The Seattle Seahawks open the season on Sunday at 1 PM against the Denver Broncos. A team that has mostly dominated the Seahawks for the last 40 years, the Broncos are 0-2 against Pete Carroll since he returned to the NFL, including, I think, a 43-8 Seattle victory in Super Bowl 48. I’m guessing that the Seahawks’ methods were not being questioned at that time, and surely everyone on the team could kumbaya at the victory parade.
It might be difficult for Seattle to get a win to open the year, having lost three of their last four road openers:
2012: road loss
2013: road win
2014: home win
2015: road loss
2016: home win
2017: road loss
(Now suddenly ‘road’ looks like a strange word to me, questioning the spelling. We all question things that are obviously true sometimes, I suppose.)
Despite a 3-3 Week 1 record over the last six seasons, Seattle has still managed to finish 9-7 or better in each of those years. Other teams to post winning seasons in each of the last six years:
- The New England Patriots
Not the Broncos, who finished 5-11 last season. Not the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went 8-8 in both 2012 and 2013. Not the Carolina Panthers, who alternate winning and losing seasons. Not the Kansas City Chiefs, who went 2-14 in 2012.
Who has the most wins since 2012?
The Patriots have 75, and have still been the most dominant team in the NFL, appearing in three Super Bowls and winning two. Next is the Seahawks, at 65, appearing in two Super Bowls and winning one. The only time they didn’t win a playoff game in the last six years was 2017, having finished a couple of games out of contention but still well in the playoff picture after their Week 13 win over the eventual champion Philadelphia Eagles.
A win that came without Richard Sherman. Without Kam Chancellor. Without Cliff Avril. Against Carson Wentz.
That team beat the Eagles. By 14 points. Two weeks later they lost to the LA Rams by 35 points and that is by far the lowest point Seattle has had since the middle of 2011, a stretch of 72 months.
And people rejoiced. “The King Is Dead!” Yes, “The King.” The team that a year prior to Carroll’s arrival was 29th in DVOA. And a year before that was 28th. And historicaly often found themselves as a rich man’s Jeff Fisher, which is still Jeff Fisher. The Seahawks only sometimes avoided “7-9 bullshit” by going 8-8 or 9-7 and still missing the playoffs, so what does it matter?
From 1978-2011, Seattle went 7-9 six times, 8-8 four times, and 9-7 nine times. Six of those seasons resulted in a postseason trip (seven if you include the 9-6 year in 1987) and resulted in five playoff wins, but no Super Bowl appearances, of course.
What the Seahawks have had since 2012:
- Six straight winning seasons, a franchise record
- Five double-digit winning seasons, a many as they had in all of their previous seasons combined
- Two Super Bowl appearances, one of only two franchises in this century to make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances
- A season (2013) with a +186 point differential, a franchise record
- Eight playoff wins, the second-most in the league (Pats at 11), and three more than third place (Broncos, Packers, Ravens with five each)
- Four straight first place finishes in DVOA, something we might not see again
Last season certainly deviated from that and the franchise was certainly trending in the wrong direction: Point differential went from +146 in 2015 to +62 in 2016 to +34 in 2017. When that’s the trend, changes need to be made. The Seahawks changed their offensive and defensive coordinators, plus the offensive line/assistant head coach; They moved on from Sherman, Michael Bennett, Jimmy Graham, and refused to extend Earl Thomas on his terms; Avril and Chancellor were forced out by injuries; Paul Richardson and Sheldon Richardson were not a part of Seattle’s success in those playoff years anyway.
Will it work?
That’s like asking “Will it work?” when Carroll was coming off of a 7-9 (+6 pt differential) season in 2011 and then opted to start a rookie third round pick at quarterback. That team also had significant questions at pass rush, without much more than Chris Clemons and a rookie Bruce Irvin. That team’s number one corner was only going into his second season. That team’s offensive identity was meant to be built around a strong running game. A winning season of any kind would have been enough to give fans hope for the direction of the franchise, and instead they became the best team in the NFL by the end of 2012, minus the Super Bowl win that would come a year later. That team set the tone for one of the most successful four-year runs in NFL history.
What will this team set the tone for? What will they do on their own? We’ll get a sense of that on Sunday against the Broncos, but remember that Carroll’s Seahawks have pretty much never been defined by how they start. Denver has that famous homefield advantage and an upgrade at quarterback that nobody would have thought was an upgrade 12 months ago. (Remember, Case Keenum’s deal last March was for one year and $2 million, something the Broncos could have easily done but 18 months ago nobody though Keenum was a starter.) They also lost 10 of their last 12 games in 2017 and were significantly worse than Seattle.
But don’t let me step on the narrative that the Seahawks are bad. That they’re dysfunctional. That they were too self-absorbed and selfish and jealous of others to be as successful as they “could have been” while ignoring how successful they were. This has been the greatest run in Seattle history. A few months from now we’ll know if that run is truly over — or if Carroll’s just starting it over again.