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Lessons learned when the Seahawks and Mariners traded places in 2021

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The 2021-22 season brought some surprises to the Seattle sports community. On the one hand, the Seattle Mariners exceeded expectations and finished a hair’s breadth outside the MLB playoffs, while the Seattle Seahawks scuffled, landing themselves as a shocking fourth-place finish in the NFC West.

The most significant reversal is obviously that - the Mariners had winning record and the Seahawks a losing record. The last time that happened? 2009. But there’s more.

Which team is this?

Long-time fans of the Mariners are painfully familiar with the Seattle drop-off. Most recently, the final season of Felix Hernandez serves as an unfortunate example, but many will remember Richie Sexson, Chone Figgins, Erik Bedard, as owners of some incredible cliff-dives while on the Mariners. But this year, the 12s had to watch Bobby Wagner’s speed evaporate and Russell Wilson miss half the season (including the games for which he returned too soon) with an injury.

For a few years the Seahawks have dominated offseason talks w/ Pete and Russ; this year the M’s had the Kevin Mather scandal. Russell Wilson will probably ensure that the Seahawks are always a topic of interest, but for an extended moment the team took a significant back seat to the Mariners’ fiasco.

The trade deadline also ran the Seattle teams in opposite directions this year. The Seahawks have been one of the loudest voices under John Schneider, adding Quandre Diggs and Carlos Dunlap in recent years. This season, they made no moves - and fans even wondered if the team might even be sellers (looking at you, L.J. Collier). The Mariners, meanwhile, did the typical shock-and-awe move at the deadline. Trading away Kendall Graveman in return for Abraham Toro, a move that sent many into a mistrust frenzy, was one of the more controversial trades pulled off in the NFL.

The final push of both seasons is where things get particularly interesting. There may be something to be gleaned here, but perhaps not. The Mariners choked in a playoff make-or-break scenario, losing two of the final three games of the season to an eliminated team.
On the other side, the Seahawks threw 51 points down on the Detroit Lions and then notched a big win against a superior(?) Arizona Cardinals team to close out 2021.

That’s fascinating, because of everything mentioned so far, this might be the most familiar to both teams. Is momentum real? Does knowledge of team history have a real impact on players? With a chance to break the longest playoff drought in the four major North American sports, the Mariners only scored eight runs in three games and lost twice. Meanwhile, with nothing to play for, Pete Carroll got his crew to amp up not only to peak prime-time level Seahawks of old, but the two games with the most points scored all season.

So.

We could conclude that the Mariners are exceptionally close but just truly weren’t ready, and melted under the pressure. We could conclude that the Seahawks still have what it takes, and were wrecked by injury and other factors throughout the midseason more than we were aware.

Or we could pay heed to the certain amount of randomness in sports, and that two games out of many teach us nothing. They don’t have a deeper meaning, they don’t signify anything about the future.

Beyond that, October 1st saw a new and unfamiliar culture descend on Seattle. For locals, it’s been long enough that the more frequent excitement of a successful baseball team might be forgotten. The NFL is more of a roller coaster, with its herculean ramp up, often once every 14 days. But T-Mobile Park was flooded to capacity for the entire final weekend, while the Seahawks didn’t win a game at home until October 31st. It was the briefest glimpse, but a telling one nonetheless, of what Seattle can look like. Not just if the teams trade permanently - that is, not a picture of a city with a good baseball team and a bad football team. Because in reality, the two teams are closer to success than not. I don’t care how down you are on the Seahawks; they beat a team in the NFC Championship Game twice.

Here’s the reality: the two teams have never been in the playoffs in the same season. I want to see what that looks like before I die.