It’s “What-if?” week on SB Nation, something we’ve done a few times before. Frankly I’ve exhausted the obvious ones concerning the Russell Wilson era, and I think I did one for Super Bowl XL, so let’s go outside the box just a tad.
Pete Carroll’s first season as Seattle Seahawks head coach ended with a history-making NFC West title and stunning playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. At 7-9, they were the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record, a feat later repeated by the 2014 Carolina Panthers with a slightly better mark of 7-8-1.
Seattle clinched the NFC West in Week 17 by beating the St. Louis Rams in a 16-6 slog. Charlie Whitehurst started in place of the injured Matt Hasselbeck, Mike Williams had the game’s lone touchdown, and Will Herring had the Seahawks’ only interception.
But what if the Seahawks had limply closed out the 2010 season with a home defeat to their rivals on national television? The Rams would’ve been in the playoffs with Sam Bradford at quarterback, but the Seahawks would’ve finished 6-10 and only marginally better than the 5-11 record that got Jim Mora (rightly) fired.
Here are just some random certainties and uncertainties that have passed through my brain when writing this up.
No win, no Beastquake
Marshawn Lynch may have had his “Beast” moments when he was traded from the Buffalo Bills to Seattle, but he hadn’t even mustered up a 100-yard game up to that point. He’d only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 12 games played.
The “Beast Mode” legacy may have never truly taken off had Beastquake not come to fruition against the Saints. He lost a fumble in the Rams game and at one point had six carries for -1 yard. Lynch didn’t even really establish himself as a premier back until the middle of 2011 after he had returned from injury, so just imagine our own views on Lynch if he had ended 2010 with that costly fumble and continued his struggles into the next year.
No terrific Hasselbeck swan song
The Seahawks were always going to move on from Matt Hasselbeck after 2010, it’s just that in this alternate reality he would’ve bowed out on a very sour note.
His final actual game as a Seahawk was 25/46 for 258 yards and 3 TDs, mostly compiled in garbage time against the Chicago Bears. What we really care about is his final home game against the Saints, in which he threw four touchdowns and completed 22 of 35 passes for 272 yards. Save for the early interception, he looked like he had turned back the clock to his mid-2000s form.
But with no playoff appearance, Hasselbeck’s final snap as a Seahawk would’ve been this play.
(Hasselbeck injured himself and the Seahawks got blown out 38-15 after putting in Whitehurst)
And his final pass at a Seahawks home game would’ve been this play.
Fans were chanting Charlie Whitehurst’s name when Hasselbeck turned the ball over on three consecutive series against the Atlanta Falcons. It would’ve been a terrible way for a great career to end.
A very different 2011 NFL Draft?
By advancing to the NFC Divisional Round, the Seahawks would pick 25th overall in April 2011. Prior to this year’s NFL Draft, 2011 was the last time John Schneider did not trade down from his original first-round spot. Seattle took James Carpenter, which I’m not entirely sure they would’ve done in my alternate universe.
If the Seahawks had finished 6-10 they would’ve picked at #14. The odds of them having the exact same draft as this one seem fairly remote.
Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, Nate Solder, Cameron Jordan, and Corey Liuget were all still on the board at #14 — the Rams obviously took Quinn. Maybe Schneider would’ve traded down for Carpenter or taken him at #14 anyway, but the front office hadn’t yet established its presence as the kings of the unexpected early draft pick.
A different early outlook on Pete Carroll?
Anyone who was on Field Gulls ten years ago knows that our view on Pete Carroll was met with a lot of skepticism, even more so when he traded guys like Darryl Tapp and Josh Wilson away. In hindsight, it looked pretty silly to be that mad online, but taking a revamped, bad team into the playoffs and coming within a win of hosting the NFC Championship Game sure sounds a lot different than failing to capture an historically bad division.
The hope and optimism and joy out of that Rams-Saints two-game stretch was a preview of things to come for Carroll’s vision and the Seahawks’ upward trajectory as a perennial playoff team. Take that all away and Carroll enters 2011 off a 6-10 season with a bunch of awful blowout defeats, no QB of the future, and depending on how that year’s draft would’ve looked at pick #14, perhaps a different looking defense.
Back in the real world, I’m glad everything turned out the way it did. Beastquake was worth not having a higher draft pick (duh), and winning the NFC West over a hated division rival is something you should always cherish. There’s no telling what the butterfly effect could’ve produced, and maybe in this “What-if?” scenario, the Seahawks would be in a truly awful spot instead of the current minor inconvenience of winning 10+ games while never really being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.