ESPN The Magazine is celebrating its 20th anniversary by doing several listicles, including the most dominant team sports champions of the past 20 years.
Only two NFL teams made it onto ESPN’s list, and one of them is your Seattle Seahawks. As I’m gleeful to remind everyone, the Seahawks did the damn thing and won the Super Bowl on February 2nd, 2014, capping off the single greatest season in franchise history with a first-ever Lombardi Trophy. The Seahawks literally led from the first offensive snap of the game and tore apart a record-setting Denver Broncos offense.
Treating all major team sports as equal, this is the system used to determine dominance:
In the final results, one Dominance Share equals one standard deviation of performance beyond that sport’s average title team.
For example: The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors scored 115.9 points per game and allowed 104.3. After controlling for pace of play and quality of opponents, they were 11.35 points, or 2.71 standard deviations, above the NBA average that season. Among all NBA champions since 1997-98, that figure of 2.71 SD is 2.40 standard deviations above average.
Fittingly, the Seahawks ranked #12, directly behind the 2013-14 Real Madrid side that won the UEFA Champions League, and ahead of the Brazil men’s national team that stormed their way to victory in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Here’s the blurb from ESPN author Peter Keating on Seattle’s emphatic road to victory, fueled of course by the defense:
Key stat: One of the most dominant defenses in NFL history, the Seahawks’ D led the league in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways -- the first team to do so since the 1985 Bears.
Keating’s take: The best defense in the NFL in at least the past 15 years (8.9 points per game better than league average, according to Pro-Football-Reference’s Simple Rating System), a quarterback entering superstardom and a running back nicknamed “Beast.” Throw in a 35-point Super Bowl win, and it all adds up to utter dominance, but we’ll probably always think of this team as a dynasty that wasn’t.
The 2004 New England Patriots are the only other NFL team ranked in the top-20, coming in at 15th. You may remember that back when the AFC wasn’t hot garbage, the Patriots went 14-2 in the regular season and still wound up as the #2 seed behind the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, led by rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger. They avenged their loss to Pittsburgh by blowing them out in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field, then won Super Bowl XXXIX over the Philadelphia Eagles, who were literally the only NFC team to finish in the top-10 in DVOA that year.
In other words, using the metric ESPN provided, the Seattle Seahawks are literally the most dominant Super Bowl champion of the last 20 years. Therefore, I will not question their methods and just consider this to be pretty cool.