"I hope that it can be done better than it's ever been done before" - Pete Carroll's first press conference as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
I wrote about that press conference last January, just before the Seahawks second-straight Super Bowl appearance. Now, what I just quoted him on was taken out of context; Carroll said that he wanted to do it better than it's ever been done before ... in this city. He wanted to change the culture of Seattle sports and allow the fans to experience what winning was really like for the first time.
Unfortunately, it seems like Pete was telling tales out of school. He didn't do it better than it's ever done before around here. Instead, he's dangerously close to doing it like it's never been done before anywhere.
One thing we know for sure about is DVOA. The Seahawks became the second team in DVOA history (dating back to 1989) to finish first overall for three straight seasons, joining the 90s Dallas Cowboys. Well, after their 36-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, they became the first team to do it for four straight seasons.
Not only are they first in DVOA, but the win was the biggest DVOA victory of the season for ANY team all year long out of 256 games. Seattle now has a 10-point lead over Cincinnati in second place for DVOA and their 51.1% Weighted DVOA is even better than it was in 2012 or 2013, when it was historically good. The Seahawks 2015 Weighted DVOA is the third-best of any team since 1989.
Now, I don't know what other teams could compete for DVOA honors prior to 1989, but we can try to think of a few. For some context first, let's look at the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills that went to four straight Super Bowls.
That team was ranked sixth in DVOA in 1990, fourth in 1991, seventh in 1992, and 12th in 1993. Which also serves as a reminder that the NFC was a lot better than the AFC in the nineties, and that the Bills were pretty lucky to even get into four Super Bowls.
One of those dominating NFC teams was the San Francisco 49ers from 1981-1998. That 18 season run resulted in five Super Bowl championships, including being first in DVOA in 1989, second in 1991, third in 1992, second in 1993, third in 1994, first in 1995, second in 1996, fourth in 1997, and third in 1998. Not once in those 18 seasons were they outscored by their competition over the course of the year, the longest such streak in NFL history.
And still, from the data we have from 1989 to 1998, they have half as many first place finished in DVOA that Carroll has from 2012-2015. San Francisco's best Weighted DVOA (1989) in that time isn't as good as three of Carroll's last four seasons in Weighted DVOA.
The Cowboys finished first in DVOA in 1992, 1993, and 1994, and second in 1995. Their best total DVOA though doesn't even rank in the top 10. The Seahawks have three of the top eight total DVOA marks in DVOA history.
Of course, there were dynasties before the Cowboys and 49ers: The early 70s Dolphins, 70s Steelers, and 60s Packers to name a few others. The current New England Patriots under Bill Belichick could potentially reign above them all. But when you're talking about a single four-year run, the Seahawks are really one Super Bowl win away from being perhaps the best four-year team in NFL history.
At that point, you're talking about three Super Bowls in four years, two championships, four DVOA titles, four times leading the league in points allowed, a three-time Pro Bowl QB with numerous first-four-year records, four top-four finishes in rushing yards, and whatever else may or may not happen in the coming playoffs. Perhaps the Seahawks lose in Minnesota and they were just unable to overcome their early season defeats and blown leads. Perhaps Carolina or Arizona will finish them off. But if they become the first team in NFC history to make the Super Bowl in three straight years they'll be historic.
If they knock off whoever from the AFC they might face, they'll be legendary.
Let's go over a few other numbers:
- Dating back to 2012, the Seahawks have rushed for an NFL-high 9,797 yards. That 1,067 more rushing yards than the second-place Vikings over that period of time. So take Adrian Peterson, add 2015 Darren McFadden, and you've got Seattle's rushing attack. (But AP didn't play some of those games! Yeah, neither did Marshawn Lynch.)
How does that stack up to some historically great rushing teams? Well, just off the top of my head I tried to think of the best four-season rushing span I could from the last 20 years, and the first thing that came to mind was Terrell Davis. He led the Denver Broncos in rushing from 1995-1998, and they won two Super Bowl titles.
That team rushed for 9,203 yards over that four-year period, or, 594 yards fewer than the Seahawks of the last four years. So as a rushing team, they're basically the Terrell Davis Broncos.
In DVOA, they were first in rush offense in 2012, seventh in 2013, first in 2014, fourth in 2015.
- Over the last four years, Seattle is seventh in the NFL in completion percentage, 11th in touchdown passes, and first in interceptions thrown. When you look at TD:INT ratio, there are really three elite teams since 2012: The Seahawks, Packers, and Patriots.
Denver's picks have obviously gone way up this year and, well, that's the price of doing business.
