On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks were officially eliminated from playoff contention. On the other hand, they were officially eliminated from playoff injuries contention.
Over the Seahawks’ five straight seasons of postseason appearances, they were subject to 12 additional games. Russell Wilson missed none of those. Richard Sherman was around to start all 12. Doug Baldwin, who has played in all but two of a possible 112 regular season games, also managed to appear in all 12 games. That’s almost an extra season over the last five seasons, and Seattle surely paid for it along the way.
In 2012, they won their last five games to make the postseason as a wild card, only to see Chris Clemons tear his ACL on a field made of skulls and bones like a scene in T2. Clemons surprisingly only missed two games the following year but after recording 33.5 sacks in his first three seasons with the Seahawks, he had just 4.5 and was released. They also lost kicker Steven Hauschka to a calf injury in that win over Washington, forcing them to turn to Ryan Longwell in their divisional round loss to the Falcons — by a missed field goal.
The 2013 Seahawks surely has “No Regrets” tattooed upon its neck and came away with a Super Bowl win and a relatively unscathed roster.
But in 2014, Paul Richardson tore his ACL in the divisional round win over the Carolina Panthers, basically setting him back for about two years. Those playoffs may have cost Seattle the best years of Richardson’s rookie deal, only to see him hit free agency after only one full season as a starter. It’s a similar problem to the one they faced because of Jeremy Lane’s 2014 postseason injury.
Lane tore his ACL and broke his arm on a single play in Super Bowl 49, which not only hurt their chances of repeating as champions, but also set Lane back in 2015 and forced the Seahawks to sign him to a longer deal in 2016 with only six career starts; If not for that play, Lane could have opened as Seattle’s starter opposite of Sherman in 2015 instead of Cary Williams. Or at the very least, given them enough insurance as to not make “The Cary Mistake.”
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The 2014 playoffs also saw injuries befall Sherman, Thomas, and Kam Chancellor along the way, not only hurting their chances of beating the Patriots (though to be commended, all three played every single one of the 74 snaps that day), but potentially having long lasting effects on those players that we can’t really tangibly define or understand. We do know that Kam held out for two games the following year, and then missed another three games due to injury. He then missed four games in 2016 and seven games in 2017.
Kam had missed one game in his first four seasons and three games in the first five, but has 14 due to injury in the last three. He’s had an additional 14 career games due to the postseason. That’s as good as the toll of another season on a player’s resume.
Has that toll worn on Earl over the last two years? Maybe. On Sherman? Potentially. Not that their most serious injuries since (broken leg, torn Achilles) wouldn’t have happened if they were on the Cleveland Browns, but every snap is another opportunity for a minor tragedy.
Like, how did 187 additional postseason carries for Marshawn Lynch from 2010-2014 alter the course of his career in 2015? Maybe not at all because Lynch was 29 that year but he was clearly not the same player. After a season off and time to rest, Lynch looked better for the Oakland Raiders this year; maybe that additional time off, even if it’s only one game, can do a bit of the same for the 2018 Seahawks.
No, we’re not quite done.
The Super Bowl also brought an injury to Cliff Avril, though he had nine sacks in 2015 and hadn’t missed a start until his stinger in Week 4 of this season.
In 2016, DeShawn Shead missed just one game with a hamstring injury, but then tore his ACL in the playoff loss to Atlanta, setting him back just before he was about to hit free agency for the first time. Maybe he would have priced himself out of the Seahawks anyway, but Shead returned on a one-year deal and only appeared in two games, on special teams duty. Lack of depth at cornerback was an issue for Seattle all year after Sherman’s injury, Lane’s continually frustrating play, and apparently not much to like from Neiko Thorpe, Mike Tyson, or anyone else.
Next season, Shead (who did not accrue a season) should be back and will have an entire offseason to be ready for Week 1. He’ll be 30 and instead of coming off another long season that stretches into or near February, Shead will hopefully be healthy and rested. I’m not saying we don’t want long stretches into February — that’s what we’re here for and what we’re invested in, for the most part — but if a postseason off helps the Seahawks put their best foot forward after successive seasons of being slightly worse than they were the year before, I’m okay with it.
In 2017, we saw all four NFC divisions won by a team different than the division winner from the year before, and only the Falcons are making a return trip to the playoffs. That’s significant to acknowledge. Consider how hard it is for any team to make it back to the Super Bowl two years in a row, just as Seattle did from 2013-2014. Look at the fact that even the Pittsburgh Steelers, as consistently reliable as any franchise in the NFL, missed the playoffs in 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2013.
And in all four of those years they went 8-8 or 9-7. Because they’re a great franchise that doesn’t get it done every year, which is acceptable and expected. The 2003-2007 Seahawks went to the playoffs every year, then went 9-23 from 2008-2009. Seattle was fortunate to even bounce back so quickly and with a whole new gameplan. You can’t expect to have what the Patriots have. Nobody knows how Bill Belichick does it, or else everyone would do it. Or maybe they just are that lucky.
The Seahawks were not “lucky” this year. They also weren’t healthy and maybe that has something to do with their postseason workload under Pete Carroll. If it could be considered an excuse this year, at least it can’t be next year.
They might not be sending their players out on a winning note, but if there’s a silver lining, they sent them out on a healthy one.