay actually held a fourth quarter lead against the would-be champs before Emmitt Smith knocked in a couple late sixers and a young Brett Favre had no fourth quarter chill yet.
However, this was clearly a team on the rise. Mike Holmgren had led them to playoff wins in three straight seasons (the Packers had one playoff win in the previous 25 years), Favre was coming off of his first MVP win, and Reggie White was still arguably the best defensive player in football.
Green Bay went 13-3, outscored opponents by 246 points, and had one of the easiest Super Bowl playoff runs in modern history by winning all three games by at least two touchdowns.
Favre was practically a baby at age 27, Antonio Freeman would soon be a 26-year-old All-Pro, and strong safety LeRoy Butler was one of the great safeties of the nineties. The Packers went back to the Super Bowl in 1997 with an identical 13-3 record (Dorsey Levens was now also an All-Pro), but lost to the Denver Broncos.
Still, this loss wouldn't set them back right? Green Bay couldn't possibly win only one Super Bowl with Holmgren and Favre right?
Why actually "Eh, you're not really gonna be a dynasty, bro":
After that Super Bowl loss, the Packers wouldn't win another playoff game until 2001, wouldn't make it back to the NFC Championship until 2007, and wouldn't win the Super Bowl again until 2010.
One of the major reasons is that White may have been just as valuable (if not moreso) to the '96 Packers as Favre was. White was basically out of the league after 1998 though, only playing one more season with the Carolina Panthers in 2000.
Holmgren left after 1998. Butler fizzled out by 2001. Levens wasn't a starter anymore by 2000. Freeman's numbers gradually decreased and he was out of Green Bay after 2001. All of which would be manageable if the Packers were great at drafting but the truth is they weren't. They didn't draft Favre or White, for example. There were no reinforcements on the way either.
Of the 13 first round picks made by the Packers prior to Rodgers, the best was tight end Bubba Franks.
There were some good later picks, like Darren Sharper, Freeman, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Chad Clifton, Donald Driver, and Marco Rivera. That, along with Favre, kept Green Bay in the win column. But not enough to compete for a Super Bowl and definitely not enough to be a dynasty.
The 1999 St. Louis Rams
Why they're destined to be a dynasty:
The '99 Rams will always be seen as one of the greatest teams of all-time because they were a lightning-in-a-bottle example of how an extreme amount of talent can sometimes end up on the same team at once. And all on one side of the ball. Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk should all be in the Hall of Fame.
That year, Warner was 28. Faulk was 26. Bruce was 27. Holt was 23. Pace was 24.
I mean ... Jesus.
In addition to those players, All-Pro defensive end Kevin Carter was 26. Grant Wistrom was 23. London Fletcher was 24. Az-Zahir Hakim was an exciting 22-year-old receiver and returner.
They won the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans, a team that had beaten them in the regular season, by a score of 23-16. One more yard for the Titans and maybe we're writing a different story, but either way, the Rams were obviously destined to win three or four Super Bowls with this group.
Ehhhhhh.... Except no, were not, actually:
The most obvious reason that St. Louis has not won another Super Bowl since is that head coach Dick Vermeil "retired" after the 1999 season, leaving the job to offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Unfortunately, Martz is really not suited to be a head coach (or perhaps not even an OC) and it showed.
The Rams started 6-0 in 2000, easily on their way to a repeat, before Warner was hurt in game seven. He missed the next five games and St. Louis went 2-3 with Trent Green. Perhaps he returned too soon, having the worst game of his career (at that point) when he came back against the Panthers. St. Louis went 10-6 and made the playoffs but had a quick exit.
Still, they were back in business in 2001, going 14-2 and getting back to the Super Bowl, where they were heavy favorites over the Patriots. We all know what happened then, but what we didn't expect was that the Rams would soon be the worst team in football for more than a decade.
Unbelievably, Warner made only seven more starts for St. Louis before losing his job to Marc Bulger. This was a guy who won the MVP award in both 1999 and 2001 but was finished with the Rams by late 2002, basically. We'd find out that Bulger is not Warner, even if he was pretty good sometimes.
The spectacular career of Faulk began it's decline in 2002. Bruce had some more good years, but turned 30 in 2002 and wasn't as dangerous. Fletcher left the Rams after the 2001 season. Wistrom was kind of disappointing. Carter went to the Titans in 2001. Essentially, St. Louis was left with two of those Hall of Famers -- Pace and Holt -- playing at a high level by around 2004, and that's not enough to be a dynasty.