In that period of time, Russell Wilson is second in passer rating behind Aaron Rodgers, first in Y/A, and second in AY/A behind Rodgers. It's fair to say that Wilson has not been quite as effective in the last four years as Rodgers or Tom Brady (and only ever so slightly in the latter case) but when you factor in his rushing contributions and the total package of the last four years, it's equally fair to say that there isn't a third quarterback that has definitely done more than Wilson has since entering the league.
So as a passing team, they're basically the third-best at throwing the ball in the NFL since 2012. (DVOA isn't too far behind on this by the way. They were fourth in passing in 2012, seventh in 2013, 10th in 2014, and second this season.)
Over an elite four-year stretch of his career, Steve Young threw 109 touchdowns and 44 interceptions from 1992-1995. He had a passer rating of 103.4 and a Y/A of 8.3. Wilson has thrown 106 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in his four-year career, with a rating of 101.8 and a Y/A of 8.1.
Terrell Davis meet Steve Young.
How about some defense?
- Since 2012, the Seahawks have allowed a league-low 12,336 passing yards, over 1,600 yards fewer than second-place Houston. They've also allowed a league-low 62 touchdown passes, 12 fewer than the second-place Bengals. Their 73 interceptions are the third-most behind the Cardinals (79) and Bengals (75), but that's despite facing 131 fewer pass attempts than Arizona and 285 fewer than Cincinnati.
They finished third against the pass in DVOA in 2012, first in 2013, third in 2014, and third in 2015.
The average QB facing Seattle since 2012 has completed 59.8% of his pass attempts for 5.75 Y/A and a passer rating of 71.3. When you search for QBs in the last 20 years to post similar numbers over the course of a season, you'll find a lot of the worst QBs in recent memory but perhaps the most apt comparison would be Joey Harrington, when he was with the Miami Dolphins in 2006.
That season, Harrington completed 57.5% of his passes for 5.8 Y/A, and a rating of 68.2. His TD% was 3.1 (Seahawks allow 2.9%) and INT% was 3.9% (SEA is at 3.4%).
On offense they've got Terrell Davis and Steve Young, and on defense they've made QBs on average look like Joey Harrington. Of the Dolphins.
All told, Seattle has thrown 46 more touchdown passes than their opponents with 39 fewer interceptions. The difference in passer rating is basically 40 points. Well, teams can just turn to the run, right?
- Since 2012, the Seahawks have allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the NFL, behind only the Broncos. The 3.84 YPC allowed is fourth-best. The 30 rushing touchdowns allowed is the fewest in the league over the last four years. They haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 26 straight games. They've rushed for 3,914 more yards than their opponents, or, 978.5 yards per season.
As for DVOA, they were 12th against the run in 2012, seventh in 2013, second in 2014, and third in 2014.
Of the four things we've gone over already -- passing offense, rushing offense, passing defense, and rushing defense -- rush defense is maybe the worst thing that Seattle has done in the last four years ... and they're a top-five rush defense!
Last season for the Detroit Lions, Joique Bell rushed for 860 yards with 3.86 YPC and averaged about .45 touchdowns per game. So the average RB against the Seahawks might look something like Joique Bell.
SEA: Steve Young, Terrell Davis
YOU: Joey Harrington, Joique Bell
- The Seahawks have finished third in special teams DVOA in 2012, fifth in 2013, 19th in 2014, and third in 2015
Special teams is the most volatile and unpredictable phase of the game, but Seattle has managed to stay in the top five in three of the last four years. Steven Hauschka has struggled a bit with the new extra points but is still the fourth-most accurate kicker in NFL history, including 6-for-6 beyond 50 yards this season.
Tyler Lockett just broke the team record for punt return yards in a single game, and will be going to the Pro Bowl for it this year. Percy Harvin returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Jon Ryan was on American Ninja Warrior. Ricardo Lockette probably has come close to making the Pro Bowl as a gunner.
The special teams unit is among the best in football for almost no reason at all. Was this really necessary?! Why the overkill?!?! You beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl by 35 points! Completely unnecessary!
Winning or not winning another Super Bowl won't change any of this. Keep that in mind. They get to be this dominating regular season team for all of eternity, and that's great. No, winning a Super Bowl will only punctuate that it matters. I think that two Super Bowl appearances and one title in four years is pretty damn awesome, but three and two would change the whole game and the way the 2012-2015 Seahawks are seen by everybody, both today and for as long as anyone gives a shit about football.
Does 2016 have another such year in store? Seems greedy to even ask, but also farsighted ... there's still at least one more game to play this season. Can they make it four?