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Seaside Joe: On the importance of getting lucky

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Minnesota Vikings v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

This is Thursday’s Seaside Joe, a Seahawks newsletter that I put out every single day. I have done so for the last 280 days. If you’d like to sign up and join the other 2,400 people who have done so this year, you can do it right here!

Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III. Trent Richardson. Matt Kalil. Justin Blackmon. Morris Claiborne. Ryan Tannehill. Mark Barron. Quinton Coples. Brandon Weeden. Brian Quick. Jonathan Martin. Peter Konz. Brock Osweiler. LaMichael James. Bryan Anger. Brandon Taylor. Donald Stephenson. This is just a series of names, but it’s a series that some of you probably already recognize.

It’s a series of names -- mostly that I chose at random -- of players who were drafted before the Seahawks took Russell Wilson 75th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Seattle themselves traded down and selected Bruce Irvin in the first round, then Bobby Wagner in round two. They risked every team taking an opportunity to select Wilson, including two teams that drafted a quarterback between Irvin and Wilson, those being the Browns and Broncos. The Eagles selected Mychal Kendricks one pick ahead of Wagner and Vinny Curry a little bit before Wilson, opting to take Nick Foles 13 picks after Wilson. The fact that Seattle was able to find the best player in franchise history after 74 selections had been made, and after they also rated other prospects as more important than securing Wilson, is lucky. Regardless of your intel or your research, no team would risk not selecting Wilson now that we know what we know, but the Seahawks were the luckiest team that year. Did they put themselves in the best position to select Wilson?

Obviously yes, because they selected Wilson, but even if they liked him more than 31 other teams, they still wound up with Wilson because of luck to a large degree. Even more ironic -- or iconic -- perhaps since the 2012 draft was literally kicked off by Luck, and that itself wound up to be a pretty unlucky proposition for the Colts seven years later.

The Seahawks have seen Wilson start 125 of a possible 125 games (138 of 138 if including postseason) and that too is somewhat predicated on luck. Drafting him because Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson didn’t take advantage of opportunities in 2011? Lucky. Signing Matt Flynn and then Flynn losing time in training camp because of injuries, then seeing Wilson go off in a preseason Week 3 matchup vs the Chiefs? Somewhat lucky. Having the coaches and front office personnel in place to scout and push for Wilson, like former Wisconsin Badgers QB Darrell Bevell, all because USC might have been in hot water that Pete Carroll wanted to escape in 2009 and also seeing Seattle fire a coach after only one season? Kind of lucky.

Getting Wagner one pick after Kendricks and after a handful of other linebackers had gone off the board? That’s not just skill, it’s luck. Earl Thomas falling past the Eagles in 2010? Lucky. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor getting to the fifth round in their respective drafts at a time when Carroll was molding the next generation of defensive backs? A combination of incredible foresight and planning ... and luck. The Seattle Seahawks championship roster was largely built on the back of getting good luck.

And so was every other championship roster in history, so why are so many people ignoring or trying to separate themselves from the value of getting lucky? The Patriots got Bill Belichick only after a series of situations in Cleveland and New York allowed him to be available in 2000, and only after New England fired Carroll after two trips to the postseason in three years. They found Tom Brady after 198 players were selected in 2000 and he only got his opportunity because Drew Bledsoe, the highest paid player in football, was injured in Week 2. Can you imagine trying to convince a Patriots fan at the time that Bledsoe’s injury -- when New England was 0-2 -- was the best thing to happen in franchise history? Most would frame that as bad luck and instead it was the catalyst to a legend being born.

And what’s wrong with that? I’ve recently been watching the Netflix series “The Movies That Made Us” (and some of “The Toys That Made Us”) and every Hollywood success story seems to start with, “Well, nobody believed in us” or “It nearly never happened.” For example, Home Alone was almost shutdown and cancelled because Warner Bros didn’t want to spend an extra $3 or $4 million on the budget but Fox came in and kept production rolling after WB backed out. Home Alone had a low $10 million budget and eventually that was reported at $18 million after Fox came in. It made $476 million and a series of sequels and other things that were profitable.

People laughed when Bruce Willis was cast as the lead in Die Hard because action movies weren’t supposed to have leads who didn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. Die Hard made $141 million, spawned a bunch of sequels with Willis, and changed the genre in a similar way to how Wilson changed the expectations for what a quarterback is supposed to “look like.” No Wilson, no Kyler Murray. No Die Hard, maybe there’s no Nicolas Cage. At least not in the way we know of Cage. I mean, even look at the careers of Stallone and Schwarzenegger; prior to Die Hard, Stallone made movies like Rocky, Rambo, and Cobra. After Die Hard, he became a comedian: Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, Judge Dredd. Schwarzenegger went from The Terminator, Predator, and Commando to Kindergarten Cop and Last Action Hero.

Why?

Well, of course it took some intention. Some planning, execution, and talent. It took the right people in the right places, but none of those people get to those places without a considerable amount of luck and in nearly all cases you can’t even tell the difference between what’s going to turn out to be good luck and what’s going to be bad luck. “Sly won’t do Die Hard? Shit.” becomes “Sly didn’t do Die Hard? That’s perfect.” “Bledsoe is out? Damn it.” becomes “Bledsoe went out!”

In the AFC Championship game last year, Tom Brady threw an interception with under a minute left, down 4 points, but a KC player was called for offsides because of a matter of an inch. In 2017, we have no idea if the Eagles make a Super Bowl run if not for Nick Foles instead of Carson Wentz. The Patriots came back from 28-3 to the number one offense in the NFL and were heavily aided by a Julian Edelman catch that was fantastically lucky. Was skill involved? Of course. Was luck involved? That’s undeniable against a breath of logic. When the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015, they did so with three regular season victories in OT and nine wins by a touchdown or less. They trailed in the fourth quarter of their divisional win and staved off the Patriots by stopping their 2-point conversion attempt with :12 seconds left. In the Super Bowl, they started a QB who had 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions vs one who won the MVP. And they won.

The Seahawks had a lucky catch by Jermaine Kearse to setup New England’s undrafted free agent rookie cornerback to make the luckiest play of his life. Was Malcolm Butler skilled enough to make the play? Yes. Was Belichick skilled enough to set chess pieces in the right place? Yes. Was Ricardo Lockette skilled enough to be the recipient of the most important pass attempt in Russell Wilson’s career? Yikes. But every player at this level is skilled. Every coach is knowledgeable. Every franchise has set the intention to win a Super Bowl. Your intentions are meaningless bullshit.

Luck, good or bad, may be out of your grasp, but thinking you need to be responsible for all your successes in life is letting your ego control your happiness and you should never let your ego, or luck, or any external force, control your happiness. It’s out of your control. Your ego is the enemy and you don’t have to be “responsible” for everything that happens to you in life. The Seahawks won two divisional games this season after missed field goals by the other team. Should they feel responsible for those wins or should we attribute all of the success to good luck? The answer to both questions might be yes. It’s not an either-or proposition. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Seattle put themselves in the position to have a game decided by a field goal -- good or bad as that is -- and they won. We focus on the last plays of a game, which may be a made or missed field goal, but a billion things happened before that happened, whether it was in the game or years before in a draft. Some of those outcomes were entirely predicated on luck, on factors outside of the control of an individual, and so what?

What’s wrong with being lucky? Why dwell on being unlucky? Especially when you don’t even know if the good luck will save you or the bad luck will turn into a $1 billion film franchise. Let go of the desire to be disappointed or offended by the factor of luck. It’s everywhere, all the time, and completely outside of our control. What’s in your control is how you feel about it -- and I don’t mind getting lucky.