SB Nation has a theme week across all sports, and the topic is “Best teams to never win a championship.”
Frankly speaking, the Seattle Seahawks do not have a lot of seasons in which you can objectively say “damn, they should’ve won it all that year.” By default, the 2005 and 2014 teams qualify because they were actually in the Super Bowl but lost. The 1984 Seahawks started out 12-2 and were lined up for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, only to lose their final two regular season games and get blown out in the Divisional Round by the Miami Dolphins.
But I don’t have the 2005 or 2014 Super Bowl runners-up as the best Seahawks teams who failed to win it all. As great as the 2005 team was on offense, they really were (for the most part) fattening up on beating bad teams and they had an average defense with below-average special teams. The 2014 side had a weakened passing attack that led to one of Russell Wilson’s worst statistical seasons, and special teams was also a liability that year. You could make a case that the 2015 team (DVOA champs!) belongs on the list, but the first-half of that season was an absolute chore to sit through and they were highly fortunate to have even won a playoff game.
If there’s any team I absolutely believe deserved a Super Bowl, it was the 2012 side with rookie Russell Wilson, a first full season with the Legion of Boom, and a second-half surge that was a prelude to Seattle’s eventual Lombardi Trophy triumph in 2013.
By the end of the regular season, the Seahawks were #1 in DVOA and by far the most balanced team in the NFL. They were literally the only team in the league that boasted a top-five offense, top-five defense, and top-five special teams. Had literally any one of those five losses been flipped to a win, Seattle would’ve had a first-round bye.
Prior to the Atlanta Falcons playoff game, the Seahawks went the entire season without trailing by more than 14 points, and were the only team not to allow a 30-point outing from the opposition. The only obvious flaws that prevented Seattle from making a deep postseason run were the early struggles of Wilson, the lack of pass-rushing depth (which John Schneider and Pete Carroll fixed in the ensuring offseason), and the defense’s repeated inability to maintain 4th quarter leads.
At 6-5 and with the playoffs far from certain, Seattle went on an unforgettable December run that confirmed its arrival as a legitimate contender. The dramatic overtime win against the Chicago Bears enhanced Russell Wilson’s legend, but then the nailbiters gave way to three straight beatdowns of the highest order: 58-0 vs. Arizona, 50-17 vs. Buffalo, and of course 42-13 in primetime against San Francisco. Outscoring three professional football teams 150-30 is a ridiculous feat to pull off, and the Seahawks made the game look like Madden on rookie mode.
Even with the Chris Clemons injury against Washington in the wild card round, it felt like the Seahawks still had a legitimate chance of beating the Falcons. By halftime, that optimism was shot to pieces. The belief crept back in when Earl Thomas picked off Matt Ryan with the score just 27-14. Confusion and euphoria set in when Marshawn Lynch scored the go-ahead touchdown but also fumbled just as the ball broke the plane. Part of me was thinking Seattle was going to the NFC Championship Game for a rubber match against the 49ers, while another part knew that even 30 seconds was too much time to squander the lead.
You know the rest of the story.
In an alternative universe, the Seahawks (sans Chris Clemons) are in Candlestick for the right to play in Super Bowl 47. As history would prove, the Seahawks defense was a consistently terrible matchup for Jim Harbaugh’s offenses, so this game would’ve likely come down to Seattle’s offense scoring enough against a defense that even at full-strength — note that they were considerably worse after Justin Smith’s season-ending injury against the New England Patriots — repeatedly had a hard time defending Marshawn Lynch. A third straight road game would’ve added to the degree of difficulty for this one, but the magical run the Seahawks took us through that year made anything seem possible.
Had they beaten the 49ers, they would’ve played the Baltimore Ravens in a genuinely fascinating matchup, but one I think the Seahawks would’ve fared better in than San Francisco if largely because of a superior secondary and a superior quarterback. As for what actually happened, Ed Reed did get his richly deserved ring and he’s my favorite defensive player ever.
A Super Bowl for the 2012 team would’ve meant rings for two members of the 2005 NFC Championship squad (Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill), an all-time great return specialist (Leon Washington), and a Seattle native who was signed in emergency after Steven Hauschka went down in the playoffs (Ryan Longwell). It obviously wasn’t meant to be that year, but the Seahawks learned from their heartbreaking elimination, did get to beat San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, and ultimately prevail in an unforgettable Super Bowl 48.