The NFL has three major measures in place to try and ensure that every team has a fair shot at being good every season: the draft, free agency, and the salary cap. No one team is too great and no one team is too poor—at least in theory. The New England Patriots of the last 18 years have defied that logic, making it seem as if they can spin gold out of yarn almost year in and year out. Likewise, the Cleveland Browns, who last made the playoffs 18 years ago, can make it feel as if no amount of “parity” will make them good.
It’s important to remember, however, that while these things may seem permanent, they, too, like all things, will shift and change.
The Patriots were once the laughingstock of the AFC. Eventually Belichick and Brady will retire and the Patriots may well fade back into irrelevance and ignominy. It’s also easy to forget that in the latter half of the 80s, the Cleveland Browns were consistently good. And that throughout the 1950s and 60s, the Browns were downright dominant.
The downside of NFL parity is that it can make a lot of teams feel mediocre, similar, i.e., things are so “fair” that no one stands out and the matchups are too boring for fans to pay attention to. They achieve either an almost losing record or an almost winning record. Perhaps they make the playoffs, but more likely they don’t. When it’s all said and done, NFL teams rarely give their fans the kind of unadulterated, I’ll-remember-it-for-life kind of feeling that only comes from magical, win-it-all seasons.
Take the Philadelphia Eagles, for example. Two years ago they went on a magical run, resoundingly defeating the Patriots in the Super Bowl, which led to their wacky fans climbing lamp posts that local authorities had greased with Crisco to prevent just such that sort of behavior.
But what happened last year? The Eagles started the 2018 season in underwhelming fashion and most didn’t think they would even make the playoffs. They did rattle off a number of wins late in the season and make the playoffs, winning a wild card game and then losing at the divisional round. It was hardly the stuff that empires are made of.
So, what of the Seattle Seahawks? There are many who feel that the Seahawks are in that middle-of-the-road kind of place. Sure, they were an empire for a spell there, going to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one in dominating fashion and losing the other in a heartbreaker. Since then, they’ve had to trade off most of their best players and the past couple of seasons have looked like one of those pretty good but not great teams.
But there are two important reasons why fans should not count them out, why they should not assume that there is not a long term empire underway. One’s name is Pete Carroll and the other’s is Russell Wilson.
Pete Carroll is that rare coach who has achieved success at the highest level in both the college and professional games, which is virtually unheard of. Even if we only knew him as a college coach, we would think of him as one of the greatest of all time. If we only knew him as a professional coach, we would likely say the same, or something close to it. He’s known for tough defenses and powerful offenses. Beyond that, he also seems to genuinely care about helping youth realize their dreams.
It’s become trendy as of late to claim that Russell Wilson is either overrated or is something less than one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Certain quarters, even in Seattle, have been saying this since the moment he arrived. In fact, people were saying this about Wilson in college when he transferred to Wisconsin for his final year of eligibility; ask fans of the Big Ten teams he vanquished on his way to leading the Badgers to a conference title how that worked out for them.
Part of what makes Wilson so successful, at any level, is the diversity of his game. He can, of course, make all the throws, including a beautiful deep ball with enough velocity and precision to put it anywhere on the field. Moreover, what makes him so lethal is that he is also a threat to run the ball at any time, causing defenses to account for that potentiality.
Now, sure, Wilson looked at his best when he had a healthy Marshawn Lynch by his side in the backfield; I don’t know that anyone disputes that. That combination was one of the most lethal that the game has ever known. It didn’t hurt that as games got late, that Seahawks offense had a way of wearing defenses down until they just gave up. Lynch didn’t exactly avoid contact. He almost always made the first man miss, and upon second tackle he was a threat to run right through his opponent. But all you have to do is look at the Seahawks’ league-leading rushing attack just last season to know that even though Beast Mode is retired, coach Carroll and Wilson still know how to move the rock on the ground.
If you’re a Hawks fan who is feeling disheartened, maybe it’s time to buck up. And if you still believe, but happen to have a friend, family member or coworker whose faith has fallen by the wayside, go ahead and put them on blast.
Dominance in the NFC still runs through CenturyLink, and they don’t call it the 12th Man for nothing.
We’ve got a football season coming up, and it won’t be for the faint of heart.