Every period of our lives brings its own drama and challenges that, once lived through, are reduced in our memories to a few defining moments. You probably don't remember all the gory details of your first kiss. You most likely remember a few details that are now definitive of that moment's meaning in your life, nuance and complexity be damned. Our minds are hard-wired to strip away detail that is inconsistent with the meanings we assign to our memories. That allows us to mostly love them and the stories we create to house them.
We really love the heroes in those stories too, especially when they are tested by fate and show themselves to be invulnerable its whims. So it is that the 2013 Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have become our football heroes. They have completed the journey from memory to mythology really only just now, as last season's frustrations, struggles, and problems have largely faded from our collective memory. Last season featured both significant doubts and boundless swagger, but our memories no longer have a place for the doubts. We remember only the swag, not so much how worried we were about Byron Maxwell's inexperience or Walter Thurmond's health.
For many of us 12s that 2013 season is no longer a mere collection of exploits, both exhilarating and frustrating. It is now mythic, a sacred tale ("sacred" in the anthropological sense of being special and containing a morality-laden truth). Like all sacred tales, this one starts out with a band of companions on a divine mission. They are beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. To those who would attempt to poison and destroy this Seahawk band of brothers, the Legion would strike with great vengeance and fuuuurious anger, like a bible-quoting, jheri-curl wigged Samuel L. Jackson. That's the tale of 2013.
And after 10 games, it could not be more obvious that this rag-tag 2014 bunch cannot live up to to last year's version. If last year's Seahawks were just 'bout that action boss this year's version is more 'bout that okie-doke. Amiright? Tony Romo okie-doked Bruce Irvin and Houdini'd up a 3rd and 23. Jeff Fisher's punt teams okie-doked us coming and going. Then, with the game on the line, Richard Sherman okie-doked us by looking like he'd recovered that fumble but then getting it snatched in the pile.
Does anyone doubt that in 2013 Sherman some way, some how comes up with that fumble?
Didn't think so. You probably should, though.
The actual 2013 Seahawks, who are clearly better than this 2014 version, had comparably bone-headed plays throughout the season. But don't be surprised if it's literally harder to access those blooper plays from your memory. Remember Frank Gore breaking out for a long run at the end of the game in SF? Remember Chris Maragos' "read option hold" on the FG attempt vs. Tennessee? Nope. Me neither. Even the real 2013 Seahawks cannot compete with this mythic version that laid waste to the NFL on their way to an easy Super Bowl trophy. That's not a criticism. Hell, it's not even a serious problem. Real life isn't supposed to measure up to mythology. If it did, sacred tales wouldn't be sacred.
Now let me be clear. 2013 is sacred to 12s, and should be. I'm all about mythology and those Seahawks earned their way into mythic status.
But let's just allow 2014 to be 2014. As John Fraley so brilliantly put it, we need to recalibrate our expectations, without the weight of last year. Overall, I think 12s have done a fairly good job of this. I actually think we're a little better at letting 2013 go than the media.
The shame is that on its own terms this 2014 team is a good team with obvious flaws. Same as pretty much every other NFC team. If you were gonna pick a (hopefully) 9-11 win wildcard team that could get hot and make a run is there a significantly better bet than Seattle? Maaaybe San Francisco.
Taken on its own terms, this season should be cementing Pete Carroll's legacy as one of the best handful of coaches in the game, even if this team probably isn't going to repeat. Following a coin flip loss in KC, Seattle remains 7th in overall DVOA (top 10 in offense and defense) after 10 games with basically nothing but a run game and a once-mighty run defense that's now on life support. Seattle has three close losses this season--I'm not counting San Diego, which was only cosmetically close. That is pretty impressive in the current NFL. Even good teams take an occasional beat down, but not Carroll's Seahawks. Per Mike Tanier:
There have been 39 games decided by 20 or more points this season. There were only 53 such blowouts in 2013, 57 in 2012 and 54 in 2011... [H]ere is how this year stacks up against past years in blowouts-per-16 games:
|Blowouts per 16 games
Understand what I'm saying here about 2014. It's more than, "at least we never get blown out," which is an impressive enough thing on its own. I'm saying that less than a quarter of the way through the season Pete Carroll effectively turned this team's offensive fate over to the development of Russell Wilson and the kids.* Not surprisingly, it has been uneven but it hasn't been bad.
I'm not sure we have appreciated how radical this was from a coaching standpoint. Carroll Bevell and Cable scrapped the Harvin-centric, short passing offense the team worked on all through training camp and into the season. I'll stipulate that the Harvin mess was their responsibility in the first place, but forget about that for this discussion. Think about trying to game plan around a still-developing Russell Wilson, along with Baldwin, Kearse and Willson--the enigmatic twins--two rookie receivers, and a run blocking line.
Who does that and still fields the 21st ranked pass offense by DVOA? That may not be worth standing up and clapping for, but it's still in the middle third of the league, the league's middle-class. Let's set aside Lynch and the #1 rushing offense and the revolving door on the left side of the line. Seattle is trotting out a pass offense that is basically as good as San Francisco's (#20), but it still has a little upside. There is just enough time remaining in the season to possibly see another little maturity spurt from Kearse and Willson (who both quietly played well overall at KC), as well as the rookies. Of course the loss of Unger may well offset any potential gains.
If Carroll gets this group to the playoffs it'll be so much better than 2011. The team will have to run a gauntlet just to get in, and it will be because the light really came on for at least a couple of the kids. Now that would be a lot of fun.
*By turning the offense over to the kids I mean to say, we know what Lynch, Baldwin, and the core guys bring. The only areas for real upside are with Wilson possibly going to an even higher level, Kearse and Extra L developing, and the Baby Bro WRs finding ways to contribute.