2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why they're destined to be a dynasty:
Six seasons into Tony Dungy's plan to build a perfect defense, the Bucs lost patience with the coach and decided to turn the team over to Jon Gruden. Handed a defense that had as many as four future Hall of Famers, Gruden's staff elevated them to first overall in points and yards allowed for the first time since 1979. Tampa Bay allowed just 18 offensive touchdowns during the season, with nine games of giving up 10 points or less.
They gave up 37 points in three playoff games including a dominating performance in the Super Bowl against the NFL's number one offense. Sound familiar?
And even if people remember Brad Johnson as one of the worst Super Bowl-winning QBs of all-time, they forget that he was also a Pro Bowler in 2002 and was younger then than Tony Romo is now. So, sure, they should win a couple Super Bowls and get a dynasty tag.
Hmmm. Actually, on second thought, no they shan't:
The funny thing about the 2003 Bucs is that they really weren't that much different than the 2002 version even -- At least on defense -- And yet, they went from 12-4 to 7-9. Why was that?
Well, it really came down to a game of inches that cost Tampa their air of invincibility:
Week 2 - The Bucs lose to the Panthers in OT after Carolina blocked Martin Gramatica's extra point attempt on the final play of regulation.
Week 4 - Tampa leads the Colts 35-14 with five minutes left before Peyton Manning leads Indy on an improbable 21-0 run to force OT. Gramatica gets a 62-yard attempt blocked at the end of regulation. Bucs get to IND 41 in OT and are stopped. Decide not to attempt 58-yard attempt. Mike Vanderjagt then misses a 40-yard attempt for IND but Simeon Rice called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct and he gets a second chance, making a 29-yard attempt.
Week 9 - Lose 17-14 to the Saints on a 47-yard field goal by John Carney with :13 seconds left.
Week 10 - Lose 27-24 to the Panthers after Steve Smith scores go-ahead touchdown with 1:06 left.
Week 16 - Lose 30-28 to the Falcons when Bucs score with seconds left but fail on the two-point conversion.
If they had gotten some of the same lucky breaks as 2002, it's very likely that Tampa Bay could have had back-to-back 12-4 seasons. Those unfortunate breaks could lead to something I'd call "The Spiral Effect" which sends a team into panic mode. Or it could just be that they were getting old for a championship team.
They needed a QB to take over from Brad Johnson. Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell were over 30. They didn't have a star running back. Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, and Warren Sapp were all over 30.
They had a lot of talent, but it was old talent and unfortunate breaks caused them to quickly break apart and kill the hopes of any dynasty, and ultimately, crippled the franchises for the next decade-plus.
What have we ultimately learnt about teams that are clearly "All-Time Great Teams" that seemed destined for dynasty status but couldn't replicate that success as expected?
- Coaching is very important. The Packers and Rams both lost their head coach within a year of winning the Super Bowl. The Seahawks aren't going through that exactly, though they've lost defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, as well as some defensive assistants.
- Talent can drop before you know it. In Green Bay, everyone focused on Favre, but there were some key players that people didn't talk about as much that simply lost their luster soon after 1997. In Tampa Bay, the same thing happened but mostly due to age. For St. Louis, they were going to have a hard time replicating that kind of success without Faulk and Warner.
- It's hard to keep the band together when you've got like 12 Beatles. Sapp went to Oakland in 2004. Keyshawn and McCardell also left that year. The Packers lost White. The Rams lost Wistrom, Carter. And now it's even harder to keep players together under the salary cap and rising prices for established talent. Were it not for a cap, of course Seattle would've like to retain Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, Golden Tate, and even James Carpenter. The only way to replace players like that while keeping your costs down is to draft well.
- Drafting well is hard. The Rams and Bucs were so horrible at drafting that they have sucked for almost this entire century. When you get into that funk and can't find great (or even good) players in the top 10 of the draft, you will continuously be drafting in the top 10. But even more than that, you have to fill out your roster well with day two and three picks. Green Bay isn't great at drafting players actually, but they do manage to stay afloat with decent picks after round one.
This week on 3000 NFL Mock Draft, Rob Staton likened this Seahawks team to the current iteration of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose dynasty began in 2004 with the drafting of Ben Roethlisberger. That season they went 15-1, then they won the Super Bowl, then they were kinda average for a couple years, won the Super Bowl, average, went to the Super Bowl, average, but they're still in the hunt 11 years after it all started. Seattle would be very lucky to still be relevant in the year 2023, but they're going to have to avoid the mistakes that the teams listed here made.
Otherwise that potential dynasty that began with a surprise playoff run in 2012, which has produced two Super Bowl appearances and a win already, will end up as an "Eh, actually, not really, enjoy your one ring though, sorry."