If you’ve ever been to CenturyLink Field for a Seattle Seahawks game, regardless of whether you proudly wore the colors of the home team or their opposition, you know how loud that stadium gets. So loud, that they have actually registered between a 1 and 2 on the Richter scale during a game.
Things weren’t always so wonderful in Seattle, and it’s important to know and remember that, given the pride and love and support their fans show them, regardless of the circumstances. Every one of the 31 other franchises could learn from the “12th man.”
Nearly 38 years ago, the Seattle Seahawks first took the field (1976), the same year the Kingdome opened its doors to the public. As much as that stadium became a landmark in Seattle, it was also one of the worst venues for games broadcast on television, as the building never seemed to offer the right lighting for football games. Or maybe it was the uniforms, those awful gray, blue, and green uniforms. Or the play of the team, which had its ups and downs but seemed to be the annual NFL doormat.
Long before the days of NFL Sunday Ticket or NFL RedZone, and even longer before the Seahawks were a legitimate title contender, football fans in the Northwest were force-fed the Seahawks, and there was little they could do about it. What was worse, is that the Seahawks were not fun to watch, they were the lovable albeit perpetual losers that looked and played ugly, the NW’s version of the Saints. Aside from an appearance in the AFC Championship game in 1983 and their first division title in 1988, the Seahawks had little postseason success, let alone appearances, and suffered with their fans through a long playoff drought from 1989-1998.
My how things changed in 1999.
The team hired Mike Holmgren as head coach and GM, and expectations were high as he had led the Green Bay Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996-97, winning one. Holmgren did not disappoint, as the Seahawks won their division and had their first playoff appearance in 11 years in just his first season. Two seasons later, Holmgren made the savvy move to bring in QB Matt Hasselbeck, who had been a backup in Green Bay but Holmgren knew his potential as a starter better than anyone.
In 2000, Holmgren moved up in the first round to draft Alabama RB Shaun Alexander. Alexander split time his first season, then took hold of the starting job in 2001. He was a Pro Bowler in 2003 and the NFL’s leading rusher by 2004.
The Seahawks would peak under Holmgren in 2005. With the potent combination of Hasselbeck and Alexander, and the best offensive line in the NFL blocking for them, Seattle flourished in 2005, going 13-3 (including an 11-game win streak) with the number one ranked offense and the number seven ranked defense. After dispatching of Washington and Carolina in the playoffs, the Seahawks earned their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Super Bowl XL was a bitter pill to swallow. The Seahawks would face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had the NFL’s 9th ranked offense and the 3rd ranked defense and were the first 6th seed to get to the Super Bowl. Despite outgaining the Steelers, getting more first downs, and only committing one turnover to the Steelers two, Seattle lost the contest 21-10. The Seahawks were penalized 7 times to the Steelers 3, and more than one call was considered controversial at best, with one call in particular being especially vexing and further prompting the officiating controversy, as QB Matt Hasselbeck was called for an illegal block while attempting a tackle after throwing an interception. Head referee Bill Leavy apologized to specific players on the team and to the Seattle media in 2010, admitting that he had blown calls, including two in the fourth quarter that impacted the outcome of the game. More frustrating for Seattle fans was the fact that Hasselbeck far outplayed his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger, who had the worst performance of any QB to win a Super Bowl.
The team had success in 2006-07, but the wheels had started to come off and by the end of the 2008 season, Holmgren was out as head coach, Alexander was cut, and Hasselbeck was an injury-plagued shell of his former self. Defensive coordinator Jim Mora took over as head coach for one ill-fated season, going 5-11, alienating both players and fans.
In 2010, the team plucked Pete Carroll from the collegiate ranks as their new head coach. Carroll immediately infused the Seahawks with energy and young talent, drafting future cornerstones Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, and trading for Marshawn Lynch. Despite going 7-9 and being forced to use an injured Hasselbeck or worse, a healthy Charlie Whitehurst at QB for most of the season, Seattle won its division and pulled off an amazing upset of the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the wild card round.
2011 was a frustrating season, as the team again went 7-9, but failed to make the playoffs. One of the bright spots of the year was the drafting of Richard Sherman in the 5th round, who would later join Thomas, Brandon Browner, and Kam Chancellor as the “Legion of Boom” starting secondary.
2012 saw a massive improvement. The team drafted Bruce Irvin in the first round, and QB Russell Wilson in the third round. Wilson won the QB battle in preseason and led the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and made the playoffs as a wildcard, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.
In 2013, the defense was the best in the league, and perhaps one of the best the NFL had ever seen. Wilson and Lynch ran a smart and efficient offense, putting up points and placing “taking care of the football” as priority one. Riding their power running game and stellar defense, the Seahawks earned their way to a 13-3 record, the NFC West title, and a first round bye in the playoffs. The Seahawks defeated the Saints and narrowly escaped the 49ers in the NFC Championship, holding on to a late lead thanks to an interception forced by Richard Sherman’s tipped pass intended for Michael Crabtree (and of course, a good portion of Seattle fans playing Paula Cole’s “I don’t want wait when Seattle needed a comeback).
In Super Bowl 48, the Seahawks absolutely demolished the Denver Broncos and the highest scoring offense in NFL history 43-8, holding them to just one scoring drive. In the process, the Seahawks’ pass rush the remarkable coverage of the Broncos receivers by the secondary made newly minted 5-time MVP Peyton Manning look average at best. The defense performed so well that they held Denver to just 306 total yards and 8 points after they averaged 450 yards and 38 points during the regular season.
Finally, after waiting for nearly four decades, it truly was the Seahawks’ culmination, their time on top of the mountain.
Perhaps in the future there will be other mountains to climb and championships to win, and surely some up and down-seasons to endure, but this one will always be the best. Whether you like the Seahawks or not, it’s time to respect them, and their fans. They climbed from the very bottom of the basement to the very top of the highest peak and stood firm.
You did it Seattle, and you did things the right way. And no one can ever, take it away from you.
Enjoy the ride, 12th man. You earned it.